What Can I Get You?

Would you let me
buy you a drink?
Or are you one
who partakes alone,
by the TV’s light
with the sound
turned down?

I wouldn’t even
have to sit 
this closetoyou.
That’d make me
uncomfortable, too.
Though I don’t
hear too well
in a bar.

I can’t remember
if you’re one of those
pugnacious drunks
or if the wolf
you turn loose on
some booze’s buzz
is a puppy like mine.
My spirit puppy.

I ginned up the courage
to ask, since I’m
just talking to
a piece of paper
and a poem’s always
been my go-to
cheap date.

Here’s my daily shot of spirits. The kind of spirits that possess me and communicate things through me I’d never have the sand to say. Or even think to. Mopey old spirits thirsty for something you can’t pour from a flagon. Unless said vessel is a heart.

Joy Like a Red-Flowered Dress

I found this faded old photograph
at the bottom of my desk drawer.
It captures you in a joyful moment,
as you turned and saw me
with my camera. I’m unsure
which of the two made you smile.
When I took this fumbling exposure,
I think you were pregnant,
which might explain your glow,
the red in your cheeks,
the beaming from your eyes.

I think that’s a gift women
take on to illuminate their way
across that threshold to becoming
a mother. It’s the only photo
I have of you radiating your
womanhood like that. I never
took one of the next child and you.
By then, the space between my heart
and mind had grown so vast, I so lost,
your incandescence would be wasted
signaling me through that darkness.

That was the apogee of my journey;
today I’ve swung back closer to
the sun. But time and circumstance
have extinguished anything like
that singular warm glow. Maybe
that’s why I kept this image
when I’ve lost so many others.
It echoes a time never again
will I see, when I was blind
instead of sightless, and you
wore joy like a red-flowered dress
that’ll always fit perfectly.

Took four random words — pregnant, threshold, echo, space — and built this old-school Storyteller/Poet Me first-draft house of sticks in about twenty minutes. For whatever reason, Jackson Browne’s “Fountain of Sorrow” came to mind as I started stacking. It’s better than a house of straw, but I believe a good huff and puff could topple it. So you’d better read it quick, because I feel an editorial sneeze — or hot glowing ember of Delete — coming on.

Shills Like White Elephants

Two more stouts down here, honey? Thanks, love. So this is how it works, youngster. The pols will argue over when life begins, at conception or at birth. What the hell, the subject of their alleged debate could just as easily be Creationism versus Evolution. It’s the same churned-up, wormy loam that’s sustained the political phonies for more than a century. It’s what they hoe when tangentially preaching to the party-affiliated converted. We scribes would sit back and take notes, mainly gauging relative volume, totals of Biblical citations versus Scientific references and numbers of finger points. Though many now use their thumbs as pointers since the birth of Darwinian political exemplar Bill Clinton’s index finger-stabbing, definition-of-IS-is, white-lie, bad-optics hair-splitting during his own multi-hyphened product-of-a-sexual-encounter Dance of the Seven Berets. Oh, and we collected, crunched and consumed salty quotes like pretzels in our after hours bars. We were paid to fill open column inches or air-minutes between advertisements, with the implicit promise our bosses made to the advertisers of bringing X-number eyeballs to their come-ons for pharmaceuticals, automobiles or insurance. Judging which side is right or wrong rose above our pay grade, best left to the former reporters who soared or crawled over the broken egos of their colleagues to editorial or columnist positions either by hard work or something just shy of befriending (maybe just the journalistic equivalent of caddying for) publishers. Though some made it by outliving them. We ink-stained wretches are a cyclical lot who learned to somewhat compartmentalize our feelings as best we could without losing our edge, becoming totally numb. See, it’s not so much who’s right and who’s wrong on a specific argument as it is who those aforementioned editors and publishers choose to make right. We’d rather leave it out there in some artful, judgement-free, make-your-own-sundae bit of prose, like Hemingway did in Hills Like White Elephants. Hell, not once did he ever mention the word “abortion.” No one’s ever going to actually “win” these debates, combining science, culture, politics and religion in a danse macabre where Defeat/Death inevitably collects the dramatis personae and Victory/Life is merely Intermission, one last chance to pick up some Sno-Caps, Raisinets and nuclear containment vessel-sized containers of Coke and popcorn before the house lights go down for the final act.

I was asked if I could contribute a piece for the next edition of THE BARDO GROUP/BEGUINE AGAIN’s Be-ZINE related to Science in Culture, Religion and Politics. I can’t cop to any of those subjects truly being in my wheelhouse. Nevertheless, I sat down and imagined a one-sided conversation by someone who looks a lot like me and has seen and chronicled the bloody confluence of those subjects–a retired news reporter. My career on that side of the news business was not so long as the friends I made during my reporter years, but I readily admit it quickly grew a husk around me and opened a vein of acid-tinged cynicism and indifference that I fight to this day. I took no stand about these subjects (well, maybe politics) in this piece, but thought it might be interesting to dive back into the deep end of my primordial news ooze to see if it still makes me smell of sulphur. It does.

What the Winds Leave Behind

I struggle to remember
so many things that
I know I never will.
They’ve blown away
from my grasp in winds
I once bulled my way
through and now bully me.

I can recall many
random things of puzzling
importance, like the blur
of a certain perfume and
a swatch of freckles,
but not face nor name,
a cold confusion where
a sense of warmth
against my skin
once inscribed itself.

But that’s how
the winds of time
mistreat you.
They’ll stagger your steps,
scrub the carvings
from your monumental
and leave you shivering,
cold and bewildered,
these dwindling nights.

No Reason, Just to Rhyme

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Ask him what he knows
of the tos and the fros,
the gives and the takes,
the misses and the makes,
and he’ll pause then tell you,
“That’s a good question.”

Ask him when he knew
the sum of two and two,
if he was yang or yin,
what was his original sin,
and he’ll smile and say,
“I’m still waitin’.”

If someone asked you one day,
could you ever think of him some way,
in earnest or just in passing
as something more than the last thing
with whom you’d want to be alone,
to talk about now, not then.

But he’s sure down to the bone,
the first thing he’d say on the phone,
before any give, take, to, or fro:
“My life’s made of misses, so
you know this smile’s vestigial
and all my sins unoriginal.

Silly little free-written musing with lopsided rhymes.

That Kinda Smile

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Today my friend wondered
the last time he saw your smile.
That’s a real smile, not one
of those practiced, pleasant lip curls
with a peep at pearly teeth.
He’s sure you’ve smiled plenty
since then, he just wasn’t around
to see it. And then he ordered
another Guinness.

He can’t remember his last
real smile, relying instead
on grip-and-grin hearsay from
well-meaning, white-lying,
“How-’bout-another-beer?” sweet-talkers.
As far as he’s concerned,
their affirmation of his full-toothed
happy face is akin to receiving
a trophy for sitting at the end
of a CYO basketball team’s bench.

Graphic confirmation remains
as dubious as a half-moon,
full-color, “Say cheese” moment
from Sasquatch or Nessie.
Rather, most photos depict him
sporting a smirk, wearing a wince
or hanging a lopsided half-rictus
upon his face that frightens even he
who shaves its haggard crags daily.

He believes, perhaps the last time
he actually, spontaneously,
perhaps even laughingly smiled
was in honest reply to yours.
He added that chances of repeating
that would be like discovering
George Washington’s dental X-rays.
But he told me he’s willing
to start digging around
Mount Vernon whenever…you know.

And then he kinda smiled.

Like a Lion

March Winds, by Graham Clilverd FRSA - 1949

March Winds, by Graham Clilverd FRSA – 1949

March’s winds bend back
the trees, only to fling
them away to swing back for more
bullying shoves, while whistles
and cracks fly like birds
from maple to spruce and back.
Aloft, freezing winds plait
cloud strata into ropes
of black and white, then
knot them into gray snarls
to toss across the blue
like cat toys. Below,
I sway like the trees,
my old joints cracking,
while I whistle and ponder if
this will be the March I’ll
finally untangle myself
from the snarling, the knotty
thoughts of you that roar
in chilling leonine echo
across my ever-blue memory.

Just because…