Truest of Care

Let’s clear the air,
let down our hair,
go on a real tear.
It’s time we dare
our secrets to bare.
Yeah, even go There.
When we were a pair,
not really, but somewhere
more than one and a spare,
I couldn’t help but stare
at that hot chocolate pair
of eyes you wear,
even when you’d glare
at me with your hair
on fire, temper aglare.
I was caught in your snare,
though you weren’t aware
of setting one anywhere.
So let me just declare
I never meant impair
our friendship so fair,
based on trust, a flair
for art and respect I bear
for who you are and ne’er
will forget the rare
thing we once did share.
Not true love, truest of care.

Better late than never (or, God forbid miss a day with only three to go). Life finally got in the way of art. Here’s NaPoWriMo Day 28’s piece, a poem in something resembling Skeltonic Verse, which I’m sure I screwed up. But I had fun running my version out with each line ending with a word rhyming with “air.”

Whole Worlds Inside This Tiny Old Box

On its outside, it’s not much to look at, just
a wooden box, six slabs of worn, tan-painted plywood
held together by nails and a couple extra screws
I drove into it so it wouldn’t fall apart last winter.
Inside is even less impressive: just bare wood
bearing the stains of rain leaking within, as well as
the outline of the small ski slope that blows in
whenever the blizzards breach its ill-fitting door.
It all smells of damp domestic pinewood.
But inside that dark interior, new places visit me.
The bill for my car comes from Philly,
Bev’s anniversary card from Florida. The travel mag
teases me with views of Nova Scotia, a river cruise
on the Rhine and exploring the dusty red-gold
beauty of Arizona.
It’s an adventure each time I walk down
the driveway in my tiny suburban world
and reach into the vastly wider one stuffed
within its corners. I still get as excited as
the seven-year-old whose world didn’t extend
more than one block from our house on
Bradford Street in Albany. But inside, my
imagination still transports me as far as
these creaky old boxes perched on my lawn
and shoulders can take me today.

Day 25 of NaPoWriMo called for a poem descriptive of a small space. I chose inside my mailbox, which, while cramped, still transports me to places I’ll never set foot except in my imagination.

Recreating Recall of the Priceless

Age can be a terrible thing, what it can do
to a man’s body and mind that he once thought
invulnerable to the degradation of disease
and his own misuse over time.
But along comes the day when his shoes
become too far away to tie and the chasm
so great between the desire to remember and
the clear view of actual recall, it renders
memory nothing more than a museum ravaged
by the temblors of time. Now the picture
I hung of you is not much more than a frame
surrounding empty desire, one I must fill
or you’ll finally be lost to me forever.
And so I scour this shattered space for bits
of the ancient and arcane. With pieces of lapis
set in shards of Delft blue glass I fashion
your eyes, with flaxen threads of fine
Irish linen and crushed Etruscan alabaster
I formed your face, and with countless strands
of gold and brown silk, your hair. It’s an
imperfect portrait, true. Though, created
from treasured bits of my life and the echoing
music of your voice, I once again can hang
my invaluable memory of priceless you.

For Day 19 of NaPoWriMo, a piece made of the combined prompts of Writers Digest and NaPoWriMo.net — a memory poem and a creation poem. I like to think of this as my imaginary life imitating their art.

Heart Like the Phoenix

What’s it like to be the lightning?
To have the power to set someone afire?
Tell me what it feels like to burn
somebody down, their emotions a pyre?

What’s it like to look into the eyes
of another and watch them smolder?
When they inevitably burst into flame
do you feel all the bolder?

Do you want to know what it’s like
to be the tinder to your spark?
How it feels when someone can ignite
your heart with a look on a lark?

It’s painful, scarring me with sorrow
and I’d let you torch all over again tomorrow.

An extra poem for NaPoWriMo — or for any other day, I guess. Just because it came along I could catch it. Or it caught me.

My Guilty Displeasure

Where was I when you needed me?
Needed whatever it is one seeks
from another when life deals them
a blow batting them to the lowest
point a person can hit, only
to find you can fall even further
when a friend failed to be a friend?
I was falling too. Falling in
my failure to sail to your aid,
beating myself for listening to
the other voices instead of choosing
my own choices and negating
my nature to nurture those I love.

The cost of becoming lost from
my life’s path was greater than
suffering the wrath of someone
I would never wish to hurt.
But that’s what I do, time after time,
no reason, no rhyme, ever reaping
the bitter fruit sown by a soul
who left the road we walked,
when my shoulders were wide.
I can’t hide from the accusing eyes
reflecting and rejecting the Me
I see not in a mirror, but on these pages
I can’t stop filling with mea culpas
and confessions. But now I know how
to stop the guilt before it can start.
Don’t blindly accede to the advice of others.
Instead, use my head and heed the
Creed of my heart.

Day 12 of NaPoWriMo, where I combined the prompts of penning a poem about Guilt and one that used Alliteration and/or Assonance as feature factors. Hope I’ve accomplished that, as well as the job I try to make most of these reflections do.

Mine Over Matters

I know it’s a secret no more,
but I kept the one I thought
might have mattered most.
I’m sure you’d care no more,
but I’ve always been the one
to try doing The Thing, keeping
the personal nuclear code,
for what mattered most.
But what if I broke a vow
I made to myself, broke
the code to my mind and heart
over what mattered most?
I panicked over how I’d
make you sad or angry or,
worst of all, just shrug your
shoulders.
To me, you see, your feelings
(even about me)
carried what mattered most.
I wonder what’d happen if,
one day, you gave up my secret,
now that my supposed stand-up life
no longer mattered most.
Would I, who dreamed that dream,
sweat blood if anyone learned
this covert pining and furtive
twining of metaphors for you,
my little secret, ultimately
was what mattered most.

For Day 8 of NaPoWriMo’s Poem-a-Day challenge, I combined prompts for a Panic poem and one that repeated a word or phrase. Closed my eyes and started typing. Other than I and you, “what mattered most” is the repetitive hook upon which this piece hung.

Keep the Change ~ 3rd Street, Albany, 1968

“Oh, it’s’a Friday already? Come in, come in,” Mrs Dargenti would say most weeks. The old Italian lady would invite me across her threshold and fish a buck and a half out of a gold-clasped change purse each week for her daily newspaper.

I can still smell the pungent bouquet of garlic, oregano, basil and olive oil, with a hint of what I’d someday learn was anise. From the living room walls, four generations of strangers, captured in First Communion piety or Wedding Day solemnity, intimately stared across the entry at me.

The living room furniture glistened under plastic coverings, preserved like Wednesday’s leftover lasagna, protected from time and tipped wine. I imagined everything inside was like it always had been, except now the sounds of Papa and the kids were replaced by the voices of Jerry Vale, Dominico Medugno and lonely sighs in italia.

Across the street in the three-story walk-up, six families lived (twelve, if you wanted to be accurate as a census), the hallways cloaked me in darkness while the air choked me in its closeness, redolent of boiled cabbage, piss, weed and something more felt than seen or smelled.

If anyone opened the doors to you, it’d usually be as far as the chain lock would allow. If that lock was off, you weren’t invited past the threshold.

“Whachoo want?” any resident younger than fifty would say if anyone even answered the door. I’d tell them I was collecting for the newspaper delivery. Inevitably, they’d say to come back later, tomorrow, next week, when no one would answer my knock.

But if Mrs. Symonds, the matriarch of the family answered, sometimes she’d open the door enough for me to see inside, where a dingy sheet covered the sagging sofa. A pair of mismatched sheets hung from curtain rods on the two front windows, providing a modicum of privacy from without.
Within, however, there was no such thing. Four rooms and a bathroom left little space to fit the grandmother, her son, her daughters and her daughters’ children.

If Mrs. Symonds paid, it would be apologetically for two of the four weeks she owed, and it would be with three crumpled singles she’d pull from her stained housecoat. I’d eat the balance of the other two weeks, cutting another three bucks into my earnings for the month.

I really didn’t want to go back into the building. The soundtrack from the other three flats, sometimes say James Brown and others maybe Marvin Gaye, never drowned out the backbeat of the looped percussive bang of my heart when I climbed to the second floor. Not after a guy I’d never seen before stepped out of the shadows by the stairs and cut a memory into my chest.

Later, when my connection to newspapers was to fill them with words instead of delivering them, I drove along my old paper route. There, the home that once preserved its past still stood. It now sported an out of character, unpainted front step of cast concrete, it’s aluminum railing canted to the left. Lengths of stained green vinyl siding sagged or flapped from its sides.

Across the street, a vacant lot stretched like a glass-strewn grave where the other house stood. If it was a fire or some stillborn plan for a new building that brought it down, I’ll never know.

The truth is, despite an effort to preserve some hazy, idealized past or merely survive the present, the future can be as cold as that thin blade, as hot as the desperation and anger crouched behind locked doors and beneath staircases and as inevitable as the fact you may be able to go home again, but home may not be there to greet you. Especially not with a buck and a half. Forget any ten-cent tip.

In retrospect, you can keep your change.

Don’t know why or from where I wrote this. Just started scribbling in pencil on a notebook page. Maybe Inspiration has run its course in my life. These days, it feels like that housecoat pocket of Mrs. Symonods.