In the Canyon of Our Echoes

For years and years
and years and years
I’ve chronicled the echoes
of my woes and yours,
I’ve given voice to
the oohs and ahhhs,
the sniffs and sobs,
I hear with an ear
no one can see.
But I’m tired.
Tired, tired, tired,
retired and re-retired.
I know there’s joy out there
because I can hear
the giggles of little ones,
see the smiles of those
who think they know love
in this moment when I sense
I’m going deaf, blind and,
perhaps, speechless.
Yet there’s hope in this
canyon of our echoes…
because at least
I can still feel.

I just realized how long I’ve chronicled expressions of our emotions, over and over and over again. And I’m so, so tired…but still willing.

Hell Hath No Fury

“You don’t have to do this,” Lottie said as I was about to finish Landro in the alley.

“After what he did to you?” I said. If Lottie wasn’t there, I’d have killed him already. But with her it was like having a good angel on both shoulders. She was my worst good influence.

“I don’t want you do it.”

“I don’t want you to either,” Landro said through lips I’d split five ways.

“I don’t want you to get in trouble for something I…”

“You didn’t do anything, Lottie. He’s a coward and needs killin’,” I said.

“I didn’t mean it,” Landro said, a tear in his voice and a torrent streaming from what was visible of his right eye.

I should’ve shot him when he came out of the bar, but I was walking Lottie home, still jumpy as a kitten.

“Her thtockings showing, riding astraddle that plug with the missing shoe, giving me the eye. She was asking for it,” Landro said.

I kicked him again. He was asking for it.

“Ted, take me home. Please.”

“All right. Landro, you’re lucky this girl’s more forgiving than any saint.”

I guess my threat worked. Landro was gone in the morning. Never saw him again.

Week later, some Buffalo Soldiers found a body about twenty miles from town. Said Apaches left him naked, face smashed in by a rifle butt, manhood tossed in a patch of cactus. Two sets of tracks.

Funny, one of them had but three shoes.

A 250-word story drafted for Siobhan Muir’s weekly Thursday Threads contest. Had to use phrase “You don’t have to do this.” I led with it and followed that trail. This one will be expanded into something even more grown-up someday.

My Figment, Your Poet

Here you are again,
sitting, standing,
floating in front of me.
There but not there,
inevitably as real
as I can make you.
And yet I’m your captive,
one of my own imagination,
one who who lives to see you
and loves to please you,
one who chronicles
the never-weres in clicks
of never-wills,
one who almost never can
without you.
Then I realize it’s time
for you to go again,
fading into the light.
At least until tonight,
when you return, floating
on a river of blackest ink
across my ceiling dark.
And I, your poet, without a pen.

All The Questions Behind Our Masks

If you could hear my voice,
would you know who I am?
If you could see only my eyes,
would you just shrug and move on?
You, who notice so much, how would
I stand or walk or scratch
my nose that’d signal I’m
the one standing before you?

I only ask because years and tears
take their tolls, and to chase life,
we now wear masks to jump the stiles.
Would I recognize you, if you
covered half your face?
Your smile, once so infectious,
would retain some anonymity
and protection from me, though
your laugh might break through
as if shrouded only by Salome’s
diaphanous veils.

Would I recognize those pools
of sadness or of anger cascading
over your protective wall, as well
as your mask? It doesn’t matter.
Apart is our part in how life goes on,
and happy face to face need only
happen where there are no masks
and distance is dissolved in time
and the dark mask-drop of dreams.

It Happens Every Spring

These were the days I would
run like tree sap, uncontrolled
by any man’s order. Not even my own.
A seasonal shade of masculinity
drip-drip-dripping from me
like tears at a funeral,
freeing my joints and tongue
in a low-gravity dance
with the baseless hope one feels
at 0-0 before the first pitch.
And, before you know it,
after a few scoring opportunities
got turned away, I’d be down
Spring to Nothing. Life throwing
a shut-out at the guy who still
misreads the rules. Always thought
’twas Spring hopes eternal,
not some other way ‘round.

Too true for it to be fictionalized. What is it they used to say? Oh yeah, “It happens every Spring.” Still.

Engraved In the Alloys of Praise

It’s not that I sought my name on the wall,
yet seeking it was what I found myself doing
one afternoon. I just never sought my name
on the wall while I was doing what allegedly put it there.
I’m just past the middle of the big varnished board,
in the school entrance hall, gold letters engraved
in now-tarnishing brass. And while I’m surrounded
by others who didn’t seek praise, to me,
their names shine brighter than mine.
At home I have more planks on my wall, each with
my name spelled correctly on their plates of praise.
I don’t look at them much. They’re just part of the wall
on most days, covering nail holes that’ll need replastering.
Though, yes, I am honored somebody thought enough
of something I did to recognize it one night
with a nice piece of wall decor.

I’ve learned that this hardware kind of praise is a lot like
somebody’s wake when they die.
More for the living than the dead.
More for that moment of giving than the day after receiving.
More for the engraving than the dusting off.
Better remembered for the day you crushed your thumb
with a hammer than on the day they take your name down.
You cannot capture praise in an alloy of copper and zinc.
Praise is an expression of the moment, an alloy of love
and respect. It’s the warmth of a hand on the shoulder,
the melding of my fist with yours, a hug.
Brass accepts heat like that, too. But it gets cold faster.
You can’t hang a hug on the wall, though. Much the pity.

On this rainy last day of NaPoWriMo Poem-a-Day April 2020, I was tasked with writing a “praise” poem.  All hail to the poets who brought so many poems to ground over the past 30 days. I’d give you all a hug, but you’ll have to settle for this room temperature video screen. 

Total Recall

I remember once when
my memory worked, how you
looked on the day that we met.
Well, we actually didn’t meet
since you were busy with them
and I was idle with me.
But my eyes met you.
I recall you in black and white,
which I’m not sure if you wore
or that’s just how my old
memories conflate with newer ones.
Do you remember when we met,
or have the years smeared
that picture with the tears
I’ve caused you because
eventually we did? Perhaps
I didn’t make that big a dent
in your mind as you did in mine.
Or maybe you’ve lost that memory
because it was for the best.
If they’re there, I can’t find
all the pieces in the corners
of my mind, scattered by fears
that a perfect memory would be
too true for my imperfect fantasy.
But its all here in black and white.

There! I think this might be better. Do you remember when I would write one of these lickety-split over a ten-minute break? Well, maybe it was 15. I don’t remember such things so well anymore. But, like I said, there it is in black and white.

As Big As That, As Small As This

When I close my eyes,
I can see you clearly.
Not from a distance, like
from all these years away,
but as if you were standing
right in front of me.
And if you really were here,
I’d still not see you,
not as you are, since
I’d be looking through
my glass with the rosy hue.
The one that magnified everything
about you into massive things.
Colossal, monumental, unrealistic.
That’s obsession for you.

I always thought you saw me
through that glass, too,
only from the other end,
where I looked so small.
Diminutive, unimpressive, quixotic.
I never did see you as you are,
a deep and complex forest,
rather than an array of pretty trees.
Too bad I believed the trees,
who saw a pesky weed.
You never were as really big as that,
and I never really as small as this.
So we never really were, were we?

Day 27 called for a “massive” poem. I don’t have the wherewithal today to put together some Homeric monster epic. Nor even an abridged version. And you don’t have the time to devote to reading it. Wait for my book. So here’s an equally fictive piece about how we can blow the normal up out of proportion, as well as diminish it into a gnat. Get rid of that rosy glass, y’all. Left out in the sun, it’ll burn everything down.

My Not-What-You-Think-You-See

I don’t see it as anything odd,
how I do this or that is just how I do it.
So, why did you get your drawers in a wad,
like you grabbed a rock in your hothouse and threw it?

Do I point out how you study whatever you pick
after going two knuckles deep up your nose?
I mean, c’mon, you’re cultured, not some hick.
Well, at least you don’t eat it, too, I suppose.

Over the years, I’ve used a zillion H’s, I’ll bet,
from all the times I wrote my sneeze-sounding name.
But you have need for none that often, and yet
you skip it for saying These, Them and Those, just the same.

So please don’t pick, peck or parse my idiosyncrasy,
since, about yours, I’ve been silent, not some jerk.
Yes, I zone out, but it’s not what you think you see.
It’s a writer thing — a gift and a curse — not a quirk.

NaPoWriMo Day 22. A “quirk” poem.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Love

Write what you know, all the experts say.
But my level of knowledge, let alone understanding,
of the subject at hand is about as low as
one can feel when you don’t feel any love.
Those fancy lovers (and lovers of letters)
who believe they know all the ins and outs
of that “o” and “e”, all the angles of
that “L” and “V,” only know what they know.
Ya know?

Me? What I know of love could best be described,
though I’d never deign to proclaim “defined,”
as a mushy melange of obsession, possession,
with a strong dash of protection, chased by a swig
of rejection stirred with a sprig of depression.
And yet I write all these poems in which you
feel we are sharing a sense of that thing
I’ve never understood, but maybe felt once
or twice. I don’t know. I’ll leave that up to you,
my Love.

On Day 21 of the April Poem-a-Day promenade, I’ve been charged with writing a “love” poem or an “anti-love” poem. So be it. Here they are, all in one piece.