In the ever-Summer glare and heat
I found my life’s pain and regret
sanctified into something replete
with but little Hope baptized in sweat.
So the torment, no matter how holy,
still rips around my beaten heart
as if it was something mad and solely
bent and intent to rip it apart.
Perhaps I can hallow my vessel so hollow
with the heat from a different kind of light,
as good for my soul as the heart to follow,
soothing all my pain with its godly might.
And that’s why I’m here dipping pen in ink,
the black sprung from my soul to my heart.
Drawing pictures in words so we all might drink
of this sacrament that heals me called Art.
As I like to say, completing these pieces I share does not make me feel better. But all the time spent immersed in the process of writing them does. And that, my friend, is the miracle of Art, no matter how poorly rendered.
Across these shadow-filled decades you probably wouldn’t remember how we’d sit there on our beds and submit our lives and times to all the oh-so-mature, badass examination that only eighteen-year-olds possessing a 2-S or 4-F Selective Service deferment or a Draft Lottery number higher than 200 could muster. Through the tawny, fuzzy-framed lens of five beers each or the gray-white haze of ultra-clarity that you’d acquire from that illicit psychoactive agent you harbored in your sock drawer, artistic, philosophic and geopolitical certainty would hang in the air like soon-to-incinerate paper lanterns strung from one side of the room to the other. Occasionally, the rocket’s red glare of your proselytizing the work of Salinger would send me scooting for safety behind the cover of my Shakespeare, Twain and Chekhov. Do you remember falling to sleep to Zeppelin, Dylan and The Dead? How about the phony bomb threat someone tried to pin on the Black Panthers that emptied the dorms on our first night on campus? Can you recall how we wandered around the quads and stared at easily a hundred of the first girls we’d ever seen wearing clothing — actually or, most likely, in our dreams — more easily removed than high school uniform jumpers, wide-belted low-hipped bell bottoms or even a tight-ass mini? Do you recollect any of those deliciously salacious silhouettes of their Promised Land projected through each of the nightgowns by the fire trucks’ lights? I only just thought of them, sitting here with this faded old photo of her. I wonder whatever happened, since we never did. Those will never be the good old days, though, since so much bad since then blocked the light of the good. But the faintly outlined memories I saw today through something like those old chemically induced dorm goggles make me happy. I guess I could call them memories of the Twilight Ages, since at this age I’m living in now sure as hell feels like a Dark one.
I don’t wish you could have been there, but you probably had to be to fully understand this. It was a time of great social and political upheaval faced by kids who had lived through a just-averted nuclear war touched off a relatively few nautical miles from Key West, by burning racial divisions and flaming American cities, and by many an American boy about to turn 18 who sweated out if his next birthday recognition would include a card that read: “Greetings.” Guys my age tend to talk about their youth as “the Dark Ages.” But they really should be called the Twilight Ages. Today scares me in a whole different way.
If I was to ask you,
“What is it you want from me;
what is it you expect me to be?”
I wonder what I’d hear from you.
Am I a trash heap for sorrows,
the already flaming dumpster
of self-inflicted woes or those
committed by others upon me?
What’d be the harm in tossing
a few more on the fire, right?
Or am I an ancient outcropping
of granite shoulder that will
support you and you and you
if you’re searching for a clear view
of this cloud-bound world?
Is it more tears than your own
you seek, mute nods of understanding,
even if I’m as numbed by this
shallow section of life as a puddle?
Or is it sorrowful, powerful words
that frame your worries in radiating
ripples built of nothing but 0’s and 1’s?
Perhaps you’re hoping for me to create,
with these countless lies I splash
into existence, tiny prisms,
each containing a view of a world
in all its squint-eyed beauty?
I’m tired now, barely capable of spitting
these droplets of words out here.
But you know I’ll do my best to be whoever you need.
If only someone would do the same for me.
It is a universal truth that someone
who looks like me, talks like me,
fights sleep like me, falls in and fails
at loves like me and sits so often
alone like me can never be truly happy.
Happy is relative, something that
everyone feels they know, whether
they know definitive happiness or not.
It’s a construct where a human brain
imbibes endorphins, creating an emotional
and physical state of great comfort and pleasure.
I can’t recall of late tripping
with Terpsichore to that tipsiness.
But I do know I am least unhappy when
I’m here talking to You,
whether you know that or not.
Yes, YOU. To you. As closely as I
can get without reaching out and
touching, since warm on warm
must remain warm words, words that
I hope you might find…touching.
Perhaps they’ve made you less unhappy
as they did me while I wrote them,
whether I knew it or not.
I’m still sinking, capsized and taking on this painful emotional goo. But I seem to be able to say something, even if it’s covered in some other kind of goo, when I put you on the other side of this screen, as I am behind yours. And, in that, you (yes, YOU) make me as un-unhappy as I get these days. I hope perhaps I can help you, too.
This poem is supposed to be about
any word that’s, you know, somewhat alien,
one that’s little known or multisyllabic,
as clear to most as if shrouded by a smoking kalian.
See, as a poet, you’d think I could pick from
a sackful, enough to share in a madrigalian.
But I’m just an opposing-thumbed, medium-brained,
somewhat upright-walking mammalian,
barely a member of the species that gave us
daVinci and Shakespeare, though not some rhychocephalian.
But if I could choose one big old word,
I’d throw a monumental party, something saturnalian.
And for those of you who love your drink,
enough libation would flow to float a bacchanalian.
But I can’t select one, so this poem’s another failure,
mostly ’cause I’m a piss-poor writer…oh, and piss-poor
On Day #25 of the Poem-a-Day Challenge during this National Poetry (Writing) Month I was charged with picking an intriguing and/or seldom-used word, make it the title of the poem, and then, writing one. If you know me, then you know that decision-making cannot go on top of my list of strengths. It’s more like a feat of strength. So, choosing one word among the few I know (why else would I constantly make up all these hyphenated whats-it words?) was not going to happen. Hence you get this piece of spaghetti-tossed-at-the-fridge-door doggerel. Oh, and sesquipedalian means “tending to use long words,” coming from the Latin for “foot-and-a-half in length.” Works for me.
Forever she told me
that she always felt Life
dealt her nothing but bad hands,
each full of strife.
I replied in encouragement,
Knave to her Queen,
“Don’t fold, you’ve got
one more hand to be seen.”
She sighed and said,
“I got nothing here but a nine.”
I said, “Toss those four
and let’s see what we find.”
So she looked at the dealer
and said, “I’ll take four.”
He chuckled and said,
“Is that ‘cause you can’t take more?”
Then the dealer grinned
His indecently superior grin,
dealing the cards, saying,
“Ya know, gambling’s another sin.”
I put my hand on her shoulder,
‘cause she was my Muse,
as the dealer said,
“I’ve a full house, so I guess you lose.”
She looked at her hand
and then back at me,
while I kept my poker face,
the lesson I’d hope she’d see.
“I’ve got this pair of deuces,”
she said to his sneer,
“And oh, look, I’ve got another
just like it right here.”
The lesson she learned is even
an Ace-high full boat can lose
to someone whose hand
holds nothing but twos.
So stay positive, keep hope,
and don’t lose your mind.
Bad hands happen, but (Who knows?)
you might pull your own four of a kind.
Day #10 of the April 2018 PAD Challenge (I’m a third of the way through without a miss) called for a Deal or a No Deal poem. In the old days, I’d write one for each instance on these Two for Tuesday specials. Don’t know if I’m up to it these days, but thought I’d deal you this bit of whimsy. Call.
Every Place is a Face,
by Ed Fairburn
There were six of us,
a number now decreased to four,
of which I’m still the oldest.
And while some may think
holding that position
has hereditary privileges, it also
has its responsibilities and duties.
Or at least it did for me.
If you take the role seriously,
you’re the one who will mind
the second or third littlest —
change them, feed them, keep
the roar down to a rumble —
since Mom will be elbow deep
into the youngest’s care.
At seventeen, I ran away
to a college out west (well,
Rochester), giddy with the thought
that finally I’d be alone to fend
for myself and invent the guy
I might really be, or wanted to be.
All I was sure of was he looked
just like me. And that was the problem.
No matter how hard you try,
eventually you’ll look at that guy
in the mirror and see a nose like Dad’s
and your sisters’s, eyes brown as Mom’s
and your brother’s. A map of the place
only your family lives. And you
might as well admit it, that face,
no matter who resides behind it,
always leads you back to your family.
And that’s where you’ll always belong.
For Day #8 of April, 2018’s PAD Challenge, we were to write a family poem. That one cuts deep for me in so many places and so many ways. And I mean cuts. You can see the roads and rivers and other signs of man and God as they trod from my expanding forehead to my sagging chin. Or at least I see where we’ve been. ‘Nuff said.