It’s Not The Hand You’re Dealt (But How You Play it)

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.

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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.

Nondisclosure Agreement

 

Looked at from this long view,
so many miles and trials
from the oath never to,
perhaps the secret
never was a secret anyway.

When you own the fact,
wear it proudly, like
a navy cashmere overcoat,
what does it matter
if the one who swore
never to tell…tells?

Maybe it doesn’t matter,
maybe it does.
Maybe you want to hold
your co-conspirator to
a higher standard – a test,
control – than the one
set for yourself.

Or maybe the secret keeper
just wants to hold something
you shared with the one
you knew you could trust.
And that trust is the only thing
you still share to this day.

Once again, I’m participating in Writer’s Digest’s twice-annual Poem-A-Day (PAD) Challenge. I must write a poem for each of the 30 days of April, based in some way on a prompt theme set by WD Editor Robert Lee Brewer. This came along just in time, since I was just about to throw in the terry cloth keyboard, because it feels like I no longer can answer the bell for another round of creating. Day 1’s prompt: Secret.

How Dark Our Shadows

Have you every noticed,
while others marveled
at the brightness
of the afternoon sun,
we were the ones
pointing out how dark
it made our shadows.
We were the ones
who talked and talked,
sharing so much,
giving so little,
caring not enough
and too much.
We were the ones who held
one another’s secrets,
even after some escaped
our pieces of night
into the light. Look,
how dark the shadows
they cast!
A pity how our garden
never bloomed, but
such an inevitability
shouldn’t surprise us.
You blinded me
with your light
and you said mine
hurt your eyes.

The Constant Shoulder

You probably don’t remember
when I would let you rest
your head on my shoulder.
Maybe you’d cry or yawn or
do whatever pretty heads do
when they come into contact
with that strong bit of muscle
and bone they could always count on.

And then you couldn’t.

It’s not like I lost it, though
perhaps it slants more downhill
with each year and beatdown.
It still teeter-totters on either side
of this head swirling with wishes,
what-ifs and why-nots, ready
to support your thoughts.

And now you don’t.

I’ve never had that kind of place
to nestle my bleary or teary eyes.
I shook off dreams and sorrows
like a Labrador loses the blue lake
he just emerged from, splattering
them in all directions. But
I’ve never been able to shake off
the blue I’ve swallowed.

And I’ve swallowed plenty.

So now you’re gone, grown and
different from when our heads
would share this bar from which
my embrace hangs for you. It waits
for some day when cooler heads
will bring ours back together,
when adults no longer act
like children and children don’t
suffer the acts of adults.

And this, dear reader, is officially Post #1,000 on A Thing for Words. I probably have written and posted more, but have deleted ones someone’s been kind, wise or unwise enough to publish or I collected in my own books. But the WordPress counter today says 1,000, so that’s what we’ll call it.

And I could never have accomplished this without YOU there to read and, in turn, encourage me not to stop writing. For that, I cannot thank you enough. Just your act of reading these ramblings has helped bring out emotions and words I never knew I could express. And you have no idea how close I am today to stopping expressing them anymore.

But I will wake up tomorrow and at least try to write one more something. Maybe there’s someone out there who may stumble on it in searching for words to help them smile or just let them know they’re not alone in what they’re feeling. So let’s just say as long as you’re willing, I’ll always try to shoulder my responsibility of giving you somewhere to lay your head. It’s what I’ve always done. And, despite all my personal “bleary and teary,” I guess I’m not done yet.

Thank you all. You and I know who you are. Thank you for helping me better know me.

Secret Identity

If I understood women
the way they think they
understand me,
I’d own that superpower.
Now I know a lot,
having lived with nothing but
the distaff side
of the world’s roster
for decades.
All that being said,
I wonder just what women
believe they know about
somewhat testosteronic me.
Do you understand that a man,
me,
can change over time?
Yes, it’s true.
Do you grasp that I know
and respect
how important feelings
are in your lives?
Do you comprehend
how I can’t work without
something to write on?
Yeah, I write on paper,
but also function on the fuel
of perception and emotion.
I keep this secret identity
out of sight,
like a flashy bodysuit
I wear beneath my clothes.
I break it out only
in the privacy of my
fortress of QWERTY solitude,
to fly across pages,
out into space and maybe
lift a few hearts
too heavy to lift
on your own.

Yeah, that’s me, the superhero known by a select few as…Poet Guy.

A Snickers Doodle

The candy bowl sits
on the hallway stairs
by the front door.
Once again, it proved more
than we needed, meted
out to a smaller number
of children than last year.
And last year fewer
than the year before.
“These bags of candy must be
getting bigger every year,”
I say, enunciating
like a high fructose
Demosthenes around the third
of five Snickers minis whose
empty wrappers will crackle
as they crinkle in my pocket
en route to the kitchen.
It’s not that I’m hiding
evidence from Herself
of winnowing the leftovers.
The bowl’s growing emptiness
is my snacking gun.
I’m hiding (denying)
how consumed I am by
my shaky resolve,
my spooky weakness
for the wee candy bars
I’ll scarf during those
first days of November.
And then I catch a glimpse
of my profile in the mirror
on the way to the trash.
Ohhh, the HORROR!