Keeping My Head Above

Just thought I’d write today. No theme, no depth of subject or consideration of how it might affect my life and life in general. Just write. So…

My life’s a mess, but so is human life overall. The length and breadth of it is a litany of sloppy, awkward, falling-down trial, error, failure and maybe the occasional tie. There don’t seem to be any wins. And if we think there are such Me-versus-the-Universe faux-comebacks, that’s just the House sucking you in with a blast of endorphin to keep you at the gaming table.

I guess the best times are the trials, those times where I’ve messed in the mess and have yet to fall on my face in the slop of it all. There are few times where the mess isn’t within and arm’s length of me (or you). I dance on the edge of it, splash in it, wade through it, throughout the Sphinx’s four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night quiz answer for Oedipus. His prize was the keys to “a NEW Thebes!”

And we all know how that turned out, right? 

Yes, life is messy, from its hormone-drenched origin, to its splatter-flick, camel-through-a-needle’s-eye (so I’m told and have observed) delivery, over its boot-sucking traverse of the day to day swamp, until its icky finale and ultimate disposal.

I am up to my chin in it all, with the once-distant solid ground of my evermore within sight, which sometimes feels more appealing than yet another swallow of life’s wallow. I’ve taken on a lot of its turbid wash over the past few years, sometimes nearly going under, occasionally dreaming of scuttling this leaky vessel altogether.

But here I am, taking the gamble one more day, reaching my foot into the stark paper-white unseen in hope there’s a there there to support me until tomorrow when I hold my nose and take another sodden step. That’s the risk I take. Maybe you do, as well. I’ve taken many a messy misstep, sunk into it over my head and somehow sputtered like flotsam to the surface. I’m an expert at treading, though I’m more exhausted every day.

Maybe you’ve been lucky enough (or made your own luck) to find a map to the stars’ homes, isles of dryland dreams to keep your feet unsullied at least for awhile. I applaud you, but won’t allow myself envy. That’s just more heavy ballast I don’t need. I carry enough of my own. 

So here on this page I have smeared the results of my latest fall in the marsh of human existence. I’ve wiped from my eyes the detritus I observed upon the silty bottom. Exhaled more of the miasma floating above the surface like a diaphanous warning of days to come. And I’ve spit out some of my latest gulps of failure. 

Another mess. Another chance to tread on. Another tie.

C’mon, Snow

The two feet of snow
disappeared across
the length of December,
and now Winter looks
like Autumn from my window.
The great smoother
of Man’s and Nature’s
jagged angles has ebbed
its way back into the clouds,
leaving reminders of a job
poorly done collecting leaves.
But one can’t expect perfection
when you are, indeed,
but one.
And that is the lot
of the lone gardener,
the one who wields
the rake or the pen.
Or so I’m told.

I suppose I could go out
into the cold cold afternoon
to gather the leaves
that came after I put away
my toothy tools, just as
I suppose I could sit here
with a heater at my feet
and rake words into
this biodegradable bag
of free verse. Besides,
there’s no one looking
to collect any leaves
until March. Like no one’s
inside looking at poems.
C’mon, snow.

My Soul to Keep

You think you know
who I’m talking about,
but I doubt you’re right.
You’ll say, “He’s going on
about me/her/us again.”
But you may be wrong.
I can’t say for sure myself.

I know you’ve been here somewhere,
since you left such a distinct mark
on my visceral poetic parts.
Bruise, scar, tattoo,
or something only I imagine?
Yes, no, probably. Who knows?
The question is, do you want these
to be about you? Do I?

Do you want to remain attached
to whatever it is containing
the emotion I never show?
Would you like to be the one opening
that little valve and releasing
the drips and gushes
with which I paint fantasies
too real to bear and realities
that can never be.

So if you don’t wish me
to write about you, don’t worry.
I’m not. But if you desire to be
remembered in a way so few are,
I’ll always hold a warm place
for your memory, my soul to keep.

I so wished to write a story today. Failed. So I just turned loose what remains of my scraggly creative wolf and he howled out this moonlit song. It’s not melancholy, at least. In fact, I think it might even be a little hopeful, Lord help me.

Lori

I always felt I was the one
discovered you out there in the aether,
while you were still gigging
never very far from Boston,
since you had to get the kids
off to school in the morning.
Yep, I was the one who heard
your ringing instrument with
a vague accent from the South side
of mid-America. Nothing like
your native Hah-vahd Yahd.

I downloaded all your freebies
and shared them with the ones
who counted and could appreciate
how you knew exactly what they felt,
as if they were the ones
scraping their chairs across
your kitchen floor, leaning in
while you’d try something new,
cut a demo, or poured
another cup of tea. Not coffee.

But I decided to let you go
after Nashville discovered you.
And I really got pissed when
Oprah told the world how she did.
What a silly, jealous man.
I guess I wanted to keep you to myself,
hidden like a whispered secret
beneath my headphones.
I still move my fingers to the chords
of the old songs when I listen
to them for hours on repeat.

But then, what’s one more time?

I decided to check in at Writer’s Digest’s Wednesday Poetry Prompt today. Especially since my mind’s currently incapable of finding inspiration on its own dime. The theme was a Composer poem, where I’d take a composer’s name, put it in the title and then let ‘er rip. I don’t know why, but I chose Lori McKenna, whose music I discovered online almost 20 years ago. You know, when she was still, as I said, gigging around Boston or so. The music was  great. But her words!! I didn’t realize it back then, but the title cut from her second album, Pieces of Me, became an anthem of sorts for this past section of my life:

I have been a poet all my life
With really not too much to say
So you can push me anywhere you like
But you can’t push me away

My life is written down on papers in my room
And yours is bottled up somewhere
So I’ll send you letters from half across the moon
And it will cross your mind but you won’t dare

A Light, Nonetheless

Here’s the spark
no one’s looking for,
out there in the dark
of their days.
It comes from a heart
which never knew
much but apart
from wherever your head lays.

I’ve been dead so long
to all but a few,
but I don’t feel it so wrong
being buried in plain sight.
But you, this morning,
came to my empty mind,
and I took it as a warning
that maybe you needed my light.

Our distance is more than miles,
more than even time can measure.
I’d walk it all for one of your smiles
that breathe mere spark to flame.
I’m know I’m shouting into naught
this light for you dimmed long ago.
My spark-words you’ll give barely a thought,
but I fought for that thought just the same.

Sorry I’ve been gone so long. Distance, time, pain and darkness interred me. If any there in the void still might care to read, thank you for your kind indulgence and the privilege of your looking up to notice this light so dim. Dim, yes, but it’s a light, nonetheless.

That Nothing We Shared

I wish we could talk,
just talk,
but then I realize
talking always
got in the way.
I’d say something
just to fill
the vacuum between us,
and since words
won’t carry across a vacuum,
you’d intuit in your way
that I’d said something
I never meant.
I never blamed you.
I don’t like blame.
Though, if I did,
I’d blame the vacuum,
the nothing we shared
which was everything.

That Last Hug

“How are you today?”
I ask too often,
speaking it into that empty space
where something of you remains.
Not like a photo,
since my memory is of someone
who probably doesn’t or never did exist.
This is the space where
I’ve kept something you wore that
conveys more than a fuzzy, faded look
of care-less I never did accept.
Even with years of hanging
in the back of my mind’s closet,
I can hold it by the hand,
impart some of my own warmth
to it, hoping it might echo
the sense of a hug and the aroma
of perfume and sweat that’d
mean more to me now than a slight smile
suspended from red-reflected eyes
an Instamatic caught in
a moment of surprise…
or maybe disappointment.
So I ask, “How are you today?”
though I probably wouldn’t
recognize your voice,
just the warm smell of you
from a last hug I made last.