The Deal

Life has loveliness to sell. ~ Sara Teasdale

If I had the strength, I’d
steal some, because I don’t think
I’ll ever trade for it once more.
I recall it felt like holding you,
your eyes piercing mine, inspecting
the inventory left upon
the shelves of my soul.
That’s what loveliness feels
like, like holding you in my
ever-weakening arms once more —
priceless, though it’s cost me
so very much of my life.
Would that I had more days
I could barter for that loveliness,
but my stock has grown scant.
I exchanged them for moments
of the loveliness I felt you share
in my daydreaming yesterdays.

I’m not feeling too well these days and mortality has suddenly become my wingman. And, like a lot of people who feel thus, I go back and audit the balance sheet of my life’s black-ink experience versus the red of its too many hopes and dreams, and I’ve found how much I’m in arrears. Don’t waste your life’s assets, children. Splash that ebon ink all over your ledger’s pages until it’s full of nothing but black and the balance reads zero. It’s like they say, “You can’t take it with you.” This poem is in response to my friend Annie Fuller’s Writing Outside the Lines prompt up there of a quote from the prolific early 20th Century American poet Sara Teasdale’s poem “Barter.” Hence, my title.

Just Like Every Other Day

I used to remember
those times I
was blown away,
cast like sand
from where I’d stand
to watch you, while
winds capricious
into my youthful visage
carved what now is age.
But not today.

To my mind, you might be
a cloud of dust,
amorphous, nebulous
and just
impossible to grasp.
Though if I could,
I’d hold you tightly,
where I stood,
as in an hourglass,
and you’d never blow away.
Not then, not tomorrow,
not today.

This morning, a moment.
I, as ever, alone and
staring in a mirror at
these ancient scars,
vivid as a clear
summer night’s stars,
those stellar sands,
sifted through my own hands.
And I heard a voice say
“You recall how I got them
like was yesterday.”
“I guess,” I replied,
but it always hurts like
it was just today.”

More mushy verse from my mushy brain for Day Two of NaPoWriMo. A poem based on Robert Lee Brewer’s prompt: “not today.”

A Case of Mistaken Secret Identity

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I was never the man
you were so sure I was
then. And you weren’t
the one I thought
I knew. You still
don’t know me, but
I probably wouldn’t
recognize you,
through all the ink,
like milk, spilled since
last together we flew.
So now we’re strangers
living carry-on lives,
none of that old
baggage to check.
I could say, “Hi,
I’m just a guy,
on the last leg
of a journey we
each alone trek.

I wouldn’t mind
if you’d be so kind
to be a friend like
I once thought I had.
Perhaps you’d agree
a simple You-and-I We
would be super,
not like the old bad.
I won’t expect
a super-someone then
and don’t you look
for Bruce Wayne.
New connections
we’ll have made and
our rechecked baggage
permanently delayed;
we’d be just you and me,
with no more cases of
mistaken secret identity.

Above are the Chinese characters for “reconciliation” or “to make friends again.”  My old bones must feel Spring on the way to create something in this kind of mood of amity and hope. I’m sure it’ll pass with the next snow or depression blow.

When We Have Faces Again

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Faceless, by Carsten Frenzl

Should I read between this and that line,
if ever I thought it’d be a good time,
I’d see a piece of you here and there, all right.
But I write in the dark, behind a closed door at night.
So if some of you made your way into the room,
and got stretched across my word-weaving loom,
I’d apologize, but say thanks for the light.

But, reach out I never did.
Rather, I stayed here and hid
behind recollections fogged in,
almost, but not quite, forgotten.
Where you became a thought without a face,
and I, in the dark, one with barely a trace,
a memory of a someone locked out, not in.

Maybe we’ll meet some distant day
and perhaps then I’ll hear you say,
“I think I remember you.
You’re the one who
wrote songs that might be about me.”
And I’d say, “Perhaps, yes.
But my memory it lapses.
So these words might’ve happened without me.”

They may be woven of the chaff
of long ago when I’d laugh
at how I let life put me through paces.
I lost sight of you, and a part of me too.
Perhaps, blurred without traces, but
through God’s holy graces, amen,
we’ll finally recognize
one another not just by words, by the eyes…
but only when we have faces again.

When we have faces again.

Because you asked me.  But I thought I’d torture myself (and you readers) and make this writing a bit more difficult on myself–which will ever be my artistic wont–with some sort of half-assed rhyme scheme. Cryptic, I know…even to me.

Only the Smile Remains

She had a bright smile, as I remember,
and I forget so much these days.
But the idea of what’s now a featureless face,
save for the memory of that brilliant double arch
of inviting conviviality, coquettish charm
and orthodontic perfection, floats
before me and I can’t blink nor rub it away.
Sometimes I can still make out her eyes,
deep brown with a filigree of gold
and ebony surrounding the pupils.
I only got close enough to study them
four times, and of those, only once
was with her knowledge, but not approval.

They were as bright as her smile
and were the windows to her troubled soul.
But now I don’t see her eyes too much.
Perhaps my recollection boarded them up when
she lost the lease on her soul.
It doesn’t much matter anymore, since I
moved off on my way, too. But I admit
to missing that bright smile and the times
I’d bask in its illuminant approval,
hear the chime of laughter from inside,
instead of feeling its bite on these,
my long smileless days, when in the mirror
I reflect on my own eyes, and see, and see,
and see…a candle within.

I was writing a story, and the character stopped in mid-draft to tell me this story about himself and the one who is but a shadow on a cloudy day to him now. I’d better put down my poet’s quill and pick up my writer’s keyboard to see what else is troubling this guy. Perhaps its the quote by the Cheshire Cat as he faded away, leaving nothing but his smile: “We’re all mad here.”

Turning the Leaves in My Garden of Days

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Spring’s spring long ago sprung,
the bounce and suppleness
either stiffened or sagging.
It’s a most discouraging disparity
at 6:00 AM, when the gales blow
from the alarm clock and
my limbs and branches creak and
crack as my windward changes to lee.
Now summer’s vibrant verdant life’s
fading to some sere shade of sand,
as if dribbled from and hourglass,
with each later and later sunrise.
The grass and leaves lean toasted
and curved in this oven of latter years.
Even the weeds, habitual and
nagging as they be, have passed
into some crusty form, as if pressed
between the pages of my book of days.
They’re all just reminders
of where I stand today in this garden
I’ve sown, tended, ignored,
forgotten and now chronicle its
changes with sunset’s scarred and
wrinkled hindsight from a window
above it all. Still above it all.

A birthday poem, written in the aerie seat where I still can soar, one more year closer to being definitively old.