I do not have a poem to say today,
Appalling how thoughts sometimes hit a wall:
The words don’t seem to flow, a sad cliché
That accurately spells with great recall
My present state where words have gone astray,
Imagination covered by a pall.
But just as long as ink is in my pen,
I’ll find my Muse and write a poem again.
I heard from an old, dear friend this week who is waging a battle with cancer. She spoke to me about her children, all adults now, and the importance to her that they see her fight this battle with all her might. 30+ years ago I sent her these poems and would like to pull them up from the archives to share with you all as I wish her courage, faith and strength in her struggle.
Remember years ago when we first met?
You selling books, me browsing, reading books
At Brandon’s store? We were so young, and life
So unrevealed, so full of promises
And boundless hopes and dreams, and guarantees
And opportunities. You went away.
I stayed and made mistakes. We met again,
You east, me west, you school, me ships and seas.
Confused, we erred and severed friendship’s bond,
And all seemed lost between us save a thread,
A laser beam of hope that, over time,
Compressed, distilled and purified, survived
Until today. We meet again. What fate
Awaits is ours to plan, to recommend.
A peculiar beauty,
A gentle glow,
and a caring–
a heart that tends
a pleasant smile,
she is bearing–
a tender kiss,
a warm caress,
makes life endearing.
Ballston Spa, NY
The Golden Krust man died the other day.
We weren’t friends or anything, except in that
dream world where odd things flow together
in a swirl. But I was once a baker – I learned
that if you overmix the pie dough it comes
out tough and rubbery, not crumbly crisp.
In my dream, I asked him to add a dash of ginger
and some grated almonds to his recipe.
I always prefer the spinach pies to meat
and other fillings. Today I take the Red Line
to NoMa, then walk the bicycle trail to DCPL’s
temporary home for special collections, where
I hope to complete arranging the papers
of the Association of Liberated Librarians.
My train entered McPherson Square station
meeting another train headed to Virginia.
On the other side, I saw the face of a former lover,
looking down at her phone, or maybe a book.
She looks older, but so do I. Time passes quickly.
We had some good times, incredible sex,
endless arguments. And she would drink scotch
and smoke menthol cigarettes late into the night,
and I tried to do both, but self-destruction
wasn’t in my nature. She left and I let her go,
and breaking up was hard, uncertain, chilling
to know what I’d never experience again in quite
the same way, with the same passionate intent.
Two trains passed, pausing at an interim station.
A bit of December chill hurts my knees.
Up and down too many ladders on ships
and submarines when I was young.
Now I pay the price. My Greek Muse
is tapping me on the shoulder, “Write,
write something, damn it!” And I am
heating up yesterday’s Chinese leftovers
and sipping this morning’s coffee for lunch
while the ink dries.
There are no spirits lurking in the aisles
and corners. Just cartons of documents,
details of lives. Whether well-lived or ill,
these papers tell the story – marriage, birth,
land acquired, taxes. Death. It’s all there.
No need for the rattling sound of zombies –
ghosts of events yet to come – in graveyards.
Might this be the judgement we fear? The words
and deeds, archived records we leave behind
won’t deliver us to any heaven –
or hell. It’s just a mirage, this image
of hereafter we’ve been trained to accept
as truth, the certain object of our faith:
dried, folded, faded, in a dusty box.
A beginning and end poem
What did I know,
in my freshman year,
about subliminal messages
from members of the opposite sex?
She was older and more worldly,
having just returned from a junior
I was in awe.
I read her my freshman year poetry.
It was all I had.
She urged me to submit it
to the college newspaper
for the annual poetry issue,
but she didn’t tell me
she was the poetry page editor.
I should have known that,
but what did I know?
Her encouragement was enough.
Three poems were accepted.
I was ecstatic!
What was I to do next?
I didn’t have a clue.
She invited me to her apartment
for homemade soup – I accepted.
It’s not what you think.
We had long conversations
over almost daily visits
about exotic places she travelled to,
places I hoped one day to see for myself.
She was very kind to me
and I was appreciative of her kindness.
We dated, if you can call it that,
for the rest of the spring semester.
Then we went our separate ways –
she graduated and moved to Chapel Hill
for grad school. And me, unmoored,
I drifted out to sea.
Reading an obit hyperlinked to a blog
hyperlinked to love poems, one might assume
death were itself conclusive. It is said
Poseidon, the protector of seafarers, is
more powerful a god than the Roman Neptune,
since Greece is surrounded by the sea.
A friend asked if connections between people
had their antecedents out in space, as stardust,
or beneath us, at the bottom of the sea.
All I know is I’d rather be a mariner
than an astronaut. A shipmate told me
there are more airplanes at the bottom
of the ocean than submarines in the sky.
In part, perhaps, because I am an older guy,
I wonder why people seem so obsessed
with a poet’s sexual proclivities, as if
that’s something somehow fixed, predestined.
My favorite poets are so because of what
and how they write, not with whom or how
they spend their private moments. Poetic
sentiment is universal, ubiquitous, maybe
even transformational, if you listen.
It didn’t take me long to figure out
I might not be able to coast by on
my good looks alone. The escalator
froze tonight at Capitol South. Not cool.
Next time I’ll take the steps.