Umwelt


I feel like a blind man living inside a kaleidoscope;
A glutton with but one taste bud left;
A monk who’s forgotten what he knew of God;
A tin-eared drunk waking up just as angels
burst across the heavens in song.
I’m a coma patient wrapped in wool,
strapped in a closet in a blackened room
in the back of the basement.

The blind tick only cares for butyric acid’s smell,
and the exact temperature of blood.
Then it falls into blackness, hoping
it will land on the fur,
feed on the blood of a passing deer.
It can smell butyric on mammals’ fur,
and sense just the temperature of blood,
which is exactly 37 degrees Celsius.

The small part of the world it senses
is its umwelt. Nothing else is real to it.
Nothing else needs to be.

For the black ghost knifefish, it’s electrical fields.
For the echolocating bat, it’s air-compression waves.

For us, it’s a narrow band of the electromagnetic spectrum
our eyes are adapted to see, the wavelengths
that have the highest energy in sunlight.
The colors of ripening fruit and food, as it happens.

Our other senses are just good enough to get by.
We can’t compete with a bloodhound’s
olfactory genius; we’re pitiful in that department.
Such is our umwelt. We sense a tiny sliver of the world.
We don’t know anything beyond our reality,
Our umwelt, out of which we construct everything
like a sacred myth, what we think we know, but do not.

 

Folding Power


Pillars of Creation: interstellar gas and dust in the Eagle Nebula, some 6,500-7,000 light years from Earth where stars are born
“Pillars of Creation”: Hubble photo of interstellar gas and dust in the Eagle Nebula, some 6,500-7,000 light years from Earth where stars are born

I asked for the superpower of “Folding” for my birthday.
It cuts out the middle man:
Gimme a calendar with tricky bits, I said.
I’d fold weeks, months, years, centuries together,
jump to any time, past or future.

The first would be hanging with
the first human band to walk out of Africa .
I’d wait in the shade of a date palm, by the Nile,
bounce rocks off crocodiles, watch the south trail.
I’d cook hot dogs and hamburgers,
and have beer chilling on ice.
History’s first tailgate.
I would show them an iPhone, photos, movies.
Order something from Amazon—
Wouldn’t that be a good trick!…
Maybe a slinky, some bows and arrows and knives.
A chemistry set. Aspirin. Cargo pants,
broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses.
Trail mix. Snickers.
It’s in our interest that they survive the trip.
I’d tell them to be kind to one another,
Let them think I was the Great Spirit, then disappear.

Continue reading “Folding Power”

Another Complaint About Marketers


I squinted through previews of blind old age,
a hop and skip from life in a cage–
So I put into port, my vacation on hold.

I miss aspects of the younger me.
That mixture of brass and anxiety.
One minute riding with Aldrin and Glenn,
The next falling into bland misery.

What shall I encourage?
The naive fancies of youth?
The cautions of age?
The search for the truth?
Do I have to decide?
Can’t I take the easy way out,
hop the freak train, savor the ride?

Just once?

Smiling eyes of absinthe green,
make me mush, a stuttering sixteen.
Not to complain; I like this just fine.
The heart never tires of love’s blush divine.

(I just read about someone doing yoga on a ferris wheel. 
Two good things don’t necessarily work well together.
But I’ll admit, she looks good in Spandex,
And sex does sell, as we know too well. .  

Still, this just proves that any good thing can be 
ruined by the venal machinations of marketers–
the modern source of most human misery
now that we’ve killed off all the wolves and smallpox.)

And right there we have it, our abnormality.
Instead of reveling in that sublime unsanity–
that carries its victims away happily,
the passions that make life worth living, in actuality–
someone, somewhere, somewhen, without fail,
gives into the low-rent impulse’s to ruin simple things like love and luck,
with the smarmy impulse to make a quick buck.

via Daily Prompt: Unmoored

 

Bits ‘n Pieces: Bringing In The Tide


Peaceful inside this tube, quiet, rolling gently side to side, as smooth as the hips of a woman strolling to dinner on the boardwalk on a hot July evening,

Thin fabric stretched just right over just-so curves.

Making him wait,

Liking the feeling she gets from the way she walks, knowing she just made a guy crash into a rack of postcards.

Her rhythms are as old as the ocean, in time with the waves out in the musky duskiness of another hot day, Both bringing more good things to shore.

The seagulls cry overhead and the crowds of tourists part as she passes.

At the Dig


kmctdsd

Some poems make me an archaeologist.
I roll back the stone from the tomb of some
long-buried memory and analyze artifacts.
It seems more and more important to
look for what I can, to catalogue
it and make sure contexts are in order.

I can clearly see a soft brush
moving in my hand, delicately
clearing the dust from that time I was six or seven,
and we were at recess, in the monkey bars at
an old, old school building now
torn down 20 years ago.

The day was warm and bright,
glowing in that special benign October sun,
the girls squealing and running
just fast enough to get
caught before everyone got tired—
as the boys chased them around and around.
Learning the rules of the mating game.

The lemon-yellow maple and bright-red oak
leaves in the sloping park just off the playground
were down in wind-shaped drifts. Farm kids all,
we simply asked a teacher for the rake
which she got for us, and we
made piles, big crunchy soft piles,
and jumped in them while Mrs. Fish looked on,
her arms crossed, sharing the moment,
stretching recess a few minutes because she knew
moments like this would end soon enough
and we would grow up and be gone…
and of course she was right.

Hometown Heroes


572d0d634ccdf-image

All around town, on lampposts, hang
banners memorializing
hometown heroes.

Boys in uniforms who went to war
in 1941, or ’42 or ’43 or later,
who never came back from that
sunken transport ship, or that
awful night on Iwo,
or who stepped in front of a truck
outside a bar at 1 a.m. in liberated
France, having dodged all the bullets
but not a truck full of supplies.

Maybe it’s that people who live in
mountain towns like this
Just have longer memories than most,
surrounded by the rounded remnants
of a once-great mountain range.
Rocks have long memories.
Or maybe we have a need to hang
onto the deep grief longer than is fashionable
in these throwaway times.

Ticks


awesome-clocks-wallpaper-computer-816

The ticking of a clock is the
sound our invisible blood makes
as it ducks out the back door of today
and takes the bus out of
town to yesterday.

The clock’s mechanism creates
the illusion that everything
is controlled by
even, orderly forces.
But there is always the
last ‘tick’. Then what?

I counted to ten, and
with each count I dropped a
stone in the stream.
The stones all sank
but the memory of each moved on,
evenly spaced,
stone became water, cause-
effect, separated by time.

 

Time and Mountains


russians-climb-pyramids

The time was, we thought we had a handle on time,
but our time here is so short that there’s no
time to really understand what time is–
or even if we ever will.
There just isn’t enough of it for anything.

The pharaohs sat their fat asses
firmly on a people who could not
remember a time before this curious arrangement…
Before there were these arrogant
bastards who thought they knew best,
who thought the world worked best
as a pyramid with them at the top.

In the times of the pharaohs,
time had a different meaning…there
in the dull, slow heat of the desert
in between floods and plagues and
the brief, beautiful springtime.

After a while, the parasites tricked the people,
who were bored and out of work
and likely to cause trouble,
into piling millions of
blocks of rocks in magnificent piles as if
to say to the gods, “See, we can
build mountains, too!”
It also proved the Pharaoh
had the right to be in charge
since no one wanted to go to the trouble
of tearing all those rocks down.

But where are the pharaohs now?
Like real mountains, their piles of rocks will
end up as grains of sand,
blowing across the expanse of eternity
until they drift up against the
base of some other fool’s monument.

I once had an uneasy relationship
with time, in the person of clocks.
I couldn’t wake with the sun, or sleep when
it got dark, and my soul was always
out of sorts, and anxious.
But at least everything didn’t happen
all at the same time…

They say time-keeping changed when
railroad people needed to make things work
across vast distances. For commerce.
Speed made organization and precision necessary.
Then factories needed everyone to begin
making things all at the same…. time.
There’s that word again.

I don’t worry as much about clocks any more.
I let the computers keep track for me
and watch time rush past as if
in a hurry to join its siblings in the distant past
where it can get away from clocks.
There it can sink back into the black
cloud of being, where everything has already happened.

I Was A Horse


cropped-the-leap-into-the-unknown.jpgI woke up this morning from a dreamy grey half-sleep
with the February rain dripping off the eaves.
A memory floated by that in a previous life
I was a horse. No question.
A big, brown horse with
soft, knowing eyes. I had been abandoned
out in the high desert by someone,
but didn’t care about them at all.
I knew once how to be free,
and would just do that again. I wondered
about finding water and something to eat,
but horses don’t waste a lot of time worrying.
We’re afraid of things that move,
and afraid of things that don’t.
But we know enough to pick a
direction where it smells more like
water than not, and begin again.

Time and Memories


image

Time and memories intertwine
like a ball of earthworms.
It’s hard to know where one starts
and the other ends.

They say we cannot remember things
before a certain age. The wiring is still not right for it.
We may see pictures and know
we were alive earlier, but that’s just
the picture album version of life;
the real switch in us is still not on.

Mine came on when I was two-something years old.
My parents tore down the old chicken house.
It was in the afternoon of a slightly cloudy day.
I had a coat on, so it must have been
still early in the year. Late March, maybe.

The grass was the vivid, exciting green of spring.
Old boards stained with decades of manure
ended in a pile that would be burned.
Dust and old feathers liberated from hiding places.
A fixture in my world changed.
Things change.
We can change things,
Even old things.
That was my first memory.

It’s funny, but I cannot remember
my parents that day. Just the scene in front of me.
My dog guarded me, stayed by my side until
the demolition exposed a rat’s nest.
She attacked with a speed and ferocity
that was both thrilling and scary.
There was a brief, violent battle
just feet from me, with screaming, then silence.
She came and sat beside me again.
I felt safe with her there.
And knew the difference
between life and death.
The switch was on.
And I knew why the grass was so green.

Song of the Hidden Moon


night-sky-moon-cloud-sea-ocean
Without fail, monthly, the full moon sheds
her inky cloak of night and stars
and slips a leg and then the rest into the lake,
her cool fire subtracted from the sky.
She leaves the nights more lonely, barren.

But her life is not extinguished,
merely hidden, recovering, re-energizing.
She must withdraw from sight,
make herself desirable, let her belly be lush and fertile again
so she may breath passions onto the world, be
drunk with the reckless, raucous, ribald dance of life. Continue reading “Song of the Hidden Moon”

Deadline


c0tazuexcae4r2d

I dreamt of a place, not long ago, and the dream, unusual for me, showed even the most mundane things in vivid, sharp detail. Clothing, clouds, leaves on the ground, birds against the sky, dust motes floating.

But not at first. At first I was in the dark, walking blindly on a long journey through a wood. I only knew that something big was ahead. It was my show. I was expected.

I’m a modern man, raised on science and skepticism. But the longer I’ve lived, ancient spirits lurch.
I’ve had to make allowances.

All through the night unlit by moon or stars, I sensed movement all around, a rustling of hurrying things. As though the trees of the forest were on the move, striding and jostling without words, just the sounds… creak and flex of branches, and the whisper of air through leaves.

When I arrived at the designated place, they were already silently in place, and the air breathed with expectation.

I was just eager to find out what  all the excitement was about. What would make the forest walk?

I’ve told the story before, so will be brief.

It was some years from now. I was at a certain age.  The gathering was of people in my childhood home town, most long gone, but now just as I remembered them. They expected me, and gave a warm welcome.

You may wish to make something psychological of the imagery. Be my guest. I would be tempted, too. I don’t mind.

But in this case, something is different and I can’t shake the feeling. I choose to believe that this was simply a moment of grace. I was given a glimpse into the future, given to know in advance how long I have. And it seemed quite a generous figure.

The joke could be on me, of course, and Jung and Freud could have a field day with the plentiful neuroses they could find in the symbols.

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

However, I’ve always worked better under deadline. No truer term could there be, but it is soothing, somehow. That’s part of who I am.

It may just be as simple as that.

Now, if you’ll excuse me… I must get back to the work.

Helen and the Swan*


Photo by Richard Calmes
Photo by Richard Calme

The night of the full moon
calls her to the water,
this daughter of Leda and Zeus.
She feels it in her neck and belly,
and in the prickles on her back
where the wings hide
under her skin.

Long ago, her mother
sheltered a swan fleeing an eagle.
It was that lecherous old liar, Zeus,
In disguise and guile.
He devised a ruse to
Force himself on her.

Continue reading “Helen and the Swan*”

Six Six-word Stories*


“Two bullets. Two heads. Two dead.”

“House for sale: Divorced, discouraged, deleted.”

“Damn! Why are the walls moving?”

Captain: “Y’all ever flown upside down?”

“One sunrise left.”
“Looks like rain.”

“No Trespassing, and no warning shots.”

_______________________________

*These are in response to a prompt using Hemingway’s supposed “shortest short story ever.” As the story goes, he wrote this on a napkin in a bar in response to a friend’s challenge: “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.”

Give it a try!

 

What It Is Not


dance_portrait_photography_alexander_yakovlev_09

Let’s talk “Poetry” for a moment…

I’ve been reading some of yours…

So many lost lusts,
So many ‘why doesn’t he love me’s’
So many sacrifices of dignity,
Conflations of attraction and connection,
So many confusions of sex and love
So many dear diary’s, soulful sobs, self-pity,
So many anguished tears on so many pillows.
So many tearful gazes over the waters,
Like so many before, like your great-great-grandparents,
As though tears alone justify, define poetry.
As though that’s enough.

So many odes to aimlessness,
So much self-indulgence,
So much teenager-like angst,
So many assumptions that
The most common feelings in the
History of the planet… the galaxy, maybe…
Are at all insightful, fresh, helpful.

I’m sorry for your pain.
I am. It’s real.
But you’ll also have more. Lots more.
And you will survive.
Because you’re tougher than you know.
Welcome it. Use it.
Grow from it.

My right leg hurts. Nothing new there.
I need coffee, soulful kisses, and more…so much more….
I’m getting old and that pisses me off.
I’ve loved deeply and lost, have known death,
You will do both, maybe already have.
I’ve held my babies, watched them grow,
I’ve seen mothers lose theirs.
We win and we lose, sometimes more loss than gain.
I’ve been around the track more than once, but in the end
It, writing, boils down to answering this question:
So what?
That’s the question I put to us all.
So fucking what? Everyone has a sad story.
Answer “so what” and make me care. That’s the job. That’s what I want.
That’s the reason for poetry.

I want more than the lazy, the easy;

more than the ordinary,
more than common oatmeal,
(With or without raisins and sprinkles).

I want to know how those oats grew, and where,
What they felt when they were harvested,
I want to know if they screamed, or just magically
Floated into your bowl, mere reflections of your sadness.
I want to see why I should care about your oatmeal.

It isn’t all about you, you see, but about all of us,
And I’d like to know whether you can see beyond–
I want you to show what’s beyond the
Rustling of your jimmies, beyond being sexy,
Beyond, beyond, beyond.

Jesus H.! I want you to stop settling for less.
Less than you can do. Less than you will do.
I want you to get knocked down,

get up, and get to work
Over and over and over.
To show what it meant. Show me the answer: So what?

There’s no time to waste, you know,
Less than you think; no one knows the future.
Youth is wasted on the young,
Which I know now, and pass it along.

Maybe you’ll listen, but if you’re like I was,
You won’t get it and will go on
Thinking the world is here just for you,
Thinking that mere deep feeling is enough.

I have a newsflash from the other side, y’all:
It’s not enough. Not by a country mile.
(And stop rolling your eyes).

I want to feel you turning lead into gold,
I want you to show me– not tell me about– a growing soul,
I want to taste, to see, to feel what you do,
I want you to hunger for something always out of reach
I want you to tap the universal, to move us forward,
I want us all to connect the dots, do the hard work of humanity.

For our own precious humanity,

do the hard work.
do the heavy lifting.
I want you to read the best, then emulate them.
Then be better than them.

Sweat the details, then shine a new light.
Do hard and holy things.

Hard and holy things.
That’s what we signed up for, you know.
Not the ordinary. Fuck the ordinary.

But most of all, right now,
I want coffee.
And depth.
And more.
So much more.

 

 

The First


The leap into the unknown
It was in the fall of seventh grade.
A bunch of us piled into a friend’s car.
I remember lots of laughing, goofing around.
Nearly new teenagers filled with the thrill of being alive.
A girl with jet-black hair I’d known since first grade squeezed in
Next to me and the entire length of her thigh
pressed into mine by the crush of bodies in the back seat.
I fell in love for the first time.
Just like that.

We never dated, and it wasn’t long before my
family moved overseas and our paths never crossed again. .

Continue reading “The First”

Skidding By A Woods On A Snowy Evening*


 

car-overturned-in-snow-583648880-57e9c59d5f9b586c35079f79

 

Whose tracks those are I think I know
His auto’s by trees yonder, though;
He cannot see me skidding past
(His windows buried deep in snow.) 

My Subaru must think it queer
To try to stop in any gear
Trapped ‘tween ditch and looming truck
Whee! First ice storm in this crappy year!

Safety brakes cause wheels to shake
Miss the truck? ‘Tis a grim sweepstake
The only other sound the squeals
Of a useless scream and semi’s brakes.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
And I now wish I’d picked the Jeep,
But tears’ll freeze if now I weep,
But tears’ll freeze if now I weep.

*With apologies to Robert Frost

A Pause


© 2014
Pause
©Hemmingplay 2014

It has just struck me that I have left my old house
But have forgotten where the new one is.
Inconvenient.
Let me stand here for a moment,
Have a drink and pet the dog. Maybe
It would do me some good to
Listen to the sound of the big creek,
Scraping patiently along the banks
In November when the land is bare,
Not caring where it goes, or why,
Just going along according to it’s nature
Carrying secrets and dreams we toss in
Whispering its own deep ones back at us
Washing the fish and mud and secrets from here to somewhere else.
Maybe, if I listen hard enough, it will tell me
Where–or how– it is I need to be, to be more fully myself.

@Spill_words

Spillwords: “What It Is Not”


It’s a rant. A rant about poetry. But I guess it hit a nerve. @Spillwords made it a featured post this morning…AND put a trigger warning on it. 🙂 That made me smile. But be warned: it might bruise your peaches.

I think you can handle it, though.  (Photo: Pat Mansell)

http://spillwords.com/what-it-is-not/

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-8-27-47-am

 

Let’s talk “Poetry” for a moment, if you don’t mind.
Some things have been bugging me. I’ve been reading…

So many lost lusts,
So many ‘why doesn’t he love me’s’
So many sacrifices of dignity,
Continue reading “Spillwords: “What It Is Not””

A Ghostling, in Training


Republished for Halloween. 

Ghost

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, 
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy….

I didn’t think it would be like this.
I could have been convinced, mind you,
But I was skeptical, in a benign way.
Unmoved except by facts, I said.
“Show me a ghost; I can’t take your word for it.
Continue reading “A Ghostling, in Training”

The Water Cycle


A stream changes things

The soul
Of the Water Cycle
Is in the eternal leveling of
Everything.

Operating in deep time,
Beyond the span of human empires,
A single drop of water spends
3,230 years in the ocean,
Then rises on the winds, floating free
For months, years, until it runs
Into the rain catcher claws of the mountain.
And inch by inch, mile by mile,
Hour by month by years by centuries….
It falls, always seeking
The ocean again,
Pulling the mountain down
With it.

Not Jesus In A Pop-Up Camper, But…


Journey
@Spill_words

It wasn’t Jesus in a popup camper, but it was alright.

I am, in a word, astonished.
I find myself home after 50 years on the road.
I’ve endured, mainly ordinary disappointments,
some worse than that.

But all that is stored in albums on the shelf.
If I had a fireplace, I’d build a fire and sit,
With a big dog I don’t have, and a cat or two,
And flip through the memories again,
Sipping brandy and smoking a pipe I don’t have,
Since I quit smoking.

I have wiped the spider webs from the door
Cleaned the musty rooms
Thrown out that rotten food left in the ‘fridge.
Cleaned the basement and attic of
Things that don’t matter.
(And maybe never did.)
There’s still more to do,
But the old place waited patiently, and now is livable.
I’ve written about all that.

I was away longer than planned,
Living under the perverse and immutable rule of
The Law of Unintended Consequences,
The law of the Universe, as written:

“It shall be impossible to control everything. 
Even if you control almost everything,or 
Nearly everything—more than anyone else ever has,
or ever will—”

There will always be something you miss. 
And just because it’s fun to fuck with you,
This one thing will be the thing that screws you over.
Every time.”

A slow learner, it took most of my life to learn the rule.
The trip? A long, loopy, spastic waking fever-dream,
Out around the sun, slingshot back, coasting through
The cold void, the silence, alone,
To Mars and her moons, and back again,
To the past, to the future, and landing in the present,
Only to cross wilderness and water,
Barren desert and lush mountains.
Guess how much of that was on purpose.

The whole thing was shot through with wanting and
Emptiness and hidden vibrations and distant lights,
Filled with many corners, inevitable surprises around each,
And over and over, I met myself, wanting.
More. Different.
Understanding little at the time but driven by wanting.

The sea moves always, the wind moves always,
I want and I want and there is no end to my wanting.

I spun out and out, and around and around and down,
And, finally, ended where I began.

Now? The forms are all completed, the reports filed.
I am free. One manacle after another has been cut away.
I have nothing useful to do, and none can tell me to do it

I walk the buckled sidewalks of the old neighborhood.
A little hurt that no one asks for my autograph.
They don’t know, or care, about the journey.

But the children and I listen when the birds
Sit in the trees and sing like crystal and soar free,
Wishing we were with them,
Dreaming of soaring, singing high above the Earth.

This will take some adjustment.
I don’t know the lingo any more,
The streets have changed,
The Blankenships next door got old, died,
And the kids living in their house
Don’t care where I’ve been.
Difference is dangerous, they’ve learned.
And even though I know I belong—or did—
They give me wide berth,
Laugh and run away
Shouting in an unknown, yet faintly familiar language.

Inhabiting the skin of my most advanced age yet is
The strangest feeling, sometimes.
Inside I’m still young, curious, horny and wistful.
Still wanting, but not any more sure than
Ever what would satisfy the need.
Then I look in the mirror and see
A stranger with mileage, a certain weariness… but me .

I wish I could grow one magic eye,
Able to see the truth of things,
And yet not despair.
But maybe I found a seed of it on the trip,
And while it needs a little tending,
There is occasionally some magic in it.

And that pleases me.

Everything I’ve done, everything and everyone
I’ve known; the friends, the enemies;
The broken bodies I left in my wake,
All the times I failed to just be kind,
(When it would have cost me nothing),
Or to learn from my mistakes,

If any of it had been different,
Even something small I didn’t notice at the time,
The story would have been entirely different.

So tonight, I’ll live the story I imagine,
By the imaginary fireplace, with
The imaginary brandy and dog and cats,
And flip through the old album, the only thing
That’s real, and let the truth rise.

That’s all I ever really wanted.

 

Breadcrumbs in Rapids


©Doug Stanfield 2014

The sound of a train’s horn somewhere in the valley at night

Creamy thighs flashing under a summer dress, cool and molten at the same time

The smell of coffee when the sun is just over the mountain

A robin hatched by the kitchen door, back in the yard, hunting, says ‘hello’

The look of an old door, the view out a window, an old house that shelters me

Fireflies in June that send me back to a more innocent time

Old places, ancient sorrows, hot winds across a desert far away

The way a tree moves under the hand of an invisible thing

The way the sun sometimes comes up like thunder,

The cacophony of voices– lonely, lusting, lost– thinking they’re the only ones

A dream, impossible, conjures up a past life, of running in the jungle to simplicity

Good times, lifelong loves, the joy of hearts connecting,

Seeing the ordinary for the first time, realizing it is extraordinary…..

All….

Breadcrumbs cast out on a moving stream, shining for a moment, floating on…

 

 

Hope


Sometimes there’s nothing to go on but hope.

No proof, no guarantees. No winning lottery ticket. No rescue in the nick of time. No heroes to fix everything in a perfect 42-minute format, just after the last commercial.

Just hope. Just the kind of desperate courage that comes from nothing left to lose.

Maybe it’s the days in late winter when it begins to feel like nothing is going to thaw. Something quickens despite all the evidence, Despite all the weight of cold experience. Something feels the long rhythms, Something stirs in the depths of cold nights. Something that has been asleep, but shivers awake, when the moment is right.

Hope. That’s all there is. That’s all there’s ever been. Foolish, delusional, ridiculous, irrational. Just hope. Something no one can steal. When everything else is stripped away, When everything is gone, and you don’t even have a psychic quarter left to make a phone call (and there aren’t even any pay phones left, anyway.)
But there’s something…. something down there.

Do you feel it, too?

Maybe. Just maybe.

We’ve Done What Was Asked


sailboat

 

Jib sweeps the horizon, wake’s a long bubbling flow,
Storms uncounted I’ve weathered, bleak terrors I’ve known.
My passage, I see, leaves no trace at all.
What good is’t to linger, then the words: “Let it go.”

The ship sluices onward, destination unknown,
Taut cables weave ’round me, they sing, snap and moan,
Mast bends, prow plunges, new gusts arrive,
The water’s hiss climbs, the sea knows her own.

Through the darkness she takes me, my eyes crusted blind,
Brine’s coated me, it seems, for three times out of mind.
I pray for the sight of rare stars thru mist,
And dream fitfully of old friends left behind.

Each dawn brings the thought, despite what is past,
We’ll find calm water and fair shore at long last.
Still, my body is one with the ship ‘neath my hand,
Both battered and worn, we’ve done what was asked.

©Hemmingplay 2015

 

Voyage

The Gods Must Change


lost-city-of-heracleion-egypt-franck-goddio-1
Photograph by Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation / Christoph Gerigk 1,200 years ago the ancient Egyptian city of Heracleion disappeared beneath the Mediterranean. Founded around 8th century BC, well before the foundation of Alexandria in 331 BC, it is believed Heracleion served as the obligatory port of entry to Egypt for all ships coming from the Greek world.

“One day things will change. One day men will change. But first, Alexander, the gods much change.”

 

Ordinary Things


empty-cardboard-boxes-871284454700h9dU

Ordinary things be time machines,
Containing important futures.
Surprising links to before-times.

A cardboard box that held a cheap microwave,
This morning.
Taking scissors to slice along the seam of the bottom,
Pulling to break the hold the staples had,

Breaking it down…

I was 16 again, back in the storeroom
Of the S&H Green Stamps store in my hometown,
Along Main Street. There were trees along all the streets.
My first real job.
I unloaded semi-loads of stuff, boxes of stuff,
Stuff frugal people would order from catalogues,
Or walk into the store to buy with their
Carefully saved booklets of stamps.

Choosing, pushing the booklets forward like money,
Walking out with a toaster or a toolkit or a set of sheets.

So, I unloaded trucks, unpacked these things and
Put them on warehouse shelves
On the days when the trucks made deliveries
In the alley behind the store. I learned what the backsides of ordinary things looked like.

My boss taught me where things went,
(And you have a dirty mind. It was nothing like that—
Although it would have been nice to be guided
Into manhood by an older woman who cared.)

She told me what it meant to work, be there on time,
Tolerated my teenage awkwardness, trained me bit by bit,
Was firm when I failed, gentle when I tried, smiled when I needed encouragement,
Showed me how a business ran.

Talked to me about important things when things were slow,
Let me know that adults had problems, too,
Told me stories about lessons she’d learned, about
Marriage, about living. I still remember one thing,
That helped me later on. I knew it was important then, and
Held onto it somehow.

“No matter who you marry, and how much in love you are,
There will be days when you look at that person and wonder
‘what in the world did I see in them?’
The important thing is what you do next,” she said. And
Chuckled with a hint of sadness.

She did that from time to time, and laughed, at herself, at life.
Shaking her head, and getting back to work.
That’s where I learned life was in the living, moving through it.

In cardboard boxes and shelving and in the company
Of older, kinder, competent people.
I wish I could remember her name.
She was not as old as my mother, with brown hair and kind but shrewd eyes,
She taught me how to do a job, made me better, scoffed at my bullshit,
Was real and practical and beautiful.

So when the trucks came on Wednesdays,
I unloaded them, trucked boxes inside, unpacked and stocked the shelves,
But the last thing on those hard days was to take a knife,
Slice them apart and change them into flat things,
Ready to be removed, their function served.
No longer holding someone’s precious

New microwave, or tool kit or sheets made of Egyptian cotton,
Ordinary again. But so much more.

 

Serenity? If Only


If only...
If only…

It is beautiful, is it not?
Utterly calm, soothing, serene.
If only I felt that way,
Or knew what it was like.

I float for a moment,
Feeling the calm,
If only I could have the Grace
To leave it at that.

Instead, my brain is churning
Wondering why something
Built for movement, for air and sea,
Is alone and still
Like some discarded refrigerator.

If only that made sense…

My nature is hopelessly complicated; a mass of contradictory impulses;

The centre of me is always and eternally a terrible pain—a curious wild pain—a searching for something beyond what the world contains, something transfigured and infinite—the beatific vision—God—I do not find it, I do not think it is to be found—but the love of it is my life—it’s like a passionate love for a ghost. At times it fills me with rage, at times with wild despair, it is the source of gentleness and cruelty and work, it fills every passion that I have— it is the actual spring of life within me.
—B. Russell

 

 

 

Desire’s Illusions


IMG_1723

Chase we, all,
Things that glitter and shimmer,
Things that slither up against us,
Like a lovely someone in a short skirt on a street corner,
Smelling of perfume and friendly virtue.

Yet even when our desires are met
We are unfulfilled, more hollowed than before.
Phantoms dissolve, mocking
Such foolish mortals as we.

Such an old, old story.

Two roads diverge in a yellow wood,
And by taking the one most traveled by,
Can we ever
Retrace our steps, and take that other path.
The truer one,
The one that could make all the difference?

Invisible Travelers


1019-HOFO-UMIGRATE
Birds against a Supermoon. Sergei Grits/AP

Early morning is the best time  to see the distant, busy world come awake.
Before dawn, with the sun finding them before he finds the world,
The criss-crossed ribbons of smoke five miles above
Are turned to neon ice from behind
While we drink our coffee, sit on the step and smoke,
Looking to the east. To the coming brilliance of another dawn.
At the dozens of contrails already streaking the sky, turning reddish and pink and
Changing shades of pastel fire.

Contrails

In one of the busiest flyways anywhere, all the overcrowded metal tubes
Leaving Newark, Philadelphia, La Guardia, Kennedy, Boston for
Tokyo, San Francisco, Seattle, Beijing and LA. pass silently overhead, and are soon gone.

But sometimes sleep won’t come, and I also sit on that step in the quiet hours.
The day’s high travelers are still somewhere else, and the sky is serene,
The crescent moon is already nearly set, the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades wink
In their cold, virginal nunnery, wanting to pull a cloak around themselves for warmth.
Orion is in its winter place, militant, telling me the cold months are coming soon,
As if the bite in the air weren’t enough.

But sometimes this time of year, an hour or two past midnight, when the trucks
On the distant interstate are finally silent, the hum and puzzle of restless
Humanity staggers into fitful, resentful sleep,
I can just make out, faintly, tweets and calls, carried on the cold air
From hundreds, or maybe a couple of thousand feet overhead.
Some nights there are none, but some nights there is a steady feeling of
A dark river moving above, and, sometimes,
The noise is clear enough to tell that
Last night, it was a flight of Canada Geese ploughing the air to the south,
To winter feeding ponds in Louisiana,
In the rich mangrove swamps of Florida,
Near the Sea Islands of coastal Georgia.

I don’t know all the calls, and at night there aren’t a lot of them.
It’s a serious business, after all. Nothing to sing about, flying on
Through the night, thousands of miles.
But there is some calling and response. Just enough to make sure that
The flock is nearby, and safe, that you’re safe,
Headed in the right direction.
Save the energy for the trip.
Do nothing more to let a lone human–
Sitting in the dark far below, looking up past you at the stars,
Wondering what one has to do to get some sleep–
Even notice, most of the time, that thousands of you are passing.

But I imagine buntings and Baltimore orioles, scores of streaky brown
Song sparrows, and dozens of jewel-toned warblers–
Northern parulas, black-throated greens, magnolias, and all the rest.
I’ve learned that songbirds migrate at night, in great rivers,
But they do not sing. Not then. Singing comes later.
But for now, they’re leaving us, heading to warmer waters,
Plentiful food, easier living and rest.

Singing is better on a branch in the warm sun of the tropics, sipping the
Sweet juices of some overripe papaya, or tasting the white meat of a succulent nut,
Feeling the thrill of life, the search for a mate, the joy that bubbles up unbidden
When wheeling above a sun-splashed sparkle of blue and green.

I can sense them flowing past, tonight, and it saddens me.
There aren’t as many as there were a few short weeks ago.
I know what’s coming, and there’s no changing that.
But they’ll be back, full of tales of adventures,
They will sing the story of the great Wheel of life, of the turning
Of the seasons, of renewal that comes after a testing.

I will be waiting. I hope it’s not too long.

Γνώθι σεαυτὸν


Those words,

Γνώθι σεαυτὸν

were carved more than 2500 years ago on the temple of Apollo at Delphi (Only the columns are left). But it must have been important. Those old Greeks didn’t γαμώ around about with what they carved on temples, especially at Delphi. 

1024px-Columns_of_the_Temple_of_Apollo_at_Delphi,_Greece
“Columns of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, Greece” by Patar knight – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Columns_of_the_Temple_of_Apollo_at_Delphi,_Greece.jpeg#/media/File:Columns_of_the_Temple_of_Apollo_at_Delphi,_Greece.jpeg

The Romans noticed and translated the Greek to the Latin phrase, “Nosce te ipsum”

Six hundred years or so ago, a family adopted the Latin version as a motto for its coat of arms, which is also a commandment for future generations.

0100photo

I heard the stories when very young, and looked around …

She had been a beauty, but her life was marked by a broken home and some dark secrets—

Still she was deep, iron-willed, smart.

He, sprung of a king’s bastard somewhere in the misty mists, was shaped by unending work in the fields, and laughter, and curiosity—

Brilliant, a passion to be an artist, a teacher, a thinker, a prankster.

They were children of a different time, and products, too, of hunger and fear; children of the last century, proud, tough.

Long memories of family, faith, war, terrible losses, sacrifice, duty and honor.

And “Know Thyself” was in the air, always, floating up in the corner near the ceiling.

Myths. Major myths. What family doesn’t have ’em?

 

Dancer #6: Going All Blue


Dancer 7 Blue Exlosion
Photo: Alexander Yakovlev. (I took some liberties with the blue filter in Photoshop)

Like an explosion of elemental particles,
Thrusting up with grace and power;
With arms cocked and balanced, ready to strain to Heaven;
Tender curves coiled, tensed, aligned, ready to fill the void with creation.
The eye pulls my spirit into the fertile chaos of life.
Courage, at last.
I step out into the fog, put the first foot on the dusty road, lightly, risking everything.

 

Alley Time


tedHouse

I walked the dog at dusk down the alley behind our house last night. It was just after the sun had slid behind the mountain and the light shifted to that peculiar deep shade where daytime things start fading into the shadows.

The growing gloom entices the frightened from their burrows, and we hear the quick shuffling of the leaves as a critter darts, stops, listens, darts, stops, eats, listens for sudden death. The dog hears other things I cannot, and strains against the leash, blood rushing to her ears, hunter’s heart quickening. If I let her loose, she would visit swift destruction on anything too slow to escape. It is her nature.

I sympathize, but keep her tethered, sympathizing with those potential victims more.

The wide, quiet back yards exude an air of solidity and age, guarded by huge oaks and elms and Copper Beech and towering, dour Hemlocks. They show a different face than the fronts do. Back here, there is less grooming, less concern with status and social norms. Here, tools are left leaning against sheds to rust by older residents no longer able to care. Here, the grass isn’t cut quite as often, and Nature has more of a presence.

Old carriage house doors sag against rusting hinges, grass and weeds grow in some yards, and you can read the signs.

There is one place with a brick barbecue pit that is covered by vines and wild bushes, with roots growing through mortar joints weakened by rain and too many winter nights. It has been 40 years since the kids and their cousins and friends grew up there, give or take a decade. The grandkids are already away at college or playing in a rock band, or married and living in Baltimore or California. They don’t visit the old people any more.

They did, once. They spent summers there learning about themselves, exploring the same back yard their parent(s) had, basking in the tolerant love of grandparents who learned lessons the hard way. But the visits gradually slowed until they stopped altogether, and the laughter of children stopped.

The grandparents have grown old, and maybe one has died, but the vines and wild overgrowth says they no longer believe in parties in the yard in the summer night, when children’s excited cries bounced off neighbors’  houses from a game of hide-and-seek in a pretend jungle full of scary possibilities.

The adults in that remembered, lost time sat in a circle of chairs with drinks in their hands, talking about football and schools and trips and heartbreaks and that cousin or sister everyone thinks is crazy. Those nights when a picnic table was loaded with food everyone has brought, flickering torches made shadows dance on the canopy of leaves overhead, on the lilac bush by the corner of the house. The scene could have been from an ancient campfire on the Mongolian plain, or in the forests of Europe 10,000 years ago, and only the clothes would be different.

The smoke from the bricked fire, the smell of roasting steaks and hotdogs and hamburgers and sweetcorn kept some bugs away and drew others to the feast, and made the children hungry enough to come in from the game, complaining about someone who cheated, and scratching at mosquito bites.

I stopped last night by the ruins , felt the passage of time, and savored the way life’s sweetest times are so fleeting, and all the sweeter for that, in that relentless, broad, slow flow of the River of the Present into the future.

The dog wants to follow a scent into the underbrush, but I tug on the leash and she gives up and trots down the alley ahead, head down, looking for something to chase. It is her nature.

Hedgehog’s Dilemma


Igel01

What a prickle of hedgehogs we are,
Ultimately alone, denying the brutal reality of that,
Compulsively looking for love,
For warmth and deep tenderness,
For a touch that says “Come to me. I see you as you are.”
For a look that says
“Let’s mix it up but good, buster!
Let’s leave the sheets damp, the room smoldering and the neighbors jealous.”
All the while bristly with defenses: automatic, deadly.

When we are close enough, and when the sheets have dried;
When we’re drinking coffee and cursing traffic jams;
When silences grow; when the unknowns press against the window,
There come in under the door the sounds of small clawed feet,
Snuffling old things, blind and dangerous things.
Things we’d rather keep hidden.
From ourselves.
From each other.

What a prickle of hedgehogs we are,
Driven together, driven apart, dancing on the points
And finding a way.

 

Expensive Mistakes


1196551361_f

An old printer has sat in the dark
In my oldest’s neglected closet
For seven years,

Broken
Barely usable for a year
Before it was replaced.

$400 was the cost. I remember things like that,
Which tells you something…
Mainly that my parents survived
The Great Depression and WWII,
And it was “waste not, want not,”
Every damned day.

If I were to throw that printer out,
It would mean admitting that I spent

Unwisely.
I can hear the disapproval even now.
Expensive mistakes have taught even me, finally.

A printer isn’t the worst of it, as much as
Falling hard for the wrong person,
(And who hasn’t done that?);
Or falling for the right person at the wrong time,
Or failing to see moments of joy inside pain;
Or not learning that true courage means acting despite great fear.

Or living too much on the surface of things;
And choosing blindness to the gift that is each day;
Or letting life make me ever smaller inside,
Instead of choosing the wisdom of wide arms,
Embracing the passing parade while it lasts.

The printer in the closet needs to go,
Because even expensive mistakes
Must be forgiven.

Last Answers


Carl Sandburg
Carl Sandburg

by Carl Sandburg

 I wrote a poem on the mist
And a woman asked me what I meant by it.
I had thought till then only of the beauty of the mist,
 how pearl and gray of it mix and reel,
And change the drab shanties with lighted lamps at evening
 into points of mystery quivering with color.

 I answered:
The whole world was mist once long ago and some day
 it will all go back to mist,
Our skulls and lungs are more water than bone and
 tissue
And all poets love dust and mist because all the last
 answers
Go running back to dust and mist.

Reflections: Dancer 5


IMG_1435

I see her beauty and am charmed, utterly, but then something makes me look ahead in her life. What will she be like in 10 years? In 20? In 50?

All I know now is that it is a long journey she is on, and nothing stays the same. Everything changes, many times. We each roll the dice and play the game, whether we know the rules or not. We roll up the faces of chance, with whatever faith we have. In the end, the ways and honesty with which we love and have been loved is all that matters. And I refuse to believe that something so good, even if it does not last, can ever be bad.

We change as we grow older, become a different person, over and over, but always the same person, too. The things that happen to us do that, but whatever they are, they’re just part of life. Nothing need be wasted unless we stop squeezing meaning from everything, even the disasters. The living of it is the point. And that is what gives up its sweetness to us to taste, and to remember.

So I see her beauty and am charmed, utterly. She is youth, and life, and promise and potential. She makes me remember many things, good things, and some things that still sting.

And, for just the briefest of moments in the grand sweep of changing moments, life is just a little sweeter, a little more good.

–Inspired by the BBC production of “Every Human Heart,” Try it on Amazon. 

Association Bingo


gneiss-dry
I built a 70-foot long stone wall in my back yard while listening to a podcast of the history of Rome a few years ago. It took two years— building the wall, that is, not Rome– which, as we all know, wasn’t built in a day.

My little Roman wall: Four feet high. Two and a half-feet thick. A ton a linear foot. One rock at a time.

Then I did half of it over.

A section of the wall wasn’t built very well — OK, I didn’t build it very well— and it fell over after 10 years’ rains. (I think that part was built during the period covering the year of five emperors and one of the civil wars, so I don’t take all of the blame. Oh, who am I kidding. I screwed it up and it fell over.) Having to do it over gave me time to fit in all of the episodes I missed, while pondering the consequences of one’s mistakes. Hard physical labor will do that for you.

I also remember listening to a another podcast series “Ghosts of the Ostefront” about the Eastern Front war between Stalin and Hitler. I was painting shutters on the front of my house in a blazing sun at the time.

Every time I look at those shutters now, I think about the carnage of the Eastern Front, and am glad I only had to paint shutters. And the wall brings to mind columns of marble and statues and murder and intrigue and legions on the march. My wall was built to the echoes of an empire who’s ruins still stand. Maybe the wall will last long after I’m gone, too.

And this is enough.

Thunder


Thunder by Awphototales
Thunder Comes on Angry Hooves

One day you’re thinking about ordinary things,
Groceries, taxes, walking the dog, the upcoming weekend,
Problems a friend is having, plans to celebrate a graduation,
Finances, cleaning out the garage,
And all the plans… trips we wanted to take,
Places to finally see, places we put off seeing
Until the kids were launched, happy, safe.

Then we hear thunder over the horizon,
Like the pounding of many hooves,
And the sky darkens, the air grows cold, the sun loses all warmth.
The pounding, the thunder, the messengers’ announcement
Comes up through your feet, sinks into your bones, and you know what it is.
Fear grips your heart, you clutch each other in silent recognition.
Again. Again. Not again.

Plans change in the instant, one one phone call,
Plans are such feeble things, rattled so easily
And so effortlessly by the sound of thunder,
Thudding hooves coming this way, and there is no escape.
Let me hold you tight, whisper in your ear the words I dreaded
I’d say again: “I’ve got you. I’m here. We have to saddle up again. The thunder is coming.
The hurricane will be upon us soon. There isn’t much time.”

#nationalpoetrymonth

A Resting Place For Innocence


new-born-baby-1a

You won’t live remembering starvation and
Fear of the End. Of. Everything.
You won’t know how blood spread across the world.
Twice, and spawned the thought that maybe
Too many of us just didn’t want to live any more;

I fear you may remember other things.

And you won’t remember when the world
Stared for decades at the glowing nuclear flames of Hell
Transfixed. Seduced. Blinded.
But not humbled, even after all that.

But hoping, know it’s a feeble lie, that
You won’t know that.
You won’t know the unending cruelty
Of one to one, many to many, none to one.
That last when a shell of a human is forsaken, and utterly alone.

No. Thankfully.
Not yet.
Not yet, by God.
But you may know other things that I will never see.
Blood-red morning skies filled with dust,
Diving tours to the old Key West Shoals, safari to deepest, darkest Virginia.
Ride the dunes of the Great Nebraska Desert.

Your newness makes me realize I may be the last to know
What a spring morning in the Alleghenies smelled like this morning,
How daffodil yellow hits the heart, after a long time of snow that actually ended.

Thankfully. At least for now. I want to stop the clock
For you, before you know.
To preserve some tiny spark of this
Divine innocence, this spark of the Divine.
And squeeze it into you, down to your core

So you can carry it with you always.
Until you find it and set it free again,
Always new.

Just like you.

*Whew. Sometimes this stuff just sort of bangs on the door. I’m a stenographer at best at times like that. I dunno. A friend just had a new granddaughter, I read about the Pope getting in trouble for telling the truth to people who don’t want to hear it. Again. And some hidden hatch in my damaged brain opened and combined the two into this. I regurgitate, you decide.
Oh… And a glass of wine.
 

Knowing What To Do


retirement
This hits a little close to the bone.

“Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter. Cold or warm. Tired or well-rested. Despised or honored. Dying…or busy with other assignments. Because dying, too, is one of our assignments in life. There as well: “To do what needs doing.” Look inward. Don’t let the true nature of anything elude you. Before long, all existing things will be transformed, to rise like smoke (assuming all things become one), or be dispersed in fragments…to move from one unselfish act to another with God in mind. Only there, delight and stillness…when jarred, unavoidably, by circumstances, revert at once to yourself, and don’t lose the rhythm more than you can help. You’ll have a better grasp of the harmony if you keep going back to it.”
― Marcus AureliusMeditations

Hunger


wolf

How cruel these nights, his belly knows,
Through rocky valleys gorged with snows;
His watchful eyes like shards of ice,
The lonely hunter’s hunger grows.

On solitary trails of white,
In empty days and bleakest night,
Ten million nights have come to this,
Death strikes true, or life takes flight.

A feathered hunter watches near
Taunts “Who is that who founders here?
“Who is it damned to roam the rocks,
“While I soar free and without fear?

Red in tooth, sharp in claw,
Ruthless Nature tests us all.
Eat or die, win or lose,
Five billion years, that’s been the law.

 Yet we believe, against mere fact,
Our charms will make the fates retract
What may just be our final act.
What may just be our final act

©Hemmingplay 2015

This was a practice piece, mimicking, again, the meter and patterns of Frost’s “Stopping By a Woods…” 

The Land, The Land… Always The Land


A place to learn how to be lost, and how to be found.
A place to learn how to be lost, and how to be found.

I remember the summers of tall corn, and Princess,
Running, face slapped and cut by green leaves while she
Dashed in and out of the alien-looking bases of the stalks
laughing, daring me to follow.

I remember feeling the darkness close in, alone in the tall corn, stalks closing over me, afraid.
Closing out the sun, closing off a sense of direction,

Saved
By a laughing dog who found me, asked-why-I-was-standing-still…
Running away, free among the stalks
Until I followed, redeemed, pulled into the unknown, laughing, too.
Summer days among the tall corn, lost, found, redeemed,
Long rows curving into mystery, terror, fear and salvation,

A friend who never left me, always came back, refused to let me shrink from the unknown,
A dog who kept me anchored in the now, in experience, in friendship.

Jesus.
A dog and a boy. A dog is a savior for a young boy, too frightened to know where to turn.
The land, the island wilderness, the endless rows of corn eight feet tall,
Twisting, curving, full of weedy vines, rocks and in a burst of fur and dust,
a laughing dog who
Never let me lose myself, always called me back, mocked my adolescent timidity,
Made me follow, explore and, eventually, to laugh with her.

The land, the land…. way more than just a summer’s day
In the tall corn with Princess. My puny fears, yes, but my foundation.
A link to a thousand ancestors. In my insignificance, still stronger by connections.
The land…. a family memory, stretching into antiquity,
The land… a sense of place, of time, of belonging, of self.
The land.. passed along now, my connection cut, but not quite.
The land… a sense of place ended, but not quite.
The land… a place to put my face into, my fingers digging deep, holding onto… but not any more.
The land…. a place that birthed me, shaped me with a laughing dog, long ago,
The land… a place that infused me, called to me, supported me, made me, set me free.

The land, the land… always the Land.

A Cool Way to Go


To the Threshold of Silence, by Karezoid Michal Karcz
“To the threshold of silence” by karezoid michal karcz

Imagine the fun,
If, on my last journey (which I trust is far in the future),
I could order up my final ride…
Whether with wheels or wings, with keel or hoof,
With steel on steel rail, or teleport onboard the
Starship Enterprise…

Or drive off in a British racing green ’63 Shelby Cobra (with the small-block Ford V-8) ….

or even, or EVEN…

By God! An antigrav surfboard with a built-in wet bar and
wi-fi all the way into the great beyond…. 

But there’d be nothing grander than
A long, slow ascent up the face of one of
Nature’s most awesome sights,

A slow goodbye to soak in the immensity,
And a grand review from above the curvature of the
Earth. One last time.

Rising higher and higher, getting colder and colder, gasping for breath, seeing further and further, until it finally all made sense…
pinned by the stabbing light of eternity, up…
up there, not far now…

© Hemmingplay 2014

I Don’t Remember My Name


The old one,
Resting on the sand for 1,200 years, gazes
Up through the murk,
At a world that
Does not know him, or care.

“I was a pharaoh … but what was my name?”
And so all greatness is forgotten.

Fish swim by, the sun’s brightness rolls by overhead,
Day after day,

The dead pharaoh lies invisible on the sand,
Watching memory flee with the tides.


©Hemmingplay2014

Dark Fish Rising


brook_trout

He coils in the shadows, waiting to strike,
All hunger and muscle and wariness,
Effortlessly hanging in the cold flow.
Protecting his spot from rivals,
Roofed by the tangled roots of a sycamore
On the inside curve of a stream.

He hangs in the eddies where little effort
Is required, moving tail and fins
Slowly, constantly, in time to the swirls, unblinking eyes watching,
Hunger poised, patient and eternal.

The tree, like him, lives a life preordained,
It is a solitary, haggard remnant of dense forests gone to pasture
Since before work horses ended hot days with long
Draughts of the dark, ancient, cool, waters moving
Under their lips to the ocean.

His back, mottled like the liquid play
Of sunlight through ripples on a rocky bottom
Keeps him invisible until he moves.
His hiding place is deep, carved out over decades
By cold waters that fell in the pines, sank into hard soil,
Seeped patiently through limestone
Fissures in the far mountains,
Fed by rains a century ago, dripping, trickling, moving
Ever downward, finding the light at last
Through fissures in the Earth,
A thousand mouths
Frozen spouts, rimmed in mosses that wave goodbye,
Each one part of a babbling chorus that
Swells and flows and carries the
Soul of the Earth to the sea.

And the dark old fish waits, smelling the current for food above,
Wary because he has felt the
Surprising stab of hook before,
And spit it out,
Or has felt the silent brush of death
From the shadow of an eagle cruising above,
Looking for a reckless fish to take back to her chicks.

The dark fish smells something coming,
Turns into the faint scent, tasting the water, smelling, testing,
Wary but eager. Rising.
Dark fish rising, to strike, to feed, to hide
Until the next time.

Brook in the forest
Pennsylvania trout stream

Fear the Right Things


wind

“Don’t be afraid of death so much as an inadequate life. ”

—Berthold Brecht

I’m traveling alone, covering some new ground in the West. Hot air balloons in Albuquerque, old Santa Fe with its Spanish Colonial roots still growing deep in the bright sunshine. Up I-25 through Colorado, to the old cattle town of Cheyenne, then out 23 miles to stay in a new house on an old, windswept hillside. Some wine, some good food, some talk, some herb, some sleep and coffee, in no particular order.

Then a trip to a shooting range in a day or so. It’s been years since I’ve held a gun. I grew up on a farm and guns were what I grew up with. I realized I need to do some practical research for the book, though. So off the range with several weapons my hosts have, boxes of ammo and targets. I need to feel the kick, the weight, the explosion of them. I need to hear the sounds and smell the smoke. But these are my childhood chums, too. I have to confess that what we rural kids did back before everyone got so paranoid was to shoot guns and blow stuff up, and no one batted an eye. This is about that, too. 🙂 But research can mingle with memory just fine.

Waves


wildflower_sunset

Stories of loss, regrets, anger and pain,
Humanity sloshing through gray days, numb to what might be,
Stuck in what was. Second thoughts always.
Years.

Disappointments. Loneliness.

Dreams gone first sour, then withering.

But then hope reappears,
Wiser, cautious, tentative,
But hope nonetheless.
The past lingers like the smell of dead mouse in the walls,
Gradually fading, but sickening. Hidden, but everywhere.
But hope says…maybe….
Maybe it can end.
It’s not rational. But it just may be true.

Open the windows and doors,
Feel the sun on your face,
Embrace the pain and fear,
Hold it close and forgive all your mistakes.
Forgive all. That is your only escape.

Winter is but a season,
All things change.
Even this.

Everything is temporary.

I Don’t Want Much


 

The leap into the unknown

I don’t want much:

I want to be happy.
I want to live forever.
I want to face no consequences. Ever.
That’s not much, is it?

I want to never live through another hot, humid day. Or a cold one.
I want it to rain when I want,
And be sunny and mild the rest of the time.
I want to chase Spring around the planet, skip
August, January, February and half of March.

I want a 5-series Beamer. Midnight blue. Just for Tuesdays.
The other days I’d like a Ferrari to drive down to my yacht.
Where I’d make love until dinner.
And then after.

I want to be 35 again, knowing what I know now.
(Not my 20s again. God, no. Everyone’s an idiot in their 20s.
No offense intended. But it’s true.)

I want to stop realizing that each day might be my last.
That one’s new. That’s the one that’s true. That’s the one I hate.

The other things are lies I tell myself.

I Love the Way You Lie


KarmaCafe

Effortlessly, simply, without regret,
Not with malice, with little forethought,
Or reflection, after.
Simply, smoothly, charmingly.
With a smile, a turning away
Like you don’t care that I see through you.
But each time, with each lie,
I wish you saw what I see.
You shrivel a little, your soul
Darkens, your bones get more brittle,
Your eyes dim.

I hate the way you lie.
You’re slipping away,
One lie at a time.
And that’s no lie.