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HemmingPlay

“Between us and heaven or hell is only life, which is the frailest thing in the world.”.

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#3

3rd poetry book

Cry


*Part of the “Saying Goodbye” collection to be published soon. 

Do you remember our babies’
crying through the night
with colic, red-faced, kicking,
little fists clenched, punching the air?
We took turns with
futile soothings,
new at this baby thing,
desperate to comfort, to
silence that infernal noise
so we could go to work
in a few hours and not
fall asleep in the elevator.

They didn’t seem to want
comfort, did they?
Continue reading “Cry”

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Secrets


When the sands
of our deeper selves
shift, slide, scald
at 3 a.m.,
when buried grief
slithers out again,
the night holds its
breath a moment,
exhales and the Eastern
sky brightens.
Safe again, we wake.

Strange things stir,
unknowns,
mazes, links, leaps
of magic and yearning,
primitive emotions,
undisguised by
convention, rise.
There is no passion so pure
as when it springs
uncensored,
from the loins of
an ancient earth, from the night.

Secrets lurk between
every second on the clock,
there, then gone, then back…
neither light nor shadow,
but mere potential.
Hiding in plain sight.
shifting with the sand,
teasing us to pull
them into the light,
poisoning us until
we do.

Summons


The six dogs I’ve known over the years

all thought me better than I was,

lived with no regret or second thought…

protected my children, kept me company

when fevers curled

me up on the floor.

They expected food on time and little else,

thought a run in the woods

was the best thing in the history of the world,

every time,;

kept marauding

squirrels up in trees where they belonged.

And with such sensitive noses,

not once did they judge morning breath.

(Beyond a sneeze.)

When the short years passed,

they were stoic, trusting

Even in pain, even then.

They trusted with great hearts,

comforted by a last touch,

Even as the needle slipped in, eyes

searched ours as they relaxed and were

Summoned home to wait for us,

Curled up and resting by the fire.

Sunsets on Mars


“Not again,” He saw the ignition begin behind her eyes. 

“God’s an amazing artist,” she said, gathering her righteous energies to spring into the “do you know Jesus? speech”. 

“I just said I’d seen a sunset as though it were for the first time. Don’t make this all about you.”

“But.. “

“No. Just don’t. I was trying to tell you something, and you were about to use my pain to evangelize. It’s selfish. It’s unworthy of you.” Continue reading “Sunsets on Mars”

The Exposed Nest


Robert Frost

By Robert Frost

You were forever finding some new play.
So when I saw you down on hands and knees
In the meadow, busy with the new-cut hay,
Trying, I thought, to set it up on end,
I went to show you how to make it stay,
If that was your idea, against the breeze,
And, if you asked me, even help pretend
To make it root again and grow afresh.
But ‘twas no make-believe with you to-day,
Nor was the grass itself your real concern,
Though I found your hand full of wilted fern,
Steel-bright June-grass, and blackening heads of clover.
‘Twas a nest full of young birds on the ground
The cutter-bar had just gone champing over
(Miraculously without tasting flesh)
And left defenseless to the heat and light.
You wanted to restore them to their right
Of something interposed between their sight
And too much world at once—could means be found.
The way the nest-full every time we stirred
Stood up to us as to a mother-bird
Whose coming home has been too long deferred,
Made me ask would the mother-bird return
And care for them in such a change of scene
And might our meddling make her more afraid.
That was a thing we could not wait to learn.
We saw the risk we took in doing good,
But dared not spare to do the best we could
Though harm should come of it; so built the screen
You had begun, and gave them back their shade.
All this to prove we cared. Why is there then
No more to tell? We turned to other things.
I haven’t any memory—have you?—
Of ever coming to the place again
To see if the birds lived the first night through,
And so at last to learn to use their wings.

Snowflakes and Ashes*


To this brief journey,

to this time-travel adventure,

to the utter absurdity of our

helpless leap into the future;

to all the surprises and the pain… Continue reading “Snowflakes and Ashes*”

Lazarus, After…


Lazarus never smiled
after he rose from the dead.
For 30 years, until he died again,
he was haunted by the
unredeemed souls he saw
in the four days he
journeyed in the afterlife.

Continue reading “Lazarus, After…”

Ephiphany


I knew a guy.
Cancer survivor,
but worn down by it
to the lacy bone.
Thin, with a dry look.
Still, a light shone through
his parchment skin
like a flame through
a mica shade,
like some kind of
organic fire.
The brush with death
left a calling card.
“I’ll be back” it said.
“You won’t know when.”

Continue reading “Ephiphany”

It Is Something To Have Been


Karma-New-Orleans-Louisiana-USA-4
“Karma,” New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. An impressive sculpture is located in the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, which is found at the New Orleans Museum of Art. It is made by Korean artist Do Ho Suh.

I am well past my 20s,
that golden time
when I only saw a little—and even that
with optimistic eyes.

I’m past the days of cheap
apartments with friends and wine and roaches,
lentils and rice for breakfast,
or leftover cold pizza.

I’m beyond learning of
war and death and pestilence.
The visitations of grief
have marked me, too.

Gone is the luxury of
happy, uninformed innocence,
the blind and smug assurance
that comes with youth.

Continue reading “It Is Something To Have Been”

A Fantasy of Permanent Youthfulness


I’m racing the inevitable,
my only weapon an
optimistic fantasy
of permanent youthfulness.

The 1970s are to blame.
My generation is to blame.
We started this crap,
pretending we could play
where, before,
only teenagers and children could.

In my head, I’m still about 32,
on a stone patio of
a casino in Saint Tropez, in sandals,
skimpy swimming trunks,
Continue reading “A Fantasy of Permanent Youthfulness”

The Unfaithful Earl


IMG_1723

For Halloween….

With one exception, no one in the pub that night had heard the story of the unfaithful earl with a spear in his guts…. At least, not since they were children.

It was a quiet evening. Truth be told, most evenings in the little village were quiet. Deadly quiet. It made the people a little odd.

This night was running down in the same way. Nothing moved outside, or inside, except for calls for refills by the few villagers who remained.

But just before closing time, Robert Mordrum, a local farmer, burst into the low-beamed gathering place just before closing, white-faced and speechless.

Continue reading “The Unfaithful Earl”

Touching Glass in the Crowd


The Earth rises and roils the seas,
smashing warnings of
end times
against the land, afflicting
sticky-tacky
neighborhoods, with
houses all the same,
interrupting complacency.
But we misread the moment.
As usual. Like Pharaoh,
we are stiff-necked and proud,
and must lose our children
before we can be humbled.
The skies are not filled with clouds and rain
but signs and portents,
locusts and frogs,
crocodiles and snakes…a
growing rage of non-human things
too long abused.

Confused, soulless like
selfish children,
we cannot see what
does not please us,
and so wander alone,
merely touching magic
glass in a crowd.

Perspectives


We see what was under our noses

only when death’s diamond fingernail

scratches the window pane, asking….

Today?

Not today?

Ok, then. Not today.

But he’s ruined it;

nothing is the same.

We had an orchard when I was a kid,

Macintosh, Granny Smith, pear, peaches.

I hated mowing under the trees.

The fallen fruit was full of hornets,

and the air swarmed with bees.

The air was full of the sweet rottenness

and squadrons of hostile aliens.

We picked the good ones, and

Dad would hand one to me.

I was in my squeamish phase, sure

I’d bite into a worm.

He ate, though, showing me how, eyes closed.

I wish I’d seen this for the gift this was

and taken it more to heart.

I wish he was still around

so I could

apologize.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since,

it is how to eat around the wormholes.

Most of the time .

 

In Translation



Is it just me?
My life
Was difficult at times,
like everyone’s, but
I wonder if that is because these lives
are really like bad translations,
From our original existence?

Sometimes comical, like
Boris muttering
Thick fake Russian at Moose and Squirrel.

Sometimes just disastrous,
like thinking I was asking for
directions to the library and
instead calling his mother a
working girl, and ugly, too,
and having to run for my life.

It is an argument for reincarnation.
And… it makes sense if you think about it.
Not only do we struggle
to train a new, helpless body,
and then navigate the teenage years,
but it was doubly hard,
because a previous stop in this world
I must have been
a clerk in the Ming Dynasty
Ministry of Jade, in 1376,
taking a lunch break
and gossiping in Mandarin
over steamed dumplings.
about who the supervisor
was sleeping with this week.
And… English is hard, man.

Broken…


In the Mountain Stars
Light shines through
broken windows,
into broken hearts
once the bleeding stops.
Age awaits us
with the patience of
a sleeper agent.

I am thirsty always, in a world of wet
Eyes open, but in the dark
nothing comes.
I look for comforts I no longer find,
and yet, yet…
the skies between
mountains light a
lovely path.

Hemmingplay

Borrowed Dust*


This body’s nothing but
borrowed dust
Animated—somehow.

Flitting from who knows
what to who
knows where.

I like how we
guess about our
destination, though.
It shows optimism.
We’re nothing if not plucky.

My own guess
is that the truths
are greater than anything
we’ve dreamt
from fear and need.
I could be wrong.

But we’re here.
That’s all we know
for sure.
Until Nature washes us away.
Or not.
Wait with me,
be brave…
we’ll find out.

Singing Sands


And still the waves

slip ashore,

whisper their

conspiratorial secrets

into sloping sand.

The wind slides ashore

from dark seas,

from empty spaces,

haunted by silences,

Shockingly cold and clean

like the sharp hum of

a wet finger sliding on

the spotless rim of a

fine crystal glass.

I might… I might

drop dead at any moment.

Sooooo… I look at a

beautiful Siren

and sigh, suddenly young again.

This, and a kiss,

This is what I’ll miss.

Waiting


A pile of poems,
a scattering of short stories,
a minor mess of manuscripts,
all in a state of perpetual preparation,
wait while I, as usual, wait to see
what will happen today.

These things of mine,
Hopeful of attention,
Not expecting much.
It is as though I and these
things are sitting behind a card table
on Jackson Square in
New Orleans, Saturday morning,
while Jock, Buffalo and Michelle
play a mix of the classics
just over there in the next patch of shade.

Lovely and dark Michelle on the violin,
Jock, recently of Columbus, on the keyboard.
Buffalo, the veteran, with hair held back
by a leather band, plays guitar.
A guitar case is open on the worn
stones and a few coins and bills
are slowly collecting, never enough
to do more than buy one or two meals,
a share of a dive to sleep in
a ratty old apartment in the Tremé.

They all look like they’re barely out of
high school, or some music program
up north. Each floated to NOLA
to live the mythical life of music,
at first for the joy of it, happy
with friends, happy to live
rough, running from gig to gig,
earning a street corner on Thursdays
to make tips from tourists,
getting thinner and gradually
realizing that love alone will
not feed the bulldog.

But oh, there are times, just
like this morning, as tourists
walk by and glance at my books
without buying, that Michelle
calls forth the soul of an angel
lost and crying to heaven,
and I feel a touch of the holy,
just for a minute, and my
heart remembers what it waits for.

25,000 days


I’ve managed to make it through almost 25,000 days

by accidentally avoiding fatal incidents.

The first 23,756 (or so) I was rushing from one to the next,

believing, without evidence, that my presence was required.

But lately, I’ve been wondering what all the hurry was for.

At my age, I’ve become convinced that time needs to be slowed down,

and that the cheapest way to do that is to pretend

the clocks and calendars are all wrong.

The alternative — that I’m largely irrelevant, or just a mild irritant — is

too unpleasant–to consider.

My dog’s strategy is to sleep over there, twitching, dreaming,

reliving the exciting chase of a squirrel this morning.

She seldom catches one in these dreams. Neither do I.

Packing For The Trip


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When the sun comes up tomorrow,
it still won’t care about our little passions,
but we’ll look up, hopeful as puppies, and think it does.

Whatever the size of our apartment or tent or mansion,
we fill the available closets like we’re packing
for a long, long trip and will need all that debris.

I’m just a big ol’ hypocrite, knowing I’ll exit as
naked as the day I arrived, but cling to
my comforts and sense of ownership anyway.

My boys will someday go through what’s left,
hold up broken reading glasses or
socks with no mates, raise an eyebrow:
“Why did that crazy old man keep this?”

“I don’t know,” I’ll say from the ceiling,
already starting to dissolve from the solid world,
“But I thought I might need them someday.”

 

The Best of Us


water drop in water

 

Sometimes you just don’t know what’s going to come out of that old man’s mouth…In a hospital room he probably wasn’t walking out of…late on a February Sunday afternoon. We waited, though. And then he just started, with no preamble.

“I just like them. I just like women. Well, some. I have preferences. Who doesn’t?

“And I just let them see the admiration and respect. And some, a few of them, like me back, like they’re surprised, you know. Grateful in a way… for the honesty, I guess, although that’s not in my mind, like a tactic. It wouldn’t be honest that way, would it? So, no games. They’re tired of the games and bullshit, too. I had to practice that, though.

But, if there’s not that mutual ‘liking’, no spontaneous shudder, you just back up a step, be polite and move on. Have a little dignity.

“And sometimes they show me some appreciation in tangible ways, too. They look after me for a while, making sure I’m appreciated, and that doesn’t mean sex at all. Just liking and wanting to do for. Boys, there’s no one who can take care of you like a grateful, honest woman. And it’s nice to be treated well.

“There’s some of the other kind of appreciation, of course, and if it happens it happens.

“It’s my favorite thing, but you have to let nature take its course or it’s not as good. That’s what you young guys don’t understand. Too big a hurry so that you miss the main show.

“The best thing is when you have the sudden shudders but also respect. And that means nobody’s a superior person, like a boss to the other. When you are equal in some ways and content to let the other’s talents shine when they need to. No false pride.

“That doesn’t mean everything’s smooth, either. You can be terribly lonely or angry sometimes, when things aren’t working and you know it. That’s when someone else can look good. But with luck, you don’t break the bond between you two who click.It’s so easy to.

“But two people like that? That’s sweet.”

He laughed and coughed a little.

“And however you express that between you–and even if it doesn’t go on forever–nobody gets hurt. Not at all. Just the opposite. It’s a permanent special thing. And some people only have the memory of it to live on, but at least they have that.”

Our father had a coughing fit and lay back in the hospital bed exhausted, but with a slight smile and a distant look at the hazy hill a couple of miles away. We looked at each other.

An electronic chime sounded in the hall. A recorded voice announced the end of visiting hours. We hated to leave, as tomorrow wasn’t a guarantee.

“You know what, though?” he said, turning back to us. “I just realized something. About that second kind of appreciation…

Here it came. We caught each other’s eyes. Raised an eyebrow like Spock.

“It just dawned on me that despite a number of opportunities, I only really found that exact thing with one person. I’m pretty sure I could have found more, but I didn’t see the point. I’m a lazy man, and that sounded like too much work. But in any case… I stopped at the first one. The one that clicked like that…

He suddenly realized the night was closing in. He wanted to see one more dawn with Mom. It showed.

“She’ll be back in a minute. No need to tell your mother what I said about her. OK? She’s stressed enough. And if I say something too nice now, the shock might kill her.

“We like to watch sunrises together.”

There was that thin smile again. A little sad around the corners. Tired from the chemo and the pain. He looked at us, waiting.

We nodded our old conspirator smiles.

We’d heard this routine before, making us promise not to tell mom something.

We would ignore this one, too.

He knows we will.

He’s counting on it.

 

 

#internationalwomensday

Come Out To The Edge


great-escapes-small-wcth23

I may look normal, but I’m not. On the outside, my life looks conventional. But this is the kind of place I live in my head.  It’s a constant battle between doing stuff I’m afraid of and running away. Out on the edge….

“You think I’m insane?” said Finnerty. Apparently he wanted more of a reaction than Paul had given him.
“You’re still in touch. I guess that’s the test.”
“Barely — barely.”
“A psychiatrist could help. There’s a good man in Albany.”
Finnerty shook his head.

“He’d pull me back into the center, and I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.” He nodded, “Big, undreamed-of things — the people on the edge see them first.”

Maybe It Is Time


aurora-canero_-sculptures-13
Sculpture by Aurora Canero

Maybe it is time to forgive God
For the hundreds of women
who have rejected me over the years,
Starting in third grade,
(theoretically, of course, 
whether they knew it or not.
And for the one or two who 
didn’t, but should have).

I’ve reached the point in life
too late where I
Would actually be of some
use to them,

Could gently walk forward with them without harm,
And be remembered, I trust, with generosity and a little fondness.
But I have reached the age
of their fathers,
And so, instead, have become,
regrettably, invisible.

And over there on the coasts, maybe it’s time to give hip irony the
last rites and heave-ho,
And just admit that it is as
empty and useless as
Yet another beer or Viagra
marketing campaign.

Continue reading “Maybe It Is Time”

Why Do It?


Aaaaaalllllmosssst.....
Aaaaaalllllmosssst…..

What is it that we try to do here?

These things we write are not fundamental necessities for life, after all. They are not food, water, shelter, safety, or love and belonging. And they certainly can’t do much about a parking ticket, or to cure cancer.

I’ve never entirely trusted the “I write because I must!” declaration. It seems a bit vague. Maybe a little lazy. Well, yes, there’s an element of compulsion, but we’re not mere oxen yoked to someone else’s whip, are we? There’s more.

When something wholly new emerges on a page, or screen, almost in spite of our own inadequacies, it adds a kind of magic and light to life. It becomes a small gift that quivers in the palm of the hand, a tender proof of hope. And if not specifically fundamental to survival, It becomes something important, without which the rest is less rewarding.

But we–well, I do, at least– come to this thinking that we’re just looking for butter, and bread to spread it on. Too easy.

Instead, I sit down and am reminded over and over that I am merely told to milk the cow and given a churn; to harvest the grain and fire up an oven; to churn the cream into butter, to bake the bread. There’s no other way but to take the elements and love them into something more with patience and respect.

But oh, the warm bread and melting butter is wonderful.

 

At the Boundary


EndofSummer_posteredges copy

The nights have gone cool, the days not as warm.
Sundown slips backward,

Dawn awakes late by minutes, shivering…
Does it think we don’t notice?

The summer has been rainy, more than usual,
“Can’t complain, wouldn’t do no good,” my neighbor says.
We squint up at the sky –as if a moment of somber nods would make a difference–
Shake our heads wisely but think the same thing:
Another year has almost gone, hasn’t it?
Regrets chitter, time races faster.
We don’t dwell on it, or talk about it, but it’s in the backs of our minds.

We mark it most when the hours of darkness lengthen,
When the nights are cool.
When the sun rises behind stubborn clouds and
Fog blooms between trees, sits in the valleys,
Blankets the highways with obscurity.

We know what’s coming, near and far. It connects us
For a moment, then it’s gone, lost in thoughts of
Winter’s chores, and sins unconfessed
And the sweet, sweet days that slip through

Our fingers like the strings of a child’s balloon,
We cherish it, even as it floats away.

Everything changes. Everything must pass.There is deep contentment in that, if we take it. 

It was just after dawn, at the edge of the woods.
I stood in the hazy boundary light, breathing in the musk of damp leaves and
Pine needles, listened to critters scurrying through
The careless litter of oak and maple and locust and walnut trees,
Feeling the big pause.

The forest felt it too, and lay hushed in the mist.
The fog came last night on its little cat feet,
Conjured up from the ground and the air.
I hesitated, taking in every detail.

This moment, this place, the path ahead, hidden, but inviting,
The textures of the rough bark on the railings, the lichen and moss
On the trunks, spots of green and brown and grey and muted reds and yellows.

A great feeling welled up and tears
Ran down my cheeks unnoticed, unchecked.
I was one with the moment, joyful and melancholy,
One with the world, on the edge of the wood filled with mist and mystery,
Like any path. Any of thousands I’ve traveled. With something new up ahead.

What was is ending, as always.
Every ending is a beginning.
The place from which we start anew.

The rough bark of the railing scrapes my palm,
Grounds me in the Now,

I step onto the path, leaves crunching quietly.
“Where does the path lead this time,” I ask…the trees, I guess?

They don’t speak, but a thought whispers through the mist:

“Why don’t you find out?”

Bubbles


491

Blowing bubbles…  
Pretty bubbles in the air,
They fly so high,
Nearly kiss the sky,
Then like our dreams,
They fade and die.

But what does the bubble think?
Children know these things.
Don’t try to hold on to me, it says.
To capture is to destroy.
Beware of filling me with more than I can hold.

Take me as I am, do not grieve,
I am only with you for an instant,
A glimpsed, mysterious passing thing,
A taste of the lightness of being.
For as I am, so you may be.
A while so blind, but then so free.

 

The Fasting Time


image

In our northern climes winter comes.
Fall has been lovely, long, bright, and wet
But the dry leaves rustle and scurry outside.
We’re due a reckoning for our sins
and excesses, and now enter a time of fasting.

The oaks on the mountain were brown last week, bare this week.
The maples have faded from red and bright
yellow to dry sticks in just days.
fullsizerenderAn ancient Ginko was ablaze in yellow in the afternoon sun
Two days ago, but that relic from the time of
dinosaurs is bare today.

In northern climes it happens so, but that’s OK.
We find a purpose in the fasting times,
The short days give us more time to think
On things that escaped our notice in warmer days.
And the fireplace glows nicely in winter,
The coals shimmer and dance, sparks fly away into the night, and the fire speaks the ancient
language of a winter’s reflection.

Dog Days


montana-dog-days

Guest post

like dogs, summers come 
young and exuberant
grow old and lazy and sweet
die too soon
eventually, we’ll get another one
but there will be a little less room, in us,
for it

–by John Stanfield

Reprinted with permission…

Letter To A Young Friend


Photo by Kubra Zakir
Photo by Kubra Zakir

A new day rises for you, daughter,
Pushing the darkness and the mists of childhood away.
Many have stood on this same shore, you know, but
This hour is wholly fresh, is yours entire,
Awesome and terrifying.
Thrilling. Dangerous. Engaging.
Overwhelming.
“Am I up to it?” You wonder…

But, I’ll let you in on a secret:
Continue reading “Letter To A Young Friend”

Give One Yielding Hour


Give one yielding hour,

All forgot in the moment.

Pretend to care not, if you must.

But you may be believed not.

Yet be.

In that hour, completely.

Then turn away,

Step again onto the twisting path.

Choice is loss.

What If?


Dancer on Dock

What if we weren’t the responsible ones, for a change?

What if we weren’t the ones who let someone else screw up and

Kept on doing the right things?

What if we … could just run away for a while—just for a while—

To some anonymous, peaceful place where email was banned, the phone

Didn’t ring, the air was warm and we were all alone for an afternoon?

Where my heart didn’t ache,

Where there weren’t the old problems and worries,

Where we could be carefree children again, with no grownup cares?

Continue reading “What If?”

I Knew An Old Man, Once


Working hands-1509

I knew an old man once who’d been around,

Who was young, once, and strong and made things.

He worked on the railroad, laying rails and timber

Until a machine came along that could do it faster.

Then he worked in a factory that made cars.

He stood in one spot and hung doors on Fords,

Just the passenger side for a week. Then the other side for a week.

And he started to dream about Ford doors chasing him,

Continue reading “I Knew An Old Man, Once”

This Old House


Front Door

This old house is made of wood and paint and memories, but
Lately, the sense that our time here will end has hovered on my shoulder,
A faint melancholy of knowing that one day I will walk out one last time,
Hand the keys to someone who won’t know any of it.

That spot in the dining room wall where a teenage
Tantrum left a divot in the plaster from a chair tossed in anger.
Where the same child discovered the internet, found a girl
In California and talked up a huge long-distance phone bill.

Where B&B guests gathered from around the world
To chat at the table over Bismarks and sausages and coffee on
Their brief swing through this old house, and our lives.

Continue reading “This Old House”

Consume


m_s-self-checkout_2699690k

And the people walk out of the grocery store

Carrying tons of food away in plastic bags every day,

While bean counters pronounce this as a good thing.

But the people say, loading bags into the back of

The minivan, trying to keep the milk jug from tipping over,

“Well, we have to eat, don’t we? I hate the bean counters,

Because I haven’t noticed them offering to pay for the milk,

Or even to load the bags in the minivan. But we have to eat.”

There used to be highschool boys and girls who would help, but the bean counters

Decided we wouldn’t care if they cut them out, and they needed the profit.

Then they decided we could load our own carts, so they could

Have more beans to count. And jobs for high-school kids went away.

Then they figured they’d save even more beans

By making us check out our own groceries, with machines

That never really work all that well.

 

But the joke’s on them, as they’re finding out too late

That the machines make it easy to slip extra stuff in the bag,

Skipping the scanner, in those bags we pack ourselves and load ourselves–

Since we can count beans, too. And there’s no kid to tell a joke to any more,

Or ask how the football team will do this year.

And so we wonder, making sure the milk doesn’t tip,

What has happened to those kids who aren’t learning

How to work and be useful and to have some spending money?

Who won’t realize that adults care what they’re up to?

But the bean counters can’t be bothered with such unimportant questions.

 

Something Primal


huge.28.142574

Dusk in August under a crescent moon.

People in the neighborhood walk their dogs,

Hurrying, because they have work tomorrow.

But the air has that special kind of softness that

Makes people stir inside, think alarming thoughts.

Her house in the woods is empty tonight.
No kids, no neighbors, no husband, no plans.

So, after the dishes are put away, and a few emails read,
She looks out and sees the moon over the dark woods.

She steps out of her clothes and onto the deck,
Opens her arms and lets the pale light electrify her skin,

Feels a movement in her womb, just as in ancient times,
And she makes of herself an offering, in freedom—

An exhausted suburban wife with laundry to do—
To something primal that she had thought was dead.

Impatience Is A Virtue?


giphy-1

It is after the nights, a week, a month—sometimes—

After I flirt with silly half-assery and questions.

 After I get lost, a little. Lose the plot, the scent, the signal…

(When you take the road less traveled—

Which is the only one that really interests me—

Sometimes you don’t know where the hell you are.

The street signs are all different.)

 I stop, wait, put my good ear to the ground. Sniff the wind.

Maybe hitch a ride, hop a freight, wake up

In the damp air of new places, strange mountains, different accents,

Maybe it’ll be beignets and chicory coffee in N’awwlins; maybe

It’ll be the call of an elk, or the tang of the pines

In some high, wild place;

Maybe it’s a street under the clatter of the EL in Chicago, or maybe it’s

Feeling the sizzle of the naked sun on my back,

Building fence in the high desert in July.

After all this time I just know that I

Can only ride out the nonsense,

Embrace the nothingness, hug it tight

As the other half of meaning.

I’m impatient; I worry I’ll run out of time.

But this runs at its own pace.

For just as quickly, despite the trivia and side trips, and

Without warning, a sudden dawn will burst up like thunder,

And I’ll be back in tune, but maybe on a different road.

Hello, sweet August. You’re looking pretty good in that summer dress.

Let’s take a walk, talk a little. Maybe fool around like kids.

It looks like it’ll be a nice day.

What say we go get in a little trouble?

Standing In The Stream


MilkyWay_Java_justin Ng

Hemmingplay

I am my own worst enemy,

And my only companion.

Running images behind my eyes

Like a manic, runaway film reel.

Nothing complete, nothing but bits and confounding distractions,

Nothing but hints, rushing by, hurried and then gone,

A fucked up flurry of emotions,

Stabbing me with images, sadness, beauty and pain,

Courage and struggle and triumph.

“What is that”? “Who is she”? “What can it all mean?”

Constant frustration, knowing that I cannot

Capture a fraction of it all, standing in the gush of a stream

As salmon leap and surge all around in an orgy of

Need and creation.

And the clock keeps ticking.

The surprised wonder at some unknown beauty or distant galaxy, exploding,

Twisted sandstone canyons, galaxies found in

A young woman’s eyes.

One minute depressed, the next filled with unqualified love, desire, longing, certainty.

Then doubt.

If I were to be able to just list this passing parade,

You might turn away, embarrassed or repulsed.

You might hear an echo of your own madnesses and flittering fantasy parade,

Drawn to it, curious to know that you aren’t the only one.

But am I?

Tick-Tock


Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 9.04.22 AM

Tick-tock…

There are times when

the birdsong stops, when the sun

hides behind clouds that do not bring rain;

when the rivers run low and muddy; when nothing seems

to work as it should; when old griefs whisper in the wee hours

and play their lamentations and sorrows over and over and over;

when the world is eerie and haunted, but the endless dreams

of neighbors’ dreams are full of mystery and renewal,

yet we stare at cracks in the ceiling, reliving

those things that refuse to surrender

to reason, then rise, prowl in the

close darkness of 3 a.m., an

 unjust sentence to be

served out slowly

tick-tock

 

One More Time


MilkyWay_Java_justin Ng
“My soul is in the sky.” ― William Shakespeare

The signs are all around me,
The storm is raging still.
The wind brings sounds of battle,
From that far distant hill.

I thought this all was over,
I thought my race was run.
But just as I was resting,
My peaceful life’s undone.

Now one final trial:
My guts recoil in fear.
He’s coming soon, despite me,
I feel him drawing near.

 Comes weary resignation,
And anger pushing blood,
Determined to leave honor,
Where once foul evil stood.

The Empty Spaces


brassring

The dry times they predicted are here,

The clouds are scarce and carry no water.

In drought out West, the red cliffs turn black in the moonlight

the way blood does when cooling under reflected light.

You won’t understand, of course, but I’m empty today.

empty of the thing I need,

empty …  and likely to stay that way.

‘I have heard, but not believed, the spirits o’ the dead walk again.’

Just when enough time has passed, or should have,

a memory will wake the misery spirit to scour around my ribs

in sticky places where the emptiness still hides

like black blood in the cool, blue light of the moon.

Montana Sundown


13466530_256424074729018_3775225180009055445_n
Sunset thunderstorm over Tongue River Park in south-eastern Montana, 2016. John Stanfield, with permission

night rises in the east
over springtime weeds and wheat
summer’s desert, dry grass teeth
waits – patient – underneath

–by John Stanfield, at Tongue River Reservoir Park, Eastern Montana

Pleasure

Before Dawn in Early Summer


1019-HOFO-UMIGRATE

If you must have insomnia, have it between the hours of
2:30 and 5:30 a.m in May and June in the eastern US. That’s the best, if you can manage.
I’m a connoisseur of this now. I’ve had lots of practice.
Whispers and regrettable things are in the air at those hours
Rising from every rooftop like the last steam from melting frost.
And everyone’s lying to themselves about most things.
It’s in the early hours when you know this, while wishing for sleep.

Continue reading “Before Dawn in Early Summer”

Effort, Simplicity


cropped-558072_3480085997155_1121455111_3390389_500343742_n.jpg

“The only things that matter in this life are effort and simplicity,” the monk told me. We sat a short distance apart on an ancient wall made of massive, moss-covered hand-shaped block of stone as big as coffee tables.

At least, I seemed to be me.

I was different. Completely different, but still me. Dreams are like that. Dreams from another lifetime. I didn’t seem to care. I knew. And I gladly sank into the world of long ago.

I was eating the only meal I’d had that day. There was a deep pool of clear water beside the wall. I could see to the bottom, where, a foot or two under the still surface, two hand tools someone had lost, or discarded lay. I reached down with water up to my shoulder and retrieved one and set it dripping on the flat top of the wall. It seemed important to pull it out and let it dry. Someone might need it. That’s when he came to sit beside me.

I was exhausted, but exhilarated more. Whatever rice and sauce I was eating was hot and good. I shoveled it into my mouth with my fingers.

The day had begun far away, hours earlier. I had been in a race of a sort, with what seemed like hundreds —certainly many dozens— of people. That part seemed kind of changeable. Some looked like Westerners, Continue reading “Effort, Simplicity”

Old Air


mohenjo-daro
Mohenjo-daro, Sindh

The air grows older as it drains through the passages and doorways of
These ruins, where history stopped, where people leaked
Into the sand, were forgot.
If there is no memory left, did it ever really happen?
The stones feel the air drain past, patient, and say “yes, it did”.

The aged breezes surround, inhabit—an oozing, firesome force. They scorch crumbling brick, Caress the sleepers, curious if any faint dreams still stir,
In the soft, reddish dry light,
Under the changeless sunsets of forty wretched centuries.

mohenjo skeletonsThe air entwines legs, hair, imagination,
The whispers of spirits long gone, their bones still sprawled nearby, call.
Questions, asked like thought from just over the shoulder.
Faded sighs and cries from a room buried and forgotten, born only on the wind.

 

6/3/16

Memory

 

 

Cliché Time


Photo cliché.
Photo cliché. Editors love this level of creative work.

i have to say something.

and time will tell if i should.

(thetime—some time, any time,easterndaylighttime,thebiologicalclockHammertime—WILL tell. it may feel like an eternity.
everything is just a matter of time, they say.)

so i will…

say something.

but only one
time.

one.

 

i feel rushed

alive. not for the first time

but for the best time

hope it happens time after time.

yet….it it will stop

in time.

So from this time and place:  

clichés gotta stop.

if i’m lucky,
in the
nick of
time.

time will tell.

Purpose

Trouble Comes


Dark-Clouds

Tinged like mercury,

Like the edges of old coins…

Trouble is coming.
Darkness

Fear and The Light


terror
Who knows when fear arrives for us…
Perhaps the first is in the egg’s big moment,
When she, plump and frisky and motivated,
Feels the urgent “hey, baby, open up!” of a thousand horny
Sperm poking and stroking all sides of her
Like desperate sales clerks
After three slow months
And she’s the one customer with cash.

My first remembered brush with darkness
Was a nameless thing, because I could not yet form words.
I left my family in the living room and wandered around the corner.
I  remember seeing the half-dark kitchen,
All shadows of familiar things turned strange In the gloom.
And toddled onward, lurching over to a corner.
Who knows what I was looking for.

I saw a mark on the linoleum
(I think my creepy brother had told me it was a bug, earlier, and I
was somehow drawn back to it)
There it was, but in the gloom, alone,
It seemed alive and growing, reaching for me.

I froze. And screamed. And fled.
I think that was the first time I’d felt totally alone,
Separate. Safety was gone, and that spot
Was everything that aloneness meant.
The bottom dropped out of my world
And sheer panic made my feet move,
Back toward the light, my parents
Sure something malevolent was following.

I remember hysterics—mine;
Unable to talk yet, I could only babble desperate sounds,
Trying to name a
Terror that no one could understand.
My father took my hand and let me stand in the door
While he turned on the kitchen light
Beckoned me over, and asked what I’d seen.
He was probably expecting a rat.

In the light, the terror, the prehensile primal fear
That had wrapped a tentacle around my chest
Uncoiled. Bit by bit.
It was just a bug-shaped stain on the floor.
I remember approaching it slowly,
Touching it with my toe.
“Go ahead, touch it with your finger,” he said, mildly
Ignoring my brother’s laughter from the other room

The monster shrank from the light, shriveled
And went back into nothing.
A remnant of a splotch of something dropped long ago.

But to this day, I believe that evil is real and
That it cannot
Live for long in the light.

Memory    Obstacles

Stranger in Strange Lands


1ee2b8d4c196826fd249b75426e78994It is an early memory.
A small-town church,
Where I heard the words:
“Be in the world but not of it.”
It’s gone now. Only a vacant lot remains and
There is no hint of spirits, Holy or otherwise.
(I never sensed them before, either.)
But I’m still not of the world most days.

I remember the grey-painted brick and stone exterior,
The Gothic steeple and the bell, the way a deacon
Would grab the rope high, and tug
It down like he was summoning eternity;
The expanses of varnished wood
Railings and trim, the plaster walls
The cheesy painting of Jesus who looked like a hippie from
Berkeley a couple of decades later.
The dark oak wood in the ornately carved pastor’s throne,
Intricate curved swirls and shapes and walnut words
Of the pulpit, waiting to be lit
By a holy fire.

I remember the long table down front where rituals were repeated
Grape juice and crackers,
Body and blood..
Hoping we’d all feel the arrival of the Spirit…
“Nearer my God to thee.. ” sung every time someone got
Dunked in the water tank built into the wall in front.
I looked and waited, but the Spirit never materialized.

I remember the theater of baptism most. The sacred swimming pool
Hidden behind a red velvet curtain pulled back to
Reveal a sinner about to be cleansed, swooped underwater by the preacher,
Both got very wet.
The new Christian tried to look the part,
Like a light suddenly glowed from within,
But it was still Bob Carpenter who sold cars
At the Ford dealership.
While Bob wiped his transfigured eyes of chlorinated water, the organist
Launched into to another old rousing hymn
And we all stood and welcomed another confused person
To the other side. This was where I began to
Doubt ritual.

In the world but not of it….
The building had been built in another time, the 1870s,
So it made sense. And everything about it told me
I shouldn’t be too comfortable where I was.

Which was how I rolled, anyway.

Let me be honest: I was an odd child.
Born late to parents who surely thought their diaper days
Were long past. Now signed up for a new 20-year sentence.
Middle-aged. Getting tired.
My older siblings were almost grown,
Eager to get up, out, away, who
Found me an embarrassment when their dates were around.
A reminder our parents still had sex, I suppose.

In the world.
But still not of it.

Memory    Obstacles

Secrecy and Freedom


#amwriting
c180d01388aa254aa1a74c65d27db4e4And so we must ask ourselves:
What is freedom?
Do we decide when to wake?
When to sleep?

Do not authorities order our
Waking
Sleeping?
Or our partners do?
Our parents?
“You have to get up early!”
“Why do you stay up so late?”

Order belongs to the day,
Unordered things, the night.
Nakedness emerges in the night…
Bodies come together, touch, in the night.
What is put aside during the day
And only implied at dinner, or the theater
Finally takes place in the secrecy of the dark.

We trade freedom for order in the hours of light.
We reclaim our freedom in secret, in the night.

Raison D’être

Suddenly


Raison D’êtredance_portrait_photography_alexander_yakovlev_09

The moment this happens… The moment

Something you’ve never seen emerges

Something new, different in every way,

Something a little threatening,

Something that wasn’t there a second ago.

Something that doesn’t fit.

Something that might make you change.

Something that might eat you!

Something more terrifying than you can know.

Something unknown that pulls on you.

A divine spark of …otherness…now here,

Something that cannot be, was not, but is.

 

We look around and say

“Hey, something amazing just happened. Did you see that?

 

But others often shrug and hurry past, irritated,

Or change the subject,

Afraid that we’re going to ask them for money,

Or tell a boring story about some problem of ours,

Anything that’s not about them?

“Can’t you see I’m busy?”

 

Busy people, busy, busy, busy.

Tuned to the wrong frequency, maybe.

The one with a lot of static.

 

But there it is, hanging shyly in the air, brand new,

As though a puff of divine breath on a closed fist

Pushed invisible fingers apart to release

An angel.

 

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