I Came From A Place of Fireflies


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I came from a place of fireflies,
where men were reasonable and tall,
where people knew me by who my grandfather was, and his, and his.
Where farmers didn’t block views with trees,
To quickly see at a glance from the kitchen window
How the corn was doing, the soybeans.

Where cemeteries were so old they had no one living who cared
and the raspberry bushes
And groundhogs had taken over;
Where being a child meant living outdoors, year-’round.
Where you waved at a passing car
Because they probably knew your parents:
And you didn’t want to hear at church on Sunday about being rude.

I came from a place where my nearest playmate was a cousin, a mile away;
Where going to hang out meant
Riding the old fat-tired-hand-me-down bike,
With one gear, but was great for
Popping the tar bubbles on hot summer days;
And watching the big grasshoppers and flies whiz by,
the birds calling from the trees,
And watching my dog chase another rabbit.

I came from a place of spirits, haunted by the land,
by deep roots down five generations;
Where uncles and aunts would come over
for summer dinners after the milking,
And sit outside after dark in our yard talking,
And how those adult voices murmering made things
Safe somehow as
My cousins and I would chase each other
through the darkness, making up games
Hiding in the bushes and the darkness
on the edge of safety,
Thrilling in the freedom to roam, to be children;
In awe when the fields and grass would
Erupt in a billion fireflies, and we would put
dozens in quart canning jars
For study, and marveling at  yet another mystery.

I came from a place, a very common place, that had an order
Of season and harvest, planting and animals, birth, death, renewal;
A place where the farm animals taught
about sex very early, but also about stewardship,
pragmatism, kindness and death;

There were the late nights wading through
snowdrifts to the barn in February’s lambing season,
Fields draped deeply asleep in white under hard,
cold moonlight and wicked winds;
Of helping with the births—which only seemed
to come in bitterest cold—
cleaning newborn lambs off with
old burlap feed sacks
Holding the newborns under heat lamps
until their mothers licked them clean,
Made sure they found the teat and began to nurse,
coats still steaming, tails wiggling.
It was there I learned about birth, and
the miracle of it.

I came from a place that has slowly died since then.
I feel an ache of loss of a place
that gave me my sense of who I was,
Where the places I roamed with my dog
are  now owned by Arab sheiks,
where even bigness did not guarantee survival.

It is a place where the invisible glue that once
nurtured communities evaporated from
change and neglect and globalism and meth and, now, heroin,
Where people stay inside and hide from themselves,
Surfing the web for porn, and never once see the
Fireflies rising up in the June nights,
calling children to mystery but with
fewer there to hear the answers.

For Posterity
Origin Story
Memory

Childhood

The Mortal Wound


I felt for a while that grief would undo death.

Did it?

No.

But I believed it might, if it were deep enough.

My cynic friend laughs at me.

Life is a fatal condition, my friend. Don’t you get that yet?

All the bandages in the world, all the disinfectants, all the healthy diets

can never heal that gash we’ve had since the first moments,

Three Fates. One
fate, with three faces.


‘We strut and fret our hour on the stage
and then are heard no more’
Everything has a time limit here.

Such a gloomy cynic! You take away all hope.

Not at all. You don’t have to turn this into something.
You don’t need to get upset.
Think of yourself as dead already,
that you’ve lived your life.
Now you’re free to take what time is left and
live it as it should be lived.
It just takes being indifferent to what makes no difference.
And most of what we say and do is not essential.

I’m afraid. 

Listen. Just do this. 
Go out into the desert just once. 

Lie down          look up at the stars,
At a blackness so filled with light
 it seems alive

Let it bewilder you, 
overtake you. 

You shiver, but it is not the cool air, 


but an angel who has lain beside you.
you’ll know then that something 
beyond your imagining 

waits. 

Are We To Be


Are we to be lovers, or companions, or strangers?
(Not that one is better in some tedious way.)

I do not know myself.
I go dark and am of dark.

My journey takes me there.
And back again, but sometimes…

Is it moral to get better,
if I see things as they really are?

True is true— a little epiphany—
But so is hope a triumph.

And I have that male instinct
to penetrate, to impregnate with

A true, whatever it is,
but also hope.

So what shall we choose?
And are they different?

For the search for love does not cease in this world.

Yes


MilkyWay_Java_justin Ng

Yes to the unknown, the tears, the sweat.
Yes to the ‘morrow-rise and sunset.
Yes to the voices, young and strong,
Yes to the children learning right from wrong.

Yes to the starlight, high and cold,
Yes to the mists, and the mysteries they hold.
Yes to the hard road, traveled alone,
Yes to the love that reaches the bone.

Yes to the losses that each must bear,
Yes to the life sources, sea and air,
Yes to the pains that teach us strength,
Yes to the spirit that wins at length

Yes to the people, yes to their backs,
Yes to their yokes and labor and acts.
Yes to the toilers, loafers and apes,
Yes to the tillers of history’s landscapes.

Yes to the dawn, arms spread wide,
Yes to the rains and winds and tide,
Yes to the future, right or wrong,
Yes to the others, who rise in  song.

Hard Lives


Life is hard. I’ve always heard that,
But thought it had to be cinematic to be true.
You know, like it had to have a music score by John Williams  and play on the big screen.

A friend decided this week to separate from her husband;
They have two small children and a house to sell.
Its winter, and the market is soft.
So, they’ll be living together there for a while, knowing
The marriage is over but unable to move on.
The screaming matches have evaporated from mutual exhaustion,
The warring parties withdraw to separate bedrooms to
Wait for Spring, for the lawyers, for a miracle.

Another’s wife had abdominal surgery,
another’s daughter is struggling with a devastating cosmetic disease,
another’s child is drifting through life, and her mother worries.

A week ago, a 96-year-old woman went through the last chapter and scenes of her life:
A stroke, a fall, pain, sedation, confusion, fear, loneliness;
Her daughter shoulders a burden she has carried before, four times,

With her husband, husband’s parents (both with dementia and in separate rooms in the nursing home) and an aunt.

Walking with them in their last ghastly hours. Sacrifice without complaint.
Then, when life seemed to offer a little
Love for her, that was taken away, too.
She found him in his home
When he failed to show up for dinner.
Life is hard.
She seemed to shrink after that.
What’s the use, her body said.

A distant acquaintance gets the flu and, through a series of
Freak accidents, breaks several toes while throwing up.
Then loses her job, just before finding out that her husband
Has been unfaithful with a teller at the local bank and it all comes pouring out,
How much he hates her. She never knew.

Months later, before the divorce is final, the last is that she learns he’s given her a little bug for a present.

Another friend  is dropped during a community theater rehearsal while being carried offstage
and shatters several bones in one leg. Months of recovery and rehab and dreariness ensue.

Healing takes so much longer now.
Life. So hard.

A friend watches yet again as disease erodes the spirit of
His mate and best friend of decades.
Long nights in the darkness, wondering if her breathing
will stop this time… or this time… or this time…
He falls asleep, finally, and wakes at dawn in a panic.
Her chest is moving up and down. This day, like the others,
Will be hard. Nothing to do but get through it. Weeks need to pass.
He lays his head back on the pillow and stares at the ceiling.
Feels his advancing age and
Fears his own decay, he wants to quit, to leave.
He think about the restorative power of new love, could he have it?
But he cannot abandon his first when she needs him most.
There is no one to comfort him, no one to care for the caregiver.
No one likes a whiner. He is silent.
A shower. Helping her to the bathroom. Helping her dress. Holding her. Going to work.

These are the scenes of quiet desperation in ordinary lives. Not cinematic, not grand, not all that unusual.
These are our lives, We’re busy with our lives. Our regular lives.

Full of pain and delusion and quiet courage, full of sorrows and sins and weaknesses, too.
And if any pollster wants to check the country’s mood,
They need to find a way to measure the kind of courage it takes
To face every dawn and keep going. Meanwhile, it’s fine for us to
tell the pundits and pollsters and politicians and other vermin like them,
You need to
Simply.
Go.
Away.

We’re busy with important things.