Thursday, April 30, 2009

Favorite Things

Fresh coffee
The smell of pine trees
Fast moving trout streams
Full moons over desert landscapes
Planting flowers
The smell of mulch
Talking to mom (grandma)

A hard day finished
feet propped
sitting back in my chair
the nightly ritual
of jammies, brushing teeth
and saying goodnight.
A small being reaches up
"Goodnight Da-Da"
"Goodnight Sweet Pie,
I love you!"
"I love you too Da-Da!"
Another hard day finished
and made easy
as night falls.

There is something about simple list making... I do it all the time. I have also come to see the poetry within them. A grocery list. A chores list. These are the stuff of day-to-day life and if you listen, you will hear them sing.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


The rabisu are among us.
We know by the pricking sensation
at the nape of the neck
sensing something crouching at the door
but nothing seen, we enter,
ignoring potent warnings.
Such was his fate,
bearing water from the river channel
infidelity awaited at his doorstep.
He failed to see the demon
and crossed the threshold
to find himself bereft of wife,
of home, of sanctuary.
A wound dealt by a choice
he is unable to heal.
Such is the raw power
lurking at all portals,
especially the vulva.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Another God

Now there's a god
worth worshipping.

Eternal mystery
with a constancy
that cannot be refused.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Divorce List

Bank accounts
Penney's charge
Shell charge
Credit Union
Mellon Bank
Insurance on car
Insurance on house
Insurance on lives
W-2s - tax time
The car
The cats
The divorce
Any other outstanding debts?
Financing records
Division of property
Your stuff - my stuff - our stuff
Anthing else?
Craig's car

This poem dates back to 1979. It actually wasn't a poem, just a list I had made to try to organize my wildly scattered thoughts as my practice wife and I separated. A friend, who had gone through a divorce himself, came over one day, saw the list on the kitchen table, and remarked, "good poem." I didn't disagree. I just titled it and have been passing it off as a 'poem' ever since.
If you have been through a divorce, perhaps you will see the poetry in it too.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"...the moose scored!"

Woody Allen

He marvels at the blood stained sheets
remembering the tacit understanding
that in the morning
she would be gone.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

In Defense of Love Poetry

I have been a serial monogamist,
one lover at a time, no playing field.
Like the male of any species I have been led,
no, driven by my reproductive organs,
More than once, while still connected
to my practice wife,
I stopped far short of adultery,
yet well into the realm of lustful thought.
I have been wired since birth to faithfulness
and for this I must stand up for love poetry.

A poet once said love is exponential.
I agree.
While I think she meant our capacity
is to love more than one person at a time,
for a quarter of a century my love
for my forever wife
has grown from attraction, to friendship,
to lust, to passion, to adoration to such dedication
that for me there can be no other.
We have become, in a wonderful way,
a dyad that allows two separate souls
to live as one.

The same poet said monogamy is static.
I disagree. Even after all these years
we continue to discover each other
and rediscover, in ways only time
can gestate and grow to full fruition.

We, the combination of two Is,
have learned through our love
how to love others,
to open our hearts and cast aside judgment,
secure in ourselves,
protected by our communion,
to accept the potential of new relationships,
while saving true intimacy
perfect, unblemished,
for each other, for the poetry of our love.

Let the poets sing of love.
I stand for love poetry.

Sometimes, at least for me, the fun of poetry is to participate in a conversation - point . counterpoint. Dorla Morehouse posted a wonderful little poem Polyamory (you'll see a link to her blog at the right of this page). I felt compelled to speak. Watch yourself, though. Her piece is layered in meanings. I simply snatched one of them for my poem. There's more there with which to wrestle.

A Conversation Remembered in the Morning

A Monostich

I earned the damage that was done.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Packing snow
to a consistency round
let it fly, then run
at the sound
of breaking glass.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Do You Know Belial

The raspy whispering of Belial
hissing in your ear
comes with a warning
with just a hint,
the faintest touch of a scent
like a sensation half remembered,
the stench of sulphur and death
bloating in the sun.
The flicker of light
bathing the corner of the room,
in a welcoming yet eerie,
cold and artificial glow,
is dishonesty invited
into the family hearth.
We listen, we watch
and we applaud as he casts
his three nets into our lives.
The storm is the space
between the rain drops.
Everything we deem innocent
is tainted, only vigilance will protect us.
Do you know what is without worth?
The entanglement of wires and diodes
paints a phosphorescent sheen,
can you scent the decay?
Do you hear the cozening canard?
Do you know Belial?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I Do Not Understand

I do not understand religious fanaticism
that twists a love of God
into hate for those who are different
in thought and belief,
or how a child's hunger
can be ignored by society,
or why possessions, wealth,
rule so many lives,
or why we resort to fear,
an expectation of ruin and danger
to mold our behavior and make our decisions.
The deepest mystery of all, perhaps,
is how I can see the truth, sometimes,
and recognize wrong,
yet sit idly by, like Hamlet,
wandering through the cold stone passages
debating with myself in protracted soliloquies
afraid to act,
or worse, like Chamberlain
facing the rising evil of Hitler,
unwilling to act.
Maybe Hamlet delayed picking up his rapier
because he understood revenge
albeit justified, may not be just.
And possibly poor Neville could only hear
the clamor of a civilian government
grown tired after centuries of war.
If I have a knowledge, an understanding,
it is that life is transient
while hate, hunger, avarice and fear
are unfortunately eternal.
I also know with absolute certainty
love, abundance, generosity and courage
are ageless, as well.
I do not understand men’s choices,
the allure of darkness.
I do not understand.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Head of the Pin

“I’ve bin sittin’ here watchin’ ya
and if y’ll stand me a beer
I’d be for asking ya a question
and, may be tellin’ ya something too!”

This is a familiar face, one I’ve seen
back when I hefted aluminum barrels
into the holes where tired and dirty
factory shift workers poured their wages.

I have smelled this same pungent mixture
of souring whisky, smoke
and men’s sweat brewing
in these social cauldrons
that change lives through
some strange alchemy of spirits.

It is here the golden hope for prosperity,
through a strange reverse metamorphosis
is transformed into the dross
of poverty and anger.

Tossing the correct coins onto the bar
I catch the keeper’s eye
and nod at the old man’s empty glass.

His rheumy eyes are dark,
the whites glazed grey,
the border between iris and pupil
barely perceptible.

He lifts the vessel of amber liquid
to his lips carefully, is if to caress,
not so much tio savor the bouquet or taste
but more from the hard knowledge
that the next glass
will be hard to find in empty pockets.

Wiping foam from his lip
he leans on the bar, facing me,
his head slightly cocked.

His gaze into my eyes is not entirely direct,
too sidelong fro complete honesty or trust.
He asks, “ ya Cath’lic or Protest’nt?”

“Neither.” I say.

“A heathen then!” he nearly shouts.
“Unless y’ve adopt’d the fashion’ble
taste for saffron robes ‘n past lives
‘n such, ‘n a heathen then, I’m sure!”

A little taken aback by his words,
delivered aggressively, a touch of beer spittle
flinging through the air, I lean back.

“No. No heathen.” I say.
“I’m a believer. I believe in God.
The same God, I think.
I simply have little time
for sects and denominations,
the way they confine, dim
and blur the Light of God.
My faith tells me God is One
with everything
and God loves the many,
that there are countless paths
up the mountain.”

“Then y’r a heathen,”
he pronounces simply, smugly sure.
“Wit’out the church
y’ kin have no abs’lution.”

I sip my own drink, feeling its burn
aglow in my chest, warming to the debate.
“No. I am no heathen,” I respond again,
a little more forceful, finding the itch
of irritation at the accusation.

Tavern philosophers do not listen.
They prod you to answer
and capture the first questionable
dependant clause,
hoisting it like a flag
demanding some kind of salute.

This one was no different.
Ruddy complexion, dying eyes
sunken into creased flesh.
He had stopped listening early.
“If’n ya b'long to no church,
then what do ya believe?” he asked.

I have talked to his old man before..
As a young man, driving truck,
delivering beer to the multitude of taverns
lining the pathways winding through
the various ethnic neighborhoods
surrounding the mills of Pittsburgh.

“I believe God needs no statement of faith,
no special incense, robe or collar,
no specific ritual performed and spoken
in a certain way.”
This I say to the mirror over the bar,
peering into the brown eyes staring back,
seeking that glint of certainty born of faith.
“God will judge me, if He indeed judges,
on what I am and what I do,”
I say directly to the old man.
“I can profess to anything.
But what I do is what God sees.
He is no fool.
Does this make me a heathen?”

“Stand me another ‘n I will answer,”
the empty husk of a person beside me
orders hopefully.

More coins rattle onto the varnished wood.
He accepts the fresh glass and drinks.
“What has bin done t’ me ‘n my kin
by the English landlord,
the divisions beaten upon my father
‘n my father’s father’s father
by the theivin’ damn’d protest’nt English,
this gives me joy t’ bow t’ the priest
whose vow of poverty is known.
Y’ must believe and y’ must pray
and y’ must bow down ‘n beg fer yer forgiveness
or y’ be a heathen ‘n y’ be fer HELL!”

The word ‘hell’ echoes,
the dark smoke-filled room suddenly silent.
He throws the rest of the amber brew
down his throat, slams the glass onto the bar,
stands, turns and lurches for the door
as the stool he was perched upon
staggers and falls noisily to the floor.
Pass out and into the night,
a slammed door claps finality into his departure
and argument.

I turn back to the mirror,
sipping again from my beer.
Another withered old man
crosses the room, righting the stool
and assuming a seat next to me.

“Ol’ Finney, the poor ol’ mick,” he declares.
“Ain’t got much of’n unnerstandin’.
I guess it’s th’ Rom’n Cath’lic.
Him’n th’ damned Dagoes.
They all think their incense don’t stink!”
Hey pal, buy me a beer
n’ I’ll tell y’ the truth,
how it ain’t the damn’d priest
but yer tribe ‘ats import’nt.”

“Barkeep!” I call,
pushing paper toward the well,
nodding at the short, stout, dark
and somewhat swarthy new philosopher
at my side.
Mediterranean? Balkan? I wonder,
asking, “tribes?”

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Time is circular.
Which season begins the year?
Which one marks the end?

The cycle is a circle.
No beginning and no end.

This is a stray stanza from the ongoing Renga, The Gardener, previewed earlier in this blog and still under construction via, of all things, Facebook communications. (finally, a usefull application for Facebook!)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Truth of Penmanship

The truth of penmanship
is lost on me.
What can clean, elegant lines truly offer?
I have seen whopping lies
written in beautiful cursive,
script that flows so effortlessly
even Palmer would think it an opportunity
to peer into the window of the writer’s soul,
yet the writer is laughing all the time
knowing they have masked their intent,
two faces, one hidden, one revealed,
deftly, mild, so as to cause no ripple
that would reveal Janus in the illusion.
A keychain is neither the keys,
nor the locks or the car.
Such is pensmanship.
Is the meaning of the words
held in their portrayal?
I cannot write prettily
in appearance, but,
I can write prettily
in meaning, leaving,
the truth of penmanship,
a mystery to me.

My last jigsaw, for a while, at least – until someone throws this gauntlet down and offers up ten new words. This one came from a good friend, Jennie Clark. The words are offer clean, opportunity, window, two, keychain, laughing, whopping, mild, penmanship. Whopping proved a troublesome word, but keychain was amazingly difficult to fit in. Do you like my solution?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Meant To Last Forever

A single dead tree at the end of the alley
behind the tenement row stood
like some ancient English highlands monolith.
Our young minds viewed it in an almost religious awe.
To us it seemed as if it had been there forever –
for our brief lives, at least,
a testament to nature’s endurance.
Transcending even life.
leaves gone and sap long ago frozen
it still stood sentinel, beckoning,
gathering young minds to its base
like a swirling wind gathers leaves.
When older brothers would lift us to the lowest branches
we rode the wind like ancient mariners,
climbing to the main mast crow’s nest,
to shout “sail on the starboard beam!” or “Land Ho!”
like the buccaneers we had seen
in the plethora of 25 cent movies
flashing in darkened halls on Saturday afternoons.
If no booster was available
hours were still spent beneath the gaunt limbs
studying the smooth wood
forever stripped of its clothing bark,
now marked with the cuts of neighborhood knives,
hearts and names entwined together
in pledges meant to last forever.
Though it was an escape from the boredom
of plastic toys and city sidewalks,
mothers would chastise for the climbing
with horror stories of broken limbs
snapped necks and untimely deaths.
One day when moisture began to fall
from an angry looking sky.
we ran from the stinging rain
to huddle on Tommy’s back porch.
A sudden flash left us wide eyed,
the air sizzling as a blue white streak
caressed the tree from crown to foot
and with a deafening crack
clove it in two, half still standing,
the second half lying across the alley.
An electric smell of burnt carbon
and sulfur rose in a steaming hiss.
With heart crushing certainty
we knew our ship had been sunk by
a single cannon volley from God’s long gun.
Later, when men quickly and easily carved
what we thought permanent into sawdust,
we stood amazed that someone had thought
to motorize a saw!
Perhaps this was the tree’s last gift –
that invention and ingenuity
could also be the stuff of dreams.
But first, Tommy climbed up upon
the flat topped stump
swiveled his hips in a familiar exaggerated gesture.
and pretended to strum a guitar while shouting
“Hey, look at me! I’m Elvis Presley!”

Yet another jigsaw poem - a friend, Jeff Kilday, provided the words plethora, lift, booster, alley, moisture, carbon, monolith, boredom, motorize and property. Plethora? Motorize? Did I mention I was trying to write a poem? Geesh! For guys, this old tree has been around since we climbed down out of them and started walking upright. But Beverly is able to relate too - and she spoke of how in her youth girls wore dresses and how she was often scolded for coming home with a burst seam or other tear, the result of "the tomboy" in her. There's a poem in that image too - but one the ladies will have to address for me! (let me know if you do!)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Persons Singular

Were I
(the first person singular)
to approve the loss of syntax,
the order of words,
and heartily embrace the chaos
of prepositions stranded -

Would you,
(the second person singular)
agree to discard formality,
the order of behavior,
and tell the world
we love as we want to?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Poor Cow

Noting how easily
she could be brought to tears
she exclaimed
"If I dropped a pen, I'd have a funeral for it!"
She needs other people
more than her self,
and that's just a mal(e)adjustment.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Gilt Clad Night

I wonder why she cries in the darkness?
The night has nothing to hide from the day.
I believe she has no sin to confess.

Emotions she works so hard to suppress
emerge in the sunshine to have their say.
I wonder why she cries in the darkness?

With song and laughter she will sunshine bless
Then darken with the light fading away.
I believe she has no sin to confess.

I ponder on the source of her distress
How can I pull her from this path I pray?
I wonder why she cries in the darkness?

I dare not with my concerned questions press.
Embarrassed, she will frightened shrink away.
I believe she has no sin to confess.

To this dichotomy I will acquiesce,
of nighttime tears, sharing laughter by day.
I wonder why she cries in the darkness?
I believe she has no sin to confess.

It was a poem Asocial by Dorla Moorehouse - - that launched this effort. Did I ever know what a villanelle is? Maybe. Somewhere back in my sex, drugs and rock and roll addled late 1960s, early 1970s. English Lit classes, T.S. Eliot, it HAD to have come up. Back then, however, it was content I worshipped – form was unimportant, restricting, confining – free the verse was my rallying cry. e.e. cummings was my hero for disdaining capitalization (I have tons of his books).

I’m not sure about this little effort. I do know it did not come easily. Kept me up late last night. I’m not sure I’m saying what I mean to say and the picture, portrait if you will, that is in my mind is not as clear to me in the words here as I think I would like. The flow is awkward, almost Hemmingwayesque (is that a word?). there is a staccato dissonance to the “I believe she has no sin to confess.” This was one of the toughest ‘word puzzles’ I’ve attempted yet. For good or ill, here it is.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Get Ready to Renga!

David Irwin, a poet, writer, musician and longtime friend (I hate saying old friend, even though we're both getting there) read one of my haiku poems and invited me to Renga with him.

Renga is an ancient style of Japanes poetry wherein two or more poets collaborate to create a poem by writing alternate stanzas. It is also the original source of the haiku. It uses syllable counts of 5-7-5 and 7-7. In its strictest, original form it goes to 100 verses. We didn't get quite that far. Maybe David will pick it up again. Me I just have fun with words.
Google it for more information.
Here is the result of our initial foray into this form of poetic conversation (which, apparently, is only 1/3rd finished). I'm calling it:

The Gardeners
White blossoms push out
from the wood. Wet dirt wisps steam
almost all morning.

Nothing worse than too much time
on one’s hands while the ice melts.

The forest dances.
Blossoms fly from meadow trees.
Tall grass undulates.

Seize the moment to watch this
in the mists before the storm.

A clutch of young grass
falls from your hand. Did the wind
take it as it fell?

Ahead, summer's horizon;
Today, sweat and more planting.

Baskets on the porch
filled with trailing spring flowers
will bring summer joy.

Dirty hands, satisfaction,
Sense of zen captured in now.

The dirt hands you your
meal - this is where we first taste
the too-young tartness.

Berries, when ready to fall,
are different, not better.

When plucked before ripe
fruit and berry are less sweet.
Taste is the victim.

Life must fully gestate
or bitterness will prevail.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Break Up The Marriage

Not the Card Game, Please!

Casually tossed
an ace preempts argument.

Jealous that power
has joined finesse
she scrawls "Pig!"
above the winner's name
and growls
"Shut up and deal!"

I was talking to a someone yesterday who is going through a divorce. He had mixed feelings. There were things he and his wife did together, like playing cards, that he would miss. I dug this old chestnut out of the archives remembering how it was for me when my practice wife and I split.

Friday, April 3, 2009

TV Dinner

The TV and dinner have pushed me
far too close to the edge.
I have fled the house to stand on the back porch
gulping down as much fresh air
as my damaged lungs can consume,
trying to create that belch
that will relieve the turbulent indigestion
created by burnt minestrone soup.

Even the wind soughing
through the early Spring blossoms on the trees,
a sound that once soothed,
now grates on my ears.

Sour food and television politics
working in concert
have left me twisted and sickened.
Half truth, gleefully delivered as full fact
by smug pundits whose idea of argument
is shouting down the opposition
has taken an overdone dish
and angrily knotted it into toxic distress.

I will not be misled.
But I worry for all those who are,
who cannot see through the fire and bluster
and know that Oz is merely
an ineffectual man behind the curtain
jabbing rhetorical buttons,
and pulling emotional levers.
The epitome of charade,
yet, unfortunately, this is not a game.
Fresh air and nature bring calm
and it is easy to vow
never to eat dinner and watch
the electronic madness again.
But, it is difficult to hear
the poisoned words parroted
by coworker’s mouths the next day,
making a fresh, no doubt unsullied lunch
suddenly look and smell distasteful.

Today's poem is another jigsaw effort utilizing 10 words by my sister-in-law Janet Smith. The words are argument, concert, misled, epitome, curtain, minestrone, soughing, turbulent, indigestion, gleefully.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Her Epiphany

To him, her heart was a piece of wood
to whittle into a new shape,
a form he could appreciate better
in his understanding of what
a woman should be.
Playing hopscotch games with her emotions,
careful not to step on the lines,
he would move her from square to square,
a gentle compliment lifting her to ecstatic happiness,
then a pejorative crushing her into absolute despair.
A touch of truth with each delivered comment
allowed him to absolve himself of guilt
at least in his understanding of what
constitutes shameful action.
One snowy day
she sat on the deacon’s bench
in a chill room,
bathing in the reflected sunshine
streaming through the frosted window.
Staring dreamily at the treasure chest
releasing tiny bubbles into an aquarium
she watched the lid open,
revealing the treasure,
and a stream of bubbles would
dance to the surface of the tank.
Then the lid would shut,
concealing the treasure
and stopping the bubbles.
In a sudden, emotionally lucid moment
the metaphor of her relationship
became clear to her.
As the bubbles rose to the surface
her understanding of what
a woman can be
chose a new path.

Another jigsaw poem - using words given to me by Kennedy Smith - whittle, lucid, absolve, tank (thanks for that one KC - it really forced me to find an image); John Toyooka - pejorative; Bill "Boomer" Preston - appreciate; Laraine Bugiski - treasure, ecstatic, snowy; and Megan Graffius - hopscotch (another toughie, thanks). Have you ever been in this relationship? And when you finally escaped wasn't the epiphany as oddly delivered and as fully certain. I haven't been on either side of this - but I've seen it enough to know it.

Streetwalker: another haiku

The bleeding harlot
counts the crimson flow as cash
lost to queasy hearts.