Something There Is (or The Mending Wall)

After Frost, the poet, not weather, I
built a circle wall, or rather spiral
all to come to mend, wall, themselves to walk
both sides and agree it makes good neighbors.
 
Something there is that loves a wall to mend,
repair the mind and soul gentle grayworn
farm field stone plucked to define god for
us all as ‘mine.’
 
Come take down and build up: stone, man, this wall
to mend- not broken, but not at all.
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Seven-Thirty Sunset

As grandmother and toddler turn to home,
the Hispanic boy with gold necklace
runs through a back yard
and the Haitian girl tosses
a worn brown basketball to her nephews
 
life flows out onto the narrow
streets of Lake Worth
in the hot yellow air
turns colors
black in silhouette.
 
An almost chill rustles uncut palms
and thrusts paper wrappers
against sagging chain-link fences
nine o’clock sunset
is still two months away
 
but the thin old man
steps into the street and closes
the door on his Chevy
glad to be home
before dark.
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This looks like a poem, more or less, but….

How Modern a Creek, Then?

The boy, careful to lay the rifle down,

pointing away

looking in the bed of copper leaves, layered upon layer, for signs of a snake for which the rifle was carried, then leaning in, belly on the leaves, as the creek, here only a foot wide, cuts deep between roots of an unseen tree, the water, clear and icy, even summer, for water insects, for gold, for the magical cases built by Caddisflies. Satisfied in searching, he eases his boots off, and stuffs a sock in top of each.

Stepping in, ever looking for snakes almost never there, wades down root steps to a sandy basin. The creek divides around a soggy sand bar. The sand is pebbles, not sand. he sits, soaking his pants, and watches, scanning to the end where the creek runs together again. Boots and rifle, ten yards up. He dries his feet on leaves, not looking for snakes, buffs his dry-ish, sandy-ish feet top and bottom with his sock, then shakes and puts on the sock, and boot.

cheap boot, damp sock and bits of pebble irritate his feet. He stands, picks up the rifle, keeping the barrel pointed away, and down. Home. This is where and how he goes to the creek. Almost every day, alone. Sometimes with his cousins, who build and break dams. He never builds dams.

The why he comes, not even he,

not even now, knows that.

 

A fellow student in ModPo’s summer courses that we collectively call SloPo, wondered if certain poets from Frost to Ashbery used the pastoral scene as a device t deal with the problems of modern life. So I wrote the above piece to explore my own motivations. This is what I consider a typical piece for me. A snapshot of a world gone by, specifically, my world gone by. I did not write it with any particular clever intent.

Another student pointed out the boy’s preoccupation with the POSSIBILITY of a snake, though one is never found. Is the snake old, like in the garden of Eden, or is it modern? is the serpent always both the ancient and the modern, the fear, the irrational fear of things which rarely or never happen, shark attacks, terror attacks, death (which only happens once, yet some of us build our lives in response to it!

I hope you enjoyed reading this poem. I hope you enjoy, even more, thinking about these things. and most of all, I hope you respond here and share your thoughts. You do not have to have an advanced degree in a liberal arts area of specialization. if you dropped out of third grade or if you are an ivy league professor, your thoughts are equally welcome.

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Red Eye Open

I would like to say no words were harmed

in the making of the poem.

You see, I like words as much as some people

like puppies and small children.

As a grandfather,

and something of a pushover

I love babies, and puppies,

and old sad saggy red eyed dogs.

I also love sad saggy old words.

The ones that can barely move their rheumatoid consonants along.

Long time ago,

in a different universe,

I was a truck driver for Pepsi,

and in East Stuart, Florida,

there was a place called

Bessie and Ma’s.

I don’t really know what it was,

but it didn’t open until late,

like at dark.

By dark I had to be back in Rivera Beach,

so I would rattle

my long-straight-body-roll-up truck

alongside of the store,

bouncing over mud holes

and gravely bits of grass

and I would dodge the old hound.

He wouldn’t move.

There is a special sound a roll-up door makes,

you probably know it.

I hear it in my heart,

not my ears,

nor my mind, even.

I roll up the door in the slow late afternoon,

last stop.

4 cases of non-returnable 10 ounce bottles.

Tossed on my shoulder.

Even though three was the limit.

Safety man says.

But It was a dollar’s worth of commission.

I wasn’t going to unhitch the dolly

for a quarter extra

and I had to take them all in.

Hell, I was young.

Thirty Years Ago.

The old storefront windows are filled with signs. You can’t see inside. I bang on the wood framed glass door. I wait. I bang, again. In a little while, a very old, very dark lady let me in. I shift the cases off my shoulder and onto the cooler box. I ask if she wants me to fill the box. No. she gives me the $36.00, I sign the yellow copy and give it to her. Thank you, she says. Thank you I say.

Out of the very dark place.

The hound is still laying on the edge of a mud hole.

Now he opens one red eye.

Now.

I don’t touch him,

but I lean down close and say,

“hey old guy, way to watch!”

then I rattle off to Palm Beach County.

No dog was harmed in this poem.

I am sure of that.

I read as much as I can that Al writes.

I have befriended,

or at least attached myself

like a groupie,

to some real LANGUAGE poets.

I try to protect the words.

I try to make sure my poem

knows it’s a poem

and that it writes about itself,

but maybe I am the dog in the mud hole,

just one red eye open.

I look in the mirror now.

Now.

“way to watch!”

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The Poverty of Myth

myth

Somehow, long before Campbell

I knew a truth though without a way of knowing it.

The power of a myth is its very poverty

to takeaway what is and replace it with a lie.

A myth is the lie that tells the lie

America is great: myth

America is Rich: lie

America is free: lie

America is brave: myth

America is a raping genocidal stepchild of all the bastard king and queen murderers of Europe:

Not a myth, not a lie

Myth: Native Americans lived in gentle peace before first contact

Africa was never exploited by people of color: lie

Asia is all beauty and tigers: myth

All the sins of the world do not forgive mine: not a lie

Joseph, the poverty overwhelms us, we starve and starving we kill and in killing we become rich, and being rich we become greedy, and greed is hunger, and in palaces we starve for riches, for rich myths of our beauty and glory and power and yet we die like ants to be swept away from the mound. In a few days our souls that do not exist decay like the rotting dead bodies we do not leave behind, but become. Our myth dies with our soul, our myth rots on the dung heap as hungry as the first day we knew we were starving.

 

-an open letter to Joseph Campbell

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Devices

Can openers

P-thirty-Eights

and otherwise,

radios

left to,

bastard files

left to me,

 

an adz and a broken

straight razor

of undetermined

destination.

 

Green ammo boxes

with eighty years

of non-weaponry,

six broken watches,

a small reel to reel,

 

the kodak,

with the bellows,

grandpas GI photo,

or an uncle.

He wasn’t in the war,

any of them.

 

Eighteen-eighty-six

I guess he missed the big one.

Nineteen-two, the other

grandpa missed, too.

We all missed the wars, my dad,

my brother, me

not one damn bit, either,

left to.

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The Red Chair

So much undone,

always,

I settle into

my wingback.

 

I try not to recall

the tax bill, dishes,

inspections,

editing, and still I

think of

responsibility for

dead parents.

 

I tire trying

not to think,

knowing I will

not succeed, organizing,

doing, nor not thinking

forty-two things

I should do.

 

Sick, I settle,

she finds something

easy to watch

I find relief in

parents passing

what doesn’t get

done remains.

 

I am

not dying

today.

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