Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Titles


Teacher, judge, critic, arbiter of pass/fail.
Therapist, counselor, seeker of unknown grail.
Good son, angry kid, loyal friend, outcast.
Late bloomer, number-wearer, second, never last.
Friendly shoulder, prickly loner—confused.
Sound shaper, channeler, painting shades of blue.
Handyman, homeowner: measure once, swear twice.
Hold-out, repeater, stumbler, ignorer of advice.
Long rambler, stream-of-consciousness swimmer.
Light seeker, push on as the day gets dimmer.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Cowboy Cornering


On the ramp from I90 to 787,
my hand out the window,
with Rush playing, I remembered
how you once called me a cowboy
for taking this same turn
with confidence and daring--
and I smiled, just then, and
pushed my right foot deeper,
enjoying the tires' sure grip
and the slight sideways force
as my orange car continued to
track firmly and truly.

Weatherman's Advice


Opposites in my head-space:
hot and cold, high and low pressure
colliding at will, mercurial,
changing in a broken rhythm
impossible to count or predict
with the cutting wind of worry
the only constant.
So much to get right, wrong
that it is easier to take the
weatherman's advice and
seek shelter until further notice,
to withdraw, turn inward,
become the observer, spotter,
watcher rather than participant
as what swirls behind my eyes
seems an alien language
or stratospheric music
sung by spirits beyond
angel-demon dichotomy
for this bewildered audience
of one, seeking the cool, dry
air of calm and patience,
but knowing that the root
of temperate is shared
with temporary.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Pace Line


The man on the bicycle is unconcerned
with the rain-slick asphalt and the brakes
that no longer work; rather, he is focused
on the wheel ahead and holding that line on
the black ribbon of road under his tires.
The man on the bicycle will hold that wheel, then
take the lead when honor and obligation require
and part the wind for his nameless accomplices
trailing behind in the water's spray, their tacit
agreement of mutual aid until the road tilts up
or someone bows out, whichever comes first.
The man on the bicycle knows that pain and
suffering are labels, words he chooses to not use
for his circumstances as his body protests his
mind's insistence with shocks of silent fire
the roadside observer will never know.
The man on the bicycle knows the absurdity of
this act, riding a circuit on a day better suited
for ducks, but the rain hits his number, pinned
to him, his whole identity now this, as he and
the others balance on their machines, legs as
fulcrums carrying them on until the white line
slides beneath them and they go slack with
ratchet clicks and beached-whale gasps as
their wheels slow and stop and they
become ordinary again.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Forecast


Forecast says cloudy with a chance of
storms today, portentous clouds that for
whatever reason are not yet ready to act--
something, anything please,
but I know fickle summer weather.
They warned of dangerous bolts
but all I have in my head is loose electricity:
all the power, none of the focus.
The light-quick worry, flashes of anxiety
drawn to prominent objects, bare and
shivering in the plains of my mind--
look closely and you may see the flash
behind my eyes countering my outward calm.
Storms will be localized and intense.
Expect limited visibility and dangerous
head-to-heart lightning that
can be lethal.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Critics


The critics in my head
are particularly vocal tonight:
an unruly sidewalk mob,
groundlings,gutter rabble, 
single-minded and strident, 
as my words try to push their way through,
catching elbows and feet every step.
What do they say? The usual:
None of this is going anywhere.
You were writing so much better
last year.
You're stupid, you put this on yourself
that you could do this--and for what?
What are you getting? No one really reads.
Oh, they might if you wrote something
worth a damn, not this drivel, no sir.
It won't always be like this, I tell myself.
Patience is the way out, the bully-beater
that will make them relent. Until then,
I will be their humble stenographer,
reporter and biographer, convince them that
their thoughts are pure genius,
totally new territory, profound
ideas expressed eloquently
and delivered with just the right
amount of force. Superb! Bravo!
Silver-tongued mastery!
I'll welcome them, catch them
off-guard with my flattery,
get them drunk on praise
and slip away from their
softened minds and do whatever
poetic thing strikes me:
observe the moon at five-minute
intervals; catalog the sounds
on the block, observe what happens
in six long breaths, find just the right
words for the shades of gray passing
overhead, read the dictionary aloud,
write imaginary dialogue for
people behind a cafe window,
order my espresso or pinot or stout
and sip slowly until the words come out.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Backyard Dusk


The city motor drone
dwindles, fades as
mid-season leaves
shuffle on limbs,
one cricket sings
over low hum of
window fans, and
above rows of
painted bricks and
a cat's green gaze,
the crowns of trees
rise and reach to
a sky gone gray.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Perspective


The low sun throws
long shadows,
dark daggers across
the road, its eastern fire
out-shined by the
ambulance's lights
coming out of the
vanishing point
up a mile or so,
lights in my eyes
before the sound as other
southbound drivers and I
pull to the side--
a gesture of respect as
much as anything in this
wide, quiet road, an
acknowledgment of
this mortality messenger and
that even the worst commute
is probably better than that.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Doe


There was a flash of tan
and white amid the green
as the trail serpentined
through the woods.
My bike and the doe halted
maybe fifty feet apart,
and her eyes and ears
turned to me as the brakes
chirped. Her tail flicked
as she held her gaze and
the moment stretched,
hands falling off clocks
somewhere as time opened
up into the middle of eternity.
She nibbled and scratched,
grooming like the cats at home,
glancing back up now and again.
She casually fed on leaves,
walking slowly now, leaving
me in her blind spot as
she ambled away and the
moment closed and
time resumed.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hard Time


No one tells me what to do,
you tell me no but I do it anyway,
'cuz I'm my own person,
the student says amid the
familiar desks, chairs, windows,
grubby floor tiles. He is a
shape, too: a box in a seating chart,
a check in a column, a lump at a desk,
all hard angles, sounding off
his song that he would swear is
unique in its singular note
of defiance, saying I AM--
the walls and the floors
have heard it all before,
small-room big talk
that rings out and dissipates
like chalk erased into
clouds of choking dust,
shouting it out over others' heads,
brazen morning orator issuing
forth from his rocky outcrop,
this risk-taker, cliff diver,
reckless driver, nothing without
his audience, sycophant circle
minions for each other,
thug-lite insubordination brothers,
soon to be free from this
sentence of kindergarten to twelfth,
hard time on the inside.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Measure of a Day


Tell me, what is the measure of a day?
A hand's sweep, lines through a list?
When darkness comes, what will stay?
Open, welcoming hands or clenched fists?

Tired arms at ease, unladen but sure
remembering the weight of morning labor?
a calling out, a yearning, a thirst for more,
dwindling minutes, shrinking light to savor?

Free me, for now, from the tyranny of time
and things set aside, work left undone.
Roads unexplored, mountains unclimbed
will surely wait for another day's sun.

Breathe, as still water mirrors the dark sky
and a doubled moon fills my grateful eyes.

Temple Bells


If you believe,
       then the temple bells will ring.
Hold the rock in your hand,
       in quiet, the crystal sings.
The soul is a prisoner
       yearning to be free.
Do not ask others, you forge the key.
The bells, the bird, they are there
       in the earth of your chest,
       in the temple of you, sacred, blessed.
Spires and crosses point to heaven,
       but find your path within.
       Any moment is ripe to begin.
Grief and anger still the bells--
       Lift them off, cut them off,
       free yourself from a personal hell.
Let your spirit like water flow,
       know by going where it is to go.
See what your self-faith brings.
If you believe,
       your temple bells will ring.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Remember Me


Remember me after
the robes are put away,
the candles are snuffed,
and the grave speakers
have had their say.

Remember me after
the repeated oath's
words echo and fade,
when the recessional
music has played.

Remember me when
this group is gone,
all on separate paths.
With your shoes worn down,
remember how I last.

Remember me when
you are bravely alone,
when good truly is sown,
to know and do what's right,
to keep me, your honor,
clear and bright.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Soar


Sometimes I'm the sadistic kid
with the magnifying glass--
     sometimes I'm the ant,
     confused by focused heat. 
Sometimes I'm the home-run ball
flying over the fence--
     then I'm the same ball,
     later, forgotten past distant
     cheers on the green field.
Sometimes I'm the ray of light
piercing deepest darkness,
     at others I am the void,
     inky and indistinct.
Sometimes I'm that voice
across the hall, strange and
detached from myself.
     Then I'm the silence after
     the 3 a.m. phone.
Sometimes I'm the spring song
of birds and peepers--
     and at others the crunch and crack
     of angry ice underfoot, wet enough
     to slip, sharp enough to cut.
Sometimes I'm the jury in my head,
robed, dark and stern—and
     then again the man on trial,
     shackled and humbled beneath
     the high bench.
Sometimes I dig deep, a
blind rodent running on
instinct--
     but then again,
     occasionally, I am
     something else, feeling
     warm air carry me in
     great spirals, a trust
     in the invisible.
Sometimes,
I soar.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Messages (7/17/12)


Lake water stroking
the shore, wind passing over
me like breath, sunlight
flashing on, off through my closed
eyelids, saying all is well.

Ashen Lament (7/16/12)


We threw our wood
into the fire--
we could have
built something
to hold us
or
shelter us,
but, oh,
how that
fire blazed.

Adirondack Haiku and Tanka (7/15/12)


A day's talking is
done—now the rain's soft patter
outside is enough.

Inside, low light and
a soft chair; outside, peaks reach
into the dark night.

An unlocked door, a
room with a bed—sleep well, and
pay in the morning.

July, and wood stacked
by the hearth promises light,
heat for short, cold days.

Question after an
arduous climb: insight
or just a light head?

On the peak's leeward
side—moss and flowers cling to
scant dirt on hard rock.

Returning to camp
at night, my light finds five pairs
of yellow eyes that
watch from the pine's boughs: raccoons
beginning the second shift.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Blog break

I'm venturing away from my computer for two entire days, so there will be a brief hiccup in this third year of July poems. I will be writing, however. Expect more poems later this week. I have a feeling that stars will align and the muse will be afoot. Thank you for reading.

Hours Deep


It is now, the night
hours deep and the
air a conduit for
train and river sounds
that my body slows
with the day's efforts
in my limbs, my bones,
my breaths coming
deep and without thought
like someone else working
the bellows of my chest,
thoughts and head-chatter
gone slack like a sail
when the wind quiets
and the water stills.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Mountain Spring


Water moving up and out
back to the light again
carrying traces of where
it has been, holding the
taste of glacial rock heaves,
cool, dark earth—the part of
the mountain that only water
sees, as it flows, under pressure
not its own, upward, stronger
than gravity's reach, welcoming
tighter, smaller spaces that
only increase its speed, then
quietly opening to sunlight,
sliding smoothly over silver
rock, welcomed by weary
hikers on their own way
up or down—show me, water,
how you mold yourself,
change shape, fearlessly,
in this journey without source,
from light to darkness
and back again.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Closer


We are imperfect beings,
seeing pinhole visions of
the infinite and eternal--
more than a glance would
wipe us out. We don't get
to see it all, but we do get
windows opening and closing,
a curtain briefly pulled back,
a light flashing on, then off.

These are earned things, through
the movements of body and spirit,
empathy, love, hard work getting
us closer, but always still a
baroque of the ultimate,
apprentice visions, shadows of
a master, an outline of the
weightless dancer, a chorus of
angels carried lightly by breath
through a reed. The tune
is the same.

Star chasers, riding toward
mountains that seem static
but really do get closer.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Base Camp


In my head, sometimes I'm the
climber who stays at the base
camp, soporific and satisfied on the
thick air, deep breaths bringing
calm, but wonder and longing as well
as he looks up toward ledges iced with danger
and then the haughty, arrogant summit,
its silence a dare and a promise
of clear vision, of everything shrinking
beneath the one who dares, standing
strong in the wind and the sharp sun,
knowing that there's no more to be done,
this clear ending point, this last step--
the treacherous route that tells only
part of the story, nothing of the euphoric
missteps and saves and leaps over those
crevasses that lurk deep inside,
the peak in the chest, in the gut,
in the mind, that worry that gets
the last word--All of these thoughts in
the idleness of the base camper, longing
to sink his ax and crampons into the
sheer ice face, to know that if it
is to be, it is he who decides, who
takes those steps as far as
nature and fate allow.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

High Peaks Blues


Gonna carry my rock up the mountain,
carry my rock up the mountain,
feel it every step of the way.

Feel my troubles weighing me down,
weighing me down,
for the last time today.

Gonna leave that rock at the
top of the mountain, top of the mountain,
up high with all the rest.

Gonna leave that rock at the
top of the mountain, top of the mountain,
up high and I'll feel blessed.

Leave my troubles when I drop that stone,
drop that stone, drop that stone,
haul it up and let it go.

Now a rock is a rock, and a man is a man--
A rock is a rock and a man is a man--
Simple words, and I know it for sure.

Leave my troubles when I drop that stone,
drop that stone, drop that stone,
won't feel that weight anymore.

When I come back down, gonna
be a new man, be a new man.
Look up at that high gray peak,
can't see my troubles,
from where I am,
from where I am.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Between Blue and Me


Hearts don't grow on trees
beg, and you won't receive
even prose has its thorns
wrinkled as the day you were born
walk the thick ice, slick and strong
know “goodbye” is not “so long”
Cry me an ocean:
all depth, no motion
a teardrop on the sea
just between blue and me.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Snapshot


Within the curling print's white
border his hands say “ta-dah!”
as if producing the little teapot
from thin air--this would-be magician
in his plaid shirt and horn rimmed glasses
under a hanging light in a humble kitchen
his thick hair rising like a dark wave
over his beach of a forehead above
sliver-moon brows
he's here in this ordinary
moment, a man and his tea as
his eyes meet the camera's one,
this time-stopping Cyclops whose
metal-and-glass gaze makes
anyone fall under its split-second
spell--and I guess, then, that it is
magic after all.

Ode to Coffee


My dark, bitter goddess,
pulse-quickener, mind-sharp
miracle bean, sunrise rouser--
it's you I serve—the master
becomes the slave to you,
equatorial, tropical queen,
and I worship every morning--
your siren song, my alarm,
dispelling the fog of my mind
like your misty mountain home,
calling me from sleep in tangled
sheets as the sun streams
and I prepare the chalice for
our ritual, a clumsy acolyte
fumbling through the temple
of a quiet, still kitchen.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Ode to Words


I praise hidden thoughts that loop again,
ideas amorphous and vague given shape,
spinning freely from a liberating pen,
that evolving step between man and ape--
how is it, these lines sinuous and ornate,
can amuse, anger, evoke love and hate?
Shooting like arrows as the mind reloads,
things that calm, caress, hit and explode--
a ticker in the mind, running all the time,
scalding, harsh, smooth, sometimes rhymed,
mercurial messengers under some command--
obedient, insolent, issued from mouth and hand
getting us closer to it—all the way? Not quite.
Dispelling some darkness to light the night.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Magnets


ever have a day like that
when you become magnetic
in the aisles in a store
attracting people and
their laden shopping carts
pulling pedestrians off
the sidewalk without
them even knowing right
in the path of your car
which you of course slow
for the little iron filings
willed by something beyond
themselves to behave this way
not like yesterday when you
pushed everything
away—got a
clear shot up the street
down the road
through the thicket of
an undulating crowd
with your little mysterious
force field working silently?
science says the earth's
magnetic field
(which keeps us safe)
changes poles over time
due to what's deep inside
so why not us too?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Between Spark and Fire


Seductive shadow chaser
trilling in night air,
enough to ignite desire,
a hand-over-flame dare.
Bring the heat to this
iced heart--
show the way,
celestial star chart.
Fire and fuel are we
close at hand,
no choice but
chemistry's command.
Chase the shadows out,
become so dear,
melt the frozen coiled fear--
Live between spark and fire,
together we conspire.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Lie List


No, I'm not seeing anyone else.
Sure, I'll leave your money on the shelf.
I really have something to do.
Would I ever, ever lie to you?
I'm very experienced in this area.
Fancy free? Nothing's scarier.
I just want to be alone.
Nothing incriminating in my phone.
It's not you, it's me.
You're the one I've waited to see.
Of course I did well in school.
Of course I'll return your tools.
How many? Six, seven—no, eight.
But no, not tonight... I work late.
I'll wash your clothes, fold them too.
Have I ever, ever lied to you?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Fire's Promise


Let me light the lamp of you
your mercurial fuel--
it's me, it's what I do
bring me near and you'll
see and feel--
a shadowless flame
shimmers the bending light
makes wrinkles in time
wicks dip deeply in ancient oil--
endless reserves are there
once one finds it--
sweet pain of flame, the
tingle before the burn,
take me there again and again.
We blaze for a time, light and heat--
settling in to a steady flame
like hands pressed in prayer--
pointing up, not out--
heavenward, a halo of light,
a star in someone else's sky.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Dusk, Late June


Words in speeches echo, get
carried off in impatient air--
dozens of different scripts quietly
running, writing under square caps--
blue and white gowns over colors of souls,
tiger lilies for her, confetti and platitudes,
and the names called hang briefly and
they amble, saunter, swagger, sidle
across the ordinary grass as if it were
a high-wire or runway or pit of coals
as the ice-cream truck's song fades in and out
like childhood itself carried on the air
and the sun sinks slowly and fate smiles today
as dark clouds roll south and thin wispy
fingers overhead reach eastward, stretching
the sky as the sun is pulled down and away
beyond the plains and the purple rays
reach over hundreds of watts of smiles
on the darkening field and some are
lit within, radiating outward before
breaking rank, absorbed by the crowd--
little halos of light grab moments of time
to be seen again as they grow
into what some already know
and fill out shapes and outlines made today
on the island of grass inside the track
and the restless sky is pulling, moving overhead,
urging us all on into a sweet firefly night
as headlights find ways out and home
to never precisely return again.

A Letter to My Students

I don’t say it enough, but I care about you. Each of you. That’s why I’m here. It’s too much work to do it for the money, so there must be ...