FAMILY OF ORIGIN

February [13] 2009

(Poem)

family-origin-image

   

It took ‘em five kids,

three country doctors,

mule stubbornness,

and one daily prayer

to reach their goal: 

two boys.

 

For her the two boys 

was an offering

to the rosy-cheeked kings

of good fathering.

 

She yearned for the daddy

before slow couch whiskeys

replaced her bedtime calvary tales.

 

Somehow, she now knew

it would take an offering of two.

 

For her husband Lyle,

the boys gleamed like a county sheriff’s

silver-starred badge–

irrefutable proof to his own law-

abiding moma that he, Lyle Jr.,

was an honest man.

 

Sure, the insurance business

paid the bills alright,  but

it didn’t make him stand up

like his daddy once told him,

“proud as a prairie peacock!”

 

Fact was, no one for many a mile

ever forgot the fateful day

preceding Jr.’s 7th birthday,

when two big commotions

got everybody in town chattering:

 

First, one nasty twister nearly

pitched apart the old canning factory,

and two, the boy’s father,

Lyle Sr., that very same day

took up and left town,

one suitcase and a Greyhound stub,

not ever to return again!

Since then, as you might figure,

Lyle Jr. grew up wantin’ boys.

 

“Thank you lord for deliverance”

 He and the wife would joke,

“But five knocks to make two?  Praise Jesus!”

 

And if truth be told, 

they hadn’t exactly prepared 

for the three intervening girls,

who he called the “tax collector,”

referring to property tax,

and she’d chime back,

“then the boys is the 30-year fixed!”

meaning naturally, the mortgage,

and so they were. 

 

In any event, the family went on

and made do like most normal folk–

working hard and giving their best

to what come most easy and familiar.

                       

School years came and went,

and if there was any changes,

they’d be the five tonsils taken,

or the house that got paid for,

or the missus’ wicked bout a depression;

but for folks around here,

most things like Sundays

remained the same: 

football and church socials,

canned ham and lemon pie.

 

Then one fateful day, everyone’s favorite–

the boys–

in somethin’ of a surprise,

was early to leave the family

(and fast), 

gone in the night

with few needs and less fanfare,

never to be heard from since.

 

The one commotion people said

might have meant somethin’

was poor old grandpa’s heart,

on account of all that whiskey,

giving out on the exact day

preceding the youngest boy–

Lyle The Third’s–

high school graduation, 

but go figure?

 

(Oddly enough, the three girls,

even today, in their otherwise lonely 

and unflattering forties,

continue most weekends, each morning

by phone, and on all the right occasions,

to keep ever closer ties

with their family of origin)–

 

but you’d think they’d be happier?                                                           

                                                   

                  1995                                  

 

 

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TELEPATHY

September [4] 2008

(Poem)

I’d rather suffer in poem

than sit in the pain of this wheel.

I seem to lead and pace

a pattern of self-disgrace,

the miracle (or malady?)

of power–

here we meet again,

at the perfect moment unaware,

is it I or you who reads minds?

I know where and when

you’ll be there

sponge-clean sweet,

know how happy and frightened 

you are to see me,

know the paralysis

that makes my stumbling attempts…

poignant,

at least to me,

know the promises

you will never enact,

know the love

that will never be.

                                 (1986)

YOUR OWN ROOM

September [4] 2008

(Poem)

your-own-room-image

Your own room is always the best room my friend–

it’s your room and so it should be;

if it’s my room that you think is best, well then–

it’s in my room that you want to be.


As a rose is a rose my room is my room,

it’s perfect for the strange likes of me;

you’re welcome up, for a chat and some cheese,

It is a room you would like to see.


But your room is luscious too, m’dear,

It’s virescent and deep like you, and for yours

it’s suited above the best–

especial and befit a guest,

it’s salutary and gladdening,

winsome and fine;

so why is it my friend

that your eyes fix to mine?

(1978)

AS IN THE CAVES

August [24] 2008

 (Poem)

  

As in the caves where black was bright

and golden rays could not be thought

of souls in daze of endless night;

 

We marched our spirit staid and white,

beyond the halls of null and naught

as in the caves where black was bright.

 

And down poured waves of vengeant blight

bemoaning raves invective wrought

of souls in daze of endless night.

 

Then welling dry I spied a sprite

whose sight I held but never caught

as in the caves where black was bright.


The blinding shrill of naught clung tight,

taunting the will forever sought

of souls in daze of endless night.

 

The whole of hell, and all her might–

we befell her charm and hard had fought,

as in the caves where black was bright

our souls in daze of endless night.

                                        1971 

Note: I wrote this villanelle at 21, as an English major at Beloit College.  People have asked the cause of the poem’s apparent angst, and I’m sorry to report it was written after a minor argument with my father over the car keys.  It remains, to date, the only poem I’ve been able to put to memory. FSA

OLD FRIENDS

August [2] 2008

(Poem)

old-friends-image-pipei1

Always we stay

such good friends

sharing a cave.


I see us now

by those few chairs

of our den,

sitting on the the cold clay

choking

while we talk

our sinful wisdom

and gloat in the humor

of our splendid shyness.


I think of the saints

and the martyrs

who sleep on hard floors

and scent their spiteful caves

with dingy hermit’s wax,

and I know

that we simpletons of the frontier

can sing our hymns anywhere.


Our songs have burnt through brown

and amber autumns,

warmed our paws over frozen craters,

blanched our summer beards;

for we are old friends

who have eaten much fox,

sturdy mountain goats

who have trudged virgin rivers

on swings of spiked wood brush.


Old friends,

echoing many silent sermons–

why time gets so crisp,

why we’ve been here so long

and each year mountains seem less high

and we smell so much sweeter.


1978

WHO WILL KNOW?

August [1] 2008

  (Poem)
                 

After the war

who will know

love’s defeated soldiers

or hear their songs

once laden with devotion

in the rubble and revision?

 

Where are the guides

that directed their hearts

and whispered the way?

And who will answer

the prayers behind their shields

or see the timeless hands

behind their lover’s rose?

 

Who will know

the real blood

that dries beneath the story?

Who will hear the real scream

that led both the hero’s charge

and the child within

to lose the war

and die?

                             1986

APACHE SECRET

July [28] 2008

(Poem)


The hardest thing is doing nothing–

in love as in life.


My boy will always believe that

right action in the end wins.

My boy does not like much 

the world of his father.


I tell him it’s not that way,

I tell him get it while you can,

but I know he’s right.


Yesterday I took him to the park and

we hid behind the bushes

quiet as two fawn

studying the dogs and wind on trees.


He said tomorrow

he will show me the Apache secret

of burying fallen soldiers by the brook.

I inquire for more detail

but he said it didn’t matter

whose soldiers they were.


Knowing nothing on Apache love

but sensing no where else in truth to turn,

I told him about my lady acquaintance,

alluding even to desires and adult matters,

which he pretended to understand.

He simply said “just be real nice to her.”


That night I called a friend, 

we had our yuks and chitchat

but my heart wasn’t there.

I yearned for the Apache secret.


We went down to the brook early 

that Saturday morning,

he walking about ten paces ahead,

occasionally stopping for small sticks.


By the side of the brook

under a large and carefully chosen mossy rock

he drew a giant X deemed for the soldier

(nothing recognizably Apache)

and then he fashioned a quick parlay of indian

chants learned, he admitted, from old reruns of

Cochise.


He reached for my hand,

had me close my eyes,

and repeat after him the following Apache prayer:


Brave soldier  who is dead,

Spirits behold,

When the good princess sits on this rock

Rise up and be free!


I gasped but the truth was transparent.

I wanted to ask how the princess

would find the rock, but I knew better.

I’m certain he saw it in my eyes.


Shaking his head like an old fur trapper

he insisted once again,

“just say it over and over.”


And precisely in that sober moment,

like the first glimpse of an eagle at early dawn,

I too felt the haunting soar of the Apache spell.

 

(1990)  

 

 

SUCH THE WOES

July [28] 2008

  (Poem)


                               

Hershel, may I knock on your door?

I simply wish to ask you–

is it grandeur

in the end 

that so disappoints?

 

Or would you think it’s more

a situation of some

cruel, divine fortune?

 

Your comfort in matters that grieve

makes me this time the eager student,

as I too live in many houses now

and hope like you 

to become abundantly lost.

 

My demons, god bless them,

next year go to college,

and the less I work 

the harder my portfolios 

itch to multiply like the African fruitfly. 

 

Please old boy, have some more orange juice.

I’ve had it flown in fresh-squeezed from the islands.

 

You know, old Uncle Vanya

The Imperious,

says a man overstocked eats purely.

But surely the flanks

of roast sow you’ve licked

somewhere stung in you

like head gout?

 

Perhaps your core inclination

has been the correct one,

and suffering truly is

the more satisfying?

 

For my money

this “nonduality” schtick’s

a bit too dense and high flow.

But I ask you Sir,

must we now smoke fish to grow?

 

Sadly, I should think,

we accept this undue happiness–

with all it’s silken pleasantries–

and draw small comfort

from our stainless capacities

to lament wisely, as have the poets,

those many tortured moments

we have all glanced upon.

 

I propose we now see fit

to take our medicines in short swallows

like we sip a perfect sherry in Oxford swigs

with the full bunch of leggy madamoiselles

of this tiresome french parade…

 

Because Herschel, we have what choice?

 

Go ahead, keep the boats

and spare the wife–

 

Such I think (and you’ll agree),

are the pricklier woes

we must grieve in life.

 

                       1994

WHO IS THE GODDESS?

July [26] 2008

(Poem)

We walk these pebbled paths

through time processions of morning suns

like scuffed stones off the boot.

To count our slow ascent in steps

or mark mountains by flecks of dust–

our bucket’s rot would better mark

a mound of rust…

 

                  O Goddess of Earth

                  Cauldron of Night,

 

in shadows I sputter and cringe,

as the path grows thick

I feel the breath

of a bogsnake

at my thigh.

 

The heart cries long–

where is the Goddess?

I have vanished.

 

                  In distant light

                  chimes and flute echo.

                  My moccassins touch black sand.

 

I leave myself

to a unicorn

quietly chewing grass

in the warm rain.

 

A city is coming near

I hear cellos through the rain

and can see a red temple in the mist.

 

The musk of damp pine

blends with loud river torrents,

I shiver for hickory tea.

 

                   I know that you are here

                   O Goddess,  let me come.

                                                          (1978)

(Poem)    degas-beautiful-woman  

It was our topic of discussion.

A man by the aisle said

he dated one once,

at great expense,

and wasn’t quite the same since.


Are they as good as they look?

Everyone raised their hands

and a lady stood up to speak:

“not morally,” she said,

“manipulative bitches,” said a college student,

“it’s anybody’s guess,” said a bus driver.

Tension was rising.


A man in the back asked why

you always see them in sexy sportscars

if they were just like the rest of us,

“why don’t you say something about money?”

someone yelled,

“they’re whores of the fat cats,”

yelled someone else,

and the lecturer put his hands up

to quiet the crowd.


He pointed to the curtain

and out walked an exquisite young woman

draped in a lowcut gown that clung

to her radiant features.

“Now,” said the lecturer,

“we’ve all indulged in generalities, but

would anyone care to address their comments directly to the lovely lady we have here today?”


The lecturer waited for five whole minutes

of silence until the bus driver stood up,

took a few moments to regain his composure,

and sweetly asked if the lady wouldn’t be

more comfortable if she had a chair,

“just to lighten the load.”

                                                 1979