(Poem)

picasso-don-quixote

I.

So like me were you once–

hard-hearted and soft-headed,

until awakening reversed all that,

when the pain matured to horseplay

and we teamed up as unlikely orators–

spouting wise on Conscious Human Knowing,

and the clever mapwork we imagined

our true cause celebre, in hindsight,

was more bulwark and banter

than soul cartography.


So like me were YOU once

enamored

with mind and suspicious of brain,

we sort of became

a traveling show

lecturing to the lepers

and housewives

and the thin sweet grandmas

accustomed to crumbs.

They took to us

like eskimo stew to crabmeat,

our meager stock

of indigent splendors.


But we both really knew that

because we LOVED them like children

our show made us mildly famous,

plus the raw sad truth

we were too damn funny

in our brown corduroy “trainer jackets”

baiting big ideas

with the light and snappy

like some Zen Mutt & Jeff phenom

of the San Francisco psycho circuit.


II.

But for all your wisdom

and cunning spirit,

only I knew the coals of violence

still smoldering inside you

from the early years,

the kind of pain

that makes old ship captains

lousy lovers on cheap Chablis.


I knew those hidden ropes

glued behind your sturdy shield

from my own frayed strings

attached to this ever slippery tongue:

remnants of the chaos

when for a small child

everything shatters.


III.

At the funerals of their fathers

some men begin to live,

some to die.


Three of my own tallest pines

have now gone by

that I know well

the sweet taste of a saddened son

blessed with good fathers

who have lived and died.


Now you the shedding oak once so strong

in my thinning forrest of felled trees,

begin to fade by the empty field

where good men have gone

to live or die.


My doors remain open

but you don’t come in.

I bid your entry

as my eldest living friend,

if only so my small children

may benefit as have you

and I from the gracious company

of some good fathering men.


I wonder if you’ve left the work

once forged with me to cast

a brotherly sword

from the common tin

between wise and caring men?


I carry now between my eyes

that sword I wish you’d take again.


Your shield, old boy, can be cut apart

as my fast tongue is turned to stone.

But rare I feel is the princely man

who rides on as the good fathering friend.

1995