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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Today

This is not a good day.
My lungs cannot draw
A full breath.
My eyes burn.
My arms and legs
Are rubber.
My brain is muddled
And powerless
To think clearly.
My body is on fire
And my pain levels are
High.

This is not a good day.

But it is a day
And I have the ability
To make it
All I can
In order to effect change
That tomorrow
May be a better day
And the day after that
A good day.

I admit
This is not a good day.
But I am above ground
And today is my day.

The One Thing

I can do nothing
To change your situation.
Advice would be futile
And sympathy fall flat.

I am too far from you
To physically alter
Your circumstance.
I am not bright enough
To re-imagine your dynamics.

Though I have given much thought
To things you may have left
Undone
Or discovered creative ways
Out of your difficulty
It seems you have done
Everything possible
To help
Yourself.

I have exhausted
Every referral
And tapped-out
Every resource.
I’ve got
Nothing.

Well…
That’s not entirely true.
I can give you my
Tears.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Dashboard

Turning the radio off
I turned my imagination on.

Vibrations from the road
Through my car’s suspension
Body
And ultimately into the steering column
And wheel
Connected me to the long
Gray highway.

Tar patches
Spaced evenly in the road bed
Beat time
To my speed
And I heard the beginnings
Of verse.

Words migrated into my brain
Suggesting rhythm and meter
Adding a beat that sat down
Emotions
And temper.

Every poem has its own color
Its particular hue.
This one was deep violet
Passionate
Flirtatious
And wantonly off-balance.

I vented the window
And the flow of air
The warmth of summer sun
And scent of mown fields
Provided the poem’s season
Even its weather
And time of day
Releasing half-forgotten memories
Into the creative mix.

The best room
I have yet discovered
That offers contemplation
And atmosphere
For the making of poetic birth
Is the open places of the earth
And the dashboard of a car.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Verbal Poker*

Forgive me.
Perhaps I misunderstood.
Would you please
Repeat what you just said?

You see
I believe life is precious
And I would not want
To be hasty
And do something untoward
That violates
The sanctity of life
Liberty
And the pursuit
Of your happiness.

I do not want to repeat
What I thought you said
Because I am probably wrong.

But if you did
Indeed say
What I thought you said
You may want to place a call
To a friend
Or two
So they can begin
To make their way here
To sweep you up
Bind you up
And carry you somewhere
So you can begin to heal.

After all
Healing can be a long process.
Don’t you agree?

I hope you agree
Life is precious.
You do not appear suicidal.

But one never knows.
Does one?


* I admit, I have on more than a few occasions, played "verbal poker" with bad men who intended harm. I figured, were I to lose, what they wanted to do to me was not acceptable. Were I to not fare well, they would certainly ruin my day. Were I to succeed, we would both walk away. So far this has happened. This is a dangerous game, played for high stakes. To date I have won every hand of "verbal poker." I hope to never play again. If I must, and I lose, you'll never hear about it. There simply will be no further posts on this blog. I have spent a career working with street people. Sometimes things go south so fast that engaging in conversation is impossible. Let's hope that doesn't happen. I'm getting too old to find this exciting. It's best to stay in my recliner these days. And that is what I hope to do as I approach my Social Security years.

The Shadow Man

The distant past takes form
Stalking me
The way a dangerous man
Skulks in shadows
Preying upon another.

From time to time
I see him
Emerging
From the dark
As he scurries
Shadow to shadow.

I am a warrior.
But how may even a warrior
Destroy memories
From yesterday?

Though the shadow man
Has no lungs
With which to breathe
Or exhale his venom
I hear his low
Sinister growl.

Having long given thought
To my predicament
I have come to one conclusion…

Memories cannot be destroyed
Nor may the threat of attack
Be avoided
But I have within my power
To be a good man
And if necessary
Die as a good man
And not as what I was
When I was not
What I now am.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Before I Forget

Sorry it’s been so long
Since I’ve been down to see you
But time has a way
Of robbing me of what I mean to do.

You gotta know, though
You’re always on my mind
Even when I’m busy
And can’t seem to find the time.

There’s nothing new to tell you.
Life is just the same ‘ol thing.
It’s always an old tired story
And a song I forget how to sing.

I guess I’m doing okay.
Nothing too good or too bad.
But I guess that’s better than most
So I try not to be very sad.

I haven’t forgot
All you taught me
About how to be a good man
And being all you meant me to be.

I brought you these pretty roses
To decorate your grave.
I guess I best be going
Before I forget how to be brave.

Feels Like 1945

It was a northbound freight
On the Cotton Belt line
Haulin’ rice and cotton
Outta South Caroline
And that ‘ol lonesome whistle
Called out to me
So I wandered down the road
Just to have myself a see.

The smoke and the cinders
The steam and the thunder
Rose to the skies
And sparked a need in me to wander
So I jumped a car
When it slowed for a bend
And rode that train
All the way to the end.

Hell, buddy, that was a life time ago
But I remember like it was yesterday.
They’re all diesel now I guess
But if I were young again, I’d say
I’d do it all over again, more or less.
I’d hop one more train
And I’d ride it one last time
Just to rock away the years and the pain.

The Cotton Belt line is a long time gone
But those ‘ol rails are always there.
That steel ribbon is my blood and breath
And there ain’t nothin’ like cinder smoke in the air.
In my heart I’m riding that train again
And it still feels like 1945.
Whenever I hear that lonesome whistle blow
I feel like I’m a young man, and I’m alive.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Mister

The things I wish he’d told me
Outnumber
The things he did
And I’ve always wondered
What I might have been
Since the years I was his kid.

Don’t get me wrong
Mister
He was a good dad
And a mighty fine man
But he was quiet
And always seemed a little sad.

I knew my father loved me
Mister
He just didn’t know how to say it
But he kept his hand on me
And all my growing up years
My desire to please him never quit.

He’s been gone a long time now
Mister
Though it seems it was just yesterday
On the phone, he told me
He loved me.
That memory will never go away.

I suppose every father ought to
Say
The things a child needs to hear
I know I will always wonder
How his words might have changed me
As I listened to his silence year after year.

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Sad Old Man

Sitting opposite me
The old man tugged several papers
From the grimy confines
Of his winter coat.

Each paper was as crumpled
As soiled as he.

Offering them to me
One at a time
He begged I read them.

Each individual paper
Said he
Was the only one needing attention.
But with the conclusion of the first
He begged the second.
At the end of the second’s
He requested the third.
And so it went
Until a dozen papers were read
Aloud.
He leaned back
Eyes closed
His mouth a straight line.

One page built upon another
Presenting the finding of a judge
That long ago
Administered his forgotten case.
The pages were all in the negative
For this illiterate old man.

Handing the crumpled pages
To him again
He smoothed each one
Folding them back into his coat
As one may do
A treasured letter
Though they were anything but that.

Turning away
He offered no thanks
For the reading.
He said nothing further.

Pulling down his tattered hat
He shrugged away.

I wonder…
Is there any sense of deflation
Equal to that
Of a sad old man
Who carries court papers
As testament
That he
Once upon a time
Actually lived?

Apparently damning documents
Are
To shadow men
Preferable
To no identity at all.

Outside Café Beignet

On old Royal Street
I sipped bitter brew
At half-past two in the morning
Watching curiosities
Outside
Café Beignet

The coffee was thick
And stout
But not thicker
Nor stronger
Than early morning
Outside
Café Beignet.

The sugar donuts
Were delicious
But the shadowy creatures
On Royal Street
Were saccharine
And salacious
Outside
Café Beignet.

I sat near the street
Amazed at the flash
The audacious glare
Of the walking dead
Joining and mingling
Beneath the orange neon
Outside
Café Beignet.

There is no hope
On Royal Street
No brightness of promise.
There is only
Donuts and coffee
Only the strange
Sad
And lonely
Outside
Café Beignet.

I finished my brew
Pulled my hat low
Tugged my collar high
And walked into the gloom
Glad this was not
My Zip Code
Content to live my life
Outside
Café Beignet.