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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Razor Edge

The jagged peaks
Cresting the Sangre de Christos
Are the product
Of immense pressure
Caused by one massive slab
Of deep subterranean shelf
Heaved skyward by another
Of inestimable force
Into cold climes of southwestern sky.

But that does not define the view.

What sets the eyes alight
Is the palette of winter pastels
Rosy hues, deep blue, purples
And virginal white
Applied by knife edge
Onto the canvas of surprise
In serrated upward strokes
Into rare, frigid air
Capped by glazed peaks
Pure as a maiden’s dream.

At the foot of the range
The basin dots with mesquite
Stunted trees
And hard scrabble brush.

Nothing, at first
Suggests charm.
Personal insignificance is the lesson
In contemplation of such wild.
Left to the elements
Survival is, at best
Improbable
And, at worst
Impossible.

Winds sweep the slopes
Numbs the face
Braces the spine
And fixes the feet.
Life in such harsh truth
Teeters upon a razor edge.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Dreams and Hopes

Sitting intently before her mirror
Her freed dark hair tumbled
Like rivers
Cascading a fall.

Muted light
From the table lamp
Decorated her sweet form
And the smile in the parenthesis
Of her rosy cheeks.

Slowly she combed her thick locks
A soft “shushing"
Of the brush
The only sound
Save the quiet melody she hummed.


Unmindful of the slow
Passing of time
She was a study
In gentle grace
Reserved beauty
And the certainty of passion
Lying just below the surface
Known but to the one
Who held her heart
The way she held the brush
Smoothing her long mane
A study of balance
Between control
And unreserved ardor.

When night falls
When her hair lets softly down
When the song is finished
When she eases into bed
Nothing remains
Except dreams
And the hopes
Of what tomorrow may be.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

That Melody

That melody's name escapes me
The way good dogs
Sometimes go off the chain.

Searching for the tune’s name
Rummaging mental files
Humming it to friends
Absorbs much time
Requires great thought
And results in extreme frustration
When no successful conclusion is reached.

Recovering that melody's lost name
Is like attempting to recall
The craters of the moon
From sheer memory
Is as remembrances stored
Through no criteria but aroma
Like the leathery smell
Of your first baseball mitt
But whose manufacturer's name is forgotten.

What is the name off that melody?

I can recall the names
Of every player on the ’68 Cubs.
I remember phone numbers of friends
From fifty years ago.
I remember the numbers on the sides
Of school busses in which I rode home from fifth grade
And the pattern of freckles across the nose
Of the girl I took to homecoming in 1970.

But I cannot remember the name of that melody!

Perhaps I will be jolted awake at three in the morning
With a victorious Ah hah!
But I doubt it.

It goes something like this…
Dah Dah Dah…Dah Dee Dah
Lah De Do….Dee Do Dee.
Does that sound familiar?

The car in which my parents
After my birth
Carried me home from the hospital
Was a burgundy 1950 Ford Custom Coupe
With a ding in its right rear fender.

Go figure.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

No-Show*

I waited for you
Drinking coffee
Cup after cup
Until it was obvious
You were not coming.

The walk to the car
Felt far longer
Than it really was.

I sat a few minutes
Before turning the key.
Passersby seemed gloomy
Although I was certain
I was transposing my melancholy
Onto them.

The radio was playing a happy song
Seeming to taunt me.
I turned the radio off
And drove home silently.

You owe me nothing.
No explanation.
No apology.
No rescheduling.
Nothing.

Not much of value
Ever begins in coffee shops.


* The only real coffee shop date I ever had was actually very pleasant and animated, and many years in the past. Writing verse is odd. Sometimes the work that is produced is surprisingly different from actual experience.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Empty Coal Cars

The Burlington was on time
Its bright light gleaming
Where the tracks
Distantly joined.

Resting my bike in the tall grass
I carefully placed a bright ‘64 penny
On the rail nearest the blacktop
And awaited its metamorphosis.

The Burlington arrived as a thundering storm
Of energy and hurry.
I counted eighty seven
Empty coal cars
Pressing their tonnage
Onto my copper penny.

As the caboose chased the train
I retrieved the copper
A penny no more.
In its transformation
It was warm to touch
A misshapen blob as thin as paper
Made into a talisman of childhood.
In the draining days of innocence
I fingered that copper slug along with pocket change
Until it disappeared in the tumult of years.

I continued to put pennies on rails.
But not real pennies
And not real rails.
Rather, I placed newly minted hopes
Onto tracks extending into the questions of tomorrow.

Pennies, when pressed, lose value.
Hopes also flatten into unexpected shapes
Surprisingly thin.

I have not returned to the Burlington
And any pennies I have
Reside atop my dresser
Among nickels, dimes and quarters.

I have retired magic talismans
And all remaining hope
Is carefully secreted and silent.
Call it a casualty of expended youth
But I no longer press my luck.

Especially beneath the weight
Of empty coal cars.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

I Wonder

I wonder
If she held me
Would I still feel the same?
I wonder
If she kissed me
Would I still feel the flame?

I wonder
If I touched her
Would she desire more?
I wonder
If I held her
Would she feel it in her core?

I wonder
If the years rolled away
Could we begin again?
I wonder
If we had a chance
Could we have what we had then?

I wonder
Why I can’t let go
And just let passion die?
I wonder
If I am destined
To wonder till I die?

Winter in Chicago

It rained all day Monday
A slow, steady rain
Turning everything beyond my window
A silvery pall
Colorless and monochrome.

By noon the gutters filled
And small geysers sprouted
From concrete and asphalt
Pooling in yards and fields.
It rained all night.

Tuesday morning the rain stopped
But thick fog shrouded
City, town and country.
People spoke softly.
Even traffic seemed mute.

Wednesday afternoon the temperature plunged
Into the teens.
By nightfall it was well below zero
Freezing standing water
Barren, iced tree limbs and corduroyed farm fields.

On Thursday I closed my drapery and curtains
Fearful the weather outside
Would corrupt the atmosphere inside.
But cloth is no barrier against icy force.
I chilled, then froze after the power lines fell.

By Friday morning
Everything in my spirit turned brittle
Hard and overwhelmed
Pooling like bruising limpidity
Through every molecule and atom.

By Saturday all thought fled
And I sat within my hovel
Resisting the need to peer outside
Fearful whatever hope remaining
Would evaporate in dismal collaboration with winter.

On Sunday the sun appeared!
Ice began to melt. Power was restored!
Standing water soon flowed down the streets
And I stepped outside with arms outstretched
Absorbing renewed hope in the heart of Chicago.

On Monday it rained again.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Hummingbird

I took a chair in the corner
Where I was certain
She would not notice me.

Sitting by the fire
Hair backlit in its glow
She appeared angelic.

Her movements were gentle
Features delicate
Wordlessly gazing into the fire.

It seemed I was watching a hummingbird
Taking nectar at a flower
Beautiful to behold, too soon gone.

I would have studied her all evening
But gathering her things
She departed for her room.

Her name, unknown to me
Would forever remain a mystery.
She was a hummingbird; the angel by the fire.

April Promise

Across these ravaged hills
It’s a long walk back home
But if I ever get there again
I ain’t never gonna roam.

I’ll sleep by my own fire.
I’ll lay down with my own wife.
If I ever get home again
I’m gonna make us a new life.

I'm gonna dream a better dream.
I'm gonna shed this old nightmare.
I'm gonna learn a better way.
I'm gonna pray a better prayer.

I’m gonna forget these bloody years.
I’ll lay my burden down.
If I ever get home again
I’ll never leave my little town.

This war has been a nightmare.
I’m gonna take off these old rags
And if I ever get home again
Ain’t never gonna salute another flag.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Say My Name

You can tell me what you need
And I’ll listen all night long.
You can tell me that you love me
Even put it in a song.

You can tell me all your dreams
And show me how you live.
You can open all your treasures
And give all that you can give.

But let me ask you, baby
If, to you, it’s all the same
All I’m really needing
Is that you say my name.

You can whisper words of love
And promise me you’ll never go.
You can hold onto me tightly
But there’s only one thing I must know.

Does my name rest lightly on you?
Or does it flare in you like flame?
Do you really want to love me?
Please, baby, say my name.

Lovers make many promises.
They craft words that sound so sweet.
But let’s be honest, baby
Their flames contain no heat.

Lovers say their love’s eternal.
They say they’ll suffer every pain.
They believe what they are saying
But they are storm clouds without rain.

Just let me ask you, baby
If, to you, it’s all the same
All I’m really needing
Is that you say my name.