Monday, November 23, 2015

I Don't Want You Back*

I don’t think much about you, babe.
I have better uses for my time.
When it comes to time spent on you
I'm just not so inclined.

I never talk about you, babe.
I hardly remember your first name.
I never review the things you said
And I don’t sort out who’s to blame.

I don’t visit places we used to go.
I don’t keep your picture on my wall.
I’m far past grieving your departure
And I’m not looking for some place to fall.

But what I do is work to forget
Why I ever gave you a diamond ring.
Though, you may as well have that, too
'Cuz you left with everything.

I still have that scar on my left leg
Caused by the iron you burned me with.
All that talk of “love” you spewed
Was plain and simple myth.

I appreciated that new toaster, babe
But they say you’re a psychopath
Because you threw it at me, still plugged in
While I tried to take a bath.

I still am shy of crossing streets
Since that morning you ran me down.
And I’m working on my smile, babe
Since you tattooed me with this frown.

Some nights I wake up screaming
Ever since you pegged me with a knife.
Your lawyers said you were acting out a nightmare
But the cops said you tried to take my life.

So, no, I don’t want you back, babe
And I do not wish you well.
Maybe you'll think it over, babe
While you rot there in your cell.

* Nobody's in custody, or sitting in a cell. But somebody, somewhere, may or may not read this and see glimmers of bits and pieces, shreds and slices of nearly correct occurrences that may, or may not resemble things that may have, or may not have actually happened. But that was, or was not a long time ago, and I may, or may not have entirely healed. There. That may, or may not satisfy my legal experts. Some of my best poems may, or may not be loosely based on that which may, or may not be fact. "Loosely"...but not entirely.

An Aside to Sheriff Walt Longmire*

I don’t know much of you, Sheriff
But I’d certainly like to know.
I don’t know the things that drive you
But they keep you on the go.

I know your past is haunted.
I guess that’s why you wear that star.
It keeps you sane and grounded.
Helps you remember who you are.

I’d like to know you better, Sheriff.
I suppose that’s a bold request.
I know you hold your friends close
But your enemies closer to your vest.

I suppose the mountains of Wyoming
Are a very long way from here.
But time and distance can lessen
And draw nearer than they appear.

Anyway, I thought I’d tell you, Sheriff
That I think you’re an amazing man.
You’ve set the bar pretty high
But I’ll do the best I can.

In the meantime, I’ll see you, Sheriff
Within the pages of your book.
I’ve read every one of them, Sheriff.
I guess I’m on the hook.

*The legendary Sheriff of (mythical) Absaroka County, Wyoming, as told by master storyteller, Craig Johnson. I’ve read every book, and recommend them to avid readers and all fans of the mystery genre. Winter is an especially good season to settle in with an excellent book. Turn your TV off and your imagination on!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Keep Driving

Driving to the Shell station
I filled my tank with gas
Then drove out the interstate
And threw away my past.

My future stretched before me
Somewhere down that road.
As the miles rolled and piled up
I felt the lessening of my load.

I rolled the window down
And turned the music up.
The tunes were all familiar
Like sweet wine in my cup.

Dusk fell so slowly.
Cars turned their headlights on.
They seemed like glowing pearls
With the setting of the sun.

Maybe it will be tomorrow.
Perhaps I will know next week.
My life has reached a crossroads
But I don’t know what to seek.

I guess the answer is keep driving
So, I’ll hold on to this wheel.
Down the road I’ll find my answer
And see what tomorrow may reveal.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Navigating Solution, Thanksgiving & Stuff(ing)

Dear Readers,
There is, once again, a problem with a spammer redirecting you to its site when you visit The Dashboard Poet. This is highly irritating. I have complained to Google repeatedly, to no avail. As a temporary fix, as soon as you navigate to this page, press your "Escape" key, and that will defeat the spammer. As a long term solution, I am considering moving this entire site to Word Press. If you have thoughts on the matter, I encourage your comment to this post. Many hours labor are given to these posts weekly. My craft is important to me, and I intend to protect both my work, and the time you take to read my posts. If I determine to replace servers I hope you will journey with me there, for a better reading experience. Plenty of time will be provided before instruction is posted concerning how to direct your browser to the new home.

I wish you all the best as we approach Thanksgiving Day. Our international readers are welcome to offer their thanks, get full of turkey, drowse in front of the Bear/Packers game and fall asleep in the middle of the third quarter, then awaken for a turkey sandwich, some cold corn dressing, and the last slice of pumpkin pie. It's an amazing American ritual. I think the whole world would like it, with the exception of parts of Iraq and Syria, who seem to prefer high explosives, chanting, waving AK-47's in the air, and engaging in grisly after-events. All in all, I prefer American Thanksgiving, to which the entire civilized world is welcome.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Presumed Victory

You’re not being helpful
She said.

I offered no defense.
It would not satisfy anyway.

What do you intend to do for me?
She asked.

My lack of response communicated
My intention.

She used expletives that surprised
Even me.

I did not fire back.

She insulted my mother
Then suggested I commit acts
That were physically impossible.

She drew closer.
The odor of menthol cigarettes
Was overpowering.
Neither did I move
Nor break eye contact.

You are the worst
The very worst man
On the face of the earth!

I shrugged.

She executed a perfect right heel
And strode away
Presuming victory.

It hardly mattered to me.
Victory is usually what you claim
When you have nothing else.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

In Rains Such as This

In rains such as this
Light becomes indistinct
As though it radiates
From nowhere
As though it comes
From everywhere.

Even sounds change.
Other than the whispering
Of tires on the street
Sounds flatten; hush.
I am can hear
Usually private conversations
From considerable distances.

The only sense that lessens
In rains such as this
Is sight.
The downpour draws a veil
Over the eyes
Reducing vision to feet
Not yards.

The strangest affectation
Is memory.
I am uncertain my memory
Is as true
In rains such as this.
Perhaps memories become
Sanitized for Your Protection
Like the paper bands
Fitted around toilet seats
In cheap motels.

Memories lose their edge
When standing
In rains such as this.
Pain is not as acute.
Anger reduces to a simple disturbance.
Even thoughts of love
Glaze over.
Old aching sadnesses
Seem tame.

The memory of
Her kiss
Always volcanic

Her embrace
Always molten

Her body
Always narcotic

Her loss
Always mournful
Feels negotiable.

I try not to think of her
In rains such as this.

It is better
To read the sale ad
In a grocery window
Or study the elderly man
Awaiting his bus
At the corner.

That is good counsel
In any weather....
But especially
In rains such as this.

Mt. Moriah Redux

On my eighteenth birthday
My dad drove me
To the Will County courthouse
To register for the draft.

Vietnam was staggering on
And would for another four years.
There was plenty of time
To lose and arm or leg.
Plenty of time to die.

Dad was silent the whole way.
We listened to the radio.
I could have gone alone
But dad insisted he take me.
Kind of like Abraham taking Isaac
To Mt. Moriah.

We parked the Buick
And walked together
To the second floor
And into an office
With Selective Service
Stenciled on the opaque door.

It did not take long.
I provided two forms of identification
Signed a form
And was told
My draft card would arrive by mail.

Reversing our course
We returned to the Buick.
Dad put the key in the ignition
But did not turn it on.
He paused.
An uncomfortable silence
Hung in the air around us.
He finally spoke
While staring into a space
In the far distance.

If they call you up…
If you have to go…
I’m going with you.

I almost told him that was impossible.
I almost told him no fathers were allowed.
I almost reminded him he was too old
To reenter service.
I wanted to remind him he had his war
That this one was mine.
I nearly revealed my foolishness.

But I suddenly understood what he was saying.

He was telling me he did not want me to know war.
He was trying to say he needed to protect me.
He was letting me know he loved me.

So, I nodded, biting off what I nearly said.

I let a few seconds pass as well.
Then I said
I love you, too, dad.

And he started the car.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Before the Ambulance*

I lay my head
Against the leather headrest
Closed my eyes
And considered ways
To remain conscious.

All around, people scurried
From parked vehicles
Into stores along the highway.

The length of my extremities
Seemed unusually warm.
Too relaxed.
Far too relaxed.
My mind seemed to extend
And retract
Although this very notion
Seemed strange.

I wondered whether
I might stay conscious
By concentrating
On minutia....
The sweep second hand of my watch
My radio
My dashboard's glowing lights
The steady hum of the idling motor.

Opening a stick of gum
I put it in my mouth
Enjoying the zestful spearmint flavor.
Perhaps, if I tried
To stimulate as many of my senses
As possible.
Think. Think.
What are they?
What are my senses?

My head seemed encased
In a warm
Pleasant fog
Of something ethereal.
It was inviting
And I wanted to yield
To its comfort and welcome.

My engine's bass hum
The radio blurred.
My dashboard lights dimmed.
My watch's second hand ran out of seconds.

Where was I?
Why was I here?
Why couldn’t I remember?
What time is it?
What day?

I stopped chewing the gum.
It tumbled from my mouth
Onto my lap.

I was so warm.
So safe.
So very warm

*Several weeks ago I was found slumped at the wheel of my truck, in a bank parking lot. Paramedics rushed me to a hospital, where I remained "out" the rest of the day, and some of the night. A full battery of tests were run, all proving inconclusive. Now I grow nervous whenever I feel sleepy. Strange. I wish they'd found something to treat. Not knowing what my "enemy" is seems ominous. Whatever it is, its strategy is painless. Interesting...pain could be a friend, if it indicates a root problem. As it remains, every yawn is now suspect. Not complaining...just reporting.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Depot*

There were no flags or banners
No parades
When I got home.
I stepped onto the platform
At the depot
All alone.

I didn’t tell dad I was coming.
He couldn’t know
I’d be home so soon.
Only my shadow
Was there to greet me
That blistering August noon.

The Army gave me a new uniform
With ribbons
And shoulder patch.
I had a few bucks in my pocket
Some Lucky Strikes
But no match.

I walked about an hour
To get back
To dad’s small farm.
My shadow followed me
All the way
With my duffle bag on my arm.

Dad must have seen me coming.
He bolted
Like a shot out the front door.
He ran down that long driveway
Even though
His health was poor.

Dad grabbed my duffle bag
From my shoulder.
He kissed my neck and face.
His tears wet my ribbons
As I fell
Into his embrace.

Twenty four hours later
I was dressed
In my old blue jeans.
Dad and I went into the fields
And made war
On the summer beans.

Sure, sometimes I have nightmares
Of things I saw
Some things I had to do.
But, all in all, I’m fine now.
And the dreams
Are getting few.

The years have flown so swiftly.
Dad passed
A long time ago.
But there are moments
My mind flies backward
To that lonely train depot.

They tore that thing down
Last winter.
They even ripped out the tracks.
I guess what life has taught me
Is the mistake of
Looking back.

*A day late for Veteran's Day...but I hope not a dollar short. This post is lovingly dedicated to my dad, Cpl. H.L. Woods (WWII, ETA), and Cpl. L. Gillespie, (Vietnam), United States Army.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

She is Absolutely Almost Right*

Forty three years ago
I was much too young
And far too eager
To carve my path
To make my mark
To be the best I could be.

But in the battle for attainment
I neglected the core reasons
Making the struggle necessary.

I left my babies in their cribs.
Later, I left them
In front of a television set.
Then I gave them the latest video games
And all the distractions that would
Divert their attention from me
And my “more important” pursuits.

My wife sought warmer arms
And deeper embraces
Than those I provided.
So, I sought comfort too.
Then, when she left
I blamed her for the betrayal.

The monuments I’d erected were proud
And all in my own image.

Everything I’d worked for
Over the course of four decades
Ultimately crumbled to dust.
Nothing I’d accomplished endured.
Except one thing...

I wallowed in misery
For two terrible years.
Nobody came to my relief
Except an encouraging little brother
And a persistent still, small voice
Saying, “Trust me.”
So, I did.

Step by half-step
I crawled out of the mire
Until my rehabilitation was complete.

Complete. But not finished.
I was given a full measure of grace.
Enough to rebuild
And refurbish my life.
But renewal must be a daily refit.

Recently an intimate voice from the past
Returned to
And indict.
The voice knew precisely
Where to insert the blade.

Every word fashioned by my attacker
Was founded in truth
But all extracted from the distant past.

I wanted to engage
And open a new front on an old war.
I fashioned words
And set the fuses
To combust the atmosphere
Intended to afflict maximum misery
To rend and destroy.

I am efficient with words.
I have learned the calculating
And foolhardy art of war.

I deleted every word.
I did not answer her charges.
Nothing I could say would fix anything
And everything I would say
Would hurt everybody.

She must think I am afraid.
Too timid to reply.
She would be right by half.

I am not timid. Never was.
But I am afraid that, by reply
I would fall again into that old morass
Of bitter self-justification and defense.

She is right on every count but one.
The man to whom she addressed her charges died long ago.

And the dead answer no letters.

* I am told I may be too transparent. But I own my misdeeds. I alone am responsible for all I did, or things happening on my watch. I offer the above to, in no way entertain my readers. Please do not make the mistake of thinking any confessions of past wrongs is noble. They are ugly. They are ignoble. They are mine. But I thank God (and by "God" I mean GOD), that he heals to the uttermost. My hope is that some reader may happen upon this post and, in response, consider his/her own actions. We must all have our "Come to Jesus" time. I hope you've had yours.