Category Archives: dVerse

Castro Camera

Castro Camera

This past week was Harvey Milk Day.  Milk was an amazing man, a flawed hero, a great gift and a significant loss.   I wrote this short piece last November in his honor.

 

Castro Camera

He was just another Lithuanian-American
Jewish boy who played football and joined the navy
a straight-laced actuary who loved the opera
and kept private matters private.
But then came San Francisco.

He said, “I finally reached the point
when I had to become involved or shut up.”

On Castro Street he flowered
turning to his neighborhood
unflinching in his call for civil rights
Ten months a Supervisor, till his
shocking death, November 27, 1978.

He said, “If a bullet should enter my brain,
let that bullet destroy every closet door.”

After the trial, the White Nights
the riots and the beatings
they laid his ashes to rest
beneath the sidewalk at 575 Castro.
He was my age, more or less.

 

Harvey Milk Day poster

 

Multiplication

chicken

In honor of tax day, and with a grateful nod to Garrison Keillor and the Writer’s Almanac

 

Multiplication

If The Writer’s Almanac is to be
believed (as if that’s even a question),
Federal Income Tax was passed into
law exactly one hundred years ago.
That would be 1913, when Congress
ratified the 16th Amendment. Back
then, the form was a measly two pages.
You could fill it out in the time it took
to skin a chicken or chop down a tree.

 

Drink Me

Coffee heart

Last night, there it was.  A heart in a coffee cup.  We just looked at it and rubbed our eyes.  For me, coffee and love have always gone together.  In Tanka form…

should you find my heart
floating in your coffee cup
stir the cream gently
and then drink every last drop
until I am part of you

Thirteen folds

Thirteen folds

Not so long ago, down at the theater, we temporarily had to take down a large American flag. The man I was working with treated this job with the utmost care. I found the whole experience strangely moving.  To share with friends over at the dVerse Poets Pub.

 

Thirteen folds

He would not permit that it touch
the ground. The Flag. Methodically,
he gave his orders, calling forth
a kind of reverence in that dusty hall.

Fold lengthwise once, twice, he said,
making sure the stars are facing out.
Then beginning at the far end from
the field of blue, take the striped corner

of the folded edge and fold a triangle
upwards to the open edge. Turn the
triangle inwards parallel to the top edge,
and make another triangle.

Keep folding triangles, carefully,
solemnly, eleven times in all,
until you reach the end and all that
shows is a perfect three-cornered hat,

a pillow of stars on a free blue sky.
We followed every instruction..
It was as if his life depended on it.
Maybe ours did too.

 

While You Wait

Railroad tracks 2Remembering a local business that disappeared in the name of progress.  I can’t show you a picture, because it’s gone.  But here’s the general location, right next to the tracks where it sat before the new underpass went in. Written to share with friends at Poetic Bloomings and the dVerse Poets Pub.

 

While you wait

Before they built the underpass there was
an oil change place by the railroad crossing
on Main Street. Stuck waiting for a train?
their brazen candy-stripe sign inquired,
Have your oil changed while you wait!

and I often did, screwing up my courage
to sample their outrageously strong coffee,
thick as 10W30, hot as the devil’s arse,
while the train rattled slowly past and the
grease monkeys scampered around the bay.

One time I read a book on their table about
sibling rivalry. Another I remember staring
out the dirt-smeared window at the quietly
falling snow. I thought great thoughts there.
I decided straight-up: God loved the railroad.

But in the end not even God could help against
the wrecking ball of progress. Now I don’t wait
for trains any more. I get my oil changed in
a place with a stuffed bass on the wall.
It’s too clean. And the coffee has no soul.

 

sunrise

sunrise

 

A little poem about patience.

 

sunrise

to do the same thing over and again
expecting a different outcome
is sometimes called insanity

i call it hope

 

To share with friends over at the wonderful dVerse community.

Our real work

Over at Poetic Asides, the November Poem-A-Day challenge is in full swing. Last Thursday, the prompt was to talk back to a poet. I chose to respond to Wendell Berry, not in disagreement but rather in appreciation. His poem The Real Work begins:

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work.

This slightly awkward rondeau is my response.

 

Our real work

Our real work puts on a hat and knits
outside a café, takes a drag and spits
into the wind, grinning like it can see
something we don’t – about mortality,
futility, about the shoe that fits

so perfectly we love it while it splits
our soul like weathered skin, until it hits
us in this stranger’s gaze – this cannot be
our real work!

And we are empty, scared out of our wits
by ticking clocks, by love, by snake-filled pits
we never chose. The figure strikes a knee
and we both laugh at our absurdity,
and then trade hats, while on the table sits
our real work.

 

Blaze

 

Not so long ago, I inherited a coat that had belonged to a far-flung relative.  I learned a lot about him from what I found in the pockets.  The more I learned, the more I appreciated the man.  I wrote this villanelle in his honor.

 

Blaze

The coat is surely from his east coast days
those years in Boston no one talks about
when he untied the strings a thousand ways.

I find a matchbook from the nightclub BLAZE
unopened in a pocket – without doubt
the coat is surely from his east coast days.

I think of him on stage, the thick-breathed haze
above his head and how the crowd would shout
when he untied the strings a thousand ways,

so far from home, a farm boy in that maze
of all that drugs and rock n roll could spout.
The coat is surely from his east coast days

and now I smile to think of all the ways
he honored her along that sacred route
when he untied the strings a thousand ways.

I treasure every unstruck match that says
some people love home best by getting out.
The coat is surely from his east coast days
when he untied the strings a thousand ways.

 

Kenwood House

One of my favourite spots in North London is Kenwood House, home to a marvelous tea shop and an even better collection of fine art.  Among the jewels of the collection are two paintings, one by Rembrandt and one by Vermeer.  The Rembrandt is a late self-portrait, brooding and disheveled.  The Vermeer is youthful and filled with his particular gift of inner light.  Across a single room, the old man and the young woman have watched each other for years.  I wrote this rather loose-limbed triolet in their memory.

 
Kenwood House

The woman playing the guitar would smile
softly at the dark-dressed man who held brushes like keys.
There in the sunroom, I would come to stand quietly while
the woman playing the guitar would smile
luminous, radiant, knowing she was being watched, to beguile
the painter opposite – keeping her innocence across the centuries
the woman playing the guitar would smile
softly at the dark-dressed man who held brushes like keys.

 

Nobody warned me

The weather is turning here in Indiana. Not quite as icy as the picture above – at least not yet… but the delicious chill in the air has seeped into my brain.  I’ve been thinking a lot about ice, and icebergs, and depths in relationships, and hidden things.  What amazingly fascinating creatures we all are, worthy of respect and always a second look.  I haven’t always been the best at seeing what is in front of my face.  Here’s a rondeau about love and ice and loss – not about any one person in particular, but maybe about us all.

 

Nobody warned me

Nobody warned me when the front door shut
a piece of me would leave as well. The rut
worn deep into my heart from long routine,
our blunted expectations, set the scene
for this unraveling. Perhaps what cut

me most was knowing I had missed a glut
of signs, had let the feeling in my gut
diminish to a whisper. What did it mean
nobody warned me?

If I had known I might have altered what
I said. Instead those icy caps that jut
above the surface chilled us with the sheen
of easy waters over pain unseen.
I could not reach you then – I would have, but
nobody warned me.

 

%d bloggers like this: