People come and go so quickly here

People come and go

Our town is criss-crossed by rail lines. Visitors who stay here sometimes say they cannot sleep because of the train whistles in the night.  Locals can’t hear the sounds – we’re so used to it. I wrote this one after a busy weekend at the theater working tech crew for The Wizard of Oz.

 

People come and go so quickly here

Nothing seems strange under these skies,
even a thousand tons of steel rolling through the
back yard. Like cancer or good fortune,
the dull grinding is so familiar we do not hear it.

In the old days, housewives would rush outside
on days like this, to pull the laundry
when the wind changed so their
linens wouldn’t turn black.

Oblivious, my grandfather would rush to the station,
bags falling open for his latest trip
while the great iron horse strained
between its traces on the Main St crossing.

Tonight, Colin and his lover are steaming upstairs
while the rest of us are sacked out on the couch,
words slurred and walls swaying in time.
And none of us thinks this strange.

But the trains keep rolling, the soot
turning in the sky like a Kansas storm,
and I know I must leave the warmth
of this hearth, but only after I sleep some more,

lulled by the rocking of the room, the
cares of the day, the wheels and rails,
the song of the night as the eleven-fifty-five
waits on Main Street. And my bags are barely packed.

 

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.

Snow blower’s lament

Snow  blower

Winter has arrived full-bore here in northern Indiana.  All of a sudden, I’m paying attention to our snow blower, which for the past few months has languished largely ignored behind the car.  Do inanimate objects get jealous?  I wrote this little piece for the folks over at Poetic Bloomings

 

Snow blower’s lament

So he comes home last night
and he’s all excited about something
and he bursts into my room with a
bottle and in his Dale Jr jacket.
Next thing I know he’s all over me
trying to warm me up, and I’m like,
Seriously? But OK I let him cause
it’s been a while and I like the attention.

And then just when I’ve finally given in
and I’m kind of humming nicely
he’s like WHEN DID YOU START SMOKING?
And I’m like is this a joke? Since like forever,
only you never even noticed, you dipstick,
‘cause you never even ask me how I am
except when you need something
and I have to watch you going out

with that plush-assed bit** all the time
with her fancy name and showroom perfume.
And he just looks at me like what are you talking about?
And right then I broke down. Just broke down.
And he just starts yelling at me.
And I’m like, I don’t even care anymore.
You’re just a selfish user,
and I have had it with this relationship.

And he didn’t have the first idea what to do.
It was kind of funny, actually, his mouth
flapping open and shut like a broken intake valve.
There he was, just a silly little brat having a tantrum
in his NASCAR shades, with a shovel in his hand
and three feet of snow all the way down the driveway.
Well serves him right – and you can bet
SHE didn’t lift a finger to help him.

 

Outrage

Outrage

A rondel for those with tire tracks across their backs… (and anyone wearing a yellow jersey).

 

Outrage

I am not a sociopath,
I don’t give a rip what you say
about me. So what, when you play
with me you want to take a bath?

I’m your friend, but you’ll feel my wrath
If you EVER get in my way,
I don’t give a rip what you say.
I am not a sociopath,

I am a hero. Do the math:
the money I raised since the day
I was diagnosed will outweigh
any lives I’ve crushed on this path.
I am not a sociopath!

 

Francis in January

Saint Francis Giotto Assisi

I’ve never been good at making New Year’s resolutions. This year I at least got something down in the form of a rondel. Not sure what St. Francis would think of my translation of his words, but I really like the sentiment. My best wishes to all for the year to come!

 
Francis in January

Saint Francis had it right, you know,
in letting go what he held dear
to find that God is always near
in loving acts – as his words show:

“Where charity and wisdom go
live neither ignorance nor fear.”
In letting go what he held dear
Saint Francis had it right, you know.

What struggle and reward to grow
in simple gifts. Yet it’s my clear
resolve to bathe in grace this year
by letting love set me aglow.
Saint Francis had it right, you know.

 

The Education of Average Joe

The Education of Average Joe cover

It’s exciting to have my new chapbook in hand.  “The Education of Average Joe” pulls together forty poems from the last twelve months.  They range from serious to silly, with a bunch of love poems and the-other-side-of-love poems thrown in for good measure.  I’m very pleased with how the project turned out.  I’ve done a limited run of 100, hand-numbered copies.  If you’d like to get hold of one, or if you just want to know more, check out the video below, or go to this page on my website.

Grantchester

Grantchester

 

Grantchester

That year it was spring forever
so that when we stood in the
water meadows all around us
was white, bursting with possibility.

And if I could be there again, today,
I would lift you in the June breeze,
and breathe until the air was filled
with love, and hope, without regret.

 

The shepherds on the trolley

In the midst of all the holiday rush this week, there was an amazing story in our local paper about a woman who gave birth to her baby while on the local interurban trolley. Musing about this story, I pieced it together with a fragment from Philip Larkin’s poem “Days” in the form of a glosa.

 

The shepherds on the trolley

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.
[Philip Larkin]

A girl gave birth in Goshen
on the trolley yesterday
right outside the courthouse.
She said nothing like this
had ever happened to her before,
and to be fair, it was unusual
for all the other passengers as well.
But why on earth was she giving birth alone
in front of that grand governmental bastion?
Ah, solving that question

could drag a friendly conversation
into politics or sociology
all of the dark arts broken free from
anchors in reality. She must have been
on drugs or didn’t use protection.
We raise the dreaded specter
of the welfare state to put her in her place.
But really any proper telling of this holy story
of the bus-born child and the girl who rocked her
brings the priest and the doctor

long before the yard signs and the
focus groups. For here’s the miracle:
we have a child not left behind.
A host of ordinary saints embrace
with great compassion the miracle
before their eyes, this fellow-traveler who dotes
upon her newborn, nestled in a crèche
between the seats. These put to shame
the glad-handing talking heads still chasing votes
in their long coats

with talk of census numbers, tax adjustments,
of sacrifice for everyone except themselves.
Ask the children now, and the neighbors,
with their noses pressed against
the glass – ask them if it matters
even slightly if some
stuffed up suit wields
the sword of morality. They’ll tell you:
every life is sacred, every fresh beginning,
every wave of hope a baby’s first cry yields
running over the fields.

 

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.

 

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