This week’s Weekend Wordsmith prompt is “Sleepless“. I knew that before anybody else, of course, since it’s my website, and I post the words ahead of time. What I didn’t know was that I’d be up half the night, each tick of the clock taking a couple hours.
Then, it happened – that indefinable moment when late night turned into early morning, like pushing through a bead curtain and feeling the different quality of air on the other side. Subtle, but definitely there. And still several hours to go before it was decent to get up and make the coffee.
January 30, 2009, 4:42 AM
There’s an almost indiscernible moment
when late night
becomes early morning.
Some nights, it’s not there at all.
Night ripples gently into day
with not a seam or dropped stitch.
Others – like this one – deliver you
through a foaming, pounding surf,
over nameless hidden foot-cutting horrors,
to dump you, half dead and gasping
on the rocky and barren beach of the next day
with still miles to limp to the treeline
He hugged fiercely.
He did everything fiercely.
I never knew him to do anything half way,
Every day, he wrote
a letter, threw a lifeline
to someone treading water
in some not-quite-God-forsaken
city, so far away.
Consequently his pockets were always full
of pens, full to the bursting point
against the unforeseen need
to fling another life preserver.
Hugging him, one encountered
this portcullis of pens
pressing back, a comfortable pain,
this reminder of the thousands of pages
he produced each year —
the journal of the mundane,
so beautiful to anyone
deprived of it.
January 4, 2009
Life is a quest for the perfect hat.
The rest is just distraction –
the necessary evils of sustaining life
until we find it.
It was easier 60 years ago,
when everyone wore hats
all the time.
A walking smorgasbord of lids
from which one could sample,
taste a little of this tweed cap,
admire that felt fedora,
wrinkle one’s nose at that
Nowadays, however, there’s a famine,
with the fast-food John Deere cap
predominating, and the delicacy
of a tam o’shanter so rare
as to be drooled at from across
a restaurant, nose pressed to glass.
Gone are the days when a bowler
or a top hat
adorned every pate,
and gentlemen lifted their hat
to a passing lady.
Perhaps our lost gentility
is nothing more than
having forgotten our hats.
From the Weekend Wordsmith
December 12, 2008
That’s how it works:
One’s sanity depends
on the sanity of others,
and folks with no point
of reference drift irretrievably
into the abyss, forever
pursuing their chimerical vision
of goodness and light.
For the Weekend Wordsmith
Mt. Longonot, 1988
November 25, 2008
It certainly seemed like an avalanche,
the trickle of scree running away
from our boots that had run around the mountain,
and up from the plain, so far below.
Standing here at the edge of that life,
on the cusp of another,
nudging these pebbles down the slope
where they would dislodge so many others
unthought-of and unseen from where
we stood, at the top
of our world, miles ahead
of our friends
who had stopped to enjoy the view.
Pumpkins and Mums
October 26, 2008
I hope he got a good deal
for this small plot of goodness
and light beside the road
from Wilmore to the outside world.
Always a smile, a kind word,
and a better price than Sam Walton,
But three years of bad harvests,
and then this, four lanes of blacktop,
a way to get there faster.
Safer, too, I suppose,
and what price can you put on that?
But Blakeman’s Farm, how many generations
digging this rocky earth,
now erased by a broad stroke of asphalt.
Another victim of progress.
So I hope that he was well compensated
for the ground his grandfather passed to him,
on which I stood,
year after year,
always meaning to come back
for a few chrysanthemums.
26 October, 2008
at some unnoticed moment,
the down turns to pinions,
and they’re flying
almost solo, if such a phrase
A small thing,
making us breakfast before we arose
from the effects of a too-late night.
One can almost overlook,
at least for today,
the burnt pancakes,
the puddles of batter
on the floor and stove,
and imagine them self-sufficient,
getting their own meals,
perhaps paying their own bills,
taking care of us in our
Then, one of them needs help
and the other objects to some small slight
and the illusion disperses,
in a puff of eiderdown.
For the Weekend Wordsmith
August 15, 2008
Laugh now, little one,
it’s all tears ahead –
a vale of tears
through which we mourn
and weep, on even the best
Laugh, and do not listen
to those who tell you your lot
is a harsh one.
I’ll let you in on a little secret,
just between us:
They say that only
because they forgot to laugh
when they had the chance –
thought laughter impious,
thought tears the path
I’m glad John mentioned
that Jesus wept for his friends.
He’d have done well to note
how often he laughed with them.
So laugh, my angel,
while you’re yet a baby,
that when you are old
you will still be young.
From the Weekend Wordsmith
August 9, 2008
Flour, some water,
butter – mustn’t forget butter,
real butter, not oil or margarine,
but butter –
these are the ingredients
for a memory.
A little Nutella for sweetness,
a café au lait to wash it down,
and the Paris sky
warming our faces and our hearts.
For the Weekend Wordsmith.
Yes, I’m several months behind.
August 8, 2008
We watch them waiting
for so many things that will come
Waiting for school, for summer, for school again.
Waiting for the weekend, the trip to the zoo,
that package to arrive.
While we wait for things that may not
come at all.
All those years that I waited,
opportunities frittered away
while sitting at the red light
without the foresight
to take another road.