He pushes some things off of Paul’s chair –
a swirly sky of stars,
a couple sleeping on a hay stack.
I stub my toe on pair of old black boots,
brush my elbow on some cherry blossoms,
“Just a few things I’m working on,
they’re not done yet.”
He wipes a smudge of paint from his cheek,
gestures with a paintbrush,
getting yellow on the floor.
So much beauty scattered about
it’s hard to squeeze through
without knocking over
a vase of dandelions.
my great great
was a wool weaver.
I hope to find him today,
sleeping in his homespun
at St. Catherine’s.
But my Irish roots are right here
at the breakfast table.
Good Lord, these people know how to eat.
Baked beans, eggs, sausage, bacon,
toast and marmalade.
And the coffee is good.
These are surely my people.
Spinning your straw into gold
Emerging from under the haystack
halo of straw around your head
the night under Claude Monet’s hayrick
and the dreams still
caught in your hair
You squirm like Rumpelstiltskin
stamping your feet and shouting
as we chase the rats back into their holes
tease out the tangles
find the treasure in the brambles
spin your straw into gold
O Captain, my Captain is the poem that got me started reading Walt Whitman – one of many works mentioned in Dead Poets Society that got me reading particular authors. Not exactly Whitman’s most cheerful work.
Mom used to tell stories of her grandma Nace (my great grandmother) throwing apples at crazy old Walt Whitman as he went for his daily walk near his home in Camden, The kids of the town thought that he was a crazy old man. But he was a man who took his personal tragedies – mostly having to do with his brothers – and turned them into beauty, poetry, and a lifetime of service to the wounded of the civil war.
And now, when so many people are quoting “O Captain, My Captain” in reference to Robin Williams, I have to wonder if they’ve read past the first line – a deeply tragic poem about the death of President Lincoln, in which he is imagined as a ship captain who doesn’t quite make it into harbor, after his great victories. Chillingly apropos of yesterday’s tragic end to the brilliant career of Robin Williams.
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
feb 24 2013
LAX, Gate 47A
The travelers cling to the island
fighting for a foothold,
for a chance to pluck the limited fruit.
Their phones, laptops, and tablets
balance precariously on the tiny table,
their cables drinking from the meagre outlets.
They sit on the floor, lean on the wall,
look longingly at the
sitting in the cramped seats
around the A Concourse,
trying not to bump knees,
squirming to be comfortable,
in seats designed more for the rowing galley
than for comfort.
Waiting for their turn at the island,
watching carefully with seeming unconcern
for the moment when an outlet
and they can dash across to claim it,
take their spot on the island.
The tide goes out.
The tide comes in,
and a new crew of castaways
cling to the island.
This requires just a little explanation. This is about the awkward situation that arises when you encounter someone from a past, and, in this case, very unpleasant, chapter in your life, and the difficulty of making small talk. Everything serves to remind you of something from that time. Which got me to thinking – what if I were to encounter a dreadful historic figure at Kroger. Hitler? Too obvious. I know …
Mussolini On the Produce Aisle
I saw Benito
– he’s going by Beni now,
sort of a break from the past –
waiting for his swiss
You don’t mention
death camps in the deli,
it just isn’t done.
So I made small talk,
asked if he had been
hanging around Milan lately.
Realized, apologized for the faux pas,
made my excuses,
went to find the rigatoni.
Saw him again
looked at the zucchini,
trying to decide
I complimented him on his
Again realized too late,
escaped to look for the
I didn’t realize he shopped here.
Might order pizza for dinner instead.
At three in the morning
most cities look the same —
like the back of a taxi-driver’s head
on the way to the airport.
He also takes me places I’ll never see myself
A dive bar in Harlem,
where Dizzy Gillespie plays his horn
to a packed house
Or growing up in Somalia
one meal away from starvation
or a lucky break in the new world,
Or the guy so Nigerian you can see Lagos
reflected in his eyes, who insists
he is American
and then shouts at the radio in Yoruba.
And Mr Patel, complete with Ganesha
swinging from the rear view
who asks me in a deep Georgian drawl
if I caught the Braves game last night.
And that dude in San Diego
who used to be a Java programmer before the bubble burst.
Now he sets his own hours and is home
when the kids get off the bus.
Most times, though,
at three in the morning,
we sit in silence, each of us thinking
Ray wants to bake a cake.
Marguerite wants to float
on her gecko
in the pool.
These are, of course,
things, fun and profitable.
I must try to
think of the fun
and not the work it will create.
or they will remember
that I was
So I must be sure we have eggs
when he gets home,
and when she gets up.
Last evening we had a small gathering around the fire pit to read poetry. I started with Pablo Neruda’s Ode to Ironing. My Beloved asked if there was an ode to shoelaces, and thus began an odyssey. For the rest of the evening, I read nothing but odes to shoelaces.
We started with Ode to a shoelace, followed by Ode to a shoelace, and Ode to a shoelace. Next there was Ode to a fraying shoelace, Ode to the dangly shoelace, and My shoelace. Then, Ode to an aglet, and Shoelaces.
There were others, too, but I can’t find them this morning. But I’ve found many others this morning, ranging from the silly to the profound to the semi-literate.
Perhaps I’ll write an ode myself.
The Wind Will Change
July 1, 2012
The wind will change,
and you’ll be stuck looking like that.
I scowled at the mirror,
examining the wrinkles.
The wind didn’t change.
My face remained
Mom’s eyes laughed,
the laughs of years
stuck there by the changing winds.
the wind changed.
The canyon in my brow
won’t smooth out.
The scowls, joys and surprises
etched there by the wind.
my son scowls at me,
his beautiful smooth face
contorted and creased.
He wonders why I laugh,
and tell him
the wind will change.