Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day

In Belgium,
in the cemetery of Saint-Symphorien,
the first and last soldiers
killed in the war to end all wars
are buried just seven yards apart.
In between lie the other 8 million.

Today, with flags flapping,
a parade of thanks.

For all those good citizens of good aim
over the last one hundred years,
who have continued the march

of cemeteries across rolling hills and
high plains, river deltas
and mountains,
from Lyons to Fargo,
Tokyo to Bombay, Ankara to Cairo,
Florence to Munich, Barcelona
to Manchester.

For those battalions of
lucky soldiers found with face
enough to be matched to names.

Their graves first awash
in praise, prayers, and peonies,
tears, roses and daisies,
when the dirt was still loose
and slippery and hard
to walk on in Sunday shoes.

Then flowers laid twice yearly with
nieces or nephews jumping from stone to stone.
Then plastic flowers faded in the sun
like old color photos of picnics
and baptisms, weddings and leavings.
Then the creep of ivy,
that last visitor,
until even the broken stones

Then the patient dead,
listening still for the footsteps
of the promised medic,
whispering to themselves:
“I remember. I


Monday, May 23, 2011

Once Upon A Time

He's short. I'm tall.
Thirty years ago, we met
at law school in Minnesota,
became fast friends somehow.

A typical day was spent mainlining
coffee and news for breakfast,
lunch at the bar with chili dogs
and a bump, long hours in the library,
then Grain Belt beers until we were
kicked out of The Uptown Bar.

It was always a joy to walk home with him,
the ice air deep snow January filling our heads,
clear stars outshining the city,
hands deep in pockets, waiting
for the lights to change
even when no traffic threatened.
We spun the world each night
with Kant and Camus sitting with us.
They’d tag along home behind us
kicking at our heels like little kids.
They’d join us for a nightcap
bickering over nothingness and meaning.

In the spring, sometimes, Nixon and
Carter would stop by for margaritas.
Kissinger always wanted to sit with us.
“Too bad there’s only room for four in this booth,”
Doug would say. In the next booth, Camus
would snicker. Crave such brilliance
the next dull day in civil procedure class.
This went on
until it didn’t.

Every spring
there was a fishing opener party
in Wisconsin, where the boys of law
went to fish, mostly for beer.
Two cases of Budweiser long necks
and a pint per head was the standard
estimate at the Liquor Barn on Hwy. 7. Once
one of the boys drank his way to a grand mal seizure
at the go-cart track. Once I woke up
sleeping in a still warm fireplace.
Once upon a time was told ever after.

When I lived with my fiancée on Lagoon Avenue,
he’d come for dinner and stay for breakfast.
Even when it was so cold that his green Chevy Vega
went numb and streetlights had frostbite,
those splendid nights were never too cold
for a walk to the pink neon of The Uptown Bar
for a Hamm’s beer with Reagan and Camus.

He was the best man in my first wedding,
but not my second. He eloped for his. Both times.
When email was invented I thought we’d
connect more, not less.
Eventually we both stopped
fishing, but for different reasons.
Some of the boys died.
He moved to New York, then came back.
I moved to New York, met its sad stories and stayed.
He came to visit, we reminisced
of fishing and nothing.
Together, we were together.
Then came Christmas cards.

I moved to Colorado and turned 50
with the obligatory blow out party
thrown by my second wife.
My sisters flew in. And my sons.
And some friends. And Doug.
He introduced his second wife.
We ate BBQ, drank beer and
laughed loudly at
once upon a time.

Years later,
along with a snowstorm,
a small package
wrapped in brown paper
arrived one December day,
containing two glasses
monogrammed in black:
"The Uptown Bar".
And a note that said:

"Dear Rich,
The Uptown Bar has closed
and is being torn down.
I managed to pinch a couple
of glasses for you.
Hope they make it there intact.



Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stars and Trees Move Ever Closer

Our unclenched hands rise into that space where
the stars and trees move ever closer together
as the night sings away the heat of the day.
We greet the stars and motion them down
from their wise muteness.

The stars and trees move ever closer together,
the trees are unclenched with spring.
We greet the stars and motion them down
to these branches licked with silver fire
of unfurling leaves.

The trees are unclenched with spring.
We give our tree house over with thanks
to these branches licked with silver fire
that cradle its strong beams like sleeping children.

We give our tree house over with thanks,
loudly singing songs to the woods
that cradle its strong beams like sleeping children.
Far above the floor of this green sea,
from this ship of the forest, we scout the distant mountains,
mapping their curves by unseen stars.

Loudly singing songs to the woods,
our ship floats tied up as in a harbor,
far above the floor of this green sea.
We lay on the deck and watch the stars
wheel about the unseen axis.

Our ship floats tied up as in a harbor,
safe against the wild things slowly circling below.
Sailing while at anchor is a triumph,
landlocked while at sea is a failure of the heart.

Safe against the wild things slowly circling below,
we do not fly we humans, cannot.
Landlocked while at sea is a failure of the heart
that pumps oceans of blood in vain.

We do not fly we humans, cannot.
But you and I are learning. My heart,
that pumps oceans of blood in vain,
rides the waves of this dark night
that wheels about the unseen axis while

our unclenched hands rise into that space where
the stars and trees move ever closer together.


Sunday, May 15, 2011


I am looking for an old
manual typewriter
to use in my tree house,
where there is lightning,
but nothing domesticated.

The kind that involves black ribbons
and smudges and clack.
The kind where you capitalize
with a mighty shift click.
The kind where all the popular letters
have worn away.
The kind where thoughts appear
letter by letter, glowing only with sunlight.
The kind where you can rest your fingers
without unintentionally writing
a line of meaningless poetry.

The kind on which I wrote the first line of my first poem:
“The snow looks like marshmallows on top of the fence posts,”
while sitting in a wooden swivel chair
in my parents’ damp basement.
The kind where the possibilities are as endless
as the reams of white paper my father
brought home to seven year old me.

The kind where mistakes are smoothed over,
but not euthanized. The kind
I may never find again.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Recipes for Poets

Over on the site 32Poems, poets of varying stripes will be posting quick (20-30 minutes) easy recipes for all you writers out there on May 20th. Recipe as poem. Stop by and check out the site (excellent!) and participate as well!

Mother's Day

For years now,
the only flowers
on Mother’s Day
were at her grave, but
I’ve never placed them there.

Even with an airport next door,
it is quiet. No one
visits. Even
the dead wish to be

Except for her,
she chose
this place and
bought her ticket here
with the sureness
of all those sons
headed home

Her short note
was suffused with
the smell of peonies and
sourness, ripeness and

She wrote with 
the most beautiful
handwriting, was careful
with each word
in a way she never was
with her children,
said I love you without
knowing why,
said goodbye
without ever leaving.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Dancing Away Those (“Don't Grow Old Pt. 5: Father Death Blues” by Allen Ginsberg)

Hey Mother Love, here comes the sun.
Hey rich boy, now love your son.
Hey young Mama, the day is won.

Mother Love, let’s sing that song.
Daddy’s song, but that ain’t wrong.
Sister Love, you too belong.

Young Uncle Love, so laughing and
Young Aunty Love, gives him a hand.
O Brother Love, how grand your plans.

O Unborn Children, filled with mirth.
Laughter, oh, will guide your birth.
Come and help us turn this earth.

Stupid Love, you’ve just begun.
Deathly Love, your bell’s been rung.
Mother Love, tear the devil’s tongue.

Oppressive Love, your words are false.
Student Love, avoid learned sloth
For there’s a universe to cross.

Jesus Love, it makes no sense.
Spirits love in the present tense.
God, love’s a long senescence.

Joy and pain share the same page.
This knowledge will make a sage.
One man’s truth is another’s rage.

Mother Breath, hello to you.
I see you brought your tapping shoes
To dance away those dying blues!


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thirteen Ways To Picture Jesus


Against a background of sunset with Mary standing


Gorged on fish.


Walking along the water.


Taking a nap.


Bathing with the disciples in a dirty pond.


Performing a bad magic trick.


With holes in his sandals.


With holes in his feet.


With a sigh of relief.


Crying out in his sleep.


Washing his hair.


Smiling outside the door.


Wiping his palm on his dusty cloak
before greeting Thomas
with outstretched hand.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden

I would like to know what He
said to him when he showed up,
but I cannot hear because
there is a black curtain covered
with all the universe,
too heavy for me to pull back,
hanging over the face of God.

I imagine a tableau of tall and taller
mountains beyond mountains
beyond mountains.
A bright sun rising over snow on peaks.
A clear blue sky that
goes on forever.
A stream flowing
clear and fast,
cold and delicious.

On its banks is a small man,
newly alone, whispering
a dry prayer, weeping or perhaps not,
standing at the beginning
of a very long climb.

A warm breeze flowing around him,
alive with a riot of flowers
that he may never choose
to breathe in.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Ode to Miss Shirley Delta Blow

This poem grew out of an assignment from my poetry writing class to write a classical sonnet in the Shakespearean mode. Fourteen lines, ten syllables each, rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. Here you go:
Ode to Miss Shirley Delta Blow

We went to Hamburger Mary’s last night,
‘Cause our friend Stuart in drag would perform.
We laughed at his sequined dress with delight.
Through laughter this world he seeks to reform.

Miss Shirley Delta Blow, her name, her fame!
He shakes her long hair, for she must be bold.
“For one gets one life, life is not a game,”
She with a beautiful voice to us told.

Feminist blade ‘neath cotillion skirts,
Miss Blow sang, “Oh, we are just who we are
So rip that pink star from off of your shirts,
But doors to your hearts - wide open – ajar!"

From Shirley we learned that she must exist
So all can feel this world’s beautiful bliss.