Category Archives: Poetry

The Onslaught of Madness

Madness does not run
It slithers up from behind
Catches you unaware.

One moment you’re safe
And the next, its tentacles
Wrap around your heart.

I saw the madness
In its cell, behind strong bars
Before it escaped.

Jumping the high fence
Racing across the pasture
Finding the grotto.

Hiding deep below
Feeding on the dark creatures
Sucking their essence.

Venturing outside
Sensing vulnerability
Probing our weakness.

Haunting our dreams
Polluting our unconscious
Clouding our resolve.

“Are you resentful?
Come follow me,” it whispers,
“Let out your anger.”

“Treated unfairly?
Because of your white skin?
Let your rage flow!”

Hollers, “Might makes right!
The ends justify the means!
Burn down everything!”

Madness taints judgment
Strips away moral constraints
Hardens fist and heart.

Rolling Down the Line

The train keeps rolling
Stations fly past the windows
“Leaving middle aged.”

“Next stop, elderly”
Technicolor fades to gray
Horizon shortens.

Farther I travel
The fewer train passengers
And the more baggage.

Many memories
Therapy burnt deep pathways
Opened locked doors.

Shaped perspective:
Look ahead or look behind?
I choose tomorrow.

Remain curious
Open to new experience
Prepared for wonder.

Sing my latest song
Write my political tract
Walk my feisty dogs.

Hope for the best
Always prepare for the worst
Treasure each moment

The glass is half full
Tomorrow is another day
We are getting there.

Mourning in America


2020 grinds complete
Desperate souls seek respite
Hunger for new hope.

Spirit defiled
Innocence abandoned
Optimism sullied.

Humanity torn
Compassion brutalized
Tolerance shunned.

Wonder forgotten
Creativity ensnared
Music furloughed.

Get up from the floor
Shake your fist and stomp your feet
Make a joyful noise.

Break out of your cell
Bellow justice to the world
Sing Democracy.

Hope is eternal
Wisdom lies within your grasp
Light freedom’s candle.

Christmas Sestina


December, a time for GRATITUDE
2020, a year of DISASTER
When the air was thick with TENSION
Infused with the fetid odor of POLITICS
Catalyzed by pandemic-fed ISOLATION
As we struggled to realize SIMPLICITY

The most challenging virtue: simplicity
(More demanding than gratitude)
Begin by savoring isolation
Clear your mind of disaster
Turn off the torrent of politics
Recognize anxiety and tension

2020, defined by tension
The antidote: simplicity
Heals anxiety precipitated by politics
(Soon, a president who fills me with gratitude)
A year teetering on the edge of disaster
Months spent in prickly isolation

2020’s legacy: isolation
A retreat from omnipresent tension
Shelter from the threat of disaster
Take refuge in simplicity
In ritual express gratitude
Forswear the swamp of politics

2020’s malignancy: Politics
Emails and tweets shattered isolation
November 3rd brought gratitude
Release from tension
The taste of simplicity
A reprieve from disaster

2020’s bequest: disaster
Nihilism fanned by the fires of politics
An existential threat diminished by simplicity
Amplified by isolation
Fomenting tension
Each safe day promoting gratitude

2021 intentions: avoid DISASTER
celebrate ISOLATION

Eschew POLITICS
Accept TENSION

Embrace SIMPLICITY
Welcome GRATITUDE

Finisterre

Trapped at the end of the earth
the hours roll on relentless
time eased by fortune of birth.

Each day a measure of my worth
a challenge to my temper
trapped at the end of the earth.

Hard work to control my girth
not succumb to food and leisure
time eased by fortune of birth.

An anxious period, abandoned by mirth
tension cloaks my daily labors
trapped at the end of the earth.

Of humanity there is a dearth
family gatherings become virtual
time eased by fortune of birth.

In solitude learned a thing or two
pondering pleasures I could eschew
trapped at the end of the earth
time eased by fortune of birth.

*********************************

The villanelle is a very old form of poetry that came from France and has lots of rules. It is made up of 19 lines; five stanzas of three lines (tercet) each and a final stanza of four lines (quatrain). As you can see from the rhyme scheme; ABA ABA ABA ABA ABA ABAA, this type of poem only has two rhyming sounds. Plus, there is a lot of repetition throughout the villanelle. Line one will be repeated in lines six, 12 and 18; and line three will be repeated in lines nine, 15 and 19.

Reconciliation (1)


You’re in my family, no matter what
We may not agree, and that is okay
Feel free to tell me your opinion, but
Do not bellow when you hear what I say.

To me your vote defies rational sense
You support candidates that I detest
And claim there is no lasting consequence
For falsehoods and insults not made in jest.

Now you ignore my attempts to reason
And bloviate, evade, sometimes bluster
As if volume mutes the sound of treason
Lacking the substance you fail to muster.

You’re in my family, that is a fact
Still, it’s my integrity you attack.

Terror

The first time I met the blues
People, you know I was walkin’, I was walkin’ down through the woods

(Little Brother Montgomery, 1937)

Lethal
If you look directly at terror
it drills a hole in your soul.

Yes, I’ve watched my house burnin’ blues
Blues, you know you done me, you done me all the harm that you could
.”

Invasive
terror breaks into your space
gagging your senses.

The blues got after me
People, you know they ran me from tree to tree
.”

Chronic
terror stalks you
infecting your sleep.

Yes, you should-a heard me beg ya, blues
Ah, blues, don’t murder me
.”

Pernicious
terror abducts your identity
and devours your soul.

Buddy Guy 1960 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwy7pmFkv9o )

Celestial Serenade

Nubilous universe
brightened
by song.

Starry sky
supraliminal hum.

Redwood grove
rustle of branches.

Salmon Creek
susurration of water.

Oak logs
crackle.

Humans
harmonizing.

Babies
wailing.

Elders
creaking.

My love
croons.

Philosophers’ Blues

Socrates
Invented the blues.
“Whoa Oh.
Sometimes I wonder

who I am
and whether
I know anything.”

Plato
sang Socrates’ songs
at the Lyceum.
“Hey, everybody
I’m here in my cave

watchin’ the shadows
with my favorite slave.”

Cicero
sang the blues
got a girlfriend.
Oh baby
I was nothin’
until I met you.

Tom Aquinas’
girlfriend left him.
Oh baby
my cave’s so lonely
without you.

Erasmus
left his girlfriend.
Oh baby
I think about you
but I don’t miss our cave.”

Rene Descartes
moved to the city
invented the urban blues.
Hey, everybody
I’m livin’ in a loft

diggin’ the shadows
my life’s so soft.”

Immanuel Kant
couldn’t get a girlfriend.
Oh baby
I’m all alone
you’re so far away.

Friedrich Nietzsche
pondered his celibacy.
Oh baby
I wonder who I am
without you.

William James
sang Socrates’ songs
in coffee houses.
“Whoa Oh.
Sometimes I wonder

who I am
and whether
I know anything.”

To Do List

October 10, 1420
Wake at sunrise
Breakfast: Acorn mash
Feed horses and dogs
Hunt for food
Gather canes and grasses for baskets
Dig latrine
Bathe in stream
Carry water to community garden
Wash clothes in stream (use soapwort)
Lunch: berries and dry Salmon
Clear brush from around encampment
Make arrowheads
Hunt for food
Meet with band to plan trip to trading center
Dinner: cooked game plus mushrooms and wild greens
Meet with shaman to pray for rain
Dance and play clapperstick
Shaman leads healing ceremony
Walk encampment perimeter with dogs
Burn sage in remembrance of ancestors
Say prayers
Sleep

October 10, 1820
Wake at sunrise
Breakfast: Oat meal
Feed horses, cows, and dogs
Collect food from garden
Gather wood
Repair outhouse
Carry water to house
Heat water for weekly bath
Use hot water to wash clothes (use lye plus animal fat)
Lunch: lettuce and tomato salad, bread
Clear brush from upper pasture
Sharpen tools
Milk cows
Meet with neighbors to plan trip to town
Dinner: cooked chicken plus garden vegetables, bread
Ride farm perimeter accompanied by dog
Play harmonica
Study Farmers’ Almanac to predict rain
Read “The Last of the Mohicans” (hardcover)
Study ancestors’ pictures
Read passage from Bible
Sleep

October 10, 2020
Wake at sunrise
Breakfast: Oat flakes
Feed dogs
Buy food at market
Read email
Flush toilet
Turn on hot water
Take shower
Wash clothes in washer (use laundry detergent)
Lunch: Lettuce and tomato salad, bread
Clear brush from access road
Load new version of operating system
Read email
Zoom meeting to plan fire-safety actions
Dinner: cooked chicken plus garden vegetables, bread
Walk ranch perimeter with dog
Play Jazz
Study Weather Channel to predict rain
Read “All the Light We cannot See” (Kindle)
Say prayer for family
Give thanks
Sleep

Coronavirus Serenade

Lessons Learned (7th month)
Rx: “West End Blues” (Louis Armstrong)
( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WPCBieSESI)

You gotta move
body
mind
spirit.
Rx:”Pressure Drop” (Toots and the Maytals)
( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uw66FA6OTqA)

Take time to reflect
one day at a time
in the present moment
cushioned by impermanence.
Rx: “The Wheel” Jerry Garcia
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYGatU18PMQ )

Connect to
loved ones
friends
heart.
Rx: “See the Way” (Jimmie Dale Gilmore)
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEPQWOEiwdo )

Build
art
order
joy.
Rx: “You can get it if you really want.” (Jimmy cliff)
( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18EAqHx2lMk)

Celebrate
moment
world
life
Rx: “Favorite Things” (John Coltrane)
( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWG2dsXV5HI)

Growing Old

My delta waves sweep in
carrying the realization
running out of runway.

Awake
pondering
how many more days
I will be able to:
walk the dogs
carry the groceries
do my familiar routine.

The hits keep on comin’
shelter-in-place suggests
I may never again visit my favs:
Musee D’Orsay
NYC Theatre District
SF Jazz Center
Esalen
Poipu beach.

I walk the dogs
with renewed attention
see the wildflowers
delight in the (smokey) vistas
vow to protect democracy.