Category Archives: Poetry

Waiting for Waits*

One step forward
One step back
One to shoreward
One to slack
Sit on da ground
Turn yo’self around
Do the existential hokey pokey.

Drive on the freeway
Drive on the lane
Drive in traffic
Drive in sane
Drive real fast
Drive very very slow
When you get arrested, say
I didn’t know.”

Look up
Look down
Look all around
Look at the ground
Look in lost and found
Do the existential hokey pokey.

Celebrate the Blues
Celebrate Bop
Dance in the corner
Dance ’til you drop
Run through the jungle
Run on the beach
Don’t let ’em catch you
Stay out of reach.

Skip home room
Skip to ma’lou
Skip getting old
Skip turning blue
Skip watching TV
Skip being you
Do the existential hokey pokey.

(* Waiting for Tom Waits to sing this song.)

Sappho and Beauty


Some men say an army of horses, and
Some men say an army on foot, and
Some men say an army of ships
Is the most beautiful thing on the black earth.
But I say it is
What you love.

A fragment aged 2700 years
Brings Sappho to our shore
Her words ring in our ears
Commanding us with ancient lore
To ponder our hearts once more.

And lovely laughing
Oh it puts the heart in my chest on wings
For when I look at you,
even a moment,
no speaking is left in me.

Sappho’s love is one of passion
Practiced, I am sure
In her epoch’s fashion
Physical love and something more
Awe floods through the door.

Here to me from Crete in this holy temple
where is our graceful grove
of apple trees and altars smoking
with frankincense.

And in it cold water makes a clear sound through
apple branches and with roses the whole place
is shadowed and down from radiant shaking leaves
sleep comes dropping

In this place you Aphrodite taking up
in gold cups delicately
nectar mingled with festivities:
pour.

Awake Sappho, and pour
Your beauty on this parched land
Let it splash across the floor
Take the virgins by the hand
Restore our hearts with something grand.

Yet I love the finer things . . . this and passion
for the light of life have granted me brilliance and beauty.
[a Fragment from Sappho’s “Old age poem” believed to be written when she was 60]

Filler

There are 1440 minutes in a day
More than sufficient time
To sleep, eat, be on our way
To earn our daily dime
Or perhaps engage in rhyme.

480 minutes to devote to sleep
120 involved with food
300 earning our keep
The remainder? To the TV glued?
Or, perhaps, with something lewd?

When you “retire”
Each day goes on and on
The serenity to which we aspire
Proves elusive, come the dawn
And our purpose feels withdrawn.

What do you love doing?
That’s the place to start
Don’t tell me “TV viewing”
I prefer some form of art
Or work connected to your heart.

Silicon Valley denizens work long hours
Seldom inspired by love
They forget to eat or hit the showers
All for money, when push comes to shove
Or fame, prestige, power (sort of).

Dedicated artists have focus
They often enter a trance
As they work on their opus
They engage in a mystic dance
Have their faculties enhance(d).

Open-minded


What does it mean to be open
To accept new information
Perhaps a style of cope’n
To shield us from frustration
Facilitate cerebral dilation.

What closes the door
Shuts down flexibility
Is it chance, abuse, or something more
That hinders our agility
Turns us toward docility.

How do we respond to the novel
Do we express curiosity
Or blindly retreat to our hovel
Do we extend the hand with generosity
Or clench our fists with ferocity.

To be liberal is to be flexible
To be conservative obdurate
One is open and sensual
The other closed, inconsiderate
Judgmental, and obstinate

Who supports you in a crisis
The one who is adaptable
or the one who is biased
The friend with the smile
Or the narcissist with guile.

Perseverance

Ten thousand hours
To become proficient
Activate your higher powers
Nonetheless, insufficient
To ensure you’re omniscient.

Years of practice
Focused execution
Avoiding what distracts us
And dissolution
To reach the desired solution.

There are many examples
Emily Dickinson comes to mind
Among modern samples
Beatles and Bill Gates we find
Dylan and Stoppard intertwined.

8760 hours in one year
Means ten thousand is a lot
Eons of sweat and tear
Many efforts come to naught
Angst over what fate has wrought.

To write and rewrite
Go blank, then start again
Searching for a path that’s right
Forgetting food and pain
Hoping inspiration does not wane.

Let’s not forget talent
Not always the winning card
One may start out gallant
Find the going hard
Be “Hoist with his own petard.”

For every famous person
A thousand dead troubadours
The path can often worsen
Narrow to gated doors
Blocked by critics one abhors.

A toast to perseverance
Those who serve their time
Escape their disappearance
Make the arduous climb
Celebrate their prime.

Bon Mot

I reached out for a witty word
Which slipped away unseen, unheard
Escaped from my writing fray
And left me feeling quite absurd.

I did not retreat that blighted day
Giving up is not my way
My heart barely missed a beat
Treated this as bizarre play.

The bon mot marshaled its retreat
Sauntered down the plucky street
Paused beneath a Bijou sign
Wilted swiftly in the heat.

I grabbed it gruffly by the spine
Wrapped it up with heavy twine
Made sure that it was mine
Treasured the moment, quite sublime.

(Apologies to “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”)

Un bon mot ne prouve rien.”

Legacy


I begin to dial your home
Only to recall
This number is no longer in service.

You’ve been gone seventeen years
Yet, just now
I felt your presence.

What would Dad make of this?
I asked the blue sky
And heard back
Harl would have been beneficently puzzled.

Such a warm smile.

You didn’t leave me money
or tchotchkes
Your legacy was character:
Treat people as you want to be treated
Tell the truth
Work hard, show up on time, pay attention, keep your commitments
(Above all) don’t give up
If it doesn’t work the first time, sleep on it, and try again in the morning
Don’t be afraid to change
A smile is more effective than a fist.

A fitting legacy
For a good man.

Books

There are many ways to spend our time
Some shop while others cook
A few engage in greed and crime
Or obsess on how they look
I prefer to read a book.

Of course, I could watch TV
Frequent my local pub
Or sail upon the salty sea
Seek refuge in a steaming tub
Ponder tactics in a chess club.

I prefer a weighty tome
To a night out with the boys
Hunker down at home
Rather than a bar with deafening noise
Exchanging boasts about toys.

For company I have Rimbaud
Tolstoy, Conrad, and Chaucer
Literature helps my brain to grow
Or escape on flying saucer
As do plays and lyrics by Loesser.

[“You have the cool clear
Eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth
Yet, there’s that up-turned chin
And the grin
of impetuous youth”]

My favorite writer Conrad
Who penned “Heart of Darkness”
My intellectual comrade
A style of distinctive starkness
A crisp form far from artless.

Bradbury, Le Guin, and Heinlein,
Doyle, Connelly, and Christie,
Chills run down my spine,
Gut tightens, eyes go misty,
As the logic unravels and the plot turns twisty.

These days its science fiction
and vexing mystery
dystopia my new addiction
sometimes creative history
but not romantic hysteri(a).

I’ve read the classics
Tolstoy and Dickens, all sublime
And trash encased in plastic
Henry Miller comes to mind
Playboy once upon a time.

After 3000 reads
I avoid serial killers
Excess of gore and bleeds
violent thrillers
tomes with existential fillers.

My advice to new readers
Beginning your literary foray
Ignore best-selling leaders
Start with a Hemingway story
End with “the Dead,” Joyce’s glory.

Birthday Cinquain

I’ve reached 80 years
29220 days
A trail of joy not tears
Escaping from pandemic craze
Entering another phase.

It’s okay to be difficult
Got that from Marylu
Rise above the tumult
Plebian concepts eschew
Maintain an independent view.

Along the way, lessons learned
Some easy, some with pain
Bridges crossed, a couple burned
Memories etched into the brain
Staying sober, keeping sane.

First, try not to be too serious
Although that’s often hard
Second, remain curious
Look at life beyond your yard
(Sometimes) let down your guard.

Third, escape from your head
Set aside your inhibitions
Consider what it is you dread
Accept love without conditions
Befriend neighborhood musicians.

Fourth, make time for love
In all its vexing variety
Give your heart a little shove
Overcome your anxiety
Treasure notoriety.

Above all, take a risk
Open that foreboding door
Don’t regret what you’ve missed
Bring your instincts to the fore
Make contact with your core.

Perseverance

Life’s become a grindstone
Crunching down each day
Suddenly we’re on our own
Seeking out the safest way
Death a heavy fine to pay.

What sustains us in this game?
Is it ennui or pluck?
When each day provides the same
Obstacles we have to duck
Fears we’re out of luck.

We’ve each learned lessons
Ways to survive the hours
Determined our essence
Come down from ivory towers
Beseeched the higher powers.

How long will this go on?
Do our leaders know?
Fear abides from dusk to dawn
Keeps our options low
Twelve long months marks our woe.

Take another precious breath
Touch gently sacred ground
Do a pirouette with death
Spin your self around
Make a joyful sound.

Epiphany


1961
John Coltrane at Jazz Workshop
Earth evaporates.

 

 

1969
DC, Paul Cezanne still life
Shifts reality.

 

 

 

 

1988
Gallantly, I take your hand
Love’s Epiphany.

Recovery


No man an island
Our teachers once cautioned us
Now we’re isolates.

Separated from
Our family, friends, and neighbors
Sheltering in place.

The days stagger on
Light at the tunnel’s end, stays
Inaccessible.

Social animals
Cut off from human contact
Starving for soft touch.

Take heart, we know this
Terrain, we have walked here
Help is on the way.

Join recovery
Take responsibility
Cast out the demons.

Shun self interest
Care for your fellow humans
Honor the planet.

Find deep connection
Swim in the ocean of love
Build the bridge of hope.