meandering words & convoluted sentences

 

meandering words & convoluted sentences

 

midnight dancer

i followed from a distance
watching
as she gathered cigarette butts
and paper napkins

the haze of yellowed streetlights
reflected onto her teeth
when she smiled
through shattered memories

her black wool coat
was more than she needed
and less than she wanted
on cement or sand

i hated my tears
when i watched her
and yet i knew she would kiss them
if kisses were meant for a prince

i had become a pauper
in the presence of this midnight dancer
poking at empty pockets
where frayed cloth replaced pennies

when she sat against bricks and stones
she wept
wondering why the promises of yesterday
were dropped into a red salvation army kettle

on a bitter december day
and salvation was non-refundable
leaving her with only cigarette butts
and napkins to unfurl before a king

 

it doesn’t matter anymore

it was a watercolor morning
the sky tangerine, punched with boysenberry
and yet you wept
your tears delicious were it not for unbearable pain

i look back now at countless years
wondering ten thousand times over
if perhaps storm clouds had cast shadows
where rain refused to fall

then perhaps i would still reach out
and feel your hand, warm and inviting
rather than the emptiness i felt when you left
and took your name with you

rarely now do i search my memory
wondering if it was tuesday in the rain
or if tangerines and boysenberries would fill my need
without their juices on your delicious lips

i suppose it never matters when looking back
that clouds linger overhead as clouds will do
as i wonder what you sounded like
what you felt like, and of your fragrance

it doesn’t matter anymore
deep secrets have all been whispered
bitter tears cried, and words spoken to line heavens darkest clouds
it only matters that this is loneliness defined and i have lived there

 

brokenness

she stooped lower than the ground would allow
hoping to find paper dolls lost before yesterday
when marionettes and puppet clowns strolled
on the boardwalk

she wept with no shame as her tears freely fell
and her broken heart felt shattered beyond repair
in places where bruises should never form
deep within her soul

curly hair and liquid smiles had long since died
replaced by scraped knees and scuffed shoes
on her way to cotton candy and licorice stick mornings
golden with sunrise

now the western sky of her life is aglow
with the setting sun of another day gone by
as she sits alone on a sea foam blanket softly floating
on the folding waves

her salt-filled tears mingle with the vast ocean
as she remembers the oneness of life
and that her crying feeds the immense waters
as her tears fall one last time with the sinking sun

 

clara

down at the fourth street pub and grill
most folks sat around the bar
while one played to her hearts content
wishing to someday become a star

clara tinkered on her beat-up steinway
with whiskey glasses neatly stacked
as her fingers found the waiting keys
she poured out her soul where talent lacked

alternating softly between sharps and flats
ebony and ivory and nothing between
tears steadily fell into her latest glass
dreams and visions were not as they seemed

stains of soured whiskey touched the rim
where red lipstick dried like her empty kiss
she tickled the keys with a sad love song
but the smooth ivory bars were much too stiff

numb fingers stopped her cold on one song
she knew there was nothing more to say
so clara stood and quietly bowed to no one
and for no one in particular she refused to play

clara left dejected and alone that night
whiskey glasses still stacked high
and no one missed her when she was gone
though she had really wanted to say goodbye

now only one respectful gentleman visits her
placing twelve white roses on her grave
as he recalls the girl who played the steinway
and the joyous moments of music she gave

 

dancer

i closed my eyes and watched her dance;
her hair fanned out like a silk sensu
free and beautiful,
flipping and swirling with such ease
and folding back, brushed
by the silent fingers of the wind.

soft lips defined her face
delicate in their beauty
seductive in their innocence
able to command a word to march
or swallow grapes and orange slices

i watched her move;
my eyes only slightly closed
as she danced to the music of a weeping moon
and stepped across stars that never dimmed

the structured opus from a forest orchestra surged
as her hands waved to heaven
hoping someone lived there
wishing for faith, yet having its fullness
as she began to weep in her emptiness

i dared not open my eyes
rather i watched in awe of beauty
cloaked in the finest silk, tartan and tweed
as she listened to the music within
and watched as her feet translated it

her emptiness became my own
and her tears fell onto mine
as in the quiet of a solitude moment
we danced
to no music except that which plays eternal
we danced
we wept

for sin is a harsh master

 

departure

i touched her face
then kissed her lips
and stroked her tears
as i turned away

her hair was long
i brushed it aside
and we kissed again
as never before

i remember her tears
on my fingertips
and her lingering kiss on my lips
encasing her forced smile

i walked her to the waiting taxi
hoping she would change her mind
but somehow we both smiled
hating the smell of yellow cabs

and it was the hollow sound of the trunk
slammed with a final exclamation
that she would turn and leave
on her one way trip to tomorrow

tomorrow…some distant elusive place
where we reflect upon fond memories
wondering if maybe today had failed
and if the taxi stopped short of tomorrow

 

 

…it was in san francisco, we touched the edges of sausilito and wandered into the used book stores and second hand shops of haight-ashbury. somehow, in the antiquity, our kisses became even more fresh and exciting…do you remember?

do you remember…

there were

empty stairways of two flights or more
a sweet aroma from the candy store
endless chatter floating free
from lonely people…like you and me

stolen kisses in the afternoon
on a borrowed blanket from another room
we lost all track of minutes past
hoping our kisses would always last

do you remember…
there were

raindrops falling all around
and we listened to the pelting sound
while swallowing kisses like never before
we knew there were always plenty more

do you remember…
there were

seagulls soaring overhead
as we laid upon our makeshift bed
the wind was swirling all around
while we laid our grass-stained blanket down

no one mattered except you and me
in our innocent pursuit of feeling free
there was no pain, there were no tears
no thought given to future years…

do you remember?

 

encounter on pier 39

she sat inaudibly alone on pier thirty-nine
watching colorful sail boats go lazily by
i didn’t know her name but she was a friend of mine
and it hurt so badly to see her cry

with my guitar in my left hand and wishes in my right
i approached her quietly, careful not to intrude
the waters were darker than the black moonless night
and i spoke softly to avoid being abruptly rude

“may i, dear lady, play a simple song for you?”
i asked, carefully watching her beautiful blue eyes
“i have not written it yet so we’ll see how i do.”
and with that she started to softly cry.

“i wanted to jump into the water tonight.”
she confessed when i started to strum
i said, “i could tell your darkness had swallowed the light
i suppose your desperation told me to come.”

i laid my pride down and strummed out a song
a simple story just to say i understood
and that however she felt things had gone so wrong
somehow, somewhere she could still find some good

“ i’ve said words I badly regretted when i was low
and twisted sentences until they were wrung too dry,
left crowded paragraphs in corners with no place to go
while hating to live and praying to die

my soul has ached like fire in the dark of midnight
crunched and crushed like flattened cardboard in the street
like a thin brown shelter from wind, covering my fright
while cutting off pieces to cover my feet

so i know your heart, my blonde-haired friend
cause i’ve seen through the eyes of a broken old man
so let’s walk away and not do this again.”
and with those words i took her outstretched hand.

i never saw her again after that memorable night
but the song was etched forever in my heart
and somehow it seemed we soared to new heights
and with the freedom of our song found a new start

i still avoid the choppy waters of pier thirty-nine
and find I must avoid the beautiful golden gate
yet i wonder what became of this friend of mine
who stood alone one night dangerously tempting fate

 

rails

i walked the rails
made parallel by ties that bind
stretched out for miles ahead
and laying silent for miles behind
over trestles
under bridges
past tiny houses painted awkwardly
and gutless cars choked by yellow weeds

i walked alone
except for my memories
my forsaken dreams
and my silent counting of footsteps
on wooden steps
and soundless tears
falling where only nightmares dare to rest

my cadence was my own
small strides
the steps of a young boy
dying when he couldn’t
living when he shouldn’t
until now

walking the rails
made parallel by ties that bind
i finally understand
the life that walked away
was stolen
and trains seemed to travel only
one way

 

morning calm

morning calm shook us awake
as our shadows met somewhere in time

we danced a slow dance to the sound of quiet
like an old melody running through our heads

when i kiss you do you remember monterey
and how the water flowed onto the shore,
then turned away after only a moment?

do you reflect back to the sounds
as some distant foghorn bellows out of tune
unafraid to sing harmony
with the circling gulls and bellowing seals?

do you remember morning
as the sun paints a fresh coat of welcome
then colors it tangerine
and splashes it with red wine?

only our shadows met on this day
but tomorrow
i will hold the palette of your morning
with colors borrowed from the sky
on a monterey background

and dream of touching your heart

 

special filled the day

chocolate and roses filled the store front window
and little pieces of special filled the day
as morning unfolded from itself
like an omelet separated in the middle

mist and fog swirled as would a silent tornado
as she stood, hungry for trivial pieces of chocolate
and longing for fallen petals from long stem roses
blurred by smudges on the cold glass window

was it her own face looking back at her
or some stranger she had passed on the street
when the day was warm and cheerful
and ‘hello’ poured like sweet honey from her lips?

morning is cold when the sun is still on its way.
the sound of street sweepers and newspaper deliverers
is the only music rising up from the aching boulevard
and the groan of empty burns in her belly

tears linger for only a moment as she fights them back
wanting to show herself strong after all these years.
she will lose the battle, she knows
and the store front window will be as empty as her life

no chocolate nor roses filled the store front window
and no little pieces of special filled the day
as morning unfolded from itself
and she stood in front of the dusty glass

feeling more empty than the boarded up building
her life, like the broker’s sign, was empty and available
wishing for yesterday and the days before
when innocence was made of chocolate and roses

i remembered her when
chocolate was shared from my lips
to hers
and roses were held to her as a way to honor her beauty.

her mirror became a storefront window
and the roses in her life wilted.
life sometimes does that if we are not mindful…
and yet, still…

i remember when special filled the day.

 

peace in the meadow

i walked to the meadow
where dandelions blew in the wind
making silent music
as though god had waved his baton…
the maestro of all living things

i wept while watching the robe of jesus
blow gently in the breeze
as he stretched out his arms
blessed the little children
and commanded,

“let the little children come to me,
and do not forbid them;
for of such is the kingdom of god.”

yet as i watched the dandelions scatter
wildly in every direction
i knew that such was the heart of man
and i wept for my own heart,
scattered and unsettled

i cried while walking into the meadow green
yet capped like snow
with the soft white of dandelions
while silent music played loudly
as from a golden harp

and i sat, praying
at the feet of jesus
and there i felt his hand
gently stroking the top of my head
as his tears fell freely

i heard him say,
“blessed are you who hunger now,
for you shall be filled.
blessed are you who weep now,
for you shall laugh.”

i took his promise
in the form of a dandelion
and in one breath i blew the seeds
of life back into the ground

 

aging

we know more now than we knew then
we were younger
smiles came easy
and memories were made
like spun cotton candy
and one pony carousels

there were fewer reasons to cry
more seasons to fly
and the red in red roses
seemed never to fade away

it was easy to laugh and run into the forest
golden with morning
to lay for hours watching clouds
and read poetry, never turning the page
because the words we swallowed were our own

your lips were soft and mine memorized them
and sometimes it seemed that we knew more
…and how i wish we had
because then we would have made love
in forbidden places
and left the taste of chocolate on our lips

now we are older
and memories are fading faster than the lifting fog
we cry easier and more often for no reason
and smiles only crawl across our faces
because the carousel stopped long ago

will you remember me when i walk slowly?
will you be there to remind me who i am?
i will stand beside you always
though i may forget your eye color
and why you look at me with tear-filled eyes

the sky will always be ours to share…
trees will cause us to stop
and try to remember
when we walked onto the moss covered floor
hugging trees and one another

and the star-filled sky
laying like a blanket over sausalito
will cause our hearts to stir
and remember the color of desire
when we laughed and kissed
with lips softened by passion

when memories melted,
flowing like a meandering stream
to places of our hearts
reserved for one day, one day
when these celebrations are all we have

 

i watched her…she was a jewish girl dancing in a meadow of daisies. i admired her as if i was boaz watching ruth gleaning in the fields. i wished to redeem her and yet i knew redemption was not mine to offer. i wished to plant words in the fertile soil where daisies grew in abundance. words i planted and this is what was harvested in due time…

liana’s song

with cotton clouds above her
and yellow daisies at her feet
she danced to a silent song of freedom

hands outstretched and palms to the heavens
her black hair flowing like summer showers
as she watched the waving daisies
swaying to the same song
while sheets of music poured from the purple mountains

words of praise filled the heart of the beautiful woman
a jewish dancer in the field of daisies
‘you have turned my mourning into dancing
you have shown me the beauty of daisies…’

she stood, tears welling in her eyes
a field of daisies, her blanket of comfort
she whispered,
‘in the midst of daisies i hold sunflowers in my heart…’

 

life’s lessons

while traveling alone down life’s desolate road
i met several strangers who lightened my load

there was the wasted singer without a tune
who was hopelessly lost and facing his doom

as he strummed his guitar it strained with his song
about the rights of workers and wars that are wrong

the poet with flowers never left his room
like an infant still curled in the warmth of the womb

his words were like colors, pastels in the day
‘til the colors all faded into pale shades of gray

the merchant with money peddled his pride
then sold his own soul for the price of a bride

his wares were imported and sold in the night
to kids on street corners in bags of pure white

there was the sailor left stranded while holding his beer
in the midst of wine masters serving bottles of fear

all the soldiers had died but i met with their names
on white tombstones proclaiming their loss as our gain

heroes became presidents strung out on a wall
they had forgotten young warriors who died at their call

i met with the lawyers who kneeled in the court
holding lives in the balance like a sickening sport

that gavel still pounds somewhere in my mind
while i try hard to forget that justice is blind

i met with a prophet armed only with words
cloaked with a sign saying ‘do not disturb’

life’s lessons (continued)

and i listened intently as he poured out the blame
then blessed the sayings in his god’s holy name

every preacher was certain only his was the way
to life everlasting come the last judgment day

gravediggers dug deeply when burying their souls
then left it for pirates still searching for gold

i met a young maiden who had always been pure
yet she took me to places i had not been before

she cried as i left her alone on her bed
curled up in a promise and a dream for her head

i went to the farmers to learn how to grow
but found we can reap only that which we sow

i watched a skilled tradesman so good in his craft
a carpenter who built where the jester had laughed

in my sojourn i saw beauty when i returned home
in the face of a child who had no need to roam

for children are pure and free from this strife
until one day they travel this journey called life

 

looking back on mendocino

i remember mendocino, with
old farm houses and barns

harbored in the belly of the bay
where the little town swallowed fog and fishing boats

and in san francisco when i was younger
i saw blue and red and purple houses on stanyan street

i slowly strolled
through the time-stilled shops on fisherman’s wharf

then gulped laughter
when laughter was part of my life

i followed it with ghiradelli chocolate
and wisps of the wayward wind

when i was younger
i walked along the pacific shores

crying easily because i was alone
and streetlights at midnight never reveal secrets

i found sand dollars and a special starfish

when i was younger i had hope
and believed that there really was a tomorrow

now i am old
i have lost my sand dollars and my special starfish

now i am old
i have lost hope

i have only a tiny bowl of yesterday
from which to pull memories

wishing to never lose them
knowing someday i will

for now i am old
and all my smiles have been swallowed

and yesterday’s memories
so long ago forgotten.

i still see the fishing boats
off the shores of mendocino

i still hear the fog horns
and bellyaching sea lions

i still see the waving wildflowers
and gray-wood weather-beaten barns

mendocino was old when i first saw her
and now we have aged together

watched over by the light of point cabrillo
turning throughout the night

watching for jesus to walk on the water
to heal the sick and give sight to the blind

when the waters calmed, i heard peace
i looked and it was jesus, looking into my eyes

what were you doing on stanyan street? he asked.
i don’t go down there on friday nights

 

lost minutes

so many nights i watched the clock
the minute hand agonizing its way from one to two to three
until it stood straight up, splitting the one and two of twelve
at the top of an otherwise empty dial

questions born in the daylight hours and aching bones
kept me awake while the second hand silently mocked me
on its journey from twelve to twelve

each clockwise jump of the minute hand erased a hope
of what might have been if minutes could be saved and spent
like pennies in a chocolate store in mid-april mendocino

it didn’t matter…at 1:47 am time stopped

and darkness crawled onto roman numerals
seeping between the cracks like a greedy politician

 

madrid in springtime

i have never seen madrid in the springtime
i have never seen madrid at all

does the sun rise differently in madrid
than in san francisco
on those rare city days when there is no fog
nor wind to chase the clouds away

i have seen morning in san francisco
where lovers stroll hand in hand
down meandering paths
parting with the majesty of coit tower

somehow
it reminded me of what madrid must be like
in the springtime

lovers carry multi-colored blankets
tucked under their arms
and wear smiles and sunglasses
on days like this

the water changes color with the day
as the bay is filled with sailboats
hoisting colorful sails to the blue sky background
whipping around in circles
and going nowhere until the sun begins to set

tiberon sits quietly like an oil painting
in the near distance
with colors bright and plentiful
defining the boundaries of the quaint little town
where they lap into the pacific
and rinse off like rounded stones of gray and brown

madrid would be seen through the lens of a camera
should i ever visit
in the springtime
while remembering san francisco

for now
i will look across the bay
and wonder if madrid in the springtime
is a place for lovers

would you join me someday
when i rub the sleepy dreams from my eyes
and raise my sails to the wind
hoping to catch a glimpse of madrid
in the spring time

i have never seen madrid in the springtime
i have never seen madrid at all

 

morning escaped like an echo

morning escaped like an echo
winding through whispering pine trees
crawling with bent fingers over frozen ponds
searching for the minute of birth

fogged windowpanes slowed the reflection
as ghost-like fog and mist stopped
dead against the cold moisture-laden glass
where morning died an honorable death

mourning died in the burrowed soil
while storm clouds threatened to weep
onto stones planted around her
as she lay in a place safe from yesterday

haunting music still plays in my head
my fingers on guitar strings too late
and shallow words too soft for her ears
a heart too broken to know how to heal

morning escaped like an echo
winding through whispering pine trees
mourning died in the burrowed soil
while storm clouds threatened to weep

 

morning was sadder than april

he looked at his clock and calendar at the same time
then glanced back at march before it ended
and ahead to april before it had begun.

there were no flowers spraying color or fragrance…
no breeze to push the clouds along
and no promise of hope beyond the horizon.

it was morning and morning was sadder than all of april
—nowhere to turn, nowhere to hide—
just time—minutes really—before he had to go.

there were no birds in the sky on a day such as this…
third monday—march too far gone—
yet april too far away.

morning was sadder than all of april
and he had chosen to watch as march surrendered it’s place
to the delegation of memories.

morning pushed hard on the clouds,
moving quieter than the silence of daybreak,
waiting like a vagrant at a bus depot and with less hope for kindness.

there were no flowers spraying color or fragrance across the countryside…
and no promise of hope beyond the horizon.
morning was sadder than all of april and only fragments of march remained.

 

mothers love

i once wondered if you kissed me
when i was small and tucked away in a strangers bed

the taste of butterscotch on your lips
where a smile rested until you had to go away

did you study my eyes though closed
for some day when your heart would ache for a memory?

or brush the hair from my face
so you could sketch my likeness of you onto your heart?

i dreamed of the touch of your fingers on my skin
wet from tears born from the belly of a life that was unfair

and i hoped that someday i would feel the warmth of your hug
though i knew you would only watch me from afar

dreams are a wonderful salve for the wounds of yesterday
and in their midst i can hear you in ways you never knew

 

music man

i watched them move the park bench
while the music man waited,
hungry for the sound of breakfast
rattling in rusted and worn trash cans.

there is so much you can learn
about a broken man by watching him weep
when the smallness of his world shrinks
and rudely moves to another corner not so far away

in his eyes he wondered why his world was stolen
when presidents still have a place to sit—
away from the hollow clatter of street music
made loud by the search of a man who lived too long
to count the mornings since he first died

the park bench was gone when i looked again
and the music man sat sadly alone
hoping for a slice of bread from the table of beggars
before he walked back to his empty-space home

his park bench had once been his hardened bed
just a simple place to lay his head
for a moment, silence replaced his gospel song
as calloused people felt there was nothing wrong.

 

naked mattress

the naked mattress seemed more abandoned
than on nights gone by
when european percale sheets
lifted like a kite from the corners
as though they had somewhere to go
and struggled passionately to get there.

the sagging mattress appeared cold—
now that she looked at it
from the way he had always seen it—
bare and abused by bodies that left tears and sweat.

as she lay crying, face buried in her hands,
her tear-stained lips kissed the only flesh she knew.
her heart abandoned just like the barren mattress,
she was suddenly aware of the putrid smell
lingering from more nights than she cared to know
and more men than she dared remember.

she saw no form in the wrinkled sheets
and the corners that had betrayed her
—corners that once defined the pattern—
now laid limp on the dusty hardwood floor
like the man she had exhausted with her passion.

on his back he seemed desolate
with no blanket to warm his outstretched body
and no sheets to protect his misplaced dignity.

she cried, wondering who he was and why he stayed
when he could have abandoned her in the night
and left her life more stained than the naked mattress.

 

nightlight

an amber colored nightlight casts a glow
from behind the wicker clothes basket
like a miniature sunrise
born behind an imposing mountain

it doesn’t illuminate much
just a little piece of an off-white wall
—spackled like tiny crevices on a stone cold moon—
and the backside of the clothes hamper
which nobody sees anyway

tangerine shadows crawl slowly
like an old plymouth choking on it’s last vapors
bleeding into the wall with the introduction of light
until the faded color wilts toward extinction
much like an endangered species

when morning’s light finally arrives
as it has always done—so far—
the nightlight will no longer be indispensable
…a small switch flipped
…the radiance swallowed

while the sun peeks over the mountaintop
casting an amber glow on the garden
like a tiny nightlight
hiding behind a wicker clothes hamper
painting the wall orange juice with pulp

full circle…no beginning, no end
the color of morning is a celebration
that another day has arrived
and a tiny nightlight waits
for the moment it will blush again

 

no coins

no coins left in his pocket
nickels had come and gone
even pennies were gone
and wishes were still free
rain left him soaked to the bone

he wanted to love her
but the song was no longer playin
her words were mumbled truths
and god only knew she was prayin

his fingertips dug for breadcrumbs
his heart searched for words
he’s sold his soul for he quiet of silence
and traded his mind for

 

i can’t knock anymore

the path from here to yesterday
has too often been traveled
in search of answers and street signs

darkened corners harbor memories
that reach out like a stranger
in want of a cigarette
and in need of a bath

dusty smelly corridors
permeated with cheap wine
are more narrow than the minds
of those whiskered men who walk them

and nobody is home
when i knock on the door

the streets of last night
are covered with papers
sports pages and obituaries
honoring heroes dead and alive

homeless men homeless women
pluck them from their gutters
to wear as jackets and fashion as hats

somewhere in the distance
a little boy cries
as a grown man has beaten his foe

and nobody is home
when i knock on the door

nobody is home

i can’t knock anymore

 

november doesn’t hurt anymore

i used to wind back winter memories
as hurriedly as i would turn back the hands
on some cheap throw-away alarm clock.

pending holidays marched in cadence through my mind
like burdensome social events,
catered, crowded, and distant.

rain tempted me.
snow teased me.
i tasted both and each left me cold and thirsty.

i hitchhiked through childhood
when i should have walked.

i cried through terror-filled nights
and hid in the shadows of day.

then you touched me
and folded your words over me warmly
like a soft down-filled blanket.

you spoke kindly
through the love-filled months of summer
and when the doors of october closed
you set back the clock for an hour,
turned, and taught me about love
…in november.

now, because of your love
november doesn’t hurt anymore.

 

october brushed by

in the midst of an october sunrise
bearing splashes of colors beyond description
like a thick acrylic paint mixture
crimson with cadmium yellow
thrown…scattered like seed…by the hand of god
morning unfolds like a delicate rose

light crawls like aching fingers
touching soft lips that moisten the sands,
retreating, sliding like two bodies too close
to be parted, moving slowly, one advancing-
retreating, wave at a time.

the water returns—
–to the water
the sand to the sand
and yet the light to darkness

i’m sinking beneath the surface of my soul
void of color, gray on gray on gray
as a jacket of black smothers me
suffocating me
gripping my heart
until i see evil being squeezed out
jealousy is green, greed is yellow
hatred is black and deceit is red
until at last
god has taken the ugliness of my heart
squeezed my evil
and fashioned a brand new color
for tomorrow’s rainbow

all get one
just one
and you will remember yours

 

he can’t let go

the wooden rail
that leads from up to down
has led him to this place
his final journey into the basement of his life

no turning around
no climbing back to the top

there’s no one home
but he knew that before making his way down
one step at a time
and now, he can’t let go

life gripped him as tightly as he gripped the rail

he would sit now until he died
watching his fingers turn darker
than the wood he gripped
he can’t let go

 

omelet

i wanted to make an omelet, denver,
with colors that would make morning weep
like breakfast kicking from inside
the belly of an impoverished child

green and red peppers
alternating stop and go on a busy boulevard
or roses with plush leaves
watered by tears and let dry by memories
of parched land and dusty dirt roads

poetry doesn’t matter much anymore
when words don’t save a thirsty child
and graves are dug to apease the living
while the heart of man is darkened
and colors are left to bleed
like cloth from madras

ethiopia is hungry, somalia thirsty
india feeds and weeps
while the rains fall and hold buckets of hope
within the grasp of children who die
waiting
wishing for an egg more scrambled
than those cracked in denver

 

open only on monday

words wrap around my tongue
like a cellophane wrapper wrinkled and crushed
while copper pennies group together
after being spent too many times in too many places

i never cared for the smell of root beer or licorice
in the corner candy store where i filled my pockets
with round striped peppermint slash chocolate pieces
that nobody else wanted anyway

that’s how the excuses started
and validation was easy when dealing with penny candy
on a saturday when nobody was in school anyhow
and the grocer overcharged for bread

monday was coming, it always did
and emptied pockets were comforting and warm
when repentance was behind me for another day
of solitude and peace and promises that i would never do it again
i did

and now i can only hear you on mondays
and even then its only in my head
where your words wrap around my hungry tongue
like a cellophane wrapper wrinkled and crushed

i hear your smile calling to me
while copper pennies group together
after being spent too many times in too many places
just like the memories i used to open
only on monday

 

payson

it was just a little town
to the north
from other little towns
then to the west
where people lived
and died
for more years than even an old man could remember

it hadn’t rained
and her thin cloth jacket smelled of dust
probably from yesterday
or some recent wednesday

she brought stories
to help pay for the food she needed
and with her hands
she drew circles
to show me the moon

her life was more chapped than her lips
and her hair—in need of a brush—
had scattered in more directions
than chubby clouds on wind swept day

it was just a little town
yet there were people
who had forgotten how to smile
in the busyness of their empty days

hasn’t rained for a spell
she told me
knowing i was an outsider

guess i better wash my hair again

 

photographic suicide

it was black and white in a world void of color
—yet the story it told was endless—
all he owned to prove he really lived.

it didn’t matter to anyone else
that gray trees stood against a gray sky
a shade lighter than the gray grass.

the photograph was paper, easily torn,
like his darkened heart,
discarded, once used.

he could hear his mother cry out
—and the sobbing of his sister—
in the simple scene of emptiness and pain.

it didn’t rain,
yet the clouds that danced in stillness
were pallid gray.

it doesn’t matter anymore that he ripped his life in half
when he destroyed his only boyhood photograph.

it was black and white in a world void of color.

 

purple bowl in the window

he didn’t like city buses spouting black smoke,
park benches overtaken by pigeons,
or towns with straight, one-way streets.

he didn’t care for department stores featuring girls
with plastic smiles
or big-nosed politicians smoking short, fat cigars.

he was raised in the south
and chewed words longer than originally intended.

he didn’t like lemons
or the purple bowl in the window of the hardware store.

monday through friday was sufficient
and then the weekend came—
complete with the quiet of silence.

he could hear the void in his heart
like a glass of undisturbed water…
or the sound of the sun rising in the east.

barren and hushed—
the purple bowl in the window reminded him of his life—
yet he could not hear the melody of the carnival.

sometimes he dreamed of squeezing yellow lemons
into the purple bowl but that would be fruitless;

the bowl was hollow, the lemons bitter…just like tomorrow.

 

purple dress

evelyn wore a purple dress on sunday,
and florescent yellow tennis shoes
with pink knee socks pulled up high.
pink always made her feel like a woman;
knee socks kept her legs warm.

‘most everybody called her mary
but she knew she was evelyn.
the preacher smiled when she walked by,
but never until his sermon was over,
then he smiled at everyone.

her bible was thick and black
but folks only saw a silver and red box
with bold white words, ‘holy bible’
written across the lid bigger than a dollar bill.

some folks said she was crazy,
others said she was christian,
they knew because her bible told them so.
she never took her bible from the box,
the pages were new and unturned.

today evelyn wore a sweater, bright yellow,
over her sunday dress, purple.
it almost matched her tennis shoes, except for the mud.

in the cold morning air
she clutched her boxed bible tightly
protecting her heart from the cold, cruel world,
where everyone called her mary—
except the preacher, when he walked by—
and he never spoke, only nodded…
but in an approving way
that made her feel more like evelyn than mary.

she always sat in the same place at church,
third pew from the back,
left hand side of the sanctuary.
(when facing the pulpit, the preacher saw her right)
there were always whispers
when evelyn walked into the big room, the place of refuge…
she had heard the secrets for most of her seventy years.
now the whispers were from the grandchildren
of the girls—now old women—
who, as children, stalked her on the playground
just to sassily mumble, mary, mary, quite contrary.
later magdeline, harlot and other words followed.
she was a third generation harassee
or would have been if that was a word… maybe next year.

mary carried a tiny coin purse
with glittering sequins and a metal clasp.
no one had ever seen her open it,
still wrapped in plastic and as clean as the day she bought it.
the sequins were shiny and new,
waving their colors in the plastic bag—
a flag of sorts, red, white and blue—or maybe purple, yellow and pink.

her fingers were bent like an illegal u-turn
and only the tiny coin purse and holy bible
kept her fingers from collapsing into her palm in full surrender.
she called it a miracle—that she could unfurl her fingers—
the preacher said it was nothing more than exercise.

evelyn lost the one she loved in a time of war
—america is always fighting with someone—
she found him hanging in their garage,
grinding wheel still turning and drills to be sharpened.
his battle was over, his war ceased.
she was twenty-three when herbert quit.

people stared when evelyn walked by.
everybody knew about herbert
and how he chose amnesty from the war
in a rather awkward way on that friday in his garage.
he left a one word note: bye.

in her closet were four purple dresses,
three pairs of florescent yellow tennis shoes,
and six pairs of pink knee socks,
one pair for every day of the week.
she always stayed home on friday, just in case.

evelyn wore a purple dress on monday,
florescent yellow tennis shoes
with pink knee socks pulled up high.
pink always made her feel like a woman;
wearing knee socks she felt special.

on monday she wore a green hat
and watched the children go off to school
like she had done more than sixty years ago,
to the whispers of the girls who stalked her on the playground
just to sassily mumble mary, mary, quite contrary.
later magdeline, harlot and other words followed.

evelyn wondered what went wrong, each monday.
she found herbert hanging in the garage
when there was work to be done
and now she had to deal with his funeral on thursday.
she would have to wear her glasses.

mary wore a purple dress on tuesday,
florescent yellow tennis shoes
with pink knee socks pulled up high.
pink always made her feel like a woman
and knee socks hid the stubble on her legs.

on tuesday she wore her wedding ring
the grocers were flirtatious
and a girl has to be careful in the produce department
she heard the whispers of the grocers who stalked her in the aisles
just to sassily mumble, mary, mary, quite contrary.
later magdeline, harlot and other words followed.

she never let the boy carry out her groceries.
food is a very personal thing
and people could learn a lot by what she ate.
just more fodder for gossip.
it was nobody’s business.

on wednesday evelyn wore a purple dress
florescent yellow tennis shoes
with pink knee socks pulled up high.
pink always made her feel like a woman
and knee socks hid her bruises.

she wore long white gloves on wednesday,
waiting for the day she could weed her garden.
the gardeners came on wednesday,
same men each week for twenty years.
someday she would help pull weeds
and spray tomatoes with deadly pesticides.

the gardeners spoke no english
but it didn’t really matter
she never spoke to strangers anyway.

mary wore a wrinkled purple dress on thursday,
florescent yellow tennis shoes
with pink knee socks pulled up high.
pink always made her feel like a woman
and knee socks made her happy.

on thursday mary wore her glasses.
she could hardly see without them
but most days she chose near blindness
over watching the tv news on channel four.
the pretty blonde always whispered
as she read her cue card…mary, mary, quite contrary.
later magdeline, harlot and other words followed.

she could see the world more clearly without her glasses.
she thought maybe they were too tight on her nose…
or maybe the ears.
her glasses were suffocating her
but she only wore them on thursday,
the day herbert was buried.

on friday, mary was naked
just like herbert when she found him,
hanging by the neck in their tidy garage.
she turned on the grinding wheel and made a pot of coffee
—black with two level spoons of sugar—
while she read the morning comics.

on friday there was no whispering,
there was no laughter.
she sat alone in a world of her own
until the voice within her said,
“evelyn, tomorrow is saturday,”
so she put her coffee down and ironed her purple dress.

although mary hated to iron, it was necessary.
she hated wrinkles more than she hated to iron
and the world has enough wrinkles as it is.

on saturday evelyn wore a perfect purple dress
florescent yellow tennis shoes
with pink knee socks pulled up high.
pink always made her feel like a woman
and knee socks smelled fresh from the clothesline.

mary wore a gold chain necklace on saturday.
herbert’s ring was suspended around her neck;
her nimble fingers touched the shiny links
and she saw how pretty it looked with her purple dress.
the gold brought out the yellow in her tennis shoes
and the chain reinforced the bondage in her head.

evelyn looked forward to sunday
when she could wear her purple dress
and say hello to the preacher
when he walked by, after his sermon.
he would see her holy bible box and smile.

mary wore a purple dress on sunday,
florescent yellow tennis shoes
with pink knee socks pulled up high.
pink always made her feel like a woman
and knee socks protected her modesty.

‘most everybody called her evelyn
but she knew she was mary.
the preacher never smiled when he walked by,
especially once his sermon was over.
he had better things to do.

she lifted the lid from the box that held her bible,
touched the leather cover with her palm,
remembered the day herbert bought it
and told her she might need it real soon.
she didn’t have a purple dress when she was twenty-three.
she didn’t have a gold chain for her neck,
a green hat, bright yellow sweater or glasses.

mary closed the lid that covered her holy bible
and looked through the wire mesh thick glass window.
she could hear the whispers from a mile away.
some folks said she was crazy,
others said she was christian.

today mary wore a sweater, bright yellow,
over her sunday dress, purple.
it almost matched her tennis shoes—except for the mud—
and she clutched her boxed bible tightly,
protecting her heart from the cold, cruel people
who whispered rumors about the crazy old woman in ward b.

 

purple poetry

i sit among the shifting stacks of paper
poems from yesterday and a thousand tuesdays before
scattered all around like oversized confetti
after the new years eve party when happiness has gone home

printed words say nothing when papers are stacked
and there are no readers with curious eyes
to separate the poems written during the scorching heat of july
from those scribbled during the winter blizzards of december

yesterday i saw a beautiful poem
written many years ago and set aside for safe keeping
to be read on a special day to a special someone
now it lays isolated somewhere in the shifting stacks of paper

i remember once while drinking grape juice
clumsily i spilled purple on the words of a wednesday poem
and those words somehow seemed to flow together
to say something more colorful than i ever imagined

before long the grape juice dried
and the poem is now lifeless as it was before the spill
the purple has faded and words have crumpled back
to that place where they started

someday soon i will straighten these stacks of paper
and carry them away to be recycled or burned
then i will write a new poem
and splash purple grape juice on it just to make you smile

 

questions
sometimes, when midnight approaches
and the city, except for me, is asleep

i pace from one room to another
walking in silence to nowhere

i remember carolina nights
drinking dr. pepper and sweat
and that you had a southern accent when you laughed

when you died i wept for days
suffocated by memories of your smile

tonight under diamond-like stars
i see you walking in the shadows

i turn back to november
the chill of yesterday’s wind
reminding me that you are gone

i can’t remember if i told you i love you
the last time our eyes met

i do love you
i think you knew that

yet suicide was your answer
to questions i was afraid to ask

 

reality of tuesday

i sat alone on tuesday
looking out at the leaning fence posts
wishing for rain
to bring a melody of songs that died years ago

i watched my own reflection
in decaying wood and twisted bale wire
searching for a smile through my tears
yet feeling only the empty in my belly

weeds wrapped around the thirsty posts
strangling only lifelessness
born on a desolate country road
where night slipped to the ground like a heavy shadow

i prayed to have a mind with the power
the freedom and jubilation of a smile
and eyes to see beyond the horizon
and not only the twisted wire and strangling weeds

as i sat alone on tuesday i knew the heartbreak of emptiness
the loneliness of morning
as it peeled away the black darkness of midnight
leaving only the pain of knowi

ng

this time, tuesday would not pass

 

removal of the tree

the tree is gone
today they took it away to die alone in a deserted orchard
lemon trees once produced yellow balls there
until one day the land was crushed

by a big yellow machine not related to the lemons
it’s heavy blade raped the soil with each full scoop
like a fat man turned loose at a free banquet

the coyotes cried before leaving, they never liked lemons anyway
but home was home and they wanted to stay amid the lemon trees
until the yellow machine came and took the last tree away

then they shook their heads in sorrow
and wept with howling, crying from their near-empty bellies for the loss
knowing their young would never see the home they left

the tree is gone
with one last painful look back the coyotes know it is true
heavy black smoke rose from the big yellow machine
as it burped and bellowed a baritone song

and the land they always wanted to keep soft was transformed
to a hard smooth floor more bitter than lemons

 

rest with me

on a wooden porch looking out to sea
won’t you sit for awhile and rest with me

when the evening falls and the sky grows gray
we’ll wait until dark then together we’ll say…

rest with me…always and forever, rest with me…

when the clouds roll in and the sun has gone
and the nights are short and the days are long

when the ocean waves have stopped rolling in
we’ll hold hands together and say again

rest with me…always and forever, rest with me…

on the wooden porch our old rocking chairs
give great comfort as we sit and stare

at the feather beds forming in the sky
that give us a purpose, a reason why

rest with me…always and forever, rest with me…
i love you…always and forever, rest with me…
i see angels in the sky, rest with me…

 

sad eyes

i hadn’t seen such sad eyes since san francisco
the night the rainstorm caused them to tear
wind blowing hard
brushing mascara in places she never would have

that night her eyes were different
looking away in search of a safe haven
a place where pain could lay under her hair like a pillow
and fear was kept from the room by the scent of stale perfume

only an effort on my part allowed our eyes to meet
and then only after trailing them
like hungry sparrows trail helpless butterflies
catching them in mid flight, holding, swallowing

never were another’s eyes held so tightly by mine
as the night she died
i knew they were sadder than when she took the bus to monterey
at least she had her own seat and hadn’t forgotten how to smile

the red dress wasn’t suitable and the coffin was too big
but they still had a place to lay her down
she always said she would never fit in this world
turns out she was wrong

 

salvation army

she wore purple because she liked it.
hanging stiffly on the store rack,
yellow goodwill tag with smudged blue ink,
was it a three or five?
she argued for three—willing to pay five—she did.
her breasts had followed the alphabet
from a to b to c to d
and settled back on c
after some of the air had escaped her life
and left her haggling over purple dresses.
somehow salvation was unreachable
and the army refused to go home,
but she had purple swatches to mend the holes
and fingertips that blended too well
with gunnysack purple and bruised memories.

she remembered life in yellows and oranges,
bright colors that complimented the sun.
but that was when she dreamed while still awake
and wished without a penny.
purple happens to life. and it did.

 

san francisco, sixty-eight

she wore springtime in her hair, san francisco, sixty-eight
while the world collapsed around her, gettin’ high ‘neath the golden gate

fortune cookies served in china town were bittersweet and never true
but springtime filled the city air, in a city built for two

when he looked into her hungry eyes, he saw a future they couldn’t share
a foreign war was calling, she knew he’d leave his body there

so they kissed beneath the golden gate and made love beneath the stars
where the presidio saw the water and brave soldiers plotted wars

and now a lifetime later, she plants bougainvillea in the ground
remembering san francisco, sixty-eight, and the trumpet’s cruelest sound

 

sandusky cemetery

white markers lined the confederate graveyard
~a cemetery of sorts~
where the roots of death burrowed deeper than stubborn magnolias

and the voices of brave soldiers were long since silenced
though the wind still carried the screams, last words,
prayers and cursing like a hallelujah chorus on horseback.

young men, mostly still and forever nameless,
whose bodies had fallen to the ground
were then planted into it, like a seed, dormant, infertile and wasted.

the cemetery in one night swallowed an army
larger than the town filled with bellwort and trout lily
as two little girls grew up more quickly than their years begged of them.

nursing men, still boys, whose arms and legs
were buried well ahead of their time,
placing them in bags simply marked ‘miscellaneous’.

wooden markers set aside one boy from the next
but winter came and firewood was needed
and markers were white like the winter snow,

and white markers survived the winter
no better than dead soldiers
and white markers never specified heaven or hell.

*note: sandusky confederate cemetery is in Sandusky, ohio…this poem
is written about the battle of franklin on november 30, 1864. it took place in
franklin, tennessee.

 

seedless

people said it was much too soon
roses had not yet wilted from the first frost
fruit hung like planets on apple trees
abandoned pumpkins were still ghoulishly orange

everything lived except her

sometimes november strangles lonely souls
when the ground opens up too easily as if by invitation
and no one stands by the gate to keep innocence out

there was no warning that she couldn’t turn back
except on the plastic bottles she dropped by her bedside

years have passed since yesterday
laughter visits on occasion like a wayward stranger
in want of a meal and a place to lay his body down

but there is no safe haven where memories dare to tread

wilted roses kneel at the gravesite
a memorial to a beautiful life so quickly passed
thorns explode, guarding her as a sentry protecting royalty

but the earth remains soft and fallow

seedless
except for the soul she planted there

 

seven steps

there were seven steps
coming down from the wooden porch
to the sidewalk
that wound between the massive trees

they creaked a little
though no more than the wheels
turning in my head
while going nowhere

i was younger then
and counting steps didn’t matter
until she died
and laid like a rag doll in her padded bed

i don’t remember what she wore
just that her hair was soft
and she wore a smile
like i had never seen before

her last ride was solemn
and only those who knew her
cried loudly with no tears
the others waited

there are seven steps
going up to the wooden porch
from the sidewalk
that winds between the massive trees

they still creak
louder now than before
i remember that day
when the steps ached like my heart

 

pas de bourrée

who’s that dancing in my head
leaping and bouncing through the vacated spaces of my mind?
tap dancing in ballerina shoes
in an awkward pas de bourrée across the hollow hardwood floor
while with constant pounding of his heavy hammer
a workman beats disappearing nails into forgiving lumber

who’s that talking in my head?
saying dreadful things i shouldn’t hear about my languid life
as auburn crickets chirp loudly
rubbing their forewings together while expecting better times
and a woodpecker taps on a tree trunk, knocking for insects
scurrying in crevices past once-thick bark

who’s that cluttering my mind
with needless facts about fictional men and roads that don’t exist
while the annoying drip of a burnished brass faucet
dribbles loudly on the pristine white rose that never grew
and the keys of an ergonomic keyboard
curved like the palm of her hand are abused with an unhappy fist?

can i silence the scream of desperation
and listen to voices other than those raging unbridled in my head
in the battleground where carnage lays bountiful
and the colliding sounds of life explode like grapes under my feet?
one of me answered this way and the other that
but it didn’t matter, a single blast finally brought silence to my world