we had always…

 

we had always

 

white umbrella

she watched from the darkened street
for the man who seldom brought flowers,
though she knew he would, if he could.

they wanted precious little
—some called their world make believe—
having only sweet vanilla candles, roses,
and a white umbrella for those infrequent rainy days.

she offered exotic chocolates—wrapped—
and he touched red wine to her lips
while time swiftly passed them by.

he shared photographs and poetry
while her fingers danced,
lifting music from her magical violin.

who can say where the time goes
except that suddenly one day it ceases—
the breath of life is silenced—

and in the rain
the white umbrella is opened.

 

i lost you somewhere in the fog

i lost you somewhere in the fog
tuesday, the day we shared cherry pie and coffee
i knew by the way you swallowed your words
and politely wiped the punctuation with your napkin

soft music cooled our coffee, black
and when tears welled in your eyes i had no doubt
you would walk away when the final word was spoken
and last glances devoured like dust in an upright hoover

i never knew then, and don’t know now…
where did you go when you turned left towards fillmore street?
aimless, it seemed and yet with power
steamed with determination like a railroad locomotive

i see you on occasion and yet not
sometimes it is your eyes worn by another woman
sometimes your smile has been stolen
but never can another woman wear you like you did

when i hear the song that played that day
tuesday, when we shared cherry pie and coffee
i close my eyes and watch you walk in the door
turning right from fillmore street

never wanting to open my eyes for fear that i was dreaming
i wait until i am sure my coffee is stone cold
so i can ask for a fresh cup with no tears
and watch the waitress walk away…just as you did

 

a jar meant for butterflies

rain was kind to us today
wetting the lips of strangers
watching one another at the open bus stop

rain dampened smiles of women who remembered
some distant yesterday when they were in love
with rainy days

somehow it felt safe
when the thunder yelled across town
announcing the arrival of bright golden streaks

and when i looked at you
it was as if i saw you for the very first time
a little girl, scared and alone

i wanted to see the rain through your eyes
and capture the afternoon
in a clear glass jar meant for butterflies

i wanted to kiss you
and tell you it would be all right
while we watched the driving rain

when you smiled
i knew you remembered the rainy day
when we made love on a borrowed bed

my nod told you my thoughts
and we smiled as though the world disappeared
washed away with the pouring rain

today we made a new memory
and held it as our own secret
of rain, love and a jar meant for butterflies

 

always

always
there was to be a next time…
a tomorrow when we would laugh
like silly little children

and run into the fading sunset
with our hands locked together
and our legs taking us to another memory
just around the corner.

‘always’
somehow becomes ‘sometime’
when we grow older
and wiser…

when the reckless abandon of children
on a mission to learn about life
disappears
like ice cream on a funnel cone.

sometime
there will be a next time,
a tomorrow when we will laugh
and walk into the fading sunset

with our hands almost touching
and our legs
taking us to another responsibility
just around the corner.

who stole the dream
that would have kept us innocent
and allowed us to laugh
without pretending we understood?

did we sell it
in our pursuit of the elusive happiness
we so freely found
as wide-eyed children?

let’s go back to ‘always’
i know it is still there.
i remember asking once,
“if i get lost can i come to your house?”

and i remember your reply…

“always”

 

breakfast for two

surprises were always meant for breakfast
when pink clouds and white carnations
shared the same sky
though at different elevations and a moment apart

small talk and breadcrumbs on the table
made the waiter nervous
when his shaky hand poured your black coffee into a white cup
just before the sugar spilled

nothing else mattered except that my eyes danced with yours
(and the menu was in french anyway)
still i could hear your fingers touch mine
laying on the checkered tablecloth just beyond the chocolate stain

our waiter’s twelve words in english exceeded my four in french
as he shuffled congruent verbs with scrambled eggs
and blended colorful adjectives with biscuits
too brown to eat and too soft to throw

i can even remember the wind
and the way it parted your hair and laid it before your eyes
knowing the sounds of traffic differ in paris from san francisco
though we were in neither and partly in both

but sunrise kissed the cities for lovers
and painted them with splashes not on the menu
while holding surprises and croissants against a blue-gray milieu
as the music faded and breakfast was served

 

coffee

morning was friendlier than all of yesterday

with the smell of coffee wafting like silence
holding minutes together to be borrowed later
when stirring spoons were laid aside
and sugar spilled like white commas
slowing the hush of emptiness

like a ghost rising from the hot black circle
dancing wearily before disappearing
a soft cloud bending this way and curving that
disappears as if it never existed
and perhaps it never did

morning was friendlier than all of yesterday

your eyes watching mine
your hands reaching across the table
holding the hope of tomorrow in your grasp
waiting for cautious dreams to rise from nothing
and for my coffee to cool quickly

knowing morning is friendlier than yesterday
for the price of a cup of coffee
and a place to rest my weary soul

 

home is where i had never been

i have gone north on southern days
and west against the eastern breeze
in confusion i have wondered where i am
where i have been, where i will be

in dreams i have been to kentucky
enjoyed coffee at sidewalk cafés
and traced your lips on rainy days
while consuming your smile with my eyes

your hands fit into mine in carmel and sausalito
where a moment can last a lifetime
for lovers who feel the ocean breeze
and listen to the depths of their own hearts

i measure your beauty against a tiburon backdrop
where colors flap in the wind like a wayward sail
your smile compliments the city
and sausalito is alive with music

i have gone south on northern days
and west against the eastern breeze
seen your smile on a bright carolina morning
and kissed you in a kentucky dream

when with you it never mattered
whether i went north or south, east or west
i always knew i was home
and home is where i had never been

 

4:03 train in belmont

i cup my hands and hold memories of you in the springtime
when tuesday was a season to be ridden
like smiling horses on the seattle merry-go-round

you sat still while i sketched you with cotton candy
touching it here and there until you laughed out loud
while my fingertips found your pouting lips

you wore a white baseball cap with pink stripes
your hair escaped through the opening
and i snapped a mental photograph of how you stood
when the cool damp air tickled your chin

your eyes journeyed to another time, another place
while tuesday dropped like a mantle onto your shoulders
and the new season arrived on schedule
just like the 4:03 train in belmont

 

the taste of love

bed sheets removed themselves
in the battle we fought
with wrestling thighs and exploring fingers

that was a day when i told you i love you
like i had done so many days before
and so many since

the morning was younger than us
but we played as though we owned the sun
would engulf the moon and harness the stars

only clouds mattered on that day
and we wished they would stay forever
but clouds are clouds and they move on

now we have moved on
until there can never be another morning
when love tasted like chocolate

as i watch the clouds i long for that morning
it was in the winter time

but i will always be warmed by the smile you wore

 

vermont song

tuesday morning was a song
much like the warbled whistle of a purple finch in vermont
when summer approached

winter is no longer white
in a world of sunshine mornings
and smog-laden nights that last much too long

when december arrived
on a pre-appointed coat of fog
silence played across the day, a note held too long

now the song of morning plays across the hillside
with each note extended
by the lifting weightlessness of the maestros invisible baton

silence is a song
but there are no finches singing in my world
and i have never been to vermont

 

what shall we have for dessert?

walking into morning is easy with you
when clouds are awake
and softer than the sea breeze

monterey calls your name like a whisper
as daylight covers your breast
and the smile you swallow was meant for me

cypress trees bow low as gulls soar overhead
and breakfast is served just around the bend

now that your lips have fed mine
what shall we have for dessert?

 

where memories are born

when winter rains fall onto your window
and you look up into the sky
where clouds linger while waiting for the next breeze
listen to the quiet whisper of daybreak
as it crawls into those places
where memories are born

i can feel you as you wait
standing still and alone
watching the pale color of morning
painted with gray and splashed with gold

i can feel your heart
and hear the hush of your sobbing
as you stand in the center of your loneliness

and wonder where the days have gone

i dare not count them
for they are many and scattered
like clouds in disarray
shifted and moved, pushed and pulled
by the winds of morning

i long for tomorrow
and new memories where old ones have died
i hope to see the clouds
and taste your skin
as we watch the rain tease the morning

you are fresh like a baby rose
on a new morning
where color is draped softly over the minutes
and the hands of time wait

listen to the quiet whisper of daybreak
as it crawls into those places
where memories are born

 

inscription

i found your words
inscribed in the thesaurus of my heart
where i matched them into pairs
and lined them up
row upon row
so i could recall each from memory

i visited the exclamation points
and question marks of your life
while waiting patiently for paragraphs to be used
like hot flowing wax
scented and colored
for romantic occasions and passionate rendezvous’

i climbed over and under your sentences
like a child discovering a new playground
in an unfamiliar setting

i fell occasionally
but bounced up again
excited to touch the top of your gentleness
while exploring the depths of your kindness

i never knew you as a child
until now
i never knew me as a child
until you

now that i have discovered us
i find myself wondering
who shall i ask
when i want you to come out and play

 

little things

today
let’s use lots of words
to say little things

we can lay four-word sentences
beneath paragraphs
and put exclamation points
in places normally reserved for commas

we can say ‘tuesday’
several times
and call dandelions beautiful

we can wonder why ‘morose’
is not a color
and accentuate the wrong part
of three-syllable words

let’s use lots of words
to say little things
today

tomorrow will be here soon enough
and words are reusable

‘tuesday’…

dandelions are beautiful
on tuesday

 

 

morning rose

i met you
fresh
as morning meets an unfurling rose

before you spoke a word
sitting there quietly nervous
i knew from the look in your eyes
that i was destined to know love

we kissed that morning
on the wooden steps leading to tomorrow

so well i remember your sensual lips
and at once my dream divided on a flicker of fire

the sun set in the park
that cool day soon after

when we shared a picnic lunch
that beckoned us to share a forever for dessert

never had a kiss been a kiss until you
and the coolness of the evening
was chased away by the warmth of our hearts

rain sometimes fell on us
but love is a wonderful umbrella
and your giggle warmed my heart
in ways i never told you

a bird sang low as the afternoon sun dropped
and the moon shared just enough light
that you could watch me walk away

i would love to meet you again
fresh and new in that special way…
just as morning meets an unfurling rose

 

palette of morning

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

 

bleu cheese and teardrops

i’ve walked along stanyan street
where hotels peer from street-lit corners
like generals who once commanded an army
but now stand disarmed, at attention,
waiting for a flag to justify shiny medals.

tall, slender double doors open silently
as if in reverence and respect,
holding secrets of smiles and
memories of how you used to eat crepes
and dance with parking meters
before satisfying their yearning for quarters.

when did we become too responsible to
remember the simple things in life
and too busy to wonder
about tomorrow and some wednesday in july?

was it on stanyan street, on that cloudless day
when i looked at you and saw a tear
in the corner of your eye?
(now, with closed eyes i recall days like today
made so quickly into yesterday.)

was it in the blue front café while watching young lovers,
(you and me three decades and several pounds ago)
sandwiched between ham and turkey on rye,
tie-dyed shirts to hide the spill of bleu cheese and teardrops?

it no longer matters whether it was november or march,
summer or fall,
it no longer matters at all.

i will always wander about stanyan street
looking for you in the corner of a musty bookstore,
browsing brautigan or mc kuen
hoping to catch a glimpse
of a lady wearing your smile
and a wishful look in your still-youthful eyes.

 

carousel

i learned that carousels still turn
when empty

i suppose life is much the same

everything is beautiful from a distance
with pleasant music and colorful smiles
painted on plastic ponies

yet you get off where you got on
and only the time has changed

 

journeyman of words

today i found your name
and imagined you died without knowing me

tomorrow i may find who you were
and what passions we have shared

oftentimes i have dreamed
that you were a journeyman of words

that sentences and verses waited for your command
to line up in single file fashion

waiting to march off a page
and into someone else’s life

you were inspirational in your never being there
as some others have been inspirational by their presence

perhaps someday i will see you
when the minutes of yesterday collapse onto tomorrow

hiding behind the façade of traveling salesman’s clothes
with a box of plastic brushes or black leather bibles

you may recognize me or think you do
but only my eyes would reveal my likeness of you

and only your eyes would dare ask questions
to answers you hoped to forget

 

long it’s shadow, round

when it rains in the morning where lombard street is crooked
at the hill where coit tower throws long its shadow, round

i know that flowers will grow again in the springtime of the morning
and the rolling hills of lombard will whisper city secrets newly found

bright glowing morning sunlight spills like smooth amber liquid
on the brick red road that meanders so quietly below

while satin soft carnations and daisies in the shadows
spiral lazily toward heaven, yawning in the morning as they grow

when at last the day has closed much like it first began
where lombard street is crooked in the sun

i will gently shut my memories and fold them like soft alpaca
then stack them in the shadows one by one

coit tower sleeps while standing when the sun has passed her by
the shadow thrown is long as well as thin

clouds will return tomorrow to the san francisco sky
and the tower will stand majestic once again

 

past the midnight hour

midnight is darker than ever before
as suffocating shadows paint the walls
with gray shades of gray
and men armed with hatred
stand ready to destroy

pointed boots and shouted words
stole the safety of sleep from a little boy
who dared not cry while wanting death
a welcome friend that knows no pain
and holds no hope

the taste of stale fills the midnight air
with cigarette smoke and liquor
heavy enough to hold words meant to destroy
while pointed boots add punctuation
to dead sentences

it should have been over
when tears burned his wounds
and filled them with assurance
that it is not unleashed pain that kills
even in the loneliest minutes of darkness

but who can live past
memories that torment after the midnight hour
when the heart has been crushed
without the comfort of a mother’s love
or the touch of her healing hands

the pain will soon be over

 

pizza

i asked for a pizza
and they served me my past
with unspent coins
and unwound watches
unstruck matches
and unsharpened pencils

pocket knives
and erasers,
car keys
and tokens
pieces of life before it was broken

i would rather have the pizza.

 

promises

sometime not so long ago
i spoke to you in quiet whispers

making promises i could never keep
about filling tomorrow
with bougainvillea wrapped in daydreams
then marinated in sugar water and red wine

so often i gathered roses by the bunch
and colored them red
at your door
while waiting for love to embrace us
like a vine growing so close to itself
that it grafted new life in its wounds

i never meant to water your heart with tears

somehow they just flowed more freely
than i would have ever imagined possible

if i could dry your eyes
with a promise folded like a white handkerchief
i would dab them with a triangle corner
and kiss the corner of your lips
to stop the flow

i never meant to say goodbye
in the morning
when so much of the day lay before us
like a fertile field
littered with new growth
waiting for the springtime harvest

i never meant to say goodbye at all
when sometime not so long ago
i spoke to you in quiet whispers

 

biographical eulogy

the eulogy was spoken well
by those who thought they had known
but really didn’t…for otherwise
he never would have gone

the fog rolled in like silence
it kept the sun contained
damp darkness filled the morning air
it really should have rained

there were no flowers scattered there
along the mountainside
for severed flowers like broken dreams
have no reason to survive

their faces wore no smiles
though all their eyes were dry
saddened people stood in disbelief
and only wondered why

who took this life before its time
and laid it in the dust
and was it fair for those concerned
that he could never trust

those are only questions
that need no real reply
the season of his life has passed
and none will ever know why

 

blue room

sounds from yellow taxis crowded with anxious tourists
filled the air, floating through the open window
with no screen to stop them from entering into the blue room

in the center a square wooden table
stood quietly alone except for four wooden chairs
also silent
as if waiting for the music of the street to end before dancing

spilled paint, tinges of dark blue and darker yet reached its boundary
before dying in various shades of dry
like stretched out fingers belonging to an old man parched in the desert

beneath the table and mixed with dry patches of blue
a crimson puddle, not yet dried
sought the boundaries of the deep royal color beneath it

a soft afternoon breeze kissed opened cans of spilled paint
suffocating the colors, strangling the liquid
until it became a pasty tint of blue, ready to dry, ready to die

nobody watched the paint dry
the unobtrusive blue door was a sentry watching over the room
and only the honking sound of a horn from the yellow taxi
would soon reveal he would never leave the comfort of the blue room

while the meter kept running

 

bus stop

you left me alone on that mid-morning in june
when white roses saluted the sun
trapped by the pain of yesterday you lay crying for your soul
while stranded on a memory of a september night

i never knew your eyes or goodnight kisses
the touch of your fingertips or the song on your lips
deep down i still yearn for summer morning hugs
yet i know they died in november when the snow fell

i only wanted to say it doesn’t matter anymore
i pretended you loved me enough to go away
but while i stood alone with suitcase in hand
i knew i was waiting for a bus that would never come

 

chronicles of mania

where did you go
after my words left you?

the once white walls,
stained gray with smudges
held secrets i would have told you
if you let me.

four flights of stairs held my dreams
when i would rather have been wrapped with you
in blankets on a clear mendocino night,
leaving the world behind.

a slow lullaby plays vividly in my mind,
resting in places ravaged by the recent storm;
healing the wounds that never bleed
yet sting with the touch of my tears.

i look up at the graffiti-laden stairwell
too tired to climb, too afraid not to, lest
in my idleness i will die in the midst of strangers
when i choose to die alone.

she does not understand, he does not care;
they only wonder to where innocence has fled.
tears have fallen too freely on the darkened stage
while an audience files in too late…

too late
for the show has ended.

 

circles of tears

she sat in her closet wrapped up in a ball
wading through old letters containing darkened secrets
reading wrinkled notes and looking through faded photographs
that were left to be forgotten

she tried to forget the haunting memories
that invaded her sleep
the familiar faces buried in her mind
that never freed her from the feeling of being watched

i look for her now when darkness quiets my heart
wishing i had never come across the note
bearing her name scribbled at the bottom
beside the stain of dry circles of tears

oh, the memories we dreamed to someday have
yet she was finally overcome by the last one
and now i am left holding it
she should not have gone on that cold november day

now i clench the memories like a wilted bouquet of dried brown roses
faded like dreams often do

i could have said goodbye if only i had known she was leaving
taking with her the bundle of dreams
drowning in her circles of tears

 

dry your eyes

she dried her eyes
but somehow the tears kept flowing.
a broken heart, a lonely soul…
music in her head was unheard.
words written on her heart
died a violent death.

i think i fell in love when i saw her…
or at least i hoped to.
i cried, when i saw her tears;
and her brokenness became my own.

i wondered for whom she waited,
and at last i heard the wisp of wind
blowing tiny seeds of purple lantana
onto the plush mustard weeds

a multicolored sun dipped into the water
with no splash, no sound, it drowned…
like the quiet desperation she held
in the emptiness of her hand…

 

ghosts

she took the ghosts with her when she died.

the fear that made her cry out in the night
after the sting of wondering whether anyone loved her
diminished like a childhood that never happened.

she tried to talk to those who knew her well;
the conversation turned hard like a brass key
in a rusted deadbolt
opening up yet another secret room where the ghosts lived.

as a child
the ghosts fooled her into believing they were playmates
and the basement closet was a playground
filled with imaginary carousels and colorful marionettes.

even then, she never laughed…
but only watched in disbelief as they paraded by,
marching around another corner
where the music stopped

leaving cruel whisperings about how wonderful it is
to play with silence
and count words that can never escape.

 

heart of africa

her naked heart asked no questions
sunken eyes arid and unable to weep
buried in hopelessness
could see no tomorrow.

black skin -like leather-
wrapped like bark around a withered branch
lifeless, fighting to hold itself up
she sat, feet flat on the ground
until at last she laid down
and beside her crucifix
she died

 

he was one of us

it seemed so simple at first
to follow him

the people loved him
he made them well
he fed them
where did things go wrong?

did he have to say he was the son of god?

he could have told them later
after they understood

but would they ever understand?

no

he had to tell them when he did

they mocked him then
they mock him now

he could have fought back
they would have understood that

but he loved them instead
enough to die

we’ like to be like him
because first~

he was one of us

 

family portrait

i had only a single photograph
when she went away
and a wish that she had smiled just a little
to let me know she never planned to leave

in my album are empty pages
and her blood-red dress is black and white
in a color photograph
that shows the sparkle in her blue eyes

i looked once more at the photograph
hoping to see a smile before i said goodbye
while making it ready for a cardboard box
with a brown square lid to hide her pain

she didn’t, i didn’t
yet finally i put her paper likeness to rest

maybe she will smile now
at peace in the comfort of darkness

 

her pain

it was there after all these years
the door, still bolted
the window, still nailed
the memory still haunting
the wall, still naked

morning was black and white
with a trace of orange in the pallid sky
reflected onto the stucco wall
as though tears had painted shades of rust
where she once stood
alone and afraid

plywood windows, weather-beaten
and painted barn-wood gray
by the stroke of time
cried in their silence
and time hid all wounds
behind the naked door

i wondered…
why did i choose to visit the pain of yesterday
knowing i could still hear her weeping
sure that i could still hear her wishing
wishing her life would go away

it did

 

in need of repair

morning is empty when gray doves no longer coo
and what was once a novel
has been reduced to a few short words

there is nothing left
but a shortened paragraph
in search of punctuation
to slow the silence of emptiness

do you remember your youth
when life was spread out like a cinema
on some wide screen
and acted upon in full color?

a new fog has rolled in
and swallowed the light of day

there are still prostitutes on every corner
and the smell of morning’s laundromats
is unchanged

morning will soon pass
and the sun will move no more quickly overhead
than it did when i was five

morning will pass

when i was five
i hoped morning would pass

 

insincere tears

i closed my eyes
and sought the promises spent on yesterday

listening while words flapped on the clothesline
shaking and waving in the midst of the changing winds of time

words were empty and sentences pressed,
like wrinkled pages ironed out,
drying in the westward breeze, warm to the touch

i felt fingers,
perhaps those from god himself touching my tears

as i waited for the sounds of angels voices to heal my broken heart
i wept…
and heard only the weeping harps of cherubs

how can the condition of the human heart be measured
apart from a burrowed field
laced with inhumane suffering

so carelessly we have littered our minds
with the sins of a nation
growing wildly though planted as tiny seeds

needing only the water of our insincere tears
with which to grow

 

fragmented sentences

at her desk
she dragged pointed graphite across the pages of her life
while looking out at morning,
watching birds splashing in a shallow fountain.

the graphite dulled,
becoming too fat to write thin words
or short fragmented sentences.

now, from her window, she watches people
strolling quickly to nowhere…
yet none look up to see her seeing them.

she used to smile at hummingbirds and gray squirrels
until her pencil no longer made words on
sheets of scribbled-over paper, wrinkled with time.

now she wonders if words were all she had…
just letters magically aligned to say things
in the quiet of her emptiness.

 

laughter

it’s as if you still smiled…
and your glasses were crooked
just like they were yesterday

some said your plaid wool skirt was out of place,
but i thought it was you…
in a bed you never would have chosen.

it occurred to me that they closed your eyes
not because you would watch what was happening,
not even because you might cry.

they closed them for me,
that i would remember the true color
—blue.

when i see me,
i see you.
you never laughed much.

today you looked more like a child
than you had
in thousands of previous yesterdays.

i suppose peace does that to a body
when all sins have been confessed
and all tears spent.

i wish i could ask you why,
just so i could speak to you
one more time again.

at night,
when the world is quiet,
i try to hear your laughter

but it is still foreign,
i heard it much too seldom.

i listen to the wind…
tree branches brushing against the window…
and i pretend it is you,
singing a quiet melody,
a serenade into morning.

when the lid closed,
your worlds separated like the wake
following a boat

and i didn’t see you again…
but i know you are there.

i hear your laughter.

 

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.

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 midflight, 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

 

seedless

most 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

 

silence of my tears

i wept when i heard you had gone away…
taking the music of your heart,
my heart,
with you.

it was a simple tune
a slow melody
unrushed
like i hoped life would be

and yet here i am
the hours have slipped away
like a six-shooter into the plastic holster
of a broomstick cowboy

and i want to hear your voice
one word, one giggle
just enough to dry my tears
with understanding

i hear the metric measure…
is it your heartbeat?
no
only the silence of my tears

 

the answered question

on the distant horizon
dark thunderclouds formed
while she watched through tear-filled eyes
as the man in black closed the lid
more quietly than the silent breeze

it seemed like yesterday
when they laughed and talked about lemonade
while filling their glasses with glimpses into tomorrow
pouring from a pitcher of promises
broken and not kept

he didn’t know how to reach within
and remove the heart of darkness
that tormented his every day
and in his silence he finally died
and at last answered her question

 

ways you never knew

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

 

white horses

if not for white horses i would have cried—
or perhaps i did.

it is all a blur now that the door has closed,
after the man took away my dignity.
(before i knew what the word meant.)

i wish he had stepped out before closing the door,
perhaps then life would make sense
and my heart would know how to love
as easily as i clutch white roses in november.

if not for white horses i would have cried—
or perhaps i did.

i heard sobbing
before the drumbeat of my heart

—quieted.—

 

you did it all wrong

you did it all wrong

for somebody who was never crazy
(at least not about crowds)
you picked a strange way to show it

i looked it up
and there you were
a silent statistic
a participant in a group
where someone
somewhere in the world
makes the same choice every 40 seconds

they gave away possessions
stopped eating
opted against sleep
lost interest in life
stared into an ugly mirror
threw caution to the wind
watched death and tragedy
like a sporting event

for one who dared to be different
you did it all wrong
but at least the crowd you’ve chosen
the club you’ve joined
their voices are quiet now
and though you did it all wrong
who’s going to tell you?

surrendering tomorrow

the deathwatch beetle is a borer insect that makes a ticking or clicking sound by bumping its head or jaws against the sides of the tunnels as it bores in old furniture and wood. according to superstition, the sound, actually a mating call, was believed to forecast an approaching death. its name is derived from the credence that it was often heard by the people “on watch” with an ill person on the verge of death. (encyclopedia britannica)

the heart of october wore wearisome days
before dressing itself like an old woman prepared to die
or arranged to go to breakfast on sunday morning

april is around the corner, six houses down on the left
where weeds strangle chrysanthemums and beg for rain
while daffodils and dahlias are drowned by leaking faucets

an old lady sits alone on her vacant porch, rocking slowly
much like the month of october
when it crawls like arthritic fingers through the pumpkin patch

most folks have forgotten her name
since she was barren and had no one to call out to her
but now it’s much too late for breakfast

quiet now, listen…the deathwatch beetles mating call is familiar
the tapping sound of jaws hitting the tunneled walls
metrically as if the winter clock is synchronized

the allure of rocking, tapping, ticking…moving away from yesterday
as the old lady closes her eyes, surrendering tomorrow
to the deathwatch beetle, an unassuming bug

wondering why people die alone

 

 

th’ dust never really settled

th’ dust never really settled
th’ dust never really settled
on those back roads of virginia
yesterday past

though times were rough
and winter brought only snow and cold
there was still a warmth
in th’ house heated only by kerosene lamps
and patchwork quilts

swirlin’ dust
can’t be found beneath th’ packed snow
and th’ dust never really settled

chocolate mud first formed crators
then valleys
an’ th’ pourin’ rain brought only wet feet,
soaked heads, and runnin’ noses

there were always wishes that a doctor cared
for those who needed
but couldn’t return the favor
with anything more than ‘thank you’

yet, somehow country doctors
never found their way to th’ country

thanksgiving cornbread ushered toyless christmas
th’ new year replaced th’ old
rain melted th’ snow
and thunder yelled, seemingly only at me

but th’ dust never really settled
though thick colorful quilts were removed
and with them th’ memories of numb fingers
pokin’ in bottomless pockets of kneeless trousers

with the serenade of grumblin’ bellies
children went off to bed
but th’ dust never really settled

th’ difference between a tear and a laugh at bedtime
came more from th’ stomach than from th’ heart

and th’ coolness of th’ night was still
but for th’ swirling dust

’cause th’ dust never really settled
on those back roads of virginia
yesterday past

 

wooden nickels

she looked at me through the kindest eyes
that i had ever seen,
and said
“i am flat and i am broke
and tell me,
how’ve you been?”

she said, “i took a wooden nickel
from the last man that i met,
but the indian died
on the heads-up side
and it’s all that i could get.”

“well, i’ll tell you what
my lady friend,”
i said,
with tongue in cheek,
“there’s a little bar just around th’ bend
let’s go find us a seat.”

then i pulled a wooden nickel
with a buffalo on one side
and said,
“have one on me,
cause can’t you see
the indian has already died.”

i said, “indian chiefs on wooden nickels
are something we no longer need
and that buffalo on the other side—
it’s long been a dying breed.
so don’t take any wooden nickels
that’s my advice to you,
other than that you’re on your own
to do what you can do.”

she walked away
with tears in her eyes
the nickel tightly clutched in her fist
and said, “i’ll keep this nickel if you don’t mind
i’m sure it won’t be missed.”

so i gave her my last wooden nickel
and as she left i heard her say,
“shame on us that the indian died
on the heads-up side
and the buffalo ran away.”

 

white roses in november

when i was small and not yet secure
i saw a sign that said go this way not that
but i never cared for signs
so i made my way to willow street
where no willows grew
but the sky was filled with sparkling diamonds

i waited for the bus
and chose instead to walk when it arrived
because it was going to the corner
where johnny appleseed spread his legend
like some pied piper of apple orchards
where the branches of trees bowed low

apples are overrated but tasty
but i was hungry for anything else
and apples were not to my liking
except on tuesday when the swallows arrived
and people stood at the intersection
of cement and red dry dirt
to catch a glimpse of a dying breed

where did the day go when i tucked it away
and found that it was a week
on a calendar page filled with novembers
and red numbers where importance rested
for those who felt that monday mattered
or that yesterday actually happened

i have stood on many corners since tomorrow
blended together to become next week
while the drum major lifted his legs high
unaware that no band followed
and the avenue went nowhere anyway

if not for white horses i would have cried
or perhaps i did
it is all a blur now that the door has closed
and the man took away my dignity
before i knew what the word meant

i wish he had stepped out before closing the door
perhaps then life would make sense
and my heart would know how to love
as i clutch white roses in november