william

sometimes things are not as they seem. i met william in a nondescript park setting many years ago while handing out bologna and cheese sandwiches to those who had no bologna and cheese sandwiches. he was grateful. i was inspired. thank you william.

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william

.

his notepad was wet and stained
from tear drops and blowing rain
still void of words he wished to someday say
.
the lead in his pencil was dull and round
no longer making that scratching sound
because life and loss had gotten in his way
.
he had circled around life one day at a time
with poetry and music blending in his head
but now, for weeks on end nothing would rhyme
and the sound of the music was dead
.
one day he crawled beneath the park bench
a place he had for so long called his home
with his blunt pencil he scribbled lines of feeling so alone

his final lines became his epitaph
to be spoken in the little non-denominational church
by the lakeside park and winding path

“i asked for little
and i got the same
but more little than i knew you had

please remember when i tell you
that the gap between little and nothing
left me with nothing from the little you had

i was left with fewer words than you could ever know
so please never let another poet die
before it’s his time to go”

the pastor closed his book and looked to the gathered few
most of whom knew only the man’s name
and of the tedious tasks he could do

to each was given a folded paper
as the pastor continued to speak

.
“this folded paper you have been given
is from william, his last work when he was living

you see, william felt he had a terrible stain
and now asks whether you or i can do more
to help lonely poets who die in the rain

with dull pencils and wet pads
he made these lines from his heart
and each was signed with sincerity on his part
.

those who had gathered were surprised
and when they unfolded the pieces of paper
tears welled in their eyes

.
“william spoke his epitaph to me”, the pastor explained
“for you see, this poet whose thoughts you have all heard
yearned to write not just lines but even real words
.
but all he could manage were scribbles and tears
an illiterate man, he told no one all through the years
so, when you think of this man and the words you desired
remember his lines and how your hearts were inspired

 

to william:
a man of few words
yet none

his story

 

a man sleeping on bench done
his story
 
two tattered brown suitcases at his feet
rested more comfortably than he could
shifting, he stretched out on the wooden bench
 
rain-soaked and cold
he pulled newspaper pages over his body
headlines of city news and local disappointments
 
obituaries no longer mattered
only names and vanity photos with short verses
and lies of how their lives might have been
 
no one page was warmer than another
there was no heart in wedding announcements
no spiritual awakening in church listings
 
it was cold, tuesday in late november
pages of the yadkin ripple lay draped over his face
yet he had not read any, words were but a blur
 
he wondered about life, listening to words he spoke
curious about choices he made, turns he had taken
there were no photographs of his life, no events
 
only two tattered brown suitcases knew his story
the places he had seen, the lies he had told
the bedrooms he had passed through to bring him here
 
he pulled another page to his eyes, covering his face
looking closely at wedding announcements and obituaries
wondering if he had yet made the news in either
 
 
tolbert
 

**i sent a note to the yadkin ripple letting them know i was using
their name here. i now say ‘thank you’ in advance.

captivated

captivated

maybe it was her smile
maybe the way she rested
holding the tree steady
as if the world could breathe
when she relaxed

i suppose i will never know if she saw me
camera in hand, panning
as though following some imaginary deer
fleeing the shaded cool
as easily as i followed her
in her stillness

her lightness was measured in
some way i could never explain
lifted by her smile
as if my own burden escaped me
for a moment

laughter has never come easily for me
yet for a moment the effervesce
bubbling from within
seemed familiar
and i wanted it as my own

the conversant sound of my camera’s click
as i quickly gathered her
into my own piece of forever
told me she was as real
as the tree against which she rested

her smile became my own
and as i walked away
a young doe pounced from the bushes
but i had no need for a photo

i looked back at the tree

                                                                 tolbert

 

(photo of rita    carlsbad, CA   november 2018)

 

 

one-way street

you stood right there
sat on that chair
walked beside me
then without words
without goodbye
you were gone

i stood right there
sat on that chair
walked beside you
wishing for words
even to say good bye
but instead
you were gone

i once broke life into years
then months
weeks
and finally, hours and minutes
until i stood alone
waiting

we had no guarantees
and all measured time
was broken into fragments
memories and word pictures
of empty chairs
wreckage where goodbye
belonged

while i stood alone, waiting
you were gone
without goodbye
you were gone
and life was as i thought

a one-way street

old red flatbed truck

old red truck

 

 

old red flatbed truck

it was just an old red flatbed truck
sitting lifeless and still
no one had ever claimed it
probably no one ever will

it would probably never run again
obviously, it hadn’t run for awhile
still i wondered where it had been
over the years and over the miles

i saw a reflection in the glass
turns out the reflection was only me
so i wondered about my years and miles
and what a passer-by would see

i am so much like that old red truck
and i feel quite lifeless and growing tired
stuck in a field of weeds and trees
tires deflated and sinking in mire

freddie the happy hippie

Years ago there was a man who sang from the back of his pick up truck…while it was being driven along Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, And yes, he played his piano as he sang. I’m not sure I ever saw a man with a bigger smile as he sang…out of key.

.

.

freddie the happy hippie

.

freddie played his yamaha upright piano
mostly airplane and grateful dead
while brenda drove past fisherman’s wharf
and little melanie slept in her crib-like bed

.
the old pick-up truck served the family well
as they never had to be apart
and brenda heard her husband’s songs
when he played and sang from his heart

.
he didn’t sound much like jerry garcia
and certainly not like gracie slick
but he belted out every song he sang
and he had plenty from which to pick

.
freddie was a happy hippie
and made brenda a delighted bride
and little melanie grew up laughing loud
cause she had a lot of love planted inside

.
who knows what happened to the piano
who knows where the old truck is now
somehow i can still hear ol’ freddie
the happy hippie still being a clown

.
so today when you think of sadness
and things have pulled you down
play a little grateful dead real loud
and see brenda driving freddie around

 paul and gustopher

paul and gustopher

folks around the pier called him paul
though they didn’t really know his name or
how he came to live where the pier meets
with the boardwalk

they knew only one thing for sur
he had a dog, big mutt
named gustopher or gus
laid around mostly and never barked
those days were behind him

ate better than paul
though they didn’t really know his name
locals bought him pretzels and corn dogs
gus loved them
paul broke them and gus got the larger part

paul knew some things about himself
gus knew only that he  was tired
and the race was on
with an undetermined finish line
the end of the pier seemed so far away
so they slept
where the pier meets with the boardwalk

paul laid down  on thursay
cold november night
and there
where the pier meets with the boardwalk
he took his last breath
so gustopher laid with him and quietly died
he was tired
and half of his heart had died

anyway

Joshua

Joshua was a Boston Terrier. Eleven years
old and yet still an opinionated puppy with
lots of attitude.

He made an impression and when he went away,
he left that mark with me.

We lost Joshua on Wednesday, November 6th.

He had won his battle with lung cancer two years
ago but now tests revealed a massive tumor on his
liver and it proved to be inoperable so this time, he
lost and consequently, we lost.

At first, I wrote this as if it was a lost love, a woman
who simply walked away but I have learned that when
your heart is broken, you have to go with the truth.

So Joshua…this is for you.

 

joshua in prescott small

 

joshua

pieces of memories are gone

that bed where you slept

pillows with your scent

the places we laid around when
there was enough rain falling outside
to keep us inside

the path we walked some mornings
just when the sun was rising
making us protect our eyes

i never wanted you to shield yours

but one time
one time
you looked at me
and i knew it was goodbye

never had i seen you wearing
goodbye
in your eyes

but
like all things you wore
you wore it well

salvation shoes

salvation shoes

 
just before tossing his white tennis shoes
into a green city-managed dumpster
he looked to the heavens and said a quiet prayer
 
barefooted he walked away
having one fewer encumbrance now
and left with only the clothes on his back
 
he spoke louder than he knew
angrier and sadder at how his life had ended
“ended”, he smiled as he heard the word
 
he remembered the white tennis shoes
and the day he bought them,
the day he took his first step in them
 
“first step”, he said aloud.
with that, he remembered his children
as their voices crowded his out
 
returning, the old man rummaged
through the green city-managed dumpster
looking for white tennis shoes
 
placing the shoes on his feet
he smiled, and with a quiet whisper, said…
“salvation comes from the strangest places.”