February 12, 2020 § Leave a comment
Nature paints a violent portrait
In a thick impasto of worried gray, bruised maroon, frigid blue
Gulls get stuck in the oil
Invisible wind punishes the sea grass
And blows sand onto the canvas
Blending with the palette’s tortured colors
Half a tube of titanium is squeezed
To frost the curling surf
Endless coils of leaden thunder break
In silence behind rain distorted glass
The stormy world melts with a Van Gogh eye
December 4, 2019 § Leave a comment
I bought myself a parrot
A kaleidoscope of tropical hues
Bleeding from jungle flowers
I tried to teach her to talk:
“Pieces of Eight”
“I love you”
“Scotch and soda”
She just squawks
She flaps her clipped wings
She makes a mess
Yet each time I try,
Each time I try returning her to the pet store,
She talks me out of it
November 12, 2019 § Leave a comment
Whenever I have a bout of insomnia I try to make the best use of my time. I usually try and sort things out that I have been ruminating on during the day. But I never accomplish much. Moreover, it is very dangerous. Although I am conscious of being awake, I think my subconscious is more active than I realize and I can’t form coherent thoughts. You can’t trust what your mind tells you in this state. It must be what a schizophrenic experiences when a shadowy character in his head tells him that nothing good will ever happen and he should go jump off a building. If you make it through the night things always look better in the morning. Even still, insomnia is a miserable way to spend the evening.
Seven shards of moonlight
Shimmer on the sill
Brittle as silver ice
Shaved from a frozen block of midnight
Ghosts pace their cells
Behind glowing bars
Sliced from brutal street lamps
By Venetian blades
Never welcome 3 A.M.
Or shake her sable hand
She tricks you into talking
In dark, spinning circles while she snores to mock you
Four turns five in nine chimes
Wood grain drinks the melting ice, ghosts go free
The Angel of Dawn descends
And slowly stretches out on the carpet
October 31, 2019 § Leave a comment
I compose a humble prayer for rain
The paper drinks my ballpoint dry
Below a sheet of baking tin
In the steaming thicket locusts drone
Like monks they murmur
Invocations for a cool shower?
Who knows what locusts want.
Locusts are always hungry
“They will cry out with shouts of victory”
A plague of drought descended earlier
It’s too too late for supper
Our crops wither
Down the highway rolls the swarm
Gnawing tires whine and hum
Off to McDonald’s or the markets?
God knows what humans do.
I check my empty refrigerator again
The air is cool like a cloudless sky
Above a sheet of baking tin
My prayer for rain remains unanswered
September 6, 2019 § Leave a comment
Flames in your eyes
Black gunpowder, short fuse
Built for beauty, for speed
Waiting to go up in smoke
One spark is all
Bottle to be strong
Wake up you lazy Guardians
Will you sleep too through this blast?
Prepare a room in Father’s house
Here comes another bottle rocket
Exploding into night
March 6, 2019 § Leave a comment
When I first met Bernard I thought, judging from the dark smudge on his forehead, that I had missed Ash Wednesday. And for an instant I found myself in that terrifying world of dementia, an ugly, swirling world of lost moments and strangers with strange voices, a world where my mother had been spending more and more her time. The strong grip of Bernard’s handshake quickly restored my senses and transformed the dark, liturgical blemish into some sort of birthmark with irregular edges.
Bernard dealt in antiquities not antiques, my sister had joked, but antiquities; he worked in the admissions office of Oak Grove Retirement Community helping elderly clients in their transition from independence to assisted living.
He arrived on the front porch of the house in which I grew up and was preparing to sell with a briefcase full of brochures and paperwork. I invited him in and led the way to the sun room in back of the house through a maze of packed boxes and furniture wrapped in stretch film and moving blankets. I made him comfortable and went to the kitchen to pour coffee.
I returned to find Bernard sitting in front of documents neatly spread out on mother’s prized glass-topped table presumably in the order in which they were to be presented. It was a beautiful day and the sun streaming in through the windows reflected brightly off the gloss of an Oak Grove pamphlet.
Bernard tapped lightly on the table’s surface, “In my home country, it is popular with tourists to go for an excursion in a glass-bottomed boat to see the coral reefs and colorful fish without the need for diving.”
I stared through the table and tried to imagine the beauty of Neptune’s aquatic kingdom but could only see a tile floor in desperate need of sweeping. I looked back up at Bernard’s beaming smile as if he was pleased to share a wonder with me.
“This process I know is very difficult but I will help you and your family through it,” he assured me while unfolding some of the community’s literature and sliding it under my nose like a menu.
For many years after my father had died mother continued on with the diurnal routines of the retired: gardening, church, choir, volunteering for charity work. If during this time she had experienced episodes brought about by diminished cognizance it is not certain.
However, one afternoon she drove her Lincoln through the Buchanan’s boxwood hedge and onto the front lawn because she claimed it was the parking lot of her podiatrist’s office. This embarrassing event culminated with a visit to a neurologist who gave us a grim diagnosis.
Once dependent on others for transportation her activities dropped off. My sister and I took turns getting her to church, although a few mornings I would arrive at the house to find her still in bed. And once, on a Friday evening during a routine check-in, I found her waiting by the door dressed in her Sunday best and fuming that we would be late for the processional hymn.
Dick Dillon, organist and choir director, called me at work to say mother was no longer able to read the music on the page and insisted on singing an old show tune.
The worst of it came one night when a frantic message from my sister summonsed me over to mother’s. When I let myself in she called to me from the darkened sun room where she had taken refuge on a chaise lounge. The windows around her were like slabs of slick onyx. She had pulled her sweater around knees like a teenager curled into a ball of insecurity and her eyes were puffy and red. She had raided my stash of beer that I kept in a mini-fridge in the garage and two empty cans were on the floor beside her.
Before I sat down I asked if I needed to get a beer for myself before she told what had happened.
That night, while preparing for bed, mother had spoken to a woman in the bathroom mirror. That woman had told her she was going to die and be judged for terrible sins.
“That’s what mom said,” my sister told me in a quavering voice, ‘she pointed into the mirror and said it just like that.”
She apologized for drinking my beer but that she desperately needed something to soothe her nerves and that the first one tasted so good she had another.
“This is all very natural,” Bernard reassured me while we went over the benefits and amenities of Oak Grove before moving on to the legal documents. “Your mother will have the best of care and be with people of her generation. That will be fun for her. And don’t worry, with the house sold there will be plenty of funds to cover expenses.”
While Bernard spoke and shuffled papers I gazed at his birthmark. I wanted to see it once again as an ashen cross.
January 3, 2019 § Leave a comment
We know how Red feels
The more it is touched
But how does Red taste?
Like blood? The blood of Christ?
Ruby Bordeaux with a ribeye
Red and blue coalesce into luxurious purple
The palatine shade of sovereign indulgence
Red meat on the bone and exclusive vintages
The color of a pulsing vein
Engorged with warm, hot, inflamed
November 2, 2018 § Leave a comment
A bright light in the Texas sky over Walmart. Also, spoke that guy in German. Joyce filled Ulysses with enough symbols and metaphors to keep readers busy for years and criticized critics who criticized him for his lack of prudence and restraint for being puzzle wits. How does one reach a puzzle wit who tosses your masterpiece aside for a fast paced bit of pulp fiction? Is the author responsible for edification or entertainment? A concertina is limited but can still play a memorable tune whereas the extended range of a clarinet playing Schoenberg is ignored and from it a hasty retreat is made. The bright light in the sky over Walmart advertised a special on bratwurst. Sausage is a popular menu item at a Texas barbecue restaurant. It is has lineage to early German and Czech settlers who got lost on their way to Midwest homesteads. Just like Ulysses. Well, sort of. I wouldn’t know for sure because I am a puzzle wit who tossed the novel aside to watch the Dallas Cowboys. My mother’s family is from Texas but are not German or Irish like the brilliant James Joyce. Or, for that matter, Czech like Kafka who said of Ulysses, “one should not write while drinking.” Kafka was an Eastern European puzzle wit who might have benefited from the vitamin D in the Texas sun but he would have found the sausage too spicy, probably.
July 5, 2018 § 1 Comment
I’m the lonely veggie sandwich on the catering tray
No one wants to eat me and I’ll just get thrown away
Despite my zesty pesto and portobello meat
Ham and Swiss that old standby on rye is hard to beat
Grilled on open charcoal my zucchini hits that spot
Yet pastrami gets the attention with mustard that is hot
The tuna and the turkey breast are popular indeed
Even though I’m served on bread topped with pumpkin seed
Roast beef with smoked cheddar is a hearty midday meal
Yet somehow roasted peppers carry no appeal
Even the egg salad fills a culinary niche
Like curry chicken salad wraps, I might as well just be a quiche
Regardless of my first-rate healthy lifestyle cachet
I’m the lonely veggie sandwich who will be thrown away