Tuesday, January 12, 2010

winter in McAllen

(click photo to enlarge)

on one of those
rarest of days
in McAllen, Texas
when winter
has descended
ever so briefly
on the town

leaving lush
tropical plants
burned and blackened
(like no summer heat
can do)

the air is palpable
crisp and
deliciously cold
on church-going

(the church-goers
all safely bundled
against any more
serious exposure)

the sun still shines
(brighter it seems
than in summer)
and flaunts itself
high in the sky
well out of
winter's reach...

* * * * * * *


(click on photo to enlarge)

his black is the black
of the beady eyes
of well-loved
but long-lost
childhood teddy bears

shiny as if
he'd polished each hair
in the early morning
promise of the day

a lustrous compilation
too beautiful
to be called
merely a "coat"
much too elegant
to be called "fur"

the envy of
the prince of darkness
Ben is dressed
in a garment
fitting to his station---
the cat who came
to visit
several halloweens ago
and decided not to leave

he condescends
to appear
from his private feline
hiding places
only when
the laundry
(especially the white
is done
and warm and
on the table
waiting to be folded

because of his beauty
(and great conceit)
Ben never imagines
that this blatant interference
with the hoped-for
household order
may not be
happily embraced...

* * * * * * *

Sunday, January 10, 2010

origami birds

like a second-hand
found trampled
on the floor
at an estate sale
her pages
are folded back
upon themselves
over and over
like so many
origami birds
without flight
without life

words trapped
inside the creases
and folds
her clumsy hands
trying to shape
a sanctuary

refuge somehow
turned to jail
home-made solitary
confinement with
no escape
no parole
crumpled paper birds
crushed against the bars...

* * * * * * *

turning seventy (or not)

This is something I wrote when my friend, Linda Sue, was 55 (more than a few years back) and her son, Erik, was 15. My view of 70 is much different now than it was at 50!

do you realize---
my dear girl
that when your son
has doubled his age
you will be seventy?

he will have a wife
(or not)
several children
all tow-headed and lovely
(or not)
and you will be seventy
(or not)

you might be dead instead
and flying freely among the stars
or riding without a saddle
in a flea circus somewhere
grinning and singing
and leaving the ghost of joy
in your wake

something for the living
to catch in their hands
like fireflies
and crush to their hearts
in remembrance of you

(or not)

you might be alive
and sitting with me
somewhere between
cat spring and utopia
before a dancing fire
smiling at the memory
of all those times
we killed ourselves
using only pens, paper
and dark imaginations

happy now
that we never really
took the leap
or took ourselves
too seriously

your hair a sterling silver
mine dyed a rusty red
we'd breakfast on blackberries
that the bears had overlooked
and wait for your son
and those tow-headed
kids of his
to come knocking
on our door...

(or not)

* * * * * * *

Saturday, January 9, 2010

twitter speak

Twitter is one of the most popular means of "social networking" these days. In case you haven't heard, any message you put on twitter has to be 140 characters (including spaces between words) or less. A while ago, someone asked "tweeters" to submit poems that fell within the 140 character limit. Here are a few that I came up with:

life can be joyful
life can be sweet
it's much better shared
so you might as well tweet


life can be cruel
life can be bitter
for some comic relief
i'll see you on twitter


perhaps i don't know you
and we'll never meet
but i still love you
so just watch me tweet


here's some advice
that bears repeating
if you want to be cool
you'd better start tweeting


life's not too bad
but it could be sweeter
i fell down the stairs and
broke my damned tweeter!

* * * * * * * *

Friday, January 8, 2010

fall into winter

day breaks gray
fall's gentle chill
hardening into
a bite
by three pm


summer finally rests
curled up
cozily somewhere
with a good book
or on vacation
on the world's
lower east side...

* * *

lurks always
behind the facade of
spring and summer
and even brother fall

jealously demanding
angry at being
the least loved

stretching out
icy fingers
to grasp at
happy hearts...

* * * * * * *

the god of winter

It's very cold in deep south
Texas tonight---a place noted
more for its totally uncalled for
summer heat. They say it may
freeze tonight. The following is
from another winter here, eight
years ago.

I rush from my car
to reach the refuge
of my cozy little house

wind blows coldness
up against my soul
layers and layers
of clothing
skin and bone and fat
no defense against this
biting visitor

trampling downcast leaves
beneath my feet
golden yellow
mottled brown
discouraged green
I hurry up the path
but still can't help
but notice

the butter yellow
papaya flowers fallen
sadly to the ground
potential destroyed
fruit unborn
sacrificed on an icy altar
to the cruel god of winter...

* * * * * * *

she held her god so close

(click photo to enlarge)

she held onto her god
with a simple faith
and abiding trust
that withstood everything
the world had done to her

she was battered
and scarred
and had even lost
large pieces of her self

yet she never wavered
in her love of god---
it was carved in stone

others looked on her
with pity---
she seemed to them
a tragic victim---
and they
looked away
never seeing
the sweetness
of her smile
as she held
her god so close...

* * * * * * *

This charming (but crumbling) monument is in one of the small cemeteries along the highway between McAllen and Rio Grande City, Texas. In case you can't tell by the photo, one of her legs is missing and the object that she's clutching is a broken cross.

These old grave yards are filled with a wide variety of fascinating monuments, ranging from the simplest possible wooden cross, to large concrete guardian angels, and everything imaginable in-between.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

doing dishes

This was inspired by a friend, a much older woman, who had endured a fifty year marriage. She had a bit of a temper, and there were just times...well, when she found it extremely helpful to hurl a dish against the stone wall of her little house. She told me that she'd buy cheap plates at the thrift store, just to have them on hand for this purpose so she wouldn't have to waste her good ones.

go break a dish
go throw a dish
against the wall
and let it shower
you in a satisfying
barrage of destruction

you can't take your life
(or your marriage)
and hurl it with all
your might
against a wall
or throw it over a cliff
or put it down the garbage disposal

so, go throw a dish
or two or three
or more
and enjoy what you can...

* * * * * * *

best friends

and so they jumped
off the golden gate
knowing they'd meet again
maybe in hell
maybe in a movie
or maybe in a book

like thelma and louise
they were outlaws
but just hadn't broken
any laws yet
except the unwritten law
which says
you must be good girls
you must be bland girls
you must be
life support systems
for the only thing you own
that really matters

and so they jumped
off the golden gate
leaving giant bras
and licorice cats
and fountain pens
and plastic dishes
and old old dolls
and mountains
of things behind them
their legacy of things collected
piled up around them
as the emptiness stayed
inside them...

* * * * * * *

Back in 2002, my friend Linda Sue,
who lives at the opposite end of
the country, and I exchanged a ton
of emails, playing with poetry, testing
our wings. We both bought and sold
things on ebay, like the things mentioned
in the poem and we were both inveterate
collectors of all manner of junk! Neither one
of us ever intended real suicide.

for a connection

daunted by
the empty expanse
of a book
i'm supposed to fill
i realize
that i've become
a creature
of the computer
addicted to sending off
bits and pieces
of my small
knowing there's
a human heart
waiting somewhere
to receive them

before i wrote
only for me
thoughts committed
only to myself
words arranged
like so much
of my accumulated
treasured junk
in a way
pleasing only
to my lonely eyes
meaningful only
to my solitary heart

remembered images
feelings pushed down
dredged up
words playfully
put down on paper
a childish amusement

in love
with the shapes
crafted by
my own hand
pretty flamboyant
letters boldly
across the page
pledged to
staying the same
witnesses to
my having been

but now this
creature i've become
has thrown over
her own pretty hand
in favor of
thoughts and words
dancing merrily
across a screen
blurted out
for someone else
her own posterity
sacrificed gladly
for a connection...

* * * * * * *

This was inspired by a
lovely blank journal I
received as a birthday gift
several years ago. I confess
that it's as empty as the day
I received it.

blankety blank

blankety blank
blank email
i feel like an oracle
trying to discern
the meaning
from a plain white page
without benefit
of a safety net
or those helpful
little marks
very much
like these
that make meaning
so much more clear

my mind is cloudy enough
my spirit in question
how can i guess
from all the things
to guess about
to wonder about
to ponder about
in this world
and the mysterious
world of e
what meaning is meant
what message is sent
by a blank page?

am i to cast the runes
stir the leaves left
in my cup of tea
rattle some bones
and throw them
at the screen
to read the message there?

what o what is meant
when blankety blanks
are sent?

my powers are great
i know my vision
ranges far
but how o how
to know for sure
what's really in the cards
when those blankety blanks

* * * * * * *

(This was my response to a blank email I received from my good friend, Mary Ann back in 2002. She subsequently filled in the blanks).

preparing to leave me

the old, old woman
my friend
forgets to remember
more every day

talking like dreaming---
scraps of what's real
all stirred up
with things
that never were

doves in her mind
beating their wings
the pieces of her life
the sticky notes pasted
on the woman
she once was

she talks
and talks
her strong contralto
now breathy
and wavering

a haphazard tear
forms and rolls
ever so slowly
down her velvet cheek
once artfully painted
now exposed

her pride put aside
her wispy white hair
glittering silver still
hangs lank
and unattended
like a garden
of memories forgotten

she looks at me
and clutches my hand
for a moment
as if to anchor
us to the present

then she tells me
about the friend
she once had
a long time ago
never suspecting
that I'm the one
she's talking about

"oh, the times
we had together"
she says
her eyes young
and bright

i nod and
i smile and think,
"oh, the times
we had together

she loves
my memory
but she doesn't
know me
i've been fixed
in her mind
in another time

i mourn her passing
even as she talks on
to leave me...

* * * * * * *


i like to look at
all the old dolls
with glassy eyes
and fixed expressions
pretty dolls
once loved
for their beauty

cold dolls
without life
they started out empty
but somehow
as the years went by
they absorbed pieces
of the souls
of the ones who
loved them

and now
deep inside them
hidden safe from human eyes
they guard
a spirit of their own
a composite
of the little girls
grown old
who had to leave them

* * * * * * *

Monday, January 4, 2010

the poetry closet

(click on photo to enlarge)

i opened the door
of the closet
taking care
not to awaken
the sleeping voice
of a rusty hinge
making sure
there was nothing
too dangerous
lurking outside
waiting to
snap me up
crush me
grind me
into pulp
in the grip
of yellow teeth

my hiding place
was dark
filled with the
musty odor
of poems
too long
held inside
and the
dusty air
made it hard
for me
to breathe

through the
tiny opening
i quickly noticed
that there
seemed to be
nothing or no one
paying the
slightest attention
to that
closet door

so, with only
the slightest hesitation
i threw
the door open
letting the light
pour in
on me
and the
dusty treasures
i had guarded
for so long

then i stepped
in the most
determined way
out of that
(or had it
been a prison?)
and came
out of the closet
at last...

* * * * * * *

Sunday, January 3, 2010

green stamps

she dreamed of redemption
wondering if she could
dig out all her old memories
(nearly forgotten
in a drawer somewhere
and discolored
with age
some of them stuck
together in layers)
and like so many
S & H green stamps
put them all together
in neat little books
and trade them in
for something better...

* * * * * *

For of those of you too young to
remember, green stamps
were given away at grocery stores,
gas stations, and the like back in
the fifties and sixties. People
saved them up and redeemed them
for all sorts of useful (and not so
useful) things.

roses again

her petals had fallen
but her spirit still rose
at the drop
of a leaf
the flight of a raven
the scent of wood smoke
through her soul

the chill of autumn
promising more
the turning
of seasons
reminding her
of seasons turning
the passing away
of summer's dubious gifts
and resurrection
of calmness
and quiet

rose hips
promising more
roses would bloom
and then blow away
petals dropping
spirits rising
roses again...

* * * * * * *

the goldfish

i planted him today
fishy eye
staring as usual
how horrible
to spend your life
unable to shut out
or to sleep in darkness

but he sleeps in
the dark now
along with a cousin of his
beneath a bristly fern
ready to give
what is left
of himself
to a new life
just beginning

his body swims in
the dirt now
once-fluid tail
stiffened like
a corn husk
once-glimmering armor
tarnished and dull

out of his element
out of his body
I wonder if he's
paddling serenely
somewhere now
without the
little oars
he left behind...

* * * * * * *

Saturday, January 2, 2010

tea towel blues

yeah, i got the tea towel blues
wondering who needs such things
so badly
and charming little
doggy and sailor
laundry bags
to give
to their wonderful
child who's going away
to college
never to return
to mama's lap again
only to discover
drugs and alcohol
and sexually transmitted

but let's be nice
and make our little play
worlds cuter
and more reassuring
by feathering our little
with all manner of things
no bird would have

let's listen to the buena vista
social club sing lushly
romantic bluesy
cigarette smokey roomy
cuban songs
with voices
polished by

and let's be happy
for the small things
while they last
while we're here
and there
and still able
to feel...

* * * * * * *

sometimes ever after

This is about a place that my dear friend, Linda Sue, and I dreamed about going to in August, 2002.

They carried their bags
full of rocks and seashells,

driftwood and ocean-polished glass
and their shoes full of sand home,

where they decided to make
a magical wall with what

they had found on the beach.

It wouldn't be high, 

just a demarcation
of their territory,
a notice to all that this was theirs.

The magic would keep out
anyone who did not possess a key
to their minds and hearts,
but would allow entry to all

who aspired to gentleness,
who practiced kindness,
who spoke softly and let
their dogs carry the big sticks
for them.

Cats of every color
would sit on the wall,
and sleep on it,
and sing on it at night,
celebrating the moon
and their catness,
eyes glowing in the dark
with visions human eyes
failed to perceive,
feelings human hearts
could not contain.

People would sit there too,
and drink champagne from
chipped coffee mugs
and talk about
a different world,
a beautiful place
and laugh and pet the cats
and hope to live
happily sometimes
ever after...

* * * * * *

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