DO AS I SAY

Eat your vegetables,
Don’t ever run with scissors,
Clean your room,
Always wear clean underwear,
Comb your hair every morning,
Always say please and thank you,
Always listen to adults, they know more,
Be nice to animals and small children,
Clean your room,
Don’t go in the water for an hour after eating,
Polish your shoes,
Don’t play with sticks, you could put an eye out,
Clean your room,
Clear the dishes off the table,
Get plenty of sleep,
Clean your room.

And despite so very often not
listening mother, here I am
still getting by in this world,
although my room is still messy.

SEASONS

Here we measure seasons
by small changes in temperature
and for one, heavy rainfall.

We are the calendar reliant,
otherwise left to look at the moon
and count to ascertain roughly

what month it might be, but
we now live in a solar calendar
world so our lunar efforts
are necessarily doomed to failure.

And holidays are different here,
Christmas has no snow,
so we decorate our palms
and perhaps have inflatable
snowmen or reindeer, and hang
icicles from our gutters as
a reminder of what winter
is for so many other than us.

IN A HIDDEN CORNER

As stars go, of course
it is rather nondescript,
small, middle aged
stuck in a distant corner
of a not all that
impressive galaxy.

Yet each morning
it sweeps the sky
storing all of its kin,
even the biggest
and brightest, into
its own celestial closet
where they will
remain locked away
until it decides
it needs a rest
and lets them return
to once again
paint the sky.

SHEEPISH

As a child, when I
had trouble falling asleep
my mother would trot out
the ancient saw and tell me
to just count sheep.

I tried to point out
to her that we lived
in an upscale suburb
and there were no sheep
for miles for me to count.

This hardly deterred her
and she repeated her
directions, in a stronger
tone of voice that she thought
brooked no argument.

I did try counting sheep
but still couldn’t sleep
given my congestion
and sneezing from what
I learned was a wool allergy.

JEALOUSY (AGAIN)

We are jealous of trees,
anchored as we are
to a grasping earth,
able to tear free only
momentarily or with
the help of machines,

for trees can approach
the clouds, swaddle
all manner of birds,
and, we are certain,
know heaven more
intimately than we can.

And trees are jealous
of birds, able to fly
well above their highest
branches, knowing
the true blue of the sky
and the verdant base
from which they took flight.

Just for the fun of it I asked ChatGPT to write a poem on this topic. Here is its effort:

In envy we gaze upon the sky, Watching birds soar with such grace and ease, Their wings taking them to places high, Leaving us on the ground to freeze.

We long to join them in their flight, To feel the wind beneath our wings, To escape the troubles of our plight, And spread our arms to feel the fling.

But alas, we are not meant to fly, Our feet firmly planted on the earth, While birds glide through the clouds on high, Showing us the true meaning of worth.

We may be jealous of their freedom, But let us not forget our own, For we have the ability to dream, And make our own paths to be shown.

So let us not dwell on jealousy, For we too have our own unique gifts, Let us embrace our humanity, And find joy in the life we’re given

HARLECH CASTLE

I stood on the ramparts
that cold, wet morning
looking out over the waiting
Irish Sea, this day offering
only rain and a November chill.

Write haiku, she said to us
and I thought of Basho
and Issu who never stood
on a 13th Century Welsh
fortress and never imagined
writing about Llywelyn
great or not nearly so.

In the rain and chill
I scribbled furiously,
retreated to the outer ward
where I was joined
by a fellow poet who
suggested that a tea
in the village would
please even old Basho.

CHASING NO MORE

I have to admit that I
loved the Grateful Dead
saw them in concert when I could,
listened often but could never
be considered a Deadhead.

Years later my sons and I
loved Moxy Früvous and
traveled to nearby shows,
bought every album, played
them to death so we were
justifiably FrüHeads.

But time has passed, that band
is now gone as well, and I
have taken to drinking margaritas,
but only with anejo tequila,
Cointreau and lime juice and I
will never ever be mistaken
for a Parrothead.

POSER

For unknown reasons I
was told I was going to
sit for a portrait by a well
known local artist.

It was a gift, so I had
little choice but to accept,
and so I sat on a chair
frozen in place.

I asked how long it
would take and he replied
“Not more than four sittings
and then I can go to work.”

I pointed out that like
a Buddhist river, I could
never pose the same way
twice, each time would be different.

He smiled and said
the painting would be
a Post-modernist
so my pose hardly mattered.

SMALL REFLECTION

It is that moment when the moon
is a glaring crescent,
slowly engulfed by
the impending night—
when the few clouds give out
their fading glow
in the jaundiced light
of the sodium arc street lamp.
It nestles the curb—at first a small bird—
when touched, a twisted piece of root.

I want to walk into the weed-strewn
aging cemetery, stand in the shadow
of the expressway, peel
the uncut grass from around her headstone.
I remember
her arthritic hands clutching mine,
in her dark, morgueish apartment, smelling
of vinyl camphor borsht.
I saw her last in a hospital bed
where they catalog and store
those awaiting death, stared
at the well-tubed skeleton
barely indenting starched white sheets.
She smiled wanly and whispershouted
my name—I held my ground
unable to cross the river of years
unwilling to touch
her outstretched hand. She had
no face then, no face now, only
an even fainter smell of age
of camphor of lilac of must.

Next to the polished headstone
lies a small, twisted root.
I wish it were a bird
I could place gently
on the lowest branch of the old maple
that oversees her slow departure.

First published in Rattle #23, Spring 2005

PURPOSES

Life, she said, is all about
finding purpose not things.

It was hard to argue with her,
as she overwhelmed with examples.

Rice filling a small bowl
holds an incense stick up

and catches the ashes
as they fall quietly down..

A cracked plate can sit
under a plant, catching

any overflow from its
careful daily watering.

And old fleece jacket can
be desleeved and become

the cat’s new favorite bed,
moved around for novelty.

He always wondered how
she would repurpose him

when the time came.