A VISION

He loved the simple irony of it all. His vision was failing in one eye, likely might in the other, from macular degeneration. There was a hole in his vision thanks to his macula and geographic atrophy. And being a man of words he knew the best way to describe that spot, that hole, was to say his vision was maculate. It was just the most immaculate description he could imagine.

WORKSHOP

Grace settles into the chair,
less an act of sitting than
of floating down onto the seat.
She has borrowed my grandmother’s
smile, kind, gentle, inviting.
She pulls a book from her bag,
its pages or most of them
dog eared, and I glimpse
some annotations in the margins.
We sit around her like children
awaiting presents on a holiday,
as acolytes seeking knowledge
from a font of poetic and prosaic
wisdom, or so we think.
She reads in a voice that is
at once soft and loud enough
to reach the back of the room,
opening the book to a random
page and diving in, then after
what seems like a minute and
an hour, she stops and asks
for questions. We sit dumbstruck
for a moment then fire at her
like machine gunners on the range.
She answers each, claims she is
a simple grandmother who writes
but we know better, know we
are in the presence of a true master.

DEMANDED TIME

I’ve made a practice
which feels more like a demand,
that each day I take a few
moments or more and stop
whatever else I was, or
should have been, doing
to write a poem.

There are days, perhaps this
one where it seems more
a short bit of prose to which
I have added line breaks
despite the protest
of the words, condemning them
to bear the mockery, and
others when I take a poem,
ignore its inherent rhythm
and pass it off as prose,
that insult remembered,
the words plotting revenge
but lying low, waiting
for the perfect moment
to destroy a poem I know
is worthy of publication.

TOODLE-OO

So, Bly, you have finally
gone and joined the parade,
holding out the longest as though
that was a badge you could
somehow carry out with you.

Take consolation that you
bested Ginsberg and Corso
and even outlasted Ferlinghetti,
though he was giving you
a run for your money.

And Plath, well she
was the first, far too young
everyone said, but now I
am left with the newer
generation and I miss
you old timers, who did not
need to experiment to find
your truth and share it,
but I understand your
reluctance, for I am
all too rapidly, if unwillingly
preparing to join
the parade as well.

YOU, REALLY

Would it surprise you to learn
that like most writers, I
have spent more than a little
guilty time trying to imagine
what you look like, what you know
you should be doing
while you are reading this poem.

And I do wish I couild see
your face as you read it, knowing
it is a conversation where
you want to speak, to tell me
that you like my work, that
reading me is a complete
and utter waste of time,
but you cannot, so I will
conclude that you do like
my work or else you would
not be reading this in the first place.

REAL TIME

Reality is clearly something to be avoided
to be dressed up in tattery, tied in ribbons,
perfumed, yet its fetid stench
is always lurking in the background
waiting to pierce your nostrils
in an incautious moment until you retch
and bring up the bile that marks
the darker moments of your life,
the kind that lingers in the throat
which no chocolate can erase.
Reality is often ugly, so we ignore it
or hide it behind masks, or offer it
willingly to others, a gift in surfeit.
It sneaks up on you, and sets its hook
periodically, and thrashes you at will,
the barb tears through new flesh,
setting itself deeper, intractable.
You and I are dying, as I write,
as you read, an ugly thought
particularly lying in bed
staring into darkness,
no motion or sound from your spouse,
mate, paramour, friend, significant other
or teddy bear, where God
is too busy to respond at the moment
and sleep is perched in the bleachers,
held back by the usher for want
of a ticket stub, content to watch
the game from afar.
I cast ink to paper, an offer of reality
as though the divorce from the words will erase
the little pains and anguishes of our
ever distancing marriage, while
holding vainly onto the warm and sweet,
the far side of the Mobius of reality
(the skunk is at once ugly and soft and caring).
We write of pain, of ugliness, of anger
at terrible lengths, or weave tapestries
of words to cover the flawed, stained walls
of our minds, like so many happy endings,
requisite in the script. Basho
knew only too well that truth of beauty
should be captured in few syllables.

First Appeared in Chaminade Literary Review, Vols. 16-17, Fall 1995.

EMERGENT

When I least expect it, one
may unfurl wings and lift
into a clouded sky searching
for the hidden sun, or

it may wander off, a child
momentarily free of parents
off to discover the real world, or

it may retreat back into
the pen, unwilling to be seen,
objecting to its misuse, or

it may sit in front of the TV
and watch soap operas
and game shows, not caring
what is on the screen, just
escaping from the damned page, or

it may sit still, be tucked away
and hope one day to be accepted
for all the world to see.

WRITE ON

The problem with too many
songwriters these days is
that they either pose a question
but demand answers, or only
partially answer their own question,
leaving the listener to guess
at the balance of the answer.

You are atop my list, sadly,
dear Alanis, for when you ask
if it is ironic, for most
of your examples I must
respond that it is not so.

And Paul, nice song, but
would you care to tell us
the other forty-five ways
to leave your lover?

But in the spirit of giving
to Michael Stipe I say
I spoke to Ken and we
agree it is 88.5 MHz.