MIRROR MIRROR

The person I see each morning
looks vaguely familiar, perhaps
someone I once met in passing,
or maybe a distant relative.
But he was so much older
so he was difficult to place.

I do say hello each morning
but get only a nod, a gesture
in response, as if the person
is mute, for he smiles back
so it is not a silence born
of anger or displeasure.

I will of course keep trying
for I know that I will
one day recognize his all
too familiar face, and I
need to act now for he is
aging quickly so my time
is limited, and in any event
the mirror does need cleaning.

REAR VIEW MIND

I spent too much time looking
backward, looking into the past,
looking into the mirror
to frame a dream history
of my desires and fears.
He called one morning, left
a message, “Mother died,
more details will follow.”
A mother his by birth,
mine by legal act.
I should have felt stunned
anger, I said quietly to myself
he’s cocky, has issues, and went
about momentary mourning.
That is the psyche of the adoptee who
was never family, always an adjunct.
Later my antediluvian dreams
gave way under a torrent
of deoxyribonucleic acid rain.
She who I imagined in the mirror
took name, took shape from
and old yearbook, offered
a history, a family, a heritage.
When I knelt at her grave
she told me her story
in hushed tones, or was it
the breeze in the pines on the hill
overlooking the Kanawha?
I bid her farewell that day,
placed a pebble on her headstone,
stroked the cold marble
and mourned an untouched mother.

HAVOC

They took up shovels,
pickaxes, bare fingers
to pry up the seedlings,
the saplings just taking
root and the seeds
just planted still watered
by the sweat and tears
of those who lovingly
tilled the brittle soil.

They offered nothing
in return, barren ground
where only anger grew,
fertilized by fear, by
by greed, by blindness.

Will we sit by and watch
as promises wither under
an ever stronger, more
glaring sun, as hopes are
blown away by arid winds,
or will we again return
to the soil, start over,
our faith now perennial.

ON ARRIVING

They arrive after a long flight
from tyranny, from oppression
from the nightmare of endless
fear, from hunger, from faith
denied, from the bottomless
depths of poverty, scarred
memories etched in their souls,
hoping for an ending as much
as wishing for a new beginning.
They have been here, a new
generation, raised on the stories,
versed in the painful history,
still residual anger born
of love for those who fled,
without the pain of experience,
who can forget when it is
others who now wish only
to arrive to the freedom they
have known since childhood

First appeared in Circumference, Issue 5, June 2022
https://poetryatpi.wordpress.com/

NAMENCLATURE

I have gone
by many names,
some chosen,
some inherited,
some thrown at me
in anger,
in scorn,
in friendship.

Names add
nothing to who
I am, who
I choose to be,
who I am seen
to be by the those
who throw around
names as if
they were magical
incantations, elixirs
with great power
that fall
at my feet
like shattered
icicles of my
not caring.

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.

WALLS

It is one thing
to build a wall
that others
stop and admire,
yet make it
high enough
they don’lt think
of climbing over it.

Walls are meant
to keep, in
or out is never
clear, and actually
it is always both,
for a wall
takes no sides,
a silent sentinel.

And no wall
is impenetrable
and unscalable
save that surrounding
the heartless ones
who are destined
to die alone
in anger.

A HASTY BURIAL

They should have had
an altar, even Abraham
had one when he was ready
to execute Isaac, and the ram
interceded, to his ultimate peril.

They should have had
a funeral, that is just common
sense and decency, but they
wanted no such thing, just
be done with it, bury it away.

I still mourn the death
of science for I know that it
operates without spite, without
anger, with simplicity, making
our world ever more livable.

Perhaps there will be
a resurrection, it has happened
before, although at times
it does seem that it would
take a rather large miracle now.

First published in Pages Penned in Pandemic, 2021 

RUSHING IN

Step right up, don’t hang back,
come and watch the fool perform for you.
You know me, bedecked in motley emotions
worn like so many colorful rags,
a suit of too many shades and hues,
all displayed for your entertainment.
See if you can find ten shades of anger
as I prance around in front of you.
Count the five flavors of tears
that start and stop like a passing storm.
Laugh at me as I pirouette, a dervish
who loved blindly long after
the love of my patron had died.
See me in my fool’s cap, the bells
of rage and guilt dangling from its points.
If that isn’t enough to bring out a laugh,
watch as I rip out my heart
and lay it at your feet, still beating
to the rhythm of the song
to which she grew deaf so long ago.
Rain your scorn on me as I stumble
across the stage, for though they ring hollow,
it is them that I most crave, a redemption
that no monarch could hope to offer.
Step right up, don’t hang back,
come and watch the fool perform for you
and do not pause to think
that you could as easily be here,
on this stage, and I out there marveling
at you, wondering what you did
to ever deserve such a fate.

First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008)