POLISH

Mother made a point of reminding
me to polish my shoes, she said
untidy shoes are the mark
of a poor man, one to be avoided.

I noticed she never wore shoes
that needed polish, never had wax
and brush in hand, and when her shoes
showed wear they were replaced.

I learned early not to talk back
to her, the penalty too stiff so I
never asked why any reasonable
person would be staring at my shoes.

HOW WOULD I KNOW

It is highly likely
that I snored most
of last night, I cannot
be certain but my wife
says I did and she
is rarely wrong
about such things.

I would like
to blame it
on my back, discs
bulging where they
ought not, titanium
rods claiming they
hold the whole thing
together, but I
cannot be certain
of that either once
I slip into sleep.

I am tempted
to stay up all night
and see if I snore,
if the rods move,
but I know if I did
I‘d fall asleep
in the morning
and my snoring
and rods would again
be up to their tricks.

SEARCHING

I never imagined that
the search would take so long
or be so difficult.

I never imagined
I had set off seeking
the Holy Grail.

It once was easy
I recalled, little searching
and plentiful enough.

Now, hours spent
actually wasted, I conceded
that it was futile

and went back deep
into time to bring forth
what I never imagined

would be so hard
to find, a good, intelligent
romantic comedy.

EMPTY SACKS WILL NEVER STAND UPRIGHT

There are nights
when the song
of a single cricket
can pull you away from sleep.
She says that she has heard
that not all Angels have wings
and neither of them
is sure how you would know
if you met a bodhisattva.
He searches the mail
every day, for a letter
from unknown birth parents
but none of the credit cards
he ought to carry
offers to rebate his dreams.
Each night they lie
back pressed to back
and slip into dreams.
She records hers
in the journal she keeps
with the pen, by the bed.
He struggles to recall his
and places what shards he can
in the burlap sack
of his memory.

First Published in Where Beach Meets Ocean, The Block Island Poetry Project, 2013

ONE STEP TOO FAR

“As you get older,” he said,
“the body grows remarkably
adept at telling you when
you have done too much,
or done something you shouldn’t.”

What he didn’t say, the critical
piece of advice I wish I heard,
is that the body only speaks
well after the fact, a lecture
surely, but never a warning.

No one wants to go a step
short, to miss whatever mark
someone randomly established,
but the price of a step too far
is high and often long lasting.

My back sat me down this
morning , and with that smirk
told me the lifting yesterday
could be paid for over a week,
and my arthritic knees nodded.

My back bemoans its age,
knowing the alternative
is far worse, and as
we limp along, we await
the call to attend
the unveiling of the resonance
images which draw us in
and will, in short order
explain everything
if, even, there is no answer
no underlying truth
and certain it will not find
the simple alignment
that eludes us and
we will continue to share
our abiding pain.

RETURNING

Time has no role to play in any of this.
Time isn’t pleased by the prospect,
it prefers to be ever present, ever
escaping, even as it is arriving.
It is quirky that way.
It is constant yet it loves
to give the impression of being variable.
Einstein noted this, and anyone
returning from a long drive is
aware the return is always the shorter trip.
Unless, of course, you suffer
from a bad back, then time
really has the last laugh.

BENDING DREAMS

In Hawaii I could stare for hours at a taro field,
the bent back of a farmer, and the same a gentle fold
of spine I saw from the Shinkansen, Tokyo to Osaka
amid the fields of yellow, later rice in some bowl
perhaps even mine, or in Antwerp as the chef
patiently picked over the trays of mussels in the market
knowing just which would suit his needs, all having
a remarkable sameness to my eye and nose.
On the road just outside San Juan, near the beach
with surf-able waves, the woman stood bent in the heat
over a 50 gallon drum turned stove, cooking the pork
tucking it into the dough and placing it in the fryer oil
smiling through her few remaining teeth, offering pies
that we dared not resist, knowing the sea
would soon enough be our willing napkin.
This morning, as I took my slow walk
to the coffee shop, a jay sitting on a rusting fence
stared at me for a bit, not unnerving,
persistent, and I imagine him thinking
of taro, rice and fresh cooked pies.

HELL’S PRISONER

I am pressed into a seat
that would conform only
to the body of some alien creature,
or so it seems, for hours
into a flight that increasingly
seems eternal, particularly for the baby
two rows back, who, like me
would much rather be anywhere else.
The crew dims the cabin lights
the universal indicator of “Don’t
think of bothering us, we fed you
and will give you a snack in the morning,
only if you behave, so
off to sleep with you all.”
As my back and neck rebel, I
remind myself it could be far worse,
the food poisoned, perhaps, not
merely inedible, for this, despite
appearances, is only the second ring of hell.