AND PEACE?

Santayana said, “Only the dead
have seen the end of the war.”
We have grown adept at wars,
no longer global in scope, but
ubiquitous in frequency.

Mine was fought in the rice
paddies of Vietnam, and on the
campus where we struggled
valiantly and vainly to protest,
and when that failed, in the heat
of Texas, marching about, going
thankfully nowhere, shipped
to Niagara Falls when the Air Force
could think of nothing better
to do with the likes of me.

I didn’t die, know several who did
and sadly know Santayana was right
for Bierce said it best, “In international
affairs, a period of cheating
between two periods of fighting.”

DINNER PARTY

Technology has effectively
destroyed the intimate
dinner parties that once
were the core of a social life.

You fretted over whether
the souffle would collapse,
if the wine was chilled
to the right temperature,
if the entree was back timed
sufficiently to allow time
for the hors d’oeuvres
and if the guests would
arrive at the scheduled time.

Now it is a fear that Grubhub
or Doordash will be late,
that you must remember
to hide the packaging from
the heat and serve appetizers
and if it will be nice enough
to eat outside, or if you will
need to check vaccination cards.

CANINE

The dog refuses to walk
around the house and check
the driveway, and so
the shells will rain on the village
as they do each time she senses fear.

She has a sight beyond that
I can fathom, curled under
the heat vent, as though
the cries of children carry
in her dreams, her tail
dances against the grate.

On most nights when she makes
her final trip, the automatic light
over the garage flips on
and we can all sleep peacefully
until we realize
that God has chosen
a furry surrogate, lives
resting between her paws.

First Published in AGON Journal, Issue 0, 2021

MASKING

The Air Force shaved our heads, was it
because of the heat of a San Antonio
summer or that we’ll all look equally like fools,
and easier for Sarge to maintain unit
cohesiveness in his rag tag band
of semi-successful Army avoiders.

Now we all wear masks and assume
we all look equally foolish, knowing
the virus cares nothing for cohesiveness,
and normal is insignia only to dreams
and at times life is shit on a shingle now.

We want our childhoods back, before
the war, before the barracks and bad
food, before expectations, and those few
imposed could be ignored at minimal
parental retribution, we want what
never really existed, it is our right.

We marched and sang “Suicide is Painless”,
never believed it for a moment, but now
we consider it in passing as we walk
down the shortening pier
into the ocean of darkness.

First published in Circumference, Issue 4, June 2021

CRAFTY MOON

The moon hid from me last night
in a cloudless sky, and only a week from full,
so we both knew it was there, peeking
for a brief moment from behind
the old oak in the neighbors yard.
It wasn’t the first time the moon
had done this, it will not be the last
either, I am certain, but I do remember
the time in 1970, the heat of San Antonio
in mid-summer more oppressive than usual
and only the old barracks
for the moon to use as hiding place.
Yet it hid, and that night I didn’t mind
Lying in the base hospital, where the nurses
ignored me for the seriously wounded, as they should
reading the orders issued that day transferring me
to the Reserves as my fellow air policemen
in my training squadron were calling home,
most in shock, to announce that their plan
to avoid Vietnam by enlisting would soon
be scattered on the tarmac of Da Nang Air Base.

ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM

It’s the little things,
she says, that bite you,
and while he truly
doesn’t want to believe this,
for it ought to be the big things
that cause the problems,
he knows she is right.
He recalls that a simple thing
like an address everyone
knows is 123 3 X Street is true
for all save the power company
which says it is still 98 Y Street,
although they cannot hope
to explain why this is so.
How many other addresses
for this place are there,
how many things go wrong
because someone wants it
to be this while everyone else assumes that.
So you sit and wait for the power company
to bring light into your world
and warmth into your life
with winter closing in rapidly.

THE WEIGHT

There is a heaviness to the sky
a weightiness belied
by the gray of the clouds,
even the departing sun
seems to whisper that it
will be replaced by rain in short order.
You feel the weight bearing down,
as the heat of the day dissipates,
and although the first drops
have not yet fallen, you know
that it is best to be within
when the rain begins
for it will do so without warning
and with little care
for your presence,
for this is how Spring
demands your attention.

IN DREAMS

Mingling with the wind,
my dreams are carried off
into the night before I have
fully finished viewing them.
The heavy heat of summer
has seeps through the windows,
a blanket I cannot throw off
almost smothering, until
it, too, is soon washed
away by the rivulets of sweat
soaking into the sheets.
I reach out for my fleeting
dreams, try to pull them back.
But the wind laughs, whispers,
“I am beyond your control
and what I steal belongs to all
but he from whom I took it,
but I leave you other dreams
from other dreamers in its stead.”

NIGHT CHANGES

Night alters sound in ways
we can never precisely determine.
It is possible our hearing changes
with the flight of the sun, but
the moon scoffs at this premise.
A train rattling across the landscape
in the heat of day becomes
a musical instrument in the relative
silence of night, playing a melody
that insuates itself into dreams.
Birds raucous by morning
are sirens in the night, drawing you
from sleep onto the rocky shores
of sudden wakefulness, the darkness
a strangely unwelcome companion.
But it is the breathing
of a lover sleeping next to you
that caresses you, and you slide
deeper into Morpheus’ grasp.

MORNING MEDITATION

Settling into perfect
stillness, each of us
in our brown robes
on brown chairs, benches,
cushions, note his entry
is somewhere between
the thundering of a forgotten
storm or the garbage trucks
crawling slowly down the street.
Despite the early morning heat
there is no breeze,
only a large moth
comes through the open windows
and dances around
the rice paper light shades.
The incense hangs
over the burner on the altar
waiting to be carried into the room.
You return to thoughts
of thoughtlessness,
invite ideas to come
and quickly leave.
You grow heavy
sinking into the earth,
your weight suddenly great.
The moth grows bored
and slips out the window.