It was a strange room,
that much I recall, with heavy
velvet curtains covering
what should have been a window,
and might once have been, but no longer.
The only light was a bare bulb
in the ceiling, casting
a soft amber wash across
the time worn oak floor,
and once white walls.
There was a chair, nondescript
and now long forgotten
and a small metal table, once
gray its paint flaking, its surface
mottled and uneven.
Still, I sat in that room
for an hour each day, staring
at the walls, and looking deeply
within, and finding both empty,
have never returned there.
She asks innocently,
listening to the wind whispering
through the bare branches of the oak,
“How long have you lived
in this poem,” pointing
to the page of marked
and remarked typescript.
He looks at her as if discovering
she’d grown another head,
peeking out from between
her well-polished teeth.
“I have no idea what you mean,”
he says, “I write the poems—
it is up to you to furnish them.”
She grimaces, “That’s so wrong,”
a third head appeared, grinning,
“if you build poems on spec
they are sterile little boxes
that you foist off on the unwary.
Plant all the flowers you want
around it, it will still
have the antiseptic smell
should we dare step into it.
That’s just the difference
between us,” she adds, “I can see
the song of the wind
played by the trees, but you,
you see only the blankness
of the unadorned walls.”
Published in These Lines, Fall 2020
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.
They cut neat incisions
across the slate blue sky.
The wounds they leave
slowly peel back
the white edges slowly spreading
until the sky hemorrhages
its cloud-like streaks.
The oak drops
yet another acorn
and the squirrel scampers
to gather it in
before the sky flees
under its gray-white blanket.
over the Park
a Magritte sky
gather in an old oak
to discuss this,
fly off at the approach
of a black lab
in imagined freedom.
As the afternoon fades,
the gray of the sky deepens,
the crows gather
in the highest branches
of the older trees,
until the leafless branches
seems suddenly burdened
with great black leaves.
As the already waning light fades
they take up their hymns
to the passing day, approaching night,
and we wait patiently
amid the cacophony
for the final refrain
of this solemn Mass,
when the oak and maple pews
will again sit starkly vacant.