Category Archives: Poetry

Just Before It Hits

Sit back and take in the moment just before the first note arises from behind and in front. Look out, the lights positioned just right so that only the figures in front of you appear. Three very lose silhouettes dancing in light beams. Beneath them the first row or so, and that’s enough. That could be all that’s here. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the note that’s just played, and the waves hitting the ear. Head bouncing, the beat is infectious, and it’s only just began. A small twitch of an ankle is all that’s needed. Just the slightest touch.

Perfect position.

One breath. Don’t think about it.

That first hit, no matter what – is the sweetest thing on earth. The eruption of relative calm. There may be music playing, but when it stops, and the crowd quiets, there is that  same moment. Just before it all begins. A miniscule moment, but its perfect, and lasts forever.

That is transcendence.

That moment is perfect.

It is an instant.

But its mine.

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An Ode to West Lands, Wherever They May Be

Your mind wandered as a brief pause in our conversation settled in. We were driving back from a town you knew well, and one I’d come to know as much. The car drifted into the lane beside us, the one reserved for those headed the opposite way. I too looked out the window, letting my mind ponder the sheer time the trees in the distance had seen, and how we have so little of it to experience. I noticed a car approaching, and figured you did too. But it came closer, inching ever nearer to our fate. Finally I broke your wandering mind and you reacted with the speed of a man half your age. I yelled just one word, “Grandpa!”

We were safe. I cast no blame, your mind was restless like mine, your desires bigger than the world you resided in. The ability to keep yourself latched to the moment without looking far ahead was an affliction, if you could call it that, which I shared with you. It was not the first time you had made a mistake, and tried to correct it. Thankfully, it was successful, a consequence not often enough for you, I know. It didn’t matter just then, we laughed about it the rest of the ride home.

There are few people in the world you can disagree with vehemently, but respect with the same vigor. You were one of those for me. Our worlds were different, time had passed, wars fought, nations destroyed, governments toppled and replaced. Money was, for some, easier to come by, a struggle had settled into passing the rewards forward to the next generations. It was I who received your check, written with years of toil, mistake and attempted reparations. We were different, but shared not only genetic material, but mindfulness, appreciation for nuance and irony, as well as the undeniable desire to always be victorious in argument.

We battled; hard. We disagreed and yelled, hurled insults and consternation, but could always break the stalemate with a joke, or an ironic twist of fate. That was us, two fighters for truth, whose paths had meandered far away only to come rushing back in glorious collisions. I reveled in the chance to be honest with an elder, to contest the “wisdom” that was attained over years of strife, and to put them to the test of the modern world. You, in return, loved to tease the impressionable, stab holes in our multi-colored coat, and impart indelible truths gleaned from a lifetime of engagement with humanity.

Then there is music, the great bridge of generations. Though the form diverse, the tempo was always fast, a reflection of how we viewed life. You, like I, ensured that it continued and in right time. It was us who, though branded with white skin still retained rhythm, made sure the band was grounded and allowed to stretch its legs. When I sit each time before my instrument I will take a moment and remember all the times you too sat in your own stool, providing the basis for everything else. From now on, you will have to take a seat next to me, for it is my turn to take on the whole burden.

One last thing we share I cannot leave unsaid. I too have stared at the empty bottom of bottles, wondering why its contents had only provided part of what they formerly had. Though I recalled countless wonderful memories with the drink, they had receded far from the present and only served to send my insides swirling. It’s a lesson that came too hard or too late for you, but it’s one, though unspoken, you have helped me to learn. I will raise a glass to you today, the last day that allowed your mind to continue exploring, but I will also put it down. It is that quality which is, really, a greater tribute to your legacy.

So with this ode I say farewell, though you won’t be far. Not hoisted high above, or sent careening down below, instead your place will be with me, taking a seat for a performance or holding my hand as we wander into introspection or utopian dreams. I won’t forget you, or what you’ve taught me. I won’t forget your desire for truth or your belly laugh at irony’s greatest follies. You were my grandpa, and were your own until the dawn began breaking this morning, but now you’ve gone and are left to reside in all those who remain etched by your genes and blessed by your ever adventurous spirit and incorrigible mind. Thank you for everything, I won’t forget you.

Gaza

Not just waves wash away
Footprints in the sand
The slow creep, not today
No, it came in fast

From the blue horizon
Only distant dots in sight
From above then it came
To continue the fight

A football blown clear
Rolled lightly into water
Untouched by the blast
Singing silent honors

The air around etched
With the stench of death
Laughs led to screams
Out of nowhere it seemed

But we know, don’t we all
A star etched in a deck
But both of them believe
In the angel of death

There not only in dreams

 

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/7/17/horror_on_gaza_beach_new_york

The Farm

Rays of sunlight pierce through the cracks of the barn creating a checkerboard design on the expansive lawn of the turn of the century farmhouse nestled among fields of soy, corn and wheat stretching as far as one can see in each direction. Each winter the fall’s condensation seeps into the cracks between the boards, freezing and pushing them apart with the persistence and patience of a continental plate, moving just a few centimeters each season. Ever widening gaps grow larger each year as do the rows of sunlight on the grass, allowing patches to grow a little faster where it hits. The overgrown trees, neglected for decades, shroud most of the lawn in shade, and keep the spring rain from reaching the sward causing an even more discordant lawn, with patches grown over and others nearly bare.

We all just called it “The Farm.” Settled outside a village so small there show no population tally under the only sign which announced its presence to those who passed. The farm was a place to escape the city – to look out upon the sea of olive green or light brown and admire the process that brings food to local stores which otherwise goes completely unnoticed. Grandpa lived in the old farmhouse alone. Although nearing the age of 80, he still stood tall with a wide grin and a growing belly. He tended a decent sized garden at the edge of the property, the harvests of which he was particularly proud. He never mentioned being lonely, but it was evidenced by the look on his face when the first visitors would arrive for our family gatherings and the small drop of the head as we pulled from the long driveway.

The farm was a place to escape the limitations and monotony of modern life – time slowed and the world lost its numbing complexity, there were no computers or tablets to distract; phones lost the signals beamed from towers too far to reach us. Those of us who had nearly forgotten a world outside screens and skyscrapers were suddenly forced to find a way to entertain ourselves. Our curiosity, usually curbed by the infinite information at our fingertips, was allowed, even demanded, to roam free and pull our bodies with it. We explored the terrain, climbed trees, built forts; we waged epic battles in our small Ardennes and herded the sheep Grandpa kept for supplemental income making sure to put out of our minds their final fate, even as they eventually moved to fork from plate.

The barn, which long ago began the slow dip towards collapse, was kept upright by shear engineering prowess, fighting gravity and harsh winters but gradually losing its former glory. Still, it provided a myriad of means for young’uns to stay engaged. We found small spaces between the haystacks and ceiling, crawling from one end to the other with just enough room for our tiny frames to wiggle through. It was the hayloft that provided the most fun, though. The large beams which made up the frame of the barn stood fortified in cement and attached to each wall, making a perfect balancing beam which we all eventually mastered.

Grandpa caught on to our fascination and rigged up ropes to climb, attached a ladder to the retaining beams allowing easy access to our gymnastic frolics. He shifted ropes and pulleys which formerly moved bales of hay around the loft to retrofit them into zip lines, carrying droves of children from one end of the barn to the other. While a horribly unsafe endeavor, the barn itself dangling dangerously close to catastrophic ruin, none of us were ever hurt badly. There was a spill here and there, but nothing a Band-Aid and Grandpa’s comfort couldn’t treat with ease.

Over the years the barn fell silent, no children echoing its spaces with oration and laughter. We had grown up, more interested in other advantages visits to The Farm provided. Grandpa’s refrigerators were always stocked with beer, vodka, tonic water and food – all cheap products purchased from discount stores or duty free at the nearest Air National Guard base situated just an hour away. Every once and a while, with beers in hand and lit cigarettes in our mouths, we would peer into the barn and track is slide towards earth. The bravest among us still willing to take the risk to gaze upon the former playing grounds, losing themselves in a flood of nostalgic nervousness complimented by the potential fatal accident one strong gust of wind away.

Grandpa still fared well over those years. His belly grew a bit and his face wrinkled more, a small patch of skin hung just slightly from his chin. Still relatively active, he tended his garden year after year, keeping the old farmhouse clean, but spending the majority of time in a warm basement seated in an old VA wheelchair, flipping channels between college football and Fox News. He kept his mind occupied, not wanting to replay the tumultuous events of his life. He had seen the best and worst of humanity – felt true love and real loss, gazed upon the dizzying world of the travelling circus and pulled salmon from the California seas. All but once he dodged surface to air missiles over Hanoi, and had to watch the North Vietnamese jungle come nearer and nearer as he floated towards its canopy. He felt the slight sting of high honors as they were pinned to his chest, saw the world flatten as his depth perception was taken from him and watched as his six young children grew, eventually bringing their own offspring to The Farm retirement afforded him.

He ignored the widespread bitterness old age tends to bring and chose, despite immense difficulty, to look on the bright side; to watch, like an astronaut floating hundreds of miles above the surface, as the world changed shape around him still keeping a keen eye on the horizon in front and behind him. A new generation reinvigorated the place; all carrying some of his genes and all attempting to live up to his familial reputation. It granted him a new lease on life, and gave a purpose often left unconsidered. For all of us he is the Colonel, the undisputed patriarch of a family which grows exponentially in size and touches each corner of the country, but ultimately lies in the old house situated on a small parcel of land nestled among the fields that feed us with a uneven lawn, beams of light winding through the cracks in the barn’s wooden walls which, like the man who occupies the home across the greensward, stands against the unshakable force of entropy remaining tall and proud.

Tour Song

Seeing America through the front window
its vast oceans of green spread out in each way
Its water is clear, blue, and green
its sky: blue, red and grey

All the people are the same
some great, some less; some all together lost
but there’s always somewhere in America
where they can find and be found
it teems with difference
yet we’re not really that different

And through the window
it seems as if there’s certainly something
just a little bit farther in the distance
Fields and forests, steel and sand
cut through by long stretches of concrete

People replace trees as the urban jungles near
with buildings reaching skyward
but the sullen lot below
gaze upward with a jealous grin
but don’t know where to go

There’s music though, in every place
we’re not only connected by interstate
its the same everywhere; the people, the sounds
its just the names on the streets and the name of the town

As we move along to the next stop on the list
I wonder what similarities I’ll see
and what I things I may notice
but I know it wont matter
because to me, you see,
we’re all in it…together

The Pendulum

We are a pendulum swinging
from “I love you” to “I don’t trust you”
and I am getting sick from the motion
I push at each end
trying to stay there a second
and see whats below me
to relish in the present

We are a river rising
each moment moving closer to crest
and wash away the homes
where safety, understanding and love reside
The foundations remain
but the walls lay shaken, bent
and stained

We are a star shining
pushing our photons out into the abyss
we stand as a point of light
for someone else to see
we can burn brighter and burn faster
but we’ll surely explode
because entropy is something we’ll never master

In the Square South of the City of Lakes


The evening air is heavy with the taste of defeat
the single light shines out of century old brick
to tell the city it wont go out
wont be like the rest
The city responds with drunkards and saints
mayors and scapegoats that appear too late
features of modernity’s past set on cityscapes
reflected in the most brilliant bulbs and glorious glass
towering over the people but showing signs of age
yet still reaching high
claiming dominance of a little place,
for just a little while
Work days and week ends
truth found in cigarette butts and empty highball glass
a new craft brew just for you, or you
In the distance lies a doomed domed monster
the place of hysteria and regret
of the slow movement forward from one end to the next
to prove that we can be the best,
but never quite crossing that little white line
nearby a tangled web of concrete and rails
of brick and mortar shells
a mighty building gone bust and left in pieces
but this neighborhood’s not black and white
its both
The streets filled with women in Burkas, thugs and workers at night
a melting pot not quite boiling but bubbling
and rising under the radar
to slip in silently next to the city
nestled in tight, to close to fear
so we gaze out of our windows and wonder
what it looks like from up there?
but we’re down here below
neck wrenched to the sky
to watch illuminated towers break the darkness
as surrounding light beams fade
far away the city stays
never to be beaten
because in a few short hours
the sun will rise
and turn the city lights to bright blue skies