You felt; I felt

Sometimes it’s silly little things; thoughtful things done unthinkingly and unselfishly that tell us, unmistakably that we’re loved unconditionally. This is one of those things.

 

We’d not run out of bottled water

— liquid refreshment I fear running out of –

but without checking, you panicked,

ran to the store close to bedtime,

picked me up a two-day supply.

 

And you called me to tell me,

also telling me you hadn’t checked

to see if we’d really run out.

 

I knew we had a few days’ supply,

but was very grateful nonetheless.

 

You told me you felt a little bit foolish,

but I felt a whole lot loved.

 

 

Paired: Halved

As some have put it, it’s a day we both know is coming. Each husband and wife know it’s a moment on the horizon. But because it’s so frightening, we seldom if ever speak of it, except to make financial arrangements or deal with it through legal documents. Even poets seem to  avoid the unanticipated aspects of the loss of a spouse. it’s simply too painful.

 

It’s a subject often approached by poets,

those who are married or otherwise paired

in at least a semi-permanent bond.

 

But it’s an approach a bit like

an aborted approach to an airport…

“Yes, folks, that was a close call….”

 

Yes, there’s an allusion to one of you

going on alone,

and an admission of a glancing nod

toward the empty spot

beside the one who continues.

 

But there’s no acknowledgment

that for many of us half of the self

is no longer there.

 

Family memories, jokes, shared experiences;

knowledge of your glaring faults

and fumbling attempts at reconciliation;

your glowing moments of triumph;

your overcoming of dark failures

that could have demolished you;

the love you shared – and gave away –

that was deeper than life itself.

 

On and on it goes, as part of you, perhaps half,

or simply, and literally, the better half of you is gone.

 

You won’t just be missing the one who is gone,

but the best sides of your self, as well,

the ones that remain invisible to you

because they’re only seen by those

closest to you, yet outside of you.

 

 

 

Approaching Enchanted Rock

No matter how great most experiences are, there’s almost always some way we can figure out how it could have been improved if we had it to do over again, that’s all I’m saying…

 

I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy

streaming up the side of the huge dome of red granite,

joining the antlike stream of humans in hiking clothes,

like some work party intent on plundering a giant sugar bowl.

 

I’m not saying that reaching the 425-foot summit

with its tinajas holding rainwater

and supporting little colonies of algae and green plants

amid the red, rugged granite

wasn’t worth the climb,

that the view wasn’t at least somewhat enchanting itself.

 

What I am saying is that if I had it to do over again,

I would have lingered longer

as I made the morning leg of my daytrip,

taken a few minutes to pull over to the roadside

to admire the furrowed fields of red and pink clouds

covering all but the sharply contrasting edges of brilliant blue sky background

of one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve seen.

 

And I would have lingered at the side of the highway

as I crested the little rise when you enter the valley

that holds Enchanted Rock

and her smaller granite dome sisters

to admire a view more engaging

than that offered by the summit of the great rock.

 

That’s all I’m saying…

 

 

Place your bets; place your bets

One guesses there is a breaking point for every non-believer, a point at which betting with the House makes more sense than betting against it. Here’s a probing try at finding where that point lies for someone who sits in the dark contemplating the Light.

 

No atheists on take off or landing.

Foxholes, of course, everyone knows about that one.

What about those swinging seats

when the Ferris wheel stalls?

Bet there are none there.

Skydivers — none.

Scuba divers low on air, too far from the surface — none.

 

So what does it take

to get you to take Pascal’s gamble?

A chute that won’t open?

Or simply the realization

that every beating heart

eventually

stops.

Tro-cha-ic

No matter what other advice the writing sages offer, they always offer this one piece: If you want to write a lot of good writing, you need to read a lot of good writing. And so it is. One person’s take on the events of their life is often the spur to see your own life experience differently — or even at all.

 

Poetry is useless to me,

a silent GPS for a blind man,

a tire tool in a canoe.

 

Then I open my Billy Collins,

read a couple of poems,

and suddenly poetry is

water to a man dying of thirst;

a breeze for a becalmed sailor;

salt and pepper for an unseasoned steak.

 

Stress/Unstress.

I am a poetic foot.

I am trochaic.

 

 

The crunch generation rodeo

The plight of millions who are raising families while taking care of aging parents has created a genuine crunch generation who must fight to stay in the saddle — a form of stasis — never really winning or losing, just staying afloat, bearing in mind that all such binds are time limited. They can’t last forever. Thank God!

 

Her hand must be wired

into the reins

in violation of all

sound rodeo rules,

and she rides astride

not one, but two

unruly mounts.

 

One threatens death,

collapse beneath her,

despite best efforts

to keep her moving,

head up in the chute.

 

The other writhes, jumps,

bucks, and climbs the walls,

heedless of calming words,

maternal clucking noises

and admonitions to calm.

 

But the chute gate never opens;

the rider tires, but perseveres,

and the announcer

seems to be reading

the 23rd Psalm

in the booming, amplified,

twangy, West Texas voice

so typical of rodeo announcers.

 

Will the buzzer razz,

signaling the end of the ride,

or will this noble cowgirl

get thrown under one ride

or the other.

 

Maybe that’s what

the announcer means

by that “shadow of death” line.

 

Maybe that’s the promise

of that last phrase —

“And I will dwell in the House of the Lord, forever.”

 

 

Small coppery snake — but powerful

Though ultimately destined to be crushed under the foot of a fearless, virtue-filled woman, like spiders, these creatures, all wiggly and limbless, exercise an amazing power to create backwards movement among most of the females I’m acquainted with — though of course, not all…

 

The tiny snake

moved rapidly

within the palm of my hand,

his constant, rapid motion

making “writhing”

seem an inadequate verb.

 

The school’s assistant

who had pointed him out

jumped back reflexively

when I rose from

scooping the tiny reptile

into my palm.

 

But the uniformed school girls

in their blue and green plaid

outfits moved closer

for a look

before replicating

the same leaping backstep,

so typical

since that first

historic encounter.

 

Brashly crashing

If I’ve learned anything about anger, it’s that expressing it to people without restraint, whether they’re people I love or people I only have functional dealings with — like folks at the post office — there is almost always a huge downside that renders that action harmful. Often it even requires apologies, requests for forgiveness. So my bottom line is usually that such anger is without value; does no good at all, in fact does harm. But nonetheless anger happens. What follows is about rhyme and internal rhyme and noise. Noise significant of nothing.

 

I crash and clang about.

I brashly bang,

my armor dinged.

 

I all but shout,

but keep it all within,

corrosive acids race without

a chance of release, but doubt

that spewing all this pressure out

 

would release me from the pain,

my unfocused anger and my pout,

would then produce these flaring spouts

like oil wells flaming out.

 

 

A visit from scintillating scotoma

The incident described below was more intense than most of my little episodes, since my arteriovenous malformation surgery in 2005. This little barely visible crown of crosshatched scratches of lights (red, blue, yellow) first appears very small at the center of my vision. Then it grows and slowly moves to the left of my field of vision, having become rather large, taking up 70 percent or so of the area I can see, still a corona, it is clear in the center. Most times it does not leave me fazed or dazed or groggy, though obviously this time, it did.

 

Corona of lights

surrounds and obscures my sight,

well, not quite,

 

growing from a point

to a cross-hatched cluster

at vision’s center

 

and finally a

pulsating circled rainbow,

open, hollow.

 

Neural organism,

sparkling neon beauty,

dissolved in time,

 

leaving me shaken

and a bit nauseous,

my energy drained.

 

A migraine version,

but without the horrid pain.

Brain surgery’s gift.