Monday, October 12, 2020

Junco

Here in my car by the side of the road,
close to a field of short stubbled corn,
a solitary junco is my entertainment
while I wait in the snow for my tow to arrive.

Surrounded and swayed by a brisk winter wind,
he rides on the lee of a cold cornstalk's stump
busily gleaning whatever is there.
Perhaps a few seeds, or a huddling insect
has drawn his quick eyes and small beak to that place,
to that one small cornstalk amid all the others,
where my human eyes can see nothing of value.

If I had not chosen to drive up this road
and then drifted wide into wheel-deep snow,
I would have not shared his fortunate visit
and he would have eaten his breakfast alone.
But I had come out, a solo explorer,
to view the sweet sight of another new snowfall
smoothly spread out across harvested fields
and to view all the contrasts that winter days offer,
of crystalline fluff upon evergreen boughs,
or of empty bare branches, dressed for the cold,
etching their essence of structural strength
upon this flat canvas of overcast gray.

It's a good place to pause on a Sunday morning
and to meditate here, with my pen in hand,
within this my temple of sky and soft snow.

When I turn to look, my junco has flown.
Unlike me, he is quite unencumbered,
floating so free above my snowy jail,
while scanning the fields for another small meal.

My tow is here.  Securing a hook,
he effortlessly pulls my car back on the road.
I and the junco are free to continue.
It's been a good drive.  Time to go home.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

To my half-brother, Robert, 1934-1949

Dear Robert,
you were the first child
that my father fathered
but also the first to die.
Brown-haired, smiling,
bearing the high forehead and glasses
that I would later wear,
you were the successful prototype
of the child that I would soon become,
conceived just eight months,
and two wives,
after your death.

My father had moved on,
leaving you behind eight years before
when you were only seven.
I may never know why.
The divorce papers had read
"extreme cruelty"
yet my father was never cruel to me.
Perhaps by then
he had seen enough of cruelty
as he and his soldiers killed, and were killed,
in the swamps of Leyte -
on the ridges of Okinawa –
eight thousand miles away
while you were turning eleven.

You were keenly interested in aviation,
but would never spread your wings.  Instead,
you sank beneath the chill waters
of a muddy Nebraska creek
when a summer frolic
took your breath away.

I wonder –
did your spark then defiantly rise
and swing westward across the Rocky Mountains
before coming to rest eight months later
where I was just becoming alive
in my mother's womb?

Perhaps you grew along with me
and shared my own delight
as I assembled models of rockets and missiles
and watched two men
walk across the Moon.

Will you wait for me?  Before I die
I hope to stand above your grave
and read this paltry poem to you.
Perhaps some warmth will find its way
into your long-cold bones or ashes
and soothe you as you lie there.
Perhaps, if I am quiet enough,
I will feel your subtle presence
and hear your simple voice
whispering in my ear.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Clouded

(inspired by this painting by artist Denise Sedor
at www.denisesedor.com)
The rain has washed my window clean
and yet when I look out
at what I hope will be a moment's joy
what I see brings me no pleasure.

Instead of clarity
instead of bright colors
there is a muddled and muted smear,
as if a palette knife has been
swept across the window.
I strain to understand what I see
just for a moment
but then the effort is too great
and I turn away.

I never know what to think.
Would I see a brighter scene
if I opened the door
and stepped outside?
Or has the knife
smeared itself across my brain
filling the sulci with putty
and obscuring the details?

I've come to prefer the latter.

Friday, June 12, 2020

COVID-19 Blues

(sung to the tune of "Folsom Prison Blues")

I feel like I'm in prison
Don't know when this will end
I stay in my apartment
'cause it's what they recommend.

Yes I'm stuck in COVID lockdown
I wish I could be free
But that virus is pandemic
It's got its eyes on me

---

I see those 20-somethings
They're all without a mask
I know they won't be coverin' up
Even if I ask

Yeah, they're all a-sympto-matic
They're actin' wild and free
But they're carryin' that virus
And, Lord, I'm seven-ty three

---

Our President's a genius
He always tells us so
I wish that he could tell me
Somewhere safe that I could go

But I hear his home's infected
That virus wants him too
And if he can't solve this problem
I don't know what I'll do

Thursday, September 12, 2019

It's Another Special Day

Alexander Moskovar,
a salamander of ill repute,
steps warily today.

The humans say that on this day
two larger evils intersect
and blend their forces to create
an even greater evil shape
that walks the land invisibly
and without passion, hate, or malice,
flicks misfortune from its fingers
as easily as you or I
might cough, or brush aside an insect
landing on your arm.

These flecks of probability,
tossed like rocks into a stream,
disturb time's flow
and instigate corrupt diversions
where the passing rodent, beast, or man
may find their usual day disrupted
and suffer what we like to call an accident,
a whim of fate, or divine retribution for
some sin we once performed.

Alexander knows this well, but hopes
that his small venture will result
in furnishing a bit of food
for him, and not for something else
that might consider him a treat.

I'd stay to watch, but something tells me
that I'd best be moving on.
Shadows in the forest may
consider me a treat as well
and accidents have happened here
especially on such a day
when Fridays and Thirteenths combine.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Snowflake II

Transformed, floating, falling;
buffeted by winter winds,
swirling in a swarm of others.
Distantly they look like me,
but as they pass I see that they
like me are not alike; their wings
describe an icy pattern that is
functional and beautiful,
yet not my own.  We each excel
and glide within an unknown plan
that unifies us, yet transcends
the limits of what we might know.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Snowflake I

Here in the high thin air,
seeded by a mote of dust,
I begin to crystallize.
I have vague memories
of a windswept sea
and of cold stony mountains
that I soared far above,
too young to be born.

"Stay with me," said the wind.
"I have carried you so far,
and don't want to lose you."
"It's my time," I said,
as I began to slip out of her grasp,
my white lacy wings becoming
a burden to her
an escape for me.