Nothing can hold it.
violent gust broken limb
scattered leaves driving rain
wet hair cool air
damp feet flooded street
ozone smell cool air
note book pen
poem no verbs
I could see him at a distance
wandering a patchwork of open fields,
past an abandoned farm house
where he stopped to examine
some broken bit of history he’d picked up
from the yellow, barren earth.
He walked on across a small stream
that wound through a pasture
of giant-eyed cows dressed
in loose fitting uniforms of black and white.
He turned up a crooked road
to the old Presbyterian Church
and it’s quiet grave yard
where he stopped to rest
on an iron bench and think about
whatever it is that old poets think about
just before they start going through their pockets
looking for a pencil.
Great poetry prompt. Tag it OCDNightmare.
The beggars of our town held a meeting.
They divided up territories,
assigned an order of rotation
for the busiest street corners.
A committee was appointed
to standardize the wording
for cardboard begging signs
and the size of the lettering.
Another was assigned the task
of tearing the end flaps from boxes
pulled from a dumpster behind a restaurant
so that all of the begging signs
would be of similar size.
"This is how democracy works," said Ruben,
"and equality. Now every beggar
will have an equal opportunity.”
"But some of us look more pathetic,"
someone protested. “Doesn’t that
give them an unfair advantage?”
"It’s up to each of us to develop our god given talents.
We can only provide a level playing field.
The rest is up to you.”
"But what if we put all the money together,"
said another, “then divided it evenly
among all of the beggars?”
shouted the most pathetic
of all the beggars.
It has started to rain and suddenly
the world has become a better place,
one of headlights and taillights
reflected in the mirror of black pavement,
of umbrellas, red, black, blue, yellow
moving along the sidewalk,
sometimes bumping their edges together
like fallen leaves floating along
a river that flows in both directions.
Every day I count the ways in which I am blessed.
I am blessed that I have these fins
and this broad tail that I can swim
in circles around and around
this bowl, with which I am especially blessed.
I am blessed with a magnificent view
of the world of the air and the great walking fish
who inhabit it who drop manna into the water
that I might eat until my belly says,
"no more, no more."
I am blessed by the colorful pebbles
in the bottom of this bowl
and by the company of the tiny figure
in the diver’s suit who blows a constant stream
of bubbles into the water to keep it fresh.
Finally, I am blessed by the attention
of the large furry air creature
who watches me hour after hour
with its huge yellow eyes.
Sometimes I think about the great love of my life,
George Eliot, who’s real name, Marian,
suited her so poorly. We never became lovers.
Our births separated us by a hundred and twenty-eight years.
We would have made a homely couple
of a kind you wouldn’t notice at a cafe
or strolling through a park in winter
under a dark umbrella, her arm in mine,
me nodding as she explained how
the unexpected hero of her novel
would be redeemed in the final chapter.
We would return home at six, eat a simple dinner,
read awhile then turn off the lights
and make love in the dark with our eyes closed
as homely couples do.
Today it rained and no poet declared
it was an angel’s tears that fell in grief.
No claim was made that the drops were ink
from some sad writer’s tortured pen.
It rained today from low-hung clouds,
gray nimbostratus shapeless forms
that gathered in the tops of haunted trees,
the dispirited ghosts of early spring.
It rained today and it meant no more
than wet umbrellas and dampened feet.
The shallow puddles in the street
reflected no man’s or woman’s troubled soul.
It rained today in ceaseless drops
but today the rain was no more than rain.
Forty thousand generations of humans
and not one of them ever thought
to sit down and write this poem,
leaving it for me to do,
not caring that I might have
other plans for the day,
including lunch of a corned beef sandwich
with a dollop of potato salad
followed by a nap then reading some
from Jim Harrison’s last book,
an afternoon coffee and a walk with the dog
if it doesn’t get too warm.
Why do people get those little tattoos
on the backs of their necks?
When I was young there was the depression.
It was winter and I was hungry
so I took a job clearing snow
from the road between Escanaba and Marquette
in Michigan’s upper peninsula.
When there was too much snow for the plows
we would shovel it by hand.
One night my friend had had enough
so the next day we hopped a freight for Chicago
to look for better work.
A man there gave us a paper
that said there was work in Russia.
I went to a building where recruiters
were sorting men into two lines.
The line to the left led to a back door
and into the street.
The line on the right led to warm food
and a train to Philadelphia
where a ship was waiting
to take us to the Soviet Union.
A man in front of me said he was a stone mason.
He was sent to the right so when my turn came
I said I was a stone mason.
On the ship they found out I spoke Finnish.
That’s how I ended up driving a truck
in a lumber camp near the Finnish boarder.
One day two Russian girls came to my hut.
I didn’t speak any Russian
and I thought they must be whores
so I gave them some rubles, all that I had,
which I hoped (remember I was a young man then)
would be enough for both of them
and I held up two fingers.
It turned out they were two farm girls selling eggs
and my rubles were just enough for two eggs
and a small piece of side pork they had with them.
I ate good that night.
She’s always been here,
will always be here
serving greasy fried potatoes,
cleaning hotel rooms, answering phones,
or selling gas and cigarettes at Speedway.
One day she hopes to marry a boy
who drives a tow truck, stacks lumber
at Home Depot or lays carpets
and works on his own car.
There will be a wedding with keg beer
then a divorce with a couple of babies in between.
She’ll get a sitter on Fridays,
go out with her girlfriends to shoot some pool,
drink a few beers, listen to Kieth Urban
on the jukebox, dance with a new boy
who’s building a monster truck
in his mother’s back yard.
Restore my vision so I won’t need glasses.
Take this pain from my shoulder, my hip, my knee.
Let war end forever.
Help the police find the missing child.
Let the Cubs beat the Dodgers.
Some winning lottery numbers would be nice.
Let the woman in the sun dress find me irresistible.
Shrink this tumor, cure my gout.
Let the weather be nice for the picnic,
the wedding, the drive to New Jersey.
Not so much for the funeral;
a cold rain might be alright for that.
Fill the air with them like fog hovering over a river.
They fly like buzzing insects, not knowing where to go.
They swirl in the wake of jet planes, stick to
weather balloons and the wings of birds.
Ra, Odin, Yahweh, Allah, Apollo, Baal,
Marduk, Ahura Mazda, Shiva, Quetzalcoatl.
Who’s got time to answer all these millions
of prayers adrift on the wind?
Oh, and make me rich and famous
for doing nothing. That should be an easy one.
I’ve seen you do it.
Click HERE to begin. (On an Android device you’ll have to move the time to 17:18.)
Along an overgrown path between
a dusty road and turbulent creek
I saw her in a thicket.
We were both standing on our hind legs
so we had at least that in common.
She was stretching to reach a vine
of wild grapes. “Those are bitter,”
I told her but she didn’t seem to mind.
I pulled the vine down so she
could get at the ripe fruit.
"But they are less desirable
now that they’re within reach,” she said.
Then, with final flick of her elegant tail,
she vanished into the woods
without so much as a thank you.