Bonnie’s Day Off

On his way out the door Bonnie kisses Clyde goodbye and says in her quiet voice, y’know, that voice, “Hey Honey, pick up some money at the bank on your way home, will ya?”

OK, not poetry. But it is amusing and has a rhyme… honey/money, which reminds me… Please check out my donation/tip page on your way through.

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The Photograph

The photograph hangs on the wall by the window
Three judges appear (one carries a folder)—
A tarot card reader, embalmer, engraver
Without much to say and not much of it said
About the boot in the crib and the tire in the bed
The round faced man and the pot on his head
Painted with flowers and chipped on its edge
And the cat near the door with its collar and bell
Flailing and airborne and mid caterwaul
And the three-leggèd dog with her leash on
And sweater, jubilant, leaping— Mon Dieu! Grand jeté!
And the crow— O the crow! In its cage cawing “Fire!”
The crow crowing “Mayhem!” and “Murder most foul!”
The dog and the cat and the crow and the tire
The cage and the crib, the pot painted in flowers
All in a frame with a sign alongside—
“Self portrait. Around the Ides of July.”
A ribbon is clipped and then hung for its owner
It bears the word “Mention” and then the engraver
Makes a note on a form he hands to the embalmer
The tarot card reader turns— She and her hat,
And addresses the room, “Ain’t no card made for that.”

 

ICARUS, a one act play in verse

Players:
Chorus of 3 voices
Icarus

Act 1

Chorus
We/we/we, chorus of three.
& Icarus

Chorus–1st voice
Lived once a father and a son

Chorus–2nd voice
Daedalus, the father carpenter

Chorus–3rd voice
Icarus, the son

Chorus–1st voice
Banished, both, for the sin of one, to an island on the sea.

Chorus–1st & 2nd voice
They walked the eastern cliffs, white seabirds wheeling over them.

Chorus–3rd voice
Thus Icarus dreamed.

Chorus–2nd voice
And so four wings were formed of wood and wax and feather.

Chorus–1st voice
Daedalus, the father, to Icarus, his son, said…

Chorus–3rd voice
“If you disobey me and fly too near the sun the wax will melt. The feathers will fall. The wings will fail. And you will tumble like Phaëthon into the sea and die.“

Chorus–All
O Icarus!

Chorus–All–silence

Chorus–3rd voice
Hear him!

Chorus–All
Icarus!

Icarus–Entering
I, Icarus, demand– repudiate my father’s lies,
Sin-borne, hung in fear, of men hidden under darkened skies–

Chorus–3rd voice
Fists clenched, and down

Icarus
Or die!

Chorus–2nd voice
As flies, wings torn and every eye to heaven .

Icarus
Die as Daedalus! Who, having slipped too near this rock to fall but down,
Praised the gods! .

Chorus–1st voice, hushed tone
Care, Icarus!

Icarus
Hell– A lesser man, for having tasted heaven once, he turned,
Chose this Earth and green Aegean sod.

Chorus–One voice
Amend these lies!

Chorus–Another voice
And end to night’s deep dark

Chorus–Another voice
And oily skin!

Chorus–All–hushed
O Icarus!

Icarus
Command! Ascend!

Chorus–One dancing, arms high

Icarus
And dance as I
Above the gods and boundless starry winds.

Chorus–All dancing

Icarus–Soaring

The End

  

Amend has an old meaning: to put right.

Published in: “souls arriving” 2006 earlier version as poem: “Between Music and Dance” 2013 as poem

Ball Card Heroes

With bat and ball and gloves in hand and on our way we’d pass
by Old Man Finch where when he’d sit and watch the world
one of us would wave. Most times he’d look, he’d say,
Ever tell you boys about the game?

He stole our breath away, sure, a hundred times.
We were fielders for him, basemen, catchers and every ball
split seconds from extra innings in mid-flight-
from-outfield-to-second-base-and-home-plate night games.

Peanuts, beer, hotdog vendors shouting,
with every other voice, shouting!
Out! You buncha losers! C’mon cmon cmon! Safe!
Allow the call or fault it, either way.

We were ball card heroes, just the same,
with bat and ball and gloves in hand and on our way.

This poem tells a story. Life, imagination, games, spirit of play, youth, heroes and age. Baseball! When I was a boy we collected baseball cards. Topps I think. We carried them in our pockets, traded them, flicked them across the schoolyard in games of accuracy, attached them with clothes pegs to our bikes so that they hit against the spokes when we rode and made motorcycle sounds (we imagined). Cards were toys. I don’t collect cards now but if I did I’d collect the most played-with cards I could find.

Published in: “3201 e’s” 2018

One Cat, Maybe Two

Raymond shifted his weight forward on the coffee
shop chair and leaned his cheekbone into the heel of
his palm. A childhood verse chided him in his
mother’s voice of over fifty years ago.

“Raymond, Raymond, if you’re able,
get your elbows off the tab
This is not a horse’s stable,
but your mother’s dining table.”

It didn’t immediately connect to any
pictures in his mind but he had heard it enough
to know it was real. An hour ago he had been
at his mother’s side in the palliative care ward.

She had appeared smaller than he liked to think of
her—had looked almost like he was seeing her at
a distance. She hadn’t greeted him, only closed
her eyes and said, “Feed the cats, will you.” It wasn’t

really a question. “Yes,” he answered, but the cats,
whoever they were, must have left or died years ago.
The only living thing she owned, he suspected,
was the small Christmas cactus someone had brought to

cheer her up. He looked at her again, waiting for
her eyes to open. They never did. Her jaw dropped
and that was that. Raymond hadn’t wanted to be
in the room when the nurses and orderly would

come to take her away. He stopped at the reception
desk to say that he’d be in the coffee shop
waiting for his brother and sister-in-law to
arrive. They were late and he was thankful to have

a few minutes to himself. From where he sat he
faced the open entrance of the café. There was
a couple sitting tiredly off to one side.
A man in a shapeless blue hospital gown and

slippers shuffled in pushing an IV pole ahead
of him. Raymond heard steps echo sharply down
the hallway. Here they are, he thought, hurrying
needlessly. Bill and Marijke had been fast asleep

at 2:30 am when Raymond’s first text message
came in. They never saw it until 5:00 when Bill
reached for his cell phone as he did every morning
right after Marijke turned off the alarm. “Damn,”

he said, “No time.” Bill, “William” on his realtor
business card, and Marijke, were used to demands
on their time from potential home buyers. But they
usually had early mornings to themselves—

breakfast, coffee, catch up on current events. Not
today. The text had said, “ASAP.” They hit the drive-
through at Starbucks on their way to the hospital.
“Hey Bill. Marijke,” Raymond said. Bill nodded. “Hey,”

he replied and paused to look at Raymond, to see
if he’d say something else, “Is she gone?” “Couple of
hours ago,” Raymond said. “Should we see her?” Bill asked.
“Can if you want, I suppose. Maybe later,”

Raymond said, “Did she have a cat? She mentioned cats.
I haven’t seen any for years. Did you take them?”
Mother might have mixed him up with Bill again.
Raymond looked at his brother who didn’t seem to

be listening and then at Marijke. “She used to
feed the neighborhood cats before she broke her hip,”
Marijke said. “That might be it.” It seemed odd that
Marijke knew more about his mother’s life than

her sons did. “Maybe you’re right,” Raymond said. “What’s next?”
“I’ll call her lawyer and get him on it,” Bill answered.
Raymond suddenly realized that his brother
had been listening. Marijke started to cry. 

Raymond pulled some napkins from their holder and pressed
them hard against his eyes. Bill looked down and away.
Over the next few days life seemed to stop. Nothing
more than daily routines and only as long as

they didn’t require much effort or attention.
Coffee, whatever was in the fridge—dishes sat in
the sink. Gradually he began to feel alive
again. It was as though he had been wrapped in blankets,

hearing distant, mostly muffled voices, glimpsing
unfamiliar rooms and spaces when he closed his
eyes to sleep. Marijke had startled him this morning
when she called and said to the answering machine that

Bill and she were coming over with something from
the lawyer and hoped he would be in. She didn’t
wait for him to pick up. She’d have known he was at
the kitchen table. They arrived mid-afternoon.

No knock at the door. Bill was the older of the
two and was the most like their dad. And Dad had not
been the knocking sort. Not with Raymond anyway.
Bill and Marijke each carried a bag of groceries

which they placed on the kitchen counter. “Thought you might
need some things,” Marijke said. “Nice to see you, Ray.”
She took a bag of groceries and made room in the
fridge for its contents: milk, BBQ chicken and

eggs. She placed the bananas in a wooden bowl.
“Saw the lawyer yesterday,” Bill started. “He has
the will but it doesn’t amount to much except
for the house,” he paused, “The equity has mostly

been sucked out of it. God knows what for. And there’s this…”
Bill dropped a large manila envelope in front
of Raymond. “I’ve already opened it. There’s an
envelope for each of us in there. Marijke

says we should open them together because we’re
all the family we have now.” He tipped the envelope
on its end and let the two smaller envelopes
slip out. One each for William and Raymond. Bill picked

his up and tore the corner of the flap destroying
most of the envelope in the process and
extracted what appeared to be several sheets of
neat handwriting. “It’s just a letter,” Bill said. He

put it into the inside breast pocket of his
suit jacket. Raymond waited a moment then picked
up the other envelope, turned it over and nodded
almost imperceptibly. He stood, walked to the

shelf between the window and the back door where he
had made room for the Christmas cactus instead of
leaving it behind. Not sure about the light, he
thought, and leaned the unopened letter against the

earthenware pot. “Not you, too?” Marijke shook her
head. “It’ll be like…” Raymond said, he paused, looking
at her, “It’ll be like not hanging up the phone.”
Marijke understood—he’d never open it.

“I get it,” she said in a softer tone. Bill looked
blankly at his brother. And Raymond smiled a little
for the first time in a while. By six the next
morning Raymond was already dressed and brewing

coffee. Usually he would head down to Timmy’s
Donut Shop for his caffeine fix. “Double trouble,”
he’d say, meaning “Double double,” as he always
did at Timmy’s. It amused him and often made

his favorite server smile. “Too much trouble, you mean,”
she’d say. Human contact. Raymond guessed that some of
the guys at the corner table would be wondering
how he was doing. They’d know what had happened, of

course, but they’d ask just the same. He poured his first cup
and walked out onto the back porch. Still a bit cool
out here, he thought as he leaned against the railing,
sipping his coffee as his eyes wandered around

the yard. He’d have another cup in a while but
first he had something he needed to do. Raymond
sat down on the porch steps and slipped his feet into
an old pair of shoes. He tied them and flicked the loops

with his finger to see how the laces fell, to
make sure he had not tied them backwards and would not
work their way loose. Someone had taught him that a long
time ago when they had seen his laces come undone.

He stood up and walked across the yard to the back
lane and the narrow picket fence, missing a picket
here and there and much of its original coat
of white paint. Some boys had probably pulled the missing

pickets off decades ago and with galvanized
garbage can lids for shields spent a Saturday
morning sword fighting. The gate was leaning and half
open, held there by uncut grass, weeds and neglect.

He stepped out and onto the lane that led between
the two rows of houses that backed onto it. Raymond
looked at each fence, each set of stairs and window as
he passed them by. A block later he turned and headed

home satisfied that he had seen at least one cat,
maybe two. Another cup of coffee in hand,
Raymond sat on the top step. On his way out of
the kitchen and onto the porch he had stopped to

turn the cactus in the morning light, stepped outside
placing a saucer of fresh milk by the porch door,
and sat down.

 

Published in: “3201 e’s”: 2018

At Least Until This Fairy Tale is Over

Her bags are packed, left by the door. She looks away waiting for her ride to come. Just waiting.

You met her on a holiday. You can’t recall who else was there. She’s moved along and left you holding empty air. Empty rooms and empty halls fill the days you’ve lost count of and left an empty bed alone beside you.

You met her one late-summer day, or was it autumn, who can say? Like falling leaves you fell one for the other. The mornings were the best of all. The evenings melted into dawn and dawn again.

And then one day she said goodbye. Without a word, she said goodbye. Her eyes had someone else inside. You asked yourself when this all started.

Now every girl you see instead and every time you turn your head and all the names on every street, the colors of the sky at night, your bed at dawn—days pass you by, whatever tells you you’re alive tells you that you’re dead inside.

You keep her pillow by your own, wake up late each afternoon but still you wake up as alone. And then one day you’ve cleared your mind, you bring her back and let her slide away again.

Now mornings fade from grey to green and somewhere in the days between you catch an eye, she catches you and spends a night or maybe two. The hallway and the living room, the shower and the kitchen floor—what else had they existed for?

Now every smell of every flower, every early morning shower and all the songs on every street, the colors of the sky at night, her kiss at dawn, the rising light, whatever tells you you’re a man tells you you’re alive again. Yet stories like this never end like fairy tales.

With every smell of every flower, every early morning shower and all the songs on every street, the colors of the sky at night, her kiss at dawn, the rising light, whatever tells you you’re a man tells you you’re alive again at least until this fairy tale is over.

 

Published in: “souls arriving”: 2006 as “His story”: “Between Music and Dance” 2013 as “Beside You” : “Poems for Relationships” 2017: “3201 e’s” 2018  

Pannin’ fer Rhymes (an old miner’s tale)

Well, now– It was in the spring of ‘49 just ‘round Memorial Day in the Land O’ Freedom… or so they call it. Anyway, I was sittin’ up behind them hills… Y’know, nexta where God ‘n’ Hell musta had some sorta fuss or ‘nother. Sorta desert. Sorta not. And I was pannin’ fer rhymes– I kept comin’ up dry– when alluvasudden straight outta the ground there’s this tinklin’, twinklin’ musical sound. So I grabbed me a panful and gave it a twitch. Some verbs and an adjective peppered the dish. Good stuff, I s’pose. Fer a yarn they’d bin fine but not fer perfessional-lookers-fer-rhymes. I swished ‘em a little and shook ‘em again to see if that tinklin’ mightn’t be kin to the one that I found in the gully that night. It’d had to be good or it wouldn’t fit right. Them poets won’t shell-out fer less than a pair cuz one by itself leaves ‘em pullin’ their hair. So ya gotta find more than a couple that fit or poets ‘ll fake it and some ‘ll just quit and some ‘ll just hope no one says that it’s….. Y’ know….. Call ‘emselves “nou-veau” and claim it’s legit. ‘Nuffa that, I s’pose.

I looks fer them twinklin’ musical words that rhymes like the first time they’s ever been heard. I sure ain’t the first one that’s panned in them hills. My pappy before me turned up a few thrills and somewhere or ‘nother done found a whole line. But me, I ain’t happy unless it’ll rhyme. They’re there, I can hear them– they tickle the breeze! I’ll stick it out long as there’s poets to please. If y’ expected a yarn or to hear miners cuss– I’s pannin’ fer rhymes and not prose in the dust!

Hmm… What’s that ya got there?

 

Published in: “souls arriving” 2006: “Between Music and Dance” 2013: “3201  e’s” 2018