Burning leaves is prohibited…

We Can’t Burn Leaves Anymore

Just last week the leaves clung
to their boughs
though heavy and sweetening,
glowing in October’s
blinding noonday sun
with its
hint of warmth still;
dancing in the stir of a breeze
soon to be bitter wind,
but mild still causing all to
inhale deeply, slowly
in a final, seasonal mindfulness
of fleeting comfort;
but November brought a change
of heavy rain
and the verdures no longer clung,
they yielded
and fell underfoot, waterlogged,
soon to rot,
staining the sidewalks if not
raked and swept
to be discarded in bags for burial,
no longer afforded
the final aromatic triumph of
autumnal cremation
stinging the eyes of dancing children
and rake-braced adults
gathered round in funereal muse.

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One of the things that scares me about Texas…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rattlesnake Roundup

There’s a small town in Texas
where everyone gathers for an annual
rattlesnake festival called a Roundup;

I don’t want to go, but not just
because of the snakes,
even though I’m afraid of snakes – and not just rattlers;
it’s not because some think it cruel to cull thousands
and thousands of them and dump every last one
in pits to sort, milk, skin and cook in contests
as a form of Texas pest control like we spray for ants
or hide mousetraps behind the couch;

the thing that bothers me is that it’s just ‘an’
and not ‘the’ roundup because
apparently and surprisingly folks do this wherever
the snakes are and they’re everywhere,
and it’s one of the best parts about
living in these everywhere’s which is what
scares me because
I might wind up living in a place like this someday;

well, that, and the rattlesnake beauty contest
in which the winners behead and skin rattlers,
then leave their bloody hand prints on the wall
as absolutely everyone cheers them on and
that frightens me as well because I have daughters.

Elbow grease and my life…

I spent hours one day when just a boy
searching through the shelves of cans
and tins and tubs, of liquids and oils and
paints and lubricants with numbers
and names of weights and uses from
maintenance to remedies for sticky,
stubborn or stuck things in search of something
called elbow grease which I had never seen
or heard of until told by my father
that was what I lacked to loosen or tighten
or tinker with my bicycle’s training wheels
which I desperately wanted to remove although
warned that I’d fall because I wasn’t ready.

What is it about coffee shops…

Us, in a Coffee Shop

You make me wonder, as you sit quietly,
considerately across the small table from me
in the midst of our busy, loud and impersonal
coffee shop just around the corner from home;
we don’t speak and only occasionally,
accidentally make eye contact interrupting
our reading – mine of a book, yours a newspaper
and you’re gracious with a small smile,
almost embarrassed by our casual connection,
returning to the worlds on our pages as we
escape the crowded space we choose to share;
our coffee’s are the same, right legs crossed over
lefts, comfortable together like we’re not
with every other person around us;
strangers don’t matter in this place right now,
like they don’t matter so many other places,
and I can tell you wish it was different
like I do, as if this place was in a Paris spring
or rainy London or beside a university campus
with smart ideas filling the air around us
like leaves falling in autumn – expected, raked
together and burned for that sweet aroma
which stings the eyes yet doesn’t drive us away;
but we’re in our cold city on this January morning
and everyone else has someplace to go
and they’re only stopping for their coffee
as they run to work because they’re late or
just have somewhere more important to be,
while we linger together, two perfect strangers
who civilly share a small table together
in an act of pure humanity, anonymously.

When children have cancer…

 

 

 

 

Can it be what is deserved
by a four-year-old child?
The cells distorted and
deteriorating inside, from
inside her bones still soft in
youth, but fragile from birth;
some signal isn’t working,
white cells that won’t mature,
too full and crowding life;
and the word everyone
uses is ‘acute’ – a bad and
unwelcome thing with too
many synonyms to count,
all troubling and painful things
with a mysterious origin than
no one knows so there’s no
one to blame except God;
she only has strength to
smile through dry, cracked lips,
her skin is taunt over thinning
features and only her cheeks
show her adolescence, while
adults are masked to protect
her from what’s always worse,
more tiring, more frightening;
it hardly seems right she is
unafraid and just needs to
rest, while everyone around
her is just terrified and can’t.

Why God made ears…

If for no other reason than to hear
the constant, tireless, angelic voice
of my daughter singing her way
through each and every day, hitting
and missing and finding new notes
for songs which filled the air,
refusing to be kept by closed doors,
stopping passersby through open
windows, and never failing to delight;
if for no other reason than this
had all the wisdom and wonder
of God created ears to hear it would
have been well worth the effort.

 

That interchapter I like…

It’s ponderous lumber makes
that interlude into its own chapter,
it’s dry progress threatens
the snail’s infamous reputation;
the turtle’s nameless fame
is itself a Joad, mesmeric lethargy;
it’s path is a migration against
the desiccated earth – dustbowl dry.

Yes passive, yes armed appliance
the witnesses are numerous and none,
yes agents at first swerving
then steering a targeted shell upset;
soup meat or yellow-nailed apathy
there are so many, many of us afoot;
kicking when upturned, feigned anger,
flailing limbs but our eyes lack humor.

Read on, read on the highway,
we cross and pretend to look both ways;
somehow knowing the dangers
will do something for our advantage;
go on, go on and sluggishly pilot
trusting our conspicuous shell conceals;
the road crossed is burning hot,
there’s no reason to be going this way.

I like Steinbeck’s turtle….