What I’m not thinking about now…

The dry, deadly needles of another Christmas tree
stab my thinning skin and ornaments tumble
to their shattered end, but I’m not thinking about
years and years of cackling laughter slipping off
into the nowhere of ether and our children
slipped off to their own lives too far away.

I’m not thinking of the musk of my childhood
basement where I’d hide to play on hot summer’s
days – the cool screech of cicadas outside piercing
the quiet interrupted by the sounds of Mom loading
the washing machine, stepping back and forth
as her slippers scuff the cement floor.

She was young then like she’d never be again
so I’m not thinking of that, just like I’m not
thinking of debts I owe, how the gutters are
overwhelmed with melting snow today and
the leaves I didn’t clean from them when I could

and I’m not thinking about taking the dog
to the vet and my own visit to a doctor eager
to prescribe another thing or two to fill the
crowded pill case I swore I’d never need or use

that soothing sway and chatter of riding the
California Zephyr on a family vacation and Bob
and Phil, Betty and Judy boasting how they love
sleeping on a train in White Christmas and
returning the gift of a sweater that doesn’t fit
this year but it would have last Christmas

and I’m not thinking about the first time I ever
had a BLT and it was so good that everyone
since has paled in comparison but I keep trying

and how the touch of a hand on my shoulder
stays with me, the smell of rain in summer
and how it’s different than in the spring, and
I’m not thinking about any of these things now.

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So the blank page…

It’s the sun than compels the painter to paint,
and this is obvious to everyone except
those who just can’t paint

like the silence we fill with noise and words
that destroys any hope of quiet
for those who want peace

or my dog twisting a curious head toward me
straining to understand new things
hoping for a treat

so the page, so blank and pure and empty
sends fear tearing through the heads
and hands of the writer who isn’t

and that sounds so snobby and condescending,
doesn’t it, so we all play the game of pretend
that words are hard for all

but they aren’t – hard for all – and that’s that
because they come to us so easily at times
although not always kindly

which is the real difference, the truest fear
that we being we – the you and the me –
can’t quite get us right.

A preference for blue…

Does it really matter what I think about
a color, favorite or not is just a preference,
and mine is blue; like the t-shirt and cap of
my little league uniform the year I played
shortstop, turned my first double-play or
the time I actually hit a ball over the head
of the left fielder but only made it to first
because I watched it sail so perfectly into
the blue sky while the coach yelled his
insistent ‘Run!’ but I wasn’t embarrassed;

it was the same blue of the sky above as a girl
named Jean rested her head on my chest one
summer’s day after our first awkward kisses;

it was the blue of swimming pool water
I swam every summer’s day, and it’s the
blue of the house I lived in on Hudson until we
moved to one of brick and brick isn’t blue;

I pick blue pens instead of black, blue ties
instead of red, my favorite car was a blue Nova
with a V-8 that drank gas faster than I could make
minimum wage to pay for it, and my eyes are blue
and I do enjoy being told my blue scarf brings
them out, but it doesn’t really matter what I think
about a color, favorite or not because it’s just
a preference and I always prefer blue.

On eating bacon…

If I eat this bacon will it really kill me
like the hemlock in Socrates’ final sip
or drowning as the S. S. Titanic sinks
because my doctor seems to think so

will this thick cut marble of porcine be
the straw that breaks the camel’s back
which tops my damn family’s history
of too sudden ends to too young lives

I’ve separated and discarded yokes,
taken up grains and wheat for toast
and my milk has been skimmed
of all character and flavor from fat

so over my decaffeinated cup of tea
I’m questioning whether this perfectly
prepared strip will be the very last
thing I ever eat, and if it’s worth it.

Lovers forgotten…

There’s a wonderful novel on my shelf
which once slept bedside when read daily,
over and over again as if new, old pages
still surprising, reluctant in my progress
through the confused lives of Owen and Stevie,

how Kate loved Owen but Stevie loved Kate
and nobody loved the janitor, Mr. O
which they called him because no one
could pronounce his European surname;
how I cried every time I read about
the disappointments of their sad lives

and wondered at my own insignificant ways
until another lover came to bed with me
and the pages of Owen, Stevie, Kate and Mr. O.
gathered dust, then hid in a stack
until finally becoming lost on my shelf
next to the other lovers I’ve forgotten.

Where everything is…

Either I was stupid or just too much a child
sitting with an Encyclopedia Britannica
propped open in my lap, turning pages and
nodding along, eyes darting here and there
at letters making words I couldn’t read because
I was just three, but I knew everything was here.

Do we even imagine such things as everything
anymore? On pages, in words made of letters
we can’t read because we don’t believe it’s possible
to understand in a way that includes everything –
it doesn’t seem so, does it.

But on page 127, Volume 8, Edward to Extract
there it was all about ‘entropy’ – just another
way to say there’s a degree of disorder to it all –
a lack of predictability that does not mean there
is no everything but we see a gradual decline into
disorder which is just less of the more that makes
it possible to sleep at night.

And isn’t that the everything I couldn’t read about
when everything’s were all I knew with the Encyclopedia
Britannica propped open on my lap when I, like
our sad world, was just a few years old?!

Simply an accessory…

I feel famous on days like today,
plucky and serene, unhurried by
a schedule everyone else rushes
to keep, naturally pausing to look
into a mirror, chin raised and
finger tips guiding aside a wisp
of hair that falls back lazily,
attractively; exiting into a calm
day to match just me, stepping
onto the bus without a pause or
breaking stride, smiling in response
as strangers try to get my attention,
nodding and turning toward the
window as the sun itself brightens
while other squint uncomfortably;
my uniform hiding behind my
overcoat and scarf which is so soft
and flimsy it’s simply an accessory.

Mom’s victory…

‘Everyone’ is such a rich expression,
so powerful, persuasive, intimidating,
but it was no match for my mother
who could make its effect conditional
adding a simple ‘if’ and all would fall
off a cliff, as in ‘If everyone jumped…’
her artless and shrewd play ended
debate with a victory she deserved.

Turning…

A last leaf clings to barren branch
a last breeze carrying sun’s fading glow
dusk races ahead of us at day’s end
summer green wounded by a frost
and we are the sadder for it all;

but fauna knows this time to turn
though lives shorter than ours
while instinct may lead to envy
we much rather enjoy the surprise.

Sacrosanct happenstance…

The highway sped away
behind us in our brown Chevette
as we chased the setting sun
toward the Mississippi; it’s a
race we won and lost so
often we ignored the score.

A thermos of coffee in the
cold, a Coke in the heat wedged
between our feet because
cup holders hadn’t been
invented, but we deserved the
convenience of refreshment.

Everything west was ahead of
us, everything east past; we’d
follow closely those who braved
the limits, wondering at the
listless, lifeless dodderers
with no place to hurry to.

How many little, sleepy towns
did we cruise through along the
life we called our highway as we
talked out our dreams; this
happenstance was sacrosanct,
and it taught me reverence.