Learning how to handle this time thing…

Everyone needs time that’s
quiet to think or not,
just time without, not
simply unconnected, not
simply quiet, but time enough;
I’ve seen it done and done
well; my Dad would stand on
the front steps in almost any
weather at the end of each day
and do nothing – not sit
or shuffle or hum or sing;
it was his time enough;
when I’d open the door
he wouldn’t react, he
would still have his time
enough; and I could stay
with him as long as
I said nothing, did nothing;
never, not once, was I
asked by Mom to go get
Daddy, ask Daddy, tell him
a single, solitary thing
while he was on the front
steps; it was his time, and
I learned this is how the
time thing works: you just go
stand somewhere and do
nothing but that, without
trying even, and especially,
if I don’t seem to have time
enough, and I my only fight
is to wonder if I’m doing it right
or not.

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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.

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.

I knew he’d live forever…

Knob of Pearl

I was eight, maybe nine, and it should have
changed my world to see that my father was
a mere mortal – flesh and bones and blood,
but it only made him more of a superman
to me, impervious to torn flesh and oozing
blood – deep red and opaque seeping from
the gash on his knuckle, layers of skin torn
away by a trowel as he gardened and I played
nearby; “Look,” was all he said and I peered
into his wound to see the bright white of his
bone exposed, a little knob of pearl between
the serrated opening, he bent his finger
and it danced, and for once I said nothing,
for almost fifty years; such a display should
cure the myth of paternal immortality,
but it’s effect was the exact opposite.

The day my Dad died…

June 28

It was a Monday,
hot and humid and still
while I slept away the morning
unaware of the dawn screams, begging,
the ambulance, and slowly gathering family
as everything in my young life fell apart.

I had a new clock,
plastic, yellowish, with numbers
that would flip to the next minute
and I woke to the arrival of 11:28 am
looked out my window to see a dozen cars
I didn’t not recognize or care to care about.

Everywhere I looked
people were whispering,
standing and listening and careful
and when I appeared they turned to look
but didn’t acknowledge that I was the last one
to know, to hear all that had happened.

Even before Mom
could get the words out
I started to cry, but must admit I
just knew it was Nana who had died
because she was old and getting older
but never thought it could be Dad.

He was just 49,
and important and busy,
and when he was home he was home,
with us always with him, but no more,
and an Aunt fed me weak tea and dry toast
because somehow that would help.

When Mom said that earlier…
I felt guilt, of course I loved him,
but with my last words yesterday
I’d cursed him for refusing me something,
kicking and promising my hatred,
now unchangeably my testament.

That was in 1971,
and I was young, naïve,
now wondering if I can still remember
his face, rubbing his whiskers at day’s end,
cooing love instead of what I did,
praying every day he’s forgotten my words.

A student that didn’t study…

I hated school and loved it
with the best reasons I could imagine
when I was so young,
it was everything I wanted but came
with such a painful price
of learning by unlearning, hearing
what I didn’t know to hear,
my imagination of a world constantly
spinning had to be stopped
to gain what could not be stilled,
all measured by letters and
discouraging questions trying to diagnose
what might be missing
as I failed to live up to my potential
which as they described it
was never much to aspire to,
year after year until
I walked away because I wasn’t ready
to stop the world’s whirl
and every day I missed what I lost,
every moment counted as wasted,
until the undoing of my undoing
began to take shape
and the only thing I had missed
was what I had missed.

 

I love the blank page…

It happens quite often, and I hope it never stops,
that pang of jealously that I want to feel
when I’m reading someone else’s work,
someone else’s words,
someone else’s words that I didn’t write,
and I catch myself wondering if I could,
if I could do something like that, somehow,
because I love the way these words go
and I need that on my page – the page I write;

there’s a theory, a bad theory that lies,
that it’s something that I just need to find,
or let out, or is inside me somewhere,
and no jealously is needed, no jealousy is
called for, because this is no competition
and we are all players in a bigger story
where all words are borrowed, all pages already
filled, and creativity is the lie;

but when I turn the page there’s nothing there,
until a small child bends to pluck a dandelion,
building a priceless bouquet, and
the dog keeps chasing the squirrel but never catches it,
and you start calling your children’s names into empty rooms,
sometimes at night when you sleep less than you should but
not for lack of trying, and try to remember when you
finished the things you started – like life,
and the page fills up, and then another, and another
where there was nothing there moments ago, no thoughts,
no stories, no words, and you wish to remember
the jealously that made you love the page.

I might try praying… again…

Let’s Try it Again

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord that’s what I’ll be able to do,
sleep, because that would probably do wonders
for my soul, my health, my marriage even,
I hope; and a kept soul sounds nice,
so I’ll have one of those too,
they’re so slippery, souls that is, and
hard to keep track of or even imagine,
thus (that sounds like a ‘soul’ kind of word,
doesn’t it, ‘thus’), if the good Lord
would keep mine, I’m guessing that
I’d prefer that to having to track the
untrackableness of said soul;
now what comes next about mortality while
asleep, seems heavy-handed
don’t you think, and I wonder if any
child can appreciate the funereal muse
as they kneel bedside
dressed in warm pajamas, hair
still wet from a bath and bubbles
lingering in their ears
reciting the plea that a God who is good
would stoop to take their soul,
but as vague as that sounds,
having your soul taken seems the
best option at this point, so tonight
I might take a bubble bath
and kneel bedside like a child and
try praying again because
I’m concerned with my soul
and it would be nice to sleep well too.

What Nietzsche knew about babies…

NietzscheWow!

Nietzsche said “Love, too, has to be learned”
and we started with our first by teaching her
to say, ‘Wow’ – kissing lips opening as a fish
with a slow, drawn-out ow-ow-ow between
the magical w’s; it is a word that goes around
itself, a palindrome to embarrass all others
and she loved, absolutely loved, the joyful
surprise on adult faces as she so carefully
pronounced, over-and-over again, her word
of wonder until she broke into a smile and the
wow’s had to stop because upturned corners
of the mouth break into the world of wows
as if competing for delight, and it took her
learned discipline to recapture the lips which
would say her wonderful word ‘Wow’ and we’re
awed, every day, she knows what it means.

We don’t understand what we don’t understand…

The Nelsons - Ozzie & Harriet, David & Rickey. DESERET NEWS MORNING ARCHIVES

The Nelsons – Ozzie & Harriet, David & Rickey.
DESERET NEWS MORNING ARCHIVES

Maladaptive Adaptive

We don’t understand normal anymore,
don’t understand what’s happened, before
we’ve became the new black, the new average,
and maladaptive became all one could salvage.

Making-do and not expecting too much,
a reasonable way to cope – a sacred crutch;
lest any be forced to act out of compulsion,
a violation of will leading to convulsion.

The mushroom cloud of the family,
looms large on the horizon of the latchkey;
and any invocation of is dripping with guilt,
a poor rendering of the intricate human quilt.

This was not always our social affinity,
but an industrial product of economic viability;
accommodative adaptivity in a pragmatic vein,
we collect round the character campaign.

From Ozzie and Harriet, Ward and June,
to the village it takes to raise this tune;
we’re better off not asking too much of any
for disappointment weighs upon all heavy.