There was a P38 in the sock drawer…

 – Surrender

Tucked under his socks in a dresser drawer
was a German P38, holstered in worn
black leather so thick it looked like elephant’s skin,
and the pungent mix of leather and gun oil still strong
after all these years; it is a trophy, sort of, he said,
from a funny thing that happened when driving
a Colonel’s jeep and chauffeuring maps, and
a starving German soldier appeared roadside
raised his arms in surrender and offered his rifle,
bayonet, and this P38 to a U.S. soldier who was in
the war but said he didn’t see war like so many had;
and without knowing better, he chauffeured his prisoner
sitting in the Colonel’s seat into camp
to be met by anxious MP’s and dressed down
by everyone but rewarded with this P38;
he told the story sheepishly so many years later
and was patient when I asked,
over-and-over again, if he’d ever killed anyone,
shot anyone, blow-up anyone, and he said,
thankfully, no, and I didn’t understand at all
why that was good and he was thankful.

The life of my map…

The Map of My World

Laid out before me
is a map of my world that is,
unfortunately, very different
from those on walls, in books
and wrapped around globes;
mine follows a storyline
that creates borders which
are not meant to be respected
or guarded; elevation changes
are stained with tears,
and the earth is filled with
smudges of mis-drawn lines,
eraser marks, and tracks of
double-drawn paths
through the heart of good lands;
most are well-worn
and like ruts that make life
easier to live with detours
crisscrossing at the low points;
I never knew I had this map
before it was too late to
draw my own lines,
and every time I try to
change a border or straighten
a zig-zag my pen fails
to leave an impression.

Oh the places you’ll never go…

A Splendid Sufficiency

You know that moment when you realize
it’s just not going to be your day, week, year
or even life – it hasn’t happened the way you planned,
and that’s okay because what has happened is nice enough,
maybe too nice for someone like you (to be quite honest),
and all that planning and dreaming wasn’t for naught
because it taught you to hope for tomorrow, not just more,
and you learned to enjoy not travelling to Europe,
sleeping in smelly youth hostels, eating bread and yogurt
that tasted nothing at all like the food Mom fed you,
hitchhiking to Kathmandu to the feces covered monkey temple
although you’re still convinced that would have been nice,
and somewhere around Ayers Rock in Australia
your true self is still waiting to dream about stars with you,
that volcano in Chile is dormant until you ascend
in bright sunshine and thinner air, to burp some lava
from deep in earth’s crust just so you can say you were there;
there are hundreds and hundreds of things you never did,
and so many people you just missed and never will meet,
but that’s still okay because if you’d have done it all
you would have burst from life’s gluttony and never realized
that dreams fill you up quite enough if you let them.

We ate casseroles once upon a time…

 – Casserole

I come from a family of casserole-eaters,
growing up in the 60’s when frozen and condensed
were all the rage in a life that was busier
than any had ever imagined (or so we were told)
until the weekend when Mom would spend all day
Saturday baking and roasting and stewing
and creating left-overs because no one had time
on Tuesdays and especially Thursdays,
so a ‘single-dish’ meal was the all the rage
with everything covered with cream-of-whatever
soup and baked forever covered with aluminum foil
to be topped with crumbled crackers or, if
you were lucky, those fried onions, and we’d
sit together somehow and eat seconds and
thirds until my brother wondered aloud if
they would be enough for leftovers and Mom
would laugh in embarrassment over leftover-
leftovers and we didn’t understand.

 

Everyone gets a church…

The Church of Tolkien

There’s talk of starting a Tolkien Church
espousing the doctrines of J. R. R. himself,
and why not confer sainthood and worship
the Hobbit of oversized feet and the Shire;
if L. Ron Hubbard has one and we enjoy
dianetics, Jim Jones has his grape Kool-Aid,
Koresh a compound for Reno to ruin,
Rome its V-8 Pope-mobile, the 95 theses
of a German monk setting Europe ablaze,
and every Tom, Dick and Harry a pulpit
and tax-exempt status, why not Tolkienism;
let’s all make saints of our heroes,
ignore their warts, praise their creativity
as authority and bow in humble worship
asking for commands to fill all our days
and our minds lest we are tempted,
once again, to take and eat and know
for ourselves that we are but dust and
that’s our true home when we’re done.

How many churches are there…

– The Fourth Church of the Defector

The sign says there’s a population of just 203, but that’s
a number from long before the U.S. Census started to
officially ignore what folk’s around here call Harold’s Creek,
where Indiana State Road 44 crosses County Road 260E,
past Salem Road at the only hollow in the earth for miles,
with six dusty, empty storefronts too close to the two-lane
and everyone blames Walmart the shops are empty, but
the truth is they’ve been vacant so long no one can
really remember, yet they know who to blame so
they can sleep at night, there’s no religion here with
two abandoned churches, one was a Methodist clapboard
and looks so Americana, the other a brick Presbyterian
looking so Presbyterian, and they sit on opposite corners
of the four-way stop now ignored as obviously as these
churches once were, but it’s easy to imagine the
booming voices of preachers out-sermonizing one another
through open windows on steamy Sunday mornings while
their faithful flocks nodded off, and there’s a big, old sign
with an arrow pointing nowhere to The Fourth Church
of the Defector, founded in 1892, a church started when
no other church could be right, and it took at least
four iterations to get this one right, which makes one wonder,
how bad could it have been, back in 1892 that is, but then
you recall a bit of wisdom, that when there’s nothing to
fight about people give up, and sometimes they just
give up anyway, like here at Harold’s Creek
near State Road 44 and County 260E in Indiana.

Aeschylus stands, mocking us…

 – There is a Street

At that opening of time when
slumbering dawn quietly overwhelms night’s hold,
and the soft glow of Mercy patiently plods
the moral-less darkness of her own anonymity
as light appears in unembarrassed windows
stained fresh with the dust of life
to greet curious strangers who will soon pass
spying how others might face the day,
and if all that’s lingering can simply be forgotten,
all that haunted and whispered and taunted
can be forgiven or concealed,
while inside Aeschylus stands, arm encircled
in his garment, bald but boldly bearded and
as Greek as can be steering every
tragedy in his constant effort to choose happiness
which we want to believe, we do, but
we choose to keep walking this street
looking for another answer in another window
and another choice that will be made for us.

What it’s like to die in exile…

– Like Ovid

Like Ovid I will die in exile
and no one will know why,
obvious rumors will fly
getting his due, they’ll smile
in assured ways their lie
comforting thoughts supply
and enjoy my sour cry
from my joyless isle
knowing justice will supply
but I won’t know why
emperors once prized
but were just as spry
in sending me here to die.

When your child leaves to change the world…

She Will Not Always Come Home

From the very first there were clues
that she saw the world as her own,
her realm, home, hers to rule
with benevolent whimsy alone.

Off she’d go to play, learn, fly
charming allies, everyone’s queen;
every hello with an attending good bye,
assembling delight in her daily routine.

More she wandered, more she went,
the more she loved as she explored,
new and old with equal content;
a gypsy girl for journey’s reward.

Proud and pleased, by her she swirled,
unapologetically she’s set to roam;
off to change this amusing world
and she will not always come home.

What is it about dreams…

Dreaming a dream

Thoughts which wake are many and few,
dancing between they always pursue
the start, the gasp of rest been robbed,
testing haunts, peace be mobbed;

starting from within, so we’re told,
suddenly alive once hidden foretold
erasing peace and awakening fear
haunted and close, close as near;

wish them gone and they return
curse the many and one discern,
then from the one all manner come
waking the sense before the sun.