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.

 

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Let’s go west… what do you say…

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 yet, 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 you taught me reverence.

Is there a way back…

Careening Through Life

Do trees cast off their leaves,
eager to be free of those parasites
drawing more than they offer;
do they cure and fall themselves
as birds leave nests never to return again;
or is there a romantic but exhausted grasp
which simply but reluctantly
fails in the cold of November?

Do the vivid colors of toys
cling to pathways cossetted in the
soft tissue of my memory;
a red fire truck of tin metal
and sharp edges that cut
my tender fingers as I played
the role of rescuer in the midst of
a horrible blaze; and what of the smell
of Mom’s cookies – unmistakable
and gone forever except in words
put together in strings
without sentences; is there a way back
to those sunny afternoons
with powdered sugar floating in the air
and me praying for a broken sample?

People died here…

Visiting History

It’s raining on the prairie,
but not in answer to prayer
as we huddle inside a dusty museum wondering
at the recreation of a settler’s life,
determined by weather and wind and rain
on the cut fields of earth;
if we shiver in a sudden summer storm and wonder
at the musky air it’s best to recall that people died
here – in this room probably, because they did
everything in this one dark room – and we can’t
wait for the storm to end and go on with our fun.

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.

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.