Sourdough toast and life… my life…

I’m fond of sourdough toast buttered generously,
it’s an indulgence, and rare, but thoroughly enjoyable;
like children laughing where they shouldn’t be;
smiles from strangers who have no reason to notice;
kind compliments from those who care and say so;
these are all nice things, to be sure, and just as rare;
crisp autumn days as fine, and the warmth of spring,
still summer nights too, but little in winter, for me;
and that strange feeling of uncontrollable emotion
when you see something beautiful, something small
which no one else notices until they see you cry;
but mostly I enjoy sourdough toast buttered generously.

 

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Not as brave as Socrates, with good reason…

Of all the things to be frightened by – spiders and snakes,
the dark, those higher than high heights, and what’s
under the bed at night to a child or the dark of a closet,
and spiders and snakes, I’ve learned of two which I fear
and will never be anything but: the fear of missing out
is the first – they call it FOMO, but the cute acronym
doesn’t make it less fearful; it’s still the paranoia of
an ideal life which must be out there and we’re missing it,
always missing it, the greener grass, the rose colored glasses
ruining life; the second is the double unknown – not knowing
what I don’t know – is worse than can be imagined;
some will think it’s what the oracle of Delphi said
about Socrates being the wisest of Greeks, just because
he knew he didn’t know everything, but he knew
and he was confident enough to die, but not me;
Socrates said he knew nothing, I wish to know what
cannot be known and therefore I’ll never be ready to die,
never happy to sleep, never unafraid enough to
enjoy being frightened by spiders and snakes.

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.

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….

When family photographs mattered…

Before everything was photographed only
certain things were, special occasions and not
people laughing uncontrollably or our lunch,
people posed, not candid or cute or coy, but
smiling practiced smiles at the prompt ‘Say cheese!’
and we did because it would be weeks before
we knew if someone’s eyes were closed
or Mom would say ‘You didn’t get my good side’
and Dad would be obliged to offer, ‘You don’t
have a bad side, honey’ and that was about
as public as their romance was allowed to be,
sulky children, on the other hand, only had
sour sides, pouting or nonplused standing
stiffly in uncomfortable shoes you couldn’t
even see in the photograph (‘but I know you’re
wearing them’ Mom would say), and they were
primped in starched ‘outfits’ instead of ‘everyday
clothes’ that they were never allowed to ‘play’ in,
as in, just do what it was that a child did, and
this photograph would be pressed into a book,
the corners tucked into those sticky darts
attaching it to the parchment to be viewed on
special occasions or the day after someone in the
photograph died like Dad did and some old Aunt
looking over Mom’s shoulder would say something
like, ‘He always looked so handsome in that suit.’