Can’t eat it on the cob like I used to…

Corn Off the Cob

Before she moved into the home,
before she couldn’t dress herself anymore,
before she stopped writing out prayers
for her children and grandchildren on slips
of paper she tucked into her Bible from
1944 with those colorful plates of Abraham,
Moses, Elijah and Jesus doing amazing
things, and before she stopped eating
altogether, we would bring her dinner
to her in her room – all cut-up in small
bites, except the corn on the cob
she loved most of all, she always said,
and then she said she just couldn’t
and asked me to cut the rows off the cob
for her and I asked if it was now
corn off the cob, and she said it was.

When we need heroes but there are none…

Heroes, Unsung

Finding little worth fighting and little worth life
leaves heroes undiscovered and thus unsung.
Cautionary grace notable amidst strife,
languishes anon with venom stung.

Ignorant to fault, unknown whom;
blithely ashamed, subsist entomb.
Finding little worth life and worth fighting for
leaves idols disguised and easy to ignore.

Whence will they rise and might they appear;
what the occasion and for whom will they ride?
Preferring paladins whom we may revere
charging opportune our reprieve to provide.

Grand their entrance, hastily depart;
hurried the glory, thankless heart.
Whence might they show, when will they arise
whom will they rescue and what the surprise?

Pretenders needn’t apply nor propose a name,
no compensation and not a single holiday.
Reference unnecessary, experience the same,
recompense a single and collective hooray.

Fleeting is glory, blazing abright;
modest the way, countenance contrite.
Pretenders resign and willingly profane;
little appreciated and splendor’s shame.

Grandeur appropriate and fit for these times
must go begging and decline its excellence.
Serving the character of accomplished climes
demands mean customs befitting indulgence.

None the better, all assonant;
shun the single, solely temperate.
Grandeur suitable and easily held
meager in merit and plainly felled.

What is original about sin…

History of Sin

History a tale of fallen’s friends
giving account of what had to be,
fixed by a sovereign who sees the end
saddled with a desire to be free;

lost to be found, but only through Rome
intrude on our lust, our passion, home,
named ex opere – the lusty lie
sprinkle the babies lest they all die;

create the fright, threaten what’s scary
touch our babes, but still necessary,
triumph assured, all wars justified
feelings condemned not capitalized.

Who erred that all are born this way
simply answered, we all come astray,
it’s sin, not hunger, that babies cry,
and not biology why we all must die.

There’s always a comparison…

handHis Arm

The skin thinned as I grew older
and veins were easy to trace
my small finger along as if following
the invisible stream of blood
that must be coursing through them,
bruises and scrapes from
his weekend gardening lingered in
earthy hues of purple fading
into tanned greens into the sun
baked crust remembering
burns and deep cuts from times
before I was me and sitting
close to him mesmerized by the way
something so strong could
become so frail and languid, and I
wondered at the perfect
plumpness and muscle of my own
so ready to remain young.

S L O W down… or else…

To Be Read S L O W L Y

Don’t you hate
being told how to
read, how to enjoy,
how to be; it’s like
being told how to
breath or piss,
both as necessary
and both as problematic,
eventually,
so do try not to hate
being told to do
the things we will all
forget one day soon.

I’ve never killed anyone…

Brussels-SproutNo, I’ve Never Killed Anyone

The common consolation
that we’re not that bad
only works if we’re able to find
those despicable creatures who are so vile,
baseless, and unloving that our selfishness
seems virtuous in comparison;

hopefully we only hear of such bad apples
on the news or in gossip—yes, that’s a comfortable
and safe distance, because it’s just too much
to experience such things ourselves
and it’s better to drive-by and gape
than to have our names on the accident report;

distance makes all things nice
when it comes to evil or misfortune or
dumb luck—a ‘there but for the grace of God’
voyeurism, or a prayer of thanksgiving
uttered in relief when we discover it’s just
the neighbor’s house ablaze and not our own;

we don’t steal candy from babies,
rape and pillage like barbarians, and
we’ve never killed anyone
(to the best of our knowledge), and maybe
we’ve been ignorant of the poor and hungry
of the world, as my mother used to say
when protesting my diet and volunteered
she could send starving children elsewhere
what I’d refused to eat since they’d be
so happy to have what I took for granted,
even brussels sprouts but brussels sprouts
never killed anyone either.

When I am old…

The Business of My Business

One of those fascinating oddities
I find so thrilling and my family mocks
blurted out of the radio the other day;
it’s about the paper-products industry
and real life all at once—announcing
its fastest growing and largest segment
is no longer bags or cups or even
plain-old-paper, as anyone would imagine,
but incontinence products, as in,
adult diapers, and much to the enjoyment
of my family, I can’t contain my excitement
over this development; it’s because
we’re getting older, not younger, I say,
and they laugh at me, again,
so I remind them (because I still remember
enough to remind them of certain things)
that when they were children we played
a game I called ‘When I’m old will you…’
as I pushed them on the swing, asking
in a serious voice, ‘When I’m old will you
bake me cookies?’ and they’d giggle
and promise, ‘Yes,’ and I’d ask, ‘The ones
will little chocolate chips and nuts?’ and
they’d agree, ‘They’re the best!’
and I’d go on, ‘When I’m old, will you
cut up my meat into tiny little pieces
so I can chew it when I’ve lost all my teeth?’
and they’d laugh harder and promise,
‘Of course I will,’ and then would come
the best one yet, ‘When I’m old, will you
change my diaper?’ and they’d belly-laugh
and gasp for air just to swear, ‘I will,
I promise!’ and I remind them today
that I knew what I was talking about
when they were just little kids.

 

When I look into the mirror…

A Beautiful Crow

Every day – every single day,
a crow appears outside the mirrored
corporate windows of my office,
cawing and craning its neck
to catch a glimpse of itself,
darting and dashing and thumping
its beak that cruelly glances off
the impenetrable glass, rain or shine,
undaunted as it is angered by
its own reflection; and inside,
every day – every single day,
people appear inside the mirrored
corporate windows of my office,
gawking and straining to see
the stupid, stubborn crow,
complaining of its devotedness
to destroy what it sees in the mirror;
and it appears there is no real
difference – only the separation
of what is really transparent.

An Irish wake…

An Irish wake is simple enough to observe
In summary it takes one and a clan, all devoted
Or should I say, one willing to die, the others to wake
Which requires a disproportionate sacrifice indeed
Like a pig and chicken to bacon and eggs
One sacrifices and the other just gives
Such forfeiture is an Irish wake creed

The deceased must die, unexpectedly deserved
Without diagnosis (that would require a surgeon)
And a male subject seems to be an absolute necessity
For men die younger and more often of course
Leaving some to wonder if the women ever pass
Or if the Irish wake is mainly a misandry liturgy
Retribution for hardship with no divorce

Let’s say Seamus failed to awake one day
Not through any fault of his own this time
The drink didn’t keep him asleep but death killed him
And he wasn’t noticed to have taken his leave
Until bean chéile scolds the deceased harshly
Upbraiding him for laziness while she labors on
Then in fault her anger turns to a guilty heave

To the window, new widow, to the window fly
Open it wide for his spirit has been cooped in
All superstition and lore are intense at times such as this
And it’s believed that an escape he must make
You in his state must remain the man’s servant
With the wake just begun you’ve still much to do
He’s out for the day and he won’t be home late

Having begun now wait briefly to shut it again
Lest he repent and wish to return, lock him out
Sadly he leaves but now and forever he must stay away
And her true gift must now can be observed
To telegraph the news to friend and kin alike
Crying he’s passed just as one would expect
But certainly not as he or we all deserved

Next to the clocks if there be more than one
And stop time in respect for it seems poetic
While everyone else hastily prepares the house for visitors
‘Tis no better time to make the appearance clean
Cover the mirrors throughout the house as well
In fear that someone might spy death itself
And the next demise would be foreseen

It is necessary that the body be prepared
And shaved to make the man presentable
Whether as such he appears more handsome is debatable
His one suit never fit him right and now as well
But out of respect he’s dressed and tied together
Older women do this because they’ve all seen
There are no surprises with an Irish swell

After the man’s body is bathed and freshed
Handy women would also band his jaw shut
Lest the lout gape back at them as if he’s trying to speak
They’ve heard enough and’ll hear no story
He’s sent off well and well silent he be
They’ll be no drawing attention to himself
As he waits patiently in dear purgatory

The table is for today his place of repose
Oddly sacred but in an unusual fashion
And all gather to remain attending this reserved vigil
Cross oneself, prayers silent but well versed
Friends kneel, but family must kiss his cheek
All pray for his soul as they’ve always done
And they’re respectfully quiet at least at first

Quiet is not a room nearby kept for keening
This wailing is bitching at the man himself
They wouldn’t complain so to the Lord or blaspheme
Loudly screeching  these banshees in grief
A true Irish symphony of widows and wives
Pausing only to sample meal and tepid tea
With no proper meal only eating in brief

With these formalities having been filled
We turn to the heart of the gathered throng
Food and drink as in meats and breads and alcohol strong
Conversation comes much easier with such prying
Lies flow as freely as drink in pleasant memories
Raising the glass encourages rounds of affection
Toasted with fondness forever undying

Candles are lit, a dozen with one Judas put out
For even the Lord had a neighbor ill tempered
Tobacco and pipes, lard and hard spirits were men’s share
Always plenty since there’s no woman to warn
And they’d give them rest and something to do
Rest was allowed but sleeping lacked respect
As the watch carried into night and new morn

Games fill the hours not to pass the time
Playfulness mocks death but not the deceased
This hoolie is underway and will carry on without guilt
As the door welcomes but no one departs
And none contemplate what done him in
Knowing what doesn’t send death to flight
So they dance to show the ache of hearts

The blessed rosary is recited mid-night
A decade signaling the end of the vigil today
But simply a respite in the country as they await the morn
The Father and Mary are made to attend
Invited by the women but observed by all
And stories are woven by the teller of tale
Binding living to dead to grave transcend

All the debts of life are due the widow now
This dying fails to undo anything done
For all the good such men are for, fightin’, bonin’, drinkin’
The scars are deep, the children horde
And friends take up the pub where left off
Sell what she can, no sentiment to afford
Save us from his sins, our merciful Lord

Promises are made but needn’t be kept
‘I’m sorry for your trouble’ is solace enough
Only deeds have value and of course ordering of the coffin
It matters that you show forgetting his mistakes
It’s remembered more than you can imagine
For this is the Irish way when words are many
Only rivaled by the number of our wakes

The keening fades as the morning dawns
When undertaken away the reason to gather
Saddest, last of all farewells this exit will not be undone
Forced to send-off this cheerless bier
Roads no longer rise, breeze is stiff afore
The sun now hides and storms drown all joy
We may meet again, but there not here.

 

The clothes angels wear…

StairsThe Clothes Angels Wear
I dream of children walking up and down stairs,
up and down, up and down, in brightly colored
clothes, deliberately and unlike the way they
do when on stairs, but it’s not a dream at all;

when Jacob dreamed his dream of angels on
a ladder ascending and descending to heaven,
not from heaven as I’d expect, he thought
nothing at all – no decoding repressions, no,
he wrestled an angel and lived, dreamless;

the couch tells us they’re divine messengers
and always from above where they live
because we incurably desire a god, a message
we call truth, but it’s all wrong because
they’re just like us, always from below
climbing up and down; then the children stop,

then the children stop,
and laugh out loud, the bright colors of the
clothes we dress them in melt together
like rain is washing away a disguise, melting
into earth’s brown–dark, so dark it’s blinding,
they lift their eyes up into the nothing and grin
in a pure gratitude which embarrasses me;

and when I look down at my own clothing it’s
bright and colorful and new; if this is a delusion
I can’t explain it because I don’t want to.