I took no map…

I went for a walk
In the midday clear
Without a care
I started here
First I stepped
Down the way
Looking to turn
And go astray
Few set out such
Finding one lost
Choosing to remain
Found at all cost
Views first cleared
Then went belief
Next conviction
This path a thief
I trust no thought
That comes at rest
And make no vow
Without a test
No crumbs to trace
No map to cheat
This losing way
Made by my feet
I recall that once
It was très fictional
To banter such
And be equivocal
For keeping all
Enslaved in race
Made wars of life
With power in place
Until such time
As walks unrare
Became a fashion
And tactless aware
Question a question
Doubt a doubt
Avoiding tenure
Enjoying the route
Power is race,
Race is war,
Art is tactic
And strategy ignore
Limping along
There are ways
For undoing control
And refusing praise
Ignoring so much
Of important voice
Searching out stories
Learning to rejoice
Enjoying the noise
And lacking cares
Following slaves
Attending affairs
There is no way
No map to home
No loss of joy
And so I roam

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The smells of home…

Do you remember what it was like
to know your mother was baking,
or doing laundry or scrubbing floors
by the way the house smelled?

One aroma drew you out of your
room to sample, the other drove
you to the closet to add something
you forgot and needed clean again,
and the third kept you away fearing
you’d be reminded how difficult
the work was and realize you don’t
appreciate clean floors nearly as
much as sampling baked goods.

Steinbeck and a pastry…

As we talk about others and ourselves and others
until we start back on us again across
the small coffee shop table with the whole world
rushing past us, nibbling on a pastry we share,
what Steinbeck said about having to get all our
autobiographical material out of our system
or it will hound us until we get it said
keeps interrupting my train of thought,
and yours as well as you ask me where my head is,
and am I listening, which, of course I’m not;
but that’s because we’re only pretending
to be the authors of our lives and this dialogue
we try every day – which you’re so much better at –
seems more accurate about others than us;
and I wouldn’t have it any other way
even though it doesn’t always seem so, and,
no, I’m not going to finish the pastry.

So the blank page…

It’s the sun than compels the painter to paint,
and this is obvious to everyone except
those who just can’t paint

like the silence we fill with noise and words
that destroys any hope of quiet
for those who want peace

or my dog twisting a curious head toward me
straining to understand new things
hoping for a treat

so the page, so blank and pure and empty
sends fear tearing through the heads
and hands of the writer who isn’t

and that sounds so snobby and condescending,
doesn’t it, so we all play the game of pretend
that words are hard for all

but they aren’t – hard for all – and that’s that
because they come to us so easily at times
although not always kindly

which is the real difference, the truest fear
that we being we – the you and the me –
can’t quite get us right.

Lovers forgotten…

There’s a wonderful novel on my shelf
which once slept bedside when read daily,
over and over again as if new, old pages
still surprising, reluctant in my progress
through the confused lives of Owen and Stevie,

how Kate loved Owen but Stevie loved Kate
and nobody loved the janitor, Mr. O
which they called him because no one
could pronounce his European surname;
how I cried every time I read about
the disappointments of their sad lives

and wondered at my own insignificant ways
until another lover came to bed with me
and the pages of Owen, Stevie, Kate and Mr. O.
gathered dust, then hid in a stack
until finally becoming lost on my shelf
next to the other lovers I’ve forgotten.

Sacrosanct happenstance…

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, 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 it taught me reverence.

Ordinary people grocery shopping…

There are a lot of ordinary people in the world
and they all seem to be grocery shopping today;
not one of them beautiful, aware of themselves,
though several made an effort, it seems;

round bottoms balanced on skinny legs and
pants that are tights but not be any design,
flaky skin and moles with untrimmed hairs,
and some are itching at places best not seen

as they survey bananas, beans and apples
searching for just the right one among dozens,
hands on places approximately near hips
contemplating price per ounce of olives and
spaghetti sauces but not the chunky kind

because she says Frank doesn’t like that
and there is a sign that ordinary people care,
or at least this woman does for her Frank
and he might be the luckiest man of all.

What are those things…?

City born and bred, our first a wonder,
teaching us to be parents, she the scholar,
reading and seeing, loving and eager,
and always with a song, ever singing,
it seemed she risked everything she could see,
and we thought she saw everything,
I’d like to think that an inherited acuity,
living in the bright lights of life;
tonight wading carefully across a farmyard
in the middle of nowhere
she stopped, arms dangling, mouth open
chin up, eyes wide, looking
and asking “What are those things?”
the perfect darkness of a farm’s night
lit by countless luminaries
this daughter of Abraham
had never seen so many in our Ur,
innumerable pops dancing stilly
above our small world as her universe
expanded, again, wide and big.

All for Naught…

Alone, still and solitary
this beetle clinging effortlessly
to the brick of my garage
on a hot summer’s night;
you don’t move, even
when I wave a finger close,
no response. Nothing.
Where do you find others,
a mate, a friend even
(maybe beetles don’t
need friends, but that
would be too sad). Where
are the others beetle?
Jet black back, sleek
and fast looking but
for naught; you haven’t
budged a bit as I revisit
you hours later for no
reason but to see if
you’re still there beetle.

On the Termination of Professor

All the tenured others have a name,
but he had transcended delimiters
and his surname became what was
for others simply a title – Professor.

Such was his reputation, amassed
over years of walks across the quad,
tattered tweed and unkempt, thinning
hair, never so proud so as to style.

His flair was the attentive mind
of the absentminded academic, but
he knew where every scrap of paper,
book, idea, and every word rested.

The office was never neat, swept,
untouched by time even dust shunned,
a couch for naps, chairs for stacks
of papers begun and undone.

Diplomas, awards hung on a wall
hidden behind tassels, programs of
graduations long ago, and three walls
shelve-covered and book burdened.

Office hours maintained sacredly
but scarcely attended but for a few;
puzzling and time passed to most,
sought and honored by only some.

Matter of fact questions earned the
reply of a tale, legend, story to explain
the unexplainable why ; every plea for
a story earned a who-what-when-where.

His time had passed, but he stood still
convinced that learning was progress
granted the guarantee of title his battle
was now one of perceived value.

Once freshman seminar his load,
now only electives and covering
for sabbaticals of the young, restless
who used post- in journal submissions.

Post-tenure review was the remedy
from a utilitarian board in the know,
failing to manage an unsustainable shift
from Professor to professionals.