Thursday, June 27, 2013

Willows and other wanderings


I lift my hands to touch the leaves, but never do
Pulling my fingers back from the finger-like leaves
That have always awed me,
Willow so full of grace, crafted like work of art,
An impressionistic masterpiece that steals my breath
Incomplete, always lingering unfinished,
So sad I nearly cry each time I see it
Each season giving it a new look though
No look is so tragic as that of winter
When its thin limbs are bare
I love the autumn best when its golden tears
Fall like rain to the ground
My feet easing though its flood as I walk
The river surface mirroring each sloped limb
So I cannot tell which side is up or down
And which side is the real me,
Sometimes this time of year
I stand at the bridge side and stare down stream
Seeing the rain of tree after tree
Like a gold frame around a natural masterpiece,
Individual leaves setting sail on the outward tide.
In the rain, I watch the water wear down each limb
To its nub, forcing the evacuating of leaves.
The river runs gold with their bleeding,
Making me ache as if each is a piece of me,
Each day sailing away
Hinting of winter.


Turbulent squawking fate
Forms around my fingers in the shape of an egg
Inside, the flesh, bone and marrow,
Moves with life

In May, it hatches a hand
A whole hand complete
With opposing thumb
And frivolous pink fingers
What quiver ceaselessly

The nails, soft yet easily broken,
Grow again much like the original
Each finger flirting with the others
Each one showing the bulge of additional eggs

My life is continued his this hand, this egg
As if I could keep existence gripped firmly
When I know in the end
It will always get away


This is not a love poem
Although love lies in it
Like an embryo in a shell,
Fertilized by love-making parents
Who have come together
In time to seed it
With their affections,
Patient parents hovering over
A speck of dust
Waiting for it to grow,
How so much comes out of so little
Remains one of the great mysteries to me,
How love making leads to love
How out of the beastly desires
We find tenderness,
How we manage with a little taste
To drink in each other whole
How out of this remarkable ache
We find happiness.
Sometimes, walking alone afterwards
I feel so full I could burst,
Wishing for your mouth on my mind,
For me to get inside of you,
Perhaps to remain there,
Like the embryo of an egg
Destined to explode with love


I got sick to my stomach by the time the bus reached Las Vegas
California’s smooth roads a soothing deception to the unseaworthy,
Hard seats jolting each bump to my brain.
I wished to have walked the dusty desert flats instead,
My blue jeans clinging to my sweating legs like snake skins

Even the windows provided poor relief, a bitter autumn sun
Beating at me through the tinted glass, me a voyeur to grim sights
Glass streaked with pale lines of too many cigarettes and greasy heads
Each stop dropping in on us a new population of strangers
Dusty tourists blown in from other states

By Salt Lake City autumn had passed into winter
Snow grinning down at us from the sides of canyons,
Each making me ache for my home back east.
California is a figment of my imagination, a looking-glass world
Filled with dreams dreamt from a distance turned into nightmares close up
I cannot live in a world without winter, on sea scapes filled with tan perfection,
With the illusion of perpetual love,
I’m always looking behind the curtain, up the yellow brick road,
For the man twisting the gears inside of me to make the illusions work.

Maybe that’s why I like leaving California
Stumbling out of that dreamscape into the real world
Where the cold still stings my face when I step from the bus
And the rarified air of Denver’s 5,000 feet high
Makes me feel clean again,
Clean enough even for you.


I refuse to write you one of those sour poems
One of those “I’ve lost my heart & soul,” pieces of crap
That ask you to pack your bags and hurry back.
The airwaves are stuffed with such muck in the guise of music,
The collective subconscious heavy with the ache of a million broken hearts
All those note books filled with verse of should/could/would haves
Making enough confetti for a Wall Street ticker tape parade.
Although if I could I would arrange such a parade for you,
Aching to stretch you out in the back seat, the world’s best cover girl
Coveted by the world’s most needy man: me
I carve you out of Ivory soap bars, as I dream of you in my shower,
You seeming so pure to me I would sip you as if apple wine,
You straight out of an American classic painting, cheeks red, eyes bright,
My stem so proudly displayed, aching for you, a perfect still life,
Me aching down to the roots and rotten to the core.


Worms crawl over asphalt in the dark,
Park closed at dusk as if for them
Their journey safe from human penetration
Although fishermen here know the trick
Of sneaking here after hours
Having their pick of worms to hook,
Plucking each up with high hopes they might catch
Something to bring home from the polluted water
Overhead, hawks hover while other night birds watch,
Hooting owls searching the riverside with wide eyes
For the scurrying of rodents, fluttering up, clutching in claws
The prey that came to prey on worms,
Each pathetic crawling creature struggling to get across the walk
Before doom comes upon them,
Seeking to dip their heads into rich wet soil,
Safe and sound,
Sometimes, I envy them, having no such safe ground
For myself.


From the posts of the old dock
The gulls watch the fisherman.
They look like distorted Hitchcock characters
In dirty white cloth coats and bent beaks
Laughing to the cast of reel and fruitless expectations,
Curses over lost bait and tangled lines,
Talk over “the ones” that got away
As the gulls take to wing,
Cast their gaze across the flat water
For the ripple of water, dive, then steal
The fish the fishermen could only talk about,
Rising and falling in the failing light
So light, so tender, it might make a love story
With only the fisherman suffering the broken hearts


I can tell the temperature by the cry of gulls
They seem louder with each degree below 50
Like children crying for ice cream,
The river side so covered with ice I need spread only sugar
To make their wishes true
Winter has caked in both banks and stretched a sheet of ice
Across the river top so tight a breath could shatter it,
Gulls reflected in its surface like rude guest ready for bed.
Their cries break the silence, but they cannot break the ice
Or get at the mocking catfish whose webbed backs
Shivering under the surface as quietly as ghosts.
The only hope glitters on the far side as a robin’s red breast
Breaks the monotony of white, hinting of the change of season
Soon to come upon us, when this frigid bedspread with draw back
To expose the underworld again.
I ache as much as the gulls do, shivering on this dock
As traffic rumbles over the highway bridge, sending shivers through the air
And slivered icicles down upon the flat glassy water.
I wait and watch for the car I know will carry you,
I know you always come this way,
I know that like the seasons, even your heart must sometime thaw.


For want of water I might even pray
Or lay down along the dried river bank,
Suffering for sins I cannot comprehend,
Stones, hot and sharp under me,
Like swords stabbing deep into my soul

I watch the children dance in waves of  heat
Dreaming of water, a myth told of times past
Few remembering when water ran free
We remember only the shriveling,
The sour strip of blue down the middle of where
Water had been,
Even the factories have surrendered,
Unable to hide their pumping stench

Instead of water, the air moves
Filled with the scent of withering willows
A fool’s hope that things will become flush again
As crows caw instead of gulls
And old men with backs flat against gray stones
Wonder if water had ever washed these waves of dust


They talk of love,
Teenage attractions
Spoiled on the vine or
Picked too soon,
The bitterest always the ones
Who bought wholesale
Male macho’ boasts
Fast cars, fat muscles,
Now ages later,
Dodging the reaper
And Cupid’s arrows,
Shopping around for
Egoless males
The way they might
Sugar substitutes
Always with that
Bitter after taste
Always with the remembrance
Of things past,
Every man an echo
Of the man who came before,
Back to that first man
And that first unfulfilled promise
Trading virginity for empty air
That in memory is as sharp
As a stab in the heart
Yet each still talking of love
As if love was even possible.

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