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Monday, March 23, 2009

A Bookish Sonnet


The pages of the book like inked skin
Beckon to me from table near my bed
They whisper in the twilight hours again
And push the thought of sleep out of my head

The cover creaks echoing in the air
I cringe and hold my breath to hear you speak
I know disturbing you is quite unfair
Although I can’t resist a fleeting peek

The typeface fairly shimmers in my sight
While words and phrases quickly draw me deep
I’m lost within the lines while slow the night
Passes by, in hours bereft of sleep

The cover whispers closed with morning’s dawn
Again I’ve traded sleep for fancy’s yarn

(A Cup of Words Writer's Group piece I wrote 3/16/09)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Circular Question

Monday Night Writer's Group exercise, March 16.


round and round
the carousel
going nowhere
up and down
prancing ponies
flashing lights
a feeling of
perpetual motion
a false sensation
sticky like cotton candy
gluing your fingers together
and a recurring realization
deep within your mind

upon disembarking
you’re back
at the place
where you began
feeling cheated
robbed of adventure
filled with the question

was the wild ride
escaping into fantasy
bright lights flashing
calliope music
floating on the air
a gauzy, diaphanous dream
really worth the trip
to somewhere-nowhere
when upon stepping
from the platform
you find your feet
on the same
old dusty ground?

Friday, March 6, 2009

The House on Guin Road

by request from Lynn, who wanted a description of my getaway house.

I spent the week in a small, Midwest Missouri town, with my daughter and her welcoming housemates. The house is the childhood home of the two brothers who live here with three additional friends. It is an impressive dwelling, built into the side of a hill, and boasting two roomy levels. The beautiful hardwood floors and stone fireplaces complement a great-room that looks out onto an expansive deck. The light from the windows is perfect in the mornings, and makes me wish I were a painter, so I could capture the view on canvas and take it back home with me. Instead, I stand at the railing of the deck on this blustery March morning, and paint with ink and words into an old journal.

Behind the house is an old concrete structure, probably five feet above ground. It used to be a swimming pool --- but now it’s a bent, rectangular hole filled only partly with dirt and carpeted with a blanket of rich, green, mossy-looking growth. That green provides a sharp contrast to the winter yellow grass of the surrounding yard and the field beyond the gaping, weathered barn. Leggy, bleached-white saplings densely populate the hole in the concrete. Their bony limbs scrape and knock against each other in the wind like so many skeletons.

Towering over the south side of the pool of emaciated remains are two great pine trees, looking like worn bottlebrushes. Next to them, what were once second and third brothers are now a couple of bare stumps. One is probably eight foot tall, and the other nearly fifteen, both cut down in mid-life. Who can tell what mid-life is for trees of this magnitude? Perhaps they lived long and well, and their bottlebrush brothers are really living on borrowed time. Perhaps not. Nevertheless, they are imposing, stark creatures, peering desolately into the pool of skeletons, next to their aged brother pines.

Just beyond this band of brothers, stands a grey and weathered barn. The gaps between the boards of the doors and walls are wide enough to afford a view straight through the structure, into a newer, more modern barn directly behind. The older building still stands, though covered in brown, stringy vines. They blend into the fa├žade on this warm, late-winter morning that only hints at spring. I wonder whether these vines will green once again when the season completes its change. Today, they line the front of the barn like wrinkles on the face of an old seaman who has seen every part of the world from the deck of a ship. Rusted metal farm implements of various shapes and sizes hang just beside the door. They sway in the wind that twists and tugs the curls from my hair, and brings tears to my eyes.

In an adjacent field, sit a curious sight---a black and yellow school bus with weeds growing up around the tires. Faded black lettering on the broadside is indiscernible from my vantage point. Crouching out there all alone, the beast looks rather ghostly, and I wonder about the person who sat in its driver seat, day after day, year after year. I imagine the school students mounting those steep steps through the folding door, and making their way down the aisles to find a place to sit. My memory is filled with the smell of green leather, high backed seats from my childhood bus rides; and I can faintly hear the clack-clack-clack of a dozen or more windows being opened to this relentless spring-warm wind. I wonder if today, that breeze carries the voices of children, echoing through that school bus.

Just up from the deep end of the pool is an odd little building, square with a peaked roof. Screened walls make up two sides, and the remaining two are crafted from the same grey boards as the older barn. There are gaps, probably sixteen inches wide, above and below these walls, and the screens on the opposite sides flap in the wind like dishtowels on a clothesline. I imagine that a strong gust could lift the entire structure from its foundation and transform it into a fantastic flying machine.

It’s amazing to me, how a change of scenery can fire the imagination of an artist, a musician, or a poet like myself. This old house with its strange noises, lovely angles and pools of light streaming into so many windows has made me feel quite welcomed. The first weeks of March are the last days of winter in my part of the country. Too often in that bleak barren time, creativity is a challenge. Who would have thought that an unassuming two-story home with a view like any other in this once rural community would give me the boost I needed to open my mind and move my pen?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Oscar, I Have Nothing

The garbage can is talking to me.

Honest, it speaks every time I pass by. It is one of those high-tech refuse bins, with a light sensor. When my shadow falls across the sensor, the lid creaks open like a mouth, waiting for me to deposit my trash inside. After about four seconds, it closes again. I counted. The can belongs to my daughter’s roommates. Everyone else in the house ignores it unless, of course, someone actually has trash to toss inside its mouth. Yet, as the visitor to the house, I still jump every time I walk past it, and it yawns widely at me.

It is speaking to me, in a strange, foreign language, of silent but insistent demands. Those things that pull me, draw me---good things, mostly, but things that require some of the stuff that is me. The never-ending chain of supply and demand that is my life sometimes weighs on me sometimes carries me along in a heart-pounding rush.

After two days of being startled and guilted by this appliance, today I stood looking at the open-mouthed garbage can and spoke back. “I don’t have anything to give you. See, nothing in my hands. I’m empty.” It paused, as if listening; processing my words, then closed its mouth again. I hope it understood. Still, something tells me that when I pass again, it will shout once more its silent demand.

I am prepared, though. I have a scribbled, wadded page of paper in reserve.

Monday, March 2, 2009


dark and crimson wine
washes my tongue
soothes the tattered
edge of my nerves
left by the tearing
dispute, misunderstanding

words ricochet against
the walls in my head
untamed, scattered, tangled
I fight to sort them
press them to make sense

they refuse.

in this teeming place
cigarette smoke gathers
overhead like the fog
clouding my heart
choking me, making it
difficult to breathe

questions that resist answers
fill my mouth, barricaded
at my lips by fear and disbelief
I sway unintentionally
in time with the music
I’m not really listening
still it moves me subliminally
fuels this restless anxiety

deep in my body I discern
a longing to break free
make a break for the door
escape into icy winter night
where the wind will rake
against my chest, grip my heart
with its bony fingers, forcing
me to feel raw, sensate reality
to loose the emotional flood
dammed inside my walled heart
burst the walls, let questions
escape in a torrent

but fear sits on my lap
weights me to my seat
if not for this pen, I would be
totally silent, avoiding chaos
that threatens to spill
from my weary heart

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