Poetry

In the parking lot

In the parking lot, in the car, watching and
waiting for Johan after the band concert
The kids spilled out over the practice soccer field
Steam blowing off the engines after
Too much time squirming still

I can’t take him home yet since
This is a lot more fun than the last two hours
He spent with beginner trombones and trumpets

It’s a mix of kickers and passers
And someone’s little brother making goals
Through pretended opposition

And then, a dare, a challenge, suddenly
Bhavani and Lulu, racing across the field
And up the hill to the playground
And then a slower trot back down

And a few moments later, again
Bhavani racing ahead
But with Lulu close behind
And then Lulu motoring stronger
up the hill, catching up

Three or four times, this race
Of thirteen year old girls
Soon to be women
Crossed my windshield
Left to right

May they recall this day
When fearless, unselfconscious,
Not weighed down
By public expectation,
reputation, bills, scheduling,
office or domestic negotiations,
they ran like gazelles, together
free and beautiful,

And how the one thing
that they needed, and truly had
to create a forever memory
was each other

It is written

It is written
that your visit on this planet
is a gift

It is written
that the same gift is given
to every other visitor

It is written
that to follow your path
is your only task

It is written
that you may cross another path
but not end it

It is written
that you do not have the right
to end your path

It is written
that you do not have the right
to end another’s path

It is written
that if you end your path
you must review the pain and tears and work and love
that it took to make you, raise you, feed you, teach you,
and the loss felt by everyone you left behind

It is written
that if you call yourself a martyr
and a warrior for God,
you have used that name in vain
you are not in an army
that is close to God
you are moving farther away
and you dirty the name of your religion

It is written
that if you end your path
and also the path of others
that you must review every moment
of the pain and tears and work and love
that it took to make them, raise them, feed them, teach them,
and the loss felt by everyone
you took them away from, too early.
You will watch their faces
You will know who did this
You will regret, and regret, and regret.

It is written
that this will not be a heaven
and that your reward will be an emptiness
and that your soul will have to pay
for every tear, and every future moment
taken from those others, and their people

It is written
that you will have stolen their future
and their chance to walk their path
to the end.

It is written
that you may be remembered by some
and maybe thought a martyr by others
but you will know, forever,
you are only a thief
in a long night of shame, alone.

It is written.

When that baby (for Lucia)

​When that baby
Looks at you
When that tiny hand
Grasps your finger
When your heart as if
Comes out of your body
And sleeps on your chest
When you feel the field of your love
Radiating out, enfolding that tiny body
Then not only is a baby born
But a mother as well
And on your face
Where once lived a searching question
There is now a settled answer
Saying, yes, this, is something that was right,
good, real, complete, and worthwhile
A clear gift back, and forward
And now you will keep giving,
keep making that statement real, and permanent
As you feed, wash, hold, dress, protect, teach,
advise, empower, and someday release
this gift, this statement, this creation,
out into her own quest, her own search, her own discovery

Cleopatra Queen of Denial

Cleopatra she fine most the time
She go here there
And like when sista die she
Hep everyone who not unnastan
That sista she much better there

In the light, in the happy stuff
That be inside each and every
And that be the place you go
No question a that

Sometime Cleopatra she get a message
To give the left behinds
Like a thank you for all da years
You stayed for me
When I was broken, lost
In the bed, dyin’ or crazy
You stayed for me

That message be given though
Not always unnerstood or ‘cepted

And Cleopatra usually fine
When people die who was
Half ded already, hardly there
Not fully themselves
For so long, so very long
Because of the deep free thing
They find on the other side

Those that doubt it
Leave them to mourn
Cleopatra know
They better off

And so Cleopatra usually fine at the funeral
She think the body lying there is nothin
But the leftovers, not momma, not daddy
Just a leftover suit a clothes
And she wait while the others make their sad goodbyes
to the leftovers

And then she thinks hey, that’s not momma
That’s not daddy, that’s not sista.
And usually mommy or daddy or whoever
be hanging around, happy, free
and so Cleopatra she happy too

It’s just that this time,
Funeral dead and gone weeks ago
And driving two boys to a movie in Ottumwa
Somehow she felt the hurt, the loss,

Not so much a the sista
That went downhill day by day in the nursing home
The sista that smoked and ate wrong
and had been a long time crazy
the sista with diabetes, COPD, and mo’

but the sista that was
had made a group of five
and the Sista that was always there
suddenly wasn’t

and Cleopatra finally knew
that Sista had not only died
but she was gone, inside

and that while as long as she knew anything
there had been five, proud, brothas and sistas
together, facing these decades, side by side
but now there were four

And Cleopatra, in the front seat
On the way to the movies
Missed and finally mourned her
All alone.

Sometimes I wonder

Sometimes I wonder
If there may be
At some point
A last flower seen up close
A last time hearing
Something by Leonard Cohen
A last laugh due to Jeeves
And Bertie
​A last tennis ball
Hit just out of reach
Or a last day
Like this day
The last day
When, after the firedrill
At the nursing home
My sister Jan
Went into her room
Lay down
And breathed her last
And then became blue
Flows of water
Red, purifying flame,
And a sort of free
Unearthly laughter
Conveying thanks
To those that loved her
Comfort for those in loss
Concern for things
She missed doing
But mostly freedom
Pure freedom

The cup is where it usually is

The cup is where it usually is
my placemat on the west
side of the table

Just now my wife is at work
instead of in her usual seat
there across from me

All these years I have watched and listened
over one table or another
her growth from tied to free

And as she has grown
she has pulled me
along with her, since

When you live with someone
who is moving toward the light
all of your dark corners, too
become illuminated, and

Everything that I thought was
just the way I am, live with it
became revealed as a sham,
a mask, a coping strategy

And then, sitting up those little imps,
those ogres, those tired habits, in your mind,
and telling them, one by one, I thank you
for your service, you are free to go

And letting them disappear
like a timelapse speeded video
over Nova Scotia
is a wonderful thing
as the true coast of who you are appears
rugged, bright, green, and
reaching to an ancient sea

Don’t Be That Guy

Don’t be that guy
who walks into a church and kills people
who walks into a school and kills people
who takes a walk of any kind and at the end
people die.

Take a walk, sure, but not that kind of walk.

Don’t be a stranger
Don’t be so strange that you start to think
that killing things is the only way.
Don’t get isolated and strange,
if there is any way you can avoid it.
Please stay in touch.

See if you can avoid any sort of logic which concludes
That killing people that you don’t know is okay.
Or the thinking that killing those you know is okay.
None of that logic is real.

Don’t be the guy who grows up only to somehow end up
killing strangers and their children.
As a parent I can tell you that raising even a single child
is a long and continual miracle.

Don’t be the guy
who kills a miracle.

Don’t be the guy who kills the hope
some parent had for their child.
and that includes your parents.

Don’t ever think that you are a victim of circumstance
and that its okay to create more victims.

You are the creator of your circumstance.
Accepting that is the first step forward.

This task, this life that you set for yourself
is your own choice, your own decision,
your own test set by you.

And if you flunk the test there is no one
there at the end of the day
To stare at the report card but you.

If you really must kill someone,
consider the Buddhist way.
How differently the world reacts
to someone burning themselves for peace
than torching morning shoppers for war.

But, best of all, if you can, don’t kill anyone
Find a way back into the light.
Find a way to connect with yourself
and others.

Don’t be that isolated guy.
Don’t get so alone that the only way
to touch people is to kill them.

And please, if you are not a killer, don’t laugh
and point at that isolated kid in your class.
See if you can find a way
to talk to him, connect with him,
to take him from alone and anonymous
to noticed and named

Don’t be that guy
who kills anything
especially don’t, if you can,
die the walking death
which turns you into a killer

If you are a black guy, no killing black guys
If you are a white guy, no killing black guys
If you are a black guy, no killing white guys
If you are any color, no killing any color

All the crayons must get along

Nothing needs to be killed today.
Or any day.

Let this be a reminder to you
Don’t be that guy.