Poem: Are You Happy, she asks

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Are You Happy she asks

“Are you happy?” she asks.
A tendril of dark hair drapes across her face
and her green eyes are clear.
Her shoulders peek out from the covers.

“I am.” I say. “But it is not that simple.”
Few things are, you have learned,
despite a life spent simplifying.
It is a battle for the moment, this thing called happiness,

A battle against traumas long past
and the chemical stew gone mad inside your head,
a watercolor wash of indigo and fog designed
to color all you see.

It is a battle fought inside the mind, invisible to onlookers,
A war fought for focus, for the ability to see deep into the night
and see light. A fight to claim each moment as it is,
to quell the voices in your head that have only one color,

and replace it with a palette of primary colors,
A battle over who chooses the colors, who chooses
the lens you see through; who chooses
whether you can see the moment in all its glory, or not; W\who chooses

the music you listen to, who chooses
what to do with the wild beauty around you, who chooses
even the taste of the coffee you sip early in the morning; who chooses
how you will live the next moment, and no more.

Distance scares you. That is the truth.
So much can happen. Much of it has.
And while you have survived the accidents
and wars that have fallen in your lap, you still feel the scars.

“You looks sad.” she says.  And she is right.
Indigo blue colors my world.
A sad clarinet in the night plays background music.
I could lose myself in their seductive whispers.

But I do not. Or at least rarely do. I take the drum
and pat out a rhumba beat.
I dance as I toss splotches of yellow at the canvas.
I brush aside the tendril of dark hair,

and savor the firm warmness of her presence.
These things are real. They are here, in this moment.
And they are alive, even when the moment passes
and we begin our day.

“Are you happy?” she says.
I smile as the tendril falls back down between her eyes.
I feel her lips as I kiss her gently. They taste of salt air and morning.
It is complicated. It is simple. It is, I realize, true.

“Yes.”

About this poem.

Being in love and fighting depression is a complicated stew. When someone enters your life that simplifies the recipe, it is a miracle.

Dancing at the diner,

Tom

Poem: Death in Plain Sight

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Death in Plain Sight. 

Late in the day and shadows fall behind the gravestones.
dark ghosts, victims all, of another age and another war.

It is well cared for. The dead are respected here.
Their sacrifices respected even as their names fade from memory.

You have spent your afternoon here. Praying for the dead.
Praying for the ones dying this moment, with no one to remember them,

their hearts crushed before their bodies die, found at the last moment,
or a bit after, too late for resurrection in this life,

everyone shaking heads in wonderment at the mystery
of their death in plain sight.

About this poem. 

The picture was taken at Fort Devon.

Tom

Poem: Kitchen Open Late

 

KIT

Kitchen Open Late

I have a thing for walking city streets at night,
late, after most things are closed
and the trash has been set on the street.

It is a bit less than safe, I know,
and have never quite been certain if that was part of the charm,
or if I am a bit foolish.

There is a grittiness to it, a film noir feel,
full of dark corners and alleyways
and men smoking in doorways.

Steam rises from the sidewalk grates,
more evident than in daylight, more dramatic,
like the earth itself is breathing heavy.

Somehow, perhaps because I don’t appear rich enough,
I have never been mugged. Likewise, I have never
encountered the femme fatale.

There are stories in the dark corners,
in the late-night diners.
Night people keep to themselves.

I am one of them. I nurse my stories
over runny eggs benedict and slightly burnt hash browns.
I sip day old coffee.  I disappear.

But not my stories.
Those I write in my red-backed notebook,
with my blue pen.

I have written enough over the years,
that I have replaced my pen a dozen times.
The ink runs dry. My stories never do.

When I am done, I walk the streets again.
I stop at an old steel drum full of flaming garbage
and warm my hands a while.

There are four of us there. No words are exchanged.
as I wonder. My quiet life is too full of past,
short on plans, short on future beyond this moment.

What other tales are lost? What stories and poems and paens,
dirges and funeral songs, jigs and masterpieces
of life and loss rise to the sky like sparks.

Where do those stories go when we die? and does it matter?
I finger my red-backed notebook deep in my pocket,
and imagine it burning, sparks and stories rising to the night

like a burnt offering.

But I cannot do it. I cannot offer it to the night.
I am too afraid of disappearing,
and even if no one reads my deep truths today,

They may find my stack of red-backed notebooks,
my decades of secret truths, and maybe, just maybe,
I will matter.

I walk away. The darkness calls.
The late-night diner calls. There are stories to write
and the morning will come all too soon.

About this poem

When I travel to NYC for work, I like to stay into the night and walk the streets.

Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks is one of my favorite paintings.

I really do use red-backed notebooks. I am rarely far from one.

In other words, there’s a lot of truth in this poem.

Tom

 

Poem: Not Much

Altar

Not Much

This morning I had to scrap the poem I worked on
for an hour or so at the diner.
It was a wonderfully nasty thing, full of frustration and hate,
a rant,
a scream of pain and mourning and more pain
at governments and systems that have lost their humanity,
lost their sense, even the common variety,
that live in the war zone of either or,
willing to let the casualties mount,
and mount and mount.

I had to let it go, that hour of work, no matter
that the words were true
and the emotion behind them truer.
It was a thing of hate, brilliantly vile,
cutting as a razor on tender wrists,
my worst nature, harnessed to my best words.

Were I a howling sort of poet,
it would have been my masterpiece.

But to what purpose?
to rile up a few thousand readers,
some for, some against, all wondering
at my madness, cheers and curses flying
back and forth, back and forth,
a one-day war zone,
waiting
for the next headline
before it disappears.

No.
I will use simpler words.
There are hungry people.
I will feed one, or a few.
It is not much, but I can do it.

There are hurting people,
scarred by trauma not of their own making,
abuse or tragedy or pain or the scourge of being ignored,
or drugs or loss or (Oh how the list goes on.)
I will listen to them. The ignored.
It is not much, But I can do it.

There are people who love,
the initials, L. G. B. T. Q. – a distorted alphabet
that ignores that these are people.
Real people. Real hearts.
Not scum. Not vile. No less strange in God’s world
than my cotton-polyester socks.
I cannot change the minds of haters,
but I can honor their love.
it is not much. But I can do it.

Here is the truth of it.
The battle is always bloody.
Hate and the desire push aside the casualties
of the inconvenient and broken is blustery business,
loud and mean and violent,
but in the end, that hate falls apart.
It cannot hold.

And when it falls apart,
all that is left is the thing so hated by the angry.
Love.

Love does the rebuilding.
Love binds us together with sustainable bonds.
Love heals.
Love grows.
Love recognizes value, lifts up, protects.
Love is not linked to position or power or politics.
It is where even the angry fall when their wounds spill over,
when their own world shatters into dust,
when their own hate devours them and all they treasure.
It is all that is left when the battles end.
No matter who wins,
Love survives.

So say what you will.
I am not made for this world.
I know this.
I have no power. No position. I can’t even write a good rant
and put it out there with the rest of the noise.
But I will not be swallowed by the noise.
I will love.
It is not much. But I can do it.

About this poem. 

This one doesn’t need much interpretation. A couple of things.

The reference to polyester and cotton socks will be missed by most people. There is a section of the biblical book of Leviticus. Some are things you would expect: Murder, thievery, etc.  Some are things you would not expect: like mixing two types of cloth in our clothing or eating shrimp. Also in that list are “men who lay with men.”, one of the verses anti-gay people use to declare gays an abomination. I often wonder if those same people every wear two kinds of cloth when they get dressed in the morning, or eat shrimp or take part of any of the other abominations listed there. I wonder how to pick and choose from the list as to which are OK and which are not. I’ve never really figured that part out for myself, so I am not condemning. But I do find myself wondering what drives the choices we make, what general principle directs those choices.

Mine is that all people are to be loved. It’s simple. It’s small. But I can do it. It’s easy to keep track of.

The picture is called “Altar”. I painted it a few years ago and it currently lives in a pastor’s office in Virginia.

Off my soapbox.

Tom

 

Poem: Too

Too Much

Too crowded.
Too noisy.
Too busy.
Too loud.
Too distracting.
Too much cursing.
Too many demons.
Sometimes you are one.
Too much news
Too many lies.
Too angry.
Too full of emptiness.
Too much sound.
Too little music
Too busy making points.
Too much either or.
Too many shoulds.
Too much funneled in.
Too little that renews.
A big sucking sound, and yet

Turn it off and you become nervous.
Too much silence.
Too much you and you alone.
to much time
to fill
on your own.

Poem: A Beautiful and Slow Disappearance.

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A Beautiful and Slow Disappearance 

Let the water strike my stones.
Let the spray rise, wild and free.
Let time take its toll and slowly wear me down,
each fragment, each sand sized grain torn asunder
revealing a new layer of broken beauty.

About this poem

Something I have had to learn to embrace that sometimes, even within ourselves, less can be more, can be powerful, can be beautiful.

Tom

Poem: Rivulets

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Rivulets

A hundred tiny rivulets etched
into sand, into a square foot or less,
at the edge of stone and water,
fine art. a thing of beauty,
eternal and temporary both, evidence
of a creative God so ripe and fecund, so
profligate with his beauty,
unconcerned about the rising tide or prom, sure
beauty is never destroyed, only transformed,
new beauty available, no, certain,
no matter the weather.

About this poem. 

We could learn from the seashore.

Tom