Poem: Every. Thing.

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Every. Thing.

Simple curved wood.
A few tacks.
Stain.
Shellac.

A place at the table
void of clutter.
A pair of pencils.

Enough.
No more.

In the next room a clock.
The pendulum swings silently.
Time is told.
No more.

Every.
thing.
tells you about
yourself,
about what is enough,
and if you poke at it,
why.

About this poem

After my separation and divorce twelve years ago or so, I moved from a nearly four thousand square foot home to a six hundred square foot apartment. I found simple suited me, and I have spent the time since in a constant battle against stuff. I am no minimalist, but I like things simple and uncluttered. Life included.

But stuff, I have learned, has meaning. It tells a story that is more about soul than stuff. And that is fascinating indeed.

Tom

Poem: Seagulls Song

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Seagulls Song

Standing against the wind
that once had the power
to blow you off course.

But no longer. I have learned to stand,
and wait,
knowing that even when the steps are small
and I am unable to fly,
I can move
forward.

About this poem

Ever wonder how seagulls manage not to be blown askew in still winter winds? I have. I still do.

It’s been a “plow through” kind of day. But plow through I have.

Survival has its benefits. But that is another poem.

The picture was taken in Rye, NH, on New Year’s Day.

Tom

Poem: Dreams of Venice

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Dreams of Venice

I dream of Venice in May.
Of still waters and bright colors,
Exquisite cappuccino in tiny cafes.
The Thursday market with seafood so fresh
it squirms.

Two blocks of narrow streets
and the tourists are left behind,
and the magic begins.

I am not afraid of being a foreigner.
It is not a thing that depends on place.
I am foreign even here in my home.
Everything is a discovery.
A recovering of artifacts, rediscovered
each day of your journey.

So send me out.
Let me be lost.
It is a familiar place,
and more often than not,
in those lost places,
I have discovered wonder
following me through life like a comet’s tail,
stardust of all the places I have been,
failures and fantasies alike,
they light my sky and point the way.

I dream of Venice in May.
Island bound and lost,
the only one who speaks my language,
as I wander small shops
and empty cathedrals.

I dream of the cliffs of Tintagle,
the streets of London,
Mad King Ludwigs castles in Bavaria,
and airports. Of New Orleans and Memphis,
Of Nevada deserts and ghost towns, abandoned factories
and tiny churches in tiny towns.

I lose myself in them.
I find myself in them.

So send me out.
Let me be lost.
It does not matter where or when.
There is lostness anywhere, even here, where I stand.
in this place called home.

 

Poem: A Strange Kind of Miracle

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A Strange Kind of Miracle.

Coffee.
Bacon.
A couple of eggs, over medium.
A soda for dessert.

Time.
Background noise.
Background music.
Breakfast.

It is when and where I write.
At a tiny diner in a tiny town.
Not at all the kind of place I grew up in.
No, I was a creature of city and suburbs.
This is where I write, but not today,
with its foot of snow and cold.
Today you write at your kitchen table
in the village you have made home.

The village has maybe 300 people
if you count the farmers at each edge.
Too many of the houses are empty
waiting for the slow drudge of foreclosure.

You live across from an abandoned quarry.
There is a church down the road,
and an old schoolhouse.
Nothing is open except the post office.
and in the next town, a diner.

On a clear night, you can see the Milky Way.
You can hear the wind echoing in the quarry.
You can hear the coyotes,
You can hear the crackle of your fire pit.

It is a good place.
A place largely abandoned by politics and people.
Too far from anything.
Too little work to pay the bills.
You can get everything you want, but only if you travel
an hour in any direction.

I came here for love.
and in the end, found it.
Not where and how I expected.
And yet, here I am,
living in the center of quiet
while the world rages.

Perhaps I am strange.
A refuge of another age, too comfortable in silence.
It is the place you find God and yourself,
two ends of a spectrum.

Snow falls.
And the village becomes even quieter.
You are home bound for a day or two.
Nothing to do but read,
curl up to the woman you love,
and be.

It is not the life most would choose.
You yourself, decades ago, would not have chosen this.
But fate and other people’s anger brought you here,
a strange kind of miracle full of healing
and treasures you never expected.

So let the snow fall.
Let it pile high and bind you to your old miner’s house.
Life is good
despite itself.

About this poem

The picture is of my little village of West Pawlet, VT., taken during a snow smaller than this last one.

I do consider the life I have here a miracle. God is good, even when the getting there seems to indicate otherwise.

Tom

Poem: Waiting for Snow

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Waiting for the Snow

Wind sweeps down the quarry path.
There is a rustling.
The dead reeds rattle in the breeze.

In the distance, a coyote yips
then falls silent.

Somewhere nearby there are people.
This place lies at the edge of town.
From the summit, you seek the smoke of wood stoves.

Wiser men than you, they are burrowed in
against the great snow that approaches.

You can smell it, the snow.
You can feel it. The air pressure dropping
The clouds grow dark. The air grows cold.

This is a weakness of yours,
the waiting for storms. The willingness

to stand and watch their approach,
the inevitable nearing of apocalypse.

Your fear of storms has become something else –
a fascination. You have survived so many,
terrible, unpredictable things.

You have lost all.
You have survived and in that survival comes knowledge,
understanding that we are far less fragile than we believe,

that storms change the landscape and the soul,
but there is as much beauty in the new as the old.

Tomorrow, they say, you will not be able to pass here.
The snow will fill the path. Rocks will slide.

The rough places will disappear and become more dangerous.
It will be good to be in your home down below. Warm. Safe.

But only for a while. There will be new storms
and you will stand here again.
Waiting.

About this poem.

This began as an essay. It’s better as a poem.

The picture was taken in the quarry across the street.

They are predicting 12″ to 18″ snow tonight.  I’m sitting at the diner. Here in Vermont, things don’t change because of the threat of snow. Life goes on.

I like it here. It suits me.

Tom

Poem: Almost Truth

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Almost Truth

There should be incense, you think.
Incense and smoke in the air,
scents that remind you of your youth.
There should music from the Levant,
just on the edge of discordant,
weaving music with new octaves.
This is your flaw, one of many,
that a single thing, an image, a wiff of perfume
transports you to times and places,
past places, and stronger ones,
the places you imagine,
a mind victim of books and imagination,
of life too traveled, too full
of magic and scars so intense
to keep under control.

And here you are in this place
with its Victorian treasures,
plunder from another age brought
from Egypt and Lebanon and the markets
of Constantinople
and you are lost in every film noire movie you have seen,
lost in the Cafe Nile and Rick’s Tavern.
You imagine cafes and dangerous places,
Mediterranean dishes served with dangerous women
and always the music of another world.

The tour guide notices you staring at the metalwork
and offers to give you a history of each piece on display.
You wave her away,
preferring your own magical history
than mere facts.

About this poem.

Often when I see a place or a thing, I stand stock still for a while. When I do, I am more often somewhere else rather than soaking in the thing in front of me. The object has triggered memories read or seen long before. I often joke that my sense of time and place and history comes more from novels and movies than history books. But there is some truth to it.

“A Cafe on the Nile” is a book by Bartle Bull. It is part of a series of books that formed my image of the middle east in the nineteen thirties.  Rick’s Tavern was the tavern in the center of Casablanca. The picture was taken at Olana, the home of artist Fredrick Edwin Church, who once traveled to the Middle East and it transformed his entire aesthetic. It was built in 1872.

Tom

Poem: There

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There

Are you there?
Can you hear me?
Are you tuned in?
At your station?
Does it matter
what I say or
is the static far stronger
than my voice.
Am I talking
to myself?
I strain to hear.
I lean in close
but hear nothing
that indicates you heard
a word.
A dying man calling
those that chose
to turn off the switch
or walk away.
I call out.
louder this time.
Nothing.
Are you there?

About this poem

The art and gift of listening is largely lost.

A poem that could be about politics, relationships, business, or spiritual things.

The picture is of an old intercom in a Victorian home. Where the servants were always tuned in. But no one else was.

Tom