When we have failed. When we have sinned. What do we need to hear? And when someone around us has fallen, what do they need to hear? Wise, kind words from the book of Isaiah.
The Old Poet’s Last Words
“We choose the mess we live in.” the old poet said,
as he waved his hand, cigarette dangling,
the ashes falling on a plate full of antique food.
“We choose it.” he reiterated,
as he cleared a chair of its dirty clothes.
The room smelled of sex and bourbon.
“We can blame whoever we want.
and we probably will, that is what poets and people do.
It is what we have in common.”
He found a glass and poured out whatever was in it.
Poured in the bourbon and raised his hand in a toast.
“It makes good poetry.” he said.
I poured myself a shot in what portended to be a clean glass,
I joined his toast. In the next room I heard the rustle
of his latest coed, waking late.
He smiled that cockeyes smile.
“Don’t kid yourself,” he said. “I am growing old
exactly the way I want to. I will die the way I choose,
leaving nothing but words and a few acolytes
with their own struggles and their own words.
You may not like like it, but it is mine.” He drained the glass
and turned his rheumy eyes on me,
suddenly growing hard. I could see the fire in them,
the fire that fueled four decades of stone cut words.
“None of this matters.
Only the words.
Make sure they are true.”
And that was that. He died a week later,
in a filthy hotel room and no one to mourn him
save perhaps, the unseen coed.
but those words, those eyes,
haunt me still,
a strange kind of resurrection.
About this poem
I write from time to time of my first poetry teacher, Robert Hazel, using the “The Old poet” moniker in each title, Robert was a craftsman, a raconteur, something of a reprobate and while a wonderful poet, not always the best person. The last time I saw him he was living in a hotel room in Blacksburg, Virginia, and to call it a mess is one of the world’s great understatements. He was drunk, happily pontificating and while there was no coed in the room, she had left her clothes among his on the floor.
Still, his words and teaching ring in my ears all the time. Some people have that influence. I miss him sometimes, and the bourbon he kept in his desk drawer. Makers Mark.
The Pain of Winter
Seven degrees and the quarry lake is frozen.
The snow has become hard
and there are no tracks from the animals of the night.
The few remaining plants are mere stalks, dry and brittle,
dark counterpoints to the snow.
Behind you, down below, is warmth.
the woman you love is there, nestled
in the house you share.
You will go back soon enough,
but for now you need to be here,
where the cold seeps into your skin.
You need to feel the bitter wind,
the hurt of it. You need
of life without place or love. You vow
to never forget the pain of those years,
for in remembering your appreciation is that much greater.
Far up the quarry, you hear a lone coyote.
Its yips echo off the stone walls.
He will not be alone, you think;
neither of us was made for aloneness.
Not for long. Even an introvert like you,
a man comfortable in empty spaces,
You stand for a time. You can feel the temperature fall.
You turn and walk down the icy path, back home,
back to her,
the pain of winter raw in your bones,
rejoicing that it is a temporary thing, and below,
About this poem
I am the introvert’s introvert, comfortable in silence and empty spaces. But even I know I am better with someone. And best with the right someone.
This is a love poem to that right someone, the woman I love and who loves me.
Listen and you will hear the tide come in.
Each wave a bit closer, a bit more vocal.
You will hear the air in the sand bubble as the waves go out.
In the distance, you may hear the low rumble of a fishing boat.
Listen, and you will hear distant voices,
soft as morning.
You will hear your own breath,
your own thoughts, slowly separating from the thoughts of others
and the water slapping against the pylons of your own ruins.
Listen, and you will hear beyond the fog.
Another world, slowly revealed.
Strange magic, this listening,
bringing you ever closer to God, to love, to life
One of the rarest things in life is a listener. Talkers are a dime a dozen, but listeners? They are magical.
It is a simple thing.
A bit of sea foam on the same.
Remnants of a tide gone out.
abstract art made up of the leavings.
Beautiful, and temporary,
too like your own story,
a tale of tides and driftwood,
of broken things
About this poem
It is a recurring theme in my life and in my writing. Broken things made beautiful. That has been one of the most powerful lessons in my messy, broken, stumbling, strangely joyful life.
Anything is possible. Even the improbable.
Some things are better covered with snow,
more beautiful, the ugly mud beneath made pristine
and, for a while at least, we can all pretend
that beauty is the nature of things.
About this poem
This was a really, really long poem. And then the whittling began.
Actually, I think beauty really IS the nature of things. But too often, life is ugly. We muck it up. It’s nice to get a reprieve now and again.
It is snowing today. They are predicting 6″ to 12″. The picture was taken in Dorset, VT.
The Hard Work of Assurance
What makes you think
any of it is easy?
There are thickets to overcome
and bad weather.
Someone always wants to pick you for their table,
not caring that you begin dying
the moment you are cut
from the earth that keeps you alive.
no, it is not easy.
It is hard work, just living long enough
to assure another season.
About this poem.
Could be about tulips. Could be about living with depression. And knowing the creativity of you my wonderful readers, there are likely other things it could be as well.
Life is like that. Seemingly simple, but deeply complex. Sometimes poetry is too.
PS: The picture was taken in the back yard of my former house in Virginia,