Poem: In the Silence

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In the Silence

Softly the snow falls.
Silently thing freeze
Silently death falls.

Silently, God speaks.
Silently, the devil seduces.
Silently we become lost

And silently, we are found.

About this poem

A simple poem, so full of layers and personal references that it almost didn’t appear here.  But if there is one thing I have learned the past few years it is that you never know who your words might touch.

Stay warm, my friends,

Tom

Poem: The Frail Grace of Becoming

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The Frail Grace of Becoming

Behind the curtain, you see the mess,
the work in progress, the stuff
that is not part of the tour,
that carefully curated  walkthrough
that you get for the half hour of your time
dedicated to this place before moving to the next.

No, this is what you see when you go behind the scenes,
past the closed doors and curtains,
when you take the time to linger and speak and listen
to the curator, that person who knows
and loves and fears for the destruction of this fragile work,
who trusts you only slowly
not to break or steal or worse, laugh
at the unfinished work, who trusts you not to mistake
the chaos of reclamation for the finished room,
for the frail grace of becoming.

About this poem

A thank you note to all those who have shown me grace along my journey.

My daughter is a historic preservationist.

The picture was taken at the Vanderbilt Mansion near Hyde Park, NY.

TOm

 

Poem: Shared Skin

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Shared skin

Driving, you look at your arms,
the skin rough and mottled,
white spots pock the tan of days
spent outside wandering.
There are scars. Too many of them
to remember their cause
or whether their story is one of stupidity
or bravery.
Veins rise over old muscles,
wiry. stringy and strong.

They are your father’s arms.
You remember his at this age,
working on motors, working on relics
in need of restoration.
You remember them raised in anger,
fists clinched,
alcohol and madness
belying a teacher’s soul.

Unlike his,
your arms are always in motion,
expressive appendages
without which you could not talk.
It is asa if you are wearing a costume,
his skin over a soul
that was always a mystery to him,

Neither of us saints,
both sinners
from different worlds
with different Gods
we lived in a state of undeclaired war,
and too often, undeclaired love
confortable at last  that we were two souls
sharing skin bearing scars
neither of us could remember.

About this poem

So much truth in this one it almost didn’t make the cut. My father and I often had a strained relationship. At times I felt he hated me. At times I felt he loved me. In time, we came to a place of grace with each other. An uneasy grace, but grace.

Tom

Poem: Modern Art

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Modern Art

I work best, I think, as an impressionist painting,
a place where you do not look too close at the details
and allow for the frayed edges and brown tips,
where you understand that all I know of love
is found in my failures and the gentle grace
of a God who understood this was my fate,
and did not leave me in the squalor of my own mistakes,
who raised me from my own fears, kissed me on my forehead
and sent me on my way, to find you.

About this poem

One of the saving graces of failure, I think, is the gratitude it leaves me with when I get second chances.

Tom

Poem: Truth in the Key of C

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Truth in the Key of C

When I was young, we visited my great aunt,
a product of the Victorian age,
with all the right forks and china without chips.
Her skin was paperwhite thin, wrinkled
with two perfect spots of rouge,
one of each cheek, almost clownlike
were it not for the residue of seriousness
that rested behind her eyes.

Fierce in her manners and opinions
she only softened when she sat in front of her pianos
and played.

Then, someone else emerged,
a woman without age or history,
leaving behind rules and appearances
to simply be who perhaps, she was meant to be,
for only then did you see her smile
beyond her lips to her eyes.

When I was sixteen, she was dying,
spending the last months of her life in our living room,
her life dripping in excruciating drips,
robbing of her ability to do
the things of every day life.

We dyed her hair, her forever red.
We served her breakfast on china
with the perfect number of forks.
We brought her tea.

On her last days, we would prop her at the piano
and she played the music of a six-year-old,
simple and plodding, but still hers,
washing away the pain, becoming once again,
herself.

About this poem. 

This narrative is written around my Great Aunt Helen and is mostly true in the details. But that lesson, of how, as long as we do the things we love, we are our best selves, has stuck with me more and more as I age.

The picture was taken at Hildene, the Robert Todd Lincoln home.

Tom

 

Poem: Good Cheap Wine

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Good Cheap Wine

Late at night, the only sounds are muffled music
and the buzz of neon.
A few cars remain, and a stray cat
stands sentry on a fence post.

The temptation calls,
to walk through the dark doors
and settle in at the familiar counters
and disappear in the late night lingerers,
to become invisible,
beautifully anonymous,
another grey-haired soul with a drink and a story.
it is safe, that anonymity,
for no one knows you here,
and no one cares. They have seen it all.
Every night, new strangers, interchangeable
one with the other,
night after night.

The neon buzzes “Good Cheap Wine.”
On and off. Off and on, gaudy and passionate,
oblivion’s promises,
like a side show barker telling a flexible truth
loud and repetitive,
alluring only to the lost,
which covers most of us one time or another,
an audience always replenishing itself.

You stand at the sign a moment
and smile at all the ways you know
to become invisible,
and the folly of it,

You walk and the buzzing fades in the night.
The music fades in the night.
You walk, far and far and still farther
until you reach the end of the world,
where waves lap the sand.
You take off your shoes and feel the sand,
giving and forgiving.

From here, you can see the stars.
You can smell the salt.
You are exposed and there is no hiding,
a sole sinner standing where God can see you
and plunge his tender dagger in your heart,
where magic can find you
and there is no escape.

For it is in the silence,
in the lonely places
that truth is found,
and you may flee them
or accept the exchange
of your truth
for the truth,
a rich wine, far from cheap,
and beyond, so very far beyond
merely good.

Poem: Architectural Salvage

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Architectural Salvage

Most of it is broken, rusted, paint
peeling in leaded flakes, discarded
until pulled from the rubble
and laid in piles waiting

for someone to see past the brokeness
to the perfection.

About this poem

It’s about people. It’s about stuff.

Tom