We discuss in even tones
systems capability, financial spreadsheets,
the bottom line, employee satisfaction surveys,
collaborative decision making—
above all, transformational leadership,
while I dream of the forest,
the fairies dancing in the grass,
the opaque spirits hovering above the trees
and all that lies hidden scutters
in the underbrush of life.
When I am not looking
the pre-historic snake
eats the mouse whole that
carelessly scuttles in his path.
Snow-capped mountain peaks
rise up from the waters.
Gold plumes stream through each wave
as the sun sets behind cedars.
Waves reach out onto the boardwalk
to slap the feet of evening walkers
who giggle as they dance
to avoid the playful sound.
This little dance before dark,
a living postcard greeting me
on my way home to rest
with my love.
The 50hr workweek
Lord, have mercy on us caught
In this 50 hr. workweek
Cut in half to where we once were
And had no trouble living with
As we knew life to be –we had time enough
For so much more.
I do not romance life before Ford
Came along with his Model A and Edison’s light bulb
Made it so we could work around the clock.
And Steve Jobs and Bill Gates made rustic life
Slick and hip with its 50 hr work week 50 geeks a year.
But, AHH, the Pastoral life- where has it gone?
The life of the contemplative, surrounded not by machines
But by streams and hills and neighbors who know you
And your kids -25 hrs of work flashed by and left room
For contemplation and artistry –for making a living
An art form itself – a life monastic, shared with others
To lighten the load and bring leisure to the level of the sacred.
A life of pauses and deep cleansing breaths and opened eyes and hearts.
A life of observing and hearing everything- of waiting expectantly
For the next big surprise that is a gift to the one living in leisure
but mundane and an interruption
In the 50 hr workweek, who
Wears this world as a heavy yoke.
The untrained observer, burdened down by hours of work
Misses the miraculous flash before their eyes
But the wide-eyed curiosity seeker wears life like a loose garment
And is free to roam about the world
When given back his life.
Sitting on a black cast-iron bench,
swirling floral designs shining in the sun,
he gazes across the pond
at a blue Heron silently stalking its prey.
He settles in for a little chat
The smooth water coaxes
out the fixed ache inside,
laying it out in the afternoon sun,
a lifetime of regrets exposed
in one panoramic view.
An act of heroism—
to sit still on the edge
of this pond, and not get up
and run in terror.
A certain celebrity died last week.
It was sad for a day,
as news played clips of his life,
A brief clip of the funeral,
and the news moved on.
A certain old man died last week.
It was sad for his wife for a while.
Two paragraphs in the local obit
no one but family read.
A good and decent man it said.
Forgotten before the casket is closed.
A few linger over finger sandwiches to chat
but mostly worry about who’s next,
nodding their heads together
agreeing he was indeed a good man.
Above it all the Angels clap
as we each are ushered in
to give an account
not of our opinions we held
but in what we planted.
A golden-haired boy flies
through the wooded park,
grabs a stick on the run,
with which to fight off
aliens and dragons—
unable to stop
to wait for me.
While he makes the woods safe
for the rest of us,
I find a seat
on a damp, wooden bench
careful not to sit on pine needles.
Alone with You
Stepping out onto the parquet floor
The silver haired couple caress,
Facing each other with bright smiles.
Wrinkled eyes shimmer with love,
Holding hands lightly –they drift apart
Stepping sideways, turning away
Moving to opposite ends
They sway alone to the music
Raptured momentarily, they approach
Again with an embrace stronger
Than before-close enough to feel
Their breath, hearts beating to the music
They spin away again
The far corners to dance
Their own dance alone.
It’s what it must feel like to fly
Over houses and trees at will—
A solitary boy on a bike in a small town
This Saturday morning with the day
Stretching out like the road.
Nothing ahead, nothing behind, just a boy
And the warm breeze coaxing him
Onward down the empty city streets.
He peddles down through the woods
To the city park next to the river.
He is miles from home, yet feels at home
Running into his buddies they form a circle
Of bikes, like wagons circled and tell tales
As the shadows grow longer.
He is breathing in freedom – a freedom that
Will soon be gone with the coming years
Of more school and jobs and duties
Growing up In a land of adults.
Breathe it in now—maybe it will return.
He asked me if I wanted to ride along—
A three-hour drive at night
to see a customer.
The purple veins in his hand pulse,
clasping the steering wheel
of his Buick Electra 225
on the icy country road.
The outlines of trees whizz by
this dark and starlit night,
serving as sentinels along our way.
He knew almost everything,
but only in moments like these
would it escape.
He talked of days long ago
a boy in South Dakota—
how life was simple back then,
he said with a tired sigh.
Sometimes hard, but always surprising.
He mostly hummed, which was
his sign of contentment.
He was glad to be out on the road
at night in his Elektra 225,
with me his only company.
I leaned back, looking out
In the dark winter night
the trees, the stars, his voice—
I have been pulled into
his world, and something changed.
By flashlight we squat low
scanning for signs—
A cluster of clover moving
when there is no breeze
or blades of grass parting
as if Moses held up his arms.
I see a form, black and cylinder
and grab the slimy thing gently
pull it up and up and up as it wiggles
around my fingers in the dark night air.
He contorts into knots and if he could
the whole neighborhood would
hear his screams before I drop
him into my bucket.
A few more feet and the grass parts again,
and I kidnap his brother—
and so it goes through the night
digging along in the black damp soil—
all so I can catch a fish in the morning.
I swear, catching these creatures
is better than fishing.
Three men sit on a bench
thigh to thigh, hip to hip
wearing neon-lime vests
with white reflective stripes.
intent on the food in hand—
one an apple
another a ham sandwich
and the third a piece of cake.
In silence they eat and stare
out across the trail onto
the banks of the river
that flows by.
They each squeeze every bit
of pleasure in this moment of rest.
The ham and cheese goes down slow,
the apple juicy and crisp
and the cake brought from home
baked last night by his wife.
It is all enough to sit together
in silence and think thoughts
to one’s self and state of being.
They cannot see one another;
the sadness brought on by a troubled son
or the loneliness of lost love
from years of neglect
Look, of the three one
prays for grace to
become something else.
Three fat robin’s perch
on naked branches
of the plumb tree in winter,
so still and balanced
The cold air does not
so plump and content
in their stillness–they are
three monks at prayer
unhurried they wait out the season
to the sounds of jet planes overhead.
If I asked them, they would surely say
all is well, and every manner of thing is well.
They know they will be fed and sheltered
the fat grubs of the dirt
wait for them and their nests
lay wedged in some evergreen
Things Are Fine
Things were going along
Pretty wife and happy kids
Job and home OK.
Until the picture frame dropped,
cracked, and broken glass spread
across our smiling faces
scarring us each in our own way
though we could not tell.
Overnight it seemed—
Dad lost hope
and Mom grew hard from terror
and the children stopped laughing
as the world looked on
powerless and confused
as a piece of the whole
A circle of ice formed
by a ring of metal
draws us out into
the frigid cold.
We skate for hours
round and round as toes
and fingers turn numb
pushing each other down
on the hard ice and laughing
we look for mom
at her place inside
at the kitchen window
coffee and cigarette in her hand
smiling as if there was nothing else
in the world to do than
watch her children play in winter.
I keep looking to see if she is still there
but she is gone, and sometimes
the cold bites hard and there
is not enough hot chocolate
in the world.
There comes now an opening
into the day when rain
falls gently on the pond
and on the roof the tiny drops
sound like millions of fairies
dancing above my head
each flutter speckled wings
of amber and blue
darting wildly from shingle
Why now they have come
to celebrate when I alone can witness
their delight? If I told you then
you would laugh and frighten them away.
I was told only children
can turn rain to faeries.
Like that, the faeries flee and I am
left with drizzle.
I awake to a choir out my window–
songs stream through the cracked glass
as if searching a tuned ear.
Robins, doves, cardinals,
woodpeckers, wrens, sparrows
bluebirds each with their own voice
and in their turn announce
the king of everything
is on His way.
Slowly rising I look out,
annoyed at the sounds. I crawl
back under the sheets not
yet ready to celebrate.
The song remains in the air
to find other souls eager
to join the choir, and throw
their life down like a cloak
in the Royal Way while
I sleep through the procession
sure to come and wake as it
all passes by.
The New 1964 Chevy Impala
rolls down the snow packed street
the plows do not care for.
We glance at each other
making our move we
crouch behind and grab
the bumper and begin
the slide to school.
Kids on the sidewalk point and laugh
but the driver shakes her head
unaware of her new cargo.
That was the start of grabbing hold
of life and turning it upside down
making something out of nothing.