Wondering to Myself
This poem started with my observation of the lavender bush leading up to my front door. I passed by it every day, and in spring it was covered with bees. I just happened to notice a lifeless bee at the very tip of a bloom, as if dying in the very act of doing what he was born to do. The other bees took no notice. That is the image and idea that struck me. So I stopped.
I watched a bee die while drinking
Its fill of nectar from a lavender bush.
I wonder if it came as a surprise.
Did he suspect what was in store for him this day?
Lying still on the tip of the flower, seconds before
In ecstasy, doing what it loved best.
I wonder, when he woke this day,
Did he consider it may be his last?
I wonder did he know to drink from that flower as if it would all end so quickly,
Or did he lazily drink, thinking time abundant
While brother, sister, and cousin bee darted and buzzed from petal to petal,
Too pre-occupied to notice their deceased kin.
I wonder if he would be missed. I wonder if he had regrets. I wonder.
Flicking the bee off its final perch, I watched it fall to the ground
Rolling lifeless until it stopped.
Older Than Ireland
This poem was inspired by a brief scene in the Independent Irish film of the same name. It was a documentary of over a dozen Irish men and woman over the age of 100 – born before Irish independence..Hence the title..
Staring at the dusty lamp
Counting flickers per minute
What else to do today?
Routine rubs me like bed sores—
A food tray three times a day;
Oatmeal in the morning,
Soup and crackers at lunch,
Chicken or beef with rice for dinner,
And a cup of pudding for desert.
(With seven teeth left,
One must be patient.)
Sometimes I walk around the halls
With a walker and an aid.
Killing time slowly killing me—
Until you startled me
With that one question
That set my soul aflame.
Who new there was still life down there.
A rumble rose to a roar
From within my tired soul.
I thought was barren, that I was done.
Screaming through my teeth
I could not hold back a primal yell
When you asked about
My first kiss.
Brushing Her Hair
I am a father of four girls, and brushing their hair when they were little was a supreme joy I miss today. This image came to me in a hotel room in Kentucky at 2:00 am.
I was thinking of all the other things
That I could be doing right now,
Things a man of my stature might bring,
Things that only I know how.
To do what a man of my skills can do,
In a manner that strikes you with awe.
Noble tasks I toil at till through,
Busy making bricks without straw.
Yet there she sits so silent in the chair.
Her sisters wait patiently in line-
I artfully pull the brush through her hair
I ask how I’m doing, she says “Fine!”
Not a tear is shed nor an “OUCH” pronounced
As I labor long at my task.
The brush floats through the tangled hair
Getting easier with every pass.
Each knot unfurls one stroke at a time
I’m focused as an artist at his easel
She is still and content, no whimper or whine
While this brush makes our world more peaceful.
For all the manic dreams we men concoct,
Of conquering this thing or that.
As each daughter in turn kneels at my feet
I see now this is where it’s at.
So when I am bent by struggle and strife
This simple act my illusions lay bare.
I never feel closer to my purpose in life
Than as I brush my daughter’s hair.
Inspired by a two-week car tour of Ireland with my wife. The country seemed to constantly speak (or sing) to me. Sometimes joyfully, often sorrowfully.
We walk hand in hand down the gravel path
Straining to see everything at once – to lock it all up
A foreign land with ancient stories
Whispers to us from the stone fences
Whose hands placed each one down
Twelve centuries ago.
In our Adidas shoes and North –Face Fleece
We trample upon myths that still live on
In the towers and the castles and the High crosses-
Grave markers for the story tellers
Truths converted to stories by tell-bearers
Who saw beneath the paths and underneath
The stones-who turned up the turf
To find life crawling unobserved always there hidden
Beneath the stones and earth discovered only when
Turned up by the spade.
Who has looked beyond the heather covered hills into
A horizon where floating are angels and demons
Fighting for control over a spot of land worth nothing
Other than the small hearth inside the cottage holding a simmering pot.
A taste of boiled potatoes with a sprig of garlic
And another story is born.
Ora et Labora
Inspired by an extended stay in a Trappist monastery in Conyers, GA
This night fades into smoking embers
The hooded frame of some obscure monk
Leans against a marble pillar
Fingering beads and muttering.
Do not disturb him. He is at work,
Releasing all desires but the one
That drove him to this place when
Just a boy in order to lean against this pillar
Before the world awakens and beg
For mercy, not for himself-he is long forgotten
But for the world.
Do not disturb him at his work
For in this cold, silent, dark womb
an epic battle wages on
For the salvation of the world,
The weight of which presses him down
into his seat, fingering beads
The Book of Hours
Playing around with the Haiku : This Haiku is divided into the eight distinct “hours” the monks are called to communal prayer.
Watching in the dark
A single solitary flame
Dancing on its wick
The new sun rises
Splayed orange rooftops
Startled, I blink
Swallows scratch dirt-
Peek under fallen leaves.
The crows are coming
Sitting still alone,
Gazing out into the world-
Lord, make haste to help
The river bank bends
The same this day as others.
Who are these faces?
Remember to smile
Feels like work.
He smiles back.
Goldfinch landing near
Hummingbirds drink deep
Hands fold on lap.
sunshine shift now ends
With the rising of the moon
The owl stirs in the tree
To Bow My Head
A pause in an autumn jog through Dash Point State Park, WA – The whole world is full of surprises that steal my breath if I will pause and look.
Tramping through the leaf-carpeted trail
Winding through woods ending
With a vista of the Puget Sound
The low- hanging sun tossing its rays between sparkling limbs
And the vast water shimmers in the autumn dusk.
Suddenly, a white flash streaks across the sky
Landing at the highest tip of an evergreen.
The bald Eagle rests, turning its gaze to and fro.
Standing there, silent
in a clearing in the woods
I can only breathe and bow my head
Anything more is false.
Written looking out my daughters kitchen window before the grandkids returned home from school.
The playset in the backyard stands at the ready–
Empty, still, and waiting.
Not used as it once was
After father labored all night
By the light of the flood lamp
While the children slept.
From wood and plastic and rope
It became the summer hearth,
Now in dead of winter in stillness it waits
As it does this time every year
Until the first hint of spring bakes the plastic slide
And the smell of wood is coaxed by the sun,
Knowing the day will come when even that
Will not bring out the children.
The Island Shepherd
Another Image inspired by our Ireland Road trip – We would often navigate around sheep being led down the road by their shepherd.
A narrow black-top road winds round
Wind-swept hills through meadows
Of clover, purple and yellow flowers
Bend over to kiss the ground.
A shepherd takes a pull on his long-stemmed pipe,
Bows his head to the damp breeze.
Dirt clodden sheep prance ahead
They know the old man with his tweed cap
Will not lead them astray.
ONE MORE DRINK
An early poem from days long past –
One more drink will be enough
To quiet the roar in my soul.
One more swallow, and the pain will go
And leave me be to run.
One more drink, and I’ll be whole,
At least for an hour or so
I can face this gray world.
With both hands clenched, I’ll get through!
One more drink behind thousands past
More of the same, nothing changes.
This living remedy lets me die slow.
And if not, who will know?
One drink to lose myself, and hide from God,
Fig leaf, hide me from this world.
One more to fit in with fitful masses
To be a part, till the glass is dry.
One more, and I feel the end.
What that will be, God knows.
One more drink, and I am broken-
Or crushed to pieces, swept up and disposed.