Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Panning for Staurolites

We hunted for Fairy rocks on the Mississippi river bank
today. Water over Blanchard Dam crashed upriver,
cicadas droned in their torpor of late day heat.
My cheeks rosied-up without my straw hat,
and despite our modest success, my son
sat on a jutting rock, marked by indifference.

When a boy nears his 15th year, indifference
might as well be capitalized. His father, but a bank
and chauffeur, his mother, even less, a son’s
embarrassment. But we paddle forth on this adolescent river
of hormones and hope for the best. Hang on to your hat,
chuckles Grandpa, that boy’s burning heat.

When Grandpa was 15, WWII heated
the air. His parents doffed their different-
sounding German accents, wore their hats
low. At night, Mutti would pull shades, bank
the fire, make the sign of the cross while the river
took her eldest son away to the coast. Her son

vowed to aim low in case the enemy was the son
of her sister still in Berlin. Then lightning heats
the air and Grandpa sighs remembering the river
that took his brother away returned an indifferent
shell of a man who could only put money in the bank,
no treasure in his heart, who kept his hat

on his head when Old Glory waved. His hat
on his head, whispered Mutti, tears for her lost son
who came home from Paris like a 1930’s banker’s
book, closed and beaten, an indifferent
man. Yellow chin of a Blanding’s turtle flashes in the river

next to the rock where my son sits, Upriver,
a cacophony of gulls call; one swoops the hat
off an old man’s head. Hey, he cries, but it is indifferent
to our protestations, all a superfluous chatter, assonance
without meaning. Our feet blue, we seek the heat
of our dry socks and shoes lying on the bank.

Pascal insisted that a river made no difference
On either side of the bank, a man still wears a hat
And a son still grows up to pack heat in wartime

Friday, July 25, 2014


Warm milk might soothe unless it’s sour
Likewise hands and fingers know
The tempestuous ridge of your brow
Icy palms induce your stern glower

This eggshell floor that on knees I scour
With dainty brush to elicit glow
To your ego, I daily kowtow
Genuflect to your stony tower

But what if I saw my reflection
Exclaimed in an unconscious voice
Who’s that sniveling pathetic creature
Without a map and no direction?
Would I recognize my choice
Could I be my own good teacher?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

An Unexpected Lineament

I’m tired of hearing, “I love you.”
Weary of words without weight
Love must be strong like a sinew
I’m tired of hearing, “I love you.”
These ropes of love have been cut through
Love in the mirror looks like hate
I am tired of hearing, “I love you.”
Weary of words without weight

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Swedish Blues

My sister, Jaci, and Marguerite in 1988. 
Her Swedish blue eyes, never wan
As she sits, concave in her chair
Kyphosis has claimed
Her regale deportment
Has left her gasping for air

She pants a warm invitation
“Pray, sit, the seat is not taken.”
I perch on her couch
And gaze in her eyes
Her beauty not yet forsaken

The air hangs vacant of words
Her thoughts have scurried away
I wonder aloud
Is there anything, Mum
Say the word and I will obey

She smiles again between breaths
You have five children, she asks
I nod in agreement
What else can I do
Then adjust her oxygen mask

My tongue in my mouth is like lead
Her final example: ascesis
Pills at her disposal
A handful could end
Her grasp on life releases

But the easy way, she will not take
As days turn to nights without end
She patiently waits
For her turn in line
When Jesus will bid her ascend

--for Marguerite 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Global Changes

“Can anything be stupider than that a man has the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of a river and his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I have not quarreled with him?”  --Blaise Pascal

The sun might burn a little hotter, toast the moon to crème brûlée. The ocean tides roil wider, coaxing the insistent surf. Children play in pursuit of enemies and baddies. But too soon, they graduate to coursing-games without protection of the scabbard tip. Wing tip, felt tip, tip-toe, tip.

Suddenly cartography becomes a stylish profession. Whoever draws lines wields power like a bulldozer. Lines in the sand. Lines on their faces. Battle line, toe-the-line, bloodline, soup line, bottom line. 

The moneyed sets acquire mercenary education. Too busy with League-of-Legends and Inter-Stellar-War games, their lackeys nothing more than a repository for sound-bites. Trilobite, snakebite, overbite, Jacobite. 

So what’s left beyond climate—it’ll be volatile; politics—sub rosa; and power? Yes, the humble-god-of-love, which flows around the obstacles and firms up to make a pudding. Who doesn’t love pudding? 

Make mine tart.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Why I Am Sending My Dad a Father's Day Card in November

I still have the card in my desk drawer, lower left.  I look at it very rarely at this point. It reads: "Happy Mother's Day to my sister who showed me how to be a great mom..."
followed my sister
choir, college, marriage, child
cheerleader in each
I found the card at a rummage sale; I accumulate cards like an old lady sprouts chin hairs. Rifling through a stack of greeting cards filed in an old cardboard box in July, 2002, I pulled out one that stated my thoughts exactly, intending to send it the following May. I never dreamed I'd instead bury my sister the day before Mother’s day, 2003.
a seed catalogue in winter
but spring never comes
So the card sits in the bottom of my desk drawer, lower left. I cannot throw it out. I cannot mail it. Why did I wait, I wonder. Why did I wait?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

When a Child is a Poker Chip

Holding out his hand, palm-side up,
he grinned wide. So I asked, “Wassup?”
“Gimme a buck, could you?”

A dollar in this beggar’s cup?
He stood expectant with his pup.
Would he buy grub to chew?

He looked skeletal, this close-up
“Come on, we’ll go someplace to sup.”
With a frown, back he drew.

Mister, see this measuring cup?
Boss man demands to fill ‘er up.
If I don’t—black-n-blue.

Kid needed food, not a wallop
This trafficked child was enveloped
His world: a cut-throat view

Panhandled more like a stick-up
He a pawn, me like a bishop
In the end, we’re both screwed