Category Archives: Poems

Lullaby for Jasmine, 2

So now we’ve come to face the facts
That this sweet love could never last
Not for lack of soul or heart
No one’s fault that we’ve come apart

You’re not hurting me, I’m not hurting you
It’s a pain we’ll share, between us two
And after time the wounds will start to heal
With gratitude that this once was real

So close the book, put it on the shelves
Keep its secrets locked within ourselves
What might have been must stay a dream
Let it float away on down time’s stream….

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Why must we wait

Why must we wait
Until our bloodstreams merge
On sidewalks and pavements
In hallways and classrooms
In the streets of pulverized cities
To see that all thse streams are the same

Why can we only flow together
Into puddles and gutters
Spattered across walls
Soaked into clothing
Filling up bathtubs
Circling the drains of tiled rooms

Why must we be shattered
Before we can be swept up together
Why must we decay
In the unmarked mass grave
Before we can greet the sun
As fields of flowers

THE TORCH

(This poem, and its accompanying mime piece, were commissioned sometime in the 1980s, I believe for a discussion about what was happening in Central America at the time… I remember exactly where I was when the metaphor came to me, at the corner of Glenwood and Blue Ridge near Crabtree Mall.)

It came to us suddenly from above
Bright and powerful
And it only burned us
Until we learned how not to touch it directly

And the wise ones considered this thing
And decided that its use should be no secret
But that it should be given to all
That its uses should be taught
That it should be kept alive
For if it should ever be lost
Who knew when it would come again

Through winds of malice
And rains of doom
There have been those who kept it alive
And moving through the world
Whatever the costs

For there were always those who could not understand
This thing that was not darkness
And they would lay in waiting…
They would try to extinguish it
To erase it from the world
But somehow it would always be discovered again
Still smouldering…

Sometime it could be abused
What was intended to illuminate
Could be used to make others blind
What was intended to warm and empower
Could be used to destroy instead

But still the torch lives on
Its light is wisdom
Its warmth is love
Its fuel is your very heart and soul
Today the winds gather,and the rains grow strong
But the torch still burns in each of you
And with such keepers…
It will never fade away

Pieces of Charlemagne 

The poor man was hardly cold
Before the intrigues began
Brother Antonius
Took an ankle to Sicily
And was never seen again
Hans the young coroner’s assistant
Carefully trimmed the glorious beard
And swept the results into his pocket
Though some imperial cat hairs
May have been mixed in with the cuttings
The sisters who prepared the body
Kept tightly curled souvenirs
Hidden in lockets and scapulars
Slowly, pieces of Charlemagne
Meandered across his old empire
Some wrapped in burlap
Some swaddled in gold and lapis lazuli
Here, this is his ulna
Here is a paten made from his patella
Here is the finger he gave to a peasant in Armenia
But what I want to see is not his skull
But the furrows from his brow

A Few Political Limericks

There once was a creature named Trump
Who thought everyone else was a chump
A vile little toad
Who on history’s road
Will be seen as no more than a bump.


The people who voted for Donald
Thought he was the rebirth of Ronald –
Imagine their surprise
When they open their eyes
And discover how they’ve been hornswoggled.


Let’s talk about Senator Mitch
An insufferable son of a bitch
Who will ruthlessly kill
Any motion or bill
That angers his buddies, the rich.


The Republican Speaker, Paul Ryan
Doesn’t care how many are dyin’
He will gut Medicare
Leave you dangling in air
And he has had quite enough of your cryin’.


Limericks about people in power
May keep you amused for an hour
But make no mistakes
That’s not all that it takes
To make the tyrannical cower.

THE MCADOOIAD: Book 4

 

It makes no wake, no waves lap the shore ahead of its arrival –
For so swift is its advance, and so massive its bulk appears,
That were it to set a wave in motion, they would all be washed away.
It looms before them, still some distance off, but to McAdoo
It seems he might be flying into obsidian cliffs.

Consider a great thunderhead, first seen low upon the horizon
While you are picking strawberries.
And you think, no, it’s fine, I have plenty of time
Before the storm’s arrival… Time to search and pluck,
To fill my basket to overflowing

So you resume your task, admiring each luscious berry,
And then you look again, and the cloud is nigh upon you,
And the wind stirs, and the birds fall silent,
And you run to seek shelter – so was the ferry’s
Swift and silent advance towards the river’s shore.

The great ship stops its forward progress. Looking up,
They can barely see the prow, so high and far away it is.
Then with a great creaking the bow opens,
Fanning out into a thousand gangplanks reaching towards the shore.
It opens like a peacock’s tail, spreads out like a black cloak across the water.

“One coin is for when you embark, another for when you leave,”
Said the Guide. “Hold the biscuits – you’ll need them on the other side.”
“And the third coin?” asked Smith (A.) – the Guide in answer cleared his throat.
“Ah,” said McAdoo, reaching into his pocket. “Thank you for your help.”
He handed the Guide a coin, which he accepted with a bow.

“It has been my pleasure,” said the Guide. “Now – Watch your step.”
McAdoo turned, and walked toward the nearest gangplank.
Several shades moved in front of him, several fell in behind.
He turned, concerned for his companions, but the Guide waved him on
He saw them all behind him, lining up amongst the spirits.

Slowly the queue moved forward. Ahead of him he saw a brief flurry
Of motion, and it seemed that something fell from the gangplank
Into the dark but shallow waters below.  A shade emerged,
Walked back to the shore, and resumed its place among the crowd,
There to wait, thought McAdoo, for another millennium or so.

Then he was at the gangplank’s end, before an inscrutable face.
“Welcome, mortal,” said a voice. “Your presence has been anticipated.
Payment, please.” He handed the wraith his second coin, and stepped aboard –
And found himself astride a small rowboat. He stumbled, pitching forward,
As the tiny craft yawed dangerously under his weight.

“Sit down,” said the old man at the bow. “You’re rocking the boat.”
McAdoo sat, bewildered, struggling to comprehend. “The ferry -”
“Come now, McAdoo,” the old man chided. “Do you not know
That though all must take this journey, and many at the selfsame time,
Nonetheless each and every one must go through it on their own?”

“Charon,” breathed McAdoo. The old man bowed. “The same,” he said.
“There are none who cross but it is I who take them there.”
McAdoo looked about him, but only water, endless, returned his gaze.
“But this – this is your trip. Sit back, relax, let your mind be calm.
I cannot answer all your questions, but I can answer some.”

But even McAdoo, whose mind leapt like a leopard towards gazelles,
Could find no words to speak, or sort through the many thoughts
That clamored for attention in his mind. For there beyond the rugged bow
A shoreline’s shape he saw emerging, and knew it to be his goal,
And that he soon would step upon the well-worn shore of Hell.

THE MCADOOIAD: Book 3

BOOK 3

A beach it was indeed – but like no beach he had ever seen.
For this is the shore that has no condominiums,
Where suntan lotion never sells. No brochure
Advertises that view, no agent (save Stavros) offers package deals –
And there is no romance to be found there, nor souvenirs for sale.

There must have been light, for he realized he could see –
But there was neither sun nor color. He took a handful of sand,
And watched it run between his fingers, black as coal.
He looked around, and saw his group arrayed about him,
Slowly coming to their senses. He stood quickly in their midst.

“My friends,” he said, “do not fear. Unless I miss my guess,
We have been spared that arduous trek
Once trod by Hercules and Orpheus, Dante and Aeneas.
Instead, our friend Stavros has sent us off in style
And let us take – shall we say – the express rather than the local.”

At this they heard a cry, and looking up, saw white-haired Stavros –
Standing, it seemed, upon a tall and distant cliff –
Though he might also have been in a hot-air balloon,
So little of him could they see as they strained to hear his words.
“Good to see you all made it through!” be called.

“I apologize for the nature of your trip, but I know your time is precious
And so I could not accompany you down the long and ancient way.
Remain where you are, and be not afraid – your presence
May cause some commotion amongst the shades,
But your escort will arrive shortly. Check your pockets – and again, farewell!”

Their wallets – gone. Passports – gone. Watches, cell phones,
All had disappeared – save for three gold coins, and several Milk-Bones,
Their pockets had been emptied. Alarmed, they looked to McAdoo,
Who had answers at the ready. “No photography allowed,” he said,
“And down here, believe me, reception is lousy anyway.”

“Your personal possessions are of no further use,” said a voice.
“As you already know, you can’t take it with you.” They turned as one,
And saw – a man? A boy? An ancient, long beard and all?
His form shifted, sometimes radiating youth, sometimes sallow age,
Sometimes both at once. Only his eyes remained constant.

“Upon your return to the upper sphere, your goods shall be restored,”
He said. “In the meantime, rest assured that they are protected
More securely than any vault on Earth could ever promise.”
“We thank you,” said McAdoo, and all the others added their assent.
“Where are we, and if it is permitted, may we ask who you are?”

“I may have had a name once,” he said, with something like a smile.
“But here no one ever asks for it, and in truth I do not miss it.
Here I am but one of many guides for the newly arrived,
Whom I escort to the shore you see before you, the banks
Of the Dark River – for that is where you are.”

And now their eyes had adjusted, they looked shoreward once again
And became aware of movement along the river’s edge.
Indeed, there was nothing but movement,
For the entire shore was densely packed with jostling shades
So tightly crowded that they seemed to overlap.

As a field of wheat ripples in the warm Midwestern breeze,
So did waves of motion play across that ghostly mass.
But there was no sound, no cries of “Hey! Watch it, buddy!”
Nor polite whispers of apology, as spirit nudged against spirit,
Slowly swaying along the obsidian shore.

“They do not yet know,” said their Guide. “They are as dreamers,
Or babies newly born, or surgical patients emerging
From Morpheus’ painfree embrace. As you are discovering now,
Other senses come into play here, senses deadened
Under the weight of flesh and air, senses that must be learned anew.”

He gestured to them to follow, and turned toward the shore.
“Stay close,” he said to them. “Answer no question, make no comment.
Be as they are – still, quiet, and patient. I will make a way for you.
Oh – but do guard your pockets.” So saying he walked ahead,
turning now and then to check their progress.

When young boys break into an abandoned house,
Their imaginations filling each room with dread,
They advance in a clump down the creaky hallways, not daring to breathe,
Their flashlights swinging wildly at every wooden creak,
Jumping out of their skins at the sight of the dead man’s cat.

So how did they manage, these mortal though powerful men,
Advancing through real and actual ghosts to that most final of shores?
I would like to tell you that they kept their cool,
Facing these specters with the same kind of bravado
They used on conference calls with investors.

And they tried their best, in truth they did,
But each one felt his knees give way, his heart race,
Felt fear like he had never felt – save McAdoo,
Who was too busy looking at the faces of the shades
To think about the fear he felt within.

“Oh Guide,” he said, sotto voce, so as to not disturb,
“How long have these shades been here, how recently have they died?”
“Depends,” said his companion, with a hint of surprise at the question,
“Some have only arrived this very instant, some have stood here
For much, much longer. Do you seek someone?”

“Oh – no,” said quick-thinking McAdoo. “My parents died
Some time ago, and I am certain that in this great crowd
Even were they present, I should never find them here.”
“Just so,” said the Guide. “A shade could wait here for millennia,
As passes Earthly time – but never know the difference.”

“Remember,” he said, “this is Eternity’s shore you stand upon,
The boundary between your time and timelessness. You still retain
Your sense of Time’s flow – but to such as I the truth is clear,
That all that happens or will happen there has happened.
Not everyone is willing or able to make this crossing.”

And now a great horn sounds, and the companions jump as one,
Sending ripples throughout the assembled ghostly horde.
“Fear not,” says the Guide, reaching out to steady them,
And to calm their quivering shoulders.
“That is the sound of the Ferry arriving – look, and see if you can see.”

From the dark grey fog, across the dark grey waves,
Their eyes discern an enormous shape emerge. A ferry – or a cruise ship,
Indeed, a ship much like to those they saw upon the Aegean waves,
But with a mountain’s bulk and height. A mountain, or a mountain range,
Perhaps, peak piled onto peak – but made all of black glass.