I watch men I do not know.
How they smile,
how the ***** steel bristles
cut through their cheeks and chins;
dull blue and grey
on sweat washed arms.
How they rub their hands,
push back their hair,
adjust their collars,
I am looking for someone
I never knew.
I am looking for my father.
If he were near, I could not
let him pass by unseen, unfelt.
I do not know what I would say.
do you know me?
Maybe I would say nothing.
Maybe I would just sit and stare,
like a soldier,
seeing his own arm
****** and torn in the road,
wondering why the fingers don't move
when he tries to make a fist.
Drunk on manufactured insouciance -
How did we did not notice life’s quickening -
As we were caught by the pertinacious story-currents
Of our lives.
Of consequences delayed
Long disconnected from their antecedents;
Of our personal mythologies -
Lies, truth and misremberances
Churned together into an exploding froth:
The anxious anticipation
Of our ineluctable destruction
At the base of the falls
Where the water, like a perpetual gospel choir
Shouts and sings in joyous celebration at being made whole.
So we hold on tight.
To whatever we can.
To each other.
This is a tree
In the backyard of an apartment
In Jamestown, New York
In which an eleven year old boy sits
The sounds of the cars driving past
A man yelling for his dog
The ommm of a distant lawnmower
The smell and smooth feeling of damp tree bark
How his thoughts and feelings
have become unspoken sentences
How the images of the past have lost detail
How his anger tightens the skin of his face
How the blood hums in his ears
How his toes push against the end of his tennis shoes
How it might feel to fall face first from the tree
Or fly away over the house
And the people hidden inside
Higher and higher
Until everything had grown small with distance
And so much quieter
Until even the words in his head would be silent
Then he would let go
Then he would fall
If you should come upon a painting by Mark Rothko in a museum -
I'll assume you are not one of those billionaires who has one hanging on the dining room wall, or hidden away in a secret room behind the bookcase -
but either way, do not just look at the painting or you will see nothing.
Well, except color. You will see color. Rothko loved color.
But wait a while and you will begin to hear it whisper its secrets:
How lives are layered upon lives;
how painful sacrifices
get buried beneath petty ambitions and lies
and joys and succes as well-
oh, and perhaps another layer or two of color.
Each generation scrapes the parchment clean
and blithely scribes new marks on its surface -
confident that they will not forget the lessons
that seem so absurdly obvious.
Empires disappear beneath overgrown vines
and dieties who, drunk on the blood of virgins
would feast on the hearts of conquered warrors
but now shuffle past each other
with oblivious nods, grousing about the food,
wait for the day someone remembers their names.
Listen and perhaps you will learn
how every layer of life is a forgotten secret
discernable only by its subtle influence
on the layers that are built up above it.
If not. There is always the color. Rothko loved color.
The boy, age seven
Stayed behind the others -
Remained outside in waist deep snow
While his newly assigned family
plodded and stomped onto the back porch of the great house,
shaking snow and cracked ice from their matted sweaters,
Shedding their scarves, wet gloves and socks .
Loud excited voices growing muffled and faint
until they disappeared completely into the warmth and comfort of interior rooms.
It was the boy's first winter in western New York
and he had never known such monumental silence
or seen the world disappear so completely
in snowstorm and dusk.
His cheeks burned red;
His toes and fingers grew fat and numb –
How long would it take, he wondered, for fresh snow and wind
to obliterate his footsteps completely,
leaving no evidence of the path
that had brought him there;
Until it looked as if he had just been dropped into someone's yard;
as if he had just appeared from nowhere.
Before he began to move again –
before he headed inside with the others
In the space between his thoughts
there was a moment of silence deeper than anything he had ever felt before.
Today I eschew all matters political
and examine a subject I consider quite critical.
The greatest invention in man’s history
is, IMHO, the apostrophe.
You must admit it’s quite impressive
even if sometimes it’s a tad possessive.
Suppose, if you will, you need to drop one small letter
(because somehow shorter is always better)
’tis the thing that shows any gal or feller
That you’re not just a miserable, terrible speller.
So go on, drop your letters with wild abandon
and know the apostrophe will be there to stand in.
Just one other thing before I call it quits–
concerning the fuss about its and it’s.
It’s an issue for some that is really quite raw
Because they think that possession’s nine tenths of the law.
But I tell you now without any deceptions
In life there will always be some small exceptions.
“It” owns an apostrophe, I hear some of you cry,
But its apostrophe’s useless unless it loses an I.
Another small bit of Doggerel to lighten the load.
My mother dearly wanted
to be Dorothy Parker.
She yearned for a taste of the power that comes
from a truly witty response.
She craved to deliver
A statement so powerful
and sardonic that it would terminate
all argument or discussion.
My proximity made me an easy target to practice on
as each of our arguments ended with a bon mot
delivered with the all the acerbic flourish of Bette Davis.
As I listened to her footsteps receding down the hallway
I had only to take one more breath
before the footsteps reversed direction
and - standing at the doorway to my room -
She would deliver another culminating witticism
turn, leave and repeat.
In the fifties and sixties an intelligent woman –
a single mother of three
with no high school diploma,
but a surfeit of imagination –
Savoured what little power she could find
even if it was a fiction, a delusion
or just a punchline sharp enough to draw blood.