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JT Nelson Jun 2019
Cool cool floor
Of smooth hard tile
Barefeet slapping in
Successive taps


Then onto carpet

Just observing the almost silent moments of someone stepping across a tile floor and then onto the carpet. Mostly mundane... definitely not something ever thought of as magical, this is something going on all over all the time. Sometimes things like that blow my mind.
JT Nelson Dec 2019
The snow didn't melt at all today
I found it just like I left it
When I came out from work
In the dark of December

I shuddered in my jacket
Jingled my key and unlocked my car
With a button and a chirp
Then opened my door

The thin orange strip lay along
The horizon and darkened
With each passing second
I started my car and turned up the heat
Winters in South Dakota can feel lonely after work. Dark, cold and lonely.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
Sometimes words
Don’t come to mind
When I’m trying to throw together
A poem.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
Cradle the smell
Of french fries and quarters
Clinking their way
To the belly of Donkey Kong

The bowling ball
Slides and pins they hit
Coughing as they
Fall in the smoke-filled room

Dipping in ketchup
We salute the fallen red-ringed pins
As high scores fall and initials go up
Below the row of quarters for those to go next.
What playing video games USED to be like!
JT Nelson Jun 2019
After shoveling the snow
After chipping the ice
After grooming the edges
Of driveway and walk

The back throbs
The sweat drips
The breath burns from cold
And stopping feels good

The boots come off
The shower is hot
The beverage is cold
And the blankets comfort my soul.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
Blank and holding breath
Holding paint... shaking
Projected from my mind
Holding my hand back

Taken in and exhaled
To steady my eyes
Of hand and brush as one
Look back... just create.
After long periods of not creating any art, the first jump back in can be daunting.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
I missed my dad
So I bought his brand
Of pipe tobacco
I also bought a pipe

I light up that pipe
And smell the memory
Of my father
Floating around my head
In whispy trails of years ago.
My dad’s dexterity with filling, tapping and lighting that pipe still elude me, but like an instructional YouTube video, I play and replay the memory of how he did it over and over in my head. I will get it eventually.
JT Nelson Dec 2019
Broken sunglasses
Sitting on my dresser
If I can find the part
Out there somewhere
I can fix them

Jeans too small
In a drawer in my dresser
If I can lose some weight
With diet and exercise
I can wear them

An unframed print
Waiting for a frame on my dresser
It was for a friend
That I don’t talk to anymore
But I could

That dresser is full of “if”s
It’s got drawers and drawers
Of “should’ve”s and “could’ve”s
Things I need to do
And fix.
We all have things we need to fix or change... doing a little inventory just now and realizing that I need to do more than I thought.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
Evening light
Shining 'cross the lake
From behind me
Through still still air
Over still still water

You have so many
Great qualities
And so many friends
That adore you as you fade
Through amber and crimson hues

We don't wave goodbye
You just slip away
Gently and softly
As Nightshades take hold of the air
We'll see you tomorrow... same time.
Sunsets at the lake are the best. They present a brief moment of magic when the conditions are right... and oh, how beautiful when they are right.
JT Nelson Feb 11
End of vacation
Say goodbye to the lake
Under August sun
And August trees
And August sky
Last waves lapping
On the rough rip rap rocks

Station wagon loaded and running
Trailered boat tagging along
Motor lifted and tilted
Asleep until next summer

A holler from brother
"Time to go!"
One last look out at the
plane of blue shining and winking
Then down to my knees
And take a scoop

Oh, if I can only carry
This water home
Start my own lake
My vacation would never end...
This my foolish dream

By the time I got
To my awaiting seat
I only had
A damp hand
But memories that still
Fill the lake in my heart.
A distinct memory from about 40 years ago. Me making one last effort to sustain the vacation as long as I could.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
Gold on gold the cold clouds fold
Into amber wisps of day’s remains
This isn’t an end
But another beginning
A night
A day
A future that holds
Breaking slivers of silver and folds of gold
Worth a ton of sun
That warms my face
After a long cold winter
JT Nelson Jun 2019
Oh, that first crush
Certain it was love
Everything about her
Infatuated my thoughts
Her lips
Her skin
Her eyes that coyly looked my way
Followed by her shy smile
Under that cute nose
With the cutest bump
That I still see
In my memory
Even though
I can’t remember
Her name.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
The forest behind my neighbor’s garage
Is ten feet wide and thirty feet long
But is full of different types of life

In summer the leaves grew full and thick
Filling the space with shades of green
The ground is dark and mysterious

But in winter the spires of lean saplings
Poke out of bright snow in numbers
Like pins in a white cushion for grandma

The cardinals glide through
The squirrels hide nuts
The finches flutter
All in plain view of my kitchen window
The forest behind my neighbor’s garage.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
Feelings of aging aches beginning
Creeping in
Creeping in
In morning high snapping
Of joints and bones
Accompanied by deeper moans and groans

My reflection stares back at me now
Whiskered face
Whiskered face
The puffy eyes not younger
The hair I had retreating
I surrendered the troops to a clipper working

I wonder if Dad felt this way too
Numb to time
Numb to time
Boys running circles
Around his life
Did he have time to enjoy the sunsets?
JT Nelson Jun 2019
I ran up the hill
To see the sunset
Only to realize
I forgot my camera

So I took a picture
With my brain
And had it enlarged
For eternity in my memory.
JT Nelson Apr 8
When talking about the past
We often forget about the pain
The worst of days
The sickest of days
The days when we felt like we were at the bottom
Looking only up for any kind of help

History is doomed to repeat itself
But all we can think about,
Even when I think about those pain filled days
Is how they were moments of hurt
Like punches to the midsection
Not knocking you out
But taking your breath

Taking that part
Of the memory
That helps one forget
Darkest moments of
Broken hearts
Broken bones
Broken skin
Broken soul

And we sit and think
About those better days
When the sun shone
And a gentle summer breeze
Rolls warm air
Over closed eyes
And you dream
About the best moments of your life
When your heart wasn't broken
Just so much time to sit and think ... then think about thinking
JT Nelson Mar 7
I’m the wind across the prairie
On a warming March afternoon
I’m the sun that melts
The snow and warms the
Frozen dirt into a thin
Slippery layer of mud

I’m the dancing of leaves
Left over from autumn
Released from the drift now gone
Take me into your lungs
I’m spring... And here
To shake off your winter blues.
I just love spring.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
Instrumentation selection
Was a big step in our lives
Choices made in fourth grade
Would stay with us through school
To the end
If we stayed in band

So many choices
Brass or woodwind
Big or small
Loud or louder
Percussion as an option too
What would be the perfect fit

Did we take advice from mom or dad
And play the instrument that they played
Or maybe a brother or sister
Or one of their cool friends
A lot of impressions molded
Our decision on the path that we went down.

I selected, with a few of my friends,
The long and shiny brass trombone
Touchy slide that perfecting
Lubrication with silicone proved tricky
And dumping the spit from the valve
Proved essential and gross.

It took years to become adequate
Enough that the notes flowed like spit
All the way through my senior year
Until I put the parts away in the black case
That one last time then sold it
To the parents of a fourth grader.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
Scars of stitches
Map the years
And my moments of bad

A fall here
An accident there
Times when the hurry just
Wasn’t worth it

Two or three stitches
Never more than five
The cuts were
always small

But I hated blood
And needles more
So they were never
JT Nelson Jun 2019
I tried to walk
I tried to talk
I tried to fly
I tried to yell

But my feet were locked
But my legs were numb
But my tongue was still
And my lips were locked

Was I trapped in a dream?
A bad dream for sure
I mustered no emotion
Except fear for my future

My eyes couldn't blink
And couldn't move
My arms, fingers, toes
Also locked tight

And then as people stared
My heart began to glow
From the warmth of their smiles
Shining on me and my pedestal.
From a dream I had where I could figure out why I was unable to do anything except observe. I guess it would be considered a nightmare but I remember the feeling I had of joy knowing people were enjoying me like this.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
Blue to gold
Gold to red
Red darkens

Specks of light
One by one
Filling my

Low glow east
Full moon rise
Smiling at

I smile back.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
Three boys
I was the youngest
A family of five
In a big old house
With ONE bathroom

I learned the valuable lesson
Of waiting
How to hold

And getting ready for school
Was a choreography
Of hierarchy
And I would wait
And wait

Until the yellow tiled room was mine
And I could brush my teeth
In peace
Then spit

Then look in the mirror
Comb my hair
And grin at that kid
Smiling a crooked smile at me
And say “good enough for a small town”
I was so happy when dad added a second bathroom to our house. How we did it with one still amazes me!
JT Nelson Jun 2019
My Dakota plains
Broken by clusters of trees
That surround farms
Connected by black thin lines
Draped between poles
That follow roads

Or a shortcut across fields
On giant steel mannequins
Standing watch over
Corn, beans, sunflower
Or cows or horses
Or sheep

On My Dakota prairie
With rich black dirt
That feed crops
And sustain our towns
Our clusters of life
Our family and self.
While South Dakota is so much more than agriculture, our ancestry that came here generations ago dug their roots in deep and nurtured this place in our hearts. It is a beautiful place... sometimes harsh, but a glorious place to take in.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
I visited my harbor
A refuge among the waves
I walked among giants
And touched the cold firm ground
And rocks that formed foundations
Of communities and families
Of a world handed down

I saw the faces of my elders
I felt the hands of my grandmothers
On my shoulders
As I scrubbed the stones clean
The sun shone on my neck
Warming me as I worked.
One last rinse of their headstone

And my task was done
They sparkled and smiled
Back at me
And as the dates in the stones held fast,
My clock continued to advance
And I left knowing I felt better
Their embrace was healing.
My Memorial Day routine and escape when I need to talk to my dad.
JT Nelson Apr 7
My heart dips
When I remember where we are

These moments of forget
Watching a favorite old movie
And I’m carried back to 1988
And John Cusack holding up his radio
My heart dips when the credits roll
And I remember where we are

These moments of forget
Working on the lawn
And watering grass seed that I planted
Last October, then I remember
And my heart dips
When I think about how I didn’t know
Where we’d be

These moments of forget
When I close my eyes at night
And I drift into a land of total escape
Where I can visit favorite places
And see old friends and family
Then my heart dips
When I wake up and I remember
Where we are.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
Who convinced who
That curls were “in”
In the years before
I knew to know better?

The smell so strong
Of chemical power
Making my blonde straight strands
Hold the curve of the curlers

Using my pick I kept those locks
Both frothy and fairly formed
Though the pictures of me froze a smile
Inside me the doubt ran deep
Whomever speaks fondly of the 80’s clearly never had a perm.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
These shoes are worn
This soul is torn

My empty glass
Was once half full

But as Mondays wear me down
Fridays don’t come fast enough

I tune one string
Five more go flat

I whittle my stuff down
To things that matter

A simpler life, a happier life
I love what I have around me

Even if it’s worn shoes, an empty glass
And a guitar that’s out of tune.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
Sometimes dads can amaze us
With feats of athleticism
That we didn't think they had in them

My dad once snagged a foul ball
With his hand outstretched
And didn't drop the beer in his other hand.

I just stared in disbelief at this man
Standing there like he did it everyday
This day was my lucky day as he flipped me the ball.
Remembering my dad as baseball season gets rolling.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
I dreamt that
The sweet corn
Was ready in the fields

Then I awoke
And realized
That it’s only June

So now I’m sadly
Disappointed that
I’ve got two months to wait.
Seriously.... bring on the sweet corn fresh from the field. Boil it up... Butter and salt... boom.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
I was taught by a man
That smelled heavily of smoke
Of the difference of certain
Brands of cigarettes
And the place to smoke them

I don’t remember much of that lesson
As I quit over twenty years ago
Except that Lucky Strikes should
Be smoked outside... alone...
In the park.
I think I only bought one or maybe two packs of Lucky Strikes. Those filterless suckers were a tough smoke.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
Owl asking his endless question
Outside my childhood window
Between he and I, an oval
A Tot Finder sticker
I had nightmares it
Would be put to use

Moonlight striking the countryside
Gave a light glow as if the sun
Were on a dimmer switch
Slight shadows of trees
Lay gently on the lawn
Stars tried hard to be noticed
I have vivid memories of my youth.and my surroundings ... I love my room and the view out over our backyard on the edge of town.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
Like water
off a duck's back

water ran
                 right off
It's funny what you observe in nature that makes sense sometimes.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
I have a place
In my memory
That’s more than
Just a place

It’s a taste
A smell
A color
A feeling
A sound
And more

It’s hard to explain
But every now and then
My mind goes there
And I’m at that place

It’s only there for a moment
Not long enough to pinpoint exactly
What or where or why or when
This place is to me

But it’s definitely something
I’ve always known
Since I was a child
Probably love or family or home.
This is a true feeling that comes over me often. I feel like I can remember the times I’ve sensed it every time it slides into my senses, but as I struggle to remember exactly when, it slips away again. I’ve even self-philosophized that it’s an alternate universe variation of myself just almost touching through the time/space folds of our existences. Or it’s just some crazy deja vu.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
Delicious hues of blue
Behind linen clouds
From horizon
To horizon
As swirling calls of birds
Cheer them on.
I love that I get to witness moments of nature. We should feel privileged to be sharing this earth.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
Then rain

Sometimes a pain
Like the day of weddings
Or funerals

Sometimes a joy
Like the farmer whose crops
Are withering
And soil cracks hard in sun
Writing during a rainstorm is a true joy... but my words can’t hold a flame to the true emotion that Mother Nature pours out during a good thunderstorm. All we can do is reach out and try to grab a few good words. Maybe after a thousand poems, I will finally capture my true emotions that I’m feeling right now.
JT Nelson Apr 5
I had it...
It was right there
In my hands
But then the future
Took it and made it the past
That moment of present was gone
From me now.

This happened

Why didn’t I see it coming?

I didn’t cherish what I had
In those moments now gone
I didn’t hug those special to me
My mom
My dad
My grandmas
My grandpas

I took for granted those
Conversations we had
The mundane talks about this or that
I would love to have another chat
Another chance to revisit the way
I impatiently said that I had to go...
I doubt I had to go

The only thing I had to get to was
The future and regret
For those lost moments.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
We heard the screech
Then the pop
Of metal on metal
Or metal on wood
It’s hard to tell the difference
When you’re half asleep

People were running
To it and from it
People afraid that they’d
Be sent away
Away from their babies
Others stopped them and calmed them

My thumbs wrestled
With dialing 9-1-1
But I described it best I could
As quickly as I could
And as accurately as I could
Then we waited.
Traumatic situation all around tonight in our “hood” as a mom with children jumped the curb and hit a pole or tree then took off from the scene as she was afraid that she’d be deported or put in in jail or something. One by one the emergency personnel showed up and we made our way home. Lights and voices still thick behind us. Scary.
JT Nelson Dec 2019
I lost the sun so
I asked the trees
In darkness they mourned
And threw their leaves
Down to the cold
Hard ground

I asked the wind
It shushed me loudly

I asked the house
That slept alone
It sat there with eyes closed

I asked the lake
The ripples laughed
At my request
And sparkled specks
From sky above.
Nights at the lake in September can be very poetic.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
I bet that sunsets taste
Like sherbet ice cream
On a warm summer day.

I'll take two scoops
And enjoy it right here
On my front porch.
I simply love sunsets on perfect summer nights while sitting on the front porch
JT Nelson Jun 2019
Rounded smooth
Mostly flat
The perfect stone must fit
In hand comfortably
With index finger extended
Along the back edge

With a step forward
And twist of the body
A side-arm sling
Low to the water
Whip and a fling
Last bit to touch the stone

The aim is out
Not up
Not down
A trajectory of perfect velocity
And angle to deflect the earth
And skip


A­nd then the sink
To bottom
Lost forever
After giving it’s life
To a perfect skip
Across the water leaving
Finding then skipping the perfect stone was my medium as a young artist standing in shin-deep crystal clear water in Minnesota as a child and teen. Scanning for stones through ripples. Picking, lifting, judging... skipping. Always trying to get better.... always trying for the longest skips.
JT Nelson Jan 7
I hear the droning moans of Winter
Blowing on my house so cold
Northwest winds from Dakota plains
Aimed at this Dakota home

It’s endurance is commendable
One hundred and eight years
Of standing here in this weather,
I have only been here forty-nine

There are creaks and groans
And sagging a bit from settling
Crackled, worn and flaking...
And the house is aging too.
Winters in South Dakota can be cold, harsh and lonely. They can test any human’s sanity. To do it in an old house can be like taking a rowboat out to the ocean.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
I’ve got better things to do
Than not drink orange soda
My winter is long enough
Without that summer in a bottle

It’s the taste of my youth
That magic orange soda
Fanta, Crush, or Sunkist
They all take me there

Carbonated sweet sun
This icy orange soda
Every sip is a portal in time
Take me back, take me back
JT Nelson Jun 2019
I basked in the joy of the chord
In the vibrations of the perfection
Of harmonies that reverberated to my core
That sang deep to my soul

Those notes were familiar
The dynamics lowered and lifted
Me through the air in the lofted church
Ceiling and stained glass reflections

As my daughter sang from the mass of robes
I remembered singing from that same stage
On that same white marble stage where
I stood with my mom so many years ago

A smile and a tear leapt up from my heart
As I remember those chords with my mom
So happy she was to be looking down
At her granddaughter singing so sweet
JT Nelson Apr 3
Sit and listen
To the clock
The ticking
The tocking

Furnace fan
Droning on
In chorus
To the percussion of

The ticking
The tocking
Snapping off a beat
And fan’s low hum

A bird outside
Throws in a solo
A robin calling
For a mate

While I lay on my couch
And start to dream
About summer and
Not being told to stay inside

The ticking
The tocking
Time passing by the whole world
As we wait for the magical day

When the curve is flattened
And we’ve made it through
The ticking
The tocking
Just my thoughts as I lay here on my couch listening to the clock during the quarantine.
JT Nelson Dec 2019
The line of black leads to my pen
Swirls and twirls
Lines straight and curved
With skips and dots
Whips and dips

The line of black started clean and leaned
Then grew apart
Lost its form
And dug deeper
Into the paper

The line of black stops at the bottom
The final dot sticks its landing
Ending the train of thought
That flowed from
Brain to page
Sometimes the act of writing amazes me and I can't help but observe it with wonder.
JT Nelson Jan 2
Rise and set
Right to left
Moss on my back

My skin grows thicker
Wrinkles and rings
One more each year

More leaves each year
I shed in fall
Dead sticks to the wind

I shade the warm
Hold nests for birds
And squirrels

I push my roots
As deep as I can
To find more water

My friends around me
Battle for the sky
Together we are forest.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
Cool grass blades
And blue glass fades
To golden reflections
Of sunset on my window

Sprinklers shush shushing
And mourning doves cooing
The light fades away
And lightning bugs play

Summer nights
I could use you now
As I sit here in February
Cold and tired.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
I looked at my watch
Holy crap...
Where did those 48 years
Don’t blink... you might miss something.
JT Nelson Jan 21
Dip, scoop,
Lift, turn, throw


Clear the white
Bright and hard packed snow

Expose the sidewalk
Waiting for summer
To be covered by green clippings
And darkened by the sprinkler
Cooling on a hot day

But now uncovered
By a twisted and sore back.
JT Nelson Jun 2019
My tire was flat...
But only
on the bottom.
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