Whereas, we rode giant yellow bicycles
across a cobbled promenade in Gloucestershire
and sang in our best falsetto and;
Whereas, crowds of curious cats and gobsmacked waiters
meowed and danced and;
Whereas, our corduroy shorts whooshed and our laughter percussed,
Be it is resolved that I shall eat pungent Stilton cheese with mint tea
every night before bed.
The Ride Home ☊
When you were a baby I stayed home with you
I heard your first “daddy” at breakfast and “fox” at the zoo
I taught you to say “astounding” to impress your mom
And “oh crap” when we saw crazy neighbor Tom
I washed you in a bucket, on the balcony outside
I laughed myself silly and felt amazing inside.
I fed you guacamole and refried beans
When I changed your diaper it was nothing I’d ever seen
I took you to the park and the hardware store
We picked up acorns and screws for the door
We sang songs on Main Street so far off key
That people at the bus stop, craned their necks to see
When I read you books I did voices and sounds
You laughed and you laughed, at the characters we found.
I met you in Boston this morning for tea
I heard you say “dad” and ask about me
We walked to your apartment so you could play me a song
Written for a friend you hadn’t known that long
It was full of heart and a strange sense of peace
For a young man your age you seemed so at ease
You said “oh crap” when I told you about the time
I walked down Main Street pretending to be a mime
When I left for the train you said “enjoy the ride.”
I knew I already had and felt amazing inside.
In a car park in Bermondsey
near the dirty river Thames,
her patent leather court shoes
flashed in the lights like gems.
I listened to her footsteps
as they echoed from the walls,
and drank in each one like whiskey,
trying not to stumble or fall.
She stepped from behind a buttress
and stood with her legs apart.
I imagined all the indiscretions,
And wondered where we would start.
She strode the stairs to the sidewalk,
and the street drowned out her sound
I turned instead to Southwick
alone on the quiet London ground.
I Won't Take My Time
I learned to drive in a '64 Ford, as big as Noah’s ark
I swear you needed a harbor pilot to make the damn thing park
It was violet candy blue and smelled of tobacco
The motor roared, whether you went fast or went slow
I was alive to see the Kennedys die, and the president be born
By any measure of a man I’m old, a long trip around the horn
But there is no traffic jam behind my red sedan
I’ve got 6 points on my license and fines of almost a grand.
I won’t take my pills from a plastic box, with letters for the days of the week
I won’t take my time or my place with the tired and the meek
I won’t live behind a gate, with the dark green grass
I won’t spend my nights in the club house, in case they are my last
I want to hear babies cry and teenagers rant
I want to play the saxophone, even if I can’t
I want to memorize an epic poem, maybe Gilgamesh or Howl
I’m just not ready yet to throw in the towel.
I want to hear my thoughts, in a different voice
So many ideas it’s hard to make a choice
I want to eat an enormous plate of cheese
Je aimerais que le fromage, and pass the wine please.
I drove passed a demonstration
people in front of bulldozers, police behind their shields.
There was chanting and confusion
but I knew who would win and who would yield.
I saw two get arrested
an old woman and a young man.
He was animated and resistant
she smiled and made her stand.
I wondered about her life
the children, the art, the pain.
What was so clear and known to her
that made her crazy act seem so sane?
I watched the plastic cuffs tighten
and turned to hide my face.
Because I’ve already lost his passion
and never had her peace and grace.
Dusty Old Rug
There is a tom cat that lives with us,
like me, he is old.
On winter nights he sleeps by the fire alone,
his paws twitching in summer dreams.
I sleep, but do not dream.
When the sun signals the afternoon,
he joins me for a nap.
He presses his achy bones against my warm face,
and we both doze.
His fur smalls like a dusty old rug.
That is the time when the dreams begin,
In an antique shop in Painswick.
There are gilded picture frames and delicate ladies’ hats.
I am drawn to the hanging carpet with faded burgundy stars,
as soft as orchids to the touch.
I select an enameled heart and a carved ebony cat.
Before I leave I stand near the carpet,
close enough that it touches my cheek.
I inhale the musty sweetness,
as the dream ends with the sound of purring.
I drove a Pinto to Guatemala
It was a great ride.
I had 82 dollars and an 8-track tape
I ate frijoles for 11 months
and sang harmonies to Get Back
I slept on pallets, behind a cement truck
until I awoke at 1 AM
to ride waves alone in the dark by feel
and the flash of Puerto Quetzall light
In November I turned the key and headed home
I took a job with the phone company.
I missed 2 days of work in 28 years.
It is hard to reconcile.
The trees turn a stunning orange.
The streams run clear and sweet.
The sky is the bluest we have ever seen,
People hate each other despite
Their natural ability to love.
People harm each other
Despite knowing how harm feels.
How can the sun shine so brilliantly
On hills so green while someone
Raises a hand to strike a child?
How can we be transfixed by a sunset
But avoid the eyes of someone
Succumbing to pain?
How can we be brave enough
To scale a mountain yet so afraid
That we turn our backs on
The most basic of human dilemmas?
It is hard to reconcile.
We can taste the salt in the ocean,
Caress the warm sand
And inhale the breeze like incense,
But not hold the face of someone
When they weep,
Or embrace a stranger who seems
Lost or scared or simply sad.
How is that we stare at the moon
And imagine a face,
But turn away repulsed by
A scar or a bruise?
How is that we love nature
But not ourselves?
Tattooed breasts and the smell of cigarettes
You put your fruit punch and hot dogs on the checkout belt
I sized you up and assigned you a place in my mind and a place in
It was easy, so many things to assure me
Tank top, yellow-black bruise and a food stamp card
Behind you I pushed my cart to the parking lot
You talked on the phone, stopped and began to weep
Then you started to shake, dropping your head like a bag of stones,
tears on the pavement
I could hear it all. You were losing your child.
I thought of my son and wanted to hold him
I thought of you and wanted to say I was sorry
I thought of everything I did not know about you
And I was heartbroken.
Just as she had done every day for almost four years,
The nurse with the gray hair and soft hands,
Pushed his chair to the large open window
In the sitting room and locked its wheels.
Instead of watching the mango trees in the wind
And the cars in the parking lot, he closed his eyes tightly.
Soon the sounds of the TV and residents began to fade,
replaced by Charlie Parker on the hi-fi.
The stiff metal chair become
The soft living room couch of their house on 2nd street.
He could see the beautiful young woman
And feel his heart swell as it did sixty years before.
She danced absentmindedly, happy and free
Of the pain that would come decades later.
He could smell her perfume and hear her dress
Rustle like the autumn Sycamores back home.
He reached out his hand, palm up and rested it on his lap
He took a deep breath, smiled, and was gone.
Let me tell you kid, just how great I was
Every bell and whistle, every glorious clang and buzz
I had nothing but good ideas only brilliant thoughts and schemes
I know every answer and what every mystery means
I stood for everything sacred and fought for everything right
I proudly hand the world to you, behold it in the light
There is no pain and suffering because of the work I’ve done
No illness, flood or famine because of the wars I’ve won
There is no cruelty or hatred, no torment or deceit
Because I gave no quarter, never bowed in defeat
Where you are going, I haven’t told you all
Oh, what the hell do you know?
It’s like talking to a wall.
Hard-backed Adirondack chair with flaking red paint
On a gravel floor unforgiving of bare feet.
Yet it is the most comforting space in my world.
It is where I sat after the surgery
held together by titanium wire and the kindness of family.
Feeling more tenuous than April ice, I slowly thawed ....myself
Like a cryogenic space traveler, joyful to be home,
The long flight a hellish memory, quietly growing dimmer.
Even now it is where I sit
When time feels short and the days feel too long.
Sweet basil and tarragon and
The casual conversations with my son
Who brings me lemonade so sour it makes me shake.
He “likes it that way,” and so do I.
It is where my wife shares the idea of a new garden
That seems impossible or odd
But in the diffuse sunlight of that space
It reveals itself to be brilliant.
There is an empty blue pot in the corner,
Where it has been for years.
Someday soon I will plant it with a most stunning orchid.
In this space there is always a tomorrow.
Your Face, Disappointed
I sit naked and watch the winter snow
And sharpen the ice scraper in the summer sun.
I drink iced tea in December sip hot soup in July
I read old love letters and forget you said goodbye.
I listen to a waltz when my legs are tired and sore
and sing when I can’t hear myself think.
I work the night shift, and sleep through the day
to avoid seeing you turn and walk the other way.
I study days upon days for imaginary tests
and arrive precisely for appointments I don’t have.
I never answer the phone and have no machine.
Your face, disappointed, is in all of my dreams.