The winter sky lowers, glowering
along the charcoal horizon,
sketching sheets of rain in ragged curtains.
The temperature lowers with
the cloud cover: cold—
the smell of icy rain on the wind.
Cedar crisps the air with
the damp perfume of woods.
Someone has built a fire
—the wood smoke stirs memories
of mountain mornings warmed by
the massive iron stove in the kitchen.
The snow level will drop soon:
slush and mud—wet sox, cold toes,
of changing seasons.
Time moves slower in the dark.
The slurry of minutes
freezes in the ice of November.
Pull the reading light closer,
crawl between the pages.
At what point in my life
did I think four types of fancy
mustard, stored against a bland day,
was a good idea. Yet, tangy food
distracts from grief.
How did so many varieties
of easily-digested rice find their way
into the back of the deep-shelved
pantry yawning in the hallway.
To cook the bags of dried bean soup mix,
I have to concentrate, to plan ahead
—read directions, measure water,
start the slow cooker. The mummy-dry
beans are tastier if I dice and add
an onion, some celery, a few carrots.
And since the last onions decomposed
to smelly mush in a deep corner
on the floor of said pantry,
I’ll need to go to the store to complete
my no-fuss, comfort-food soup.
I’ve been cleaning out the pantry.
Packing up. Moving on.
I have a box of unshared, unexpired
food; another box of sandwich bags,
plastic wrap, bendy-straws
from when I nursed a dying man.
Every can, bottle, package
weighed against past needs.
Cleaning out the corners, I’m aware
of how much I still feed the needs
of the dead.
THIS EPIDEMIC OF HOODED SOULS
You see them more and more:
abandoned men and women
in layers of second-hand clothes,
pushing overloaded shopping carts
or sleeping in doorways.
They smell like poverty
and unraveled dreams; they
look haunted, defeated—
sometimes barely visible.
They make us uncomfortable.
No two-button suit has
pockets deep enough to cure
this epidemic of hooded souls.
The homeless disturb us most
with the silence of a tin can held
in a dirty hand.
We roust them from our parks,
our streets, our thoughts,
expecting that they will somehow
return to regular jobs and loving families.
They sometimes have a car that nevermore
will run, but one that has a seat and a roof
and locks for the doors. They try to park
where they won’t be noticed, towed,
assaulted. They appraise us with compassion,
mumbling “God bless you,” for the clunk
of a few coins in their cans.
They find themselves on the street
beside the refuse that we abandon
to the garbage men.
A LIMITED EDITION LIFE
Each life—a limited edition
with the stain of unforeseen consequences
blotting the edges.
There is no time machine to take you back
if you mess-up. No do-overs; no Mulligan
for whiffing the old ball.
Your platinum watch winds down as quickly
as the plastic one. When the second-hand stops,
so do you.
Suspend your disbelief as long as you dare.
Ignore the windy rush of minutes swirling away.
Tombs are littered with poets who started too late,
singers who waited too long,
painters who grew blind before they rendered the world.
Only one chance, one moment before our bones
lie bleaching on time’s rocky shingle—
tumbling with the conchs and starfish
before the seas boil away.
The new year approaches,
its tread on stony yesterday
announced with the
burning crackle of minutes,
scorched into ash.
The old year—shattered
and scattering on the wind—
leaves little to build on.
Each sunrise marks a trail
away from lost time,
lost dreams, lost choices.
Each sunrise illuminates
a new landscape of possibility
for progress, hope, renewal.
The urgent moment propels
us forward, invites a heart
to risk again. To pace from
second to second toward
uncertainty and the future.
DRUMMER BOY O’ BOY
—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA
Among the clutter of all those
Treasured things I keep but
Rarely touch or use are a pair
Of “drumb” sticks (hold that thought)
As with fine dancing or Olympic diving
I fully enjoy the opportunity to
Somehow partake of the grandiose
Magnificence of the art form
But when it is my turn to participate
The sad truth explodes that I must be
Missing some of the key brain cells
Needed to gracefully perform such exercises
On the way to earning my bachelor degree
In music, I did collect hours and hours
Of quality academic time tapping,
Tapping, tapping on a practice pad
Only to witness little children
Not yet admitted to first grade
Far exceed my pathetic attempts
To play the drums
Rain visits the orchestra of autumn sounds
And abruptly reverses score order
Slamming a crescendo of percussion on top
Pitter pat, Pitter Pitter Pat Pat, PITTER PAT
A constant assault on the pitch of the roof
Gravitates to collect in the rain gutters
Where it is channeled down the downspout
Pat, SMACK!, pat, hear me now, pat, SMACK!, pat
Puddles in the garden beside the walkway
Threaten to invade pedestrian terrain
Inviting pompous parades of high brass, with
Legions of legalese blaring fanfares of penalties
Time for new sticks, replace that reed
Clear the water key, tune up strings
Here is a concert “A” pure and loud
SMACK!, pat, hear me now, pitter pat
Autumn sounds for two weeks straight
Bring your axe and don’t be late
Unpack those Halloween yellow tapes
“DANGER, Enter At Your Own Risk”
“BOB” was a bark orders boss
Who would bark until he was sore
That was all he was ever taught
And he just didn’t know any more
Inspired, Loving, Leadership (“ILL”)
Was not how he ran the store
So if anyone spoke ILL of BOB
They were quickly shown the door
Our thanks to Katy Brown and Caschwa (Carl Schwartz) for today’s poetic thoughts, ushering us into Thanksgiving Week. Yes, Week. Such an important concept surely deserves more than just a day…
Poetry readings in our area begin in Placerville at 5pm with Poetry on Main Street at The Wine Smith, then continue at Sacramento Poetry Center as Lawrence Dinkins (NSAA) reads from his new book, Poet City, plus open mic, 7:30pm. Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe will not meet on Thursday, Nov. 23 (Thanksgiving Day). Then on Saturday, Writers on the Air will feature Amp Your Voice at Galaxy Bean on Madison Avenue, 2-5pm, and Poetic License will meet in Placerville, 2-4pm. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.
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