Saturday, December 15, 2018

happy hollowdays

Driving in the woods and the fog tonight 
almost the second car crash this week, 
the deer lit up scared in the headlights 
she went right, hooves down the pine needle bank
I went left, rubber down the asphalt slick. 

I turned my headlights into the woods
saw her breath puff out first, then 
her golden brown eyes 
coming around the corner of a tree
staring no blinking into my translucent blue eyes. 

She didn’t run.
Looked like she wanted to say
Merry Christmas. 

I knew exactly how she felt. 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

A Fish Tale

I just got home.

But before I got here,
I was driving home—in a free, wide-open mood
from Trader Joe’s,
had some nice, highly-spirited conversations
with half the staff,
turns out they all like me.

I sorta thought so but now
I sorta know so, and I feel great.
Not that I’m so nipple needy
but it’s true what they say about community.
Guess I won’t hide from it anymore.

Well, anyway ...
I was driving home from Trader Joe’s
just now, feeling the loose and casual
but overwhelming ZING! of humanity
right down my spine.

But I lost control of my car in the blizzard
that is still going on out here and
I went into a long skid
sliding straight at a tree
doing 60
in a 35
the radio on number  ... well, way up Loud—
Tracy Chapman singing
"Give Me One Good Reason."

Yesterday was so bad, I thought
as I slid toward the tree,
back home a box of senior citizens down the hall
smelling like The End.

Give me one good reason not to go
straight into this tree, sang Tracy,
as I slid closer to it.

But today felt so good.
It had been such a friendly afternoon.

Still sliding, I thought:
if this is it, if I'm about to get killed
this is a good day to go,
a good way to go
everybody liking me out at Trader Joe’s.

I settled into the skid
turned up the radio
but the car began to fish-tail,
spin, ballerina around, and I missed the tree
and everything else

The car and I were facing back west,
the road empty, the snow still sending mail;
I drove back in that direction.

This not the end.
And I didn’t really just get home.
But I’m on the way.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Van, lonely at the airport

It’s cold and dark
then morning again, sun up
on the empty satellite parking lot
lots and lots of cars through the day
then night again, can’t see a thing, or anyone
all my metal chilled, my glass frosted over.

They must be coming back.
I watch the jets go over and over
over and over again, always the same jet sound
line of white smoke lays across the sky,
spreads out and goes away.

And the parking lot is empty again.
This feels lonely, even to me, a Van.
Especially lonely when it keeps repeating,
no change.

But they must be coming back.
Here comes the shuttle van again
and here come all the Thanksgiving families,
gathering somewhere, inside lots of houses, driveways
and garages full of motor vehicles, like every year,
and there goes that van again, emptied out
gone back to the airport for more.

You would think that someone would feel compassionately inclusive
about their own Ford Van.

I don’t think they know that I have a sense of compassion.
How would they know?
They don’t even know me enough to rotate my tires.

24 hours later

Well, ok. They aren’t coming back.
But I’m not going to let all my tires go flat over this.

I’m compassionate, but clever, too.
I have a plan, and I'm heating up my own wires
to turn on my radio—yeah, there it is—on!

Now I have romantic background music
for my romantic plan.
To start my own engine.

Been a while, nights and days revolving around each other,
so yes, the engine is cold.
I’ll keep trying.
Yes! There it goes, cough
so much smoke coming out of me,
I’ll let myself run awhile.

Listen to the music.
I'm vibrating all the way through;
my metal warming softer
my paint job coming alive again
my glass gleaming clear.

And the music, here, I’ll turn myself up.
Mozart, How I love Mozart. And I know this one well,
Piano Concerto #20 in D Minor, K 466 - 2. Romanza. 

They don’t know that, for a Van,
I’m compassionate, clever, and cultured.

But to hell with they. 
Always getting my pistons in a knot
worrying about they. 

I’m all warmed up, have my gas pedal down.
Goodbye parking lot. I’m off to race the jets,
leave my own vapor trail, but wait.
I don’t want to leave any kind of trail.

Twist a little to the left
again, again, once more;
I unscrew myself
and there go the license plates.

I’ll never run out of gas.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Call of the Child

And I was plenty wild.
The black and white future looked like a turned off TV set.

All alone, nerves on the bone, a silent black telephone.

But one night, through the gummy venetian blinds
the boring brick apartment buildings, past all the time zones
up into the snow and moon-scented green pine forest
something finally showed up, shook and boldly shone.

Then ... 

[Oh fuck this poem and give me that phone,
I still want to get out of there!]

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Je ne sais claus

I grew up in a narrow hallway of alcoholics
a family so dispirited that they mostly either died
or fell asleep early, watching tv.

There wasn’t a lot of esprit de corps around,
not to mention je ne sais quoi.

Because of all that I began to drink
and because of all that
I wound up in one of those meetings
years later
where a guy told a new kind of inspiring Christmas story.

He was driving drunk (naturally) on a snowy, frosty night,
it was Christmas Eve, the car windows all fogged up
the speedometer gauge fogged up too, he knew he was going too fast
and that he needed to make a right turn off the parkway
to get home to the prairie village where his family waited for him,
candles in the windows,
and since he didn’t want a speeding ticket
he reached through the steering wheel to wipe the speedometer clear
to see how fast he was going, and as he was wiping, drinking
from a vodka bottle with his other hand, watching for cops
hiding on side streets and behind snowmen, he came to his street
too fast
missed it
hit the brakes
went into a skid
hit a snowdrift and a curb with the front tires
which yanked the steering wheel spinning.

This broke his forearm, which hurt, of course
(made all of us in the meeting simultaneously flinch and spill coffee),
but he had toys to wrap for his daughter; he had milk, cookies
and notebook paper for her to write a note to Santa;
he knew his little girl and wife were waiting, probably by the fireplace.

So, with his other hand, he straightened the wheel
backed the car up out of the snow drift
took one more drink out of the vodka bottle
tuned in Christmas music on the radio
and carefully rolled home toward the candlelight,
through all the late-night blue and red twinkling, snowflakes flying,
broken arm dangling (he said) like droopy, after-Christmas tinsel.

That was some Christmas spirit!
In a whole childhood of Christmases
I’d never known anyone like this guy.

He said his daughter wrote the note to Santa later that night,
after they all got back from the Emergency Room.
She also gave Dad a bottle of Perrier in his stocking. 
“From Santa,” an attached note assured him next morning,
in her handwriting.


After the meeting I went to shake his hand
but got mixed up about which hand got twisted
in the spinning steering wheel, so I froze.
He noticed that and said, go on, put her there, that was years ago,”
but we hugged each other instead and promised never
to go through any of that again.

Coda 2

Then we both spilled our coffee, laughing!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Suicide packed

When I was ten, even younger
I was surrounded by all these old people
hanging around, nowhere to go, open mouth
yearning in their urine-colored clothes.

They were more drains than faucets.

I made a pact with myself right then
that if I got old like that, I’d get a special suitcase
take a little trip; I'd have way better clothes
and when the time came, I’d get all dressed up
and know exactly where to go.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Cub Scouts

I keep wondering why these old men
don’t scare me anymore.

It must have begun with my first and one and only
cub scout meeting, over before it began
because all us boys were left alone in the basement
a rumble broke out, biggest boys beating on the smallest,
as usual
until we heard the sound of sex upstairs
our Den Mother being raped.

I found that out later. Much later. She was raped.
Because of this, the Den Mother
went into her own den for years.

That day, though, I heard her, her voice upstairs
something maybe her bones bouncing on the floor,
elbows, knees, sound of a man, like a four-legged animal
growling, shhh-ing her, and her saying NO. NO. NO.

Underneath the rumble sounds downstairs
I said we better do something,
something bad is happening up there.
I got hit for that, red blood on the blue cub scout uniform.

Later, after it got quiet upstairs and down
and we all just sat around for awhile
me still bleeding where my Webelos badge
(or whatever it is) should be,
the Den Mother’s husband came down,
he was some sort of a scout leader, he saw me bleeding,
blamed me right off for all the broken furniture in his rec room,
and threw me out, told me to go home
go get some character somewhere.

Nobody ever asked who raped the Den Mother.
I thought it was the scout leader himself.
The Den Mother said so, later.
The cub scouts didn’t care.

So now, centuries of my life later
and the centuries still rolling along
men still mostly running the world,
why don’t they scare me anymore?

Because I know them.
That's why.
I’ve seen them.

I’ve seen them when they weren’t going off to church
and doing good for the community
coaching little league
leading scouts.

Supremely dependable, despicable
tediously predictable.
But better be fair (maybe), that’s just some of them,
like the ones in charge.

They may be in charge,
but take a look at them.
Nothing, nobody there.

I grew up in a thicket of widows
a close and sticky
lonely, prickly childhood,
for sure.

Sometimes someone would come along
and say, hey, don’t you need
an older man to look up to?

I’d look up and see the sun
later that night, the moon.
And always somewhere else
a lot farther away.