Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Burning Flames
Sitting around the fire.
Smoke began to burn our eyes.
We turned away from the dancing flames,
The autumn logs cracked small jokes against the chilly air.
Passing around our hearts
I recited my poem in tongues
My feet hurt so bad, hiking all day
My worn fingers were once cold, but felt warmer now
To these stranger friends I met nimbly on the road, I dedicate:
To a fugitive drifter who said he was running like his father once did from a crazy men and a crazy war.
"But none was declared," A west coast girl cried.
"You just wait," Her sister replied.
One young man threw his draft card to the dancing flames,
and so did another.
An ole' miner of sand and gold said: I don't know your fathers, but I remember them well. When we danced with burning cards and the smoke tried to chase us away. Like burning forests in Europe. And orange jungles in 'Nam.
One kid runaway said she never heard of 'Nam. But saw on TV Ghandi's funeral pyre.
"They shot him, too." The fire said
Bobby, Martin, John...
They hung them from trees,
Dragged 'em in the street,
They hit them with rocks and bricks and the mortar and shrapnel tore at their flesh. The whole world exploded in rage and hatred. Tribalism against tribalism. A whole century of war. Of Aushwitz. Of May Lai. A century of Europe. Of Asia, Of Africa, Of America. A whole century of jazz. Of hope and prayer. And justice rolling like a river. That was the promise on Lincoln's steps. Justice will come in a dream.
They say trauma gets passed from generation to generation to generation, just like we passed our broken, afraid hearts around that fire. But fires burn out. Or they get extinguished in the rain. Or they never get lit. But there are always fires. There will always be drifters who warm their fingers to dancing flames and laugh along burning embers.  Just as in the morning there is a road to follow along a rolling river.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Pocket
Stolen gas in a stolen car, I ran through the night. I turned on the radio, I heard the wail of sirens. The rear view mirror showed police lights. I calmed my nerves, arrested my fear. The police cars drove past me, hunting another man.

I pulled the car to the side of the road and parked it behind a billboard that said a church was close by. I walked 3 miles into town and prayed to the plastic Jesus I stole from the dashboard and asked for his forgiveness.

The next Sunday morning I hitchhiked out of town. An old car that looked familiar picked me up.  The old minister said last night his car was stolen and they found it behind a billboard for his church. "It was strange," he said. "The gas tank was nearly full, and someone stole my plastic Jesus."

"Criminals work in mysterious ways," I quipped. The old minister turned his head. He dropped me off at the police station and prayed for me as they put me in cuffs.

"How'd you know," I asked.

"The plastic Jesus was sticking out of your pocket. And the jeans you stole, they fit too big. I'll pray for you. You keep the plastic Jesus."

I said I'd pray for him. "You keep the stolen gas."

Me and the cops laughed. It took a moment, but the minister did the same.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Time Passing Time
Sitting at a window, I held a photo in my hand.
An early morning waitress brought me apple pie sweetened with honey, and  coffee curdled with cream. Her brown name tag had no name.
Visions overtook me as if I was sleeping.
Empty chairs looked like prison bars.
Running archers raced with flaming arrows.
The window shook with fear.
I called the waitress over. I took the photo from my hand. "This is me when I was young."
A small smile spread narrowly across her face. She pulled a picture from her blouse. "I was beautiful once."
With kindred words I asked if visions overtook her, as if she were still asleep.
She said yes, yes. She could see fear. She could see danger. Right now she saw prison bars and rising archers with arrows on fire. But she knew that visions would not harm her. But time passing time always would.
I asked her for her name. She touched her name tag and said: "See, it's right here."
I said So long, Anonymous. She smiled and said I was the first to call her that. She bemoaned: My feet hurt bad sometimes. My knees and legs, too. The owner wants a young girl, good for business. I got a grown daughter from a man I didn't know. She wasn't born right and I take care of her at home.
The tip I left her was worth more than the meal. I walked slowly. Sometimes I couldn't sleep at night. I had visions of time racing past itself and colliding in between tragedy and emptiness. I didn't tell this to the waitress. She had a heart, and there was no point to break it. No point to curdle her kindness before the early morn.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Water as Music
A night coo awakens me.
My dreams submerged in that silky summer of Asia.
A Taiko drum plays as a beating heart.
The warm July rain.
Women in beautiful kimonos, I dreamed inside a dream.
We passed that youthful season through Tori Gates.
We bowed under red paper lanterns to draw up Buddhist smoke to our white faces; our round eyes closed; our nostrils pulled narrowly upward.

Sometimes we were hungover to our spiritualist.
Sometimes we pretended to be as spiritual as the holy water we ladled with wooden spoons.
Sometimes we really were touched by those Gods, but too young to carry their lightness with us.

I was submerged in that summer of my youth. The sounds of city trains riding along small towers where people slept and awakened. The sounds of my footsteps on narrow streets as I walked and listened to the nearness of voices through thin walls. A mother talked to a child... I assume. A lover talked angrily...I assume. But I know the sound of holy water as it flowed down pipes and made me feel musical. I know the story of red neon signs as they reflected off Tokyo streets made wet by rain. I know the sensual taste of those rain drops as I dried my lips with my tongue.

The morning dove arrives too early. Hours before its name suggests.
Its cooing awakens me in the night. As if to remind me that I am here.

I arise from my western bed. I drink a single cup of water. I close my round eyes and hope to weave that silky dream once more. But it escapes me as it has, except for this one night, for thirty years.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Me. My heart is so cold.
My veins are rivulets of ice
I need to take the warm bath of your love to melt me. To get this blood to flow. Please, heal me! Take your steady female hands. Pour warm water over me. You baptize me and love me as you have before.  I radiate with our vibrant souls. But I too am godless. I too know as with winter's return, as with December's frozen ponds, you and I will freeze our hearts once more. But as atheists we pray to the secret wholeness of warm spring water. We take comfort in the coolness that comes with falling leaves, before the dead cycle of winter's cold.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The New Civil War
I remember when valour was a virtue
When silence wasn't seductive
But I was born in another time,
When openness was my heart, When I held onto love for dear life,
I was a wandering troubadour on fire,
Oh, sing with me for those days!
As we sit and ponder with our pasts before us,
Do you and me despair at our havoc hours?
The rancor by words, bullets on fire,
Some cry "Hallelujah!"
Others "let slip the dogs of war"
We are all so far from home
We were all born in another time, not so long ago
Now there is a wickedness of many in their walk--
like soldiers in a new Civil War, on the march with the certitude of ancient hate, a present duty in the fight for ancestors "blood and soil"
You and me must not despair of these havoc hours!!
I ask you to find home
I ask you to love the day, and sleep easy at night
Together we can cry "Hallelujah" in peaceful verse
We can tame the "dogs of war"
Together we can find sanctuary and revive "the fierce urgency of now"
Yes, there is no time to wait...we have long bridges to cross and cool water to drink from a deep well