Thursday, August 17, 2017

I swam beneath a back alley and dived through a bar’s open door. I saw a drunkard’s face—his unkempt brows as wisps of grey; his eyes blackened and forlorn. Another lain on a hard floor. A boozy bile drowns a mouth—I hear a crazy silence mutter.  I see a life as empty as a bottle; a life peeled like a jagged label. It’s pieces swept by a whetted broom along the feet of old whores. I see their fishnet stockings…torn up the back of their failing thighs. I see their caked red lipstick; the desperate plea of falling eyes…their sagging spirits like sagging breasts…I see a woman's sorrow when marked men say no; and others offer the poverty of lies. The poet writes on a yellow pad. He is toothless and old…the pencil is dull; the eraser is worn. He watches drunken men and the aging of human wares. He is anonymous—his verse unread. At night sometimes he too mutters a crazy silence. On other nights he comforts a crying whore.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

I live with wildness,
like I was born inside a storm
as if I was raised by howling winds that bound me to wanting shores
I hear the call of those mother winds, her native son must return
With frost beneath my feet,
I walk carefully as if I was newly born, wailing to a storm;
They may tell stories about my return--or lie about my demise;
But I am home-- never to leave these wanting shores

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

I walk past an open window;
I hear her coo like a morning dove
My lips will not touch this willing temptress;
nor step back to hold her love

My destiny is the distance,
The road a lengthy romance
An openness beholds me, even as trails are narrow and forlorn.
On dusty days I thirst for rain
Under muddy skies I drown alone
When l close a country window, I hear no morning dove
And to answer Dylan muses: I’ve not visited those Northern Fairs;
nor felt winds blow heavy along their borderlines
But my destiny is the distance,
And my romance is not there
Tomorrow is an open window
I’ll hear the wail of a winter dove

--- Girl From the North Country
by Bob Dylan
Sung by Eddie Vedder

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Side to Side
When I was an anxious boy sometimes I would walk along an ocean's edge and watch crashing tides twist and rise with an evening sky. The woman drenched in wisdom said I had to quiet my ebbing mind; that craziness was like sleeping under a lion's bridge. You can't feel anything but a torn, maddening roar. She broke into laughter and then wailing tears. I watched her disappearing footsteps move side to side along the shallow ocean floor and I knew I had met a wise but drowning stranger. And ever since my grateful mind has been peaceful. Though at times I go to the ocean's edge and listen to it's roar. Like a sailor who chased a great whale.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Kafka at Night
I rolled a snake-eyed reptile in the made-up cage of my mind. It's  cobra tongue slithered; it's tail coiled; it's head erected; it's eyes beading on me; it's razor venomous fangs tearing at my flesh in a twisting primal rage. The poison coursing through my veins; my dying breaths; the last beats of my mortal heart. That hidden corridor. Those reptile dice. This hallucinatory terror of the night. I awake in sweat. Relieved in the remnant of sanity for one more morn'. I dress. Put on my hat. I have no name. Only a desk. A small light. An endless task with no end. No meaning. A large room with nameless men. Each with an endless task. I wonder: Do they dream of poison? Do snake eyes visit them in the night?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Ward
Old boxers have sad faces.
I saw it in their passing eyes as I watched YouTube videos of hunted men in tattered robes. Was there hunger enough in their belly for one more meal? One more steak? To fight for a warm bed. To awake without the blinding headaches they knew would someday come. A concussed fury. The descent into a dementia born by the rage of too many EverLasting fists. The Endswell to their broken brains. The final count in a homeless shelter. The final count in a locked back ward of a city hospital where no other crazy man believes any more. Where their only glory is the fading flurry of punches against bare white walls. This is where they fall. Where the motherless boxer dies. Those forgotten, nameless men who are buried with their half-clenched fists. 
...Their hospital robes-- cleaned, pressed, sanitized-- passed from the dead to the dying who box against the shadows of sadness.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Wilt vs Bill
Through milky eyes I watched basketball on black and white TV. The network of the times. The sixties. Wilt Chamberlain against Bill Russell. L.A.’s yellow jerseys or Boston’s Irish green. Wilt “The Stilt”…as straight and tall as a California redwood. The unstoppable force of nature of whom it was said could score against God himself. Bill Russell, slender and lean with his spider arms, the “Watcher of The Sky” would rebound most any ball...catch it in mid-air and pass it into the stealthy hands of running men.

Our parents generation had their poisoned debates: race, war, civil rights, north, south, Asia, turmoil in the streets…are you for or against?…too much change...not fast enough. George Wallace or Dr. King? Whose people will die in the Holy Land? We would fear and despair at these things. That fear and despair now backlashed after all these years. But then we had our own giant debate: Wilt vs Bill. West or East. Who was greater---the outstretched big man in Yellow or Irish Green?

I remember two new boys on our street. Brothers. Black and Proud and from L.A. Their father stationed in the Northeast, sailing on Coast Guard ships. They strutted and spouted that Wilt “The Stilt” was better than any man. We told them in our Boston voices, that they should beware, they are in Celtic’s land, and the custom was Russell was the best and ours. They both looked at us and sighed in disbelief: “Oh, man! He’s not yours.”

My white friend said let’s settle it with some game. On a late June night we sneaked past our parents’ houses. It was 1968 and the months of assassinations and we thought it best they not be aware we would play basketball under flood lights. My friend and I always knew California was soft and easy, but the brothers played faster and harder than we imagined. We played Boston hard in return and saw the surprise in their eyes. We weren’t going to give them an inch on the tar. We pushed them a couple of times, and they pushed back. Then someone suggested we switch up the teams, break up the tension.

That made all the difference. I played with one brother. My friend with the other. Thirteen year old boys finally freed to run easily under the stars and through a soft breeze. Like black and white ribbons we flowed past each other, the sounds of basketball as a summer symphony gamed in perfect harmony. We ran till we could breathe hard no more. Till the sweat stopped flowing from our skin. Then we smiled and told each other our names.