I wave under a Scarlett Sky
Roll my tired shoulders,
Stretch my hurting arms,
Shake my weary fingers,
My bones, My aching bones
They want to go no more
Is that a wave of good-bye, for good?
Give up the Ghost, so to speak?
I'll wake in the morning and talk to my bones
Perhaps we can accommodate one to the other
I'll move more slowly and carefully
Choose more wisely when and wear I go
But that Scarlett Sky belongs deep inside of me
See, even the heart has its bones to hold it in place
Just as they articulate the hurting knee
She spoke of a different place. He kissed her sweetly. They were lovers once. She went away, he stayed behind. Years have passed and she still speaks of a different place.
All my life I've wanted to fly and touch the sky. Just as I've wanted to swim to the bottom of the sea. Now comes the night with laughing blankets to cover me. Sleep slips past easily and free. Past the morning where wondering clouds wait for me.
There were voices that took me home. They picked me up when I had fallen...tongues as arms lifted my bruised and bloody self. Words of hate. Words of love. Words from those voices strong and merry took me round the reddening bend. Then the voices inside my hurting head screamed to drop me instead. But the good cords of love lifted me again like an outdoor song and carried me all the way to where I belong. To home where I slept in my own bed.
For everyone who has known a lonely city inside their dying heart, I speak to an echo and ask in rebel voice: Why to every life comes an early death? The answer came in wicked laugh and then died like what happens to me and you. I speak now to that lonely city and hear my words echoing in a distance.
There is a pattern to my steps.
Along these dark urban stairs I climb steeply to a park nearly in darkness. I arrive with my escaping breath. I rest. The pattern returns to my resuming steps. These deceiving eyes see dancers. Some say it is dangerous to walk this park at night. But I see not danger, but those deceiving dancers in elegant dress. I'd dance too, but I am tone deaf and nearly blind. What a place to rest, I think. To close my olden eyes and twirl like Fred Astaire.
Something weighs heavily on me
Life is so long
I feel short of breath
There is a movie at a late show
I'll walk to it slowly
Maybe I can stop and catch my fleeing heart
Lay down and rest
Watch the old movie inside me instead
These hands of plunder
They take from me in life and death
My soul, my soul that yearned for so much
The wealth was in my dreams, my hope like a shiny jewel
These hands of plunder robbed me of this
Greedy, the Hands robs from you and me
Hold tight! But in death you are no more
Yet a voice eerily echoes in delight in this our lasting soul
I saw a man wasting away on a cold autumn day
The drugs in his veins were highways to what was sane
Early snow flakes fell into a thin linen on an old street bed
They covered him
I walked and thought hopeless:
There were no drugs in these helpless veins,
But as all men, I had highways to what was sane
A man was dressed in black. His overcoat weighed heavily along his shoulders. His fedora, the crown pinched tight, was pulled low against his brow. He slipped into darkness. Alone, he felt a cold wind and was certain what he wore hid him from the night.
There was another man. He too was dressed in black and slipped into darkness, alone against the night. With their fedoras pulled low they walked in near blindness and bumped into each other.
"Are...aren't you Square Corner? one man asked.
Both men walked quickly away. No words were to have been said. The rule had been broken. The game was over. One man felt free, the other sad. The overcoat that weighed heavily on his shoulders was no good, the loser thought.
To an urging fog I give emptiness to its nothingness. My desperate hands go round. My shoulders turn. I feel no freedom, just alone in the waiting of time. Perhaps what surrenders first are dying eyes? This fragile, mortal self inside an eerie fog; that urging, cloudy voice says to lie down is to know peace. But I am too young to sleep in your eternal night. Let me go and see the morn. I shift and walk straight. Only my pleading heart is old. My mortal steps hurry along.
I don't need Chicago balconies like shiny, wavy smiles
I don't need Army Navy stores torn and tattered as ragged Ole' Glory:
The blood of soldiers
The stain of sad, segregated streets of black on white
Nor the L that loops round dying buildings, sidling closely
Then recoiling against the rumble of what?
The decay of old men whose broad shoulders bend against windy tongues
I don't need Chicago, with its smiling balconies
But you call me often as if I were a wounded soldier
You call me to victory!
I'll surrender in the end. I will return. Happy as a man can be.
I'm off the road now
It is late evening, the long summer sun is setting
I sit wearily on a grassy knoll
My canvas pack rests beside me
I must find a place to sleep; where I can unravel a thin blanket
Then when the morning rises, I again rise to the open road
But in this moment I will drink from a setting sun
Watch a dying light play on black tar that stretches out like long legs
I walked into a cold place. It was late autumn with a large window open to a chilly air. The lights were gone, the bedroom stripped bare.
"This is where it happened," a female voice said behind darkness.
I didn't know her tone, nor was I scared.
"This is where it happened," she said once more. "Years ago, when your spirit was born, I was a soldier's girl awaiting his return."
I looked for the voice, but my eyes were too human to see at all.
"This is where it happened," she said. "He came home from war. This is where he came home from war. I can say no more."
I closed the window to make her warm and left her darkness there. But inside this curse there's an autumn wind...as an angel's soldier on my return.
A thousand times I've opened a door. It leads me to a short hallway with a dark blue carpet old and threadbare.When I open this door and walk alone, sometimes late at night, I whisper to myself a question I've asked a thousand times: Where am I going? The whispered answer is often the same: I don't know. Or sometimes when I can't sleep, I'll say: perhaps I'll find a fallen star. This answer pleases me so much more.
I wonder what it could have been?
The taste left on your tongue
Of something freshly eaten,
like a fine meal
a succor to your ailing and desperate heart
I wonder what it could have been?
If a taste left on your tongue changed you
That left you as calm as the Zen breath that fills your mind
I'll leave you now
You have peace that replaces your rancour
I have nothing to taste
Nothing, my girl
Just an old poem to touch my lips
There was a woman who lit a fire. She took sticks, dried grass, old sheets of newsprint and made what looked like a small pyre in a wide open field. With two rocks she struck a spark against the dried grass and watched the flames grow larger then die down slowly until only a slight smoke rose into the evening air. She drew the smoke into her face with her cupped hands and held her mouth and eyes tightly closed. The woman didn't know this was the way to cleanse her soul. But she felt at peace and was happy when a cool rain washed away the ashes she left behind.
I wonder sometimes if the space between stars is really the space between darkness and first light. There is what Einstein said: 'God doesn't play dice with the universe.' The smartest man knows what's inside a Creator's head... So if God doesn't toss dice, He deals cards? I've known too many people who've been dealt a bad hand, and for certain a cold life isn't random. I guess that suffering space is in truth that space between dying stars. Like Einstein said, nothing travels faster than light.
This is a story about a ghost
No, this is a poem about a spirit that slips through the night
It is about death and the dying, the smoke that burns our eyes
Really it is a story about ghosts that come and touch us. Or torture us.
It is a poem about me and you, and the fear we have of spirits
The fear of smoke that shrouds us, chokes us, burns our eyes
I wonder like you about the worthiness of time,
I wonder too about fool's gold and what slips through my hands
My life? Your life?
What slips through your hands? My life along with yours?
Like death and the dying, I'll know the burning smoke in human eyes
But will I know it comes for me? And what will you say in last prayer?
The answer, I say: What comes for one, comes for all.
They say black isn't a colour
They are a contrast as any artist will know
One posed against the other they blend into grey
Like an old movie, there is a special beauty in a life without colour
There is a certain poise, a certain off balance, that can't be explained
The best, I think, is too awash your life in contrast
Feel, hold, see the greyness and let a special beauty take over your special soul
I finally understand Elvis,
Really I do
His gyrating grace in shiny black shoes and shimmering hair
That Southern voice
His bright smile
I understand daughters who went wild
And their mother's too
The journey of pilgrims to Memphis and his birthplace
The land he and his soulsters graced
I understand how Vegas killed him
And how Vegas killed the music in some of us
There is that tackiness, cheapness, plastic trail of souvenirs and mementos
I understand the beauty in all these things
I understand the poetry in the lives of those who see him in the strangest places
Like in the dark spots of their lives
In the clouds that float above
It took me years to understand Elvis
After I derided him
Mocked and belittled his fans
Dismissed his music as trashy verse from an uneducated land
But now I understand Elvis, and someday soon, perhaps, I'll understand the rest of the music of Man
If there is a story, I don't know
Of a train that travelled into a small forgotten town
A man jumped out in fine clothes
He held a leather valise in one hand
A rolled newspaper was tightly held between his elbow and his side
The stranger to this town, walked past its buildings and dusty saloons
He walked into the woods and never returned
They found a leather valise. Nothing was inside
She wore a pretty dress
Her eyes tell us nothing more:
They were covered in darkness, like fallen black doves
This blindness that keeps us from what is her
So I think of a beauty in long golden hair
There seemed this gentleness
I wanted to touch her
Speak to her in whispers
Tell her I loved her
But I saw her only that one time
A distance as strangers; crippled afoot on fallen ground
What did I say to a pretty dress?
In all these years as blind to her as she once was to me?
I know, but I can't say
A speechless deafness strikes me
I wonder, too, if she hears me, sees me in the passing of lonely dreams
Distance I was walking in a summer rain I found a ticket for a bus trip far away But the driving rain made the ink run, and washed it as a black stain I took it to the bus driver, my last chance to escape far away He laughed and said it was no good I pleaded and asked what hope there was under broken clouds The bus driver closed the door and turned round in a diesel sky Two passengers looked at me: one fat, the other thin Neither cared, I could feel a sinking distance from their driving eyes
My House, The Day A Brick Fell Down My house grew up on a dusty street. On summer nights men and women would walk by. Arm in arm they'd sway as lovers. I was young, too young to know what this love was. Sometimes I'd open a window and lean my elbows on the sill and rest my chin in my small hands. From the house I'd get a promise late at night not to say what I was doing. Watching under the moon when my parents thought I was asleep and dreaming. Me and the house were childhood friends. There was a boy across the street we would often see. A young man, really. I wanted to be like him when I was older, because he was free and had a girl who was pleasing to my eyes. Then one day he wore an army uniform, gleaming with polished shoes. My parents said he signed up to fight far away in some Asian war. I was sad to hear this, I thought the house was too. Then they said he died in that far away place. That night I opened a window and rested my chin in my small hands. I cried a tear. The next day my father found a brick, and said it must have fallen down during the night.
Someday I took what I liked best, and put it into a white cloth bag. I don't know what I'll do with the rest. But I took what I liked most, and drew tight the drawstring. With the bag slung loosely along my shoulder I walked and walked. Then I wrote a poem. I don't know what I'll do with the rest. But someday I'll write a poem about a man with a drawstring held tightly to his chest.
Brain I was crazy once. Barefooted inside my brain. Mad at all the madness inside of me. Angry at sin. Angry at the coursing, bubbling...boiling blood beneath my skin. I was crazy once. But I don't walk barefooted. Not inside my brain. My blood doesn't boil. It just simmers inside this sin.
Name I walked into the One Lucky and sat at the bar. I wasn't sure if 'Beer Mugs' Moran would recall my name or remember my face. He was busy serving drinks. I assumed he couldn't see me out of the corner of his eye. He hadn't changed much as far as I could tell. Although, he did seem older and his shoulder looked as if it caused more pain. He hobbled some on his right leg. I wondered if he would think I too was getting older while pretty much looking the same. That is if he remembered me at all.
'Beer Mugs' looked at me for a second, and brought a drink. He put down a ginger ale, and said: 'You're Tortelli. What brought you back?"
I didn't know what to say, so I asked if Manny was around. Before he could answer, a fight started. He threw two guys out. It took a couple of tries to get them through the door. He didn't talk to me for the rest of the night. I just sat and drank slowly, and thought no one knew my name.
Years Often times I prayed to a God I don't know. That was years ago. Now, I pray no more. I carried a poem in my vest pocket. I carried one in a wallet, too. It said nothing without rhyme, as a prayer does without a verse. Like a God I don't know, this happened years ago.
Veins I protected him. I wrapped his fists in tape and put boxing gloves over his hands. Then I tied them up tightly and secure. The look in his eyes told we were brothers. He went down in the third round. For years I trained him. Got him fights. Now he was old. He went down in the third round. He got up, slowly. First on one knee. Then he grabbed my arm and I lifted him steady. He was my brother. Now he's dead. They called from the coast. They said another punch drunk fighter went down without life in his veins. It'd been years since the third round. But only days since life left his veins.
Time It's been a long time since I last touched their lives: The One Lucky, Manny and the Ghost of Charles. It's been a long time since I touched the life of Zigman and those people he wishes he loved. It is true, it's been a long time since they touched my life. But the order of things is for me to decide. For them, perhaps, they wait in pain. Or is it as a concern they wait, as they think the pain is only mine.
Cold I A fever was burning my mind. I filled a bathtub with cold water and poured in a bag of ice. I sat and shivered and thought this was a terrible way to die: cold and alone with that burning inside. I got up and dried myself. By morning my sickness was gone. I decided to call a friend.
II I called my friend, but she wasn't home. I would have told her about icy water and aloneness and a terrible way to die. Instead I went to a bakery shop and sat outside. It was the first day of spring. Across the street I saw yoga silhouettes in the morning sky. Through round windows they looked young and beautiful as they touched their fingers tips. I sipped from my coffee and thought of my friend and wondered if she called, if I would be home.
Survive Ask the old man what's the matter. He'll tell you the people are broken. Their lives had shattered as thin ice does under a heavy night. Ask the old man if any of us survive. He'll tell you a coldness froze them long ago.
Feet I saw a crazy woman scrub a street with rags beneath her feet. I asked her what she was doing. She said there was a lie written inside. I thought I understood. But now I wonder, is the lie written inside all of us, or is it in the shuffle of the rags beneath our feet.
Ghosts I sat in a bakery chair on a early morning. I held a cup of coffee tightly in my hand, as if I was waiting for a woman to walk by. Then she strode beautifully past a window and turned her head. She left her eyes behind.
Years have past, I haven't seen this morning since. But silently I dream of a woman's name. If I could, I'd tell her sadly she left these eyes behind. I'd tell her also of an old bakery as forgotten ghosts, and how we fall with each morning's sunrise.
Years On Friday nights these men played poker, and gambled their stories away. Unless it was too personal. Or was revealing of what they truly thought...or felt...or spoke to how much they lost. So for years they made up tales. For years they kept poker faces. And through all their Friday nights, they didn't know any true names. Nicknames like the badger...the horse...the rabbit...the wily fox...strong as an ox. Of the men who owed each other money, one kept score inside. He wondered often about the hand he was dealt and why he was called the Fox.
Now I wish I could swim I wish I weren't drowning in two inches of water My arms so strong on steady ground, I sink deeper into darkness These lungs filling slowly, one drop at a time, this breath in gasping sorrow Help me from these inches of water, like murky enemies I can't see I am drowning, I know Once I was strong, but now I am sinking breathless If only I could swim If only I hadn't stumbled into this murky shallow water
Winds I I walked alone in a forest of broken trees A bitter coldness left me brittle and afraid I thought a heavy wind would break me in two As what happened to the tall pine. And what happened to a fallen God I knew as strong. But in all this I mended in sorrow a disbelief: against a brittle cold and heavy wind
Winds II I drifted into a dream, like a slow river in a summer scene The calm was different than the cold winds above The trees were maples, fragrant with leaves as sweet green Will I awaken to broken pines, against coldness and heavy winds? Best to live this dream, to take a swim in a soft summer stream Belief and disbelief won't matter What does is to wonder And to sing to the maple tree under a brilliant sun
Fallen I went out with my lost friend Zigman Zibanski. He had been drinking and soon fell down drunk in a field of cold autumn grass. The night sky had also been drinking and fell upon him. The best I could, I freed my friend's back of stars and asteroids and cosmic dust. Bruised but merry Zigman got up, and grabbed the rocky edge of a laughing comet. They staggered together along a worn path and celebrated their good fortune as if they were old friends. My arms tired and hurting, I picked up what was left of the scattered sky and put all of its broken pieces back into place, certain the world would never know the difference...of what happens to lonely old drunks and those fallen comets.
Glitter I saw a woman in tattered clothes. She wore a necklace made of gold. I asked her where she got what glittered round her neck. She said: "I stole it from a rich lady. Then she stole it back. So I stole it from her once more." We didn't speak against an empty pause. Then she said: "Life is golden." Together we laughed with joy filling our poor and tattered souls.
Content I stood afraid in a tall field of grass, I could barely see I sat down. The grass was higher still, as if its blades touched a sky Never inside myself did I feel so low But I had become content as my eyes touched soft white clouds Thankful there was a guiding sun that kept me warm, I rose and walked freely in a tall field of grass
Noon When I was a boy I found a stone as smooth as a small poem. I tossed it up and down, catching it in my hand. It slipped from my weary fingers and fell into a shallow pond. The perfect ripples became wider and wider as the stone rested on sand as bright as gold. Now that I am older I know what I would do. I would blend my hand in the water and pick up the stone as a haiku. Then it would lay upon a gleaming shore and dry in the noon sun.
Wall I'll frame a poem this way: one verse, then another a work of art I'll hang on a shaky wall, crumbling by the forsake of rhyme: one verse, then another I'll react to each line, paint it the best I know When you frame a poem a certain way: you see the remnants of a falling wall: one verse, then another
Sometimes Sometimes I go to a restaurant and eat bad Chinese food. I seek it out. The cranky waiter. The lonely fat men drinking cheap beer out of a bottle. The silence, but for those lonely men drawing in their breath or the hobbled waiter dropping steaming plates on wobbly tables. I go to this place to replenish my creative emptiness. A red neon cursive is my beacon. The feel of salt stays on my lips. For when I am hungry for the cranky and the alone, I eat bad Chinese food and watch stories with foreign eyes.
Perhaps It was 6 a.m. I got up, put on my socks and nothing else. I went out my door and saw we were all nearly bare. These strangers I knew always in my life. All of us naked. I never heard such laughter. Peals of joy pierced the dawn air. What came over us, none of us could say. But it was fun and it lasted till the next morning when we bundled ourselves in cloth. None of said a word, as if we were strangers once again. Perhaps what happened was, we were ready to know joy at 6 a.m.
Dress It's what happens all in time As she tries to save her grace A long dress torn into lines of white linen Deeper, Deeper, Deeper, She tries to salvage her grace It's what happens in desperate time This fall, this tattered hopelessness in torn linen
Name I met a stranger at funeral procession. I wondered who had died. The stranger said: A life as a problem unresolved. I asked if he knew the departed as a name. He said, No. I looked around at old faces, and could speak to no one. I just walked and wondered who had died.
Alone They stood under the shade of an old oak tree One man spoke to the beautiful clouds above The other whispered to the silence of the day A wind rustled the leaves; the shade broke free Early clouds had turned to darkness Alone and afraid the men went on their way
Step I stepped outside this Square Corner to step inside myself. I found darkness in places where my mind's eye couldn't see. It was here I was afraid, scared of what I was. The Square Corner was good, I thought. I stepped back at peace, but my journey changed me, as the great fear now in this return. So I contemplated and thought in time: Between here and there I'll search these steps till I'm abandoned by what I seek. Then what will I touch? The unrest inside a tortured heart? If that moves our souls, I suppose it is fine.
What would I do if my pockets were filled with sudden gold? Empty them into a brief period of time? Or would I hold them tightly till I got old? There is one other thing I might do: leave them all behind. Go on as I've always been. Stop this suddenness. These random dreams of gold.
One I swung 'round and saw a sky in sorrow Its warmth and joy bled through cold heavy winds And those gray clouds swept by its dying sun I stood and felt inside this sky's true sorrow, as if I too were its son Then something rose where my soul once was I swung my arms as wide joyous circles Perhaps in me is what is above, and we are as one
I see something rustling in the sky. I think it's rising. Invisible wings take it higher and higher Now I know it's rising. Going somewhere finer. If it swoops down low, I'll race to touch its gliding wings I can't see them now, but I believe it's what takes a spirit higher