Thursday, December 27, 2007
Yet even in the bad times, there is love in the letters that can be felt, touched, and heard by the heart and shared by the spirit. The message may be tough to take, but if it is written with love letters, they may soften the blow and heal the soul. The trick is to listen...with the ears of your eyes.
Ears of My Eyes
Can anguished writing sound harried and hoarse,
And loud enough to scream pain in the ink?
The letters themselves make no sound of course -
Yet they represent what their writers think.
I know angry words can shout in pure rage,
While kind words touch even the coldest heart;
And criticism writ black on the page,
Rips even the closest friendship apart.
True love letters whisper so soft and low,
I re-read them and listen carefully.
Your silent whispers have nowhere to go,
Save to sing to my heart, so quietly
That my heart can feel what my mind denies:
I hear your love with the ears of my eyes...
Friday, December 21, 2007
When a lost soul loses touch with the joys of Christmas, friends, family and the bright hope of the future, when the obscene angst of uncertain fears steals away the warmth of the holidays, when the weight of responsibility bears a hopeless heart to the ice covered surface of a midnight highway, winter can touch your soul and silence the joyful song of your life.
Trust me, many who walk in darkness do not fear the light - winter's touch has riven their connection to Christmas - and like skin over-exposed to the cold, the slightest warmth can burn like a thousand suns and turn a tiny twinkle into a rapier of light. Little wonder the grey shadows seek the velvet comfort of the indigo night...
Touch of Winter on My Soul
Tree islands stand where the frozen tides flow,
Dried summer grasses dance winter's wind dance.
Field mouse adrift on a sea of white snow,
Sprints to the beat of my heart's secret glance.
Dent in the darkness, a hole in the gloom -
Silent, I side-step and move beyond sight.
Touched by winter and as cold as the tomb,
My soul drifts unseen under faint cloudlight.
The black spectral arms of maples and oaks,
Grasp the grey shadow of the hopeless heart,
Until the harsh voice of the shadow croaks
In rage, as my memories tear apart.
Bare limbs shaking in a Christmas breeze,
Haunting dark empty streets with no goal -
Take what I need, forget what I please -
I fear the touch of winter on my soul!
The night walker stumbles, wounded by light -
Multi-hued shafts launched by those not unkind,
Bright, glowing, colorful darts pierce the night,
Rending the battle shield guarding my mind.
Though cloudlight shines wanly from midnight skies,
My thoughts are stark, sinister, black as coal -
I know the dark truth that my heart denies:
I bear the touch of winter on my soul.
And the Christmas joy I wanted so much,
Flees from the grey shadow, without a touch...
Friday, December 14, 2007
When I received my first camera, a Brownie Hawkeye (remember 620 film?) - I always tried to find an interesting angle on icicles - especially on a sunny day, when the light would refract through the ice and paint rainbows on the siding. The image taken from our office window made me thing of a tornado hovering over the Houghton area -- a tornado made of glass...
Beware the Glass Tornado
Lurking just beyond your vision's fringes,
The Glass Tornado hides in plainest sight.
So cold it freezes, so bright it singes,
It stalks you silently, refracting light
As quietly, it daily grows longer -
And more massive, as it just hangs around,
Getting thicker, but not growing stronger.
A quick-growing menace that makes no sound,
Flash-frozen child of white storm in its place,
Soffit symbiote and portico leech,
It loves a precipice as its home base -
Loitering and lounging, just out of reach.
I tell you: Beware the Glass Tornado -
When it falls from the roof...don't be below!
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Years ago, I worked for a Federal employer (who shall remain nameless) in a location that shall remain nameless. During my fifteen years with the agency, regular evaluations took the form of long critical reviews of submitted claims work. It was always negative, and even when you did really well, they always found something about which to complain. I remarked that good management technique follows the rule that you get better results with a little honey than with gallons of vinegar. At this point, our district manager said something that has stayed with me ever since: "Your reward is your paycheck - it's all you need and all you will get." Many staff left the agency during his tenure, myself included. Eventually, he was removed from his position when it was discovered that his barbaric management techniques and dark ages attitude had demoralized his staff and reduced performance to abysmal levels.
The morality tale which follows is loosely based on this true story - no names have been changed for no one was innocent...
Long ago, I shared a premonition
With a boss who just didn't understand,
Employees need special recognition -
Just a word, or shake of the boss's hand.
He told me he thought my idea daft,
And scoffed at my simple naivete.
He just looked at my suggestion and laughed,
Then he balled it up and threw it away.
He said, "People don't work for thank-you's friend.
Their paycheck is all the reward they need."
He stalked away, as if that was the end -
And all he needed to know to succeed.
Business continued, but hadn't flourished,
When recession hit the economy.
His staff, their emotions undernourished,
Just did not respond to his anguished plea:
"We need to work harder and longer, friends,
To protect and continue your paychecks!
You understand what recession portends?"
But their fear had made them all nervous wrecks.
They might have worked harder and faster too,
Extra hours and work they might have dared.
They might have done so much more than their due,
If they thought their employer might have cared.
But their only rewards were their paychecks;
Their only payment for service and years.
And they saw no reason to risk their necks,
Or contribute their own blood, sweat, and tears.
They had worked so long without the honey,
Sweet little thank you's that make you feel good;
Some even left to work for less money,
Most, simply because they knew that they could.
Left behind were those who worked for the pay,
And didn't care about anything more -
Arriving on time and working the day,
Heading as soon as they could for the door.
I left with the rest, in the rush and press,
In the mass departure of rank and file.
I took a new job, where I made much less,
But went home each day with great big smile.
For my new employer just understood,
A simple rule that can smooth relations:
When valued employees do something good,
Be sure to give them congratulations.
I remember my first day in first grade at Cady School - five blocks from home and I was proud to be old enough to walk it by myself. However, on that first day of school, I ran smack into a pack of local toughs (I think they were a third or fourth grade gang...) who sent me home in tears, my new sweater torn and the picture I drew for my mom ruined. My mom gave me a hug, my dad gave me my first lesson in how to fight - how to defend myself. He told me never to seek out a battle or start one, but that turning the other cheek only gave bullies another place to hit me. He was so fierce about it, that a week later, when the bullies cornered me again, I attacked like a scalded wolverine. I still got beat up, but my dad was proud of me and the bullies left me alone after that. I learned my lesson only too well. It took many years to learn a more important lesson:
Those who carry an emotional load,
Eventually, will be forced to explode!
Life changes things, again and again,
So what I most often feel is chagrin.
And although I may feel tremendous pain,
I was taught I must always keep it in.
I may love and laugh, feel anger and grieve;
I learned that it's proper for men to care.
But I can't wear my heart upon my sleeve -
I should wear emotions like underwear.
I grew up knowing that real men don't cry:
A truth that stories and movies made clear -
There should never be a tear in my eye,
And one thing I must never show is fear!
Yet, I must be alone after a scare,
To change my emotional underwear...
Monday, December 10, 2007
We sing of peace on Earth and goodwill to all people at Christmastime. We think of a silent night, when all is peaceful and bright with love and caring and joy. Yet, if we could but see and hear everything on that wondrous night, would it be a boon or a bane? Perhaps the peace and joy of Christmas is not around us, but within us. Maybe the happiness of that blessed night is our gift to ourselves, a wonder and a peace we bring with us, and if we are lucky, we can share it with another.
Long, long ago, in a land far away,
An angel rested upon a high hill.
He'd chosen a comfortable place to stay
On Christmas Eve, and he grew very still.
He listened with all his angel power,
Straining to hear happiness in the air.
A statue on an impromptu tower,
The angel stood still for hours up there.
He heard a few jet planes, as they flew by,
And the clouds, as they drifted through the night.
He heard the stars dancing above the sky,
And the moon banish shadows with its light.
He heard babies crying in homes below,
And mothers crooning to silence their tears.
He heard those leaving, with no place to go
But back to a lonely night, full of fears.
He heard the soft silence of children's dreams,
An old man who snored like a backed up drain,
And couldn't help hearing those anguished screams -
A victim, abused and battered again.
There were voices raised in anger and grief,
And howls of laughter from a local bar.
He heard the footsteps of a teenage thief,
In his first attempt at stealing a car.
Disgusted, distressed, and ready to cry,
The angel stood up and prepared to leave.
He spread his wings and was ready to fly,
When a tiny hand tugged on his right sleeve.
Startled, he looked down into a small face,
With the largest, darkest, most tearful eyes
He had ever seen in all time and space -
Blue-gray, like the stormiest winter skies.
Clad in pajamas, bare feet in the snow,
The tiny waif whispered in pleading voice,
"Please, Mr. Angel, oh, please do not go!"
And pausing a moment, he made his choice.
The angel knelt down in front of the child,
And opened his arms in welcome embrace.
He stroked the child's hair, with hands soft and mild,
And he prayed for peace and for Christmas Grace.
He stayed long hours through the now silent night,
Till parents, searching in early dawn's glow,
Were met with a wondrous and blessed sight -
Their small child, asleep on a bed of snow.
As the child leapt awake at their loud cry,
A joyous sweet sound set their ears ringing -
Far overhead, in the early morn sky,
A joyous Christmas Angel was singing.
Friday, December 07, 2007
Walking the roads of the Keweenaw in the winter is a unique and singularly challenging experience. During summer months, I can navigate the shoulder of the few roads that have no sidewalks and make good use of what pavement is provided for the pedestrian. In the winter, however, most of the residential sidewalks simply disappear or only the small segments in front of a home are shoveled and the intervening areas become large drifts. Where sidewalks are shoveled, they are rarely salted or sanded, and the footing remains problematic at best. For these reasons, winter walkers, snow-joggers, and a wide variety of disgruntled pedestrians are required to share the road with cars, trucks, buses, and snow plows. Even the shoulders are buried and only occasionally are plowed back all the way to the snow banks. I spend most of my winter playing chicken with on-coming cars and trying to decide where best to dive if a shared-space emergency should arise.
Perhaps the scariest sight is the surprised look on the faces of drivers when they first see me standing there. The fact that I can see the whites of their eyes means they notice me when we are a bit too close for comfort. Walking is an adventure in this winter wonderland, without sidewalks...
I've been out walking at night, for my health,
Counting the miles in the slow falling snow -
A dark shape moving with absolute stealth,
Haunting the highways, where winds gust and blow
Thick clouds of snow dust, a silent white veil
That swirls, cold and stinging, inside my hood -
Creating a world both shadowed and pale,
And leaving small trace of where I just stood.
I'm in the road, for sidewalks are buried
Underneath several feet of deep snow -
Roads plowed enough for cars to be carried,
And leaving me almost no place to go.
A grumbling, snow-covered curmudgeon stalks
A winter wonderland - without sidewalks...
Thursday, December 06, 2007
How bitter the harvest, when once we danced to the beat of summer's young winds, subtle and supple with the warm green of life in our veins? How cold and empty the cornucopia, when once we grew resplendent in the golden glow of autumn's late days and long sun shadows? How chill the celebration of winter's long dance in the deepening snow, when once we grew tall and the strong winds could bend, but not break us?
The grasses of summer may be knee deep in drifts of soft white snow, but they speak loudly of the end-game of all life, when the chill winter of time itself swallows us all in a sea of white...
Dread thoughts while walking on a windy winter's night.
Sea of White
We're Autumn's last remnant in sea of white,
Companions exposed to the frigid gale,
Rank upon rank, we courageously fight
Against winter's armies frosty and pale.
Once we were green, fresh, and supple...alive;
Later we dressed in our best harvest gold.
And though we could survive, and even thrive -
We bend and break when at last we grow old.
Dried flowers born in pages of storm,
We whisper and dance in clipper-sneezes,
With only the shreds of memories warm,
To feed the spark in the icy breezes.
With forest and glen, we've nowhere to go,
We share bitter harvests of ice and snow.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
I know it used to drive my parents nearly to distraction...even as a child I almost never slept. I would finally put my head on the pillow at about 2:00 AM and be wide awake at 5:30 or 6:00 AM. I've kept to that schedule for most of my life, sleeping longer only when extremely fatigued or ill.
My doctors long felt I am amassing what may be the monster sleep-debt of all time, but nothing short of medications can extend those little slices of death, those insensate slumbers others cherish so much and I fear - for oversleeping leaves me fatigued, stiff, and sore. Recently, however, studies have indicated it may be normal for some people to sleep shorter periods at night, compensating with the occasional nap during the day. Who knows, I may be "normal" after all. Perhaps, like the hummingbird, my mind is meant to rest only on the nonce or during the long final dream...
I stay up late, and I wake up surly,
Listening hard for the sound of my heart.
Why does morning have to start so early?
And what if I'm not quite ready to start?
Odd questions from one who sleeps so little,
Who finds it so hard just close his eyes.
Whose sleep schedule is so very brittle,
The smallest problem, a full night denies.
Unresolved issues will keep me awake,
Pondering long until a wee hour;
No knowing how long an answer will take -
Short cuts are simply not in my power.
If you want me tired, looking half-dead,
Just ask a hard question, right before bed...
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
As I walked tonight, I stood apart, observing the warm lights of Christmas decorations and suddenly more golden glow of the street lights, winking off and slowly returning to full power in their nocturnal cycle. Yet, I was connected to it all somehow, as though my footfalls were heard by the night and my footprints remembered, though they would be invisible soon under the falling snow...
Bright glimpses of lamplight break window panes,
Dancing past snowflakes that scatter and blow,
Winter dust fractured by silver/gold stains,
And frosty blown crystal gems gleam and glow -
Surrounding a gray man, a dark ship a-sail,
A ghostly galleon on seas of white.
Streetlights define a form, shadowed and pale,
Drifting through eddies of swift swirling light.
Though I walk through winter night's silent tomb;
Rimy cold, unalloyed in its starkness,
I'm not a shadow in deepening gloom,
I am not just a hole in the darkness!
My footsteps, though muffled in drifting snow,
Touch winter's long memory as I go.
Monday, December 03, 2007
At times like this, it just doesn’t seem fair. One day, westerly winds roar across Lake Superior, dumping the inevitable lake-effect snows on the hapless Keweenaw. Next day, a huge low-pressure center slides up from the country’s midsection, bringing a ten-degree rise in temperatures and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico – which descends upon us from the southeast as 24 inches of heavy wet snow. Next day, as the low pressure center passes, the winds swing west again and then from the north, bringing more than a foot of additional lake-effect snow. It just doesn’t seem fair, you know?
While shoveling, scooping, and blowing the snow last night, this poem formed in my half-frozen mind. The flakes flying up inside the hood of my parka, to form an ice-dam on my mustache, teased my face with their tiny, rimy, raw, and polar touch. I was becoming part of the lake effect…
From Canada, the dry cold winds sweep down
And tenderly kiss the Lake with parched breath -
Lacing their breezes with soft sleeted down,
Dancing a winter's ice ballet of death.
Hopelessly thick with the white blowing chaff,
Squall lines descend upon sheltering homes -
Shaking their walls with a mad howling laugh,
Chanting ice litanies from glacial tomes.
Ceaselessly swirling, the bright dancing ice
Touches a face with crystalline fingers,
Memories - soft, swift, and silent entice
A skin-tightening tingle that lingers…
Coolly reminding us: what the winds take
Touches us, and then returns to the Lake.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
I usually think I know where I am going. But, I've discovered that it can be an illusion brought on by staring too closely at the rungs of life's ladder and not looking down or up to see what is above and below.
When folks talk about hitting the bottom, it's not the bottom of a pit with no way out. It's the bottom of your ladder. Sometimes, I'm climing my ladder to get a better look over the top of the wall, and sometimes, I slide down that ladder to get out of the cold winter wind howling across the top of that very tall wall. It can be sunny and warm sitting on top of the wall, but the weather changes. I've been to the bottom of my ladder a few times, and in my journeys down into the darkness, I found that the solid ground that supposedly awaits the descender is a myth. The ladder just ends and then you fall.
I believe most people are somewhere on their ladders, descending, climbing, or just hanging on for dear life. Watch your step...
You ever feel that life's a long ladder
And you're standing on the very last rung?
The dirge of your days is even sadder
And your song isn't even half-way sung?
Look down and see where you wanted to go:
It's a summer place, once filled with warm day;
But the weather's changed, it's covered with snow,
And it seems a very long way away.
Then you wonder how you'll get out of there;
The bottom's a windy, cold, lonely place
Where you hang suspended in frigid air.
The short answer slaps you right in the face -
Cold as the snow, with exquisite timing -
The only way up is to start climbing...
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Sometimes, I feel like the green plant in the winter window. Outside, the season is all wrong. It’s gray and white, not sunny and bright green – yet I struggle to show my summer best greenery in full view of winter’s fury and within ear-shot of its frozen roar. I want to sleep, because most plants want to sleep the long sleep of winter’s cold dream, but the touch of warmth and the occasional summer sun encourages life, if not growth. The stress of seasonal change will sometimes produce just stress and sometimes will cause one to bloom – much as the persistent prompting of my muse will prop my eyelids open and force another verse or two to bloom in the dark and the snow…
Here I am, abed – but not asleep – and this is my poem…
Early to Bed
Because my mind was in a sorry state,
I thought that I would go to bed early -
Instead of staying up so very late,
And writing introspective poetry.
I considered the coming of the dawn,
But I didn’t want to get off the track.
Instead, I pondered darkness with a yawn,
I stretched a mile, and I had to walk back
Till I found my way to our quiet room -
With fuzzy eyes and blurry, tired sight -
And I could not avoid the poet's doom…
I'm destined to write, even late at night.
I got the new poem out of my head,
But I had to write poetry…abed.
Monday, November 26, 2007
It was a long weekend, and I spent it in close proximity with far too much far too good food. I've been fighting the battle of the bulge for nearly a year now, and have had some minor success, but Thanksgiving is a tough holiday for those watching closely what passes the portal of the palate.
There is a hidden danger in all that pleasing provender, causing a silent, slumberous somnolence leading one down the drowsy path, toward unconscious eating and carbohydrate addiction to steal the soul of the most dedicated calorie counter. Beware the bane of the bird! Beware the dreaded turkey coma!
Longing for goodies I haven't tasted
In nearly a year could drive me crazy,
So I spent the weekend getting wasted
On so many foods, my memory's hazy
About all the treats that by-passed by lips.
Remote-controlled, gut-bomb, high-fat missiles,
To torture my tummy, inflate my hips -
As saccharin-laced as love epistles,
The love-starved, lonely, lost heart indulges.
I fed my face with rich gravy and pies,
Until I remembered last year's bulges,
And started telling myself the old lies.
But did my psycho damage my soma?
It's hard to tell in a turkey coma...
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
According to legend, a little Mexican girl called Pepita assembled a bouquet of common roadside weeds and offered them at her church's nativity scene, because she had been told that even the most humble gift, given in love, is acceptable in God's eyes. When she placed the weed bouquet at the foot of the nativity scene, it instantly blossomed into brilliant red flowers. The astonished witnesses called them Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night. The were Poinsettias, the most popular Christmas flower, sometimes known as the Winter Rose...
Although the Aztecs called it purity,
A symbol that the ancients highly prized,
The rumor of its great toxicity
Has grown through time, and lingers super-sized.
And yet, unless you have an allergy,
It's safe to eat a leaf, not that you should -
For though it might just upset your tummy,
I've heard that it does not taste very good!
The legend says a child, humble and poor,
Picked weeds to bring to church on Christmas Eve.
They blossomed when she brought them through the door:
A Christmas miracle, they all believe.
A wild Poinsettia was what she chose,
The Christmas Star, the velvet Winter Rose.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Put to the test, I wonder how many folks can say what the Thanksgiving holiday celebrates? As an American, I have so many blessings, they are impossible to count, and Thanksgiving makes me think of freedom, family, friends, football, and food. For me, it's a quiet day, filled with precious memories and pleasant moments.
Can we in conscience, silently conspire
To let a festive holiday slide past,
Without a little spark, a little fire
Of passionate desire to break the fast?
And though we often travel many miles,
Arriving tired, rump-sore, and quite spent,
Familiar faces bring forth quiet smiles,
And make us very thankful that we went.
We leave behind the bustle and the stress,
Journey through the winter's advent weather,
And while we all try to forget the mess,
Spend a little pleasant time together.
For after all there's nothing quite as good,
As moments spent with fam'ly, friends, and food.
Monday, November 19, 2007
I know that, when I got up this morning, I had hands and feet. Yet, I swear they had an out-of-body experience several times today, for although I could see them on the ends of my arms and legs, I could not feel their usual steadfast, functional presence. There just seems to be something about November weather that penetrates the best defenses, searching so deep, I swear ice forms on the bones from Carpals and Tarsals to Phalanges at all points of the human compass.
I’ve heard that fear can make your “blood run cold,” but does slush have to form in the plasma? When I was a young man, I went most of the winter without gloves. Now, I need choppers to look for ice cream in the freezer. If only I could have saved up that miserable heat from the dog days of summer, so that I could raid the account for the dark days of early winter. If I seem to be moving slowly today, it’s not sand in my shoes, it’s ice in my veins…
Ice in My Veins
I cannot say that it’s cold this morning,
However, not because it isn’t cold;
Perhaps the goose bumps are early warning,
Perhaps they’re just a sign of getting old.
Though I complained about the summer’s heat,
Disgruntled, with sweat running down my back,
Now that I cannot even feel my feet,
I wish I had a little of it back!
I know there is heat, somewhere deep inside,
That never reaches my extremities.
I don’t understand, why it has to hide
Above my elbows and north of my knees.
I cannot blame it on my aches and pains,
If my blood’s sluggish, there’s ice in my veins…
Thursday, November 15, 2007
“Poets often become platitudinarians of the highest order -- proselytizing primitive proverbs and antediluvian anecdotes until the cows come home. Avoiding these timeworn traps and venerable, antiquated aphorisms and adages is the daily trial of those who seek to tell a story without mumbling maxims and mouthing mottos.”
AAARRGHHH! Eschew Obfuscation indeed! I looked in a mirror, grimaced (as usual), and asked myself, “What can I do…what is the solution to this alliterative, yet cloyingly troublesome claptrap?
Answer: Write about small stuff and ordinary occurrences, everyday episodes, and funny phenomena, because it’s hard to wax pompous about pot-roast and even harder to be haughty about hamburgers, hangnails, and hairy knuckles. And, so, I write about sofas and shadows, funny friends and imaginary fantasy folk (like Footsore Fox and Ribald Rabbit), light and dark, love and loss, and things seen only in the Corner of My Eye…
Corner of My Eye
I looked out my window,
In the yard I saw a shadow fly.
Why then, I do not know,
But this time they caught my eye.
Creatures tiny and swift,
Often scamper over rocks and leaves.
Bandits crossed a snow drift:
Teeny-weeny, furtive thieves!
Burglars taking at need,
Things that they store in an old wood pile;
Robbers at hyper-speed,
Whose antics can make me smile...
Chipmunks, gophers, and mice,
Are considered pests and hence, destroyed.
And it's hard to be nice,
When their pranks leave me annoyed.
Long as they stay outside,
And live their lives under open sky,
They can run, live, and hide -
In the corner of my eye.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I do not apologize that my poems rhyme and adopt forms more popular in the late 19th Century than in the early 21st. I will not apologize for writing about feeling the touch of the Creator, when I walk on a snowy evening and shiver at the delicate phantom touch of snowflakes on my upturned face, or as I savor the rich green shadows of the ancient Estivant pines on a sultry summer afternoon. The universe of those who believe this world just happened by chance must be empty indeed, and cold because all is ruled by the tossing of dice. There is an icy beauty in the concept of a universe driven by probability, but it cannot compare to a universe designed by a loving and powerful Creator. I love a mystery, and there is none greater.
I want to than Martha Dobbs for the beautiful image I used on the page with this poem. Then I want to thank her for reminding me that, politically correct or not, the world is too beautiful to have simply happened. It was created - it just makes sense...
It Just Makes Sense
His message comes through clearly,
If you listen with your eyes,
To children cared-for dearly,
And to brilliant sun-drenched skies.
His voice is all-surrounding,
If you watch with loving ears.
It's filled with love abounding,
And a light that calms your fears.
Just taste His wondrous incense,
All afloat on spirit breeze,
And smell flavor so intense,
It will bring you to your knees!
See and smell and taste and hear
Life, you love so very much,
And know He is very near,
When you feel His loving touch.
Human senses let you pray,
So very many ways, and
Savor each and ev'ry day,
That you dwell within His hand.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
As I've grown older, I've noticed that I can choose to become a gray man, simply by distancing myself from everything. As I begin to not feel, I also begin to fade - as the bright dawn dies into a gray winter's day. I blamed everyone else for not paying attention to me, and yet the truth was much more under my control. I faded from their view because I chose not to be affected by others and the life going on around them. It is a dangerous choice, for one can choose to become too gray, and simply fade away...
Am I the gray man when the fires of dawn,
Bring naught from me but stifled yawn?
I wonder where my heart has gone?
My heart has gone.
Am I the gray man when a wondrous song,
Cannot stir me to sing along?
It feels as if it's very wrong.
It's very wrong.
Am I the gray man when a lover's touch,
Cannot somehow be felt as such?
It doesn't stir me very much.
It's very much.
Am I the gray man when an old friend's voice,
Is just a part of background noise?
I wonder if it's just a choice?
It's just a choice.
Am I the gray man when the death of dawn,
Moves me no more than a chess pawn?
It matters not if I am gone.
If I am gone?
Friday, November 09, 2007
Maybe it's the lack of this contact, this sharing of physical space, which cuts off so many of us from our humanity. Maybe it's the lack of presence that allows some of us to dispassionately harm those we cannot know as fellow travelers and companions on life's journey. Perhaps, it is the doom and bane of prophets, pariahs, and poets to always remain apart from the vision viewed distant and hazy through the veil. Perhaps what frees the spirit imprisons the soul.
A prophet sitting in darkness arrayed,
A denizen bathed in silence and gloom,
I foresee a bright future, but afraid
Of life, I cannot leave the shuttered room.
I've lived long alone in quiet despair,
Fear my companion, both frigid and fierce;
A knife in my heart with each look out there,
Dying a little with each poignant pierce.
I see you distant - a welcoming sight,
Shining like silver in deepest shadow,
A light blazing bright in the velvet night,
And painful, as only shuttered souls know.
I understand that you might give a damn,
But I cannot let you see who I am.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
For me, I abhor sudden immersion in the work-a-day challenges and battles, the siren sounds and chaotic claxons, the negatives and negotiations of life among my fellow travelers. I get up early enough to ease past the transition by walking slowly inward, to revisit my silent redoubt, a day's dawn reminder that there is sweet peace to be found in the heart of my mind. The dawn's pledge to chase away the shadows of night, leaps to light in my morning sight, and I find the will to move ahead, waiting for me, inside the silence...
Inside the Silence
The chilly gray dawn and the morning air,
Cradle my waking in silence and peace.
The day's certain chaos is not yet there;
No payment yet due on sanity's lease.
As my eyes caress the still, silent dawn,
And consciousness willingly wanders out,
Pondering tiny footprints on the lawn -
Traced in the snow blanket scattered about.
It's then I open my heart to the day,
Accepting the pledge of new risen light,
That whatever problems may come my way,
I've a haven from the shadows of night:
The infinite world of peace that I find,
Inside the sweet, silent heart of my mind.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Could they speak, what might they tell us of their fear, their future, and their fate?
Touch of Frost
My bones are tough as iron and hard as stone,
And I have weathered many winter gales
Both fierce and adamant; I stand alone
As chronicler of lonely winter tales.
Though sun and ice and rain my stone may etch,
And cause my very skin to flake away -
As sun and dark contract my bones, and stretch
My joints until they leave me ashen gray;
Though spring's upheavals shake me to my roots,
And I get burned by summer's fiery ball -
The autumn's windy hands my treasure loots,
And winter is the cruelest time of all:
Allergic to the faintest touch of frost,
I quietly endure, and count the cost...
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Maybe it explains why I tend to gain weight in the winter. I looked out my window and groaned - white here, white there, white, white everywhere! The first snow of the season touches that tiny fear of winter's cold breath searching out every crack in my house and turning my floors into icy paths for bare morning feet. It is the season of the long, cold sleep and longer, colder, darker -- seemingly endless nights.
But for some reason, it also stirs images of frosted cakes and gingerbread houses covered in white icing, whipped cream drifts, and soft powdered sugar. Who would have thought Jack Frost had a sweet-tooth?
Marshmallow drifts softly melted on stones,
Slowly cover grass, wherever they can.
Blanketed cars become white-dusted scones,
Parked near buildings bright-trimmed in marzipan.
Dancing trees shake thick white frosting from limbs,
Sweetening layers of ice cream below;
Shimmering winds singing soft winter hymns,
Scatter the translucent, crystalline snow.
Though reds and golds are now covered with white,
And chilly wind fingers are so unkind,
I'm wondering why the cold wintry sight,
Brings such sweet confections springing to mind -
Once the warm caramel winds of July,
Blow confectioners sugar from the sky.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Truth be told, none of us stands completely alone. We all work for someone, or answer to some higher authority for our actions or inactions. Our connection to others is what holds us in place and keeps us so fortunately stuck in time...
I like to believe I'm Lord of my time,
And that I hold sway over what I do.
Yet, I wouldn't earn a dollar or dime,
Should I others' needs and orders eschew.
"We all work for someone," a wise one said.
Even the richest man in the world,
Depends on others to help earn his bread.
Without them, his flag cannot be unfurled,
And he remains quite unknown and alone...
A leader sans followers cannot lead -
Like a muscle without tendon or bone -
Cannot achieve what he may want or need:
A timelord who's disconnected, unstuck;
Out of time, out of power, out of luck.
Friday, November 02, 2007
I work in an office, sometimes. I work at home, sometimes. However, I spend the majority of my working hours immersed in the flickering light of a computer screen, my thoughts traveling at incredible speeds across a network unimaginable when I was growing up. I dawned on me, as I was waiting for my e-mail to download, that I spend a lot of time waiting for information to download to my screen and then (sometimes longer) for it to download to my brain. Often it's as though I were afloat on an ocean of information (often only an inch deep) in a paper boat full of matches. At other times, however, I ponder getting lost out there, left behind in a dark place, waiting because I lost the connection to my life...
In the daily online commuter race,
I'm often the first one out of the gate.
If I don't win, I at least show, or place,
Unless an unforeseen crash makes me late.
But is this a life, this online struggle?
Am I living, here on the Internet?
Is there a warm place out here to snuggle?
Or will I finish angry and upset,
Found stranded alone in the online night -
On an isolated unmarked byway;
A block and a half, just past the stoplight,
Off the information superhighway?
I feel I'm stuck at the side of the road,
While I'm waiting for my life to download.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
The soft, white secret of snow's place in the passionate cycle of life is a silent shadow in the dark thoughts of those who live in warmer climes. A poet's soul, touched by the cold fingers of winter's white hand, instinctively senses the secret garden of life, sleeping under the season's silent white blanket...
The Secret of Snow
A northern winter's a season of death,
For those blinded by an unseeing heart;
Feeling only the north wind's icy breath,
As the warm colors of Autumn depart.
Gray clouds scud past when November winds blow,
Gathering moisture when crossing the lake;
Carrying water of life, and below -
Leaving white petals afloat in their wake.
Soft falling snow has a silent power,
Whispering white of the seeds of green spring.
It accumulates hour by quiet hour,
Wherein distant echoes of summer sing;
In a private place only poets know -
A secret garden of life in the snow.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
I guess everyone has days like that. What runs through my mind, as I look out the window at a sunny day (which started with high winds and rain – but only while I was outside), is: Why is this happening to me? I suppose we all want a reason for things to go so wrong all at once, and naturally my mind drifts across the
There is, of course, no answer but a faintly sinister snicker, carried on the wind that blows down from the barren heights of distant hills where live scapegoats, straw-men, a cadre of devil’s advocates, and the occasional shadow of a doubt. I just file this package of problems away with other mysteries, like why buttered bread always falls with the buttered side down and where goes the odd sock which disappears from the dryer.
There are those days, when to get out of bed
Just doesn't seem like the best way to start.
A small pain lurks at the back of your head,
You'd swear caused a pause of your beating heart.
It tastes like there's dish soap in your toothpaste,
Your razor feels like an old carving knife;
In the “wake-up” shower you take in haste:
The coldest water you’ve felt in your life!
Your breakfast burns and your coffee’s like tar,
Outside your front door smells like doggy poo -
You see nothing there, you get in your car,
And find the bad smell -- stuck to your right shoe…
You just want to stuff the day in a sack,
And label it: Anonymous Payback.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I was up long before first light today, and arrived at work as the sun broke over the far horizon. Sometimes, the weather and the geography of the land conspire to trap fluffy white clouds below an inversion layer in the valley surrounding the Portage Canal. On these rare and wonderful mornings, I can look down from Quincy Hill and see the clouds trapped in the valley, filling it brimful of brilliant sun-lit sky-stuff. On these mornings, it feels like I stand on the roof of the world...
Roof of the World
I shivered there, in the early morn chill,
As Winter's touch penetrated my coat;
Exposed to the wind on an open hill,
With the valley below my castle's moat.
From my parapet, I surveyed the land,
Shrouded below in a blanket of white,
Touched by the Architect's powerful hand,
With billows of fluffy, wintry samite.
While the burning torch of the rising day,
Hung in the heavens, a lantern of gold
To illuminate Autumn's shadowed way,
Toward Winter's dark prison of ice and cold,
I felt the banner of my soul unfurled -
Watching sunrise on the roof of the world.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Beyond my window, the arms of the trees
Attempt to scatter the moon's morning light -
The last gasp of night, that one only sees
At the break of dawn, with untarnished sight.
The crooked gray limbs reach high and away,
From scattering shadows on forest floor;
In the early breezes, they swing and sway
As if they pray for the sun's warmth, and more...
In haughty silence, they patiently wait
For the Autumn sun, to paint with its rays
Their stately gaunt branches, destined by fate
To divide the sky in a thousand ways,
As the sun crests the hills, golden and bright,
And silently whisper good bye to night.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
The Journey to Winter's Road
At very first step, there was only me -
To leave the warm place, in the pain of light;
On a path to touch, to hear, and to see -
Touch yielding to sound, sound yielding to sight.
A bright, verdant journey begun with youth
And terrors of bright, open, wide human space,
That led to a life-long search, for the truth
About life itself, its source and its place
In the burgeoning world, spread far and wide
Before tender feet and naive brown eyes;
With elsewhere to run, and nowhere to hide,
Under the endless, unlimited skies.
Sofas and coffee shops, green lilac leaves:
A spirit abiding, journeys along
Until a deep longing, tugging at sleeves,
Makes a grand duet of his solo song.
Honey-filled words, and deep-blue longing looks,
Forge a new partnership, pilgrimage, quest...
Deep secrets shared could fill thousands of books,
Yet keeping secrets was probably best.
Under countless suns, shining brilliantly,
Without ever quite understanding why,
The duet produces a progeny;
Sharing the path under bronze summer sky.
Chill golden winds announce harvest's approach,
Daylight has dwindled and shadows appear.
Progeny's paths soon the family's cask broach,
Depart, and in distance soon disappear;
Shriving the chorus of voices so young,
It leaves the duet a sad lonely tune -
Feeling that all of the joy has been sung:
Singing October, remembering June.
Until like fall leaves, blown briskly away,
Vanished in the sea with naught but a sigh;
Solo song echoed across that dark quay.
We parted at twilight, when tide was high.
Deep in the white drifts that quenched where I stepped,
My fiery purpose now cinder-cold;
Awakened by long-buried fears that slept -
Terrors of uselessness, and growing old
In solitude haunt my long walking dream.
Silent companions for each lonely mile,
Resolute, nameless, and voiceless they scream;
And always behind me, in single file.
Yet, forward through empty whiteness I trudge,
Celebrating each step as victory.
As companions depart, I hold no grudge,
For at the last step, there is only me.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
That image is now the background on my computer screen - the captured memory of sudden wonder on a cold gray dawn.
I wonder why they call it a rainbow,
When sun creates it, and rain makes it go?
I watched one form in the early morn sky -
So colorful, it almost made me cry.
As first rays of sun the horizon cleared,
And with dancing fire the twilit fog seared,
They touched the jeweled hearts of morning mist,
And with prismatic lips the sky was kissed.
A phantom hand with a sudden bright brush,
Traced an arch of wonder, in silent rush.
From Earth to Heaven spanned the bridge of light -
From unseen forest it climbed out of sight,
Until cold cloud tears washed the autumn sky,
And I bade the glorious arch, "Goodbye."
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Would it be the near path to peace, or beyond bittersweet?
When I thought I was talking to myself -
An ancient novel, alone on a shelf -
Full of regrets for mistakes and choices,
Written in many conflicting voices,
A sudden, cold draft blew across my spine -
Chilling each page, ev'ry chapter and line.
Then a specter, near silent, deeply sad,
With the low sepulchral voice of my Dad -
Cavernous, distant and unhappily
Spoke as the shade of my father to me.
His words brought no comfort, memories mild,
Or pleasant reflections to his grown child.
Instead he recounted in great detail,
Every time I endeavored to fail
At being a Dad, a husband, a son -
Recounting the battles I should have won,
And then counted up the tremendous cost
Of the useless fights that I fought, and lost.
The ceaseless onslaught drove me nearly wild,
Till he stopped and the spectral visage smiled...
"I've shown you the worst of yourself," he said,
"An accounting any sane man would dread;
Yet, every father since time began,
Whether or not he's a very good man,
Despite his intent and the care he takes,
Will make many thousand little mistakes -
For which, by his cosmic roll of the dice,
His loved ones ultimately pay the price.
A debt to his friends, descendents and wife,
That will haunt his soul in the afterlife."
"I've shown you the worst now," he spoke again,
"To spare you eternal and ceaseless pain;
To open your heart to the damage done -
A bittersweet gift for my eldest son."
Now satisfied with the message he gave,
My spectral scion, silent as the grave,
Like the barest wisp of smoky mist hies -
Except for his penetrating blue eyes
Which bore into mine, with a message clear:
"Feel sorrow for hurting those you hold dear,
Fix what you can, and then hope for the best -
And with forgiveness, you'll find peaceful rest."
In deafening silence, I saw myself -
An old, lonely book, weeping on the shelf...
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
They burn many times hotter than Sol (our Sun), and must create much more pressure from their fusion engine to counteract the mighty forces of gravity than a less massive star. Apparently Blue Main Sequence (the proper name) stars are the "gas hogs" of the universe. After all, a star's fuel is hydrogen gas...
When contemplating huge, burning bags of gas, my thoughts naturally turned to myself and my contemporaries. Why do the brightest luminaries "burn out" so quickly? Is it simple physics? Do they just consume their resources too quickly to survive?
Perhaps the lesson for us all, is that it's better to let your light shine at a comfortable, sustainable rate, and let it shine ten to a hundred times longer. Let your personal power illuminate lives, drive worlds, and sustain life. The blue-white hot beams of the Blue Giant would roast us all, leaving nothing alive to appreciate its beauty and its power. Better normal and with friends than exceptionally powerful and alone in the universe...
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Long years ago, before the death of my mother in 1990, I traveled with my parents on a couple of roadtrips -- on motorcycles. It is possible to travel on two wheels on the Interstate, but motorcycles are just made for the curvy, narrow, and vastly more complex network of highways and by-ways that don't sprout a concrete cloverleaf and merging traffic ramps every ten miles or so. On the seat of a cycle, you are part of the journey, not just a passenger in a metal and plastic box.
To avoid the ever-nascent saddle-sores from riding over-long without a break, we stopped regularly and often. It made the journey a bit longer, but it made the journey part of the experience, profoundly to be enjoyed, not merely endured. Besides, riding a motorcycle on any road is risky, even dangerous, and requires constant vigilance and the most defensive type of driving. Breaks just made good sense and safer travel.
I believe that living my life requires the same mind set. I love being able to speed in and out of the traffic in the stream of consciousness that makes up my life. As long as I can, I want my mind to soar along on two wheels when convenient and on the wings of thought when possible. I'm not a plodder, and I don't drive a mental Buick. I like to believe that my mind is perched atop my Candy-Apple Metallic Red 650 Honda Silver Wing, with my hand on the throttle and my feet on the riding pegs. I'm braced for acceleration and ready for the roar of the wind in my face and the rumble of the V-twin underneath.
Alas, it's a dream only. I was forced by lack of cycle parking at work, the very short summers of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and my soul-mate's unwillingness to ride pillion on my saddle, to sell my ride or journey alone when lack of snow permitted it. Still, the dreams are great and the memories are bright and lively, and especially poignant because my parents live on in those dreams. How could I ever forget following the dim glow of the taillight on my Dad's Gold Wing as we fought our way across the mighty Mackinac Bridge in a force-5 gale? Or forget the look on my daughter's face (she was riding behind me) as she discovered not a single dry spot on any of us after the crossing?
If my life ultimately becomes a panorama of such vivid vignettes, a summer block-buster collection of tangible and touching mental high-definition video treasures, I will consider myself a lucky man.
My recent visits to the scenic overlooks near the path of my life's journey notwithstanding, I have plans for more mental pilgrimages and many more long, lovely, and lively stops at all the best roadside rest and re-creation sites along my journey. You can bet I will do my best to avoid saddle-sores!
Friday, July 27, 2007
The shadows are always darkest when the sun is in your eyes, and it's usually when walking into the sun that I trip over the raised edge of the winter-heaved concrete sidewalk, or the errant tree-root searching for a non-paved patch of earth. There are always shadows and they seem always to be inhabited. From time to time, I dwell there myself -- whether seeking relief from the too bright and too hot sunlight, or just trying to stay out of the searchlights when life is seeking another target for interesting events.
Most people seek to spend at least some of their time in the sunshine of friendship and camaraderie with their fellow travelers on Earth. Some of their time will be spent crossing patches of shadow and traveling in the dark, while seeking the light. However, there are shadow dwellers who never seem to come out of the darkness, whose life is so focused inwards they cannot, without help, move from the twilight to the daylight. They can, perhaps, no longer see the path out of the darkness, or they fear getting lost on the way.
Perhaps, it is a worthy goal to occasionally reach into the shadows and help a darkened soul find the light of life and life in the light.
Although life is such a marvelous gift,
Each day sings brightly enough, it must lift
The spirits of even the dreariest,
And dry the sorrows of the teariest
Hiding among the throngs born of Adam.
For those whose smoothest path is macadam,
Instead of finding the journey a thrill,
They complain their paths are always uphill.
Focused inward, they missed the bright meadows,
And somehow ended darkly, in shadows.
They wander and moan in the dim half-light,
And stare from the darkness, just out of sight,
Silent eyes pleading for help and release
From shadows eternal - dark without cease...
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Is it odd that I ponder a Quantum world:
Einstein's space-time, warped and curled,
With ten or eleven dimensional space
Being "relative" all over the place?
Or should I very Newtonian be,
And use Absolute Space as my theory --
Surrounding Earth, above and beneath her:
Newton's luminiferous aether...?
This is what happens when you can't sleep - your thoughts get deeper and deeper into strange territories - for example, some of my old mental stomping grounds: information theory, quantum mechanics, Newton's Bucket, and the awful reality of Time's Arrow. Although physical laws make no distinctions regarding a temporal direction, only Merlin was said to be able to "remember" the future. Why does information, when incomplete, tend to propagate and fill in the gaps, behaving like an entity as alive as crabgrass, and just as hard to manage? Is a probability wave faster than the speed of light, just like the thought that carried it instantly to the edge of the universe, is it a moot point because of quantum entanglements making us all one, though light-years divide our physical locations? Finally, if all of space and time are relative (thank you, Einstein!), does the idea of "now" even have a meaning?
That's why I think my friends will eventually find me, totally sleep-deprived and pierced through the heart by Time's Arrow…
Pierced by Time's Arrow
How long can my fragile sanity last,
When stretched and torn between future and past?
How do I navigate life's river run,
When I should be two, but am only one?
You see, what's causing the problems for me,
Are those pesky old laws of entropy.
Specifically, what's caught in my craw,
Is that Thermodynamics Second Law:
Despite my best efforts, I have one fate -
My life moves toward a disorganized state,
And though I try hard to "live in the now,"
That now just keeps moving away, somehow...
Till when I die, in frustration's barrow -
Pinned to the past and pierced by Time's Arrow.