Category: Poetry


Old Man Walker’s Epic Walk

(at Paws Place Dog Rescue)

Leash in my hand
jingle of the chain
Dozen pairs of perked ears

Some brown, some hound,
some old and dented,
young and honed
to the jingle of the chain.

Let it be me, they bark
And if only I could

Instead, I wave and say
Walker, you ready for a walk, boy?

Gentlemanly nod
white face, so sweet:
vanilla ice cream, carrot topped,
with a humble smile.

Walker 1

 

 

 

His orange head won’t fit
through the choker. I struggle
while he waits so patiently.

I bend chewed ears,
past his bum eye
and around that nose of gold:

Retired infiltrator,
sniffer of fox dens
and raccoon hidey-holes.

Choker on at last, he stands
Mountain of granite
no one could hope to move.

He stares past time, over space
and trees, beyond the kennel’s cacophony

at his family
their arms warm and firm
one last time
before they turn away.

I call his name
Walker, you ready for a walk, boy?

And he looks at me
like I’m his family,
his orange fur as soft
as the sky at dawn
when he was young.

We hug the edge
around the fence-fighting kennel chorus
where wilderness, snakes, and geckos creep in.

Doggie calls fade
past the gate
absorbed by the dense
trees and foliage. Walker’s
pace slows. His nose
grows, as if stirred
from a restless slumber.

Retired infiltrator,
on the job and feeling groovy.
His nose sifts through browned
leaves like a surgeon at the table.

A gecko flees, and Walker barks
from the deep
from the grave
and from his sleep. The sound
is round and glorious.

Beyond the white picket fence
lies a pond where water rests
gently in the breeze. Walker slows
to breathe in the scene.

Light bounces
off the pond, and catches
Walker’s good brown eye.

His silvered muzzle dips,
a bow to the cool breeze
that wraps warm light
in a refreshing bath:

Beneath a waterfall
with lots of holes nearby
in damp rocks and earth
to be sniffed and explored.

Minutes pass
He’s granite again.
I wait
then kneel beside him,
and whisper his name.

Walker, you ready for a walk, boy?

10 minutes later the sunny,
cool pull of the pond
inspires Walker to move again.

I let him lead
through the mud,
flooded grass, and the puddles,
where he sniffs out a hole in the fence.

Hidden from my eyes
but not from his nose of gold,
which he sticks through the fence
looking for fox dens
or raccoons in their hidey-holes.

Walker fence

 

 

 

Moving on, by the barn,
where they store all the dog food:
a favorite stop. But wait!
A strong scent! A cat
beneath the porch
and that bark
from distant ages. Walker’s
years and strength, hopes and dreams
sound through that one single bark.

Cat is gone
if there was one.
Cat mirages happen often out here.

He pulls back toward the first hole,
or it pulls on him.
On the way he discovers
a second hole,

where another, less talented dog
dug rather sloppily beneath the fence.

Walker buries his nose,
grumbles and blows
his finely tuned instrument,
rearranging the hole
with artistic sentiment.

He stands and shakes
off the dirt, licks his chops,
and resumes his course to the first hole.

But he discovers a third,
and back and forth we go
comparing texture and density,
color and consistency,
performing multiple experiments
involving taste and scent.

Until it all becomes too much,
and Walker succumbs to
some mystery smell on the grass.

He rolls for the rescue that gives him a home,
kicks his paws up for Paws Place
and its daily gifts of love.

The grass has his back,
and he trusts its embrace.
He rolls on Mother Earth like a puppy’s
first meal, blind to all
but the scent of sensation.

Legs up, paws bent
White belly in the sun.

Walker surrenders
to the moment:
a peace of mind
we find when we live on hope.

He spins
and he flips
and he twists like a top.
I’m dizzy just watching,
and he doesn’t want to stop.

Around he goes. I’m laughing
and can’t breathe. Where he stops
So I cheer his name.

Walker roll 2

 

 

 

Walker, I thank you for the walk, boy.

To share a precious hour with you,
to see the world through your nose,
so gold and so silvered. To feel your heart
ache, and the love on your
brave orange shoulders…

is to see the faith inside of me,
where my heart lies
and your bark sounds…

that someone will see you
as the heart they’ve been searching for.
And they take you home
beneath the waterfall:
where mirages are for real,
where the land is diggable,
and where your new family hugs you
and never lets you go.

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Doggies Today

(at Paws Place Dog Rescue)

Hugging doggies
Loving doggies
Getting kissed by doggies

Doggies today

Letting them out for a run
Freedom! As far as your nose will take you
Treats and belly rubs

Doggies today

Senior faces shine in the sun
Whitened and wisened
by litters of puppies, feeding and biting

Doggies today

New girl Sally with your blonde fur
and sad eyes, cry no more
I’m here to remind you, you’re worthy of love

Doggies today

Mama Cricket mobbed by 10 pudgy cow-colored
puppies. Caramel Tessie side-rubs through the fence
Shy black Drake licking my hand

Doggies today

Bouncing hound Louise bites the leash
and she’s shaking her head all around
Smiling Jax leaps high to my lap and settles in for a nap

Doggies today

I don’t want to leave
I’m too tired to move
I’m soaked from rain and kisses
and Louise bit a hole through my shirt

Jiminy cries. He wants a hug goodbye
My heart spins from love and longing
Abandoned but rescued, we all live on hope.

Doggies today

As I leave, I hug, kiss, and pet every one
I wish for a bed here, my own dog house
complete with a blanket and plush toy to chew

I drive home smiling, eyes barely open,
a volunteer who played with doggies today.

Exorcism Ad Infinitum

Light slithers through drawn shades—crooked arrows
splayed across bed sheets musky with overuse:
remains of a man too slow to let go.

Priestess at the foot
sweat and wild look,
her glance darts between the broken
man and dusty pages in her hands,
from gathered beasts of delirium—

four-legged, three-headed,
and back to the book,
its binding long lost; its print,
dim and ancient; its words
she recites to the writhing man
as the beasts snarl.

Letergo!
Priestess hollers over howls
of protest from Man;
his hands pound the bed.

Shenever Lovedyou!
Man’s back arches, fingers tense with
premature rigor mortis. Beasts snap and tear
at each other: cannibalistic, orgiastic anticipation.

Crooked light sinks into Man,
his heart like quicksand: primordial
black hole, surrender hope
for chance at contentment.

The walls bleed fungus; ponderous, oozing
flies swarm like buzzsaws. Priestess sets
her bottomless eye to page as the great evil comes.

Mother!
Man opens his voice to death.
His eyes glow rainbow, like mist
off a lamp. Beasts devour
one another; their numbers
drop with Man’s tears.

I release you!
Priestess: her voice, tremulous;
her hair, like red ribbons in a gale—
beasts’ jealous howls,
Man’s wailing agony: I’m sorry!
I’m sorry! I’m sorry!

Hand of Priestess, claw of crone, raised—
third finger to thumb; others, straight and true.

I release you!
Her hand stabs at Man’s breath
and scours it from his lungs.

Releasin Yourguilt, Youranger!
Her voice, a shriek of maximum pitch.

Down to last beast, slack-jawed
and drooling, gorged eyes roll white,
absent-mindedly ravenous.

Priestess releases the demon
with a sweeping wave. It hovers
for a heartbeat, then, caught on the light
of her words, it shatters the bedroom window:
gone.

Sun pours its glitter over the broken
glass, promising revelation and baptism.

Man on his elbows, tentative breaths,
then steady, deep and luxurious.

Priestess slumps against the wall.
Another beast in the corner rumbles,
splits in half, its hunger: exponential and fertile.

Beasts leap, claws catch Priestess’ throat, land on the bed
and stalk between Man’s open legs.

There is always another demon!
Their unison voices, emetic like a cloud of locusts.

Man, reinvested with Priestess’ pages
in his hands and on his lips:

And there is always another day.
I release you!

streetlight-raining

Celebrate yourself
tonight, beneath the hoop
of honey-colored moon. Spin
barefoot on the dunes, stretching
ever outward for empathy
for wind and sky. Create

your story with motion, spiral twist
& dip & bow, an ocean of play
and reverence. Always the explorer’s desire
to taste the lakes, dig the accents, touch
every life. Dance for their bruised courage.

Sweep them all up with your hoop, the soul
that is the story of us all. Circle their lives
with equality of experience, infinity
of hope. Spin faster—
you dynamo with a dreamer’s heart.

Magnetic field of Earth

Refuge

Little girl huddles
with a book in the dark.
Lamp light from above
creates oasis.

Turn the page
tender, careful
not to bend her friend.

Crossed pajama legs
brace and protect.

Peek over
book’s borders,
boogeymen circling,

hooves cackling.
She’ll have to close the book sometime.

Horse Hooves-resized-600.jpg

Haunted Diner

Cars circle this island

of ease, muted by overhead

glare. Sun bulbs: 60-watt

bells of light. New server,

her nerves in tug-of-war

with first-time optimism. Dexy’s

canned time capsule croons

Toora-loora love for Eileen.

Forks scrape plates; sausage

spice wavers in conditioned air.

 

I order what had been my usual,

before I showed you this

breakfast paradise. I wait

and consider your ghost—

across table, beyond tin of cream,

plastic packs of blueberry jam—

lips sucked thin

with tension, flanked

by tear stains.

 

Omelet comes, accompanied

by Genesis: Cut it free, shake it loose

“Tonight” and server’s first uncertain steps:

Arms full of fuel, hot and salty, eyes

on tip, piles of silverware shuffle;

packaged concrete butter

melts in fluffy biscuit folds.

 

Billy Ocean—sonorous, mournful sax solo

Love on the run on this island

of ease, my own “Caribbean Queen”

long gone. Her trail fades on Billy’s

beach—tracks of pepper on hash browns.

 

Coming out, my server declares: new, now

routine. I hold coffee close, campfire warmth,

my stomach snug as omelet

settles; ham, egg, and cheese

plural destiny settled, as your ghost,

eyes on circling cars, mouths:

Bye…bye…bye….

 

Dire Straits now, my slashed

signature, “Walk of life,” final

thoughtful sips: steaming creamy

sugar, major-chord resolve. I swallow

your memory, our plural destiny.

I got the action, got the motion.

 

I reclaim this island in my own name

and reunite with cars that circle,

hunger for a chance to burn

their fuel in effigy of lost love.

comeoneileen

Parking lot seagulls

wind ruffled white

down side, black

around eye. so many,

so alike. squawk mystery

threat. glide as one, away

sideways on wind. asphalt

puddle, deep and round.

no threat or no choice: return

sideways squeal in wind

one in center:

no larger, blacker or whiter

than others, claims puddle,

chases others—more than enough

water for all. black beak

snaps aggressive squeek back

and forth. others retreat, hop

sideways to escape.

 

cars splash puddle, crash

seagulls’ party, scatter

precious water. even loudest

most aggressive terror squawl:

worthless to motorists—

on their way, sideways

out of lane, time, and mind,

worthless to seagulls, who

scramble past gum and cig

butts, feathers and legs lost

in flight and catastrophic

impact.

 

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Triggers

I pace the path when witches

reign through the infinite room.

My blocked thought cooks exhales and trails

smoke. Cracked silence: slab of metal slaps

air powder shot faster than sound—

right outside the pulled blinds and thin

window, a gut scream. My poor urban neighborhood

holds the moment close. Seconds bleed-pause, bleed-

pause. My breath gathers waves like the tide, naked

sea bottom scooped; tidal roar. A second shot

stops the scream. So close my neck convulses.

The rest of me stuck solid,

scooped and waiting for the wave.

 

There,

held by the death

of the moment, I’m 12-years old again, shiny

BB gun birthday present, my proud dad and I—

our feet crack the leaves, slick trigger-free hands

sweat the morning chill, bursting

to become death, become a man. Sensitive, lonely

 

woods, my real friends, nestled and wild

behind my house. I’d sneak out, under

cover of snores, pubescent ninja, careful to muffle

the lock’s click. My dad pointed

 

to a red bird, showed me how to aim

my birthday present through leaves

that held life close, and waited

for me to manifest my destiny.

 

In those woods behind my house,

where my real friends nested, raised their young,

shared their air with me, taught me

their songs, their rhythmic chatter,

muted my lonely echoes…

In those woods

 

I aimed

to please my dad, aimed

at bullies, aimed

at the bird’s red breast.

The woods held the moment

close. Then, all those late-night lessons

enlightened me. It wasn’t some dirty, weak,

red-breasted creature in the tree. I saw myself

at the business end of that heartless metal,

my dad, my whole family, everyone

I would ever know, every infant, plant, river,

every god and devil ever dreamt of by hopeful

fearful people. The image bled-warped, bled-warped

until what I saw beyond that convulsing gun barrel

was the equality of all things. The bird’s

life was my own,

and was not mine to take.

 

I surrendered my birthday

present Blood

in my dad’s fingerprints,

along his life line.

I couldn’t cry, only hold the moment close.

His hands were my hands,

 

my hands on the corpse outside my thin window,

my hands hold the life of this man

who won’t get up. How did I get here?

Where is the killer? I forget how to breathe.

This man under the streetlamp’s hum,

on the grass damp with dew and blood,

a boy no more than 12;

his breath is mine—

on my knees, gasping in red, white, and blue

police lights, gasping on my knees, scooped

and picked clean by tidal vacuum, on my knees

 

at Kim’s grave.

Kim, whose mom taught special-needs kids,

Kim, only person I ever knew

who wasn’t guilty of greed and obfuscation,

Kim, long blonde naturally curly hair,

Kim, who never used her beauty

as leverage, who treated everyone

with equal respect and dignity, even me.

My head on her gravestone, rough marble

pockmocked forehead. Kim, no end

to my tears in her name.

 

Fresh college pizza

deliverer, dead North Carolina

road, mozzarella, pepperoni,

rock and roll finger tap. Too slow tailgate

road rage, two-lane lights bright, wrong place

that night. Oh, Kim, your kind world

holds the moment close. Policeman, fired that day,

 

wife left him that day, two 12-year old sons

in his back seat that day. I hold the gravestone close,

will time to stop. My weak flesh bends-red,

bends-white. The stone holds firm in its death

worship. I can’t stop that ex-policeman.

 

Oh, Kim, hold the steering wheel close. He slams

his life into yours, thin window between you

and all that hate. Pass her, you broken

fool! It’s not too late!

 

But it is.

She’s off the road, tires buried deep

in the ditch. My fingernails chip

against immovable marble, knees stained

green. I can’t stop the gun in his hand,

can’t stop his religion, deformed cross

in his hand, can’t close his children’s eyes

as they cry for him to stop his death

worship, cry for him to come back

to the car. Through the thin window,

through the fear, you watched him aim.

F_0_gun-shadow_g_320

Bi-Polar part three

Transition

 

Now I weight me down to sleep

with the fishes. Feet slip the bridge.

Down I go. No sense of sinking

or water rising. Dry to drowning.

Blind to beauty, deaf to music.

No time in the deep, divorced

from current waves. It’s actually peaceful

before the need to breathe seizes

water-logged thoughts, galvanizes limbs

(guilt-ridden, tired, and heavy) and panic

comes cruising like a school of carnivores;

needle teeth frenzy thrashes and froths.

Super-human focus to break paralysis,

to pry glue from my eyes. So much force:

squeeze my will through the eye of the needle

teeth, telekinetically kickstart my heart, resist

my resistance, focus will power, escape

velocity, faster than gravity, so fast

my weights pop the surface, erupt

like a muddy phoenix! So much force my skin

ripples as I pass the clouds. And now…

I can’t slow down.

eruption

Bi-Polar part two

Where it starts

Parents sat their infant on the land and smiled, Build a house. Milk dripped along the fattened grooves of baby’s cheeks. His first thought, the most important question of all: How? Parents shuffled backward and smiled, Build your house. They threw these thoughts back and forth; each time parents stepped away. Wind played with baby’s hair, swayed the grass, across fields freckled with apple trees, pine trees, elm trees—the trees hung, bent like truth; they hugged, danced with laughter near water.

Cardinals brought the infant berries with the sun. White wolves slept curled around him: warm undulating breath, comfortably dirty fur, protective with the moon. He asked the birds and wolves, How? They answered as the river did—with a blissful shh. Parents provided the river; it soothed his throat, cleaned his skin, urged him to listen. He learned fire from lightning, imagination from clouds, and found tools scattered across the fields, beneath unruly trees.

As wilderness grew through his mind, he grew strong, chopped and shaved trees, hauled them home, and built his walls. Why the boards tumbled, he couldn’t understand. The teenager never learned of foundations, pillars—only walls. He worked fast, so fast that he balanced a roof atop the walls before they could fall. But the roof failed to hold the wind, and spilt the walls.

Parents hid books and music instruments, stacked them against trees. The young man tried these for support, propped the books, hooked the saxophone, tied guitar strings in complicated knots around the boards. Wind brought it all down again. Every storm collapsed the roof, broke his body. But he found more gifts in the fields: engines, tires, pencils, paper; and he found more friends: ducks who taught him to dance, turtles who showed him patience.

No matter what, the roof cascaded when the wind shifted. Aches spread from the man’s body to his mind, a sickness of mood and focus that cycled in and out of his control and understanding. Covered in stripped, collapsed wood, the remains of ever-shifting wind, he still asks, How?

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