Possible Benicia Readings
Spending about half of my time in Benicia with my Lady,
I have been involved with a first and second Tuesday Poetry
reading group. The following poems were the first ad-hoc
group of poems I shared with them. There was no rhyme
nor reason for the selection, but it seemed to go well:
Possible Benicia Readings
1 At the Table
2 A Personal Valentine
3 Cold, In Denver
3 Encounter at Starbucks
5 Feeling Sad
6 The Interview
7 Wish You Were Here
10 Words to End the World By
13 Summer Play
14 Summer Storms
15 Quick Little Sparrow
16 Love Sonnet
17 Burning Butterflies
19 An Occasional Occasion
20 Sage Woman Goddess
At the Table
“How’ve you been,” I heard him ask.
“Not too bad,” the other replied –
“Went through a divorce, kind’a bummed me out,
made me a pauper in my own time.
she got the house, half my income,
all the furniture, the best car,
kept all our friends…even my parents
took her side. All of that
wasn’t so bad, but I really resent
her keeping the dog. Man’s best friend,
A PERSONAL VALENTINE
Bold sunlight splits the Winter; warmth
reserved for Springtime shares my day.
As noontime comes, I sit and sing
old songs recalled. Though moments stay,
the hours run and night comes soon
to call. Within my cloth cocoon,
I hurry not, nor rise, nor fall,
but set myself a simple task.
Bereft of answers, I but ask
to be relieved of duty cares
no matter what tomorrow brings;
to savor what this moment shares
of life attuned to simpler things.
Cold, In Denver
The air outside is cold today –
The weather changed from days more warm
In which we walked hand in hand
As lovers do…or married people
Intent on keeping the other near,
Out of habit. I miss the former,
Admit to the latter, afraid to let
Her go to find myself alone.
Her world imposed upon my own
Seems now more real, more a part
Of what I am than times before
Where I had lived a life without her.
Without her, would I still be me,
Or would I simply cease to be…?
Jan. 17, 2007
Encounter at Starbucks
He was an elderly, Asian gentleman
dressed in twilled-tan slacks, light brown jacket,
and plaid English-Country-Squire hat
having coffee, possibly tea, with a lady
quite a bit younger than he, but attentive – a daughter
perhaps? His hair was white, collar length,
wispy, like that of ancient Chinese officials
caught posed forever on silk in traditional paintings
a thousand years old with peasants stooped in their fields
or imperial sages bent to their tasks.
He seemed displaced somehow, seated there
surrounded by a restless crowd quaffing
coffeed drinks. He was aloof, uncommon,
dignified, self-controlled, his pace reserved,
less hectic than the active morning crowd
shuttling from door to counter to table
and chair, sitting, drinking, talking, rising,
seeking the door again, and gone. He was
content to sit, a boulder in the stream
of life flowing by around about him.
As he stood, gathering things to go,
I wondered how much time that there was left
for either one to remain athwart life’s stream?
I suspect his time will be more graceful,
less turbulent, more at ease than mine
…unless, of course, I too could be as he,
patiently humble, growing comfortably old.
After all this time –
After all the ups and downs –
After thinking I had found
My footing at last,
Suddenly, I am melancholy.
I don’t know why.
I only know it happens
From time to time…
A little like stubbing a toe
When running barefoot in summer
Across a watered lawn
Skipping over concrete walks.
It’s a sharp, intense,
That makes me stop
And hop around one-footed,
Holding on to the hurt,
Striving for balance.
Soon, it will be gone,
Swallowed up, replaced
By more mundane concerns
That crowd the pain aside
So that I breath a sigh of relief,
Knowing I’ve got a month or more
Before I trip and fall
into sadness again.
“Take a seat,” she said.
Standing, I looked around
for a chair, or couch, or stool
that I might perch upon.
Spying one, I sat –
self-consciously, crossing my legs
right over left. “I see
you’ve had some experience,”
she began, appraising me –
her eyes hooded, squinting
to focus on my face
…or my outfit
…or the wall past my shoulder.
I wonder what she’s looking for?
Me, or some other picture
of what she expects me to be?
I don’t suppose it matters much.
She will see it, or she won’t.
I will match it, or not.
Perhaps even I don’t know myself,
July 18, 2006
(While on a Hawaiian cruise)
Wish You Were Here
Formal night tonight, almost –
it is Hawaii after all.
So, slacks and hula shirts
and sandals with sox –
some men in suits and ties
and women in nice dresses
with earrings, pearls, and high heels
or fancy, built up flip-flops
with straps between the toes.
Quite a collage of people –
but enough from other places
to create an interesting polyglot
that surrounds us.
I fancy I enjoy myself
relaxing by the pool
with a book, and a drink,
and an easy sun-soaked day.
Still, I miss you.
Wish you were here
…or me there
…or something similar….
“Flags of Our Fathers”
Pages 162, 163
They came by convoy seventy miles long,
American warriors, molded by necessity,
Marines packed on ships with weapons in holds,
one hundred thousand personnel ferried
four thousand miles to a lone black dot of sand
surrounded by water. It was shelled night and day
until they, in the first morning waves, went ashore to fight
and maybe survive.
The sand was a churning maelstrom of enemy fire,
flowering artillery shells, blossoms of steel
bursting on flesh, rending arms and legs,
some bodies torn asunder while others floated
face down in the surf like apples bobbing in a tub –
every inch of the beach a target randomly stacked
with wounded and dead – nine thousand marines ashore
by noontime advancing over broken ground
from shell hole to shell hole through grenades and pill box fire
to seize and hold a bare stretch of sand desperately
trying to survive.
Thurman, only eighteen, was there on day one
running and cowering, crawling and fighting, sickened
and fearful, a youth becoming too soon a man,
too late for innocence so near to sorrow’s hand,
too far from heaven for his life to end, too close
to death for any hope to exist and so,
with so many about him wounded, dying, or dead
he had no choice but stay, no chance but fight
and hope to survive.
The battle lasted all of thirty-five days.
Seventy thousand marines came to the fight,
twenty-six thousand were wounded or died and remain
under sixty-eight hundred stars and white crosses
along with twenty-one thousand enemy dead,
sleeping forever together where both nations bled.
I remember in the movie, my hero, John Wayne died.
I cried, but I was more innocent then, a child.
I could only pretend I knew how real it was,
but Thurman was there, lived through the worst of it all
learning the real and bitter truth that wars
are fought by living men where too many die
and Hell is a walk through fear to a river of blood
where the bravest heart fills with terror and
the weakest soul finds strength in its core, and when
in the end, and all is said and done, like Thurman,
it’s enough to have lived through it all, to be one
of the ones who survived.
Note: Thurman ‘survived’ for 84 years before he passed away last year (2008).
He was able to return to Iwo Jima in that year. Although he wasn’t able
to afford it himself, he attended due to a contribution of free tickets and
airfare from a retired General wh couldn’t make the trip.
Given a challenge of 50 words chosen at random,
the following three poems were written.
Words to End the World By
The world is ending. I know it’s so,
Chicken Little just went by
(he is my kindred spirit), a panther
in close pursuit…no day dream that,
moribund though I am, I still
pursue a total freedom from treason.
Twenty-seven years have passed
since my enamored machinations
basked in the luminosity
of my sweetheart’s freckled nose
and the downy, bodacious fragrance
of her hair. I could swagger
then, surreal in the delicious
pleasure of her love. She was
a virtuoso, a fair-haired
Cassandra with velvety words that would leap
like galloping yaks fleeing a cheetah
silhouette. She was sensual
in a singular way, like the first
star of evening or the last
buffalo loose on the plains. She pleased me
in her tranny-ness, her circular ways.
But I couldn’t swing that way, couldn’t
peruse the woven flutter of
her soul, the unearthly angular
sighs spilling out with her silvery
strumming breath…, “No thanks,” I said,
“I think I’ll just be on my way
She gave me fifty words to write with –
a literal cascade flow of mutual
exclusiveness. How do you pair
‘Tranny’ with ‘love’, ‘enamored’ with ‘moribund’?
I tried, although it made no sense,
my ‘Cassandra’ was no ‘sweetheart’ –
the whole thing was ‘surreal’, a
‘bodacious’, ‘singular’ waste of time –
like policing ‘yak’ turds in Asia,
or ‘buffalo’ chips on the American
plains – something to do, but you still
end up with ‘bodacious’ piles of shit.
One word I didn’t know… ‘sweetea’?
Spelled s w e e t e a.
Contraction for sweet tea? A way
to say sweater? A slip of the pen –
or of the mind? A mistake or a planned
distraction meant to douse my spirit?
What do the dictionaries say?
Hmm, no entry…there’s sweet corn
and then there’s sweeten, no sweetea there.
Oh well – it’s not the first time I’ve
been led astray by the fairer sex….
I remember summers fed
by dry July and August heat
scorching stones in dry creek beds,
hanging before our eyes a sheet
of distant shimmering stands of pine
sentineled on the far hill crest.
The only stirring of the air
was caused by our quick passage there,
my friends and I, about our play
of pretense war and mock-pain yells.
Dying a hundred times each day,
we’d argue who shot first and laugh
when someone stumbled, falling flat,
concealing by our glee the pain
of being yet too young to tell
how well we then resembled men.
I heard from an old friend -
a voice from out of my past
transmitted by wire
and electric pulse
from his mountain nest
to my valley home.
A summer storm crashed
behind his words,
echoing from the ridge
to the river and back,
lifting hairs on the nape
of my neck.
His poem was power,
speaking to me
of times past
when we were each
in grievous need
of the other.
I laughed for the phone
because I could not bear
that he should see
from my eyes.
Quick Little Sparrow
Quick little sparrow,
how excited you are
flitting from branch to branch -
now resting your weight,
now taking to wing…
defying the net of my glance.
First here and then there
in quick flurried flight
you ride on a ribbon of air
from the top of the tree
to the crown of the bush
to the step of my back porch stair.
Never for long
do you rest where you light
in constant pursuit of your song -
caught for an instant,
the blink of an eye
and then, in the next, you are gone.
The day is spent. Night sings soft to me.
Another day is fled, forever gone.
No after light remains to tempt the dawn
Aflame upon tomorrow’s surging sea.
My heart is light, my spirit wanders free.
My soul is loosed from promised deeds undone.
Love’s words are molten ingots on my tongue
And eyes that day had closed now plainly see.
Emotions flow like rivers through the mind
As darkened shrouds surround to comfort me
And cares of day that night has left behind
Are but the merest murmur of the sea.
Here within the night time hush I find
How very much your love yet means to me.
I have a picture painted, unconfined,
Of butterflies in burning shades of blue.
They dart about bright rainbowed drops of dew
To flit through dusty windows of the mind.
I’ve always found it odd that all mankind,
Who talk about God’s glory as they do
And pride themselves in seeing all things true,
Should praise the pictures painted by the blind.
And yet the butterflies that they should see,
And green dew dampened blades of grass and such,
Are valued only when they cease to be.
I lie and say it doesn’t matter much,
But I know something innocent and free
Is lost the day it feels the human touch.
My love’s caress
is like a Summer’s breeze;
Mouthing bits of flesh and hair,
she whispers softly to my ear;
she speaks my name.
On tongues of flame,
she brings her heat to sear my spine,
and beads of sweat to streak my brow,
and lips to taste the salt-sweet taste
My heart is filled
the way a draft of garden air
might fill the lungs to bursting
with a single breath.
And in that moment,
so full of natural richness,
she surrounds my senses
until I find no living thing
by which I might compare my love,
that in her pleasing,
is pleased to find me near.
An Occasional Occasion
“What’s the occasion,” she asked –
Her smile a ghost on her lips,
Voice caught low in her throat,
The shape of a growl, almost.
“Pleasure,” was his terse reply,
His grin an upward curl
Twisting the corners of his mouth,
An ember-like glint in his eye.
“So you say…now,” she breathed,
Leaning into him,
Pressing her cloth covered breast
Lightly against his chest.
“And why ever not?” he asked,
Reaching, open palmed –
Fingertips tickling nipples
Stiffening at his touch.
“Promises, promises,” she sighed,
Arching backwards, her arms
Drawing him forwards, towards her,
Her pelvis a balancing fulcrum
Until they fell, together
Across the width of his bed;
He, kissing her lips and her throat
And the bulging flesh of her breast.
“Occasionally, occasional sex
Will do quite fine,” she said,
Trying to hold in a sigh.
“Mumph,” was his muffled reply.
Sage Woman Goddess
“I am of the Earth,” She said,
“and Wind, and Fire, and Water –
all these things are me,” She said,
“because I am all things.
“When you are filled with joy,” She said,
“I have let you see
yourself in balance with a world
where men are meant to suffer.
“And when you are sad,” She said,
“I open up your heart
to feel what you have lost to man
and to your begging child.
“All your cries and tears,” She said,
“are but the coins owed
the female side of life, the price
demanded of your passage.
“Your smiles I will allow,” She said,
not for ‘them’ but you
as you find simple bits of truth
within a sea of lies.
“As you live your lives,” She said,
“expect not ease nor comfort.
Your passage is intended harsh
to test and temper your soul.
“I will call for you,” she said,
“ when you least expect it
and you will come to me,” She said,
“because I am all things.”