Archive for the ‘Poetry Matters’ Category

Benicia Readings

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

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

8          Iwo

10        Words to End the World By         

13        Summer Play

14        Summer Storms

15        Quick Little Sparrow

16        Love Sonnet

17        Burning Butterflies

18        In-Pleasing

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,

my ass….”




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.


15, 2007



       Feeling Sad


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,

Momentary pang

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.



Labor Day


       The Interview


“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

Don Peery

(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 –

mostly American,

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….


11/11 2006


 Dedicated to

Thurman Fogerty

“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

…to Orlando….” 




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….



     Summer Play     


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.                   





Last night

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

tears leaking

quiet streams

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.



                     Love Sonnet


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.



Burning Butterflies


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;

         warmly pleasing.


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

         of mine.


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.”



Coffeehouse Reflections – Exerpts

Monday, December 15th, 2008


Hi!  Here are several examples of pitcures and poetry from the Book
Coffeehouse Reflections available under Books.  Enjoy!


            Coffee Shop Reality


It seems to me the coffee shop has come of Age.

Ubiquitous, more than a café, less than a salon,

dispensing Lattes, hot, and Frappuccinos, cold,

to match the weather; no longer after-hour hangouts

for beat poets or college revolutionaries

and their hangers-on.  They are mainstream now –

Starbucks, Java City, Sue’s Pastries Beans and Brew –

catering to the rest of us, the higher to middle

income, or the aspiring to be.  I’ve seen them all

come in: the young/middle-aged/quaintly-aging

housewife stopping on her way home from the gym;

the professional woman/man on a break from her/his

hectic day; the doctor/nurse/med-technician

in scrubs on break from the ward/lab/operating room;

the youth on break or tardy from school; the elder, retired,

getting out of a silent house well cared for and tidy now

that he/she has time – but not so satisfying

as once hoped for, now that it fills so little time

where other interests used to.  I’ve seen new love beginning

for young couples at back-corner tables and old lives shared,

lovingly, by the window.  Is this the new reality,

our changing national identity, this new found pot

into which America is melting?  What

has brought this new, modern reality into being? 

An interesting question for which I find I have no answer. 

But neither do I need one to enjoy sitting

drinking in this new Americana scene

with my coffee and my scone and feeling this is how

life is meant to be….





         She’s Cute


                 She’s cute –

consciously posing herself

in a grown up womanly way –

naïve in thinking she succeeded. 

All of eighteen (surely not yet twenty),

she fancies herself worldly and wise –

ready to play her part with passion and flair.

If I were young as she,

I might be impressed (most likely, in lust),

wanting to help her make her point. 

But now, amused, I only watch her on display,

thinking back upon the women I have known

and what they taught me

along the way.






Working alone at the upper end

of the dark wooden table we share,

she is the industrious one.

I am unemployed – retired really,

but the result’s the same.

With time on my hands and idled mind,

I come squandering my time

until the next visit south.


Though no longer all that young,

she’s an active person, attractive,

maintaining herself, her hair nicely done,

wearing make up, salon nails, a jeweled pendant,

and a double pearled ring on her writing hand

while here, at the table’s foot, I sit

needing a shave.


I inquire of her task,

“Buying a business,” she replies.

Hmmm…now there’s an idea.

“I’ve done it before, been in business that is,

here, but went away for a while

and now I’m coming back.

It’s a good place to be,” she says,

with a final shrug of her shoulder

dropping her attention back to her papers.


And I agree,

it is a good place to be,

even for lazy hangers-on like me….


         Vagrant in Monterey




Outside this downtown Starbucks portal, I see

a higher class of vagrant than I’m used to,

a large Starbucks cup of something, his pack

off to his right, a ‘Mission’ bag of corn chips

to his left – clean jeans and plain-white T-shirt

and stylish walking shoes.  I only guess

at vagrancy when another, more typical, grungier

backpacker stops to exchange words and then

accepts a plastic water bottle reward. 

They laugh between themselves (an old acquaintance?)

before the latter moves along again

leaving the first still seated on the bench. 

Perhaps it is a life-style freely chosen

by the younger, cleaner one, desiring

a less demanding life?  A little like

me lately, sitting here passing time.




I used to wonder whatever would I do

at this stage of my life (but actually,

I lie – I never thought that I would last

this long).  Now that I am here, I wonder

less about both meaning and direction,

even value, of what I do or don’t do

day by day….  It’s enough, it seems,

to set apart from the flow, watching, feeling

life slide by – observing selected scenes

to record, remember, and fiddle with once

these moments are past.  Later I step back in,

from observer to actor – sometimes for a moment,

or an hour, or a few days’ time

to prove, I suppose, that I can.  It’s a comfort to know

I can when I want to, and don’t have to when I don’t. 

I wonder, am I a vagrant too?  Or just

an old man growing mellow with age…?


Rose Hill Cemetery

Sunday, December 14th, 2008


                Rose Hill Cemetery      
Black Diamond Mines, California

                      Miner’s Rest

Hello stranger.  I almost didn’t see you there –

perhaps it was your staring at the broke off base

where once my marker stood that caught my poor attention.

You see, I’ve rested here upon this hill since near

eighteen-seventy-five.  I was but thirty-five

when the mine collapsed far underground and sent me here.

It was quick enough, that sand-stone block crashing

on my chest, an instant’s crushing pain and then

my life swept up and trundled off like all those carts

of coal my eight years there had filled and trucked away.

I came from Wales in eighteen-sixty-five, brought to

this land by the promise of fortunes in gold – a man all

of twenty-five with fifteen years of digging English

coal until I yearned for more of life.  And so

I came, and so I found I was no good at seeking

gold.   And so I stood before a California

coal mine boss to state my case and pledge to do

what I knew best…digging out his veins of coal.

I earned my keep twelve hours a day, six days a week,

digging black carbon rock to stoke the fires

of my new land and build the towns that rose to serve

the miners here.  The towns were crude when I arrived,

but more miners came to take my place, and families

too.  I know because, later on, others came

to share this graveyard space and on mild Sunday days,

people came quite often just to sit and talk

of their late family, mates and friends.  Other days,

the winds that almost always blow would sing to us

and ripple green grass waves in Spring and harvest Summer

seeds to lie among the dry-brown thatch of Fall.

But then, sometime around nineteen hundred and five the mines

shut down and the towns closed up and almost seemed to blow

away.  Anchored here, I couldn’t leave to see

the world outside and couldn’t know why there was

no more need for coal or even why, later on,

they mined for sand or why again, in forty-five,

they stopped.  I could be wrong about the year, sometimes

I lose my sense of time as seasons pass bringing

change with only wind and rain and sun to touch

us here.  I didn’t even notice the toppling of

my stone, broke and carted off to where I just

don’t know, but not here anymore.  Others share

my fate and more, their markers gone with not a base

or line of brick to mark their meager turf.  Some

survived, the larger stones and others plucked upright

again, repaired, reset, bearing silent witness

of our fate once more.  The best preserved was set

last in nineteen-oh-five for someone coming back,

returning to lie with family and friends gone before,

remaining here still.  Don’t know I even knew him, being

early here.  Most came in between, like babes

and children from scarlet fever and women dead from bearing

young and men mostly from the mines caught

like me underground, crushed by broken stone

or drowned.  Lying here, together – each story caught

on silent lips – the only sounds are from the wind

on trees and grass, or birds at rest on fence and limb.

And upon occasion, the curious, like you,

who climb our hill to trod upon our weathered ground and wonder

if we are all that’s left of four million tons

of coal and more of sand taken from these hills. 

The towns are gone and even mines are underground

and out of sight, their miles of tunnels dark and cold

the same as us now sheltered here.  Sometimes I wish

that I could see the land beyond my fenced off plot.

But would I understand your world more than I

do those thin-white streaks of clouds that etch the skies

like wakes of ships at sea; or those horseless wagons

that sometimes come bearing men and tools to tend

our lonely ground?  No, Stranger, I think not.

Besides, it’s peaceful here with Spring come once again.

And birds yet sing their morning songs; and in the night,

the stars still chart their ancient course heavenward

while here I rest in God’s own grace and peace eternal.



Did you just stumble on my last sandstone brick?

That one is all the still remains of those that John

set here to mark our resting place.  He brought one

or two each week, dug by his own strong hands

out of the sandstone core of the cold, dark underground.

He wanted me to be his wife, but my Pa would not

approve.  Pa knew a miner’s life was hard and said

that I should save myself, move on and find another.

If not for John, I might have gone, although I really

don’t know where.  Most women’s lot is to have kids

and raise them for their man.  And anywhere I might

have gone, my task would have been the same – besides

I liked John and he loved me (he told me so,

so many times).  With Mother gone, I had Pa’s

son and my two sisters yet to raise, so I

told John that we would have to wait.  That winter, when

the fever came, my brother and youngest sister took ill.

Pa had to work the mine, so I tended them

day and night.  It was harsh with so much else

to do, but I knew it would kill my Pa

to lose his only son so I did what I had

to do.  It was hard, but he and my sister survived.

I was so tired – that must by why I caught it then

and why it took me so fast.  I had no strength left

to fight it off and spent my last breath calling

John.  My Pa had nothing much to pay a proper

preacher, so John and him dug my grave and built

the box to put me in and laid me here among

the rest.  Each Sunday afternoon, John would come

to sit and talk about the week just past.  And he

would bring a stone from the mine, dug and shaped

by his own hand to mark a square for me and,

he said, for him.  It was hard to tell, but when

he left me there each Sunday, his step seemed lighter, his heart

less heavy.  Through spring, summer and early fall he came

until, in late November, he brought the double stone

to set up in our square.  On my side he had carved

my name, date of birth and date of death.  The other

side he carved his own name – reserved, he said, for later.

That winter it snowed a bit, but every Sunday he

was there and I would stir against his presence and bade

the wind to speak his name.  And then one Sunday nearing

spring, he came a final time.  They bore him up

beneath a bright warming sun and sky of frosted

blue and laid him down at my left hand.  And so

in death, we have lain together here as we

had not in life for near a hundred-twenty years.





Laura lies at my right hand – I insisted

that it be that way.  So when the mine caved in

and laid me out, they brought me here and put me down.

In truth, my heart was here already – my love possessed

of her.  And though my body walked and worked and prayed,

my mind was full of Laura’s soul.  Her father was

a miner too and wanted better for his girl,

but there weren’t many better here than us the worked

the veins of coal.  Five towns grew up within an hour’s

walk to house our folk, a company store and workmen’s

bars but not much else, for few would come so far

away from better places.  And so we’d meet on Sundays,

she young and fair and me not too much her elder

so that I could hope that she would someday be

my wife.  It was winter when the fever came

and medicines were scarce.  She burned her life away

saving her brother and youngest sister.  The last words

upon her lips, her father said, had been my name.

All were poor here abouts and I had little

to help her father out.  I cut her name into

a board and set it at her head to mark her grave.

Each Sunday I would come bearing a sandstone brick

from the mine that I had cut and shaped to place

upon the ground to mark what would be our square.

Then I would sit a speak awhile and share the news

as I had heard of all that happened in our towns…

a poor replacement for her life but all I had

to offer her.  Yet slowly I saved enough ‘til

finally I could buy a stone to proper mark

her resting place.  I brought it here and set it up

myself and finished marking out our square.  I must

have know what time I had – or else had held it off

so I could consecrate our space before the tunnel

ceiling fell.  And so we rest together now in death

as we had not in life.  Yet I am content,

Laura lying at my right hand side, awaiting

love’s renewal bright in God’s redeeming light.


Poetry Matters

Friday, November 14th, 2008