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Mom woke me up last night at four AM
sitting on the edge of her bed
calmly calling my name
"where do we have to go to get my gift?" she asked after I presented myself
discussing the need to bring her pocketbook with us
before noticing my look of bewilderment
"they announced my name over the loudspeaker," she explained.
Contradiction of any sort tending to enrage her
and still hoping to get back to sleep
I gently place my hand on her back
kiss her cheek
and suggest that she's been dreaming.
"No," she insists still groggy with sleep,
"they announced my name over the loudspeaker."
"There is no loudspeaker, Mom."
Saved from argument only by the undesirability of travel in the middle of the night
I continue on to the bathroom.
Back in bed
I attempt sleep,
keeping my mind sedate
remembering my dreams.
It might have worked
but my bowel
gradually becoming alert to the approach of dawn
delays the process
and before I know it I am thinking about
the decline of newsprint journalism in the age of the blogosphere.
After an hour
including sitting in meditation and on the toilet
I am back in bed
emptying my mind
when body consciousness stops
awareness hovers disengaged from form and its orientation.
I have been here before
floating free of personal constraints
and as before
after brief successful experiments with locomotion
I fall asleep.
My mother wakes wondering where to go for her gift,
I fall asleep wondering what to do with mine.
The Black Woods
Aside from the woods around the golf course
it was the last large patch of wild in the neighborhood
maybe forty acres
grown up into dense secondary-growth forest
while the rest of the farmland yielded to suburban homes.
There was an asphalt path running along the near edge of it
(its blackness naming the woods for us.)
We'd take it half way through then go off exploring
once scavenging lumber from houses going up
to repair an old tree-fort we found.
I was in sixth grade when they bulldozed it down
clearing it for the new high school.
I remember climbing the huge piles of trees they later burned
and the big muddy waste between them
but nothing else.
Forty years later
I sit with my back against that school wall
looking out across playing fields
fenced, treeless, rectilinear
marked out in yards
and backstopped baseball diamonds,
but in my heart the wild forest remains
and I am still young wandering there
braving marsh and bramble
Today, sitting here I meet myself
bearded man and little boy
coming across each other
deep in the black woods.
Pedaling up I see
the bench right where I left it
two months ago
carried from aside the little cabin
with melt raining down on it off the roof,
out from the shadows of the spruce
one hundred yards
to the hill's southern exposure
where the sun shines now as then.
In pastures still just slightly patched with snow
horse and donkey, llama and sheep
on stubby dormant grass.
too elegant for such meager fare,
is nowhere to be seen.
Things keep changing
but not here,
the town deciding long ago to save this rural oasis
its last farm
from the encroaching suburban desert.
Bicycling through the shopping sprawl
then a half mile down a side road
and I am in the country
at least in miniature.
Whistling through the evergreens
wind batters this bench
even tucked as it is
behind a large tree.
Any warmth the sun lends me
The shelter of the barnyard invites me
to ride over and check on the goats and geese
to say hello to chickens and ducks
and, playing the gentleman farmer,
to pat the brown cow
if she's close enough to the fence.
They give whether we deserve or not
eggs, milk, wool, flesh, labor,
and, if we can still taste it,
a sweetness thick and rich
as the honey held within
this meadow's sleepy hives.
Picking and Choosing
Picking and choosing when to pay attention
you can convince yourself of almost anything.
Kirpal Singh said,
"A dog chews on a dry bone until its gums bleed
tasting the blood he thinks the bone is sweet,"
but as often it tastes sour or insipid.
People get mad at me for no good reason
then equally easily forget about it.
They have a need to get angry
and to forget.
If it bothers me,
how can I blame them?
I must have a need to be bothered.
Silence is golden
and the only response to a ridiculous argument,
politely walking away is wisdom
when your opponent has already decided what they are listening to
instead of you.
The child erroneously feel responsible
for the adult tragedies around her.
Growing up to realize
that you are largely insignificant to someone else's emotions
is a sobering realization.
Freedom and happiness are available
but not on your terms.
Each cuts both ways.
Unless you sacrifice your notion of what you are looking for
you will never find it.
The end of suffering is not like we imagine.
I am afraid of overlooking the obvious.
A fear justified and reinforced
every time I do.
I worry also about what is below the surface
vigilant for hints, clues and innuendo,
but a lapse in regard to the occult
is more easily forgiven.
It seems to stem from my overriding conviction
that something is wrong
and that it is my responsibility to fix it
or at least that things could be better
and my job is to improve them.
All this may be terribly human
striving for the new frontier
onward and upward
and while all this no doubt has its place
in the species' march of progress
for me at least
too often it pushes aside
satisfaction with what is.
Paradoxically it seems
feelings that I should be happier
preclude my happiness.
Say what you will about Charles Bukowski
at least you know what he's writing about
succinct and direct
which is more than you can say about a lot of the other fellas,
obtuse, I guess!
reflections of their pale academic souls.
After wondering long enough about what they were trying to say
I concluded that they don't know themselves.
Now, I can tolerate ambiguity with the best of them,
I appreciate that life and art aren't just black and white
feelings and ideas can be quite misty
clouding into one another,
but what I can't tolerate and don't appreciate
is deliberate obfuscation.
If I want cryptic, I'll open a puzzle book.
As the hippies and brothers used to say,
"Tell it like it is."
And what's with those weird rhymes?
For the first time in days there are clouds in the sky
a few tiny scattered and one or two small.
The wind comes up every now and then
noisy through the trees
cooling things off for a minute
keeping me close to the ground
and the break I piled up.
Well, it is early March.
Not "in like a lion" this year
more like a pussycat
some big old farm tom
who's happy to curl up on my lap
but might give a scratch if I tease him,
now cocking his head
as he listens with me
to a bird in a nearby tree
whistling a tune
and off in the woods
his lady answering back
as the caller varies a note's pitch
or adds or subtracts from the song.
Then she takes the lead.
Spring is definitely in the air.
After a winter spent mostly indoors,
venturing out dressed for harsh elements,
these warm early March days are delicious.
Not a cloud in the sky,
if you find a place out of the wind
it's almost hot.
Yesterday my face started to sunburn
over at the high school stadium
just south of the bleachers
while the kids played soccer.
Today, with school on
I've found a back corner of the park
slipping out of the house while it was still early and cool
with a blanket for yoga and breakfast packed for later.
Now, sunbathing on the blanket
especially when I close my eyes
I feel like I'm at the beach
The wind through the trees
could be the ocean's roar.
After rinsing the sprouts
I shake out Mom's toaster
jostling it upside-down over the sink.
Crumbs bounce around inside
shishing and plinking.
Burnt manna rains down from an unplugged electric heaven.
A blackened staff of life
along with less incinerated morsels
frosts the steel basin
like cinders from a volcanic explosion.
Opening the faucet to wash away the destruction
I see in the drain catch a single fenugreek sprout
rising from the ashes trapped there
green and hopeful.
Rinsing it off I pop it in my mouth
a living metaphor
Brain scans can now reveal
at least to small extent
what someone is thinking.
still very crude
which of a small set of events or images
a person is remembering.
Scientists are very hopeful
the rapid advances in this field will continue.
Maybe soon someone will be able to tell me
what's going on in your head.
I choose to believe
that the abuse is somehow good for me
beyond its lesson in patience.
She is a mean old lady
ordering instead of asking me to help her
getting mad at me for witnessing her ineptitude
going on about it
angry when unbeknownst to her
I retired to the toilet
and couldn't holler loud enough
with a neighbor on the other side of the wall
to reach her deaf ears
through the closed door and across the apartment
to answer her question about the date,
today's newspaper spread out before her on the table.
or while making my breakfast
because I don't spring immediately to get a piece of paper
for her to transcribe the shopping list I jotted on an envelope for her
and at me when I'm helping her to pay her bills
mad that she's paying her bills in the first place
telling me with a snarl after I've made her breakfast
put out the bird food and more
that I don't do anything for her.
Any itemization of my assistance
Informing her I am leaving to return later in the day
invariably provokes a hurtful diatribe
always the same
no matter how often or long I've visited
even staying days
"You’re never here. Don't come back!"
Today I sling my pack on my back
grab her rent check to bring to the office
and her social security check for the bank
and walk out without a goodbye.
Always searching for a reason to complain
I have given her a present
something to chew on.
Without looking behind I know she is watching
as outfitted for the day I walk across the quad
She is quiet for the moment
relishing the latest insult
soon out loud she will bitterly complain of the indignity heaped on her
but certain as she is of her prey
there is no rush to sink in her teeth.
Never a very good mother
how can she recognize a good son?
Torn between honoring her
and enabling her cruelty
I've always been trying too hard.
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