Not from any petulant resentment,

Nor a lack of matriarchal love, but

It does not bother me much now

That mom died a decade ago.

Worry distracted her and kept

Her distant. She wanted me

To be something she wanted

To be, without regard for me.

Her love, no doubt, was sincere,

But was obligated, and entangled

With obligations in return with

A thousand hair-thin lines to untie.

Like rags, I wring my hands, like her;

And wish, like her, I was someone else.

(October 8, 2018)

A Part Apart

A story’s comfort
comes in retelling.
The pattern laid out
like a blue quilt;
each square tightly
stitched to someone
else’s contribution,
someone’s scraps.
It’s taken time
to listen close,
to follow a thread
from knot to knot;
until I, too, am
woven whole.

(July 9, 2016)

Basic Training: a faux fable

                                    “Who do I think I am to decide that she’s wrong?”
–Townes Van Zandt
“Tell me a story; maybe I’ll believe it.”
                                                                        –Iggy Pop
Once one morning in Virginia on the Appalachian Trail,
we stepped out from the dark forest
onto a ledge of rock jutting into the air,
the view across the Shenandoah Valley stunning
enough to almost make one believe in God.
A few feet from the escarpment’s edge,
like a sacrificial gift upon an alter,
a pile of human excrement lay covered
by a few scraps of paper as if with a bow.
Some after partaking in drugs, relate
an experience, a vision if you will, most profound,
transformative even, like a pocket
pulled inside out – – – often comparing
their evening’s chemical experience
to the weeks-long vision quests of some
native American tribes – – after all, this is
the age of convenience – – the quick fix,
even in spiritual matters. So listen close:
Back in my distant youth, almost a man,
during my sophomore year of college,
I often took hallucinogens.  One night,
I sensed I had to use the restroom; so I sat,
and wandered through the bowels of my thoughts.
Among the many lost profundities, I thought
about Elvis who had recently died, and heard
like a voice from heaven, my Aunt Hazel
bending over me fussing about wasting time.
Then I was home somewhere between two
and three years old, screaming for help,
my pants dangling at my feet, screaming
for my mother to save me, to help me
clean up my mess. Aunt Hazel stepped
in, cigarette dangling, grabbed some paper
and roughly got to the bottom of the problem:
You’ve got to take care of yourself,
no one wants to clean up your shit.
(June 29 , 2016)

cutting the umbilical

what comes before us
sends multiple strands
through the warp and weft
of the time allotted us
I try to trim away the false
bits frayed through retelling
but the whole cloth’s tattered
rent beyond redemption
what matters what holds import
after years of listening to stories
is the silence to hear myself
my story told by me to me
free of other’s impositions
and the lies of the dead

(April 6, 2015)

Dad’s Last Breath

From decades of Tareytons,
his breaths usually came
quickly ragged,
one upon the other,
like the rough scales
layered along the length
of a red bass’s
slick body;
but this time,
his lungs grasped
desperately after
the exhale’s rasp.
Like a swimmer
tired and falling
beneath the relentless
pulse of the sea,
he gasped at an air,
which was not there
for him

(October 20, 2014)

Last Minute With My Father, 1978

it was a struggle
each time before
the bell rang and clanged
in starts and stops
repeatedly all morning
I wanted calm if
only for a moment
the bell clanged and rang
again and then not
then again again
like distant waves
far out to sea
the bell rang and clanged
down the hall
I heard his breathing
in each gasp he strangled
drawing in wet air
the bell clanged and rang
on the pillow beside him
as he struggled to breathe
I saw him and panicked
each second slowed
the bell rang and clanged
he turned and he saw me
then didn’t and was gone
then silence grew
about the room
no bell no breath
only a still silence
within an absence
(September 15, 2014)

a simple kiss

to Ezra and Jessica upon their wedding, June 7 2014
love is more
than any of us
which is our salvation
love lives within
the crevices
of our lives
at the level
of everyday’s most
quiet need
the cup of tea
the washed dish
the simple joke
the tear on the cheek
love flows
between the mundane
tasks of work and home
too often absorbing our attention
away from what brought us
to stand here now
as witness to a kiss
often you will need more
often you will need more
love is never equitable
the difficulty is not knowing
when it is you or not you
but to know
it is neither
you nor you
but the conversation
between you and you
started with this simple kiss
the flow of words
 the flow of love
folded within the conversations
and the shape of silences
which form around
 you and you
and between everything
you and you
apart from each other
and a part of each other
starting with this simple kiss
to exist together
to create a space
to create your lives
all in this simple kiss

(may 15, 2014)