Baby Food – a poem

With both boys home again zooming school, we talk about this corona year and its hardships, and I bore them at dinner recalling my own youth and the lessons there.

We hunted nickels in the cushions
when school lunch was 30 cents
bought kerosene in cans to heat
the house for a day
ran the car without oil ‘til it seized.

You weren’t born yet.
I was younger than you.

We put up a sign when the gas arrived
and cars lined up down the street.
Daddy let them buy food on credit.
What else, he thought, could he do?

When the store failed he walked
the fields drunk as a tattered lord.

So that’s why now here in the suburbs
amidst our cosseted stuff
I come home in a mask with cereal.
Ice cream.  Apple sauce.

You see that’s what he taught me —
find comfort where you can.
In hard times, ain’t it true,
you always run out of spoons.

The Four W’s and H – a poem

It’s all in how you look at it,
isn’t that what they say?
Not what you say,
it’s how you say it,
and even then, who can say?

On a particular day:
Maybe bugs got in the flour
or your kid pooped his pants
the remote control broke

and that guy came to the door.
Or the phone rang and rang.
She bent to kiss your neck.
The dog wouldn’t eat.
You stood up then sat down.

How could you have traced
or navigated all of that
when what we’re taught
is my own free will?

Failing to note
that strand of web
a tactile whisper at your cheek
alerts that eight-eyed wonder
up the line that never misperceives

to its one pure motive
cares not a whit for how
but is all about when.

Tinnitus – a poem

At first it seemed
real, the sound
snow makes in
falling or some
deep night tune,
awakened at the hoot
of an owl.

But it’s with me now
like a bad tooth,
payment due
for all those
concerts set to stun.

I know what it means
to communicate
this insistent single note:

Remember test patterns
on tv’s back in the day?

Says I’m here
I will whine
even when nothing’s on.

All day every day
that alarm.

Antidote: a poem

Confucius say
make a ritual
in order to attend
in order to focus
on what is needed
to calm enough to get
outside the blather
between your ears.

Make a meal and share it.
Taste and season as you go.

Pick up trash along your walk.

Turn off the phone and sit
and wait for what turns up:

maybe a hummingbird?

Next time you point and say
“You’re not the boss of me,”
scowl at that annoying mask
(while I pout back behind mine),

what if we consider
that even now that little
bee of a bird is gaining weight
simply from sipping flowers

to somehow brave the Gulf of Mexico
again so his race can go on?

Blue Ridge Parenthesis: a poem

For the first time since corona, Chris and I ventured out for a weekend getaway, staying at an Air BnB cottage on a hillside near Bedford, VA. She surprised me Sunday morning with Father’s Day gifts that included a watercolor set and Gary Snyder’s zen poetry collection Danger on Peaks. Which, over coffee, led to this:

On the ridge a neighbor
tests his semi-automatic:

Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta!

Funny how it’s then
you notice quiet
a blank sheet seepingly
watercolored by
a distant rooster’s crowing
a mourning dove’s
wooden flute reply
and far down on the valley floor
the trailing hoot of a train.

Silent as a shadow
a skink with a brilliant blue tail
edges onto the deck:

Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta!

Space Aliens…poem

This poem is in my new book collection Yearnful Raves, and strikes me as appropriate to the current situation:

Space Aliens Learning English Come Upon the Dictionary Page that Begins with Colonel Blimpism and Ends with Colorway - a poem

Space Aliens Learning English Come Upon the Dictionary Page that Begins with Colonel Blimpism and Ends with Colorway

Discovering that
a phenomenon
of light or perception
is how we distinguish
otherwise identical
things, and that this
inflection named
color is often used
among humans
in that way.

Though some are
color-blind, it seems
and others call others
colored, and those
without color – because
the definition of color
excludes the phenomenon
of light we call white
these whites block
those with color
(But why? And how?)
from participating
in various activities.

Color bar/color line.

Why would the colorless
do such a thing?

And how do they
distinguish anyway?
Is that what this device
a colorimeter is for?

Are there colorists
who decide?  Do they
fear those with something
called color temperature?

Blackbodies that can emit
radiant energy to evoke color? 

That’s it!  (They say.) 
We’ve got it.  The key’s
right here on this page.
Now we know what moves
them.  And the word we’ll
use when we go down
to colonize.

Paired Viruses: a poem

A virus can’t act alone.
Needs your participation.
Just a burr of contagion
sucked in on the air you breathe,
that finds a weak link, a chink in a cell,
then incubates until the fever burns.

Clots your brain, swells your lungs,
inflames the hearts of children
too young to understand.

With this one, we have carriers
who infect others but never suffer themselves
and super-spreaders who sicken whole crowds
as if spewing from megaphones.

How it preys on the weak, the under-served,
those frayed at the end of their rope.

One thing, though, some recover.
Yet speak of its tortures with awe.
How it knelt on their throats and chests
until they gasped their mama’s name.

A virus is a frightful thing.
A virus can’t act alone.

One Gift of Our Sequestering: a poem

They came home
fledglings flushed
back to the nest
and, of course,
we welcomed them.

Their rooms still theirs
nothing changed.
We’d washed the sheets
that’s all.

A throwback
that had us thinking
about times we’ve shared
that won’t come back.

Chris said, “You were at work,
and it was just Nick and me.
I’d get tired and lie down on the sofa.
I’d lift him up and down,
whee! until my arms got tired
then he’d rest his head on my chest and we’d nap.

I said, “What I wouldn’t give for one more
game of Grabber-Man.”

So when the colleges turned them out
it felt like, alright, not quite the same
but take it as a gift.  And strangely,
it has been.  A rewind/replay
all of us together at dinner every evening.

That had me thinking of other last things. 
Like:  I can point out the Cary Street corner
where it happened.  I took Stephen’s hand
to cross the street and he sort of swatted it away.
Told myself, I guess that’s it for that.

But I didn’t mark the last time we chased hot air balloons
or that Nick woke up early just to hang with Dad
or the boys took off their capes, put down their swords
and plastic shields and never picked them up again.

(Hand-me-downs for the neighbor children,
still giddy and chubby and fresh.
I want to school their Dad on that, but he, up to his elbows
in his four little kids, he’d look at me askance.) 

(Well, that’s probably half the dream of grandparenting
creaky old knees and old man bad breath
tumbled on the floor to wrestle with the new kid
one more round of Grabber-Man indeed
almost not quite but hey.)

So yesterday when I outrigged a kayak and its paddle,
a surfboard and a bike to his little car
and Nick headed off for the Summer of Covid-19
lifeguarding in the Outer Banks
this wash of feelings, memories, trepidations,
breaking with a shush on the sands of our parenthood.

Buddy sleeps in our room every night
but last night he didn’t come up.
He lay by the front door maybe wondering
when Nick would come back in.  He gets it.
Though like us he only dimly understands.