The ancient clock,
analog in a digital age,
rings the hours,
and the man, the woman, lovers
in this house belonging to one
but not both
of them, find it pleasurable
yet vaguely threatening:
come in, the hour
will sound, and how
will they cover for
each other? What is another
word for love
they can hide behind?
Or for being? Or is this
the end for all of them?
This is the hour
in which everything
or maybe not:
really, they are all
equally strangers to one
awkwardly looking out
to sea, transfixed
not by one another,
as for better or worse
they should be,
but by the analog horizon,
in this digital age . . . .
I can't see it but I know it's there.
I know its painful touch
barging into my body, my life,
destroying my plans,
gripping my lively existence,
twisting it into — this.
Do I fight it or accept it?
I must do both; they go hand in hand,
although I don't have time for either,
and yet time becomes the issue.
Time is now spent taking shots, pills, and poison
to deceive, to destroy the growing evil,
and all the time it eats, and eats.
What can I do? I'll do it!
What can I say? I'll say it!
If I run away, it comes with me.
Even if I shut down, it never sleeps.
I must live one step ahead
of the clutches lurking within me,
and all the time it eats, and eats.
And there is only so much time after all.
I gaze at the faces of loved ones,
their eyes fall to the floor.
Hoping against hope,
they know my fight and wait with me
to see if I will surmount, or succumb.
I resolve to surmount;
I just hope my body listens.
It works overtime to fight and fight.
So tired, yet I must stay strong,
afraid it will overtake me in a weak moment,
and all the time it eats, and eats, and eats.
A train approaches the station.
An idiot is on a bridge above.
Einstein's on Track #1 below.
I give the idiot a shove.
He's impaled on a switch.
The train whizzes by on Track 2.
Einstein is saved and so are you.
He and some allied scientists
beat Hitler to the punch.
Now we can go to lunch.
But who's hanging from a switch?
The unfit with a twitch.
The down and all-out.
Guts and hair blowing about.
And all that hangs around
on a pike through to the crown.
No matter place or age
innocence will be staged.
Unless you jump off the bridge first
all other ways are the worst.
the man tells the brown tailed bird
pecking in the grass
every insect every worm in this backyard
you just take your time to enjoy
the brown-tailed bird tells the man
standing on the deck
every dewdrop every tear on the grass
you just take your time to count
I've known love before:
experienced both love's
soaring passions, and its
unrequited times of despair,
Its shared moments of angst
and cozy evenings of joy.
Did the work of it, and felt it
slip away at death's door.
What I didn't expect was
finding love again. Finding
someone who cares as much
for me as I care for him.
Enjoying the surprise of desire
while an octogenerian, and
planning for an open-ended
future with you, my dear friend.
I walked to the lake tonight,
dark boughs fanned the light
of the moon as I hiked the scree
to see the water. Could only imagine
what was inside—fresh-faced bluegill
who in day shimmer with soft-scale
xylophone iridescence. I closed my eyes,
woke to loose threads spinning wildly
from my mind like Medusa's snakes, they
raveled and unraveled as I sat moored
on the bank, broken metamorphic rocks
combined with worn-soft sedimentary stones.
I waited for courage to claim this dark place.
I had travelled there, descended not to Hades,
but to the possibility of cancer's recurrence.
Maybe if I waited long enough I would find
agates, geodes, escape this nightmare
by panning for gold. The moon grinned at me
deliriously. I stood up to leave, felt the comfort
when I finally came home, the front light shining
on your outrageous wildflower garden. I embraced
the sunflowers, purple coneflowers, black-eyed
Susans, milkweed, I smelled the rose petals. Tomorrow
the sun will chase away the moon, and there will be
monarchs and hummingbirds, rubies and diamonds.
(Previously published in Verse-Virtual, July 2021)
We walk on the blue shore of silence
looking for secret things.
When we step into surf
questions soar like seagulls.
Neruda teaches me to listen
to restless waves.
He says, Sail a small ship into sea foam
till the sea exposes your frailty.
He teaches me to swim in my dreams.
I awake and the air smells of dead fish.
On my pillow, I find seaweed,
wet stones and one violet crab claw.
(Originally published in Border Senses)
This is where you brought me when we wed:
I, fifteen, and not yet quick with child
though filled with longings
passed down by my mother and her own.
You, eighteen, and poorly educated to a life
not set before you in the halls
your father brought the tutors to.
The copse of trees is thinner now,
as is my life these years alone.
The room in back, where first we took each other
with an innocent savagery bordering rape,
is mine alone: A shrine
holding memories that end with you.
At the gate, our oldest son and his son;
a tom that came to clear the mice
and stayed when they were done;
a winepress calling forth the joy of life.
The missed grape is as fruitless
as imagined lives without this place.
Wait until I have to say goodbye,
don't rush; I'm a philosophical professor
facing my own death on my own time.
It takes longer to rise to kick the blankets back.
I take my pills with water and slowly lift
myself out of bed to the edge of my walker.
Living to age 97 is an experience I share
with my caretaker and so hard to accept.
It's hard for youngsters who have not experienced
old age to know the psychology of pain
that you can't put your socks on or pull
your own pants up without help anymore—
thank God for suspenders.
"At a certain point, there's no reason
to be concerned about death, when you die,
no problem, there's nothing."
But why in my loneness, teeth stuck
in with denture glue, my daily pillbox complete,
and my wife, Leslie Josephine, gone for years,
why does it haunt me?
I can't orchestrate, play Ph.D. anymore,
my song lyrics is running out, my personality
framed in a gentler state of mind.
I still think it necessary to figure out
the patterns of death; I just don't know why.
"There must be something missing
from this argument; I wish I knew.
Don't push me, please wait; soon
is enough to say goodbye.
My theater life, now shared, my last play,
coming to this final curtain, I give you
grace, 'the king of swing,' the voice of
Benny Goodman is silent now,
an act of humanity passes, no applause."
*Dedicated to the memory of Herbert Fingarette,
November 2, 2018 (aged 97).
Yellowstone, known to my Indigenous Peoples brethren as
Land of the Burning Ground,
we've lived here for at least 9000 years, imagine 9000 years!
To some I am known as a Paleo Indian.
Scientists, paleontologists, archeologists, ...gists have dubbed me so.
The Land of the Burning Ground,
has known me, us, Tukudika, Mountain Shoshone,
for more generations than any ...ist can count.
Some called us Sheep People because we hunted bighorn sheep.
Call us, Mountain People. I prefer to identify myself with Place.
Place that was removed from us.
Place that we were removed from.
Place that gave sustenance, obsidian for our hunting tools.
Place that sheltered us year long, before our displacement.
Year 1872 our land renamed, a national park,
not our nation's land, left us landless, homeless,
we were removed from our Place.
Away from tourists, hunters of fish, bison.
Away from plants, roots, berries, essential food sources.
In less than a generation, by 1900, we were dissolved,
absorbed, by other Indigenous Peoples, who also were
absorbed, dissolved. Our way of life, obliterated, liquidated,
treaties, treaties, drafted, written, ignored.
We were, are, incorporated into the Wind River Shoshone,
Fort Hall Shoshone-Bannock tribes.
We are the Mountain People of the Burning Ground.
Green turbulent skies,
yellow sun rays peek
above Grandpa's shed.
outline the worn path
and wait to bud.
A gnarled tree,
favorite to climb and
gaze at the farmstead.
dropped off at first frost
turn into garden mulch.
Heavy wind blows on my cheeks
The earth breathes fast
As the elements of the night pull hard
I fall slowly into a bottomless pit.
I stare deep into that darkness
Falling in love with its might
It's cradling, embracing me whole,
Not condoning. Not judging.
Don't stare too long in that darkness
I want to go into that place
Where the night protects
Where it envelops away the ugly and the pain
I don't see them. I don't face them.
In there, I am free
No doubts, no agonies
I float, I swim aimlessly
Worries and cares escape.
The unknown is liberating.
Don't stare too long — you will fall in love.
Why did I eat it—a whole box of
Once my guests left
I tore to the cabinet,
cleared a path as I tossed aside
boxes of oatmeal
cans of green beans and pineapple
jars of olives and tiny bags of almonds,
batting them aside as a robber
would toss an underwear drawer
looking for precious jewels.
How could a rational person
be so sloppy,
one with no control?
I savored all 36 pieces within minutes—
they were rather small—
once I located the gold box:
truffles, caramels, fruit and nut pieces.
I surmised the white chocolate
must be fewer calories than the dark.
Once the fury stopped,
I thought of Weight Watchers
Yet, could I deny the pleasure
of George and Betty's thoughtfulness,
their gift that I carefully hid
when they weren't looking,
only to be hunted as treasure
after they said goodbye?
(Previously published in Distilled Lives
Volume 5, ISPS 2020)
To my wife, Ana D Lantigua
On our 32nd anniversary
millions of amazements,
minutes of living and dreams,
is to etch out happiness at small
or at big strokes: sometimes, regardless risks.
It's to take a drum and resonate its divine voice
as a magical and poetic fugue,
and attach it to the mast of life,
and call for wonders
whereas passion conducts the orchestra of loving birds.
And in you, all worship the laughter's depth,
the roses' subtle fragrances,
the sea-breeze's ceremonial ballad,
and the melancholy that at times
arrives in this love without conditions.
"Applaud... Applaud!" might shout many.
Others, perplexed, would say,
"What a fantastic fantasy
that of these words...
dreaming costs nothing!" What a fool those few.
And I tell you—without regrets— this is life:
tenderness, struggle, and party.
Celebration that began with a sigh
and will not finish despite time.
What a wonder is to keep tallying moments together.
When looking at a beautiful painting, we're
Caught in its intensity so that we are made
Aware of the bright subtleties of so
Much we thought we had seen that
We actually had not noticed. We
Thought that we had experienced love
Of art before, but now for the first
Time we notice the minute details when
We look intensely. It comes alive as we
Look into lovely details and see
With others who look at it that with them
The natural world seems better painted,
And we are made aware of all the things
That we never saw before as we
Thought that we had looked but have
Never really seen the beauty that we passed
But never noticed as we went by perhaps
On to some other business in such a
Hurry that we could not see in a hundred
Times what seemed so ordinary at times.
We neither looked and took the time nor
Noticed what they meant as if we cared
Not at all what was beautiful to
All who really cared to see.
I finished the canned cling peaches
floating in pear juice you preferred
over heavy syrup.
The last sweet slices mingled
with other reminders
of our life together and apart
each following her own current,
both swimming up stream
as age washed over you.
When the last of your pantry ran dry,
I waded through what my heart knows
of our shared laughter,
your wisdom and patience
that encouraged me to breathe
and stroke, kick and glide
in deep water and the shallows,
where it's just as easy to drown
if not alert to a sea change.
When I was five,
my mother told my father
go get a turkey—
I thought as a pet.
My father and I
drove to Rosebud Farms
where live turkeys
placidly pecked at corn
on the sawdust floor.
"Pick one out" my father said.
"That one there".
The man in gumby boots,
hair net, and white coat,
stepped over the white fence,
grabbed the turkey,
and snapped its neck.
he had walked
into the back room,
a white box
a rolling chute.
On the ride home,
how will I
find my place
in this cement world,
where something alive
is butchered, boxed, and
laying in a back seat.
How will I know
when to cross the street,
when to bring
my library book back,
when I could look
over my shoulder
in a viaduct
and say "It's safe to sing."
I wonder when it
will be my turn
when someone points
at me and
says "That one there."
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