but these various skirmishes sometimes concern us. Though we are not surprised when our borders are disputed, or when some despot would try to own us, as if we're chattel. We'll have none of that. Even if our enemy wins a battle, we know he won't win the war. We're still fit to resound with the music of the ancients. Here, on this very soil, our warriors die and live again like golems, our heads held high. Some miracle of will reanimates us. We walk out of our graves hoisting our banners and guns. No sacrifice is enough. We spoil their path at every turn. We spoil the well of their ambition. We spoil the very ground they march on and die in, since we are still fit to resound with the music of the ancients.
1. A rainy day was bequeathed to me,
I took advantage, wielding a shovel I
trudged though deep sucking mud
while digging, pulling dragging
becoming bruised scratched,
aching, exhilarated yet grateful
that my body can still perform
later, observing all the new growth
it looks so effortless for the ferns
teasing while swaying slowly
like Sally Rands ostrich plums
2. You brought me a wheelbarrow
no one would ever believe
you grew up a farm,
then abruptly left,
you enjoyed hours
de-tasseling corn that you
ate day after day
wearing the bewildered look
of a master of ceremonies
for whom all has gone awry
grinning, wearing old pants
both knees open to air
that no patches would fit
your blue denim shirt with
elbows worn through
already darned by someone
then sewn again and again
you look so out of place
like an accidental tourist
opening a broken gate
carrying a bouquet
of fresh dandelions
into my bed of posies
3. Mary Oliver once said,
to remain astonished
she wrote how healing
needs to needs to take
a strong hold in all
those who are wounded
your face is lined with
so many deep wrinkles from
countless roads traveled
how many times did you get lost?
your expression says it all
4. We both laugh,
looking up to colorful
bosomy blooms jiggling in baskets
they numb our melancholy
you walk our fields like an
ancient Root Man chasing away
anyone spraying pesticides
quoting your own kind of poetry
words dripping eloquent raindrops
as wild word salad
5. A glass mermaid
sitting in our fairy garden
with sparkling blue eyes
winks at us she knows
we both started from nothing
each of us is aware
there isn't anything
that this earth could ever take
take back from us now
I'm content knowing
you would still
carry me on your back
if I asked you to
6. Neither of us could ever
ever offer any insincere
or casual forgiveness
to each other
nor take any rapture away
from our red Passionflower
or be seen as a
bunch of thorny weeds
along this rusty fence
surrounding our love
I walked the trackless forest patch
under a cold, gray, drippy sky,
my boots making alternately
crunching and squishing noises.
Despite the inclement weather,
the little wood lot was alive with sound.
Squirrels skittered through the underbrush,
scolding and churring.
Birds sang songs of both invitation
My mind was blown clear by the
fresh breeze, cares and concerns
floating carelessly on sylvan wings
as peace settled on my heart.
My reverie was abruptly ended
as I stepped around a small fir
not yet big enough for Yuletide decoration
and was confronted by death.
A small stone of cocked and cracked aspect
stood bravely amongst the weeds
surrounded by a fence slowly sinking in
decay to its own inevitable grave.
A simple cross engraved on the front
of the stone consecrated the
small and singular graveyard,
holy ground for a holy purpose.
The name remembered for eternity
on that small and crumbling marker was
Thomas Edward Mangus.
Nothing more was expounded there.
As I stood at that sacred place
of memorial, just me and Thomas,
the world seemed to pause,
even the animals' heads seemed bowed
in silent respect.
What honor was due this person
that a graveyard was built just for him?
Or, perhaps, what sin was committed
that he is forced to molder in silent isolation?
Or maybe a child of indentured servants
succumbing to untended disease or starvation,
buried with respect and reverence
on land not theirs.
I stared long and hard at that stone
anticipating revelation, or epiphany,
but the silent stone shared nothing
with me save the rain dripping its face
My imagination ran to my own
inevitable stone, my name chiseled carefully
to mark my sojourn on earth
as it faces into an eternity of weather.
Will anyone remember my journey?
Anyone mark my deeds? Or will my
bit of granite merely fill a spot in a cemetery,
spied only by the occasional passer-by?
A gust of wind blew fresh rain
onto my face, bringing me back to the present.
"Goodbye, Thomas," I said to the universe
and returned to my walk.
A lonely night prayer for the Ukraine
Rises above the mist and the soft rain,
Oh, little one of the fertile steppes so
Proud to fight for freedom is all aglow,
Invaded by the oppression from Russia
By a tyrant who is trying to crush ya,
Voices cry out from the grave's genocide,
The Eagle flew over the lovely city of Kiev
Trust in the Mystical Rose and believe,
A Bear runs from the sting of the Bees
The poet's inspiration from across the seas,
The sound of the big guns that did shake
The ground hollowed ground for freedom's sake,
As the world salutes the tiny underdog
The Ukraine is free from the mist and Fog,
To the sacred Mother of the Steppes so
Gentle and kind but warning as we know,
This may be the plain of Armageddon now
Let's heed the Lady's warning from thou
Some days words refuse to levitate
or be pulled from a hat.
They beach themselves
in sand, sun-drunk and lazy,
will not reach deeper
than their own shadows
to detect a thin crack growing
along a porcelain vase
or the faint scent of sorrow
vining the rose lattice.
Some days words cannot open
their third eye to read
the names of the missing afloat
inside this beveled crystal.
Inside this beveled crystal
I see my mouth full of night,
hands grasping at nothing, hear
my heartbeat's syncopated arrhythmia
of loss. How will I stand,
supported by shadows, knee-deep
in memories and hopes so thin
their ribs show through
their web-sheer gowns?
The future is best left to itself,
mumbling secrets to its long fingers
from inside cages of roots
away from the leafless light. Will
I drink from this moon-stained river,
shape a new day from mud?
Shape a new day from mud.
Let worries fall like white petals
in a snow garden,
while memories flap through the sky
like startled birds, shrinking and fading
until the horizon inhales them.
Sculpt this morning from gold, jade,
the wings of egrets.
Plant yellow wildflowers
in the darkest forest
hours walk the sundial.
Hours walk the sundial,
sleepwalk through light.
Days keep melting around corners
as time coos from the mourning
dove's beak and slips like silk
through rustling leaves.
I want to write a new ending,
change these visions that haunt
my mind, heavy as stone, but
some days words refuse to levitate.
With the class photo arrival
Our myriad duties are done
The scholarships will be next
A vision for old and young
We meanwhile details text
And in touch we remain pals.
Celebrating our 80th was fun
Our leader Roger K. on the run
Managed with help all chores
A planner's dream is almost won
In 2023 can we agree once more
To gather and tell with a big show?
Our memories share & even dare
Complete our civic giving goals
All agree school launched us well
To lives both long and full of hope
So back we give and share notes
What means the most to pay it forth.
I'm 87 and she
was always there—
at the Palace in WWII,
which I learned about
in front page headlines,
just learning to read
Living in Chicago
by 1959, on tv
I watched Elizabeth
and Philip arrive
by ship on Lake Michigan,
stepping off at
though not her same
I did stand outside
wonder what she does
behind those ornate
iron gates, behind
those thick walls
when a servant
on a perfect tray,
the Dresser brings
her flowered dress,
and someone again
serves 4 pm tea,
precise and sweet
with scones and jam.
I read of her Corgis
and her horses—
oh yes! The Queen
was happily off to
the races at every chance,
cheering her horse to win,
or else going riding herself
as on her old black pony,
Fern, at age 96!
(As published in the 2022
Celebrating the Life of
Queen Elizabeth II)
On ancient plains 30,000 years ago,
a lone vulture, separated from her flock,
descends from the sky and dies, unwept.
The scavenger becomes scavenged:
her wing bone fashioned into a flute,
she soars again, this time untethered
by earthly pursuits, she floats high
on thermals of musical notes,
melodious and immortal.
(First published in The Rockford Review)
What is the ultimate life
It is about being holy
It is about being healthy
It is about being happy
It is about making things happen
With tremendous magnitude
And flowing smoothly
In the right direction
It is all about being effective
And efficient in life
in your white work van
you squint to the snow covered mountains
leveling them with glittering eyes
until they are smooth, dull,
as uniform as manufactured home floor plans
while caged tools rhythmic rattle drums
your earpodded ear doesn't hear
your mind is a thousand miles down the road
as your foot taps out a punch list on the brake
flipping through laborers like playing cards, diamond eyed jacks
bossy bunned hairs tickle
the top of a dandruff-be-damned gray heathered tee
thick canvas carpenter pants slim your leg bows
natty beard — the only thing,
under which fairly freckled skin crawls through tattoos
decorating yourself with beaded appropriations
sending smoke up in an American Prayer
commanding calloused hands without feeling, the way you do,
pain tries to seep in but you numb it
more with work and a grimace that puts your
mustache perpetually out of square
you tie steel toe boots like you're lacing on legs
bootstrapping your way through the contract,
concerned with the foundation
truing up our dreams with prefab and plywood.
I wonder what's left when the juice runs out?
Snapping a chalk line in the sand, I see you
getting worked over and ask you to stop
you just look back at yourself in the rearview mirror
laugh and wink
because you know you will save us,
clawhammering your way.
The Cather classic tells
how the wolves follow the sleigh
carrying bride and groom
into a night of fleshly violence
under a darkened moon.
Strange how that image
of howling blood screams
in my memory above all else—
sod huts, scorching sun,
chilblain-cold, cradles and fiddles,
snakes and sparsely-settled prairies,
youth dreaming of the city—
but now, only clear blue orbs
dotting the fur-fringed dark
by the hundreds, the weight
of bristling heads and muscular bodies
set upon a wedding party and their felled horses,
silencing Russian songs, shouts, heartbeats,
all semblance of civilization
in white silk, black serge, wool blankets, bells.
We are never ready for the moment
when death chases the sled,
never sense the hot breath of the pack,
the crunch of snow and bones,
the lunar red floating behind a cloud of fear,
the hunger of beasts our own hunger,
no more, no less.
(First published in Thimble Magazine)
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