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Graceful Rider

30 Jun

I recall the asphalt—a blur beneath—and my days
at the school of tachometry.  Chrome tailpipes
and handlebars shone like a vision.
I leaned into the turns until the foot pegs scraped.
Hardtop suited me just fine.

I evoke the throttle’s spirit—the twist and release—
and the engine’s heat.  They moved me, but pavement
takes a toll and ditches are replete.  All those close calls,
falls, and crashes hurt, but I never refused the road.
I crossed the double line

before I slowed.  Then came the graceful rider.
He rode from days of old on everlasting tires
because the time had come.  When he spoke I shattered,
but he whispered to each piece; for every shard he shouted.
His voice was bread and wine.   

He made pursuit his standard and tattooed me with fire.
I ducked and dodged and rolled with bent desire,
but he planned my course.  He pierced and purchased,
broke bones and mended, then caught me with a look…
He saw a man born blind.

My will failed, he gripped.  He healed my road-rash knees,
rebuilt my make and model, he saw to parts unseen
and my gears made changes.  Rubber on the street
moved me to new places.  Beneath chain and sprocket
I saw narrow roads unwind.               

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Only Dog

24 Jun

As kids, we would put our hands inside
her toothy den; for us the molars were mild,
the incisors unwilling even to gentle dent
the soft butter of our skin.
She chewed a couple of neighborhood pets
and Dad had to put her on a run
until we moved outside of town.
There, with our Shepherd’s perked ears
and pointed nose always close by
my brother and I could explore fields
of curious cows, or trod a tangled wood. 
She would bark for joy in the driveway
when visitors arrived who sometimes
waited in their cars until we settled her.

In her waning days, Dad helped her
to get up steps, lifting her from behind. 
The day came he said, She’s in a lot of pain,
and lifted her into the bed of the pickup. 
We drove to town at dusk and dark
had fallen when the vet came out to us.
As if it had all been a dream,
she was gone
and we had started back toward home.       
        From beside him
there on the bench seat of the truck
I glanced up. Dad focused on the road
and cried.  We never had another dog. 
Dad’s words: It’s too hard.

Song Of The Sanitation Worker

6 Jan

We, the yellow vested men,
Hold the bar and toe the rail of the county truck
As it jerks, bucks, and grunts its girth
Through city block and subdivision.
We leap down, run-trot, retrieve the bins,
And attend the marriage of a wheeled plastic container
To a greased hydraulic mechanism. 

Laying on gloved hands, we open lids, face odors,
Yank levers—bending, lifting, even reaching in
For the sake of the human garbage mission. 
Ours is the trash romp, the crud collection;
Ours the pride and pomp of rubbish. 
We are the shakers and dumpers.
We are the gristle on the bones of sanitation.

Hidden

5 Jan

Ready or not, the seeker says.
    There’s only so many holes to go down
in this house, but they run to them again
when the count begins.

Who crawls from the laundry heap
or out beneath the bed is musty, dust
and silliness, contented to be found,
or else lodging complaint
if the count was too quick.

They pull my hand, demand, Count loud!
You’re it!  Oak floors bounce and shake,
then all sounds whisper into secrets. 

I raise my voice to reckon time
before ready or not and here I come.
I go slow, but you’d never guess
the way they’ve flown, like ghosts,
behind doors and into backs of closets.

Then I search the rooms of our home;
I seek their faces,
and the light that would be
found in darkened places.

Teller

28 Dec

In books he read aloud, my father uttered charms.
Brave Sneelock, the Heffalump, farmers Boggis, Bean, and Bunce,
the characters by whom he cast a spell.
As a boy, listening, I never guessed an author
and barely parsed the teller from the tale;
all the earth and sky was in the telling—and didn’t fail.

Who told me stories first my heart is welded to
with sentences, is anchored to, as truth is to a word.
His voice turned all to flint and fire,
or else so leaf and green as to be giddy.

Mom says he still reads to her—I can see him in his chair:
lamplight on furrowed brow and legs crossed.
The sun is low; the sky in rows of ruddy men
is marching down to greet him and he begins.
His gift is words—words full of rooms
in which the wonderment of telling is the end.

Supply Yard Etiquette

16 Feb

Behind chain link, a shag dog waits
for the motor groan, the speech of brakes,
the slam-the-truck-door plumber, and the odors:
cheap cigar, pipe cement, fast food leftovers. 

Beer can hands unlock the gate,
deposit breakfast in a pan by salvaged sinks
rusting, roosting angled on their drains.
The dog slobbers, the man spits,

the sinks lean, warily,
away.

If Home

11 Dec

If home is where you go—if, here, you strike accords
between the sometimes angry parties at the table
and are able to heed the bell’s harmonic
when another round begins—you stand on solid ground.

If your pulp fictions hit the trash bin by the gate
before you stump over the back step
and through the door, if home is where
you log the daily lore, your feet are on the floor.

If home is where you laugh, cry, get surprised, listen,
touch, desire someone’s eyes, believe they believe
that you are wise, then you are wise. 
If this is your light and your sanctuary;

if home is where you go to rejoin the fight
after a long day—if your foundations shake
and your pillars quiver at the thought of this,
your beacon, quenched—you are a sage and a seer;

you are a lovely footed messenger in flight.

Love In A Whirlwind

11 Dec

I am memory’s author.
A story’s birth decorates my desk.
By pluck and plot and twist,
you ponder my works.
I write them.

These pages are dim alleys,
snow bright streets,
working hands, homeless feet,
ocean canyons, and a finger
pressed against your skin.

I write a whirlwind,
a burning coal in a child’s hand.
I write your name, your lips,
your chin.  Memory kindles,
a story is born again.

Trail Run

1 Dec

Gray squirrels rustling dry leaves
Skirt runners’ feet on the course;

A tolerant turtle parks and waits. 
But pale blue petals dappling dirt

Lie, and I trample the butterflies.
A crowd of survivor wings rises,

Blinking—the enduring blue
Eyelashes a buttress for my knees.

Meditation On Shadow

20 Jul

Lifted shades—shoulder blades
angled to the window;

Pen jots—mortal thoughts
cast immortal shadows;

Salt shaker, pepper mill
huddled on the table;

I, the paragon of Cain,
extol the offering of Abel.

Morning Reflection

14 Jul

As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them… ~John 17: 18

…my yoke is easy…    ~Matthew 11:30

At the kitchen, by the door,
Our heels on morning floor,
We gather and prepare
To cross the threshold.

Our heels on morning floor,
We hesitate or hurry
To cross the threshold—
sent into the world.

We hesitate or hurry;
We sally, stump, or tumble—
sent into the world
to shoulder and forgive.

We sally, stump, or tumble,
Heels bruised and blistered,
To shoulder and forgive,
To receive the yoke of rest.

Heels bruised and blistered,
We gather and prepare
To receive the yoke of rest
At the kitchen, by the door.

Rising

22 Feb

She rubs mist from her drab face,
yawns as the granite moon descends,

ripples and shivers while embers,
buried by night, are stoked and blown. 

    From ash a yellow lobe will rise,
will hold itself, poised, in her reflection.
 
She joins leaf and limb, heralds again
the return of daylight and birdsong,

flaunts her glints and ruffles, beckons
one who, too long, has been gone. 

Saturday Coffee

25 Jul

I press the chop-saw through a two-by-four
and Van Gogh glares dust down around him.
Above his clay-brown hair, the rim has a big chip.

His expression says, I never asked for this
as if he guessed that fate would glaze him.
I make another cut: yellow dust settles

on the last of the cold black in my mug.  I pause,
arrested by his sober gaze…then check my mark
and raise the piney dust again.

VanGoghSelfPortrait1889-90OrsayAA web

You Can’t Punch The Clock

9 Apr

You can’t punch the clock—
clicking keys for poetry
throws time to the floor.

Instead, punch the dashboard
for this chance car radio
news alliteration,

sources in Sadr
city say certain sectors
of the city seem. . .

Happenstance hardly
hurries handy helps or hints.
Haiku hesitates.

Top 10 Poetry Finalist In Asheville’s Mountain Xpress Poetry Show

31 Mar

Mountain_Xpress_Poetry_Prize_Finalists_Announced

The Poem, Sleep And Dreams

Outside by Caleb Eells, age eight (and Dad)

12 Jan

Miserable, miserable sad cats,
uncomfortable and depressed,
their ears are damp and folded flat;
their tails are limp and wet.

The day is cold as it is long
and makes their faces frown;
their bodies huddle in a throng
and snow keeps coming down.

They sit—their thoughts are on the dog
where fire warms his hide;
they think, if he gets up to go,
we’re locking him outside!

SNOWSTORM 2011 214

Let A Rose

25 Nov

buttons and rose

Let a rose be all things beautiful and true; let the rain be you.
Let a button be forbearance; let your blouse
be faded blue. 
Let a shoelace be repentance;
let me stop and tie my shoe.
Let a rose be all things beautiful and true.

Let a rose be all things beautiful and true; let a sigh be you.
Let a button be forgiveness; let your fingers
push it through. 
Let a shoelace be a promise;
let me double knot my shoe.
Let a rose be all things beautiful and true.

Three words are stuck

14 Nov

when I stand by you in the lot at the end of the night.
Oh, to be the man who need not say it right,

but the creases of my speech are neat.
     Three words could put wrinkles in the sheets,

could put some spice in the cream of wheat—
then the flavor would release;

then you’d taste my feast and want more—
but I fumble my keys; I reach for the car door

and lift.  My heart revs, as if about to race,
but three words are stuck in this parking space.

Self Portait In Pencil by Caleb Eells

Self portrait in pencil by Caleb Eells

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God by Martin Luther

3 Nov

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

250px-Luther's_Ein_Feste_Burg

songsandhymns.org

Sleep and Dreams

26 Oct

man napping sculpture

No crime, keeping watch for couplets or half-lines
to cut through the alley or gather at the street sign.
They arrive as I usher my daughter to bed,
as I doze by her side.      And no surprise

to see them when I stay up after midnight…
but to find them at the trigger of a drive-by
is a hard rhyme.  I have no wish to testify

when the shooter is close—when he is the son
of a neighbor; when I pass him on the sidewalk
on his way back from the Short Stop—then I think,

No!  I didn’t hear a gunshot; I had a dream
that ended with a pop.  I tell myself
      I never had the gift; I need more sleep.
      No living poet would choose this street.

Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand by Henry Alford

8 Aug

Henry Alford

On the ABOUT page of my blog, I explain that my blog title If You Long For Home…is meant (in part) to reflect my eternal perspective.  This hymn by English hymn writer Henry Alford (1810-1871) is a fine description in poetic form of my eternal hope and desire.

Alford was also a scholar who studied Homer, English Poetry, and the Greek New Testament.

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.

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Ten thousand times ten thousand in sparkling raiment bright,
The armies of the ransomed saints throng up the steeps of light;
‘Tis finished, all is finished, their fight o’er death and sin;
Fling open wide the golden gates and let the victors in.

What rush of alleluias fills all the earth and sky!
What ringing of a thousand harps bespeaks the triumph nigh!
O day, for which creation and all its tribes were made;
O joy, for all its former woes a thousand-fold repaid!

O then what raptured greetings on Canaan’s happy shore;
What knitting severed friendships up, where partings are no more!
Then eyes with joy shall sparkle, that brimmed with tears of late;
Orphans no longer fatherless, nor widows desolate.

Bring near Thy great salvation, Thou Lamb for sinners slain;
Fill up the roll of Thine elect, then take Thy power and reign;
Appear, Desire of nations, Thine exiles long for home;
Show in the heaven Thy promised sign; Thou Prince and Savior, come.

Forest by Caleb Eells

11 Jun

Roots as thick as arms
Lots of trees towering high
Rivers running fast

Caleb wrote this haiku for his second grade writing class.  The picture is from a collection he is creating called “different faces.”

Clock by Nathan Eells

5 Jun

Clock
sitting on the wall
watching me.
Always talking: tick tock, you say.
Annoying, I say.
A giant watch peering at me.
Arms always moving around and around.
You won’t stop slapping yourself.
You’re always on time,
trapped inside your glass cage.
Always running,
never racing,
Clock

Nathan received the Written In Stone award from Stone Academy for this poem.  Nathan’s teacher submitted it to the Greenville News and it was published by them on Friday, June 4th.  The artwork is a favorite of mine that Nathan drew recently.

Shepherds Of The Street

31 Mar

The shepherds of the street who pass our house
each day do not suppose they go their way for me.
By gentle steps, one or two move past our place.

At times, a posse walks up to the store
to meet some friends or buy a pack of smokes

and as they go, they talk to me if I am there
and rise above my fear to catch their eye.
Or I may give a Hey, to my surprise.

I am sure I never have that much to say,
but when we speak—or nod our heads to make a sign,
or pound our fists to greet, or even when,

from in the house, I hear them on their way—
I find their presence to be not unlike a compass.

The shepherds of the street do not suppose
they go for me, but, steady, move their feet
south by southwest or else north by northeast.

Sugarhouse

3 Mar

I helped to build our sugarhouse.
It has a metal roof. Steam escapes
through vent doors on the cupola.

We drill the trees, set the taps,
and hang buckets. When sap runs,
gather it and light the fire.

Slab wood pops and flames roar.
The firebox doors turn orange
and the evaporator boils.

When syrup aprons—when drops cling
and fall together from a dipper—
we draw off into a milk can.

My Dad works very hard.
We all chip in. The best part is
when we take a little taste now and then.

 

sugaringimg006

I grew up in Vermont.  I have many fond memories of time spent with my family making syrup in the sugarhouse we built in our backyard.  Sugaring is hard work, but very rewarding.

This poem is for my dad who worked harder than the rest of us and often stayed up late to finish the boiling by himself.

the sugarhouse

Tapestry

25 Dec

photo by Denton Harryman of GreenvilleDailyPhoto.com

Answered prayer, she says, you are an answer.
Billiard balls dance behind plate glass.
Cue sticks aim, wave, conduct our conversation.
Like over-sized batons they signal us to begin.

Friendly strangers, we lay out the makings
for a tapestry—words, expressions.  We weave
answers and questions.  A weft thread
beneath the warp rises to the pattern.

With longing, each one eyes the other
standing there.  Each looks for a close weave,
for a familiar image to appear amidst the intricacies,
beneath the lighted Corner Pocket sign.

Our eager, wanton prayers fly quickly, brightly,
like a tight rack of balls at the break.
Like many lavish threads, they emerge from below,
pressing against each other to form a whole.

to see more of Denton Harryman’s photography visit http://GreenvilleDailyPhoto.com


Winter Walk

1 Nov

winter-walk-(study)small

The silver paths beneath me rise, they brighten and sustain;
and I, by measured stride, rejoin their whited old refrain.

The snow, like fairest company, this night has come to call
till barren branch and evergreen are heartened by its’ fall.

Till, luminous, the moon reveals the way upon the row
and I, in bright reflection, lose my burdens as I go.

Till boots conceal their little plots of white upon the track
then rise to leave their mark upon the polished silver back.

The silver paths beneath me rise; the night is bright as day;
and I my measured stride release beneath their drift and sway.

Robert Buchanan, Hindenburg Docker

14 Oct

260px-Hindenburg_burning

Robert Buchanan waited on the field,
in wet clothes, to dock the Hindenburg.
No shadow marked its’ place
beneath the heavy morning sky.
The airship came close, then, POOF!—

strange enormous light, a bite, and suffocation.
He wondered, is this the end?
Heat shoved him, outran him, jumped down
on him.  It was the hottest thing
he would ever live to tell.

Rain came twice while he had waited;
twice its’ grace fell on him.
He escaped, but had to run a long way
before he turned
(to see from what he had been saved).

Robert Buchanan was interviewed for the PBS program History Detectives (Season 6, Episode 5).  His testimony of how he avoided severe burns and possible death at the crash of the Hindenburg inspired this poem.

Help My Unbelief by John Newton

25 Aug
Albert Finney as John Newton in Amazing Grace

Albert Finney as John Newton in Amazing Grace

I know the Lord is nigh,
and would but cannot pray,
For Satan meets me when I try,
and frights my soul away.
And frights my soul away.

I would but can’t repent,
though I endeavor oft;
This stony heart can ne’er relent
till Jesus makes it soft.
Till Jesus make it soft.

Help my unbelief.
Help my unbelief
Help my unbelief.
My help must come from Thee.

I would but cannot love,
though wooed by love divine;
No arguments have power to move
a soul as base as mine.
A soul so base as mine.

I would but cannot rest,
in God’s most holy will;
I know what He appoints is best,
and murmur at it still.
I murmur at it still.

Pacifier At Night

9 Jun

You wake in the night and sit there.
You can’t make it better
because you know
you’ve lost it.  You need help,

so you weep and wait.  By and by,
hands fumble through sheets
until they locate the hidden
place it came to rest.

Those same hands find you,
find your face, your
lips…okay, there you go.  Now,
lay your sleepy head on the pillow.