Month: July 2011

Footnote

if at the end of his days
an album marked the hours.
highlighted his victories or defeats
sorrows, labors, slumbers.

if photographs flowed through simple childhood,
awkward adolescence.
high school’s uneasy dance
graduations, sports, and careers
images of his loves, prayers, marriages
children, then, of his own.

expensive, elaborate holidays
saved in blazing color, under protective plastic

She would not appear on any page
She lacks the proper qualities
to win a leaf visible to the questions
that might evolve.

but it was She
who cheered him when days grew dark.
coached him when game was lost.
counseled him when love was spent.
She who waited in the wings of
every cliché
silent and steady
invisible to the I
and to the they

completely excluded from any reality of
His Being
the hero they say.

whispered phone calls
discrete coded emails.
encrypted text messages.
soft tissue letters,
in bare posted envelopes.
back before electronics made connections easier.

these fill the volumes and tomes
of him
She has closeted away.

She was there,
at least in Spirit
for every birthday, every Christmas
Her rejected gifts returned.

She reminded him of his own wild days
while his own children grew.
calmed him through alimony payments.

through sickness, surgeries
Her gentle voice healed.
now in age
She reminds him of memories and laughter
the years have brought him.

through the decades only a few fragile moments
really real
She celebrated the seasons
with and without him.

no
where
is Her name mentioned
no
where
is She honored
next to the many photos
where
She was the Bookends of his life.

Not even a foot note.

Personality Testing

Sweet as Sugar

Honey bees seem to know where they are going.
They fly that nice straight path.
Directly to the brightest flower.
Mostly ignoring large humanoids
They skirt me at 20 mph with ease and poise.

Then there is the
Yellow jacket.
How this beastie got his or her name
I don’t know.
But a new one is required.
Such as Wild Fly, Mean Buzzer, or Biter with no Cause
They bumble wildly about.
Desperately grasping at human, tree twig
Dog, cat, flower, fruit, meat, bread.
Sometimes dropping from the sky
With a heavy mud brick load
At my feet.
Other times, not so lucky
Sometimes under my feet.
Or sliding between sandal and sole.
Slamming with no grace up under
Pant leg. Shirt sleeve.
Sneaking into pop cans and snapping into the unsuspecting mouth.
No honey here.
No life goals, just biting the hand (or whatever) that feeds.
And like skeeters and hoppers, just making a zillion more, in cavernous nests.

Who can tell me what the specific life goals are for a wasp?
I would help out,
if I could go a summer month without being stung.

It frightens me a little that people follow these classes of stingers.
Some clear on where they are, and where they want to be.
These buzz it at that low tone, just to let us know, they are there
Interfere at your peril.

Well, I might admit, I belong to the class of the Yellow Jacket.
I flail around, without a goal, even in WalMart.
I have bounced from town to town, job to job
Lucky to even have one in most economic times.
Slamming into people, bullying them with my ruckus.
Frightening and sending them fleeing with a terrified face.

How I hate the yellow jacket.
How I am one.

McEducation

I feel my eyes glaze over.
I don’t want to, but I shudder
When I see them,
My former students,
In their form of failure.
For I have known of their aspirations
When they let me peek inside their minds eyes
Their Daily diaries and poetry.

Sworn in those swirling scribbled journals
Engineers, doctors, psychologists, veterinarians, teachers, writers.

I see them these years later
Frying at Fast Food
Shingling roofs
Asphalting roads
Listed in the police blotter in
The Evening Times-Call
Pictured in its obituaries.

And I remember their desperate scrawls on bright white notepaper
eager demands of themselves
Now deteriorate in the land.
fill.

I see their faces fall,
When our eyes crash for a moment at the drive.
through.
We read each others’ minds
in that one half second
We both falter
Fumbling with the change

I try on my failure as a teacher.
They wonder if they have let me down.

We fake onward.
I can do no more
My chance at saving them
Long done.

As is my moment at the drive
thru
My shaking pass at a youthful face
Surrounded by casket as
I slip a daisy along bronze.

I swear, I did the best, I could.
I swear I tried to teach.
more than just English
That I tried to teach honesty, determination, clarity.
I know I gave all and more
To make individual dreams fly.

But so many
So many,
. . .lost

I tremble
Rattling newsprint
as I slowly open The Evening Times-Call.

Tree O’clock

Puny humans depend on trees
as our only real visible geologic clocks.

Rings of gold.
Come and go.
but we can count the eons
in Sequoias reaching to a B.C. sky
cast into stone by forces
far beyond our frail comprehension
Of time.

on the lonely prairie,
on brownish lawns
where so few reside,
trees become like pets
Or offspring.

Measuring the decades rolling on
outside
our dining room windows.

In Denver,
My folks’
150 year old Maples
felled by lumberjack’s chainsaws.
the vacuum of shade
brings my folks to tears.

for they remember all of us growing together
kids climbing the titans,
peering into bees’ nests,
building tree houses from scavenged 2x4s.
shoved from saddles,
by wise old horses
who swung riders under low branches,
tearing us off against rough bark.

Junipers along the front door,
leaning far onto the porch,
pushed by ever present north winds
Hide our comings and goings
shelter from noise and nosy neighbors.

errant Elms form a briar hedge
choking out the garden herbs.
hiding us away from spying eyes.
We bring to sheltered courtyards
Aspen and blue spruce
to breathe of mountained air

even our children reaching to touch doorways
doesn’t register like the
Oak tree
once a sprig
now towering over the chimney.
We can remember planting twigs of ash,
but it’s hard to remember our 30th birthday party.
our dogs, now 75 in arbor years,
can’t wrestle their wooden hips
to move from ashen shade.

microbursts and straight line winds
snap them cruelly
send the tops sailing to another county.
lightning splits an Elderberry
at the fork.
in Arizona,
Pinion Pines tear in dust storms.
In Iowa,
torrents erode cottonwood roots
Criss crossing along flooded creeks.
Like friends meeting with disaster.
We feel clocks tick within.

Oh, we have the battery powered timers
digital readouts on arms.

But trees
Are the only
Real, visible clocks
The only ones we really look at
The only ones we really understand.

In Midst and Mist of Flowers

While my fellow high schoolers labored at dishwashing, waitressing, and car washing, my first job was at a pleasant neighboring florist. I rode my one speed 10 year old bike to work after a half hour drive from school. In isolation, I planted minuscule seedlings haphazardly into tiny pots. The messy, meticulous work reminded me of the endless hours of hoeing corn, thinning lettuce, and dicing rhubarb and I cussed during the trivial task, after all I had a 4.0 GPA, a straight A student doing THIS.
Occasionally, I would carry cut red carnations or blazing purple petunias to the front of the store. I warmed to bright displays of vivid glassware, vases, and floral arrangements. My boss, an agronomist from State University took me under his wing, gently taunted me about my attendance at private Schools. When Bob learned that I was a Latin student, he taught me the botanic names of every flower and plant. When reviewing, my loud laughter echoed through the greenhouses.
The other workers snickered as I baptized the vegetation with Latin labels in lilting accents, in ballads, or to the tune of old hymns.
“Ilex aquifolium, aurea taxus,Calendula Officinalis, baccata pisifera.” I mumbled humbly to ivy and marigolds, approximate to the high school fight song. I combined childhood tunes and nursery rhymes with “Rubus coburnianus miscanthus sineis cotoneaster conspicuous”. It received a nice mixed gape among cactus, asters and confused customers. I loved an audience and I was strolling a path toward that of a stand up comic, high school instructor or both
Recognizing my sociable nature, Bob placed me as a clerk in the store. I blossomed in my new responsibilities, chatting easily with customers. Another skill I gained and carried with me.
I tried other tasks, my awkward farm hands tying corsage bows, filling tiny envelopes with floral preservatives and barely typing addresses for newsletters. I gleefully worked the storefront, answered phones, and dusted terrariums on ingenious homemade shelves. Memorizing soil amendments and insect repellents. Glad for time away from the dirt!
Despite a pleasant personality, I am clumsy and was often tired from these long days. I broke glass pieces against the bare concrete and created a bit of chaos. I retained the knowledge that this family business imprinted on me. I worked my way through college in small landscaping and floral companies.

During slow retail times, I was relegated back to soil mixtures and flower seedlings. But I whispered and sung sweetly, then, to the sprouts…peppers, petunias, salvia, and celosia As I do yet, reminding them of their proud Latin legacy.

Sun

It’s always a little too something or other
On the plains
Too windy, Too cold, Too foggy, Too gloomy
Too cowy
We sink into the depression of
Light deprivation.
Snow and ice debilitating.

We cling to the hope of spring
Or even a long mild fall.
No.
Seems we go from 50 mph winds and snow
To tornados
To excessive heat warnings.

Too hot, too buggy, too muggy
To Snow.

We huddle in our houses or offices.
Those of us lucky enough to work in offices.
paralyzed in our climate controlled cars
we sit in stifled traffic
a breakdown resulting in broiling in a kiln
Windows at home,
Drapes drawn against the agonizing sauna.
Staring at the beautiful green lawns and trees
Shriveling to brown in the roasting of July.

Still a little too dark, too humid
A little too depressing with the drapes drawn.
And the winds should arrive just about the time
I get the laundry on the line
Too dusty, too dirty.

A sunblizzard.

The Same Mistake

citizens of Pompeii
Knowing full well
The majesty and danger
they live precariously and casually at
the hot, foggy base of Mt. Vesuvius
In the night, its ancient history covers in
A cataclysm of molten rage
lost to the lava
Cast into rock
Immobile externally
In the ruins

Unceremoniously the Citizens of Pompeii
Rebuild on the cooling ash

Waiting Room

seems I am always waiting in another’s space:
doctor, dentist, surgeon, realtor, attorney, supervisor, politician
each building
more terrorizing than the last.
always a little colder
here in the waiting room,
palms damp.
why am I always sitting
under the iceburning
vent?
waiting for the answer:
am I or not?
is it or not?
will he or not?

why can’t the delay be a little warmer
while I enumerate, reiterate, and recite the questions
or the answers?
will there be incisions, insights?
my brain sears
with fears/knowledge.

it’s not a trait so specific to humans.
I have peeked through the kitchen window
at my rescued terrier
who waits
and follows
my every sound and movement.
his eyes seeking as if processing questions, too.
deciphering patterns of
which series of steps
brings snacks, walks, curses, pats

outside The Waiting Room
in my own little sanctuary
on sickly springgrass
flanked by white dog
black cat paws.
sparring over the warmest spot.
skinsoaking away a bitter winter memory.
I wait for doctors’ phone calls.

even there
a sharp scent of snow on a snapping wind
causes the dog to lift his nose
stare meaningfully toward me.
soft whimpered groans slip from both of us.

while gods toggle skies.
The scalding Colorado sky
cirrusshifts for sleet.

can we never
stop listening for the other shoe?
why can’t the room be a little larger
a little less crowded
with fewer fevered auras.

My own autumn body
rooM for a
. …Waiting game.

Two for Tea

Tea, Callie and Me
a fragile hour each year
Callie visits me for Tea
just 10 years old now,
i want her to look away from my
eyes
as she cautiously pours from
antique floral teapot
to Chintz floral cups.

so she’ll remember, not me
but The Tea.
when she’s sketching in her journal
and posting in her blog
if such an electronic world still whirls.

but for now we are like unto
eons of women before us
sipping tea at the pine table
talking about dogs named Charlie

the rest of the world disappears
during Tea with Callie and me.

she leaves Tea
reluctantly
for our hour passed
her brick home 300 miles from mine.

a vision of me
vivacious and vibrant.
Cemented into her Memory.

She slides away in the back of the red sedan.
i turn my face,
so she will not see
two for tea
tear
. . stains on concrete.

Gladys Visits SaveTmart

Star Trek style doors swoosh out stockyard air and Gladys steps into a hospital ward where every patient is infected by a contagious plastic disease. A visit to SaveTmart ramps up her nearly constant panic disorder. In dizzying haze, she staggers past greeters and pushcarts. The infinite colours of plastic/food swarm over her as she reels and swoons. Her heart loses its regular beat pattern; she cannot bear the no-air-circulating fan humming in the din. Babies scream, though, in sync with her own alarms.
Beep. Beep. Every vinyl case screeches across the black rubber belt to MatterCard land. She wonders how many germs are on those conveyors.
Already, in just the first aisle, she sways against the $3 clearance clothing rack for strength. Inside her head she hears, “The Rack. No, no. Anything but the Rack.” Already her senses are on overload. Thank God, a foolishly abandoned, up-for-grabs discount city walker divinely provided for the infirm. She leans heavily on the sweaty shopping cart handle, plasticized for security. Grabbing sterilizing wipes compulsively tucked into her pockets, she whisks across the pretty, shiny bars. She can’t recall a single item from her list. She can’t even recall the last time she made a list since she hasn’t left her tiny bedroom in weeks.
Careening along now at a fairly stable pace, she prays now that no one from her former life as a English teacher is shopping SaveTmart at this hour. She’s reminded of an old carnival Tilt a Whirl ride as she tries to shop and evade at the same time. Her constantly panicked cortex snaps with premonitions; she has no luck, only kismet.
The first comes into to view: The Still-In-Braces-Barely-Blonde-Bimbo from the high school. Gladys ducks into the next aisle. There lurks the Cruel, Vindictive Boss, still sucking the same toothpick he pointed as he preached that her work was just not up to school district standards. “Gladys, so good to see you out and about again. How are you feeling, these days?” His simpering tone inflames her paranoia. She dare not speak for she could not control the rage that seethes inside the pockets of her soul. He intentionally uses her dreaded real name to antagonize her, knowing she prefers her less ridiculous nickname.
She’s not actually specifically selecting groceries now, just sliding trembling hands along the shelves and shoving products into her cart/walker. Later, at home, she will stare at the items, wondering why. The thought of returning the flotsam and jetsam has occurred to her in the past, but it will be months before she can gain the courage to enter this haunted establishment again.
The Stalker Duo skulks in Electronics as she weaves the weight of the half full bumper cart, dodging customer-like statues. She knows the Duo still drive by her house late in the afternoon and toss giant Slurpee cups onto her garden plots.
In the flower section, swimming among swirled glass vases, she brushes the velvet petals of a single Peace Rose along her reddened cheeks to find her way back to rationality. By mere reflex, she recalls the proper botanical name: Rosas, Madme. Meillandus.
“Oh, nice job.” she mutters to her muddy wits. “You can remember Latin but not a list for today?”
An odd mix of Tupperware, Purina Chow, and imitation Dior perfume coats her tongue, as she buckles at the visa queue, nearly unscathed. She swipes her card. The irony is not lost in her Poisoned Perfume brain. Swipe means steal. She is stealing from the earth’s precious oil resources, using plastic to buy more stuff in plastic. Gladys feels like a synthetic knock off of her own self.
She hears it. Her own voice nearing a shriek as she reminds the worn clerk, who cannot Associate with reality, to use the very present canvas totes, not the disposables offered. Quieter now, on her quickly available soapbox available in several convenient SaveTmart sizes, she informs the disassociated clerk that: Plastic is not disposable, never bio-degrades. It is death to the Oceans, to us.
That’s when Glad-less makes her first eye contact on this shopping trip, deeply into familiar piercing black irises narrowing to squints. She can’t pull any more names from her damaged synaptic core, but knows she’ll remember later who the clerk was. Someone she flunked, dismissed, deceived, evicted, testified against. All of the above.
Something resembling sun moves through the sky lights. She knows it is her anger that frightens her the most. She is afraid that she will loose and lose the filter captive in her throat. Decades have been devoted to the development, implementation, and nurturing of that filter. She wants to erupt onto the population as a whole. She dreams of eloquent revenges: The betrayers and the bullies stampeding like cattle in the ruins of a packed SaveTmart Coliseum. With all the scanners beeping as torture, she releases the beasts from lower dungeons.
She slinks to her old truck from the reeking, over-stocked SaveTmart yard, totes packed to overflowing.
Home again safely, hidden behind her solid, sterile brick walls and English Privet hedges, she breathes balmy scents of quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) and snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus). Some of her Gladness returns. She sips the resonant silence with acacia tea as she nibbles chocolate covered sunflower seeds and dried dates from her savory cache.

Shadows at the Edge of Light

15 years ago, I lay dying
Grasping at my family’s final farewells
drifting over my shrinking 80 pounds
odd nonsensical medical codes lingering in my last air:
bp 50 over diastolic, and falling,Doctor.
nurses whispering, “she won’t make it, not even through the hour.”

I rallied, though, from my brother’s insistent, distant directive,
“You have to fight against the night, you know. every hour. fight.”
I did

leaving the hospital, I heard more whispers
“she’ll not make it, not even through the week.”
I did.

10 years ago the doctor frowned
as I slipped shaky and fragile from his towering Denver office,
“it doesn’t look good, you may not make it through the year.”

8 years ago, my heart still aching, the cardiologist sighed,
“You’ll live, but you’ll never run again. You’ll never work again.
You may not see your 40th birthday.”

years ago, I skipped past his office with my Master’s Degree in hand
Just to prove him wrong.

the Miracle of me is that I wake each morning
stumbling to stretch a tiny hole in the iron bubble
that threatens to surround me
laughing at this
chubby body.
every hour within it, a luxury.

And I fight
I fight enriched by all those
who have told me what I could not survive
And I fight for all of these who have been told
that they would never succeed
that they could never make it
Not even through one more day.

Hazel Eyed

She wore it for the last time today
His frayed shirt
One he wore nearly every summer day
Until it shrank to her size
Touching its tatters
Nearly every day.
A dozen times or more
She pulled it from the trash
Salvaging it one last time
Searching for a hint of him

Lingering past its time.

Today She cut it slowly into rags
With the dullest scissors
Feeling it tear across her too
Finally done with one more memory

But she set the
sad hazel-eyed buttons
Aside for another time.