Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Gift of Waiting

We are waiting for the end of advent,
but are we expecting the Christ child?
Or are our thoughts on ribbons and gifts
circling the tree like an electric train?
Christ is with us now, and yet we wait;
we hold our breath in anticipation.

Half the pleasure, you know, is anticipation.
The third candle, lit on the wreath of advent
burns joy—we are closer than half way—but wait!
Just wait a little longer. It is hard to be a child
waiting, not knowing, but the waiting trains
us to bide our time, hold still for the Gift.

We tell our children about the donkey carrying a gift,
wrapped in Mary’s womb. We smile at their anticipation,
watching them fidget, tiptoe, and whisper. Their train
of thought headed in one direction: the eve of Advent.
A ceramic nativity scene high on the mantle, a child
can only look, not touch. Like a spinster, we make them wait

for Christmas Eve, for the Bible lesson read aloud. Wait,
wait, wait. When all they want is to tear open the gifts
and shout, “Look what I got!” I was a once a child,
I remember. After the wrappings are undone, anticipation
fades. But here is another mystery, Advent
is not over. Epiphany comes like the twelve-fifteen train

down the tracks. We count down to twelve: the train
the days, the leaping lords. We watch and wait
for Epiphany, the bookend of a month-long advent.
Three Kings’ Day marks the twelfth night, marks with gifts,
the climax of Christmas. The waiting, the anticipation,
the longing are over. Now we celebrate the birth of our Christ-child

Somehow, compressed though it is, we watch this Jesus-child
grow up to be a miracle-man who calls his disciples and trains
them to wait. To wait and to watch with holy anticipation,
while he washes feet and feeds the hordes that also wait
for the time when the three wise men’s gifts
will be used to anoint and prepare the body of the King of Advent.

This anticipation we feel, like a child, eager and open,
leads us through the days of Advent and trains our hearts
to wait for the kismet of Jesus as he becomes our greatest gift.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Reluctant Villanellist

Form poetry, says Robert, is fun, but what does he know?
Has he ever tried writing a double-wrapped sestina?
I want to write poetry that’s lucrative, pulls in gobs of dough

So I’m telling you, in today’s column, punt and free throw
Just like that, he says, write like a poetic ballerina
Form poetry, says Robert, is fun, but what does he know?

I throw my hands in the air, too disgusted to just “let it go”
Heck, I’m the Mindful Poet™, covering the poetic arena
I want to write poetry that’s lucrative, pulls in gobs of dough

So I tell him, Mr. Robert, form poetry is a lot of show
But it has no depth, no imagery, no rhyme, and no patina
Form poetry, says Robert, is fun, but what does he know?

Form poetry is a waste of time, stupid, dumb rondeau
Those of us who are smart will write like Sappho or Athena
I want to write poetry that’s lucrative, pulls in gobs of dough

So take your forms and stuff it; I’ll write like Vince Van Gogh
And with my satchel bulging, jet off to Argentina
I want to write poetry that’s lucrative, pulls in gobs of dough
Form poetry, says Robert, is fun, but what does he know?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Not Counted

I am not on the list of names
Mournfully read each September eleventh
Won’t someone weep for me?

Hunched in the alley between two towers, that was me
Sleeping off the Smirnoff vodka, forgetting my name
One of many, one of eleven

Into the tower’s north face, came crashing flight eleven
The omnipotence of America fell on me
But no one remembers my name

Me and eleven other cardboard box bums, along with our names, died, too.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Buried on the Lone Prairie

Mrs. Cranberry dug a trench in the flower bed
just to the left of a row of tulip bulbs.
Her son Ensen knelt down in the upturned dirt,
his arms cradling a silent bundle.
Cotton-Candy's mews had long since died,
her body stiffened like an icicle.

"This past winter," he said, "an icicle
fell point down in this very spot, this snow bed
that'll now hold my Cotton-Candy. She's died
now, Ma, she's really gone?" Her little bulb
of life is passed, Ma agreed, as she bundled
her thoughts together. Earthen smell of dirt

rose to her nose, a test, she thought of the scented dirt
harrowed by Mr. Cranberry last spring, after all icicles
had melted and they'd laid their bonny lass, bundled
in a tattered quilt, pulled from her straw bed,
in the yellowed prairie land. No daffodill bulbs
had been planted then, but now, where she'd died,

they circled her grave, waving as if nothing could ever die
again. Why did she die? Ma's tears fell in the dirt
making splotches of mud, like minature dirt bulbs
into which Ensen laid Cotton-Candy, stiff and cold as an icicle
"Ma?" Mrs. Cranberry looked up, her heart a bed
of cut glass, "Yes, Ensen?" "Could I make a bundle

of money by going around and praying for the bundles
of children that died last winter? You know, died
from the fever?" His mother stepped back into the bed
of flowers, shocked. But his face showed no malevolent dirt
despite that he'd stabbed her through the heart with an icicle
of words. "No, child, prayers are free," she whispered, as if a bulb

of emotion were stuck in her throat. "Instead, take these bulbs,
dig them up, and sell them for a dime a bundle."
He saw the tears on her face, a pendent spear, an icicle
of sadness, sliced down her cheek. Thoughts of his cat died
as he jury-rigged a basket of bulbs to sell with still-clinging dirt
on their opaque skins. Ma laid Cotton-Candy in her last bed.

Sunshine on the bitter cold creates icicles that drip into bulbs
below where the bearded iris, in its bed, unbundles its arms,
casts off the dead leaves and emerges like a fluted horn from the dirt.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

To Venus, Rhea, Juno and the Rest

The moon hangs low, pregnant in the western sky
Cherokee roses that bloom by day, now stand with folded petal
You and I, who have said our prayers, wait for a reply

What gift can I offer to the gods that dwell in castles high?
Sheaves of barley, a clutch of pearls, plates of golden metal?
The moon hangs low, pregnant in the western sky

You, my darling, have given all, you’ve nothing left to deny;
you’ve nothing to withhold. For this, you’ve braced your mettle.
You and I, who have said our prayers, wait for a reply

I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine: he feeds among the rye.
I long for our bliss to bloom forth, roses amongst the nettle
The moon hangs low, pregnant in the western sky

Yet, what of this third blossom, at present, no more than a sigh
Are we to torture ourselves, think a twosome is less than--to settle?
You and I, who have said our prayers, wait for a reply

Our love withstands gale force winds, hands clasped, we say goodbye
Not wizard nor witch, with twisted hearts and a brewing kettle
The moon hangs low, pregnant in the western sky
You and I, who have said our prayers, wait for a reply

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Shelley's Last Word

Now smile said the cameraman as I puckered up my lips
I did my level best, but I'm telling you dear reader, hanging high over ground
With a shepherd's hook levitating me by my clothing
Did not afford much comfort. Hallelujah, baby!
The shot was snapped and I could drop down to stage
Except the pulleys were tangled and I was stuck

A dozen feet looks more like a hundred when stuck
in mid-air. My shirt hung askew, my lips
turned blue as the dutch boy paint that the stage
crew was using on the set. Green for ground
and blue for sky. Simple-pimple, baby!
I was ready to squeal like a stuck pig as my clothing

began to rip. That's one way to make a scene san clothing.
But not one that I wanted to make. "Hey, I'm stuck!"
I yelled. Then Arden Mulski howled, "I can see your baby
fat!" I leveled him a stare to grow hair above his lip
if he'd been man enough to do it. Little blob on the ground.
But he had one over me, he was standing on the stage

while I hung like a treed kite. A real stage-
hand saw my predicament, my rapidly ripping clothing,
and raced to the control pit underground.
"No worries," she hollered, "I'm flipping the switch--stuck!
I'll be jiggered, it's stuck!" I saw her lips
mouth words that even a baby

would blush to hear. The pulley shifted, O sweet baby,
and I tilted, head now aimed straight at the stage
and a cold breeze fanning cheeks not attached to my lips.
Into the theater walks a Romanesque Zeus, his clothing,
but a toga, a prop from another play. I am dumb, stuck
like a mute, wordless, beguilded. From the ground,

he looks up, chuckles and says, "Feet not touching the ground
when I walk by, huh? Happens all the time, babe."
His narcissistic words unpeeled my helpless, stuck
brain. I twisted and grabbed the rope, pulled the stage
crew's attention as they admired my amassed strength. Clothing
notwithstanding, I looked like a cougar with ruby lips.

A thick pad was produced and I stuck the landing as I grounded
myself center-stage. My lips curled upward. "Baby?"
I said to Mr. Aztec. Upstaging him and his clothes, I riposted, "Call me M'am."

Prompts for January 20, due January 26:

The story needs to take place somehow off the ground.
Include an Exposition in your story
Use the words: level, amass, dutch, and hallelujah
Someone needs to do something non-verbal with his or her mouth such as hiccup, cough, sneeze, your choice

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Thirteen Ways of Looking at God

Among multifarious gods,
The only one offering an invitation
Was the God of Grace.

I was of one mind,
split like a trident
Into past, present, and future.

The Savior story piggybacks and
Assimilates, eager to stand out.

A shaper and a specter
Are one.
A shaper and a specter and a Nazarene
Are one.

Test me not for I can not chose
To live in corporeal presence
Or to strive for the ether
To drink dandelion tea
Or imbibe celestial wine.


Rainbows, full circles, when
Viewed from the other side.
Promises given, but no more
No blood of the Lamb.
No unleaven bread.


Your opulence shields you
From the starving Calcutta waif.
Your nescience portends
A future spent in purgatory.


Brass coins, bells,
The slender neck of an oud
All sing in unison
But you are the
Ultimate rhythm.


When god remained entombed,
Even Peter fell silent.
Interspersed with his denials.


At the sight of god
Ascending on golden stairs
Even the double-tongued pharisee
Bent to prophetic omens.


His donkey stepped to Egypt,
Hiding even his scent from Herod.
Once, a leper touched him
Believing in miracles.
He received nothing less.


The throngs are praying.
God transcends.


It was twilight his entire life.
Dusk prevailed
And did not abate.
God lingered until dawn
When the sun rose.

Earthly Beliefs

There's a few things about me that are beautiful,
but you don't know them. First, I live on this Earth
as a human being, but before I lived here, my friends,
I was an angel. Maybe I ended up here because of lust.
Lusting to eat Braeburns or to hold small, furry animals.
I'm not sure, but lust is powerful. Look it up at the library.

The name of the street where I live is Library
Lane. Down the block, on mornings replete with beautiful
sunshine, I walk to that reverential place, spying animals
along the way. Believe me. Look it up on Google Earth
if you are too incredulous. Some people actually lust
after the name of my street, but not my friends.

Second, I find that I am lonely for friends.
Again, that might be hard to believe and no library
book will confirm it, but I am lonely. I lust
for deeper friendships with souls that are beautiful.
When looking for friends, this small world becomes a giant earth,
which no ship can traverse. And friendless, we act like animals.

The irony is, I am the cruelest of all animals.
So if you can, please send me a legion of friends.
Third, although I am a Christian, I love this Earth;
its splendid woven sky and manufactured libraries
and synogogues, all of it is exquisite. All is beautiful.
Yes, I know. Love not the world for the world is lust,

but if so, then I dive into the glories of earthen lust
as the pious dive into earthen vessels. God made animals
the same as me. Why spurn the handwork, the beauty
that is the Lord's? Instead we ought celebrate, friends,
how perfect Life is. Pour out of your churches, your libraries,
your Starbucks and sing praises of our planet Earth.

Fourth, I believe there is no other Earth
like this one, but that there is drudgery and lust
and salvation in abundant measure. In the Library
of the Universe, I believe we can verify even animals'
souls. Don't be fooled by others, not even your friends
who decry notions like mine. Know that you are beautiful.

It is written in God's library that this very Earth
contains redeemable life, both beautiful and lustful,
both animal and human. Read it in the Book, dear friends.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Crack Baby

Larry's lips form a circle as he blows
a smoke ring into Keleigh's pasty grey
face. Coughing, she opens the window a crack
to breath in the frosty air. It is winter
although no snow has yet fallen.
Larry's bright eyes dance with a song

playing on the radio. "What the name of that song?"
he says. Kel shrugs, "Give me a puff; quit blowing
dry air at me and give." Her resolve has fallen,
like her grades and her hopes, into a grey
pulp of ashes. She looks out the window into the wintry
sky. She feels as if her heart will crack

like a pumpkin after Halloween, crack
like her voice when she sings a song
that's too high, crack like the first ice in winter
when she steps gingerly on its glass. Blown,
Keleigh has blown her chances. When she's grey-
haired and wrinkled, she'll look back on this fallen

day and ache like a mother bird whose chick has fallen
out of the nest, too young to fly. The shell cracked
but the wings still folded. Its only hope is its grey
plumage to cammoflage it in the dirt. No song
sings from bird's beak or woman's heart. No blowing
winds of hope lift either spirit. It is winter.

Larry hands her the pipe, "Here's your woolie, you winter-
strawberry." Keleigh cradles the pipe, looks at her weightless, fallen
man. Abruptly she wants neither the screw nor the crack. "Blow
it yourself; I don't want your Love," she says with a voice that cracks.
"Bitch," he breathes and turns up the radio. Wainwright sings a song
while strumming his guitar, in his nasal twang, "When it's grey

in L.A., I sure like it that way..." "Effing country, all gloom and grey
music, that sh..." Larry starts, but looks at Kel glowing in winter
white shimmer, winter white glory. Humming a new song.
"What the hell...", but his voice whiskers away, falls
into silence, like snowflakes at night. He cracks
his pipe on the counter, sneers, then takes one more blow.

Each bird sings its own song, flies on its own grey wings.
Battered by the blows of wind and the bitter breath of winter,
the timid become lost. Fallen feathers sift between the cracks.