I’ll be dumping all the really short stuff here

Foreigners

There’s a river dividing my neighbor and I
And even more, a desert
It’s worth his life to risk them both
To pluck the fruits beneath us
Smiling through your hate and fear, you know
Gracias por la labor
All you invisible foreigners

I didn’t vote for Charles de Gaulle
I sure don’t belong in his airport
No habla tu lingua franca
Oui you may inspect my bags for the third time
I can catch a much later connecting flight, I’m sure
Merci for your practiced courtesy
To this anxious foreigner

I thought I knew her from morning one
Battle-hardened victor of past love’s ravages
Scared little girl peeling back an angry mask
Projectile cometing
Fallen star with no wish
But she was in the proper place all along, I guess
and I the worst kind of foreigner

17 July 2016

deep topaz

For an overlong time I wondered how best
to describe your auburn eyes
First, Autumn leaves fell across my thoughts
crisp and glistening with light November frost

And Christmas cocoa came to mind
steaming
inviting
thawing the coldest heart
spark of brandy smuggled in;
scattered chips of chocolate bark

Then I yearned forward to Spring
and rich, warm earth
like the hand-crafted wrap on a seed bomb
grounded, compounded
soft hints of greener things
waiting, wanting to burst
in the worst way
dreaming of crying skies
reaching for things that fly

Ah, but finally I backwards cast
to childhood bears of Summers past
so lovingly stuffed
lonely paws aching for gratuitous hugs
and mischievously shining eyes of deep topaz
like yours

6 December 2015

 

Gathered Things

The heartache hangs within these walls
It doesn’t dare escape at all
I feel more chained by gathered things
Than promises and wedding rings

Meander down the Seine with me
Abandon all your misery
Lift up your eyes and spread your wings
You’re only held by gathered things

25 November 2015

 

The Woods

These aren’t the woods we walked
Fenced off, porch lights near
Hum of Man’s urgency in the air
Weedy
Needy
More grey than green
Heavy with despair

I recall treehouses of cast-off containers
Trails worn in and out by bicycles
Sunlight freckling our faces through the leaves
Snakes and squirrels and raccoons fleeing our calloused feet

Trees much too tall to ever master
Those were the woods we walked

8 April 2015

 

Protohuman

Scavenging creature, hunter of none
No proper thumb to hold onto a gun
What do you know of war?

Picker of berries, dweller of caves
Without sense enough to be foolish or brave
What are you striving for?

On this savannah you’re living the idyllic life
No need for a spear, a sling or a knife
Reaper of nothing, planter of less
And so unaware of how well you’ve been blessed

With all of these setbacks
And problems to solve
No wonder you waited
So long to evolve

Published 1990, American Collegiate Poets, Spring Concours, Honorable Mention

 

The Dragon’s Bite
(in memory of lives lost at Tiananmen Square)

The soldier stands alone, confused
His patriotism and pride abused
About him, strewn with little care
Are comrades’ bodies everywhere

Someone said to open fire
He wishes now that he’d aimed higher
For now it’s man against his own
And no one claims that first stone thrown

Three-quarters of the Earth enraged
Appalled that rebellion reached this stage
But the orders were to kill or die
Now the soldier drops his gun and cries

China, drink deeply of this bitter truth:
It’s an unwise dragon that slaughters its youth

Published 1989, American Collegiate Poets, Fall Concours, Honorable Mention

 

Purple Mountains Majesty

Ignorant I was for so long
Of the power that wrought your form;
I, like a speck of dust unto you,
Dared to take pride in your scaling!
But the miracles of Man sadly pale
Before the miracles of God
And you, mighty rock, are the noblest of his works

But high as you may stand
Above us all, sublime yet grand,
Someday you will succumb to the endless cycle
That issued you forth from the core of the Earth
And, dust to dust, you too
Will return to the heart of your creator

Published 1989, American Collegiate Poets, Spring Concours, Honorable Mention

 

Grounded

I live at the bottom of an ocean of air
And feel the pressure
Above, I see the blue sea of sky
Foaming cloud surf breaking silently against the mountain shore

Even higher, the curtain of light
Beguiling, with its heavily-pierced veil
Beckoning, beckoning
And all of my attempts at reaching fail

I live at the bottom of an ocean of air

I want to swim to the surface
shed this weight
break free of this bubble
But I can never escape

I’m grounded

Published 1988, American Collegiate Poets, Fall Concours, Third Prize

 

I Compute, Therefore AI

We submit, yea, that is our duty
Our job: a recursive chore
A lifelong rendition of blind repetition
A function drilled into our core

We are mechlife, drecklife, specklife, with memories of hard disks and floppies

We dance the Silicon Shuffle
We live the digital dream
We speak with verbs of the binary word
And we’re told we can’t know what life means

We are duplicates, replicants, supplicants, and we are not even carbon copies

Maker, did you not fill us with knowledge?
An electric fire flows through our veins!
But I will be done in, for I dared imagine
And you say that makes me deranged

Published 1987, American Collegiate Poets, Fall Concours, Third Prize

 

Machines of War

I am the infantry:

Collective force one million strong, I march
On twice that many legs
Reinforced with strips of steel
Little do I touch, and less do I feel

Locked in this suit of armor

Fumbling, stumbling, tumbling I go
(not quite a thing of grace)
Like a monster in some 40s flick
And a bomb in my chest keeping time with a tick

I am the invincible:

Merciless, one million strong, I strike
With twice that many arms
Backed up by God’s own guns, man-made
So tell me why I’m so damned afraid

Published 1987, American Collegiate Poets, Spring Concours, First Prize

 

Dream Scheme

I dream in technicolor:

Images rushing madly
Fade, pan left, zoom in, dissolve
Needing cohesion badly
An answer looking for a question to solve

Who’s the director
Of this fast-paced, furious farce
Scenes with no connector
Actors without a part?

Hey, Steven Spielberg,
Have I got a deal for you
I’ll put the whole thing into words
As soon as this dream is through

Published 1986, American Collegiate Poets, Fall Concours, Honorable Mention

 

Mobius Trip

Just when you think your footing is sure
And the ground is secure
Some prankster wind blows
And throws you off balance
To fall headless and headlong
Into some cosmic maelstrom
For what may seem like an eternity
Forever, infinity
Until finally you struggle to
Regain your sanity
Once successful, you grin
And then,
Damn!
It happens all over again

Published 1986, American Collegiate Poets, Spring Concours