I REMEMBER HIM TELLING ME

I remember him telling me about a girl he was just introduced to

I was working a summer job as a construction laborer

We were in the parking lot at my jobsite

 

He was teaching at a ma and pop music store

I had ambitions and was enrolled in grad school

We gigged together

 

At his wedding, our Jewish sax player stood next to me

In a back pew of the church, leaned over with his huge smile

“Am I allowed?” he asked when the pastor invited us to pray

 

He stayed in town, raised a family, still teaching in music stores, gigging

I graduated, moved away, got a few adjunct teaching appointments

We stayed in touch

 

He’s still married, family grown and moved out

I got ordained and preach and found love

I visited him a few years ago

We stay in touch

 

I remember him telling me about a girl he was just introduced to

GENERATIONS

Well known that the elderly don’t

Connect well with the young

But what is new is that it is me

Intellectual trends pass relatively rapidly

I’m out of touch, and

I doubt that what is timeless

Is current

I can’t appreciate contemporary art

Poetry publishers eschew rhyme

Educators put lessons on students’ cell phones

I write poems with pen on paper

 

When we were young, we were hostile

To the older generation

Deliberately sought to overthrow

Society, social dropouts, protesters

We were, when we were

Young

 

Today’s young are indifferent to us

Neither in opposition, nor respect

To them, we are not

I am

Though I am displaced

Generation gap

Agism

But now it’s me

A MOTHER’S LIFE

My mother’s life is and was

All giving

My creator, an image of my Creator.

Her very blood infused into my veins

She has made a home and a life for me

In my weakness, she was strength

In my want, she was plenty

In my soul, my mind, my aspirations

My mother’s heart is poured into mine

In our differing visions, or visions shared

My mother was there

Supporting, condoling, celebrating

Much of me is not her

Much of me is her

It matters not

She gave, gives

A mother’s life is and was

All giving.

IN THE PEAK OF COVID-19

What was that I needed to get done today?

Well, nothing really—I can barely remember

When they shut us down, shut down my ambition

–“I have to what?!”—”Do what?!”–

That mandated sloth that tells me stall, stop

So I slouch upon my couch, and pass time

At times, I take the time to touch base

With a treasured book—which I never would have

Chasing time filled with needless activity

Chasing a job, a dollar, more money

No money and nothing to spend it on—

I would go to the mall, the bookstore, the casino

And with a home library filled with good books

I never did read, read now—sometimes

When I can find the incentive

And my poems that I organize to send out

Re-read, fix, edit,–search out publishers

When I can’t find the incentive

And just slouch upon the couch

And watch TV that I don’t like

Don’t like not doing what I want to get done

This mandated sloth, this slovenly lost ambition

Not even waiting for it all to be over

Just waiting on time, making time, taking time, time to get something done

Plenty to get done today, and nothing, really

MUSINGS ON MUSIC

Music isn’t just pretty sounds, a pulse

Rock isn’t just a distorted guitar

Blues isn’t just a 12-bar form

Music should strike fire from the heart, so said Beethoven,

Music is poetry of the soul, heart and soul

Soul music, the existence of the soul

Touched by fire, music is a living thing

Life-giving, live or recorded, alive through ages

Living with individuals through life, through aging,

In youth or age, youth and age

Peasant and king hear the same music, so say the Chinese

Pounding through the heart, hearing, heard with soul

Existence of the soul, sounds’ salve, alive

Conducted through electricity in the brain

Singing through synapses in the soul

Symphony of the senses sent from on high

Humans sang before they spoke,

The lilt of language’s inflections

Performances perfecting the human condition

Culture, cultivation, culmination of the muse’s calling

Meaning so much more than pretty sounds, a pulse

A LITANY

The Keepers of intellectual trends hold apparent power

And to make it, some are slaves to the Keepers’ fashion

I am a free man to my own muse

I am a priest who intones the litany:

 

Blake was a free genius, self-published,

And died in literary obscurity

Until T. S. Eliot gave him a name

Shelley knew, “Nor fame, nor power, nor love, nor leisure”

Whom all English students now study

Though F. Scott knew fame and wealth,

Gatsby didn’t even sell out its first printing

And F. Scott never knew the book as all high school students do

They suppressed Hemingway’s Pulitzer

They fiercely debated whether Frost were a poet, Wyeth a painter

The Impressionists showed in the Exhibition of Rejects

And Moreau, in the National Paris Salon

Pollock had his 10 years, before his suicide

Mozart died unknown, unsung

 

We can’t give our contentment to the Keepers

It rests in the beauty of our art manifesting,

In the pen of the writer alone with paper or laptop screen,

And a  happy finished project

In the living-room, study, or dorm room

With, or without, the blessing of the Keepers

GETTING TO ME

I’ve never been so mad and spiteful in all my life

I watch the death toll rise daily without abatement

At home alone, practicing shelter-in-place to help the initiative

I get mad easily these days

I choke in my rage at what looks like incompetence and self-serving

By the president, what seems cruel partisanship of Wisconsin’s legislature

Putting lives at risk by disallowing an election’s delay during the pandemic

I crave statesmanship

I’m ashamed at the ill-will I feel, what I wish would happen . . .

While safe at home, COVID-19 is still getting to me

IT NEVER USED TO BE

Mike noticed me shaking

Playing at an open stage

The way we had in clubs years ago

The legacy of my psychotic episode years ago,

The effects persisting in my involuntary shakes, fear, and incompetence

Brett noticed me shaking

Almost convulsing onstage at the keyboard

It never used to be like that

The ease, the drive I had to perform

Then the caving fear onstage

The lingering apathy that stole

My passion to play hour upon hour at home

Getting better hour upon hour enthralled

Or onstage before crowds

Eager, excited, up

Darryl tried to jam with me last spring

Remembering my former ability

Thinking me as capable as it used to be

It was sad, the attempt, his generosity

One player quenched by bipolar disorder

Likely doesn’t mean much

But it does to me

GLAMOR AND BEAUTY

Skin and hair and fingernails and toenails

And eyebrows and eyelashes and eyeshadow

And lips and lipstick and Botox

Lashes and polish and foundation

Makeup and moisturizer and exfoliator

Glamor and allure and sophistication

 

Good nature and simplicity, even innocence

And sincerity and faithfulness and trust

And honesty and emotional honesty and spontaneity

And genuine and caring and kind

And real and unaffected and straightforward

And loving and spiritual and beautiful

SITUATIONAL ETHOS: SCRIPT AND CAST

Self is poured into the social structure

In which one is situated

Options of connection are dependent

On the system in which one is

One is as an actor pouring self into a role

But self is not a role, though he or she act

One is situated

 

Friends are determined

Whom one receives into one’s life

Casting from the script written by the social structure

In which one is situated

Much as my television dictates

The terms of my engagement

(So, tonight I resigned myself to Karate-Kid II)

But I did not choose it

 

Personality improvises

Within the plot structure scripted

By social structures in which

One is situated

Self persists, improvising, developing, and accumulating

Experiences, motivations that persist

As the moon under undulating waves

In the play in which

One is situated

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