Poetry: Back in the Day


House lights were off, back in the day.
A tinted eerie black and white glare,
as the boob-tube illuminated
white nicotine-laced clouds,
cigarette smoke from lit ends of
Camels or Pall Malls, unfiltered butts crowded
many ashtrays, back in the day.

Like ghosts sucked into dying lungs
of people I loved,
alive, back in the day.

The smelly, wispy, floating clouds
rolled and twisted or waved
as we passed through,
back in the day.

Forbidden addictions, I then, not yet
old enough to kill myself,
back in the day.

Second hand was for used,
not smoke.
Sickening smokers,
plus all who breathed in,
nicotine laced habits, back in the day.

Born into our rite of passage.
Now sick and dying, smoking goes on.

Never allow science to invade
personal stupidity.
We’ve always done it this way.
Back in the day.


Look both ways but stay away from back in the day.
Discover progress through science but mind the gaps to fill as we learn.

Sammie’s Weekender #148: Somnambulist


Acrostic Sleepwalker

Secrets we’ve never been told
Oceans nature never fully filled
Memories of loving happiness in eyes of laughter
Nights kissing when we’re young together
Amour aplenty to fill our hearts with passion.
Mysteries make us wonder why
Bodies, then so young and strong, a
Universe without chaos, and a cosmos within us
Lasting love that never leaves us
Innocent children who needlessly die, while
Some just pray and wonder why.
Time to take the dance into the street.


In the street, look both ways and be aware, or woke, as they say.
Mind the gaps as hidden happiness and sadness.

Essay: I Wear Lorry’s Ring

I think my aunt Lorry loved me a lot more than I realized. I remember how each week she’d cut the latest Dennis the Menace gag comic, single-panel cartoon from her newspaper along with a word of the day snippet, and she would mail them to me accompanied by a little note. My behavior reminded her of the cartoon protagonist, or vice versa. While I never saw the connection (the cartoon being more innocently contrived), it was the only mail I recall getting from anyone, particularly from an adult when it was not my birthday or Christmas. Lorry and what she did for me are among many things I failed to adequately appreciate in my childhood. But I do now.

When I graduated from Texas A&M, my mother’s older sister also paid for my class ring. Aggie class rings are a big deal to alumni (aka former students), as they are for grads of many other schools. I still wear the ring today, almost 50 years later.

Her real name was Dolores. My sister and I, along with our cousin, called her Lorry, but I never asked why. For most of my life, Lorry lived and worked in Washington, D.C., about a four-hour drive from Wilks-Barre today with light traffic, but almost twice that by bus in the 1950s. So, I didn’t see her often. She also never married and was considered old fashioned and a very traditional, staunch Catholic, even back in the day. She was not difficult, but would criticize wrongdoing when she saw it, explaining her labored relationship with my father.

I suspect Lorry was quite bright. Had it not been for the negative antifeminist influences of her early 20th Century culture and her family, she would have achieved more, not that she did poorly for one who entered the female workforce early in the Great Depression. But then, I’d not have a famous cartoon character as a childhood alter ego, my vocabulary might be less sufficient, and my word-love less geeky had she been different.

Unlike me and little Jackie Paper, Dennis (the menace) Mitchell is still five-and-a-half years old. The cartoon dates to 1951, and it is still in world-wide syndication. Can you imagine Dennis in his late 60s? (I smiled when I wrote that question.) I can. I imagine him in his early 70s, still with the persona of a five-year-old troublemaker.

For the record, Puff the Magic Dragon and Jackie Paper are in their late fifties. I try not to mentally associate them with AC-47 Spooky gunships through that song, but that’s part of me too. There is a certain sadness to all that 1960s and ‘70s stuff that my Irish nature seems to nostalgically understand, but few others get.

But I wonder. What would the Lorry I knew think of me today? As always, there are some aspects of me with which she would undoubtedly find fault. I’m sure she would explain where I could improve. Fair enough. But would she get my ironic sense of humor? What about my vocabulary? I’d probably get a dictionary or world atlas for my birthday (again). And what of her opinion of my writing? My poems (the clean ones)?

Do you have a troublesome young family member? Do you think he or she will remember you and write about you 40 years after you die? Lorry would not have thought so either. But she’d a been wrong. And she might have corrected my spelling and grammar. And I would change it – for her.

What we see as we look both ways changes with life and times,
but not really who we are.
Mind the gaps, but cherish the memories.

Poetry: Survival

What was the most tired you been?
Slept standing or fallen down tired?
Been so dizzy? I hallucinated.
At POW camp they
would not let us sleep.
Peed in a #10 coffee can,
locked in cell, both overflowed.

To learn how to survive capture,
being treated beyond awful, we endure
such misery; to live it, feel it, survive it.
I thought I would not. Might never try.
How did they survive not knowing;
forsaken and forgotten?
Many decided to die. Too awful
to live. Most decided otherwise.

Sometimes, dancing in the rain,
or walking through the fire
are both hard-learned lessons.

Look both ways for light at both ends of the tunnel.
Mind the gaps in the dark until you can see.
Find life. Love freedom.

Poetry: In the Stacks

Circa 1890

Some things I’ve always known,
like where the Library was,
especially the one with a funny name,
the Osterhout Free Library,
in my hometown, which to me
was and is The Library.

Looking like the Presbyterian church
it first was in 1849,
with (now gone) ivy covered walls,
hinting of mysteries, adventures,
and the wisdom within;
a mile to walk was nothing
for a keen young lad to go
for a book or two.

Through church doors that open
into the vast, once Calvinistic,
nave with colorless unstained leaded glass,
now with desks and shelves filled
with books and things,
one finds it all.
Hush! Whisper please.
People are reading.

Off to the left dim dark stacks
beckoned like a secret
church transept and silent choir loft.

The true spirits of the library’s haunted
dark and dingy, yet welcoming,
old book-scented stacks, silent
dust and maybe mischief,
with muffled giggles of children
or lovers, each playing with
resident hushing ghosts.

Long ago—a place of prayer,
now a sanctuary
of human wisdom and happiness.

***

Comb the dark stacks of old libraries looking both ways for dusty old history.
Mind the gaps and giggles of the ghosts.


Note: Because this was my first community library during my formative years, it was what I expected all others to look like. Not a bad standard.

Click the image to link to library information.

 

Poetry: Up Your Rolex

You know who you are,
driving fast and weaving past
in your European model automobile
costing four to ten times
the worth of my car. I am so
sorry to have used your
private interstate highway

And set my cruise control
a mere smidgen over
the legal speed limit of eighty
fucking statute miles an hour.

I was foolish indeed,
to humbly assume such speed
would suffice to get you
to your Sunday morning
emergency appointment.

Trucks once had their speed limits
for safety. But, no longer. Perhaps
you can have limits removed
for drivers of a Beamer, Audi,
Benz, or a Lex.

Maybe even
your own lane forbidden
to the minions who believe
their thirty-dollar Timex
is as good with time
as your uptown Rolex.

My foolish economy has jaded
my vision since I struggled
to see life your way.

And finally, begging your pardon
one last time.
Fuck you, asshole.

 

***

Look both ways, these wankers pass on both sides.
Mind the gaps, they’re filled by saps.

Poetry Report: November Poems + Ann’s

I’ve written that the best thing about August is September. Not this year. September brought several personally stressful events into my normally complacent private world. October was a month for healing and action. Gradually, recovery unfolded as those things apparently changed to my favor thanks to the efforts of a few loving people.

I did not win the lottery, but I began to relax. November was the best of the three months—not exactly perfect, but the worries from two months earlier seemed controlled. I’ll take it.

Thanksgiving Day is the traditional time our immediate family gathers. It is our time. Indeed, we had a house full, but I put in my notice for next year. We’re too old for that shit. It was fun and we are all grateful for how things have turned out so far. But there are people out there trying to make a living fixin’ turkey, giblet gravy, cranberry whatever, and all that stuff. I should help.

This poem was written about me writing a poem each day by a friend from my writers’ group. After Ann, who I like to call Barbara Ann (not her real name – long story: Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann and the Beach Boys), read it during one of our poetry sessions. I requested, and she gave me, permission to post it here.

One Poem A Day?
By Ann Bordelon

“A poem a day?” That’s quite a task!
I say that’s wa-a-a-a-ay too much to ask.
One a week might be realistic,
But one a day is too optimistic.
They don’t have to rhyme, you say,
But still, one every single day?
There aren’t that many words in my brain,
I’ll run out in a month, what a strain.
Please tell me that this is a sort of a joke
And the reality is that you misspoke.
Instead of “one poem a day” you meant,
“One poem a week is what we should invent.”

Thanks, Ann. Wonderful poem. I’m honored.

I don’t know if I could cut back to less than one poem a day, much less to one a week. On this coming New Year’s Eve, I will complete my mission of composing at least one poem each day during 2019. After that, who knows?

The titles/topics of the daily poems I wrote during November were:

  1. Dying Dignity
  2. Ineffable
  3. First Reading
  4. Finding Treasure
  5. Poets are Dying
  6. Editing
  7. Don’t Bite Me
  8. Natural Brutality
  9. Liminal
  10. Some Cussing Required
  11. Precious and Rare Days
  12. To PC or not to PC, a Question
  13. Thoughts
  14. Imagined Solutions
  15. Muse Berries
  16. Draconian
  17. Up Your Rolex
  18. My Colorado Morning
  19. Extraordinary Knowing
  20. Lie to Me
  21. Dear Deer
  22. The Gap is Gray
  23. I Hear You Died
  24. The Final Week
  25. My Twilight Swim
  26. Ignorance is not Bliss
  27. Expectations
  28. Cowboys 2.0
  29. Body Gremlins
  30. Morphology

As we enter the last month of the year, I look both ways—to future months
as I wonder what’s next with a curious fantasy about the advent
of a new time and age. I think about past months
with more satisfaction than I’m entitled.
I shall mind the gaps in my life, one day at a time.