Poetry: dVerse Poets Pub 8/4/2020 (window)

Today’s dVerse Poet’s Pub prompt for poetics is Looking out the window, provided by Peter Frankis. While the challenge was to take a picture, post it, and write about it. I adjusted time a bit. I used a picture I searched for and found that my wife took of me through a window, 48 years ago. This idea came to me quickly and I could not let it go.


Circa 1972, through front window of house I grew up in.

The Window Behind Me

A window from the parlor to the covered front porch
of my parents’ home, a memory of chewing paint off the sill,
of watching adults sit and talk and wave as neighbors walked by.
For eighteen years, my view of the world outside
where wind blew, rain fell, thunder clapped, people sang,
cars passed and honked. Life beckoned me to the stage,
through that window.

What was I thinking 48 years ago? My young wife and new son
in the window behind me. Our future? Was I talking or listening to
a passerby? Was I thinking of losing that hair as it turned gray?
Four-years military—done! College degree, done! Responsibility
branded me an armed man. Was I up to it? Did I have life,
or had it taken me?

Would the photographer still be my wife after 54 years? Would I have two
more children and would they be in their forties with more kids?
Would I build two careers and retire? Would I write poetry?
I had time. I knew I would live forever. I did not even know what I didn’t know.
Now, I know. Some I wish I didn’t discover. A window from the past
reflecting the future. The present me, right here, right now, today.
I want to say, relax, you’ll be fine.


Look both ways through every window.
Mind the gaps and cracks.

NaPoWriMo: 30 poems in 30 days (day 28)

Day 28 prompt: describe a bedroom from your past in a series of descriptive paragraphs or a poem.


Noreen got Married

Circa 1899, a row of ten two-story homes were built. On the second floor of the third house down from Madison Street, toward Washington, we had four bedrooms, and one bathroom like the other nine, faux-fronted; leaky, flat, black-tar roofed, wood construction row, or block homes, in local vernacular. Now townhomes go up for sale.

Mom & Dad had a front bedroom. Danny was ten and had the other. Down the hall Shirley, about 14, had a room to the right, next to the one small bathroom. The largest room was Noreen’s, who was twenty. I cribbed in my parent’s room.

The house to the left had 11 (9 kids, mostly girls). To the right, a multi-generational family group of about eight, depending on who died or committed suicide. We were a lucky few.

I got Danny’s room when Noreen married and moved three blocks away, and Danny moved to hers. I recall feeling special. My own room, one size up from the bathroom, but mine. And a bed. No crib.

My room had a window but no closet. A chest for things and a small brown metal cabinet. I recall the room larger than it is. I don’t recall the wallpaper. Dad used a steamer to remove it. He painted over bare plaster and lath walls with textured green or blue paint that scratched if you rubbed against it.

Each second-floor room had one lightbulb hanging down in the center with a pull-chain. The only wall switches were push-buttons in the hall stairway, dining room, and going down into the cold, wet, filthy cellar. Electricity was an afterthought.

Rooms had capped, stubbed, pipes sticking out of a wall from when gas was used for lighting. Stubs were convenient to hang things but were live gas lines.

Wood plank floors were covered with linoleum in designs and colors I forget, but all showed traces of wear and the plank flooring beneath. Each ended about a foot from walls.

My room was directly over our living room, or parlor as they liked to call it. It had a vent for heat from a nineteenth century, coal-fired furnace in the dirt-floored cellar.

An old, unused chimney stuck out from my west wall. That prevented my bed from being against the wall, thus leaving a gap on one side, a place to hide magazines and things I did not want Mom to see. They were not nudes or porn, but risqué enough for me as I recall. I never told the priest in confession about the hiding place or what I stashed there.

The street was close below my window and Packy’s saloon was only two houses up, making noise a constant when my window was open, only a bit less loud when not. After we got TV, I’d fall asleep listening to the music of Perry Mason or whatever they watched.

When Danny finally left for the Marines, I moved to the back bedroom – a rite of passage. It had a door to the outside used to sneak out at night until I got caught. But my first bedroom has many stories, some remembered, most forgotten, many denied. It was a big deal in my life, until it wasn’t.


Look both ways in houses with more past than future.
Mind the gaps for cold drafts and loose boards.

NaPoWriMo: 30 poems in 30 days (day 17)

Day 17 prompt: write a poem that features forgotten technology.


It’s For You

Privacy was not an issue, there simply was none.
I vaguely recall the telephone first being installed,
owned and operated by the telephone company (till the break up),
on a party line shared with neighbors about four houses over.

It sat on a round table in a short hallway near the unlocked front door,
next to our living room, from where all could listen to every word I said.
I could listen back. Wires were straight or twisted, and got in the way,
or we fumbled with them. You only had to spin-dial three or four numbers.

Learning how to dial was like tying your shoes or walking. You just learnt.
Our number was Valley – forty – eight-hundred, and I’ve known that
for as long as I could say my name, maybe longer, like our address.
The farthest room from the phone was my parent’s upstairs front bedroom.

First my friends would call, mostly Jimmy or Jack. Then later, my girlfriends.
Only one at a time so no one had to ask her who was calling. But they did.
We had to turn down the TV so Dad could hear, but that was because
he couldn’t hear. The sound was always too loud. Dad did not like phones.

As I recall, no one called Dad until my half-brother went into the Maine Corps.
Danny called Dad. And when Danny was in a car wreck, Dad was called.
Few call my smart phone. I, too, have trouble hearing. I’m like my Mom.
Socially, I am like Dad, too. When the phone rang, someone answered it.

I remember when the scams and telemarketing started. If you wanted to text,
you needed to put a stamp on it, but it was only a few pennies for a post card.
Mom called family on weekends, and when I moved out, so did I. Sundays.
Long distance cost extra and over three minutes even more. No more.


Look both ways for someone to answer the phone.
Mind the gaps on a party line.

NaPoWriMo: 30 poems in 30 days (day 14)


Day 14 prompt: write a poem that deals with the poems, poets, and other people who inspired me to write poems.


Dad never encouraged me to anything but obedience,
yet he knew funny limericks that made me blush
and he sang like George Burns, not quite as well.

O, the battles he lost.

Sister Mary Something Awful believed in god
and memorizing to exercise my brain like a muscle.
Walt Whitman’s O Captain! My Captain!

O, the battles she lost.

We committed it to memory, like a prayer,
in some later years of elementary school,
something I shall never forget.

O, the battles I lost.

Robin Williams’ emotionally charged role
in Dead Poets Society, the movie and final scene
woke sleeping poets buried deep inside me.

O, the battles we fought.

To my insistent denial, Sue said yes you can
while others saw poetics hidden within my prose,
as I read the confessions of closet poets.

O, the battles turned, still hidden.

When muse passed me a parachute, I jumped
and discovered endless fields of sounds,
words, and beats to claim as my own.

O, joy, the battle done,
when I stopped fighting,
the prize I sought was won.


To look both ways I must turn my head and see.
Mind the gaps for their good intentions.

NaPoWriMo: 30 poems in 30 days (day 13)

Day 13 prompt: write a poem of non-apology for the things you’ve stolen. (Lingo warning)


Ted P. stole your fucking car. Not me.
I didn’t steal it from you. I borrowed it from him.
Scout’s honor, it was just a lesson using locks and keys.

See, in my mind, it was no longer yours. It belonged to Teddy.
You left it unlocked—just gave it up. No key required back then.
Clearly, a case of baiting entrapment, don’t you see?

Use some logic here. Stolen property, like your car,
once taken is fair game. It’s still hot, just on loan. In a way,
it was still Ted’s, I stole nothing. He said it was okay.

From hood to hooligan, if you will. But he took it.
Then he called me. Wait’ll you see what I got, he said.
Holy shit, I said. Are you nuts? I don’t know why I asked.

Ted was a leader of loonies, among which I sometimes loomed.
Don’t ask me why. Doing dumb-ass shit is fun. You got it back.
Not trashed or nothing. It was a six, automatic. You fer real?

Yeh, I knew your black, with red leather bucket seats, Chevy
was cool and hot at the same time. I got blamed for re-stealing it.
If Ted could-a returned your car a little sooner, we’d all be good.


Look both ways with disambiguation.
Mind the mental gaps in the logic of youth,
but learn the lessons.

NaPoWriMo: 30 poems in 30 days (day 2)

Day 2 prompt: Write a poem about a place (i.e., a house, store, school, or office). How ‘bout a bar?


Packy’s

Sorry to say it’s gone now,
Packy Lenahan’s bar.
Packy too. Kids may age,
Patty and Maureen Keating,
lived in the same attached building.
I forget the people’s names
in the apartment above Packy’s.

It was on the corner of Madison street,
where friends Jimmy, June, and nine more lived,
and my grandpop had lived before I was born,
and Butler street where we lived.

Packy’s, some thirty yards west of
my bedroom window,
was where they drank and smoked,
and where they played games and ate food
until well past my bed time.

Inside to the right a huge mahogany bar
had big high mirrors, stacked whisky bottles, and beer taps.
I learned shuffleboard to the left,
and my first dart board was on the back wall,
left of some stairs up to the dining room
with tables and chairs, a kitchen and
toilets were to the right.

Few stools were at the bar, but it had real,
often used, brass spittoons on the dirty,
cigarette-burn stained, wood floor where beer
was often spilled and seldom mopped
under high ceilings with fans on long poles.

The back door was mostly for exiting,
or entering when closed (but not really),
on Sundays after church or after last call,
always unlocked after knocking.

There was a piano,
and a smell of stale beer
and staler smoke, and a juke box
back in the dining room
where I sometimes played,
but bar spittoons always intrigued me,
men spat, often missing, one of the things
they only did at Packy’s.

Many nights I laid in bed and listened to them
talking or singing and being loud, having fun
at Packy’s. Sometimes fighting
after Packy threw them out and I wanted
to go see who got clobbered
with a brass spittoon off the floor.


You can see Packy’s door and window over my Dad’s right shoulder (circa 1948)

Look both ways cuz it’s not always what you think.
Mind the gaps and don’t trip over spittoon.

Click for link to web page

 

 

 

Sammi’s Weekender – Flash Story: The Little White Lie


The young man stood straight as the teacher’s loud, angry voice bristled. She berated his atrocious spelling and wretched grammar. He held back tears of shame and anger as she publicly humiliated him. She declared his entire family abysmal failures as human beings destined for an eternity in hell.

He found abysmal in the dictionary. When his mother later asked how he had done on the school paper he worked on so diligently, he reported that the teacher said it was very deep and that the entire family was destined for infinite success.


Look both ways. They may forgive, but they’ll not forget.
Mind the gaps. No memory is flawless.

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: Boys Only

Jimmy and me, and his sister June,
all about the same age
of seven or eight were standing
in the alley behind my house.

On that day I did not know
that in seven or eight more years,
me and June would share the experience
of lost virginity, the one and only day
she did not spurn my teenage romantic advances.

We three friends were all shirtless and discussing
whatever pre-pubescent children talked about
in the 1950s, when the shrill voice of their aunt
Dorothy demanded June not remain shirtless.

June did not get a satisfactory answer to her ‘why?’
(did we ever?), only that girls don’t do topless.

I looked June over, brown hair to barefoot toes
and could see no reason but forced socialization
of such things was commonplace and
in some circles probably still is.

Jimmy and his aunt died years ago. June is
a great-grandmother and we don’t keep in touch.
That’s too bad. I wonder what June remembers.

Look both ways before removing your shirt in the alley behind my house.
Mind the gaps, not the nipples, and aunt Dorothy, too.

Be a Stranger to Death: Know his Work

A first funeral for me was in our church. I was too young and didn’t know him. But I cried—it was so sad. Others did too. My family all asked me why I cried. A man I didn’t know had died. They took me to his funeral, and I cried because I felt so sad. Why did they ask me why? It was a funeral. I saw others cry. But I felt sad for his friends and family, and for him. My family seemed to be telling me that I should not cry or feel sad. They were telling me how I should feel.

It was my first taste of ultimate reality and sadness at a level I had not yet known. Six decades later I still recall their questions and the implication that I should not be sad because some man had died. And since I did not know him, I should not care about his death.

They knew him. But none of my family cried. I was confused by their lack of sadness. How could they not feel it? I didn’t wonder then why we went to the funeral, but I do now.

I should not feel emotion or act out my feelings if I do. I did not understand why others didn’t feel as I did. Too young, but already being told not to feel too deeply—to not be a sensitive man boy (later a man). Stoicism was and is associated with strength and manliness. Strong silence.

Years later I attended an emotional funeral for two young children of a workmate (auto accident). Later, another workmate criticised the people who cried at that funeral. I wonder more about former than the latter. How could he not cry and why criticize those who did?

Now, I am sometimes spoken of as a sensitive man by some; as one who reflects sensitivity back upon people. They say so because they read my writings. Not because of how I behave.

But not always. I suffer fools poorly and bullies with quite limited tolerance. I am sensitive to violence toward others, but I can do what it takes to be just and fair.

I cannot ask why they tried to teach me not to cry, or not to feel, or to be not sensitive about those who died. And they cannot answer. I doubt any would understand why. I went to their funerals and I cried because they had died and I loved them.

I cried when each of them died. Nobody asked me why. But I still hid my tears. I cried when I was alone. They had taught me well, but they never changed me. Show them only the face they wish to see. Be the strong, stoic, liar.

I remain an emotional little boy society calls sensitive (or weak or worse). They, in their curiously socialized hearts and minds will never understand me—nor will I, them.

Why cry? Must you ask?

Look both ways and deeply into the abyss of human emotions.
Mind the gaps but be consistent. Be yourself.