The Greatest Gift

There’s joy,
in the smiles of others,
in visions of those we love,
people we care about,
that is where truest,
most honest, happiness thrives.

To see such dancing zest is to feel
the same in my bones, heart, and mind;
while tears of delight run down
my cheeks. When babies laugh.
Hope laden felicity. Even
an old man simply must smile.

To sing and dance
with those we love most,
to see and hear them rise
in rebirth to life’s glorious days,
to overcome fears and sadness
that come with what we call
our human condition.

How strange, that we may
give or receive no greater gift,
no higher prize,
no nourishing of the spirit,
no deeper love than to allow
others to be and to see us
high on being alive.
Even more, to here and now
let love swirl among us all. Hallelujah!


Look both ways for the joy of love.
Mind the gaps, but live and let live.

Sammi’s Weekender (unknown)


Turning Into the Wind

Like Bob Seeger’s line,
“I wish
I didn’t know now
what I didn’t know then,”
back when my lost
happiness was
still unknown.

Before I won these emotional
and physical scars;
blissfully, foolishly ignorant;
lucky, privileged;
without foible; free to be me;
a self-centered fool
with a college degree.

Now a recovered lover
of painful truths I never sought.
But I’m proud of our past.


Look both ways,
to the earth and into the heavens,
into the night and through each day’s light.
Mind the gaps and face the facts. It was what it was, and so were we.

***

Note: Song lyrics are from “Against the Wind” by Bob Seeger & The Silver Bullet Band.

Poetry: Proudly Pissed


I wasn’t born in coal mines,
though I like to say I was—
I’ve never mined underground for coal,
yet it’s a deep soulful part of me.

It’s about heritage in my genes,
not just my father; grands as well,
going back hundreds of years,
to mines in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.

Spoiled me. Never as tough, rugged, or ruthless
as they. No. Not descended
from fucking royalty, no dukes or counts.
Dirty, stinking, poor souls; a legacy
facing daily underground misery.

Piss-poor. Hard core. The Molly Maguires,
maybe for sure, perhaps not. I confess.
I’m tribal. My people: a joyless pride.


Look both ways and wonder.
What were they like? Who will they be?
Mind the gaps.
Turn the page.

Sammi’s Weekender #211 (nomenclature)

Click to go to Sammi’s blog

Handle With Care

Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge,
in the 10th of Poemcrazy said,
“in practical shoes, holding forth
with firm opinions”
were too many Sues.

Birthed and baptized, lacking
middle saintly nomenclature,
seeking to assert rightful independence,
Confirmation granted my pick,
Saint Bartholomew, a sub
for unsainted Bartley.

Mom had a fit. We fought.
She wanted Richard. I did not.
Constant embarrassment,
my lifelong reminder,
my middle moniker: John.
I wish I agreed to Richard,
at least a better memory.


Look both ways for better self-names. How often would we change?
I’m Dad, Opa, Mister Bill to some, cantankerous (and other adjectives)
Bill or Billy to the few.
Mind the gaps where we may only name things, pets, and kids.

Parody Poetry: Older than before (NaPoWriMo day 26)

For NaPo day 26, I was to write a parody. I was to find a poem or song and write an altered version of it. A parody is also called a spoof, a send-up, a take-off, a lampoon, a play on something, or a caricature. It is a creative work designed to imitate, comment on, and/or make fun of its subject by means of satiric or ironic imitation.

I decided to work on the song(s) “Old Hippie” by the Bellamy Brothers, a classic paean to male boomers that many of us related to. David Bellamy wrote three of these: one at 35, one at 45, and one at 55. Mine goes to 75 (the age of the other brother) and is more about me.


He turns seventy-five on a Tuesday
sometime late this next July.
Can’t believe his friends’ all dead,
but down the same old road he’ll  still try
to understand and to keep his level head.
But now he craves those crazy days
with his shoulders back,
his chin held proud and high.
He still looks at life and wonders why.
He stopped with church and never prays
but he never wonders when he’ll die.

He still loves old soft county rock,
his poems come from just such songs.
His only friends are now computer faces,
and medicine pros working to help him get along,
with medical-grade stainless steel heart parts.
But he’ll run no more endurance races,
Just the tips and bits on legs that hate him.

He’s an old soldier who wants to be
a hippie getting older every day,
with hair and colors and closet disco music.
An old hippie who knows what life is for,
still wanting to be her man, before
she goes knocking on his door.

He’s an old man who always hated war,
but seemed to know what it was for.
He’s been confused by a government
he both supports and finds disgusting,
and people who tell him to forgive,
while he decides to let them live.

He likes people but not in crowds.
He craves his tribe, but they’ve all died.
Spending quiet time at home alone,
his kids are still his universe,
and Texas is still his home.

He’s a boomer till the day he dies,
he now fears life more than death,
he’s looked at evil in the eye
believes in love and wonders why,
then drums to ten below his breath.


Look both ways and avoid reading the obituaries.
Mind the gaps in everything but believe
you’re this damn old.

Poetry: Dewey Walk-talk (NaPoWriMo day 25)

With less than a week left, the Global NaPoWriMo, 25th-day prompt was to write a poem for a particular occasion: an occasional poem. Every active poet seems to write these. The latest well known were Amanda Gorman’s readings for Prez Biden’s inauguration, and the 2021, Super Bowl. Another was Elizabeth Alexander’s “Praise Song for the Day,” written for Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration.

Others include “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Tennyson, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” by Julia Ward Howe about the American Civil War; and “The Day Lady Died” by Frank O’Hara about the death of Billie Holiday.

Occasional poems (not a form or style, but a topic) are often lyrical due to their origin in performance and music accompaniment. Historically, they have appeared as wedding songs, dirges, elegies, hymns, and odes.

I decided on a happy personal occasion, walking with my daughter, Julie (who I call, Dewey).


A private occasion, at her location, we walked,
she on my right and me to her left, as
carefully we stepped around
ants, mud puddles; cow, and horse shit;
some plants better untouched, and more.

(She ran beside me years ago, on my right then too,
as I neared the end of the San Antonio Marathon
into the Alamo Dome, there for her Dad.)

We talked of important life things,
other people, how whatever-all
came up to be, stream-of-consciousness
chat, and we talked of what is.

We spoke of things we don’t discuss.
I mostly listened and watched for minor
dangers. I looked at her. She felt pain.
Could have been anything, but it was something.
I mixed roles: both father and friend,
old man down the road,
advocate and critic, partner and lawyer.
Life goes on, but not forever.

My own worry and pain of little consequence,
then—right there, right now; on this land, under that hot,
dry Texas sun. In the end, we were both having fun.

It was more than enjoyable, but not for fun;
it was exercise, but not for health; it was just
a father and daughter sharing some time and life,
one with the other. The little things, like
love and freedom, aches and pains. —— And family.


Look both ways when your baby makes you grand,
when you lean on each other,
when you surrender love for love.
Mind the gaps and watch your step.

Guam circa 1981

Poetry: Single Deed (NaPoWriMo day 21)

On the 21st day of April, Napo challenged me to create of poem like the “creepy” nursery rhyme, “There was a man of double deed.” While the prompt and example did not require rhyme, it felt better for me to pair them, as in the double deed piece. While this is one long poem of nine rhyming couplets, I broke the “how and when” sequence at line eight because the focus of the narrator changed. This dark poem is no nursery rhyme.


How old is old enough?
When did life become so tough?
How much time is yours or mine?
When will come our final chime?
How did life become this game?
When can we end all such pain?
How much loss can we endure?
When it’s over, will we be sure?
What we had for all those years,
How sad for us, all those tears.
What have we left of memories?
Let’s dance to end bad remedies.
What has life given us in the end?
How much love we failed to spend?
Here I am to make my plea.
I am here love, please set me free.
How long are lives strong enough?
Let us know when life gets rough.


Look both ways when the road is blocked.
Life has a beginning, middle, and an end,
but mind the gaps where the unbearable lingers
.

Poetry: Dad’s Ways (NaPoWriMo day 15)

For today’s NaPo prompt, I was supposed to think about (as in remember) a small habit I picked up from one of my parents. Then, I was to write, first about remembering my parent engaged in that behavior before writing about me doing the same thing.

I can do none of that. I recall no small habits of Mom or Dad, much less identify any I copied.

This prompt is one of several generative writing prompts created by Juan Martinez for his college-age creative writing students at Northwestern University. I’ve not been a college student for many years and probably completed my undergraduate degree before Professor Martinez was born.

But I wanted to write a poem from this prompt. Since Martinez used the term generative, I felt comfortable using his idea as the genesis for one applicable to my life by adjusting the parental habit concept to my father. Several of my father’s customs so irritated me that I intentionally do the opposite, do not do them, or if I ever did, I stopped copying them many years ago. This is not phyco-babble. I loved my Dad (sort of) but I despised much of what he did.

That way, I can remember and write about him while also writing about me not engaging in the same behavior, a bit of a reverse of the NaPo prompt. The original theme of a poem about my parent’s habits remains.


I loved him and I think
he loved me, but I can’t recall
him saying it. I’m freer with
I love you’s, hugs, and kisses. I don’t think
Mom considered him a good man.

He had only apple butter and cold
processed meat sandwiches as a kid.
I learned about apple butter at Jimmy’s house.
It was not allowed in ours.

Except for some dining-out places,
I hate for people to wait on or to serve me,
he seemed to expect it,
especially from my Mom.

His teeth spent nights in a glass with water,
I am meticulous about dental hygiene.

He smoked himself to death. I quit long ago.
He had religion. I gave that up too.
He often laid on the couch. I never do.

Our bathroom sink was always disgusting
because of his mess. I clean mine several times
each day and never leave it wet. I don’t think
I’m anal, but I pick up my shit and fix cockeyed things.

I learned how to do things and to have the right tools
before I start. He learned as he worked,
never with the right tool for the job.
I watched his frustration and learned
what not to do.

He didn’t drive. I have a motorcycle.
He smelled too much of cologne,
like a French whore house to me.
I never use scented products to smell attractive.

I believe exercise is good medicine,
he didn’t think so. I fight with my temper,
he often lost his without guilt. I tried to keep away
from him and that violent loss of control.

His ethnic epithets seemed normal Archie
Bunker stuff, I avoid them because of him,
not due to today’s PC environment. It was called
All In the Family, if you don’t know.

It seems to me that my Dad’s good influence
on me was letting me see, hear, and smell
that meat-and-potatoes Irishman who
I believe, did the best he could, and I knew
all along Mom wanted better.


Look both ways at their foibles and yours.
Nobody’s perfect, of course,
but mind the gaps to be the best you can.

 

Poetry: Mello Bill (NaPoWriMo day 14)

The NaPo prompt for today was to write a poem that “delves into the meaning” of my first or last name. For me, that’s about family history.


Mom couldn’t remember her mother,
but her father lived much longer. I,
while given his name, never met him
or any grandparent.

Mom’s family propensity
for female progeny meant that I
could have been baptized Wilhelmina.
But the presence of a penis undermined
her best planned pronouncements. I was William,
after my maternal grandfather, yet Mom and Sis
often teased by directing that female alias at me.

For my name, more meaning
requires German or Norman research,
the discovery of which
has nothing to do with me.

Neighbors often called me Danny
after my Dad or older half-brother, but
I told them, “I’m Billy.”
They often seemed confused.
Mom said I was demonstrative (whatever that meant).
Wilhelmina probably would have been histrionic.
Today it’s curmudgeonly snarkastic, but they love me.

I don’t know if so-called meanings of my name
have squat-all to do with who I am, or this William.
It’s Bill that I prefer to go by although our first born
is also named William and goes by Billy
(or Bill when I’m not around).

As for that “strong-willed warrior,
protector, or helmet” stuff from the dictionaries,
regarding the meanings of my first name,
none of it has anything to do with me,
or who I am.

Yet, some who know would call me stubborn.
And there were all those years in uniform
for which people insist on thanking me,
as if I’d been an underpaid volunteer.
Maybe so, maybe not. I guess we’ll never know.


Look both ways and inward.
Does your name define who you are, or is it the other way around?
Mind the gaps in family history, you might not be who you think you are.

Poetry: See No Evil (NaPoWriMo Day 1)

The day one prompt challenged me to write a poem inspired by watching “Seductive Fantasy” by Sun Ra and his Arkestra.

Click link to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bX_xh2do3eM


See No Evil

She asked permission to paint her room.
We agreed without knowing anything.
The nineties were pointless trips to nowhere
without boring rhythmic sounds of psychedelia,
like coos of Mexican doves
invading my ears, dulling my brain.

As with straight lines and square corners in nature,
nothing made sense without the age and drugs and booze
opening accepted altered states understood only
by artists who painted strange images upon
home wall canvases in rooms to sleep, to dream.
Unaware of, but fearing, impending nightmarish doom.

Why did monochrome pointlessness happen?
I want to cry. Sometimes die. Because life is a lie.
None of that is possible for the imprisoned people,
unable to see whatever reality there is or isn’t,
when certainty is a soundless death
after a meaningless life of pitiful existence.


Look both ways, but never look back.
Mind the gaps where the music stays.