The streetlight was
outside my second-floor bedroom window,
about sixty feet away,
kiddy corner from me,
but right across from Packy’s Bar.
At night, it dimly lit my bedroom.
(I didn’t like the pull-chain single bulb
that hung from a chain in the middle of the room.)
There was another light
a block farther up on Main Street,
and another was down on Washington
where a traffic signal clicked
when it changed to another color (all night long).
It had to be late and quiet to hear.
I didn’t care.
When I pushed my bed next to the window,
I could feel and smell smoke-free night air.
I saw and heard street and sidewalk sounds,
I watched the glorious night rain,
and sometimes people who were quieter at night.
Summertime I could see bugs flying around the light
as I listened to the raucous people up at Packy’s.
The light was near enough
to work with my mind adding drama to boredom
as the nearby maple-tree limbs and leaves
silhouetted diabolical shapes and shadows.
That’s how I saw them.
Frightening then. Old friends now.
Along with rain, the streetlight showed me
falling snow or eerie fog on dark nights.
Streetlights comforted me.
Now, when I get up before sunrise, I look out
to see another lonely, bored streetlight father away
on a much quieter street with no bars (just houses with old people).
I recall the days when I looked out for the light to tell me things.
I still do.
Look both ways to see the light.
Mind the gaps, the bars, and the interesting shadows.
I admit it. Sometimes I joke about lesser folk,
about how I am grateful to them
for making me look better than I am.
We called them shit screens,
or wedges that raised everyone else up
the totem as they forced their way into
the bottom of the pile. Isn’t that awful?
I don’t know by what standard I should be judged,
nor how I should think about myself.
I just want hot coffee on cold mornings
and time to think about a full life,
or to worry about people I love,
for no specific reason except I care.
To all those whose tarnished image I have improved
when I wedged my own way down,
or screened out the shit storm on my own,
or played the bug on your windshield,
you’re most welcome,
from the bottom of my sniffy faults.
Look both ways and reflect on things like envy and greed.
Mind the gaps as dysfunction becomes the new normal.
From New York it winds
nine hundred mudlarkable shoreline miles
through the Chesapeake Bay to the Atlantic.
Unlike Billy Collins, I fished it,
caught carp, sucker, catfish, perch; swam
polluted waters; climbed and walked
bridges and trestles. I grubbed its mud.
Remember disasters. Before mountains rose.
The Susquehanna is in my blood.
Look both ways when the river flows.
Here it comes, there it goes.
Mind the gaps, the pits, the whirlpools, and vermin.
Poetic license: The Susquehanna River is 444 miles long from New York, flowing through the State of Pennsylvania (where I knew it) into the Chesapeake Bay. That’s 888 miles of shoreline. I rounded up. Disasters include the Knox Mine crime, Three Mile Island, pollution and environmental catastrophe on an epic scale, and many devastating floods.
An army of one
Proud Field Marshal for
Pearl of the Orient Seas
Baroque of dress
Greater than grace
In defeat or dismissal
Pride over human life, yet
Human to the core, to the corps
Look both ways. History is prophecy.
Mind the gaps and seek the truth that may never be told.
Only one American has held the title of “Field Marshal.” Douglas MacArthur was appointed Field Marshal of the Army of the Philippines in 1936 when the island nation achieved a semi-independent status. MacArthur was to create an army for the fledgling country. He wore a special uniform, complete with a Field Marshal’s baton.
Many beautiful lyrical poems pine after the Philippines. Here, “Pearl of the Orient Seas” alludes to the phrase coined by Juan J. Delgado, a Spanish Jesuit missionary, in 1751, and to a poem by Jose Rizal (Mi ultimo adios), wherein he refers to the Philippines with that name.
When Dad said, “secondhand store,” I looked at my hands. Wondered which was bought second. It’s a euphemism for used. Now it’s preloved. Just bought a preloved printer. Nobody loves evil printers. They’re used.
Daughter, Julie, likens me to George Carlin. Not as funny, but I’m snarkastic. We both rant about softening lingo with euphemistic bull shit excrement. It’s doublespeak. Even good bad words, a euphemism for euphemisms. What’s your favorite?
Look both ways: a euphemism for pay attention or consider all options. Mind both past and future.
So is mind the gaps. Maybe metaphor is mo’ betta’.