Poetry: Cowtown Sacramento

Checked in on a Saturday afternoon
to a cheap downtown Sacramento motel.
Got a room away from the others,
but the place was deserted at three.

Cowtown Marathon showtime
was at six in the morning. I had to be
up and dressed, ready to drive
with all my stuff to the meetup place
for coffee, food, and start line directions.

At two in the morning I learned why
the motel was empty and the desk clerk
was already apologizing when
the party moved in, filled every room,
with loud voices, the distinct click clack
of hard, high stiletto heels and reveling

drunks having a wild noisy time.
Up and out at four AM, everyone was
gone when I returned at noon. None too happy
with my neighbors of the night, another
greater challenge run finished alive,
but tired and sore with a medal in my hand.

Look both ways and remember the idiom
about sleeping with dogs in cheap downtown motels.
Mind the gaps and the ladies in stilettos, tap-tap-tap.

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 Report: December 2019

Happy New Year, y’all!

My Confession

It was not so many years ago that I wrote my first poem; an exercise in rhyming couplets about Abilene, Texas. I wrote and posted it for the first day of the A to Z blogging and the National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) online challenges, both of which started on April (first) Fools’ Day. Each poem worked dual duty for both challenges in alphabetical order, cuz that is what A to Z is about.

By the first of May of that year, I’d written twenty-nine more poems. I felt a certain amount of pride (yay, I did it) mixed with relief, and some embarrassment about my ignorance of poetry, poets, and verse in general. The next year I wrote separately for each challenge, using the NaPoWriMo prompts each day and I have done so since.

Almost immediately, I loved poetry and embarked on a self-directed program of adventure to learn all I could about the craft and art of poetry. What is it they say about when the pupil is ready?

Since that experience, with one surgical exception in 2018, every day I have thought about, read about, written, edited, and/or read some poetry. Although, I probably did think or talk about it on surgery day.

I’ve bought, read, and reread books about poetry by the likes of Packard, Oliver, Hoagland, and other masters. I have often devoted entire days to a somewhat tireless pursuit of forms and styles; to the art and craft of poetry writing. I learned about poets, which ones I liked and those I’m not yet ready for. I’ve read biographies of poets, and I know many histories and life experiences from the Bard (or Omar or more ancient versifiers) to contemporary characters and personal poet friends.

One day while discussing poetry with a friend we decided we could refer to ourselves as poets after we had written one hundred poems. I claim it now, however, it’s still a forced thing for me to say even after so many poems and, in her case, a published book of poetry. I’m working on a book, too. No promises. I still suffer from imposter syndrome sometimes.

How It Started

About this time last year, I committed to writing at least one poem each day. I call them daily poems (I’m so creative) to differentiate from others. They average slightly more than 100 words each, although some poems are much longer and a few are shorter, like those for Sammi’s weekender prompts which have specific word count requirements. Most are handwritten into one of three medium sized notebooks. Others live in my laptop.

I work on (edit, revise, correct, review) every poem I have written before I post it. Dailies are first drafts and nothing more until I go back and work them.

The experience of writing 365+ poems has taught me much more than I expected. Sometimes (rarely) the first draft is not so bad, but every poem needs work.

I like to think I am a better writer, and if I may claim it, an improved poet for it.

Finally (drum roll)

December’s poem titles were:

  1. Closer
  2. When You Go
  3. Making My Bed
  4. Trudy’s
  5. Happy Days
  6. The True Void
  7. Barricade
  8. Finding My Way
  9. What I Miss
  10. Poetry Comes
  11. My Library
  12. Dream Library
  13. Friday 13th Fears
  14. How I Want It
  15. Cleaning Crew
  16. Electric Romantic
  17. Taste of Love
  18. How Difficult the Challenge
  19. Erect Buck
  20. Twelve Ways to Twenty
  21. The Desert Call
  22. Hubris
  23. Average Joe
  24. Why Do They Die?
  25. The Gentleman I Wished to Be
  26. The Sled
  27. Matters Matter
  28. Old School Casual
  29. Complex
  30. What if it isn’t perfect?
  31. Clinical VA

So, this is it. A year of poetry and 11 other end of month reports like this one. It’s a new year, new decade, and new poems yet to write, but 2019 and my 365-poems project are fait accompli.

Always look all ways. Seek the gaps and mind them well,
wherever you find them time will tell.

Oh, go ahead and click it. It’s only 11 seconds…

Poetry: Risk & Danger = Life

The mature doctor who would begin residency
for Psychiatry in the morning
after 25 years as a surgeon,
a guy I liked but only saw
one time, turned to look at me
as he was walking out the door,
after I told him about me owning
a motorcycle and he said,
“Well, don’t ride it.”

Too dangerous? This,
after we had discussed
my heart disease with six stents,
and a severely wonky-donkey
heart valve, my high-grade,
lingering dangerous
sarcoma cancer, and my head
to toe clogged arteries holding
three more stents—strokesville?

oh,
and my good old age,
bad high blood pressure,
and the pending possibility of
dangerous surgery and
risky hospital stay.

Risk and danger have been
my companions
since childhood (we have
an understanding). A
motorcycle accident might kill me
faster than a mistake
by a doctor—a surgeon,
maybe.

He was giving up surgery
to be a shrink, so he “could
help people.”

Kind a makes ya wonder,
don’t it?

Look at risk and danger both ways,
but gamble not with the welfare of others.
How well we walk through the fire depends on the width of the gaps.


“Too often the people complain that they have done nothing with their lives and then they wait for somebody to tell them that this isn’t so.” ― Charles Bukowski, What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire

Poetry: Makin’ My Bed

Retired me. Who cares?
Nothing left to lose.
But I make my bed
almost every day, if I so choose.
That means something,
but I have no idea what or why.

On most days, that’s a lie cuz,
for five decades,
Yolonda did
but when she don’t,
I do
if I can get there
first and I wonder why.

I look at the sheets, covers, and depending
on the time of year, the top bed spread
searching for signs of how I slept that night.
I mean. Who cares? Right?

The pillow goes to the floor, I press a button
to flatten the mat before the sheet is pulled
to the tight top where
it is — only when made.
Like a surgeon
I begin the art
of vanishing lumps and wrinkles.

The Air Force gave me Army lessons
on how to make my bed,
more like a bunk or cot.

Rudely rousted at reveille with
bright lights and loud
everything to fall out into
the dark of early morning
in a few minutes for roll call.

At 18, mom’s boy had to be
all bright and spiffy,
a sharp troop at Dress right,
DRESS, attentive eyes FRONT.
A bed made so tight
two-bits bounced a foot
or gigged in for the weekend,
shining brogans, boots, buttons, and brass.
Our racks trashed.

Who cares? Right? I did then.
I look at my bed now,
no olive drab green wool blanket,
tightly tucked with
no fake pillow
too small for a human head,
no quarter to bounce.

Retired but bed made.
No gigs. Weekends free, still. A made
bed is work of art, a memory,
and if nothing else,
it’s ready for me at the end of this day.

Play Retreat first, then Taps, sleep well,
final Reveille sounds early.

***

Both ways begin with dreams at night,
in the morning it’s high and tight.
Look both ways.
Mind the gaps and the gigs. FALL OUT!


Gig is military slang for demerit. Gigged in means restricted to barracks due to excessive demerits. “Gig ‘em, Aggies!” is not the same gig.

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.

Poetry: Fortuna Redux (road trip home)

I woke about eight to hit the road early.
First morning routines of granola and coffee,
then chores of pack and load, load some more.
We drove to the gate, I opened and closed,
to keep the horses corralled inside fences.
Drove to the interstate, soon in traffic—
Sweetwater bound.

Missed the turn at Sweetwater, drove on to
Abilene for brunch and a pit stop, then headed for
secondary roads through towns with cool names
like Rising Star (3 miles north of Falling Star Ranch),
somebody loves irony as much as me,
there’s Cross Plains, a Nix, Comanche
(like the Indian tribe), Bangs, and Indian Creek,
many gaps; Buffalo Gap, Indian Gap, Salt Gap,
and Mercer’s Gap plus more; also a Cross Cut and
a town named Cut and Shoot is out there somewhere,
and a Burnet not like the Carol, but cuz it’s Texas
pronounced Burn-it, as they say ‘learn it, dern it’.

We drove through Zepher, a nice town name, too small for me,
and Lampasas; saw signs for Stink Creek and Noodle Mound Road.
I was headed for Round Rock, named for a round rock
in Bushy Creek, there’s a Woman Hollering
Creek somewhere near San Antonio.

We saw ranches and cows, pump jacks and
by the hundreds those big white wind generators
for electricity. We saw goats and their
donkey protectors. Why do small towns
or family-named cemeteries have directional
signs along the road? Don’t the people know
where to go? For genealogists I supposed.

The drive was uneventful except for the on and off,
never the same, gentle rain which kept me changing the
intermittent windshield wiper setting.

Yolonda was chief music DJ.
She did some gettin’ down with BTO,
and even played Abba a while. All in all,
it was a good trip.

It’s nice to be home.
Fortuna Redux one more time.

Look both ways, add front back and sideways while driving.
Enjoy the music with the beat of wipers, but mind the gaps,
Buffalo, Indian, or Salt.

**Other Texas towns with interesting names are Loco, Bug Tussle, Nimrod, Uncertain, North Zulch, Ding Dong, and Nameless. There are also an Old Dime Box and a New Dime Box, and while PA has Intercourse, Texas has a Climax. Click here for more Texasisms.