Poetry: A Good Pain (NaPoWriMo) Day Twelve

My poetry challenge on this Friday is to write a poem about two things of mine. One was to be a dull thing that I own, why and how I love it. The other was a significant thing I own and what it would mean for me to give away, or to destroy the object?

 

 

*** A Prose Poem

Technology is significant. Toenails are dull. We upgrade computers, cell phones, and tablets. We cut toenails and toss them. Sometimes we wonder why we have nails (sometimes I wonder about computers too). Computers get viruses, toenails get fungi. One seems to make my life easier, the other we may paint and glitz up for fashion. One costs hard-earned cash, while the other may be pedi-’d when we mani-, but they were originally free. Toenails are expendable. They can turn black, fall off, and then grow back – sometimes.

While tech stuff may be frustrating, annoying, and expensive, we keep it close. Attached nails I never forget. But I would not go back home to retrieve a nail. Computers never caused me physical pain. I caused my feet anguish which they returned in misery.

Drop my phone in a toilet – get a new one. Drop this toenail in a toilet, I’d get it out, rinse and dry it off and I’d keep it. People joke about me and my toenail in a bottle. But while a painful memory, it’s a life treasure.

No longer a runner, my marathon streak ended at number 15, the Steamtown Marathon. This one was in the New Mexico portion of the Chihuahuan Desert for nine painful, grueling hours. Blisters as big as my feet, pain from self-abuse, all my toenails turned black. Some fell off.

I made stops at medical tents for foot care and to dump all that sand and desert scree from inside my shoes. During the short refreshing rests and pee breaks, I observed more serious casualties. Some turned back and limped or rode a golf cart home, others took the more serious ambulance rides. It was freezing at the start of the race one mile up and a hot high-desert afternoon when I finished. The blessed mountain top view from another thousand feet up brought a slight smile that said now we’re going down there.

I did the same event over the next three years as a wiser, more experienced participant. Finished all four New Mexico marathons (and the other 11) walking catawampus supported by ego and a feeling of achievement that defies words. It was more than a high. It hurt so good! That toenail is my reminder. I’m keeping it. You can have this other stuff.

© Bill Reynolds, 4/12/2019

Look both ways. Our greatest achievements will always be
the most difficult and painful.
Mind the gaps, wear good shoes, and take care of your feet.
Your nails look great!

All turned black, three fell off.

Poetry: Why am I Me? (NaPoWriMo) Day Eleven

My poetry challenge today is to write a poem of origin. Where am I from geographically, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And having come from there, where am I now?

It’s not really a home, but it’s where I am from,
a place and a people from whom I’ve come,
other places they called home were not theirs.
Were they as proud as I, of who they were?

My look, perhaps a taste or a talent; a religion
or a language, this tribe of people like me.
Am I good enough? Were they? My foibles,
both pride and shame cloud my reality,
I don’t know what to feel about who or what I am,
or that I am at all, or who or what they were.
Why does it matter now? Is it because
knowing you is knowing me?

Why should I care? Am I a conduit of genes, maybe
I pass on life, survival, perhaps some weakness?
Who am I? Why am I? Why now? What do I want?
Taste, beauty, mindful intelligence, with durability
all passed from them to me, then to continuous family.

Why am I and what did you want? Life until death?
What is it that I don’t know? Not just life, but
thoughts. What did you think? What did you cling to?
Did your strength or weakness pass to me?
We’re from there, and there, and other places.

The you I’ve never met, secrets you’ve never told,
burdens never experienced, fears not shared,
friends, enemies, jealousies, hatreds that
may have traveled, but then died with you.
So much of what I am flowed from you to me.
Maybe I simply pass on, or maybe I just do.

©Bill Reynolds, 4/11/2019

Careful as you peer into the gaps of history but look both ways.

 

Poetry: Blue on Blue (NaPoWriMo) Day Eight

Today, I’m challenged to think about an argot of a profession and to incorporate it into a metaphor that governs or drives my poem.

Blue on Blue is an example of a euphemism for a euphemism. It is a way of saying friendly fire – shooting at your own side.

The real-world situation I used was the death of Patrick (Pat) Daniel Tillman on April 22, 2004, from friendly fire by his own men in Afghanistan. I also read Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade before penning this, consequently quoting or adapting phrase from that classic war blunder poem.

Blue-on-Blue

Down Range into the mouth of the canyon
they rode
into the Valley of Death.

Forward, charge for the guns.

Into harm’s way each soldier will
do as they are told.

Theirs not to make reply,
theirs not to reason why,
theirs but to do and die.

They were unaware
that all would not go well
for a hum of the defender’s dude.
As all the world just wondered why,
they drove on,
into the mouth of hell.

Into moon dust places others cared
not to be,
this the second bat, 75th R&R,
Serials One and Two,
and a broken Humvee.

As the shadows of dusk and death
brushed and touched their fear and fight,
a flash burst out and turned onto the path
brave men would here now die,
before that night arrived.

Confusion stormed with shot and shell,
yet into a fire and fight from hell,
they blundered.
A wave and a nod as more shots flashed—
Then,
from a barrel
the missile was launched,
fired into the skull of our hero.

Now our boy, a man lies dead
upon the sad dusty ground,
killed by his own,
in a wild dismay with
that bullet into his head,
A price too high to pay,
and a loss too much to bear.

When we set out to stay alive,
and for others to die,
do we ever ask
or even stop,
and try to reason why?

We kill and we maim,
both friends and the foe,
for some god,
or maybe our country.
Yet somehow,
when it’s like this
it’s nowhere close to the same.
Charlie Foxtrot! Blue on blue.

©Bill Reynolds, 4/8/2019

Look and listen for the voices of the innocent dead.
Mind the gaps and beware of the dark canyons.

Poetry: Too Much (NaPoWriMo) Day 4

Today, the challenge was to write my own sad poem. The sonnet form was to help me – its very compactness might compel me to be straightforward, using plain, small words.

My brother had retired from his job in the WTC North Tower, prior to 911. This reflects his return visit story as he told it to me.

Too Much

His world was changed. A forever new game.
A self that was gone, down with the rubble,
Friends dead, enemies too. Some with no name.
Few bodies found. Just tributes to trouble
Stacked like coffins, empty boxes at best.
One year sooner, this burden he’d have born.
Proud monoliths now dust, ashes and death,
Tombs now shrines to hate, religion, and war.

He stopped and looked up at an empty sky,
His identity lived in rejection.
Innocent of deed, so many had died.
He walked in the familiar direction,
Emotions unknown squeezed him to the bone.
His mind now gone. He turned – could not go on.

©Bill Reynolds 4/4/2019

Look both ways, but sometimes, you just cannot. Gaps can be huge.

 

Poetry: Someday (NaPoWriMo) Day Three

Today’s challenge is to write something (a poem) that involves a story or action that unfolds over an appreciable length of time. Furthermore, the poem might focus on imagery, sound, emotional content, or all three!

Someday

Single, more than a little confused,
too young to drink legally,
yet old enough to wear a uniform
and to carry a loaded gun and
to kill the right people.

Black and white memories flash
with Kodachrome images of the
the dismal rolling landscape of west Texas,
under cloudless skies loved
by jack rabbits, rattlesnakes, and other natives.

We stood side-by-side watching big silver
eight-engine birds pushing black smoke,
shaking concrete runways and buildings,
and digging into a young man’s bones and his soul,
calling me. “Come son. The sky will be ours.”

Dreamily I said, “I will fly those birds someday.”
His white teeth showed through a friendly grin
of disbelief. I didn’t know how or when,
or maybe I doubted it too. A dream too big?
Marriage and then college, and real life happened.

I let that dream die. My family was my life.
Mom was proud. My aunt bought me my ring.
Then waiting, sitting alone. Again, the sound.
“Come back to us. The skies are ours.”
My call to go where men find glory.

Again, wearing a uniform. Soon, months pass.
Then an officer and a gentleman.
My ups and downs, but then silver wings adorn.
My choices, Phantoms of glory, movers and shakers,
spinners and winners, or an old memory

of my friend’s doubtful smile. My dream.
The twenty-year-old lumbering big jet
called me “son” years back when I stood there
in younger man’s clothes. The sights and the smells,
sounds not so sweet as the memory of that day,

When I told the world and I saw the black smoke,
“Someday I’ll come back and together we’ll fly.”
One day we landed on that west Texas base,
I stood on the same spot as he and I had.
I smiled and said, “Today is my someday.”

©Bill Reynolds, 4/03/2019

‘Check six’ is flyboy for look both ways. The discipline is minding the gaps.

Essay: Rocks Can Speak

When I was a very young lad, one day as I was walking along a well-worn path, I noticed a stone of interesting size and shape. The stone briefly entered my short span of attention, as did many things lying about my undiscovered world at that age. I don’t recall many other details about my surroundings that day, but they no longer matter.

That was the first time a stone was not just another rock lying among other random bits of littered scree. Certainly, similar discoveries have occurred thousands of times throughout my life while walking, running, hiking, exploring, or just hanging out (thinking or not). This was a simple event that works as my metaphor for many other life events involving discovery, reason, and doing.

The rock was just lying there among others, perhaps for a thousand years or more. I wasn’t yet thinking in geological or historical terms. Stones have served many purposes after they were formed millions, perhaps billions, of years ago. There it was on the ground with others just where my eye located it. It had probably been moved around in one fashion or another over the centuries. I had no way of knowing, nor did I care. Even before approaching it, I was mentally making my I saw it first claim.

Living organic things come and go. Almost all life forms have appeared for a time and then were gone. Over 99 percent of life is extinct. Some rocks may contain fossilized records of past lives, but most are just inorganic minerals. I was not the only child who saw rocks, sticks, or other items as things naturally intended to be thrown about. Getting the right rock and throwing it brings a feeling of success. Skipping rocks on water is a universal rite of passage.

Looking around at the organic things today, I realize that most are less than 100 years old, and less than 50 in current forms. The complexities of the laws of thermodynamics (physics) change things, but we only see the now.

Neither I nor the stone said anything, Rocks don’t talk or hear in the animal sense. But nature can speak to us through both organic living things and through inanimate objects, such as rocks and fossils.

As I moved, the rock played its role as a lifeless stone like billions of similar objects covering the surface of the Earth. Rocks are infinitely expert at going with the flow. River rocks spend so much time tumbling in the roll of water they lose their edge and become rounded. The rock I saw did not sparkle, twinkle, or do anything spectacular. But I saw it. I squatted and half bent over so I could pick it up with my hand. That was many years ago.

More recently, I picked up another rock – my first in years. I carefully examined it, top, bottom, and all sides. One learns that by picking things up, especially rocks, one must carefully examine the item to ensure it is a lone stone, and not one littered with objectionable attachments. It must be just the boy, or now the man, an old man, and the rock with no another surprises.

While I didn’t bother to analyze it, the rock was local Austin limestone, or chalk rock, which is said to have formed in the window of 100 to 200-million years ago. It didn’t matter, and at the time, what I was looking at was just an old rock. Or was it?

Ideas are like stones. Once you pick one up, you must examine it, and only then decide what to do with it. As with stones, I have dropped ideas, put them in my pocket for later pondering, or threw them. When throwing ideas or stones, one must distinguish between discarding, sharing, or targeting. The first is simply throwing it away or back to where it came from. The second is communing by tossing it to someone else. But the third is capturing the idea or stone for our own creative purposes. Like rocks, ideas can speak to us. We just need to listen.

Look both ways for material and ideas. That’s what creativity is all about.
Toss some back to the gods, share some with others, or use them within your own art.
Mind the gaps. Look there for those hidden gems.

Like rocks, ideas may be too big.

Poetry: The Tractor

The tractor rests, over near the barn
she’s not minding the cold, snow, and ice of winters
nor the dry pounding heat of summers,
a little rust, peeling paint, heavy worn tires,
little more than time causes the hulk any harm.

Made to plough and cumber a heavy beam, this ox
of steel and rubber carried men to the work
of sowing seeds with a seeder and a drill,
for tilling of soil with tiller and rotary box.

This mammoth hand of farm and ranch alike
pushes and pulls all kind of cultivator and harrow,
she drags wagons full of fertilizer to make
bull and cow shit fly over ditch and burrow.

Pulling mowers and rakes for the gathering of hay,
with bailers in tow bringing seed in to feed,
with tires made heavy with water in and mud out,
that tough old tractor stands ready for more work.

The Case International, the Massy Ferg’ and the old Ford;
the John Deere and the New Holland or Caterpillar rig.
Germany’s Fendt and Japan’s Kubota.
Canada has a claim with Cockshutt tractors.

Maker of the world’s finest cars will not be omitted,
As Italians lay claim to the craft for the harvest
with a Lamborghini (seriously) trattori pulling that shit.

This old boy was just a wee lad
when he grabbed hold of the wheel
for learning to drive in the only front seat
of a farmer named Dixon and his old Massy Ferguson
we all had great fun in the summer’s hot sun
as the day’s work of the land got done,
for the wheat and the hay (and a little play).

©Bill Reynolds 3/11/2019