K-Town


Kenosha, K-Town,

maker of mattresses, automobiles, and underwear.

Forty years ago I fell in love

with a Kenosha girl, and we’ve lived the last 38

just beyond your city limits.                                                                                    

You are tough, a survivor.

Thirty odd years ago, after the cars were gone,

everyone said you were done for, you were finished;

a company town without a company, a one trick pony,

your downtown dead,

the old lakefront factory torn down and its land condemned for toxicity.

But you persevered, you prospered.

You were the perfect reflection of your country’s pure and still skies

Now those skies have grown troubled and cloudy

with pandemic and violence

and the threatening hurricane of chaos and confusion already

churning their mirrored stillness into choppy and muddled waves.

If you want to understand America in 2020,

Kenosha would be the perfect place to start,

because it’s turned out that 2020 is the year we are supposed to lift every rock

and see what’s to be found in the damp brown dirt in the pocket of their\

carved out indentations.

As difficult and heavy as the rocks might be to lift

it’s surprisingly easy to see what’s been going on just beneath their surface

Now, Kenosha,

There’s a gaping fault line running down the middle of 52nd street,

separating the right from the left,

dividing you in half

Yes,

you rebuilt your downtown,

and it didn’t just survive, it thrived,

with a beautiful Marina replacing the formerly toxic lakefront

factory location,

a farmer’s market with fresh produce and crafts from surrounding

farms and local artisans. 

empty store fronts replaced with small shops, restaurants,

gathering places for mostly upscale white people to frequent,

and a new neighborhood of upscale condominiums for them to live in.

Kenosha was and is

 a reflection of its country, with epic cavernous divisions

along the fault lines of economic class and racist segregation.

I’ve gone downtown and drank micro-brewed beers all night,

feeling safe in the absence of people of color.

It’s easy to be a progressive liberal, to support Black Lives Matter,

from the distance of suburbia,

as long as they stay in their red lined neighborhoods,

even when grocery stores and healthcare clinics abandon them

to chase the gold dust

lining the gutters of streets in the affluent suburbs  .

Systemic racism.  The poor get poorer, and more isolated.

Then pandemic hits, and we all experience, even if only fractionally,

some degree of the same isolation and uncertainty,

and finally open up our eyes

to see things that cannot be ignored.

The brutal murder of George Floyd is captured in a YouTube video,

and the outrage crosses racial lines, and even as Minneapolis became

engulfed in flames,

there was the sense that this time was different,

that real change might occur.

But soon even this promise turned to ennui

and faded from the collective consciousness

as the opportunity for real change seemed headed for the same destiny

as the Parkland mass shootings.

You remember Parkland, right?  You don’t?

The one that was supposed to be so different than all of the

other mass shootings, those student activists that we admired so much that

were finally going to bring meaningful reform to our gun laws?

Well, it’s been two and a half years (feels longer, doesn’t it?),

and no laws have changed,

and those courageous young voices have gone silent.

Although protests continued, George Floyd began to sink into

the same depths of cultural oblivion.

Then, Kenosha, you happened, it was your turn.

In one of your “bad “ neighborhoods,

a 29 year old Black man named Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the

back from inches away by white policeman. It was captured on an

unambiguous YouTube video,

It was your moment, your chance to show the world what you’re made of,

and it wasn’t pretty.

Your streets were set on fire,

buildings that had over generations become institutions reduced over night to war zone rubble.

Self-armed militia groups combined with National Guard troops and

Policemen to combat the “violent”

protestors supposedly aligned with Black Lives Matter,

although the only meaningful violence came from the AR-15 of a malleable

17 year old militia member

named Kyle Rittenhouse who shot and killed two protesters and blew an

arm off of a third.

We know these things because they, too, were captured on YouTube video.

So what happened to Rittenhouse?

That night, nothing.

He walked the streets brandishing his AR-15, unmolested by police,

even though he’d shot three people, killing two,

even though it’s illegal for a minor to open carry,

even though it’s illegal to cross state lines with a semi-automatic rifle.

Then he went home and slept in his own bed.

He slept in his own bed, while about 40 miles away,

In Milwaukee, Jacob Blake was in a hospital bed,

seven holes in his back,

fighting for his life.

The President of the United States,

the white supremacist in chief, saw what was going on,

saw an opportunity to stir up the rubble into his reliable stew

of chaos and division, and decided to drop in for a visit.

In all of his remarks that day,

not even once did he mention Jacob Blake

or even acknowledge the shooting.

Instead, he focused on the handful of violent protestors,

ignoring the 95 percent that were peaceful

just like he ignored the systemic racism he’s campaigned to strengthen. 

He did manage to insert some sympathetic remarks about Kyle Rittenhouse,

making clear what was already obvious:  who’s side he is on.

You’ve taken some real strong punches, Kenosha,

and you were shaken and bruised,

rocked back against the ropes, your knees bent, but you never fell.

Instead, at the same time the president was spewing his hatred and vitriol,

you began to rally,

defiantly holding a block party and community building event

on the very street where Jacob Blake was shot,

countering the president’s inflammatory  words of divisiveness with acts of love and kindness.

The media presence and national attention waned and left,

leaving you with the daunting task of rebuilding

not just the piles of brick and concrete,

but more importantly, the frayed connections between your people.

Today, driving by the wreckage and ruin,

you’ll find messages of love and hope spray painted across the boarded up

windows and doors.

These simple but profound sentiments won’t by themselves be enough to

close the gaps that divide us,

but they’re a start.

Love requires more strength and resolve than hate. We all knew that. 

Let’s hope that all this sound and fury was enough to make us learn

that love is always worth the extra effort.

K-Town.  Tough and enduring.

My town.

My country.

One Giant Leap


The other night I was in the kitchen when my wife entered.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Making a root beer float,” I replied, gesturing to the plastic two liter bottle of A & W and the carton of vanilla ice cream sitting on the counter in front of me.

“I wonder who invented the root beer float” she pondered as she placed her empty cup in the sink and nonchalantly returned to the television program she was watching. I stood stunned and silent. What may have been an off the cuff remark by her in me revealed a gaping chasm of indifference, a shallowness in my being.  For sixty years I’ve been enjoying the cold and refreshing foam and cream that are unique to the root beer float. Sixty years of frosty goodness.  Sixty years of cold comfort.  Sixty years of devotion, and yet never once in all that time did I ask the simple and obvious question my wife so innocently asked.  How could it be, given the hundreds of hours of pleasure that RBFs have given me, that it never occurred to me to ask who, what great man, what visionary, what genius, was responsible for so much joy in my life. Whoever he was, he deserved my deepest gratitude.             

I took my latest RBF with me and locked myself in my office, determined not to come out until I’d righted the wrong I’d committed on this man who’d given so much to me. A quick Wikipedia search revealed his identity: “The root beer float was invented by Robert McCay Green in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1874 during the Franklin Institute‘s semi centennial celebration.” I began to read on but the subsequent come-down from my RBf induced sugar high and my reduced attention span led me to fill in the facts with some minor enhancements and suppositions from my own imagination.  But not enough to shake the basic integrity of the incredible story of this heroic man and his epic struggle that ultimately resulted in triumph and glory. In other words, I am fairly confident that some facts have made their way into my account. So, without further ado, here is the story of Robert McCay Green and his incredible journey to refreshment immortality.

March 17,1822

Robert McCay Green is born, the only child to Bartholomew and Kate Green. His maternal grandfather, Dystonia Pebbles, is a self-made millionaire, the founder, sole proprietor, and owner of the monolithic Philadelphia Peanut Butter Company. With no sons of his own to leave his enterprise to, son-in-law Barth Green stands as the only heir to the empire.  In 1819, preparing for his own retirement, Pebbles begins mentoring Barth Green to take over ownership of his vast portfolio.

The transition does not go well, however, because Barth Green, it turned out, was a complete and total idiot. Pebbles had been fooled by Green’s undeniable passion for peanut butter, and had slowly come to realize that Barth’s habit of walking down the street licking the contents of an open jar of peanut butter while smacking his lips and loudly moaning “mmmmmm,’’ while enthusiastically demonstrating a true loyalty to Pebbles’ product, ultimately was just weird..

Finally, in July, of 1831, after forgetting to remove the peanuts from the creamy peanut butter for the seventh time, a frustrated Dystonia Pebbles gives up mentoring Bartholomew and disowns him, throwing him and his young family out of the warm comfort of the palatial Pebbles estate onto the cold hardness of the street.   

Times are hard and Bartholomew Green struggles. He turns to the bottle to lose himself, but it’s not until he realizes that the bottle is empty and fills it with tequila does he grow dependent on it With Barth an unreliable wage earner, Kate Green and her nine year old son Robert both take jobs, she as a shoe shine boy and Robert as a dance hall girl.  Their combined income is enough to keep food over their heads and a roof on the table.

Robert develops into a good student, demonstrating an undisputed aptitude for the burgeoning food chemistry field. His Doctorate thesis, combining ham and cheese into a single sandwich, causes a stir among food chemists, who either laud his genius or curse him as a food radical, rejecting Green’s insistence that his invention would work equally well regardless of the bread, regardless of Green’s choice of a Kaiser roll in his presentation.

Several years later, in 18i59, Green shocks the world by announcing he was dedicating himself to liquids and soft, cold solids.  “I believe, that that by combining an ice-cold soft solid with an equally ice cold beverage, the ultimate summer time treat could be achieved.” It was a bold statement, especially given its timing; one month after the  Buchanan administration had just granted  a million dollars to Phil Shake to develop a ‘”frosty, flavored dessert.”

Both efforts were stalled by the Civil War although a breakthrough was tantalizingly close when inside the icebox at the Appomattox Court House, a bottle of Sarsaparilla and a quart of vanilla cream was found.  Before anyone could combine the two elements, the ice cream was quickly consumed with a cake that Robert E. Lee had baked earlier in the day as a term of the Confederacy’s  surrender.

After the conclusion of the civil war, the original “cold war” between Phil Shake and Robert Green captured the attention of the entire reconstructed union, with newspapers breathlessly churning out stories about every new lead and disappointing set back the two camps endured. Just when it seemed Shake had the upper hand, he’d suffer a major setback, like when he tried to mix chocolate ice cream with a vinyl automobile floor mat.

Green’s journey was no less perilous. Although he settled on Root Beer as a vital ingredient early on, he had trouble finding a cooling agent, and tried dry ice with disastrous results, killing three testers.

Finally, in1874 while walking in downtown Philadelphia with a mug of root beer in his hand, Green turned a corner and ran into none other than Phil Shake, who was enjoying a vanilla ice cream cone.  They collided with such force they both fell to the sidewalk.

“Hey, “ Green said, “you got ice cream all over my root beer.”

“Yeah?” Shake replied. “You got root beer all over my ice cream.”

They both sat there for a moment until the same realization flashed in their faces. Each took a mouthful of their sullied products.

“Incredible,” Green said. 

After a brief pause, the two men rose to their feet and started running for the patent office.  Shake had a slight lead and made it to the steps of the patent office first.  Green, closely behind, leaped out and tackled Shake and got on top of him.  He began slamming Shake’s head on the concrete until Shake was a crumpled, bloodied and lifeless heap.  Green got up and went inside and applied for the RBF patent.  Shake was dead but Green was acquitted in the trial, with the Grand Jury saying that the RBF is so delicious and refreshing its invention transcends any life that may have been lost in the process of inventing it.

So now, nearly 150 years after its invention, I raise my mug of root beer and vanilla ice cream in tribute to my hero!

Tucker


You said everything with your wags,

your tail all fluff and flash.

It was talking to me this morning,

telling me how happy you were,

unaware of my betrayal

even as I lead you to the gallows.

 

Your eyes were so dark and deep,

deeper and deadlier than quicksand.

To look into them was to sink in the depths

of un-asking loyalty and endless love,

love without boundaries, without conditions,

your trust in me unquestioned.

 

The mask of pandemic

soaked by tears and guilt.

These are strange times to die

and I wonder where I’ll see you next.

Maybe in the shape of soiled laundry

lit at night by dim bath room light,

or in small heaps of fallen branches

crumpled in the backyard

where we went for our walks.

 

Wherever you are now,

you are unencumbered by collar and leash.

Run free, chase your terrors and heartache away

and I’ll soon be there beside you,

my tears finally dissolved,

my worthiness unquestioned again.

Spring Denied


Once

I ached for you and you for me

and when we found us we locked ourselves in

and breathed, and inhaled each other,

releasing our contagions to stoke the coals of desire

until our low grade fever burst into flames

and ignited passion’s wild fire,

happily alone together in our spring.

 

Now,

there is no dried kindle to coax into soft and tentative flames.

Instead, winter’s end finds damp indifference and decayed flesh,

cold ash in the curves and the crevasses,

dull and aching bruises covering thin and fading lines,

and all of the other damaged places

where passion once burned.

 

Winter,

As thick as the colorless sky that dimly lights these

days of gray and white and black,

where heartbeats are replaced by murmured whispers,

where shadows lengthen and spread

across the locked and rusty gates of the garden,

where its icy fingers remain,

unwilling to relinquish their corroded grip.

You Say Kahoutek, I Say Coranado


As I grow older, I find more and more that I am turning into my Father.  It’s not so much similarities in physicality, although there has been the occasional sleepy eyed sight of him looking back at me in my bathroom mirror. No, it’s brain function, or maybe malfunction, that I’m noticing in my own internal processing, the same butchering of words and names that I used to find so amusing in my dad.

For years, my dad fought an undeclared war with the English language. He’d get hung up on a certain word and mispronounce it several ways, some subtle and some just bizarre. Sometimes, he’d even add a new syllable or two. For example, the word “vibrate” became “viabrate.” Back in the seventies, his insurance agent was a man named John Kuharich. For some reason, he had trouble with “Kuharich.” Some glitch in his brain couldn’t process “Kuharich,” and his attempts to say it produced results like “Krewharich,” ‘Kronurich,” and “Kuhatcher” before finally settling on “Kahoutec, agent John Kahoutec.”

 I always found this to be extremely funny, until recently, when a similar glitch in my similar brain became evident. Just as my dad struggled with “Kuharich,” a word has emerged that has me totally befuddled when I try to say it. The only difference between the two of us is that “Kuharich” was the name of a relatively obscure insurance agent in a small town, while the word I’m having difficulty with has been one of the most frequently spoken words in the country, if not the entire world, over the past several weeks.

“Corona”

I can feel the cog wheels of my mechanical brain slowing down just looking at the word. It just doesn’t look or sound right. When in public, while maintaining a safe social distance of at least six feet, in conversation, I find myself referring to the Coranado or the Cordoba virus.  The other person will very nicely and politely point out my error, that it’s Corona. This correction is accepted and processed until some 45 seconds later, when I hear myself saying something about the Coradabo virus.

The next thing I hear is the sound of my dad’s laughter, viabrating in my ears.

Breakthrough


Happy holidays and Merry X-mas!

Those of you who occasionally read the drivel I post on this site may have noticed a recent plethora of mediocre poetry.  This is mainly due to the fact that I’ve recently developed an interest in poetry.  As amateurish as my poems have been so far, I chalk the dearth of quality up to the fact that I’m still learning the craft and remain a stumbling novice.

That was until tonight. Tonight, I finally broke through and wrote something that is undeniably good if not great.  Best of all, it’s in the form of a haiku, and even better yet, it’s related to the holiday season.

Here without further ado is my masterpiece:

What's the Deal With Egg Nog
Egg nog in July
would be just as refeshing
as in December

Thanks, and Merry Christmas from DBD!!!

December


The trees are all bare now,

their fleshy leaves having withered and fallen to the ground,

exposing their bony and naked branches and skeletal imperfections.

The leaves rustle noisily under my feet.      

Harsh and graceless, they are dead and decomposing,

their once brilliant colors having drained to cold dullness and risen and

overtaken the sky in shades of thickening gray.

A shiver runs down my spine and I pull the hood on my jacket up around my face,

as the leaves crunch under my feet,

making my steps crude and ugly

and reminding me in the arrogant clumsiness of my gait

that this is the December of my Decembers.

Days and Nights


He still sees her as she was nearly forty years ago.  While he recognizes the marks that time has chiseled on her face and body and the streaks of gray in her hair, he still can see her at twenty four, in the backyard of the property they still live on, amongst the piles of leaves they’d been raking, her deep green eyes lighting up her face.

She sees him as he is, too thin, gaunt, with the remaining hair left on his head having turned pure white. Every morning, she wakes up with him beside her, and when she looks at him, she sees a clock, counting down the days left until the morning comes that his side of the bed will be empty and cold.

They’d bought the house, a simple 1200 square foot ranch on a two and a half acre parcel on a remote dead end road in what was left of a sleepy small town that was in the final stages of being consumed by the spreading sprawl of suburbia, in November of 1984.  She worked seven miles to the north as a paralegal in a local law firm, while he was working as a computer programmer /analyst at the power plant nine miles to the south. He was 26 years old, she was 24.   They’d been married for a little bit more than three years.

Now, in 2019, they still live in the same house, having added a second floor and doubling the living space in 1998.   They raised three children, two sons and a daughter, all grown and successful and on their own now. His career ended in 2012, when the Parkinson’s Disease he was diagnosed with in 2004 progressed to the point to make working too difficult.

In  2015, he survived the severe blockage of three arteries and triple bypass surgery

After the heart surgery, he lost twenty five, then thirty, then thirty-five pounds, thanks to a new regime of diet, exercise, and a combination of a statins and baby aspirin that cut his overall cholesterol in half, by more than a hundred points.  Weighing the same as he did when he graduated high school was a source of pride until thirty five became forty and forty forty five.  When forty five became fifty pounds without even trying, he became concerned. The diagnosis confirmed their worst fears.

They both struggled dealing with the news.  For the first couple of days and nights, things were uncharacteristically quiet between them. She was consumed by fears of what life would be without him, how she’d cope with the emptiness that would consume the house they’d lived in all these years.

He spent most of the time in his head, replaying memories like Youtube videos. He kept returning to that Saturday in December of 1984 and he came to the conclusion that it ranked right up there with the birth of his children among the best days of his life.

It was a brisk and grey late autumn day, and it was just her and him, the rest of the world didn’t exist, each raking and burning their own piles of leaves, underneath the two giant maple trees in their yard. They’d only owned the place for a month, and though they’d raked leaves many times before, this was the first time they raked their leaves that fell from their trees onto their lawn. And that was all, the world belonged to them, and it was such heady and intoxicating stuff that is was inevitable they’d end up in bed, making love in the early afternoon. He remembered how she looked and felt, the warm smoothness of her skin, the smell of smoke in her hair, the sweet taste of her kisses, and the perfection of how their bodies fit together.

Returning to the deep night of 2019, he rolled over in the darkness and wrapped his arm around her waist, and she clasped his hand in hers.  They both lay there, awake with their eyes closed in the dark, somewhere between their best and last days together.

 

Poets


I’m currently the longest serving member of the Kenosha Writer’s Guild, coming up on ten years since I attended the very first meeting, where the Guild was born.

These days, the Guild remains as vibrant and alive as it’s ever been.  Membership has turned over several times, and with the departure of many seemingly indispensable members, there have been lean times where we wondered if we were going belly up. But it seems like each departure has been followed by fresh and talented new faces with energies that have reinvigorated the Guild. It’s all a part of the evolution of what we were to what we are. I am still honored to be a member of the group and take my role as a member of the Guild’s steering committee seriously, as we branch out into new and exciting landscapes.

Over the years, we’ve lost about as many people as we’ve gained.  Some quickly concluded that we weren’t their exact cup of tea and some relocated, to places as far away as the United Kingdom and New York. Others have had career changes.  Some who’ve left have and will return again and sadly, we’ve been around long enough that some won’t, not because they might not want to, but because they can’t.  So it is with every family – eventually, there will be an empty chair at the dinner table.

The second longest serving member is my good friend, the extraordinarily gifted writer and visual artist, Darleen Coleman. Darleen has been a member since the second meeting, or one fewer meetings than I have attended. I make a point to never let her forget that compared to me, she’s just a newbie.

A hobby of Darleen’s is collecting “junk,” or “junking.” Her passion for junk frequently leads her to estate sales.

So it was when she happened to stop by an estate sale a couple of months ago only to discover that the estate was that of Marguerite Mclelland, a member of the guild up until her death in 2015.  Marguerite was born in 1943 in the Alsace Lorraine area on the border of France and Germany.  In other words, she was born at the intersection of the chronological and geographic epicenters of World War two. She never knew her father, who was killed on the eastern front before she was born.

We in the guild didn’t get to know Marguerite until 2013 or 2014, when she joined our little group. We knew her as an utterly charming and good -natured woman who was also a very talented writer of poetry and prose.  She published a book about her childhood memories, “Stories from the War.” It’s a very well written collection of poetry and prose, of which you can hear some KWG members reading from here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgATnG6rbUM&t=2141shttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgATnG6rbUM&t=174s

Darleen was quite surprised that the estate she was checking out was none other than Marguerite’s.  Knowing this, and remembering Marguerite’s passion for poetry, she couldn’t resist paying a couple of bucks for the thin paper-backed collection of poems and prose entitled “Ginsberg Speaks.”  Published in 1983, it contains about 35 pages of work by local writers, with its centerpiece being an interview with Allen Ginsberg by the Kenosha writer, Michael Schumacher.  When Darleen got home with the book, she opened it up and was surprised to see, in the table of contents, several poems attributed to another last name she recognized: “Gourdoux.”

I’d forgotten that my oldest brother, Mike, used to dabble in poetry. I’d forgotten about the pamphlet that published his poems. All I know is I didn’t understand very much about poetry at the time. It turns out there were plenty of other things I didn’t understand, either.

Mike was the oldest of four children. I was third, born a little more than six years after Mike. Growing up, he always seemed light years older than me. He also seemed to be, as far back as I can remember, the smartest person I ever knew. My interests closely followed his, and as his broadened, so did mine. First was professional sports, then music, rock and roll, then movies, and then books.

In 1971, a year after graduating high school, and after finishing a couple of semesters at UW-Parkside, he signed up for a three year stint in the Army, coming home in October of 1974. Those years, between 1970 and 1975, when I was between 12 and 17 years old, were the closest we’d ever be. In those years, he openly shared with me all of his knowledge about the aforementioned topics and more, including philosophy, the subject he’d changed his major to. To this day, I owe my love for those things to Mike.

One thing he didn’t share with me that I had no clue of until years later was his considerable expertise in substance abuse. What started out as a mild curiosity in high school,  in the army, in Germany, exploded into a major obsession, and he experimented with just about everything.

Sometime around 76, things changed. Mike was still living at home, and I was growing up.  Mike was having trouble holding on to a job, and he was going to school, pursuing his philosophy degree.  It was around this time that he essentially moved out of our shared room to a room in the basement, where he consumed case after case of Andeker beer.  We grew apart, into our own and separate corridors of loneliness, neither one of us realizing how much we needed each other, how much we could have and should have been helping each other.  Instead, we put miles between us, Mike taking a couple of Kerouac inspired trips to California and me moving to and working in northwestern Wisconsin.

In December of 79, after being laid off from my job at the window factory up north , I returned home, got a job, and signed up for night school, where I met my everything. In 1981, I married her; in 84, I started what would turn out to be a career in I.T.   Between 1985 and 1994 my wife gave birth to our three children.

Mike, meanwhile, continued to struggle. For a brief time he had a job in California digging out swimming pools. He’d return home and spend months at my parents’ property in Northwestern Wisconsin.  In the early eighties, when he wrote the poems Darleen found, he was living a hermit-like existence in a cold and unending winter.  Meanwhile, with a demanding job, a growing family, and some 330 miles between us, I didn’t have much time for Mike, but when we did get together, the spaces between us would fade and vanish and we’d discuss the Packers, Nietzsche, Jack London, and whatever else we felt like tapping into. He was such a great guy. Anyone who spent time with him knew that, and would leave feeling better than before they arrived.

Sometime in the late 80s or early 90s, Mike was diagnosed with depression. I heard the word but I didn’t appreciate the extent of its meaning. Looking back on it now, I wonder how I couldn’t understand the pain he was living with, and I wonder how alone he must have felt while I went back to my family, my wife and kids.

I’m not self-centered enough to think that I caused Mike’s death. There are multiple specifics that I know directly contributed.  But while I may not have caused his suicide in 2010, I did nothing to prevent it, either.

Now, my kids are grown and have left home. I have nothing but time, time to remember, and time to forget. There is so much I could learn if Mike were still alive.

In recent months, thanks to the encouragement of several members of the guild, I’ve become interested in reading and especially writing poetry. When Darleen gave me the book she bought at Marguerite’s estate sale, I realized that Mike and I once again shared a common interest, and that, as usual, he’d developed a deeper understanding of the form than I probably ever will.

It’s so easy for me to see now in his poems what I couldn’t see the first time I read them, back in the mid- eighties. Now when I read them, with the added weight of regret and time, they reverberate with despair and anguish and beauty that is overwhelming in its sadness:

               My night bird is an owl

                and flies with the borealis and the stars

                to look down upon them

                from the static of their antennae skies.

                It sits in dark lamp-lit rooms

                with books on shelves

                and remembers a shadowy figure

                standing by a river in the woods.

 

Back when I was a teenager, I remember Mike telling me that one of his favorite bands was Ten Years After, and one of his favorite albums was their masterpiece, “A Space in Time.” While the album includes a lot of great deep tracks, the best remains the justifiably famous “I’d Love to Change the World.”

Now, in 2019, approaching ten years after Mike’s death, I’d love to change the world and go back to a space in time where Mike still lives.

 

I’ve Seen You


I”ve seen you
in the weathered faces of strangers
emerging from shadows.
Older women
with wrinkled faces
and light blue eyes,
you for only a moment,
then random strangers again

I’ve seen you,
In bright dreams you come back,
sitting upright at our old dining room table,
strong and healthy,
your brain free from malignancy.
I want to touch you, smell your hair,
but the shadows are already lengthening
and soon darkness overtakes you
until I wake up and you are gone,
the night as dark as a womb

I’ve seen you
in the face of the granddaughter
you met at the intersection of death and birth,
where souls collide, you on your way to joining
the green cosmic dust of the night sky
that lights her way through the journey
of her lifetime.

I’ve seen you
draw your last breath a thousand times,
death severing the cord that connected us and
sending me adrift in the inky and unending blackness
of the cosmos
until the next time I see you
and you become Mother and I become Son again,
warm and safe,
tethered to your infinite and unending soul
by a single thread of your grey hair.