Impressions

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Impressions
(Oaxaca, Mexico)

hard baked loaves of stone
hot cobbles beneath the feet
the burning street forced upwards
through shoe leather to scorch our soles
the sun’s orb an irresistible hammer
beating the strength out of the sweating body
heart sucked dry lungs shriveled

inside massive stone walls
candles crucifixes paintings of saints
statues carved wooden images
outside in the sunlight alebrijes
staring eyes wagging tails protruding tongues
their spirits breaking through the wood
turning from darkness into light

impressions a nose here
a pair of eyes there long black hair
a tree trunk swaying to the music
a black bible banged on a wooden table
a Cubist nightmare of detached body parts

multiple pin balls released in a rush
by an errant slot machine
stained glass reds blues greens
smoke from a candle twisting in air
light filtered from high windows

once open doors slowly closing
keys no longer turning in locks
unwound clocks no longer ticking
cobwebs gathering in forgotten rooms
flowers on the altars nochebuenas
with their single and double petals
crimson and cream cempasúchiles
marigolds lighting their golden
walkway to guide the dead
loved ones returning to visit the living

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Geese

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Geese

Late last night, high above the house
in the sky’s giant highway,
geese flew overhead, honking. 

 I pinpointed their calls
leaning back, straining my neck,
and for a moment there were no stars,
just a feathered blackness blanking
the Big Dipper as it hung in the sky.

Harbingers, bringers of spring,
those Canadian geese erased
selected stars and left me breathless,
overwhelmed by so many memories
as they carved their sky path
far above my head.

Freedom

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Freedom

We are all so lonely,
locked in our cardboard castles,
no view beyond the battlements,
save for the wild lands, the forest,
from which the enemy might come.

Wild beasts, we cage ourselves
in our isolation and bang our heads
on the bars we built to protect us.

Sometimes, at night, we ascend
to the topmost turret to observe
the stars that dance above us,
tracing our lives in their errant ways.

And is this freedom, this night sky,
with its wayward planets, trapped
in their overnight dance and weaving
our futures, for ever and ever, amen?

Daffodils

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Daffodils

Winter’s chill lingers well into spring.
I buy daffodils to encourage the sun
to return and shine in the kitchen.

Tight-clenched fists their buds,
they sit on the table and I wait
for them to open.

Grey clouds fill the sky.
A distant sun lights up the land
but doesn’t warm the earth
nor melt the snow.

The north wind chills the mind,
driving dry snow across our drive
to settle in the garden.

Our red squirrels spark at the feeder.
The daffodils promise warmth,
foretell future suns, predicting
bright warmer days to come.

Tense and Tension

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Tense and Tension

Your flightless fancies flit
through a darkness of despair,
as awkward as auks,
as clumsy as penguins
stranded in zoo cages
far from their native seas,
as meaningless as the dodos,
as dead as the ashes lying cold
beneath the crematorium’s fire.

A sudden bucket
clatters down the well,
but it draws no water.
Winter ice will not melt.
Desert sands may burn boat and feet
but they will not warm your glacial heart.
The manner of your second coming
brings forth no nourishment.

A spider web on the wall
grows into a mirror.
Face to face, present and past
become ambulant tenses
that foretell no conditional.
No future beckons,
let alone a future perfect.
A dislocation of infinitives
stretches into the infinity of
an invisible futurity of
never-joining railway lines.

Fire

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Fire

Fire
a double-edged sword

Fire
the beginning
and fire the end

Fire
the means of forging
the Omega and Alpha
that surround us
day by day

Fire
surrounds us
but leads us
nowhere

we must create
our own path through
Fire
to the life beyond
Fire

so many things
to save from
Fire

so many things
to be consumed by
Fire and flame

only a fiercer Fire
will free us from
will put an end to
Fire

Driving at Night

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Driving at Night

Once upon a time,
my hair was brown and curly,
but now it’s straight and as white as
this drifting snow clogging the windshield.

I smooth down my hair with my fingers:
swollen knuckles, crooked joints.
I burn with feverish thoughts
yet cold blood shivers through my arteries.

Headlights blind me in my good eye.
The other one’s useless when I drive at night.
It’s a long time since I last saw,
let alone touched, my toes.
Putting on my socks or tying my shoelace
is a morning no-no.

Short of breath, of agility, with no ability
to climb up stairs: I stop to catch my breath,
pause, and shudder with despair.

What happened to my youth?
Where did my childhood go?

Potholes and Portholes

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Potholes and Portholes

My poems are drawn from my life,
not from the lives of others.

I live my words,
drawing them wriggling
through the holes
punched by others in my flesh.

Pot-holes,
portals to the underworld,
so many cars
slithering in spring’s freshet
melt of tarmac and metal flesh.

Portholes:
so many ships,
leaving port,
sailing away
into unknown seas
well beyond my ken.

Little Boy Lost

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Little Boy Lost

I’ll never forget, years ago,
standing in the snow,
looking through a window,
seeing a friend’s family
gathered inside by the fire.

Shadows danced as the children
decorated their Christmas tree:
laughter and warmth and joy,
and me outside in the snowy street,
walking past, on my way home,
an only child destined
to be alone in my lonely room.

I also recall empty rooms,
cold corridors, stark loss,
and the sorrow of surviving
on my own.

So, I created my own family
and filled my mind with
boys and girls, siblings,
people I could see and touch,
a family to which I could belong.

Trucks

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Trucks

Flocks of colored passerines flying up
and down cracked tarmac roads, this way and that.
Spring songs fill the highway’s grey-black throat
with noise and color. Songs? Coarse the engine
growl, the grinding gears, the rattle and roar
of ten-wheeler trucks, dust and stones pinging
off the windshields and hoods of passing cars.

Noisy, smelly, dusty, yet welcome spring
visitors, predicting new building sites,
foretelling fresh human nests, promising
an end to winter’s frost, snow and ice, with
the assurance of warmer weather to come,
days longer, nights shorter, holidays at hand,
and a finish to the pothole season.