Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sobriety Begins

Six and a half years
flame pouring down his throat
jagged demons fermenting mind, soul.

Fibers of life drown in sadness,
Vivian’s son.
Her shaky fingers flip pages--
lock of hair, ink footprint, baptism,
her boy.

Old blue Ford
Monday night,
took the last during the drive.

he walks the blackest bottom of the blue sea.
It’s time he says.
A tenebrous cloud looms,
she’s heard this before.

October 6th, 1969. 10:50pm.
Never mind man walked the moon,
that lives were lost on foreign shore.
Think instead of a single wildflower growing
out of rock on a high above butte.

Blackness delivers the day
he has lived to tell about.
Before that last night, my dad never drank gin straight.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kerouac, coffee and the original scroll

The earth expanding right hand and left hand,
The picture alive, every part in its best light,
The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping where it is not wanted,
The cheerful voice of the public road—the gay fresh sentiment of the road.

--Song of the Open Road/Walt Whitman

Rush of wind like water
fresh from east window
soft light, budding trees
sweet LaCoste perfume.

Wrinkled cotton sheets
sandy brown rhinoceros skin
fall into soft flannel.

hot coffee, dark roast French press
boiling shower


What you did to stretch your mind, was it worth it?
47-years seems not enough.
What I’d give to talk to you.
Remember apple pie, ice cream and Iowa,
The boys from Minnesota,
Denver and the middle of the night on the way to the coast?
You may have arrived but did you every truly get there?

Air like sawdust, raw road nights, the sun red at three.  Your poetry is mine.

What you said about “the last thing,” that’s what I think about. We keep trying but we never get it, that’s what you said, right? Hemingway and wineskin's and swimming in the ocean, and eating and making love and sleeping and writing under the shade of great trees in Africa.  That must be part of it.

There must be a softness in this life.
There are comfortable places from my youth. The back of the Charger in somewhere North Dakota, dad at the wheel, mom leaning over the seat to check on me, one window rolled down.

Whitman says he wouldn’t want the constellations any nearer.
I remember the creak of the camper door, bonfire to the left, cottonwood wind, stars and thunderstorms and stories told deep into the night.

Grandma says I’d be crazy to be alone.
I asked if she ever thought of it,
of finding someone again.
She paused.
I don’t know if she feels like crying,
her face and eyes tightened for moments.
“No, I was too old,” she said with a lost look.

I remember this conversation when, breaking apart,
trying to save the fibers of my soul,
the old priest said
“You are ok now, all there is is the air around you.”
I remember thinking,
nothing can get me but my thoughts,
nothing but my thoughts.

Move, move, move, you are always in motion.
Back and forth across the quilt that is America,
how else would you know red baseball hats are standard
wear for North Dakota farm boys,
or Wild West Week in old Cheyenne,
or a badlands blizzard?

You said everything you’d ever known or ever would know is one,
like the earth and logs and sand that flow from Montana
to the gulf in the life-pulsing Mississippi.

You said there is a purity in motion.
Help me wonder, is there grace in standing still?
Was your life pure being, or was it altered? And what about Neal?
Somewhere comes the voice, “Everything will be alright tomorrow, alright tomorrow.”
It’s always tomorrow.

They guy playing the alto that night—the guy that got IT, the guy that filled our emptiness with substance…you knew all along, didn’t you?
Our passions are such a fleeting secret.
We all are one.
As you say, “the road is life.”

So in North Dakota when the sun goes down and I sit overlooking the restless Missouri watching the wide sky over the western horizon
and sense all of that raw open land that summons my curiosity
and sense of adventure and I think of all the people in between where I am and where my thoughts end, and in the badlands I know by now the purple-pink sky must be meeting the jagged tops of sage-clay buttes, which is just before nightfall blankets all of us and darkens the Little Missouri and other forgotten places and nobody knows what the next day will bring to any of us besides another day grown old, I think of Jack Kerouac, I even think of his mother alone in that apartment and the son she lost too soon, I think of Jack Kerouac, I think of Jack Kerouac.

Jack—“I cried for all of us. There is no end to the American sadness and the American madness. Someday we’ll all start laughing and roll on the ground when we realize how funny it’s been. Until then there is a lugubrious seriousness I love in all this.”

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Night Run

While you were watching tv, reading, tucked in
I was breathing midnight air.
Legs stretch out ahead
sinful soul pounds pavement
hopes, dreams, lazy lies of the day
escape my mind like
stars moving behind clouds.

Streets abandoned but for the delivery driver,
the hooded figure walking a dog,
stoplights twitching.
I hear my breath, my footsteps, my now quiet conscience.
Two miles becomes four.

On such a solitary night
I feel the hearts of many.
Running in darkness, blurred by shadows,
faceless, nameless, free.

"The smells of ordinariness
Were new on the night drive through France:"
--Night Drive
Seamus Heaney/Opened Ground

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Life everywhere is life

Cottonwood leaves emerge from melting snow,
elm leaves, meditative pools of water,
viscid mud,
hills numbed brown
sky rife with geese barking for home.

Have you seen the shapes of those leaves?
Perfect scattered puzzle pieces,
prairie carpet.

The river moves south, suspicious brow
raised, water churning rippled with natures sparklers.

Trees remain skeletons-
branched arteries interrupt blue sky
so soon to change.

Meanwhile geese continue in triumph—
wave after wave against feathered clouds,
voices rise up with life and hope.

Do we ever sing this way,
move with such purpose
so sure of where were going?

I know enough to immitate,
to listen,
feel breeze against faded face,
to spot deer tracks
stretch toward the sky
and allow my voice to join
this gallant flat noted symphony of life.

"Life everywhere is life, life is in ourselves and not in the external."
Fyodor Dostoevsky/Letter to his brother Mikhail

Friday, February 5, 2010

Return to the Tamarac

“So now, Beowulf, I adopt you in my heart as a dear son.”--Hrothgar
Beowulf, Seamus Heaney translation

My grandma grew up in northwestern Minnesota. Her mother, my great-grandmother, was a city girl moved to the farm.

I have a picture of this place in my mind. Grandma says it was a two-story within walking distance of the Tamarac River. Her bedroom was the top floor. The north facing window looked out on the river. To the west a large window opened inward at the middle like saloon doors. Imagine the sunsets, breezes, stars and thunderstorms that come alive from that view.

Grandma’s company is a safe place when my soul is tired and restless. So is the image of the farm, and the life that went on there. They didn’t eat much beef because grandpa wouldn’t slaughter a cow. He didn’t like the way it trembled for so long after. So that job fell to the boys when they got older. And they seemed to think it ok.

They did have chickens. When grandma was little they took one chick inside the house to help it heal. Grandma says after she had healed and grown and started to lay her eggs she would climb up the steps to the house and lay them inside—right in the same place they had taken care of her.

There was a goose, too. As a gosling it injured its wing. Great-grandma, the city girl, took a needle and thread and sewed up the wound. No kidding. Then she put the goose in with the chickens to help it heal. She feared the other geese would play too rough.

A bond developed. Every morning one hen would walk down to the river with the goose. While he swam, she would walk back and forth pecking away at the shoreline.

They moved the house into Stephen years ago—a new one stands in its place.
The view isn’t the same. I wonder if anyone even notices, and if the thunderstorms smell as lush, and how often in her mind grandma walks down to the river to pace the shoreline before she turns back toward home.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

For Hadley and Hem

Take-off is smooth into the autumn morning. A soft darkness circles the plane as it pushes through the clouds. Friendly voices fill the cabin from every direction. They blend with the hum of the engines, which sound like muffled television static after sign-off. The rows are three wide separated by a center aisle.

After an hour of conversation, the man next to me opens a copy of International Archer. He flips through the pages carefully studying the articles, perhaps dreaming of William Tell. Don’t bow to the hat, be your own man. Isn’t that what we all wish in life? His friend next to him drifts to sleep, hands folded on lap, head bent slightly back.

Across the aisle a man reads a paperback. It could be a bestseller. He tilts his neck and head at an angle that points his eyes directly down to the pages in his lap. Flight attendants serve coffee and soda although one passenger wants a little wine. A boy cries in his father’s arms several rows ahead. It is a red-faced scared cry, like he had been woken suddenly and by cold water.

The woman I noticed in the terminal walks toward the front of the plane. Her blond hair falls upon the shoulders of her white cable-knit sweater. It flows straight until it flares like octopus tentacles at the ends. I wonder where she is going, and about her dark haired friend.

Two women in the van leaving Dulles are from France and the Czech Republic. The blond woman from Prague makes easy conversation with the driver. Her long hair is straight and pulls into a clip in the back. Her lips are full and she has several noticeable moles—including one on the center of her chin. Her features are smooth and round, her eyes warm and friendly.

She turns to talk to the woman from Strasborg who sits next to me and is very shy. It is the first time either has been to Washington D.C. Their voices are lyrical. I close my eyes to absorb words and listen to the careful and sometimes broken English phrases. The Czech has an American friend. They will meet tonight. She hopes after the conference she will be able to see the great art and the gardens and the fine statues of Americans along the mall. Like Prague she says, this is a city of history.

Three Australian’s talk wildly in the backseat. There’s been little rain in the south and much in the north. The conversation switches continuously. The man mentions stories about snakes and says Australian Rules football is in its championship run, called the Premiership. The lady says her team is one of four remaining, so she’s paying extra attention. She must be in her 60’s. The man’s voice is happy if happiness can be noticed in such topics.

Hadley, they are not you. I miss your high cheekbones and dimpled chin. I miss your short black hair cut round just under the ear. I miss the hunger and loneliness I feel even after we make love and you sleep soft in the moonlight. You told me there are many sorts of hunger, especially in spring. I miss our walks down by the river and on the rue de Seine where we looked in the galleries and shops and stopped at the café. You said memory is hunger. How I loved your eyes when they knew something.

All those whispered secrets. Remember when we grew our hair the same length? We had such fun with simple things. Shall we return to Austria and climb the mountains to ski, and I can write and you can knit and we’ll be warm from thick blankets and fires and dark drinks? How do we want what we want but want something more? Tell me about 1926 in Schruns and how I found my novel and Brett and Jake. Hadley, it was never your fault.

After the plane and bus I stretch my legs in the city and breathe fresh air. Flowers in many colors bloom in calculated places beside the grand buildings. I walk many streets and across the mall littered with signs. Hundreds of thousands had gathered to protest. The evening is a dying wave in this city of motion.

The clean windows stretch in great lengths from top to bottom and side to side on the downtown corner grill pub. There is a plate filled with pink strips of ahi tuna and salad with light chipotle dressing. The julienned red peppers are sweet. There are mushrooms and fresh, cool cucumbers. I sip from glasses of beer. The first is German style ale. It tastes of dry hops. The second beer is much darker and is bitter then finally sweet. The flavors wash my mouth.

The lights are soft inside and outside the street lamps cast rounded light into the shadows. Now and then a bus floats to a stop outside the big windows. Sounds of horns and sirens penetrate the glass. People cross back and forth in both directions. Two are holding hands.

It seems we have somewhere to go, and nowhere to go at the same time. Hadley, could it be you?