A POETRY OF THE SOUL

A Christmas suggestion: my new book: A Poetry of the Soul

“A soulful collection of story-shaped poems. These literate slices of life, both familiar and strange, invite deeper reflection on the human condition.”

Available now from Brethren Press (at bottom of the page)

www.brethrenpress.com

Advertisements

RACONTEUR

If you ever volunteer to visit
people in assisted living
at Oakmont Retirement Village,
knock on the door of 235
and ask the woman who answers
to tell you about the food service.
Be prepared to spend
the next half-hour listening
to her recital of under-cooked
meat loaf, soggy salads,
inedible desserts (as well as
table companions
from cuckoo-land), all delivered
with the hilarious flair
of the best stand-up comedians
you’ve ever heard. You will find
yourself apologizing for your
laughter that you fear will
give the impression that
you do not sympathize
with those who must endure
gastronomic ineptitude.
But she will dismiss
your apology with a wave
of her hand and give you
a dead-pan invitation to
“stop by for lunch tomorrow.
You can sit at my table . . .
cost you only ten bucks.”

WHAT MY MOTHER NEVER TOLD ME

. . . was why twelve years elapsed
between my brother’s birth and mine.

She did tell me that another boy
had been “still-born”
and what that hyphenated,
two part word meant.
She did not use another word,
a word mothers do not explain
to four-year old children: “miscarriage.”

But I remember how she and I
would march around the breakfast
table to happy radio tunes before
I was old enough to go to school
and how we laughed as we were
doing it and how she seemed
to want me always in her sight.

I must have been the answer
to a dozen years of prayers.

RITE OF PASSAGE

Back when I learned to drive,
“you’re-just-a-kid” was the unspoken
assessment I saw on the faces

of the world I lived in. Except
when I pulled my dad’s aging
Plymouth into the Esso station

where a man more than twice
my age washed my windshield,
checked the oil and water

and waited to hear what I would
utter in as much of a commanding
tone as I could muster:

“Fill ‘er up!”

WHAT MATTERS

When you waken,
melancholy,
it may be
nothing more
than a dream
like the one
you had
in which
you are lost
in the city
even though
you’re never sure
what city.

What matters,
of course,
is not
what city.

What matters
is
you’re lost.

BIRTHDAY SONG AT CHURCH

Once a month we sang it

Happy birthday, happy birthday,
your friends are all singing,
may the year that is opening
bring gladness to you.
May it teach you to be helpful,
kind-hearted and loving.
Happy birthday, happy birthday,
happy birthday to you.

And while we sang it, anyone,
kid or grownup who had
a birthday that month,
was invited, was expected,
to walk forward with coins
that matched their birthday year
and drop them in the jar.

There were smiles and happy titterings
when the old-timers’ pennies, nickels,
dimes and quarters made a clatter.

Those of us who were six or seven or eight,
as we marched to the front, could overhear
what the grownups were whispering

— isn’t that Ralph and Anna’s boy?
— my, my, they grow up so fast
— sure looks like her momma, doesn’t she?

For us youngsters, our turn
was an annual rite of passage.
We looked forward to it.
It gave us a chance to shine.

THE BIG CHAIR

It sat just inside the front door
that opened into the most lived-in
room of the house — the kitchen.

Back then it was also the only
heated room and was large enough
to accommodate the wood stove,
sink, refrigerator, the table
where we ate our meals.

But mostly it was home to
The Big Chair where my father
sat after supper and hauled
me and my sister up to his lap
for stories, some read from a book,
others of his own invention.

Sometimes that chair and lap
held us both, other times
one-at-a-time, but always
wrapped in warmth and safety
and laughter and love.