Last Astronaut

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Last Astronaut

Past midnight
on the great plains
desolate street light
hangs over a gas station

The faded sign creaks
in the wind
peeling paint
corroded pump
stark fluorescence
casting shadows
on hard packed dirt

I am a fallen astronaut
surveying this relic
the last outpost
on the edge of suicide

Posted in Poetry | 9 Comments

Angry Summer Sonnet

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Angry Summer Sonnet

Do not put your fist
through drywall or glass.
Do not screech frustration
behind shuttered windows.

Knock on neighbor’s door.
Anger leads to action
and action to change.
Bring everyone you know.

Punch the sky.
Let the summer boil.
Make lightning fear
the thunder of our voices.

Raise those fists in defiance
and hit the streets!

 

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Our Virus

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Our Virus

We must eradicate this virus
infecting our nation.
It is dangerous, pervasive
and has killed far too many.

We know how to fight
but intentional ignorance
and tribal chest pounding
has prevented progress.

Science can lead but will we follow?
Like an alcoholic, we need to admit
we have a problem and detoxify
because there’s no vaccine for racism.

We are the antibodies. We must overcome
before the patient, our country, dies.


Happy Juneteenth!

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

Checkmate

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Checkmate

I taught my wife chess
too well. She countered
all my moves with ease.

“Chinese or pizza tonight?”
I don’t care.
“Pick one.”
Okay— Chinese.
“Let’s get pizza.”

There were also good times—
long talks on hikes with dogs,
laughs over sushi and sake
but just enough rejection
that I felt like failure.

I suggested bike rides,
nights at the theater,
dinners with friends—
all declined.

As the refusals accumulated
I stopped trying,
conceded the game
as though I’d been mated.

It was long after the match
that I realized I’d learned too well.
I should have practiced forgetting
because sometimes “no” means “not now”
and that her caprice, while maddening,
meant I could have always made another move.

 

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Haiku: A bad apple spoils the bunch

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A bad apple spoils the bunch

Some proverbs ring true
Claiming there are just a few bad apples
Confirms the bunch is rotten

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Skin-Deep

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Skin-Deep

I’ve traced my ancestry, my family,
through courthouses and cemeteries
and no more than one-sixty-fourth

owned other men and only in the jaded
view of the law— my shameful heritage,
like many of my southern neighbors.

How could my slave holding grandfather
truly feel like he owned another man?
How could my family possess another family?

If we trace our grandmothers’ grandmothers’
back far enough, we’ll find we’re all cousins,
distant maybe, but cousins none the less— blood.

Don’t fault them for their lack of imagination,
pity them instead. You and I know our differences
are literally skin-deep. We’re all family.

(From this week’s Living Poetry Prompt: Kinfolk and current events. The photo is from my family archives.)

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Law and Order

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Law and Order

I’m supposed to fear
those in the streets
demanding reforms
and when glass is broken
and tear gas clouds
our vision, it is scary.

But I’m more afraid
of sycophants in suits
ignoring subpoenas,
welcoming bribes,
trading loyalties
for pardons.

Those youngsters with fists
in the air, angry and defiant,
are fighting for me,
for all of us,
who aren’t willing
to lick the boots

of the next petty tantrum
to get a badge or a sash
then spew the platitude
no man is above the law
while wiping shit from his sole
with our Constitution.

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Invisible

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Invisible

Like explaining menstrual cramps
to my wives, I tell my black friends
how non-violence and civil disobedience
are superior to riots.

“If I were black…”

But I was not black.
I grew up white,
trusting police
to serve and protect
this preacher’s kid
with a pathetic teenage mustache
whose minor infractions
were youthful hijinks—
boys will be boys—
white boys.

If I had been black
I would have lived
a very different life.
I might not have survived
my twenties, long before camera phones,
and ended up just another suicide
in a jailhouse or killed
while resisting arrest—
not even a statistic.
Invisible.

My advice to my fellow old white men
is not to counsel but to listen.
We can’t truly understand.
We can barely sympathize
but we can listen

and we can change.

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Life is Fair

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Life is Fair

We all die — all forgotten.
No justice after death
not even in history books.

Our published works,
masterpiece or doggerel,
burn or molder.

The wind shreds
what remains to confetti,
celebrating our demise.

Monks and nuns,
bums and whores,
we’re all erased.

Cathedrals and crack houses
delivered by landslides
to the shore

where the ocean swallows
the wicked and the righteous
alike.

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Guernica

This evening I attended a NCWN online workshop on ekphrastic poetry, lead by Maureen Sherbondy. She offered several famous paintings as prompts and one of them was Pablo Picasso’s Guernica. I’ve been thinking about the Spanish Civil War a lot recently, so I let it inspire me. (For audio enhancement, may I suggest listening to the second movement of Joaquín Rodrigo‘s Concierto de Aranjuez?)

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Guernica

Acrid air burns pustules
at the back of my throat.

Long ago I broke my sword,
pounded it to a plow.

Chose a life of fruitful
labor instead of war.

Why do those who cling
to the past insist

with their bullets
that none may progress?

Why does war come looking
for innocence?

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments