From across the dark water,
The sound of music-
Oh, to live on sugar mountain
Above, in the starry black sky,
The crescent moon descends,
Her cheshire cat smile disappearing
Behind the western ridge.
With the barkers and the colored balloons
Small drakes with their drab little hens bob
Together on the dark deep water
As the moon’s reflection ripples past.
I grab the night’s music and
the sky’s sinking moon
Stuffing them deep into my chest,
You can’t be twenty on sugar mountain
Hoping to fill the empty space you left there
With the sound of music
And the light of the pale waning moon.
Though you’re thinking that
you’re leaving there too soon,
You’re leaving there too soon.
*** the lines in italics are lyrics from Neil Young’s song Sugar Mountain, one of my favorite artists and songs.
How is it that the kinship of words and emotions leads us
to birdsong and moonlight.
If I write
what do you hear?
If you read the words
‘The cold light of the moon shone on her skin’
Is it not the same moon?
I heard you were once a small child in a garden filled with flowers.
Were you there
Or only words in a verse?
The sadness overwhelms me and I long to drift away.
But is that poetry
Or just wishful thinking?
The abstraction of poetry only reveals itself in the emotional response of the reader.
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
And the dawn refuses to break
As my heart has broken
And that is not abstract
Driving along the ridge,
Bright sun in a cold sky,
The bar ditch is filled with the first blush of spring.
Effervescent purple henbit covers the ground,
Weeds of childrens delight,
First bouquets of the season.
When my nieces were babes,
These weeds were their favorite flower until their father
Mowed the yard,
Decimating their wild flower garden and bringing bereft tears.
Did my grandfather tell me the tale of why we call the ditches
Along the roadside ‘bar ditches’?
The dirt was borrowed ‘bar-red’
To raise the road, flattened for the wagons then model Ts
To travel above the fields.
Memory sometimes obscures the truth.
I remember that my father died on Palm Sunday,
Though it is not the truth.
But that is the memory I preserve in my life’s mythology.
And it is Palm Sunday once again,
Not the date of his leave taking
But still the day I grieve.
And it is the first day of spring,
The day I remember my nieces’ grief
Over the heaped green weeds across their yard.
On this day, memory, unreliable and exact,
Borrows the joy before the grief…
Its the first of spring and all the birds sing
And little children palm frond process
Waving welcome the King into Jerusalem.
One brother is spending the week in silence.
One brother is spending the week in Amsterdam.
These are not metaphors.
I am spending my week in an alley amongst the dumpsters and broken glass and who knows what that is on the ground
Somewhere between weeping and not weeping.
This is metaphor
And knowing myself like I do,
Since I have spent a good portion of my time in this alley,
It has been swept clean and the dumpsters have been lined up just so and the whatever that was has been washed away.
And I have probably made friends with a cunning rat or two and helped some homeless dude find lodging.
All this is metaphor.
Grief puts you in unexpected geography,
Locales not usually associated with your life.
And you spend a lot of time there,
Weeping and wishing you would stop weeping then thinking, okay, I have stopped weeping
Just to start all over again.
Some of this is metaphor.
And the alley is someplace.
I mean alleys are always the in between places.
The places that separate there from over here.
And all that may or may not be metaphor.
I’m not sure.
I look at my hands.
They look nothing like my mothers hands.
Hers were small and china cup delicate
though powerful enough to create our universe.
Her fingers, slim and incandescent, resolving into perfect oval nails.
She scoffed and dismissed those fingers as not enough,
lacking the reach for that next ivory key
reserved for the true concert pianist.
That not good enough created all the sounds of my childhood-
Schubert and Haydn,
tin pan alley,
Lennon and McCartney,
I miss her strong hands, pale and translucent,
I miss my mother’s hands holding my hands.
Snatches of lullabies from a distant long ago room
Strains of the old rugged cross from dusty hymnals
Or maybe loud mellencamp from a car radio
Thumping across dirt roads
I never know if its real
Or made up
The sound of tires on the singing asphalt
Or the growl of gravel
Humming harmonies rising in clouds of dust
They’re the songs of wandering angels
A stone is made smooth
with the least bit of pressure,
a constant and maybe thoughtless rubbing
between thumb and forefinger.
As tarnish from a piece of old silver,
maybe your grandmother’s knife made bright,
Or the wind’s insistence against snowcapped mountains
Or water-made canyons
Of deep hollows, fern filled and green,
Hiding the shy deer and red fox den.
I keep that pressure steady-
Rubbing the memories deep into my skin.
Tattooing the years tears on the lines of my face
Until I see your eyes
Look into mine
From the bathroom mirror