Sometimes He Would Call

Sometimes, when he thought

too much time had passed with-

out a poem appearing, he would

call and ask, “Are you all right?”

 

I would chuckle, tell him I was

fine, thank him for his concern

and tell him a poem would

appear soon. It was a catalyst.

 

Then one day I got a call and

knew I would never get another

call of his concern for me. He

had died, tragically, violently in

 

a moment of utter, personal despair.

I haven’t written much since he

died and it occurred to me that

if it were any other time, I might

 

expect a phone call of his concern

for me, a call which he won’t be

making ever again, but just the

thought of his calling was enough

 

for me to write this.

But It Is Scary to Take That Step

Someone said, “We have to fire him,”

but there was no one to take his place,

so they just shrug their shoulders

and continue their journey on

into the dark.

 

The small child hugs the abusive

parent’s leg and clings because

there is no one to take that parent’s

place, so they journey on

into the dark.

 

We are all frightened of the void,

of the dark, of the vacuum

seemingly sucking life from us

as we continue along the journey

into  the dark.

 

Plato’s Cave had light at the door

that the philosopher king saw

reflected in the shadows on the

wall as most sat staring

into the dark.

 

Paul said the true Bright Morning Star,

barely visible in the East, broke

down the dividing wall of hostility

and even Paul no longer stared

into the dark.

 

But it is scary to take that step into

the outstretched arms of the One who

stands at the edge of the dark asking

us to trust that it is the way

into the light.

How Do We Deal With That?

“How do we deal with that?”

the interviewer asked the

short, brown-eyed Buddhist

Jewish grandmother,

“Anger that is….”

“Moderate it,” she responded.

“Don’t refuel it. Direct it toward

the social injustice that gave it

birth. Don’t fight with the

moment. Be attentive and do

what is kind to yourself and

model that for others,”

said the woman who had sat

at the feet of Hillel, Jesus and

the Buddha and perhaps Mother

Teresa, and who now has children

and grandchildren sitting at the

sandaled feet at the end of her short

legs covered with a long springtime

skirt – legs that almost don’t touch

the floor.  The two sat on the stage

of a community center in what has

been called the worst American

city and spoke of the pervasive

pain of life but not without

hope and amazement. The

grandmother did a “Reader’s

Digest” condensed version of

centering prayer with the

audience and as the camera

scanned the room when eyes

were opened, it revealed

animated, smiling faces.

The grandmother read a poem

she carries with her always by

Pablo Neruda, “Keeping Quiet”:

 

Now we will count to twelve

and we will all keep still

for once on the face of the earth,

let’s not speak in any language;

let’s stop for a second,

and not move our arms so much.

 

It would be an exotic moment

without rush, without engines;

we would all be together

in a sudden strangeness.

 

Fishermen in the cold sea

would not harm whales

and the man gathering salt

would not look at his hurt hands.

 

Those who prepare green wars,

wars with gas, wars with fire,

victories with no survivors,

would put on clean clothes

and walk about with their brothers

in the shade, doing nothing.

 

What I want should not be confused

with total inactivity.

 

Life is what it is about…

 

If we were not so single-minded

about keeping our lives moving,

and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with

death.

 

Now I’ll count up to twelve

and you keep quiet and I will go.

 

Then the audience clapped, the

short Jewish grandmother laughed

a Buddha size laugh and took a

sip of water.

He Exited This Life

He exited this life

near the end of

his sixth decade.

 

He thought the door

locked at the

attempts made

 

to shake the open

door,  push and pull

with energy to fade

 

away from trying

any longer than he

could have stayed

 

and so he did

what everyone on

earth forbade.

 

He sat beside himself

without meds that

might have saved

 

him to think, but he

still couldn’t get in

so he made

 

the decision to leave

abruptly and adieu

he bade .

 

That’s the unnecessary and

tragic thing he

decided to do

 

and left so many to wonder

for years how to bid him

a very good adieu.

They Sat Along the Seaside Wall

They sat along the seaside wall

at a bar with a really great view.

They gazed into the declining red ball

and thought they were into something new,

but what they felt and what they saw

were a part of the inner life

of the children as they did draw

upon their primordial, ancient strife

only to see it again with less of a flaw —

the sun, water, basics no matter how small,

the goodwill, the conviviality of it all,

They concluded that life was really good

after all.

He Simply Said, “I’m Sorry.”

Three months ago, the man said

goodbye to his twelve-year-old

Chocolate Lab who died in

the man’s wife’s arms.

 

A week ago, the man said

goodbye to the congregation

he could no longer attend

in good conscience.

 

Two days from now the man

will travel to Chicago to say

goodbye in a eulogy to a

friend who committed suicide

 

on the thirtieth anniversary of

his friend’s father’s suicide.

This day the man sat in a

deli dining area of a local

 

grocery store eating a fresh

salad he put together at the

salad bar when a friend who

he hadn’t seen in five months

 

because they winter in different

places sat down. The man just

started to cry and his friend not

knowing anything, except about

 

the dog’s death, but not about the

man’s own father’s suicide so many,

many years ago, simply said,

“I’m sorry.”

The Poetry Book of the Year Club Came Calling

The poetry book of the year club came calling

via my computer and congratulated me

on a great poem of mine and of my choosing (isn’t

that their editor’s business?), to be published in

their Really Great Poems poetry book for only

$99.95 the really great pre-publication discount

price to really great poets who get whatever poem

of theirs they want published in a really great

looking book that will look wonderful on the

coffee table and surely will impress all their

poetry aficionado friends. How did they get my

name? Do they follow my blog?  You mean (I

asked them via e-mail) you are going to publish,

sight unseen, an original poem of mine just because

you have decided that I’m a great poet? What do

you pay your editor to do? Then I asked the editor

who was available for my every $99.95 beck and

call if I could get my poem published in The Really

Great Poems poetry book without buying the book.

Hello-o! Anyone home?  It was like what now

seems only a few short years ago (It seems that

way a lot these days) I was congratulated on being

chosen an Outstanding Young Man in America

for which I had been nominated by a clergy friend (?)

A few short years ago that really great and beautiful

book cost $49.95. Well, “alrighty then” I thought to

myself and humbly announced to everyone within

earshot including all my unappreciative parishioners.

Pleased with myself beyond my twenty-nine years,

I bought it and for the first six months stared quite

impressed with the teensy-weensy print and really

short paragraph (I didn’t need glasses then.)

of all my really great accomplishments especially for a

twenty-nine year old.  My wife just shook her head and

my kids wondered why I read that book more than the

Bible. Then came acknowledgment that I was one

of the Outstanding Young Men of the South (I was

living in Kentucky at the time.), and then Mid-South

for $49.95 each and when I moved north, Outstanding

Young Men of the North for $59.95, (inflation) but

why buy those when I already had been an Outstanding

Young Man In the Whole Nation not to mention the Milky

way and parallel universes?  Anyway, by then I was

beginning to feel my greatness was all in my head and

that the publishers thought is was all in my wallet.

Having been north and south, it has only been in

recent years that I have had the courage to venture

east and west and that as something other than

an outstanding young man.  So, I’ve been thinking

about what it means to be an Outstanding Old Fool.

I still try to keep up with Jesus although I now jog

slowly which would then make me a Slow Old

Jogging Fool for Jesus and not a particularly

outstanding one at that. So, if I’m ever going to

find out what it means to be an Outstanding Old Fool,

I will have to leave it to those who hopefully won’t

charge me, even at today’s really great pre-publication,

discount price, $99.95.