The fence

Last night I dreamed
that I was building a fence,
– a wooden fence.
I was dressed in leather gloves and
engineers cap,
and brown, duck-bib overalls.

Alone in the early spring sun,
hammering ten-penny nails
into hand-hewn plank,
after hand-hewn plank,
pound, pound, –
board against hedge post
level it up, then pound some more,
–sweat dripping from the tip
of my beard.

“What a great fence,” I hear someone
shout from the edge of the pasture.
But I pay no attention to him.
“Join us for drinks at 5 another yells out.”
“Your ass is on the line,” says still another…
I ignore them all.
I am immersed in
a project that can
be finished with brute force,
with only fresh spring water
needed for replenishment,
out here on the Frontier,
far from the cocktail bar,
and corporate conference room.

So confident in my keen sense of detail
and hand-to-eye coordination am I,
that I barely notice
the Finish Line in view,
driving one nail after the next…
my back aching from unloading planks
and aligning them properly,
scarcely stopping to smell
the nightingale, and the Forsythia,
pound, pound
– the Great Western Wall between
marauding Angus steers
and the berry patch
is nearly complete.
But I awake to incompetence.
No Forsythia, planks, berries
or steers
– only a flashing cursor on an empty screen
and the sound of traffic rushing past on the
street below

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Civil unrest in America

Depending upon the time I am allowed,
I will try to work through it,
I will try my best
to uncover the inner workings of
my heart – your heart – I will try
to make the day last a little longer
to live in it – as best I can.
I will savor the daylight
and respect the night.
I will take solace in evening shadows and
morning coffee and afternoon port wine
and conversation about social unrest
and urban decay.
Together we can decry the lost
art of penmanship and civility
on the freeway.
So come sit with me on the porch.
No shoes allowed.
We can leave the dishes in the sink
and the bed unmade.
To hell with the cellular phone…
turn it off and leave it in the oven.

And there’s no need to
do the laundry just because
it’s Tuesday.
We can file for a waiver – this is
after all
America.

National Poetry Month

I know that it’s been quiet around here at the EEOTPB website. So quiet that my friend Tulip, who disappeared into the depths of Southern California (somewhere near Toluca Lake) nearly two years ago, finally surfaced. She called me the other night to find out if I was okay. I told her that I was fine, but because of my current professional situation, I had been forced to spend most of my time concentrating on paying writing jobs, and my day job of writing technical books had left me creatively drained.

In the course of our conversation, she reminded me that April is National Poetry Month. She went on to say that if I had any true appreciation for the art form of poetry, I would not let the month go by without firing off at least one post into the blogosphere mentioning this fact.

So to recognize the month, I will respond here, to the reader who wrote to me some time ago to ask if I actually ever READ any poetry. I told that reader that I did read quite a bit of poetry and someday, when I got time, I would go into details.

Recently (ok within the last six months), I have read these three books of poems. I recommend them all for anyone with the slightest interest in poetry, writing, or in the assemblage of words in any unique and meaningful order:

  1. Weldon Kees, The Collected Poems of Weldon Kees – Probably the finest poet to come out of Beatrice, Nebraska to date, Weldon Kees is perhaps best known for his dramatic, albeit suspicious exit from life, rather than his fine body of work. Known by some as the “Missing Poet”, Kees committed suicide by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge on July 18, 1955. Although some believe that Kees staged his own death and fled to a new life in Mexico, his typewriter fell silent after that date. Known as “a bitter poet”, I didn’t read any of his works until fairly recently, and I wish I had discovered him sooner. But bitter…yeah, a little.
  2. Louis Jenkins, Before You Know It: Prose Poems 1970-2005 – I was never a fan of the prose poem, until I read Louis Jenkins. I enjoyed his work so much that I tried writing a few prose poems myself, and although they fall far short of Jenkins’ poems, I have gained a new appreciation for the form. Jenkins is a native Oklahoman, but he lived for decades up in Duluth, Minnesota. Why that’s worth mentioning, I can’t say, but there is something about that neck of the woods that brings out the poet in some people. Bob Dylan is from Duluth, and I have always suspicioned that his talent may have been in someway channeled by the large iron deposits underlying that part of the country – but that is just my theory.
  3. Ernest Hemingway, Complete Poems – A couple of years ago, my wife and I attended a reading of Papa’s poetry at the Blue Heaven Bar on Thomas Street in Key West. It was during Hemingway Days, which occurs each year in July – not the greatest time of year to visit Key West. It is truly a 24 hour sauna in the Keys that time of year, but if you are up for it, head on down, order a cold one at the bar, and sip it slowly as you listen to The Old Man’s best poems read by dedicated members of the Key West Poetry Guild. Up until that time, I had never considered Hemingway a poet, and from what I’ve read that’s the way he liked it. He never really wanted be remembered for his verse. In any case, I picked up a copy of his Collected Works on my way out of town. It sat on my bookshelf untouched for more than two years until I recently picked it up and read it. I shall consider him a poet whether he likes it or not, and as things stand right now, there is little he can do about it.

So that’s what I’ve been reading. I would like to hear what you’ve been reading as well, so feel free to comment here.

I will close my tribute to National Poetry Month with a short, whimsical poem that I wrote several years ago. It’s been collecting virtual dust on my hard drive since 2009, so this seems as good a time as any to let go of it:

 

ON WRITING A POEM

Writing a poem is often like,
pushing a wheelbarrow full of bricks,
up a steep hill, for absolutely
no reason, whatsoever.

Nobody really needs the bricks,
nobody cares if you make it
to the top, or if you spill half
of the load on the way up.

In the end, you’ll be just
another forlorn, but tired
wheelbarrow pusher, you’ll never be
a real bricklayer.

If you were a real bricklayer,
you’d write a novel,
And carry your bricks up…
…one at a time,
and position them very carefully.

But you’re no bricklayer – so,
be content with your task,
concentrate on the load,
rejoice at the summit.

anger

Don’t stay angry for too long,
you can be mad for awhile,
that’s the way of the world,
we were made to be that way,
we were made to stay,
pissed off for 2 or 3 days,
not much more…
… in the end, there’s no room
for any of it.
Forget that swindler who
resurfaced your driveway.
Forget the woman in the red Audi
who cut you off on the freeway.
Forget the guy from Corporate
who outsourced your job to Bangalore.
Forget about cell phone overage charges,
And the price of bottled water,
…unless they mess with your dog
let it go.

Lift me up

Sometimes it is more about blind luck
than it is about perseverance.
Sometimes it is more about grace,
than beauty,
more about class than
canned, recycled elegance.
You know what I mean
you’ve watched the
stars and the starlets,
and read the right Magazines.
You’ve read Nietzsche, and
Hemingway – after that, what’s left?
You’ve been scared as hell
in the night, and
yet you’ve welcomed
the dark.
Tonight, I am going to
read “Death in the Afternoon”.

I need a lift.

last named storm

it is amazing how,
in the end, we thought about it,
so little – we were
…too busy reading
tawdry paper-backs on
hot summer afternoons…
lounging by the pool,
on powder blue,
chaise lounge chairs,
the ones you bought from TropiBreez
for $499 ea. Plus shipping,
and slathering each other with sunscreen,
…too busy sipping
pineapple rum,
and too busy playing old
vinyl, Joni Mitchell albums,
on your 1968 stereo,
and playing board games,
at the clubhouse on Tuesday afternoons,
to hear November sneaking up,
to care about November sneaking up,
behind us — like a Brooklyn wharf rat,
we — too self absorbed to care,
thinking that if we quit smoking,
and stocked up on drug-store vitamins,
and cast a vote for president,
we’d be fine until the next decade,
but then it was November,
all of a sudden,
…bleached out, rung out,
dried out…November,
let’s drink one more
let’s toast the passing,
of the last named storm.

thoughts : 2016

don’t let them stifle you,
don’t let them make you call it a day,
or call it a lifetime,
or call yourself crazy,
fear not the dark, or being alone,
don’t fear marauding dogs,
armed gunmen,
or the Zika virus,
or the shrinking glacier,
don’t fear the savage politicians…
or back-pedaling middle-managers,
or the real estate racketeers,
don’t fear the phone,
or foreign hackers,
or panic attacks,
don’t worry so much,
it’s just opening night jitters,
stay strong, stay in your lane,
and keep off the main roads,
play Rachmaninoff on the car stereo,
and spend an afternoon playing 3-card poker,
and drinking watered down bourbon sours,
at the Mardi Gras,
don’t look back, there’s nothing to see,
keep it moving

Florida derby

Once, I wanted to paint

but the canvas

wasn’t there

I found, instead

just an old bed sheet

that someone

had left out in the

early morning

Miami rain…

…poor visibility

and cataracts

cloud my

judgement.

I

find comfort in

your arms when

the weather beats

against the shutters,

when the old

drunks clatter

down the street

at 4AM

when there is

a truck abandoned

at the end of the block

with its lights still on

when

a life is lost

or

a soul forgotten.

I think of

a shipwreck

twenty years ago

…I dream of youth

and riding the finest

horse in the world

across the finish line.

We’ve never lost have we?

tax time

Naked
and afraid?
Who, you?
me?
Not a chance
dig your
pink painted toes
into the sand and
file the extension.

Then kiss me
like we have no
real chance
of going home.

It’s a two and
a half hour
flight to
Tegucigalpa, so
call up the relatives
and pretend
there’s a new investor
named Ferdinand
and he’s burning
cash like there
is no tomorrow.

Just kiss me
again and
say if there
is such a thing
as real love
you’ve found it here
on deadbeat beach.

In a week we will
be on the bus
to Choluteca
drinking warm beer
and laughing about
the last check we
left for the
landlord.

The Upper Keys bagel poem

after all
the skiff is still upright
the shadows have
hastened away, and
you and I are upright
as well…
and waiting for the next
thing to happen
AS we wait for the
quiet of mid-morning
to slink in like some
old washed up
guitar player,
like some has-been
drugged out rock star
like some careless,
busted, fishing guide.

We wait until the traffic slows
on the OS Highway
so we can walk up to the
bagel shop where that
guy named Nigel says
he has the best damned
bagels south of Brooklyn
but you say he hasn’t got
a clue as to what goes
into a bagel
you tell me that he’s
too self-absorbed.
You tell me
there is not
a fucking
bagel
worth
eating
south of Cape May, New Jersey.

We eat our bagels
in peace – on the deck
of the best damned
Brooklyn Bagel dive
in the Upper Keys.

You wave to
some driver in
a furniture truck
barreling
south on US 1
you tell me, that
he’s driving too fast
and in the end
it’s all just another
accident waiting
to happen.