Sunday, January 31, 2010

Red Sky at Morning
















“Red sky at morning
sailor take warning.”

Cumulus clouds of red
and purple

indicate a downpour is coming.
Batten down the hatches,
secure storm windows,

lock the shed, be sure
rain gutters are clear...

and be prepared
to ride out the tempest
on the safety of shore.

What other natural warnings
predict disasters coming?

Volcanic eruptions are usually preceded
by a steady stream of smoke but most
surprise and blow to the skies covering

everything in soot and ash.

The rumble of an earthquake
lasts a few minutes then it’s done
people crushed, homes lost, lives gone.

Some say animals perceive what we can’t see

so we send out satellites to get reports
but like Chicken Little, the newscasters shout,
“The sky is falling!” and most of it never turns out.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Household Crafts and Other Mysteries

















My sister sent me a picture of a man
who spent his days constructing buildings
out of toothpicks. He replicated famous
originals in minute detail.

I wonder if his art
was a meager attempt
to use his time
so he wouldn’t go insane?

He seemed to have the skill to be an architect
or an engineer, but while he kept busy for hours,
he didn’t have to compete for those big contracts,
or build structures to stand for hundreds of years.

Has he offered anything of value?

There are those who say, "To capture an image
in miniature gives pleasure to all who view it.
It will be encased in glass and people will gather
to ooh and aw, and that is the whole purpose of it."

I wonder how many toothpicks it took
and how will he store it
and what line of thought went through his head
from picking his teeth to building a city
in 1/16 inch scale?

I suppose he could have been on the couch
watching TV for all those years
and no one would
know how crazy he is.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Make-up

















Blemishes -
stray marks on the skin
dark circles under the eyes
pores, too large for public viewing

Paint -
especially designed to hide the flaws
and provide a mask
to cover all those defects that would

Detract -
from my natural beauty.
It takes one hour
sometimes more
depending on the lighting

Covered -
in layers of make-up provided
by Revlon or Cover Girl;
blush for the cheeks,
highlights for the eyes

Botox -
the next step when make-up
is not enough to hide the affects
of life upon my face.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of the Union
















Handsome when he was elected
clear eyes, lots of energy
optimistic about his new endeavor
to be President of the United States.

Photos now plastered in newspapers
and magazines, show a man who has aged
ten years, for the one year he has been in office.
The job, even for a more experienced man

...overwhelming.

Road blocks at every front
natural disasters and human mistakes
wars, economic downturns, health care
and so much more.

What is it about leadership?

Even with the best intention
there is a tendency to tear it down
but when it is broken and gone
we long for the good old days
because they were better
than the ones we’ve gotten.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Play With Me
















His toys are all scattered on the floor
“Play with me,” he called out.

“I’m too busy. I’ve got cupcakes
to bake and errands to run
I don’t have time for this nonsense,
Clean up son, we’ve got to go.”

After the groceries are bought
and art supplies picked up
we drive by a park and he shouts,
“Stop, let me play on the swings.”

“There’s no time, I’ve got things to do,
daddy will be home in a little while
there’s dinner to fix, and laundry to wash
maybe tomorrow we’ll play in the park.
I’ll read you a story when it gets dark.”

Night time comes with a rush, dishes to
wash and programs to watch, “Just give me
a kiss and take your bath
be a good boy then climb into bed.”

In the quiet evening guilt settles in
I can’t sleep and go take a peek
to watch him lie so silently.
Why didn’t I take time to play?
Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fruit of the Grape

Here are the two art projects I was working on. I chose the same subject
for each to experiment with shape and color.

The first one is done in watercolors.






















The second one is in oils.

I Saw Him Yesterday

















Last month he was sitting alone at a bus stop
his shoulders hunched forward, he seemed
deep in thought. He got on the bus
but I couldn't get his attention.
I saw him through the open window and called
out his name as loud as I could
he stared straight ahead and didn’t turn his head.

I saw him again yesterday riding his bike
along the highway, his leg muscles firm,
his skin brown and smooth,
I knew it was him when he smiled.
He sped on by and didn’t wave
I’m glad I had a chance
to see him anyway.

That’s his shirt flapping on the fence post
his chest is bare and his back glistens.
He holds the ax up high,
his biceps ripple when he brings it down
to split the log he is chopping.

I walk towards him and start to speak
but he doesn’t know me. He looks like my brother
but he isn't. Jess died at forty-four, still in his prime.
I see him all the time but he doesn’t see me.

--------------------------------------------------------
January 13th. was his birthday... this poem is written in
his memory.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Beauty and the Beast
















Princesses and fairy tales with the promise
of happily ever after and make-believe,
lure the female readers into fantasy,
but when the story is done, thoughts linger on
making young women do things that are unsafe and illogical.

Like Beauty falling in love with a Beast, who transforms
into a marvelous prince, one who loves her
and treats her kindly for the rest of her life.

Yet in reality the beast stays a beast
beyond the surface of his skin
it is part of his soul and doesn’t conform
to love but drags everything down to its level,
where unhappiness reigns beneath the lure of danger.

His dark brooding eyes, and a curl
that hangs, just so, over his forehead
awakes a passion and a sincere desire
to change this wild beast into a domesticated creature.

What once caused her heart to flutter
from the roar of his motorcycle,
to the smell of his leather jacket
now nauseates her.

The fantasy that love could transform all, implodes
with too many late nights, no excuses where he’s been,
drunken brawls and lost jobs the dream wears thin.
She realizes there’s more to life than waiting up
with accusations and pleas.

She leaves him behind,
grateful for an honest man,
relegating the fairy tale to where it belongs
to the realm of the imagination.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Vibrations
















I believe every generation is born
into its own vibration
and the music is intricately
linked to the brain patterns of each child.

When the musicians arise from that population
the vibration connects
brains in all teens born
in the same year, give or take five
in either direction.

Like drum beats from an indigenous tribe
a synchronicity occurs and the dance begins
releasing the message to revolt and overthrow
or make love, peace and equalize.

Whatever the case, the purpose
is to alienate the current generation
from the one that’s passing.

The elders are released from duty
with the sound of this new vibration,
while the young get primal cues
for presidential hopefuls,
or radical thinkers,
comedic reflectors,
and transformational speakers.

In my life time I’ve been around
when classical music and big bands,
were overthrown with the rise
of rock and roll, tossed aside with
hard metal, then punks and hip hop.

All, at some point,
have been converted to
easy listening.

I’m listening for
the new vibration to emerge.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Single Rose


























A single rose
in a backyard garden
planted in memory
of a woman

on a drunken binge -

Cause of death
listed: unknown.

Yet , year after year
the flower blooms
to mark her life
and be remembered

by her only daughter
who will always love her.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mudslide

I wrote this four years ago. Needs work but seems to fit what is going on today.
















Catherine was stretched out on her bed watching television when her program was interrupted with an emergency announcement, "Torrential rains are expected to batter the area throughout the night. All residents in Santiago Canyon must evacuate."

Already exhausted Catherine got out of the bed and reached for her phone. She pressed automatic dial and waited for her mother to pick-up. "Mama, I need a place to stay. Can I come over?"

Her mother sighed, "Of course. Do you need anything?"

"Everything is still in boxes in the car. I'll gather a few clothes and be there in a while," Catherine Everett said. Last week the fires had devastated most of the neighborhood except for the houses on her block. They were told it was okay to move back in but now hard rains brought the threat of mudslides. "How much more of this can I take?" she wondered out loud, rubbing her neck and shaking her head trying to stay focused.

Everything had been unraveling since Larry left. She could still see his guilty face and hear his contrite voice. “I need some time to think,” he said.
Her neighbor, Marie cried with her, “I’m so sorry, she said.”
Catherine didn’t have time for these thoughts she had to force them out of her mind.

She had been so hurt and angry that she fluctuated between wanting to die and punching him, but she asked him to leave before she regretted agressive actions. She needed to grieve but with the wildfires and now the rains she could only react to the next emergency. “You can do this," she said taking a deep breath, bracing her shoulders and then walking out to her Jeep Ranger. She backed out of the driveway.

”Damn it,” Catherine cried as she maneuvered through the rushing water. She could barely see the road through the rain and tears. When she got to the main highway she pulled into the parking lot of the local shopping center to take one last look. She groaned when she heard a loud pop and watched as the hillside slipped, moving the houses from their foundations. The rooftops rode the crest of the muck finally settling on the other side of the street.

Catherine couldn’t take her eyes off the devastation. She realized there was nothing to do until the skies cleared so she sat in her car and watched through the rain. At some point she must have dozed off because she woke to the glare of the early morning sun and the sound of a helicopter hovering nearby.

She turned on the radio to listen for news. “In the canyon area rescuers using hand tools resumed their search before daybreak when they detected what appeared to be slight movement in the mud and debris. Two family pets were pulled from the wreckage, muddy but safe.”

She could see rescue workers walking where her house once stood. Impulsively she drove to the location not knowing what she would find.

“Catherine,” it was her neighbor, Jim Wallace, “ …I was out at the store...the hillside buried my home….Marie was in the house …They rescued the dogs … I found Larry …he didn’t make it… I’m so sorry.”

“What about Marie?” Catherine asked.

Jim looked bone tired, his face and clothes caked with mud. "I know she’s got to be out here,” he said. “I've got to keep looking."

She wondered how he could retain hope when there were no sounds coming from beneath the wreckage. “I’ll help you,” Catherine said and got out of her four-wheeled vehicle. Her feet sunk into the mud. Before she could take a step her cell phone rang.

“Mama… I’m here… I never made it out. They found Larry…He’s dead… That’s what I said, Larry’s dead… He must have come back for his things,” Catherine cried. “No Mama, he wasn’t coming for me. He was found in the remains of our house. Wait… I’ll call you back.” She recognized Larry’s profile. “Stop,” she shouted to the medical assistant who was zipping up the body bag.

“Do you know him?” the medic asked.

“Yes, ” she said as she swallowed hard. “His name is Larry Everett. He’s my husband. He is thirty-eight years old,” she said touching his arm, “See, that’s his tattoo,” she said wiping the mud off his arm revealing the fire-breathing dragon on his right forearm.

“You had better speak to the coroner over there by the fire truck and give him your information,” the medic said zipping up the bag and loading it on to the truck. He wrote LARRY EVERETT in big block letters on the bag and moved on to the next body.

Catherine talked to the coroner and then stumbled back to her Jeep. Her tears seared her cheeks, she coughed and choked and pressed her head against the cool surface of the hood and then started laughing hysterically.

She had been worried about her marriage, her finances and a dismal future but with Larry gone she wouldn’t have to deal with an expensive divorce, she could collect his life insurance, and would even get his social security. Now with the house wiped out she could start her whole life over. She bent over and vomited. She wiped her mouth then stood up and walked over to help Jim search for Marie.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Los Angeles Road Trip
















Driving into the city of Los Angeles
the high rises cast a shadow
across the crowded boulevard

Walls covered in graffiti
some artistic, most criminal-
mark territories visitors will never see.

A city mashed with eateries and bakeries
sushi, empanadas and pupusas,
all within walking distance.

Three slots for a quick stop

then back on route, through the city
in one-way traffic, past rows of taxi cabs,
and underground parking for $35.

Echoes of machines and melancholy

Wide eyed tourists and city dwellers
reflected in the walls of each glass tower,
icons destroyed in every disaster flick.

Immigrants and other disenfranchised

gather along skid row butted up
against the business district-
silk suits hiding tattered souls

"Hey buddy, can you spare a buck?"

A few more intersections then Hollywood,
the stage for many pretenders, who live
in gated mansions atop Beverly Hills

away from the daily grind
shopping along Rodeo Drive
working hard to keep their fame.

Upset stomach from diverse cuisines,
headache from too many strangers
craving a piece of the American dream.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

… and after six days, she sang

















Days underground
tons of concrete all around
pain from her broken fingers
reminded her she was still alive.
No food, no water
she looked to the future
and all she saw
was death.

On the sixth day
she heard some movement,
maybe another quake,
an aftershock to the big one.

The building lay crumbled
all around her. The screams

quieted after the third day
her own voice, raw from crying,
stench of death surrounded her,
she waited for her own demise.

It didn’t come.

Instead… a faraway call
from her husband.
Was he coming to escort
her to heaven?
She called out
then a light upon her face
made her smile, thinking it was time.
She called out again
only to realize she was still alive.

Finally released from her tomb
three hours to set her free
she thanked god, proclaiming

love for her husband,
and then she sang.

Her song rose above the rubble,
causing rescuers and news teams to weep,
because like Lazarus

she was raised from the dead
to live again.

It was time to celebrate,
to praise god for his mercy,
to give hope to all who despair,
to remind the world through her song,
“Don’t be afraid of death.”

Later she traveled down the road
seeing the devastation
and destruction she survived in Haiti.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Treasure Hunting
















More than winning the lottery
I’ve always wanted to find a hidden treasure;
to buy an older home and find money in the walls,
to stop at a garage sale and purchase an old painting
that turns out to be an original of some famous artist,
walk along the beach and discover a diamond ring.

My eyes are always peeled, glancing in unfamiliar places
hoping that today will be the lucky one
and I'll the make headline news with my find.

So far the walls have only been stuffed with asbestos,
paintings are from artist who should remain obscure,
the glitter in the sand is broken glass,
but I continue to forage
because one day my fortune may change
and I will discover that treasure
in another’s discards.

What’s that over there?
I believe the tattered book
could be a signed copy
from a great author,
I’d better take a closer look.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Curiosity
















Most people have heard the story
about Eve in the garden of Eden.
She was made from the flesh of Adam
but she was not him.

Adam had dominion over all creation
and all that power wasn’t enough
he was lonely and wanted company
someone like himself
to provide love and comfort.

Little did he know what he asked for
when Eve came along.

I wonder what she was thinking
when she sought out the forbidden tree?
Did curiosity overwhelm her?
What conversation did she have with the serpent
that tempted her enough to give up
Eden for all eternity?

Why, when she decided to sin,
did she convince Adam to follow?
And why didn’t he let her take the fall
and let her be punished on her own?

When we have children we think they are ours
they come from our bodies and even look like us
but so unlike us in their desires and needs.

Curiosity will take them out into the world
to discover new things and we, like Adam,
can’t control our offspring any more than
he could control Eve.

Maybe curiosity is the original sin, and like cats
we need nine lives to help us survive it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Choosing the Wrong Man
















Donna had been married for several years to the same man
stoic and true, predictable by most people’s standards.
Her sisters on the other hand were attracted to rebels,
men both dangerous and exciting.

Celia fell in love with a hippie dude,
who used meditation and drug addiction
to give him a sense of love and peace,
but he couldn’t support his children
so she left him after seven years
and her life was better without him.

Deidra, on the other hand, fell in love
with a man addicted to extreme excitement.
He climbed mountains, drove fast, loved hard
but loved too many, so she abandoned
her son to get away from him.

She found another man a few years later
dressed in a police uniform
his measure for right and wrong was extreme
and it took her two years to get over him.

Sheri, the youngest, was attracted to an artist,
who used music, to express his disdain for life,
but that darkness seeped into their relationship.
Her sunny disposition couldn’t brighten their days.
She now lives alone and is content without him.

One night in a long conversation the sisters
wondered what attracted them
to such unsavory characters.
They blamed their dad for their choices.

The difference was their father wasn’t dangerous
but daring, fiercely loyal and deeply in love
with their mother.

No man could compete with that.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Rain Forecast

















The weatherman predicted rain for several days,
so pull out umbrellas and rubber boots,
prepare for chaotic traffic and wet walkways.
Bring out their bright yellow rain suits

to protect yourself from going insane.
Let the kids play outside
no listening to their complaints
while they splash in puddles along the driveway.

Later fix some hot cocoa
and serve it in ceramic cups
they can sip it while you fix cookies
be sure to stir in extra chocolate chips

then while the sweets are baking
dad can fix a fire in the fireplace,
just like the one in the mountain cabin.
Gather some favorite books

read stories until late at night.
Pull out the sleeping bags and cushions
camp out in the living room creating
pictures with a box of crayons.

When they finally fall asleep
snuggle in your own bed
and dream about how to keep
your children busy for more wet days ahead.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Unfinished Conversation

















“Sushi!” the chefs shouted
to everyone who entered.
It sounded like the greeting
for a long awaited friend.
The enthusiastic call
welcomed strangers

who hurried to find tables
or single stools close
to the Sushi bar.
The small restaurant filled
with hungry patrons,
customers waited on by
indifferent waitresses

but the food was good
so people gathered
and soon there was a line
forming out in front,
no time for
lingering conversations,

not even for the couple
who sat down
near the front window.
He was older,
looked like her father.

She whispered,
“I’m pregnant.”
The vein in his head bulged
she reached out to touch
his folded hands,
he pulled away

“This was not part of the plan,
we’ll talk later," he said.
"Let’s eat now.”
but they never
said another word.

She played with her food,
he looked out the window
never making eye contact.
He finished his meal
they left in separate cars.

When would they talk again?
What would they say?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti
















I had fallen asleep on the couch
awaken at 10:00 with the nightly news,

“Earthquake in Haiti, devastation,
high body count, pictures coming in…”

I shook my head to clear my thoughts
trying to focus on the sight,
a dust cloud rising across the horizon,
the words from a woman, “Oh my
god, our world is ending,”

and then picture after picture
of toppled buildings
wounded faces
covered in dust and blood.

Old footage of an earlier visit,
a reporter stating, “The condition
of these buildings is a recipe for disaster.”
The camera reveals his prediction,
as survivors look for loved ones
buried under two tons of concrete.

Compassionate people worldwide
respond with money, resources and time
but who can repair the death of so many?

What happens to a community when thousands are lost
regardless of station or financial security?

How does the soul deal with the changes?

Some call it post traumatic stress,
a depression that sets in for several generations,
voices changed from screaming and crying,
a fear of a god who would allow such destruction.

Where is the justice?

Fires and earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes,
so many natural disasters and man made catastrophes,

When will it stop?

There is no time to dwell
at the philosophical level.
There’s work to be done,
people’s wounds to be tended
rescuers must be assigned to search
for survivors, construction crews need
to clear away debris and rebuild,
leadership must arise from those that
are left, and somehow in all of this,
a reason to live...

Stories fill the nighttime
news making our petty concerns
more endurable and each of us must
answer the questions,

What can I do?

How can I help?

Somewhere in the rubble an old lady sings
a lullaby from when she was young, a
melody to bring sleep for herself
but to let everyone know
danger is still on the way.

Dodo titit
Si ou pa dodo
Krab la va manje ou
Dodo titit
Krab lan kalalou*


Sleep little one
If you don’t sleep
The crab will eat you
Sleep little one
Crab in okra gumbo


* Haitian lullaby

The Absurd
















What is it about the absurd

that etches into memory
like carvings in stone?

Facts memorized for a test
are soon forgotten,

poems rehearsed remembered
for a longer time

but when we witness the absurd;
a freak show at a carnival,

the sighting of a UFO,
a man running naked
through a football field

these become
magnesium flashes

seared into the brain
for eternity.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Happiness
















A flutter
of wings

transported through
my veins

rapid breath
forcing a rush of blood

to my brain flooding
thoughts like a torrent of rain

forcing my lips to turn upwards
letting out insane laughter

enough to fill the room
causing heads to turn in my direction

tears turning to sobs
happiness at its most profound

resembles grief
except at its core.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Reflection
















Have you ever walked past
a picture window and wondered why
your mother was in the store
and then realized you are no longer

that emerging sweet thing
but a woman who resembles
her mom? From the wrinkles
around your eyes to the way

you laugh and move your hands?
You don’t spend as much time
reflected in glass, avoiding the
onslaught of age by ignoring

the changes and pretending
to be yourself, locked
in the memory of a more classic
beauty, when you were a younger age.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Can You Keep A Plant Alive?
















In order to determine that you are fit
to be in a relationship
you must demonstrate in descending
order, other living things you can keep alive.

When you have kept a plant alive for a year,
you get a cat then move up to a dog,
and if these creatures survive, no...
thrive, than you can take on a relationship.

You’ve mastered the basics
of shared resources and shared space,
a give and take in all situations.
Then you move on to communication,
shared ideals, values and aspirations.

The last arena for you to excel is to
offer support when another cannot take
care of themselves; a child, illness,
depression and age.

If you can’t keep a plant alive you must
really reconsider getting involved
with a human being.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

To A Sick Friend
















There was a time the world
was our playground
everything we did, we did with ease.
The greater the challenge
the greater the attraction.
We liked taming, controlling
creating and setting free.

Laughter was easy.

We lived life, or was it, life lived us?

Willing vehicles for god’s expression
but in time even the best start to falter,
energy for living wanes,
what was once simple becomes too difficult,
fear invades the reservoir of confidence,
meditation and prayer substitute for action.

We stand at the precipice of choice:

Do we stay and dwell
in this limited capacity
or do we let go and return to the creator?

My dear friend -
choose life
because I will be
too lonely without you.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tea Leaves
















Selma drinks her tea then checks the bottom
of her cup to read her fortune.

In the random arrangement
she thinks she sees adversity
coming in a clump of leaves
or is it true love with
that irregular seed located awkwardly
to one side?

Although when she thinks about it,
adversity and true love are not
opposites but come hand in hand
like two mischievous friends
prepared to wreck havoc on her
comfortable life where everything has a place
and remains in space without demands
from outside forces until love and
adversity arrive unannounced and trample her heart,
wrestle her down into a whirl of passion and dread.

Afraid she will not be able to withstand
their assault she asks her friend, Millie
to take a glance at her tea leaves.

Millie believes she sees good fortune arriving.
Selma will be offered a job and move to the
city, inconvenient but a better destiny than
having to deal with love or adversity

Friday, January 8, 2010

Piecing It Together

















The day stretches out ahead,
a simple project planned

taking scraps of material
from old clothes and other items
and piecing them together
to make a spread

large enough to cover
my queen sized bed.

What could be so difficult
about
that?

I select old T-shirts
I've saved
throughout the years,

Kinks, Stones
and Tanya Tucker

cut little squares
of different colors
placed together
to form a pattern

or maybe this time
I’ll create a picture
of a cottage tucked
away in the woods,

a landscape of pine trees and
snow capped mountains,
with woodland creatures
all around.

I sketch out the scene
taking newsprint taped together,
using details from several photographs,

then drawing it out
large enough to cover the bed.

This project will
take over several hours,
it won’t be done for days,
but once started
it can’t be stopped.

Orange for the sun’s glow,
and pink for the clouds,

different shades of green
for the forest,

and so many grays
for the walkways
and stone fence.

Pieces from
designer suits
sections from
party dresses
a few bits
cut

from clothes
I still wear.

Every selection
an occasion
that is important.

The new year’s
celebration when
he asked me to
marry him,

the baby blanket
from our first born,

the leisure suit
of the seventies.

Here is my first pair of jeans
it was hard to find a square
that was not badly
worn.

I’ve arranged
all the pieces by color
making sure each one
is recognizable
by the cloth it was
taken from

trapping each
memory

in time and place.

I didn’t expect
it to take so long
but it is finally done.

I can’t believe
I'm ready to
press it
then display
it on the wall.

After all...

a work of art this nice
shouldn't be wasted on the bed.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Chance Meeting

I wrote this poem after watching the movie, He's Not That Into You. Who knows where the brain goes to retrieve and rearrange details.
















I found the journal he had written
before we were wed
read a few lines and knew
he hadn’t told me the truth
when he said I was his first love.

I looked away, it wasn’t my business,
yet drawn back to his words
written in bold caps
telling about a love interest
when he was twenty-five.

Her name was Sara,
blond and petite,
a friend from high school.

I went to the garage dug through old boxes,
found his year books and there was Sara,
a black and white shot from her senior year,
her hair piled high, her eyes probably blue.

I kept searching for details, Sara in French Club
and here both were in Theater together.
She was pretty enough but worked on stage crew
he on the other hand, was the star of the show.

Some stories I knew but he never bothered to tell,
except here in his journal, about
an accidental meeting on the city streets.
She was married but unhappy,
it lasted for a little while
until he met me, but why did he keep
this journal with all these entries?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Artists and Advocates























Artists need advocates
in the face of no evidence.
Someone to see greatness
in the pit of self doubt.
All encouragement needs
to be supportive and positive.

Critics come by the dozen,
those who are indifferent
are in the thousands,
but advocates point to the future
and speak to the artists’ fears.
They savor significance of every
brush stroke and poetic line,
giving the artist strength to carry on.

When advocates become too busy,
or get too tired of all the misses,
when they can no longer deal
with the grief and despair,
it is time to let them go and find another
for art flourishes in fertile ground
and greatness emerges from the belief
of one person in the potential of another.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ordinary Days
















A storm of paper fluttered from the sky
words of inspiration printed with a bold black maker
phrases like “View the valleys from the hilltops.”
“Capture moments of peace.”
“Look around and find true love.”

Simple messages fluttering toward their targets
to inspire random strangers.
A rainbow of color, red, yellow, green
it should have evoked a feeling of joy
but instead I cried, I wondered why?

People on the sidewalk looked up and reached
for the falling manuscripts.
There was an excitement in the street
some rushed to grasp a specific color
others caught the closest page.

Art in its true form,
created and delivered to the viewer
and yet I cried… why?

Dwelling on the visceral image I remember another scene
when paper fluttered from on high … it was September 11th.
planes crashed into the World’s Trade Center
and reams of paper like giant snowflakes
fell, littering the street, a detail almost unnoticed
because of the larger debris and carnage.

I didn’t know I remembered that detail until tears fell
several years later , while sitting in a theater
watching a musical comedy about ordinary days.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year’s Resolutions
















I resolve to … solve the issues
of my life with determination. Address
the tribulations that hound me. In all areas
I’ll take action. I must repair the bathroom cabinet,
and clean out the garage. I will fix my relationships with
others and seek new solutions to the same reoccurring problems.

Maybe my relationships will be handled once the garage is neat
and the cabinet door doesn’t dangle on its hinge. Why do
I try? All this willpower will be forgotten by July and
all these resolutions will appear again with
a new found fortitude on another list
at the beginning of next year.

What if nothing is messy or
broken and everything is as it should be?
There would be nothing to fix or clean then I could
resolve to be creative, or I could find salvation, to discover
my purpose in life and to express it freely. I could seek redemption
instead of idling away wondering how to improve on last year’s imperfections.

When I’m stuck and immobilized I am my mother standing on the outside
criticizing my best intentions before I begin. I am my brothers
and sisters, skeptical and teasing, daring me to fail.
I am my father who joked about everything
and made anything I did seem silly.

This year I resolve to let things
be and not to worry about what
could happen, and to turn on the light
when I am scared, to eat only until I’m full
and to know when I’m full, to take walks in the
sunshine or when it rains, to sing everyday and to
remember all the words, to get angry when I’m angry,
and cry when I’m sad, to laugh out loud, especially at myself.

I resolve to live simply, and to let those around me know I love
them profoundly and by this time next year my life
will be improved or I will find some better way
to resolve transformation for the following new year.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Benji
















I returned to the classroom after six years of writing grants and working in the district office. It was a wonderful feeling having my own space again where I created the environment and worked with children once more. My fifteen years of experience came rushing back to me but I was frequently surprised by some of the new challenges I now faced.

“Benji, can you read next?” I said to a young boy sitting in the back row of my second grade classroom. There was no response. I could see his eyes looking up to the ceiling, totally oblivious to the classroom activities.

“Earth to Benji, Earth to Benji, come in Benji,” I called out again.

He lost that faraway look and then said, “What?”

“Where were you?”

Without hesitation he replied, “I was pretending to be a serial killer.”

“We’re on page 247, please read from the top of the page,” I said in a calm voice trying to refocus his mind on the task at hand and not to call attention to what he just said.

My brain was racing though. What should I do? The events at Columbine were recent and I didn’t want to take his comments lightly. I knew I couldn’t ignore this but how should I handle it? Was the counselor even here today? By the time the bell rang for recess my heart was pounding.

“Jenny, you’re the leader today,” I said to my most reliable student, “and I want you to walk the students out to the playground.” Next I called Ryan the biggest student and said, “Ryan you follow in back of the line and if anyone doesn’t listen to Jenny you tell me when recess is over.” I looked at Benji and said, “You stay with me, we need to talk.”

The students filed out of the classroom and Benji and I watched from the door to see the students walk in a semi-orderly line in step with other classes as they headed out to the playground. Then I turned to Benji. “Tell me a little bit about you pretending to be a serial killer,” I said ushering him to the kidney shaped table in the reading area.

We could hear the sounds of children playing on the playground and see them running on the grass through the large picture window facing the field.

“What do you want to know?” he said climbing on to the large teacher chair with wheels.

I sat on the edge of the table and started in, “Where did you get the idea to be a serial killer?”

While I waited I looked into his almond shaped eyes and noticed he had two front teeth missing. I saw his shoelaces were untied and his feet didn’t quite touch the floor. I could smell soap, hair gel and maple syrup. His hands were folded respectfully in front of him.

“I heard it on the news and I thought it would be cool,” he said as a matter of fact.

“What do you do as a serial killer?” I asked, looking into his small face topped with black spiked hair.

“I kill them,” he said puffing out his chest.

“Who do you kill?” I asked dreading the answer.

“I kill them all,” he said raising his arms in an obvious victory.

“How do you kill them?” I continued afraid of what I would hear next.

He jumped off the chair and said, “I stomp on the Cheerios” and then he kicked his left foot out to the side, “and then I smash the Cornflakes,” swinging his arms he continued, “then I grab the Wheaties and throw them to the ground.” He stopped talking and walked up to me putting his hand on my shoulder drawing his face close to mine as he stared into my eyes, “Mrs. Reese, are you crying?”

I wiped my tears and gave him a hug, “You’re just a kid aren’t you?” I said letting out a long sigh. He looked confused. “Thanks for talking to me Benji, you’ve got a lot on your mind don’t you?” He nodded and then I said, “When you’re in class you’ve got to pay attention. Do you understand?”

He nodded again. “You can go out and play.” Without hesitation he sprang to the door and ran out of the room.

After school I met with his mother to tell her about our conversation. I recognized her right away because she was always so well dressed. She was a working mom and Benji was her only child. She got that uncomfortable look parents get when teachers call them over to talk about their child.

I told her the story about Benji. When I got to the part about him wanting to be a serial killer, she covered her mouth and backed away from me her eyes darting about to see who might overhear our conversation. She interrupted me, “I know, I’ve heard him say it at home,” her hands fluttered in front of her like she was trying to keep a buzzing hornet away, “I’ve told him it was bad, and he shouldn’t say it.”

When I completed the rest of my story she leaned against me laughing and crying. “Oh my goodness, I didn’t ask enough questions did I?”

“Believe me, I was glad that I didn’t overreact in these crazy times,” I said shaking my head.”

I’ve discovered that working in schools these days requires teachers to listen so carefully. Nothing can be overlooked and parents need to be kept informed. It is in that partnership that we can keep kids safe and nurture their greatest potential.

Benji continued using his lively imagination, combining what he knew with what he was learning. He ended up being identified as Gifted before he finished second grade. He moved at the end of the year and I’ve lost track of him. Now that I think about it he should be starting his second year in high school. I wonder how he is doing?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Woman On The Streets Of Rome















She wore a tattered sweater,
ragged skirt and
woolen cap.
Her head bowed
rocking back and forth,
making no eye contact,
no plea for mercy.

So pitiful and alone
neglected in that darken alley.

He ignored her,
walked past her,
she doesn’t matter anyway,
humans are dispensable
debris, nothing more.

In the morning he saw her again
alive and animated.

Did someone take her in?
Did they offer her a place to sleep,
a warm meal,
a bath,
a kind word?

“Someone showed me compassion,”
she said,
“and in that instant my life was changed.”

Friday, January 1, 2010

Shadow of Moonlight

In honor of the Blue Moon of New Year's Eve 2009
















In the shadow of moonlight
clouds catch the moon’s
glow outlined in silver
colors drain and all that remains...
charcoal and midnight.

Shadows cast on the ground
fade into darkness
where the boogey man lives underneath
the roots of an old oak tree,
or hides in the cave along the mountainside,
underneath the trestle bridge
the perfect place for all creatures
with radiant eyes, to scare lost wanderers.

It's time to run off with your lover
and hide under the covers
to find that sweet caress,
the smoldering heat and passionate kiss,
away from the unknown sounds
of nocturnal creatures stalking their prey
before the light of day.