Saturday, March 31, 2012

April Fools

Spring is a time for foolish things
like falling in love and watching new life
bloom in dormant trees, plants and seeds.

Watch a speck of green pushing through the soil
a promise of days to come

so in the spirit of surprise
the first day of April
is a time to pull a joke -
food coloring in the milk,

a gummy worm in an apple
or a plastic fly, frozen in an ice cube
all to astound the unsuspecting
to make them laugh at least for a little while.

Glue some coins on a sidewalk
bake a meatloaf in a cupcake cup
and frost it with mashed potatoes
then sprinkle it with bacon bits
all for a laugh or two.

Make a phone call to leave
a message of impending doom
then listen to them howl
when they realize it is only a prank.

The list goes on and on
ideas for tricks to play
to make the first day of April

a memorable one
celebrating spring
and all the happiness in can bring.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Affluence vs Poverty

I was reading an article
about the miracles of poverty
how life is dependent on charitable
offerings whether it is from the state coffers,
collected from taxpayers,
or percentages of collections
gathered in churches.

The poor depend on miracles
and the generosity of strangers -
bighearted gifts of time, services and cash -
to give them life for another while.

Affluence, on the other hand
can get by on its own
autonomy, independence, self sufficiency
synonyms that say,
“I can do it by myself.”

The “haves’” are expected to share
with the “have nots,”
the “can do,” to reach out to the “can’t” or “won’t,”
the healthy must administer to the sick,
all religions and social systems seem to suggest as much.

Selfishness is seen as undesirable
while kindness and good works are celebrated.

My dad used to play the lottery
and when asked what he would do if he won
he answered, “I will give all the money to the poor…
poor me.”

He always got a laugh

but the truth is, he would probably
give most of it away, because he didn’t attach

to material things
and he was generous to a fault

counted on by others to get the job done
seem to be abundant even when he had so little
because he believed in miracles.

He had experienced the bounty
of his heavenly father
taking each day as it came
never losing hope or trust
in the blessings from above
seeing god’s work in
everyone around him.

Some of his more affluent friends,
in contrast, were bitter and cold

cynical about the blessing god could bestow,
wondering why so much of His work was left undone,
didn’t like the constant tug of beggars on their sleeves,
another person wanting to get something for nothing.

The class battles have gone on since Eden
one son killing his brother,
the bastard son being exiled

blessings for some but not for everyone.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Old Folks Cruise Line

Rolled out in wheelchairs
scooters and walkers
wearing depends
and wrapped in wool blankets

their money is taken
so they can see the world aboard
an ocean cruise liner with better amenities
than an old folks home

senses dulled with all their medication
desperate to keep life meaningful
after thirty years of retirement
they are bored with life
but the system keeps them

afloat on the old folks cruise line.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Torrential rain poured from the sky
on and off all day.
Each event jeopardized
by the reoccurring storm
forcing us to move from
shelter to shelter avoiding the onslaught.

We made it to the theater without incident
but hurried from the lobby to the restaurant
just across the walkway.
Ate our lunch watching people

scurry like rats in a flood.
When it subsided we hurried to our car
making it home before the hail, like small pebbles
bombarded our home keeping us inside
for the rest of the night.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Do Rats Go To Heaven?

Heaven is a place we go, if we’re good,
but do all living things
arrive at the pearly gates when they die?

Do deceased eucalyptus trees adorn
heaven’s paths and do risen squirrels
chatter among the branches?

Do saved whales swim in heavenly oceans
and do angelfish nibble at heaven’s toes?

Seems heaven would not be a wonderful place
if there were no creatures to accompany us.

How fun can it be if everything is peaceful,
no problems to solve, the drama of living
completely resolved?

What appeal could the afterlife hold
if everything we wanted was available?

If rats go to heaven are they cuddly and small,
leaving their rat “ness” in their earthly shells?

Do they forget how to burrow and forage
and reproduce uncontrollably
or do they learn to play harps
and are they content with that?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Things Don’t Matter

Macy’s would have you believe
things matter and the better the brand
the higher your status.

The fashion industry dazzles
you with things that sparkle
like a crow you collect anything that shimmers
crowding your nest with trinkets and glass.

Extreme cases of collection obsession
are shown on talk shows and cable programs
the hoarders can’t stop collecting

cramming their space with things that don’t matter
forgetting how to distinguish what is important
grasping tightly to the insignificant.

After a disaster with all the debris scattered
across three counties it is easy to see
things don’t matter.

Play a game with yourself
have a garage sale and sell all that you can
donating the rest to Goodwill
and toss everything else in the trash.

Keep your coin collections
and diamonds and gold
but everything else must go.

Sort through your pictures
make albums of the faces you know
and let go of the photos of forgotten encounters.

Rid your closets of things you don’t wear
clear your garage of things you don’t need.

Remember things don’t matter
you can be free.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Woman of Mystery

Sweet nectar of milk
soothing scent of her perfume

smile turned upward reveal her teeth
like white pearls

evenly strung
laughter the music of her soul

accompanied by the melody
of a lullaby

when all of this is gone
loneliness a cold blanket of ice
all her softness turned to stone

children's cries go unanswered
words of encouragement
left unspoken

no one to lift them up
or kiss away the pain

like pebbles tossed into the sea
all rough edges get smoothed in time

after an eternity
united once again

with the one who gave them birth
that woman of mystery.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Highest Will Fall

Some say the world will end soon
different predictions from different sources
all pointing to the same signs of final destruction
so either we die or live another day.

The reality will reveal itself soon enough
but in the meantime we’ve witnessed earth changes
earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes,
tornadoes, and economic downturns,
the world we once knew has been shaken

wealth accumulated from years of work
all on fragile ground
even the mightiest have fallen
on hard times, leaders of state,
religion, and society have been exposed

nothing left to hang their fame on.
Crystal Cathedrals have cracked
banks uncovered for their thievery

politician’s values reveal
and lack of devotion.

One by one leaders fall
in the tyrannical countries of the middle east
our soldiers become monsters in their own right
and innocent children, victims on foreign soil
as well as on the streets of our neighborhoods.

Maybe it is a good thing this world is coming to an end
we can start over again armed with knowledge
and maybe this time we’ll get it right.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Conformity or Artistry?

Tradition has a way of closing off
creative thinking, it is steeped in ritual
and regulation, with formulas

embedded in clear thought but whose
genius is forgotten in later generations
and it is the artist’s job to break the shackles
of current habits to awaken the mind
to larger possibilities and to realize

new paradigms for living. It is the ignorant
who hold fast to traditions when the predictable
gives way to the uncertainty of new forms

whether it is science, mathematics or religion
education is designed to conform existing ideas

leaving the dreams to the insane or locked-up
making every effort to shape the learner
in a mold set firmly in concrete
and it takes an artist to come with the sledge hammer

to break-up the stagnant thought
pushing the limits of accepted wisdom
to reveal new truths.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Do You Have Faith?

Picture by Bill

Do you have faith and believe in what you can’t see
the courage to step out into the abyss
to cross the cavernous opening that spans before you
or will you be like St. Peter and fall

because your faith falters and you are
overcome with doubt, your valor wavers
and the path ahead disappears,
darkness envelopes you
and you tumble into the void?

Do you have faith that even in your downfall
the hand of god can reach out and catch you
set you on solid ground to resume your journey
to his heavenly kingdom?

Do you have faith when you have to make a choice
that the light in the dark tunnel is guiding you
to the place you where you need to be, or like a lighthouse
on a rocky shore warning you to stay away?

Do you have faith that the rewards are worth
the sacrifices, the heavenly delights
await your good works and the fiery pits of hell
are only for the wicked and not intended for the misguided?

Do you have faith that your sins can be forgiven
your doubts are not mortal

and that you will be welcomed into the gates of heaven
taking your place among the chosen
wrapped in the loving embrace

of your heavenly father?
Can you sleep well tonight knowing your soul
can dance with the angels in eternal peace?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lighthouse Along The Shore

Picture by Bill

On a clear day the lighthouse stands like a phallus
along the rocky shore shining a dim light in the sunlight
but on a foggy day that same light cuts through
that vaporous mist and marks the shore
for boats who have wandered from their course

same said for the stormy nights
with waves crashing and tossing their craft about
the white light penetrates the darkness
to keep the boats safe from the rocks up ahead

the prism atop the lone tower magnifies the beam
to sun like radiance sending it across the sea
to lead the sailors safely back home
after the danger passes.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

First Day Of Spring

Picture by Bill

Flowers blooming, soft rain falling
buds on tree stems unfolding
bringing cherry blossoms to Washington D.C.
while butterflies emerge from their cocoons.

Daylight savings postponing nightfall
birds chirping to celebrate the dawn
Lent will soon be over with Easter
coming around the corner.

New births everywhere:
lambs, and chicks, and baby calves,
winter’s infants learning to crawl
new life with fresh beginnings

spring cleaning, tossing out winter’s cold
opening windows, letting in the light
from Canada to Mexico
let Springtime begin.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rhododendron, Daffodils and Wildflowers

pictures by Bill

Fourteen dollars to step through the glass doors
of the arboretum along the coast of Mendocino
entering acres of plants and flowers
arranged along walkways and garden settings
rhododendron, daffodils and wild flowers
bursting in an array of colors

catching the sunlight, accenting the shadows
among the magnolias, ferns, and succulents
a chain saw roars then screams disrupt the quiet
is it the oak tree whose branches are being cut
or various evergreens watching the surgery.

Humming birds and bees flit to every flower
small children run off-balance away from their
mothers, while the crows circle overhead.

Elders sit on the benches along the cobblestones
contemplating the joke life plays on everyone
understanding the cycle from seed, plant, to flower
is the same for every living thing
and withering is all part of the plan.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Calla Lilies

picture by Bill

The calla lily unfolding in spring
opening mouth to the coming rain
drinking in sunshine
sending out shoots
growing in clusters to inspire
artists and romantics
like a scroll unfolding

revealing the secrets of life
thrusting out its yellow tongue
telling tales of long ago
reminding listeners to be awake
to the mystery hidden in each flower.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Driving Along The Coast

picture by Bill

The road curving along the coast
like straw through the Pomo basket
weaving through thickets of trees
and brush, curling like a ribbon in the wind
light blue sky against ultramarine waters
occasional sightings of sea lions and dolphins.

Lighthouses marking the shores
for sailors adrift on the ocean waves
and pilots flying through the skies
landmarks for them to find their way
safely to their destinations.

Vista points along the road
to take photographs of scenery,
never quite capturing the colors
or the feelings of freedom
along the open highway.

Towns of fishermen and lobstermen
with restaurants selling
fresh fish and clam chowder
antique shops offering sea memorabilia
and art galleries highlighting
the talents of local artists

but in those back roads
where the locals live
No Trespassing signs are posted
telling visitors to pass on through
don’t think about staying

leave tourist dollars then
find another place to play
remember to visit again
but this land is ours
and that’s where it will stay
for several more generations.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Road Runner

He can be seen running across the landscape
doesn’t look left or right when he crosses the street
a flightless bird with the speed of a track star
hoping over rattlesnakes and tortoise shells
sidestepping holes left by prairie dogs
not the cartoon character of Looney Tunes

but an aero dynamic creature of the desert plains.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Hollywood Sign

I remember seeing it from the freeway for the very first time
heart racing wanting to get up close
to those big white letters, each a billboard on their own
spelling out the name of the city, HOLLYWOOD.

So many hours in dark theaters dreaming about becoming a star
and here below that famous sign I prayed to make it a reality.
My teachers in Boise said I was good, took the lead in all
the school plays. I could project my voice,
cry on command and was one of the prettiest girls in town.

The back seat of my VW bug was packed with maps
so I could take in the sights, find a place to live
then get down to the business of being discovered.
My reflection in the passenger window
of my classic bug screamed, "S -T -A -R!"

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Treasure In A Teapot

I don’t recall ever doing it

but it is my house, my kitchen, my teapot
so it must have been me
no one else I know could have reached it
but there it was one hundred dollars
in tens and twenties stuffed in a blue willow teapot

high up in the center cabinet beside the stove.
I had company coming over and we had ordered pizza
I took out forty dollars and paid for it in cash.
The next day I stopped at the art store and bought
two tubes of paint; turquoise and cobalt blue.

I shouldn’t have spent it so quickly
could have saved it for an emergency
but I would never have found it
because I forgot I stashed it there.

Maybe it was my husband who hid it away
but it seems unlikely for him to put money
in my area of the house, perhaps he stashed it as a surprise
thinking I would buy something for the home
instead I spent it on pizza and paints.

Funny how quickly the money was gone
a sudden surprise then “poof,” all spent.

I can remember when a $100 was a lot of cash
now it is like a twenty dollar bill,
handy for incidentals but hardly a treasure trove.
I’m trying to remember the day I put it there.

I seem to recall it was after the earthquake in Haiti.
he and I talked about expendable cash
in small bills so we could use it for gas and water

but if an earthquake came
I never would have remembered
so when I found it
I spent it on pizza and paints.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Nose Knows

I take my world in visually
the ambient sound is not a symphony
but an irritant especially in music
if the notes are not right
but if I were a dog everything
would come filtered through my nose
the mysteries of the world revealed.

With a long sniff I could smell

p-mails left along the walkways,
fire hydrants, and trees,
messages only other dogs can read.

Dogs sniff out drugs,
cadavers and runaways
some say they can even smell disease
letting humans seek treatment
before serious harm is done.

I wonder what it would be like to have such a tool
a sense of smell so functional?

I can imagine in a doctor it would make him great,
in a chef she would be one of the best,
for a house exterminator he could save big bucks
finding the intruders and going straight for their nests,
any environmentalist, who had such a skill
could identify pollutants everywhere

letting her nose reveal what it knows.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Harmless Things

Often times I toss and turn in bed
worrying about things that will never happen
listening for the things that creep in the night,
or wondering what is the name of the actress
in that movie I watched ten years ago
when I was twenty-two and dating
Max before he left for Africa.

Dreams are rarely nightmares
but rather absurd meanderings
entering the sub-conscious
with warning signs and mis-directions,
leaving me confused throughout the day.

The evening news fills me with fear
the possibility of a bombing, kidnapping,
tornado, tsunami or hurricane.
Every little rumble is the start of the “big one,”
that final earthquake I’ve heard about for years.

Gossip was always a bother
but now the internet is here with facebook
and twitter causing the gossip mill to churn
with things like cyber-bullying
and private videos going public.

What was once a nuisance
is no longer harmless
causing depression and aggression
for words that should never hurt me.

It is time to get back to a simple way of life
sitting in the front porch, watching the world go by
dreaming about a better life but never taking the steps
to confront the shadows in the dark.

Never testing the water to learn if it is deep,
or climbing into the boat to see if it can float
better to live in dread than to turn up dead.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Strange Cities USA

Traveling across the United States I visited cities
with some very strange names
started out in Why, Arizona
after a short stint in Bumpass, Virginia
fell on my face in Mud Lick, Kentucky
found some peace in Weed, New Mexico.

Stopped for breakfast in Hot Coffee, Mississippi
with Two Egg, Florida and Bacon, Georgia
next day I dined in Oatmeal, Texas.

Headed out to Happy Land, Oklahoma
Where I found French Lick, Indiana then
On to Beer Bottle Crossing, Idaho
spent the night in Can Do, North Dakota
before heading off to Hell, Michigan.

This story is not true but the names of the cities
can be found on the map of the United States.
Makes me wonder about the people
who lived there and named those cities.

Maybe they were a band
of perfectly named professionals

like Mel Slaughter, the butcher
or Allen Cockburn, the urologist
they met with Sue Yoo, the local lawyer
and Will Mankiller, the marine.

Karl Krook, the used car salesman
was probably at the meeting too
along with the cardinal Jaime Sin
and the music teacher, Linda Toot.

Melvin Bonner, the dentist
and Guy Hooker, who owned the local bait shop
might have argued with Kim Yoo Suc,
the track and field athlete, before he headed
off to the Olympics in Odd, Virginia.

The must have settled for the name
Loonyville, Texas
because that name is on the map
for anyone interested.

Oliver Loser the homegrown politician
couldn't understand why he never won an election
until he visited Braintree, Massachusetts
and finally saw the big picture.

He wrapped up his political career
leaving the GOP to fend for itself
moving to Poop Out City in California.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Holy Days of Obligation

Some calendars mark Holy Days of Obligation
a time to go to Mass, pray and fast
religious requirements, a recipe for divine
intervention or the promise of heaven

My personal calendar marks my unholy obligations
appointments with the doctor, dentist and optometrist
health requirements for body, teeth and eyes
to make sure everything is working getting prescriptions
for medicine and lifestyle changes to live a long life

Other special days are vacations some legal
holidays where most everyone takes time off
others for school children, bankers and post office workers
enough to make everyone jealous of the carefree
hours of unstructured play

All the others are schedules of a work day
marked with appointments and deadlines
luncheon dates and speaking engagements
kids soccer matches and dance recitals
everyday life ticked off in increments

Journals of my days on earth
listing the things I find important
the milestones and minutia
most of no historical consequence
but a record of my life all the same

When my days are done and I’m called
before St. Peter at the golden gates
will I be allowed to enter for all the car pooling
and cupcakes baked or will I only be rewarded
for the holy days I remembered to slow down and pray?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Jessie’s Kitchen

I can remember Dad
preparing food for a large group
he was a master in the kitchen
preparing the meal on the stove
going between tables and cabinets
pulling out pots and pans

orchestrating the clatter of utensils
and china into a cacophony of sound
music to the ears of the hungry
as the wondrous odors wafted from the kitchen

the conversations became louder
until the food was served
then a quiet while they indulged in the succulent
cuts of meat, chili sauces, veggies and breads.

Until yesterday I thought he loved cooking because
he was his mother’s favorite and worked beside her
to feed his father and family of twelve

but then I remembered he served in the Coast Guard
selected for kitchen duty
second in command of the daily meals
service for two hundred men a day

He loved his work and the hurried pace
joking with his cohorts and officers

The expertise from those four years of training
came into play after his discharge
anytime there was a wedding
or a church event, he always volunteered
to be in the kitchen pulling together
with others to bring food to the hungry

He thought his life work would be in his own restaurant
but there was not enough money to raise a family
he opted for plaster instead
the process was similar

large bags of cement substituted for flour
houses instead of cakes
intense labor to meet a deadline
all for the love of the work.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Paint the Shape

If you look around the world is made up of color
blocks of shape straight edged and finite
others more obscure like blobs
from a spilled paint can

but when these shapes become distinct
and your eyes can see the abstract
in the literal then you’ll become a better artist
giving an organic quality to your work

add the ebb and flow of darkness and light
to make these shapes emerge
in a story of epic proportions
of life and death, love and hate

the juxtaposition of contrasting colors
will make your picture, “pop”
and take you from the millions of unnamed artists
to create a style of your own

unique enough to stand the fickleness of time
to become a reference point in the history of art
better than a good artist to one that is great.

Inspired by the artist Diebenkorn