On The Tree Alone

I drove along the country road,
until I saw the tree alone
standing in front the empty field,
preaching with a withered bark.

With jagged arms aloft in prayer,
it danced a sad, whispered despair;
a trunk so bent and stooped it lurched
over the burnt acre in spasm.

The cars behind me motored dumbly,
obtuse to grief and loneliness
here born by branch and deep-dived root,
I bowed my head and paused, humbly.

On Hearts Alone

I want to kiss your lips
on this busy sidewalk,
in front of all these folks
and let them balk and talk.

I want to hold your hand,
our fingers interlaced,
walking past shops and stoops
in neither hurry nor haste.

I want to stop all time,
to see you standing there,
our hearts alone meeting,
and be all I can bear.

But it’s a tale for one,
a silly song for me,
longing unrequited,
you see, my love for thee.

If I could bend your will
and change your eyes to see
the very thought that quickens
and dreams only to be,

my heart would soar above
unbound and then unchained,
and free of this tepid role,
to which I am eternally named.

A guarded heart for you
all but for the taking —
a prize you can never know
except in the forsaking.

It’s a tale for one,
a silly song for me,
longing unrequited,
you see, my love for thee.

On the Last Magic Act

I watched a magic man stuff ten scarves in a hat,
with one fisted hand tied behind his hidden back.
He bowed and scraped and winked and smiled;
the crowd all yelled and screamed, antsy and riled.

He topped his head with the stuffed bowler cap
and shoed around the stage, tap tap tap tap.
Stopping only to cuff his hands and feet together,
he now hopped into straps of taut brown leather.

A lovely girl then put him in a tall water tank
and to the glassy clear bottom he promptly sank.
He fought the chains and cuffs bravely enough,
but picking the locks proved simply too tough.

We filed away from the stage, sad and stunned,
not knowing if we should ask for a full ticket refund.
For it turns out, after all, he was no great magician,
but rather just a retired marching band musician.

On the Tilt-A-Whirl, Revisited

He leaned against the rusted old orange tilt-a-whirl,
plucking tickets from tikes leaping like yapping dogs,
his cig’ offering a glimpse of the future fight
between gravity, hot pink skin, and salty sweat.

His left boot heel wedged into the rusted steel step
as he hunched his shoulders and girded all his strength,
thrusting the controller down with happy menace,
his smile just another deep crease on his face.

The children’s gay whoops and high delights marked the time,
as the brassy calliope trumpeted magic,
the bright eyes and ruddy cheeks swirled and twirled
for the commander of this jaunty, junky world.

The riders’ screams threw a bolt up from the steel plates,
into the ramshackle, shaking control panel,
through his greedy clutch, past his heart pulsing,
down to the crumpled nine dollars in his pocket.

He lifted the controller, like a jealous lover;
the barker behind him seduced his old riders;
he took a long drag on his stumpy cigarette,
ready to play god again for new believers.

On the Tilt-A-Whirl

He leaned against the rusted orange tilt-a-whirl,
plucking tickets from tikes leaping ’bout like yapping dogs,
his cigarette offering a glimpse of the future fight
between gravity, hot pink skin, and sweat.

His left boot heel wedged into the rusted steel step
as he rocketed the lever down with a hand chop
and a kick of his right boot to the sorry controls,
his smile just another deep crease on his face.

The children’s whoops and delights marked the time,
with the brassy calliope coughing in sync with him,
as the bright eyes and ruddy cheeks swirled and twirled
in front of the commander of this jaunty, junky world.

The riders’ screams powered the bolt from the steel plates
to the rivets and seams, up the sorry controls, and
through the red-knobbed control stick into his hand,
right along to the forty-two dollars in his dirty pocket.

Then he brought the power lever back, like a jealous lover,
as the grimy barker behind him seduced his old riders,
and he took a long drag on the cigarette still in his mouth,
ready to play god for another two minutes ten seconds, again.

 

 

On Buying Flowers and Smiling

I glimpsed her once, down the street.
She was buying flowers and smiling,
while I fumbled with my shoe laces
and decided her beauty beguiling.

Her hair was auburn and combed neat
but not too neat, not too much,
and it flowed over her soft skin
like a clear distant stream and such.

And she didn’t seem surprised with me,
or when I greeted with “hello there,”
but her gaze didn’t land on my stupid face
and she didn’t seem much to care.

I rooted around with my stupid mouth, and
asked her if she could recommend a flower,
and then she smiled the smile of a woman
now aware she was facing a terrible coward.

She pointed to the roses and looked at me,
it was a moment, eye to eye, for just us,
before she said to me, “With these pretty ones,
my husband makes such an awful fuss.”

On A 27 Word Cancer

What would the old white men and such make
of a second promise that became twisted about
with oceans of blood pooled in its wake?

How can it be, other than a 27 word cancer,
snuffing out love and beauty and life,
with nothing in return but empty answers.

And we are not weak to wonder and wish
that we had the strength to stand and proclaim
that 20 little precious bodies did not deserve this.

Maybe we deserve the darkness and no more,
if we lack the wisdom and courage to see
we needn’t be strangled by old words written before.

When all it touches does nothing but shatter,
when your families, faith, and freedom crumble,
words on a parchment page don’t really matter.