Nonet

I am truly exhausted this year.
I want to quit; not one more poem.
Emotions are depleted.
Words are without meaning.
Still I write one last,
nonet entry.
Willpower
propels
me.

In Praise of Small Town Stores

An abandoned storefront
sits sadly on the main street of a small town.
The spread of chain stores
has robbed America of individuality.
Box stores beat out neighborhood merchants
leaving the country impoverished of creativity and courage.
A skyscraper does not have the heart
of a weathered storefront
even though it stretches high as a passing cloud.
Better to shop a store with three aisles
for sourdough bread and periwinkle bedsheets
than to feed the corporate coffer.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

We have become a nation of words.
Social media is godlike,
the fountain of faith and information.

We proclaim, “I am …”
adding whatever suits us at the moment.

“I am …”

“I believe …”

“I know …”

“I hate …”

Our words echo loudly
on the silence of a screen,
hurting others, challenging others, defaming others.

We create personas on a keyboard,
believing what we type.

Buried somewhere in that verbiage
is on old, forgotten axiom:

Actions speak louder than words.

And we continue our screen-for-all.

Thanatopsis

A hero named Miles
taught school in Staggerford, Minnesota.

Around him, a cast of teachers and students.
Bright students, dull students,
creative students, boring students, bored students,
and the daughter of the bone woman.

Outside of class,
Miles was a mild Midwesterner.
He roomed with a Catholic school teacher,
sort of dated his neighbor,
lamented not marrying Anna Thea.
He called her Thanatopsis to her amusement
and her husband’s annoyance.

Miles was uncertain where his life was headed
until the day he become an accidental hero
and was mourned by the students, the landlady,
the sometime date, the bone woman’s daughter,
and Thanatopsis.

Normal

My goal was, simply, to be normal.

Married with children,
then easing into retirement
and grandparenting.

Traveling now and then
to some interesting
or exotic place.

A well-kept home,
shaded and landscaped.
A well-lived life,
safe, loved, satisfied.

But I have learned
that vision of life is not normal, at all.

Life is uncertain, messy,
sometimes cruel.
Life is joy and sorrow,
triumph and failure,
anxiety and peace.

Life doesn’t settle for normal.

Walking

I stepped outside into the misty rain,
reveling in a cooler day
after a long heat wave.

Not caring if my new sandals
encountered puddles or mud.

Feeling my jacket and jeans
dampen as I circled the neighborhood,
watching gardens and flower pots revive.

Reluctant to go home,
I wandered around another block
and another
before deciding to amble
back downhill
and go home for a cup of green tea.

The Time Capsule

Digging into the past
is a literal term when one unearths
a time capsule.

Unexpected discovery
in the garden of my new home,
prodded from underneath the dirt
by a tiller.

I expected to find the remains of a pet,
in the rusty metal box.

No pet skeleton under the lid,
but a skeleton of a different kind.
The skeleton of joy extinguished.

Black and white photos of a young couple.
Newspaper clippings about a wedding.
Letters from an army private in World War II,
postmarked France.
A medal.
An obituary.
A wedding ring.

She buried her sorrow.
I pray that she found resurrection.

The Great Dark

“If we meet—“ and then he faded again, and kept on fading, until there was nothing left of him to hold back the Great Dark descending on the world, except his words.1

 And the Great Dark did descend,
has descended,
again and again.

Each time the world finds a savior
Death eventually steals the presence,
stills the voice,
plunges us into the Great Dark of mourning.

We emerge eventually,
sensing that a new savior has come,
for now.

With the death of each savior
we are left with the words,
words that comfort and inspire.

Perhaps language is the only god we need—
the only one that doesn’t die.

1Mark Twain: A Life by Ron Powers

It’s Raining (Hour 3)

The river is low this year.
Drought shrivels the crops.
But it’s raining today.

Summer days see record heat.
Night brings no relief.
But it’s raining today.

Sun burns our skin,
scorches our eyes,
drains our energy.
But it’s raining today.

Rivers, crops, people,
stretch, finally relaxing
because it’s raining today.

Coffee and Change (Hour 2)

I reached into my billfold
to pay cash for coffee, black,
and reminisced about the days
when cash was the only currency.

Or pen and ink …
typewriters,
record players.

I remember the smell
of the coal-burning furnace
in my childhood home
and the excitement of delivery day
with coal rumbling down into the coal bin.

Trains on the track
going past our house.
Card catalogs.
Encyclopedias.

The cashier hands me my change
not knowing about my memories.
Or caring.

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