The Commune (Hour 12)


The Commune


Perhaps my life has been random.

Or it could be that every step has been planned.


Why did I extemporaneously quit dental school?

If the stars were different or the sun out that day

maybe I would have stayed.


Calling Mike from the battered, graffiti covered pay phone

and asking if I could join his commune.


The subsequent call to my mother who understood my quitting

dental school but asked that I not join one of those hippie communes.


Mike helping me move in and then finding that I had to be voted in.

The questions and answers in front of the group.

How did I feel about group nudity was a tough one.


The celebratory joints when I was accepted.

The joyous jaunts to second hand stores to buy old rugs and furniture.

The nine-bedroom house for $350 per month rent in Philly’s fashionable Main Line

that was only so cheap because it awaited demolition to become apartments.

The landlord who said we could do whatever we want with the home.


All of this in stark contrast to any other alternative that I faced on that

dark and rainy day in a run down section of North Philly.


There was laughter and creativity and talk about changing the world.

For me it was a pause in my hyped up engine of having to be somebody.

A time to regroup and realize that everything ahead didn’t need to be planned

when you are twenty two.


I gained the strength in that group to then be alone.

And after a seven thousand mile hitching adventure that became the rest of my life

I found a place where the rain wasn’t depressing and a vocation that

captured my fancy and the just right partner for the rest of my life.


All because I was smart enough to know I needed a group to make me

realize that I could be alone which I needed to understand before I could clearly see.





There Are Times (Hour 11)



There are Times



There are times when my side aches

as my ribs go in and out in reaction

to what someone has said. My smile bursts

with concavity and I show plenty of teeth.


Other times I react to what someone says that

is so outlandish that my face looks the same

but with a touch of irony in my eyes and only

the normal in and out of breathes to mark my sides.


In both cases my eyes may fill with tears.

I feel good in the first case and pain in the other.


How can such opposites have such similar reactions?


Maybe there are just so many reactions and we have to dole them out.

When we’re out of anything new, recycle the old.


How I feel depends if I’m happy or sad, elated or mad.


So maybe we should stop this nonsense and just be stoic.






After You (Hour 10)



After You


I am one of Harvey’s hummingbirds.

I know…it ridiculous to act like he owns me.

But ya know he’s got some of the best sugar water around.

And he doesn’t forget to refill it like his lazy neighbors.


So it’s an easy gig but there is a catch.

I wish I wasn’t so intuitive but I can see

Harvey’s not so crazy about when I chase

Chester away every time he tries to swipe

my food.


Oh, excuse me – there’s Zoe.

I need to fly way high like this

and, hang on, swooooop down so fassssst!

That must have really impressed her!


But back to Harvey and Chester.

Yeah it’s kinda hard to do I admit

but I don’t want to disappoint Harvey

so Chester go ahead, after you.


Ya gotta realize I lap up nectar

eighteen times a second,

I ain’t no slouch.

I can catch up.


So go ahead Chester

Please you first.


But stay away from Zoe!






Moms (Hour 9)





Moms cook up a storm

is just how it is.


Kids can play while

she does her biz.


Dad works in the office

fixes teeth like a whiz.


She mixes up batters.

I lick what gets splattered

on the phone she loves chatter.

I eat, run and then scatter.


Elaborate meals she often made

I hated coming in from where I played

Street ball is where I wished I stayed

but changed my mind with her marinade

which was worthy of a motorcade.


Many years and events have come and gone

Colleen’s in the kitchen and loves to cook

a favorite companion, her cooking books

and the meals she makes won’t be mistook

they are labors of love as if from mom’s guidebook.






Who I Am (Hour 8)



Who I Am



I wander through this life, a tourist.

I try to be sincere, a purist.


Sometimes events are happenstance

and there are times I want to dance

but mostly it’s a game of chance.


Be kind to strangers I try to be

knowing it comes back to me.


Keep track of news to some extent

but too much of it can cause torment.


Keep away from what’s securest as

I wander through this life, a tourist.


Be kind to strangers I try to be.

Don’t come off like I’m bourgeoisie.

Look in their eyes, not absentee.


In the end what seals the deal is

show the world my best cartwheel.





Big Red (Hour 7)



Big Red


Our pond is a symphony of stories.

Dug twenty feet from our home

in the horse pasture that long before

had been part of a forest.


I look across at the totem that Vic built

in a piece of old growth cedar that had

been sitting in his yard.


What do you see in it? I asked

A Thunderbird, he replied.


Across from that are big leafed plants three feet high,

maybe a hundred of them that monopolize a twelve foot hill,

a present from Miriam many years ago that was

one plant in a small pot that fit in my palm.

Most years I send her a photo saying something

like The kids done grown up!


The first tree that I planted in the whole yard was a willow

to the south that once had orange paint on it

when we returned from a long trip and

turned out to be a swastika.


The neighbors urged me to call the police

but I wanted to figure it out for myself and

proved my mettle as a detective.


After a talk with the guilty kids

and parents there is now a peace pole

and shrub nearby that the boys planted as a

token of redemption and understanding.


And then there’s Big Red that I haven’t seen this year.

A monument to survival, he may have met his demise.

I used to put fifty feeder fish a year in the pond. They were small

and grey but grew large and beautifully orange/red

until the herons would pick off every one of them.


I outsmarted them and got a dozen fish too large for herons to eat.

The first night I heard the angry snarls of raccoons decimating

most of them but not Big Red and one other unnamed motley colored fish.


They were survivors and have lasted many years.


I have a tinge of sadness as the water surface is still

but still I have some hope because I know Big Red

knows how to hide.


Yet I also know that the pond reflects all our lives

and the transitory nature of all sentient beings.


We’re here for a while and then go the way of Big Red.




Dear Harvey (Hour Six)



Dear Harvey


I am thrilled to course through your veins

and down to your hands onto what looks a lot

like typewriter keys but I know is something else.


I’m your grandfather Harry

and you were named for me.


You would think I’d be marveling

at so much that has changed.


But you don’t understand.

Nothing has changed.


I won’t use a lot of words because

all you need to know is simple.


Follow the Ten Commandments.

Especially, honor your father and mother.


I taught your mother by example.

I always had a flower in my lapel

and gave the best advice I could

to those that sought me out.


But of course the Great Depression

taught me a thing or two.


So what can I tell you?


Life can move in mysterious ways.

When you can, try to understand

that it’s not what you do

but how you do it that will

be your legacy.




Pretend (Hour Five)





Sunflowers sit in a vase

starting to wilt just enough

to lose their vibrancy.


A people sit in basements

far from secure, not meant

to be a living place in what for

some of them will be their last days.


Knitting, clinking wine glasses

as if their lives aren’t shattered.


Pavement above an empty space

littered with remains of yesterday.

Nails scattered from the hinges of

what seemed like solid oak doors

now hanging crooked by a thread.


A solitary man in a proper blue suit

strolls along the deserted street

satchel in hand

looking like he has not a care

in the world.


Because the world he knew

is nothing now.


And the world he sees

is so foreign to him.


That what was him is lost

in a future so desolate and

dark that all he has left is

to pretend.








There Use to Be (Hour 4)



There Used to Be


There used to be a woods so high and thick

that where I sit was high in a tree.

The water and islands I see would be

hidden by the Douglas Fir next to me.


Squirrels scurried around the

ground and hurried up the trees

for reasons unknown to me.


There was a time

when time was lost.

Can it be it’s not what

it’s purported to be?


A gigantic boulder rolled

here by a wave of ice

twelve thousand years ago

looks pretty much the same

as it did a hundred years ago.


Why do I think my life

is so important?


After all, this life is just a

snapshot in an old polaroid

that is faded to yellow.


I’m giving a lot more importance

to what I do than it really deserves.


And while the bigger me thinks of

changing and improving the world.


I should know who I really am.

An ant in a colony of ants that is moving sand

because that’s what I’m programmed to do.


Try as I will it’s hard to understand

that the grain of sand I shoulder around

is just what it is and the only thing

I can really change is me.


Floating (Hour 3)





I’m lighter than air

as I glance around the

room where I write.


I see a dreamlike life

in snapshots of me, who

I was and who I will be.


The row house where

I was just a kid,

a monument of cement

and brick is so much

more as a flood of memories

washes over me.


Colleen and I in the early days

next to a photo twenty-five years later

while now we’re pushing fifty and

finding out we can take nothing for granted.


Anniversary photo of my parents

who’s substance is inside me more than I used to think.

They are next to an unknown enigmatic couple from

the old country found in a family album. Their stern faces

reflect a troubled time before my grandparents

escaped to this new world.


Three pictures of Todd Rundgren whom we called toad

in junior high and became a rock star surrounds my

Bar Mitzvah picture with me in the center of a

family with suits, flowers in lapels and fancy dresses

that looks like it deserves to be in a period movie.


Vacation picture of me on the beach with a son on my

shoulders and one on my lap, palm tree in the distance

strangely foretells where both of them now live.


Below my computer screen is a postcard of the Rocky statue in front of the

Philly skyline from where I grew up. Also photo of a spiritual gathering in India

and postcard of the East Berlin soldier jumping over barbed wire in the early days

of the wall that is famous in Berlin.


My high school graduation photo is above the tipi I pitched with no idea what

to do next in my life. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by slowing

down my life and asking the powers that be to please guide me.


What I learned is that sometimes if I’m really lucky, the stars are aligned and perhaps

fate ties in somewhere…I can jump and the net will appear.






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