Luckiest Man Alive

MeBro2

Image by author. (He made me step off the curb. He’s not really taller than me.)

Luckiest Man Alive

If you asked me
what makes a man

–  and I mean
a good man;

someone who
keeps it one-hundred
at all times –

I would pause, smile
and tell you all about
my little brother.

If you asked me
what makes a man
a devoted dad

who may not have
all the right answers
all the time,

but who still
throws himself, full-assed
into the thankless
hard parts,

again,
I’d begin the convo
with my lil’ bro.

If you asked me
what makes a man
a keeper of the flame

a caretaker of
my earliest dreams
and fears

a silent observer
when silence is needed

a vocal objector
when I need to be checked
and called-out

the loudest supporter
when I need saving
from myself

and the ruckus-bringer
when shit gets too hot
and needs extinguishing
with a flame-thrower,

well shit,
you should already know
though I do feel bad for you
and great for me.

You see,
I’m the one
lucky enough
to be able to say,

“Let me tell you about
my lil’ bro, Phil…”
***

Written for my lil’ bro Phil, on the occasion of his 40th birthday, and shared on dVerse OpenLinkNight #243. Others contributed poems here.

Ode to the Sassy So-and-So

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Photo by Erin Simmons on Unsplash

Ode to the Sassy So-and-So

You’re a pain in my ass; sassy so-and-so.
Atypical opening as odes go, I know.
But your fiery spirit serves you well thus far,
and as far as you’ve come,
who the hell knows where you’ll go?

I’m going to level with you here, dearest one;
this wasn’t supposed to have rhyme or meter.
In fact, I almost wrote another clichéd line

– about catching the stars, as if!
I mean, I know, right? – but

you’ve been earthbound
for a quarter-century now,
so no more fairy tales.

You’re as tough as I raised you, tougher
than I envisioned, and I’m relieved for it.
You’re tempered for a cruel world, and yet
you refuse to let it make you unkind.

And while I’d love to take all the credit,
like I knew the masterpiece of you
was hidden in the marble all along,
you are the artist of your destiny;

I’m just pleased to see who you are
and who you will become.

I say again, as it is a good catchphrase;
you’re a pain in my ass; sassy so-and-so,
and I’m lucky to have you around, I know,
wherever you go, I’ll be with you always.

Oh, and please rinse your dishes.
I’m your dad; I’m not your maid.
***

Written for my Turtle, on her 25th birthday.

 

A Fragile Song

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Photo by Seth Macey on Unsplash

A Fragile Song

Echoes of my dream-defined visions declare war,
starbursts strike scores,
both friend and foe,
but what for?

The home that I called my base came unmoored;
willow that I know,
now embers in day-glow.

I know the sparrow that lived here,
I defended her,
but now her expended song
tends my fear.

With a voice too delicate to vibrate,
she lends me the will and might to migrate:

“Not everything ends badly,
that is conjecture.
Though everything ends
at least from our perspective.

“We can’t make amends
with cosmic architecture,
but we can begin
to live within.”

Echoes of my mother’s laugh
ring long after her last breath.

Father’s lectures resonate
beyond his untimely fate.

I derive no meaning
from their unbeating hearts,
eyes bleared from tears when
lingering on their departs.

Words left unsaid will remain unspoken,
except in dreams, with the visions unwoven.

I’ve chosen to fixate on the song of that bird
whose weakness conflated
a strength that reverbed:

“Not everything ends badly;
that’s a fiction.
Though everything ends;
sadly, it’s our restriction.

“We can’t make amends
with our cell’s afflictions,
but we can begin
to live within.

She and I loved
with conviction and convection.
Our fronts clashed in wind-slashed storms,
with no direction.

We blew ourselves apart,
parting with bitter sorrow.
Despite our worser parts,
there still came a tomorrow.

We now know the science of us, but too late
to rewind and find some solace in our fate,

but wait and listen to the sparrow
as her frail song pierces our marrow:

“Not everything ends badly,
though everything ends.
We can’t make amends
with past lovers and friends,

but we can extend
our hands and transcend
beginnings and endings
as we live within.”
***

Fate of Heaven

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Photo by Meireles Neto on Unsplash

Fate of Heaven

Waking up to us
was always the worst,
wasn’t it?

Surely you felt the same
rolling over and seeing
my displeasure at a
brand new day, didn’t you?

Do you have any idea
how many poems
I’ve written about you
only to have to file them away,

snuffing-out their wicked truths
like so many birthed stars
that ate through their fair
share of hydrogen

long before Ra set
the table for you and me
to ignore our own nature?

Can you fathom how every kiss shared
will be compared to the caramel of your lips
nibbling mine in our candlelit shame
of being exactly who we are

exactly where we wanted to be,
exactly beneath the weight of
who we wanted pressed into our flesh
exactly the way we needed?

Do you also wish to shake
the morning gate of heaven
to its foundation for fating us
a taste of what could be,

only to allow our respective free will
to choose to loosen our firm midnight grip
on respective flesh before the black sky
blushed soft purple with promise of new day

separating me from you
as earth from firmament,

forming boundaries everywhere
instead of simply being
happily entangled in
undefined twilight?

On some level, I know
you were just as selfish,
just as grateful for those broad,
quiet charcoal strokes

shared in faint starlight,
silently sucking our
pigment from sundown,

but no matter our
moon-soaked efforts,
morning always comes,
doesn’t it?
***

Shared at dVerse OpenLinkNight #229. Other poets have shared their poems here.

Fleeting

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Photo by Simone Dalmeri on Unsplash

Fleeting

A familiar summer scent
smiling, embracing our path
you’d sprung onto winter’s end
before knowing our spring need
unexpected kiss warmed us
your lips activated mine
your tongue filled me at love’s loss

What manner of spell is this
where I can relive seasons
of past-lives unlocked by smell
as weaponized nostalgia?
Will you cling to innocence
as you move to turn the lock
sealing us within our vice?

Lock me in; I will not flee
pour yourself upon my chest
envelope me in warm breath
crash and strain, power exchange
slake your thirst and wring me taut
plum our depths and bottle them
encrust us in lush reprise.
***

Inspired by Septets for dVerse’s Seventh Anniversary, though I missed the prompt’s deadline. Go here to read other poets’ submissions for this prompt.

Shared at dVerse’s Open Link Night

My Darling Belladonna

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Photo by George Hiles on Unsplash

My Darling Belladonna

In my garden
there is a toxic plant
with an exotic name
I can’t remember

I bet it rhymes with
your name

nourished by my
infatuation

returning only the
burning pin-pricks
of your nettles.

I may be mistaken,
or perhaps even
misremembering
the flora, for it

may have been foxglove,
as the buds were
bell-shaped
like a summer dress.

I’m no botanist,
though I do recall the
breezy cotton
that clung to you,

complementing,
wicking the glisten
that occasionally beaded
upon your skin.

But enough about
my envy of your dress
and my craving for
your poisonous berries.

Perhaps it is best
that I don’t tend garden,
allowing the natural path

to be overgrown,
observing with a reverent,
passive joy

and suppressed yen,

especially
since I struggle
to know my foxglove
from my nightshade.

Besides,
I’d be done in
by your pollen

long before
the toxins took effect.
***

A Contemporary Fiction

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Photo by Steve Roe on Unsplash

A Contemporary Fiction

I wanna be able to
walk away from folks
like anime characters do,
ya know? Like, not even

wasting energy
on words like
“I love you,” or
“Goodbye forever,” or, or,

or, “I never wanna see you again.”

Somewhere within that spectrum, ya know?

Because regardless of where
you fit on that scale,
you should already know it,
ya know? Where you stand…

Without me needing to spell it out to ya.

Yeah, I’d leave the scene
with an unhurried gait and
a stoic, hardboiled heroic
Hemmingway protag expression

poker-facing what lies beneath the surface
where it’s clear that I’ll cherish the bones of you
till it causes my own bones to perish,

aching at your absence
or reluctance to stare into the heart
of this shared melody with me.

But just glimpsing my
flatlined visage spin on its heel,
about-facing into
the shadow of what was

would reveal to you a context
not easily decoded by layman outsiders
who cannot hear the song
that splits me to the bone

as I am undone by the truth
that offers no solace in the fact that
sometimes love isn’t enough.

We could really lean into the cliché
and have it be a twilight summer rain
sound-tracking our final parting,

as if nature herself weeps on behalf of
eyes too composed to cry for our own loss
as our last sliver of daylight
gets doused in westward skies,

the wind billowing, blowing
long flowing garments,
disturbing locks of hair
in wild contrast to personal stillness
and economy of movement,

slowly creating distance between us
until we could scarcely hear parting words
even if we wanted to
breathe them into existence.

Ya know? Just like anime characters.
***

Day 24 – Elegy of Beloved Disputes

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View from my livingroom  window. (Ignore the trash bins and the ugly Hooptie. It’s my son’s fault they’re in the picture.) 

Elegy of Beloved Disputes

The path beyond my garden
leads to my favorite tree,
bursting with flowers that
remind me of you and

it occurs to me that
you would’ve marveled at
my sweet-scented tree if you
were still alive to smell it.

The sudden reminder of
your absence steals a breath
or two from me, and then
I laugh at the absurdity.

Asthma took your laugh
from me permanently.
It is an affliction
of the lungs, you see?

Had you lived long enough to
fill your lungs with my
beloved tree,

you’d have sided with Wifey,
demanding its removal.

I don’t like confrontation,
but I’d like to think I would
have enjoyed that argument.
***

Every morning on report card day, from kindergarten to third grade, momma would sing this song to me while I was eating my cereal. It was hilarious. It was terrifying. I fucking loved it. 

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 24 prompt:

Today, we’d like to challenge you to write an elegy – a poem typically written in honor or memory of someone dead. But we’d like to challenge you to write an elegy that has a hopefulness to it. Need inspiration? You might look at W.H. Auden’s elegy for Yeats, which ends on a note suggesting that the great poet’s work will live on, inspiring others in years to come. Or perhaps this elegy by Mary Jo Bang, where the sadness is shot through with a sense of forgiveness on both sides.

I’ve written elegies for both parents, and both of my grandmothers passed away last year, so I wasn’t exactly eager for this prompt. Still, I couldn’t resist the challenge of adding some hopefulness to a poem about loss. Best to keep it short though.

Day 22 – Myth of Stillness

Myth of Stillness

The path beyond my garden
belies the lies unlearned in time

as if the stars cannot
rearrange themselves in the sky
for us; as if

they, you and I,
all known things
aren’t in constant states of motion,
learning and unlearning.

Stars coalesce, are born,
then die and scatter,
its matter mingling with matter
from other dead stars,
coalescing into newer,
denser stars,

the cycle renewed in timelines
beyond our real-time observation.

Our sun is at least
a second-generation star
in this manner,
and the world of me and you
thrives on its energy.

This is how you and I came to be,

and yes, we are
but sentient star remnants
in constant motion.

That’s how you and I
came to coalesce.

It takes four years
for the light of the next
nearest star to reach
the solar system of
me and you.

The twinkle we shared when we first met
began its journey way back when
you and I were still clinging to
dying systems separately, orbiting
resentment and dysfunctionality
until implosion.

And yet for that random twinkle to mingle
with the twinkle in our locked eyes that night

as we danced to Earth, Wind & Fire,
the elements conspiring us to groove together,
shifting constellations of past lives,

don’t you dare tell me that me and you
didn’t move the stars themselves to
make this fusion happen.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 22 prompt:

I’ve found this one rather useful in trying to ‘surprise’ myself into writing something I wouldn’t have come up with otherwise. Today, I’d like you to take one of the following statements of something impossible, and then write a poem in which the impossible thing happens:

The sun can’t rise in the west.

A circle can’t have corners.

Pigs can’t fly.

The clock can’t strike thirteen.

The stars cannot rearrange themselves in the sky.

A mouse can’t eat an elephant.

Happy writing!

I feel like I cheated a bit, as the stars are in constant motion, but this motion is mostly beyond our limited powers of perception, but hey, it counts.

Day 4 – Black Thumb’s Mercy

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Photo by Katya Austin on Unsplash

Black Thumb’s Mercy

The path beyond my garden is knotted and
frayed at the edge where our overgrowth tumbles
onto boundaries between us and them.

No major action taken thus far by us,
the current owners, to curl back the
photosynthesized nonsense from the
well-manicured landscape of our neighbors

– that is, outside of
assassinating a few weeds

– well, wifey does that part,
as I’m fortunate enough to have
asthma’s hacking fits, and the man-child
who still honors us with rent-free company

over-promises and delivers but a
lukewarm token hack-job, earning him no pay.

Best leave killing for the pros, anyway.

No matter though, as wifey has enough
murder in her heart for thugged-out weeds,
shriveled plants that were once treasures, and
even the poor trees guilty only of being

rooted in the wrong place at the wrong time, as
she hacked down the sturdiest foliage planted
too close to home to be considered safe

– actually, for this part she mostly
hired contract killers, but she may as
well had pulled the trigger herself.

While watching from the safety of the living
room, I successfully pleaded for the life
of the largest tree landmarking the edge
of our property with the biggest spring blossoms,

the sturdiest leaves that clutter the driveway
in autumn, and – basically, it lives as
the tree wifey swears at the most.

She spared this tree because I enjoy
looking at it from our living room window.

This slob-of-a-tree and a few Rhododendron
– or Azaleas, because Christ – put a gun to my
head and I still couldn’t tell the difference

– are all that remain from what was once a
thriving botanical garden of what wifey called
ugly plants that deserved to die.

But she spared my messy-ass tree, and
kindred spirits make for good company.

I bet the neighbors miss the previous
gardeners as much as the slain garden,

especially in the back yard, where it looks
like zephyr invited squall and tornado
to a rave, leaving behind pine-needle
confetti as neighboring trees litter
their dead-weight over the fence into our
yard in the form of broken branches.

They don’t know how lucky they are to have
been planted on the other side of our fence.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s Day 4 prompt, and I’ll just quote the prompt from the site:

Today, we challenge you to write a poem that is about something abstract – perhaps an ideal like “beauty” or “justice,” but which discusses or describes that abstraction in the form of relentlessly concrete nouns.

This was easily my favorite prompt thus far. I don’t know if my effort measures up, but I relished the challenge.