Friday’s Poem: Into Kingdom of Flowers

(Thoughts as Skyler Journeys to the Beyond)

What grief have flowers? They live in ecstasy.

Every curve and angle, design and hue

is cast upward from dirt and granted freedom.

I with scant wisdom am humbled.

What can they offer in harrowing times as

wounds of our hearts threaten to

undo even sutures of hope?

You have known that tearing. But I say

the flowers shine forth. They create a music in color.

They grace the gloom with a waltz of unfolding.

They wrap our spirits in a field of goodness and plenty.

Bees find their way there; you see they know the honor.

I have walked among these, their rainbowed

blooms caressing my skin as if they know

such moments have kept me alive.

The slanting light limning wild grasses.

A wind that rattle-dazzles leaves.

Scents of secret life rising at daybreak

and lingering beyond the blue hour.

The flowers, though all exposed beauty, are not afraid.

How much innocence can a person lose

and yet be tugged back by a single petal

that offers itself to eye and nose?

This velvety part, that stem and leaf–

such medicine that I am brought to my senses,

conduits to pulsing numinosity of God.

One day for us all, you know, it

comes down to deep simplicity:

rain or moonlight, root or stone,

feather or beetle or cloud,

a palm cupping sun’s heat–

then circuitous breath, our very breath

seeps out to join the river’s.

And when it is over and discussed

the vivacity of life keeps company

with more under arches of trees.

When I leave, I want what is left

covered with wild flowers and gossamer light.

Transformation leaves what counts,

disperses what does not.

It comes down to usefulness.

And reverence.

Wonderment has carried me to this

and someday, farther.

Here it has all been said and done for you;

you found shock of love, of strife, inertia.

Made of it more, and less.

But this moment between times as we wait,

the gathered blossoms grant entry

to their kingdom’s favor,

to brazen and elegant and rare delights

where tears like dewdrops are silent,

sweet or not, but welcome.

I will look for you there.

Friday’s Poem: My Father’s Shoes

I cleaned grassy streaks and smudges

from my tennis shoes, scrubbing,

exacting each swipe around toes,

knowing tomorrow they will just go lousy

with evidence of spring again–

when I recalled you setting up the shoe shine kit

to clean your chestnut-colored wingtips

or trusty black Florsheims.

I wondered what all got cleaned off as the

edgy aroma of shoe polish all waxy in round tins,

filled the air with its magic and your industry.

Maybe a rim of dust from an auditorium clung on,

or dabs of dirt from an outdoor concert venue.

It’s mountain mud that gets caked on my soles,

detritus snatched from serpentine paths,

odds and ends decaying at riverfront.

But your important wooden box held

one foot then another atop a foot-shaped platform

as you slathered on polish, rubbed it smooth

then deepened its color with stubby brush

and then took the buffing cloth,

seesawed over supple leather in

a rhythmic shuffle of hands,

toes given special attention.

Each shoe was held to the light with

your deft-fingered hands stuffed inside.

Oh, they gleamed clean and fit as fancy footwear.

It was a mission completed; you smiled at me,

saying have to put your best foot forward

and chuckling, but it was a motto you lived.

Maybe you polished your shoes each week

because the kid you were owned a good pair for church

another for school; best to care for things scarce and in demand.

Best to look like whoever you are meant to become: you,

a musician, conductor, teacher, administrator,

a man your parents were proud of without saying so,

the whole person your wife always knew you were.

It’s true you wore other shoes to the garage

and yard, on the tall ladder where you perched

above grass as I steadied it near the bottom,

Mom hollering be careful, Lawrence!

as if you were a neophyte.

Every couple years you scraped and painted

our house so it was freshly dressed

in optimistic yellow, bouyant turqouise.

I think you wore deck shoes (you liked to sail) or

scuffed Rockports beneath loose coveralls.

This was all long before you no longer painted

and your hearing faded and a quadruple bypass,

before your eyes widened in fear then shone

like separate bodies of light as you

rounded the corner to God

and I stood by your bed fixed by your stare,

saying, it’s alright to let go–go Home, you are loved.

But before then it was lots of things,

yes, it’s a shoe shine kit I recall today,

your shoes all restored. You went to work

in suit or tux to shape and lift each note,

steady on the podium, swaying like a man dancing,

ushering forth music from orchestra, symphony, band.

How those shoes glowed, how they slid, tapped;

how much beauty and good they brought forward,

feet happy to carry the man, my father.

But, too, I think as I slip on my sneakers

for another woodsy walk in peace–

even the old ones worn on high rungs,

your toehold sure in the simmering summer sun–

even those quite did the job.

Friday’s Poem: Time Undone

Time with its ancient cycles quits for no one.

I rest in homage by the river, sense the current turning.

I feel like a bouquet in wild grasses; living’s left me sweet-sour.

If only it was so easy–a woman in love with water and woods.

But I am pressed between have done and must do,

that wall clock grinning like a gatekeeper,

a metronome imposing rigid order in my life.

Nature’s messengers whisper about

the limits of a ready-made world where

I am running all day from plans to tasks

to desire to regret to one more distant goal.

How did time excavate my life, chew it up,

redesign and cast it to four winds?

I can’t quite catch it as it flies, despite my attention.

I must resume a position within the surround

of time–slipping back in, shouldering my way,

into the line dance of human life.

Wanting still to leap up, beyond constraint.

Every morning my skin blushes with tendrils of light;

night brings a spell of dreams or a wrestling,

and still I am primed for dawn.

There is not enough of time though it

tosses and pins me down these days.

I want to fight back; I am not weak.

But good progress slows, stumbles,

falls in the heat of the fight.

And yet–there is always a yet,

a supernatural response to puzzling things–

despite the lost or misused seconds, this:

walking the labyrinth of lessons,

finding a slipstream or traversing

the wild terrain of aging as it challenges.

Changes. Empowers and releases me.

Time steps aside and opens my eyes.

How much of everything is lived beyond me,

how do others transmute ache into love?

I lay my ego down, lift face and heart

to wind whistling in the trees,

quieted by a willing surrender again.

Friday’s Poem: Our Tulip Times

It’s April so the flowers are talking to me
about a perfection of love, a medley of laughter.

They say that what feels empty is in fact brimming so
I walk under overripe clouds split by soft tearing;
radiance gilds each open and closed countenance.

Tulips swing and bob in breezes; daffodils have arrived and left.
Rows are tidy and proud, painterly with tonal harmony;
earthy scents arise, a potency of secrets and purity.
Country days explode from under winter’s heavy cape of rain;
every flower trumpets extreme beauty and I shield my eyes.

And then open my arms, breathe light in, let go grief.

Amid this paradise I imagine the vastness here for me,
though blooms gaze on those, too, who little care.
I bend to a cherry cup of tulip, taste its dew, recall a spring
we three strolled other acres ablaze, our words silky as threads
embroidering stories, each stitch freeing, tightening our family bond.

Even silences were resonant; we knew what we knew, it felt enough.

The tulips were a signal of more, better to come.

Who could know that such a wealth of happiness
cannot be demanded or hoarded, only known in moments with wings?
We had planned more visits, farther travels, easy
outpourings of words. A greater variety of flowers.
But if time has unraveled leaving two of us behind,
our sister heart will not wither. Though human-tender

it beats inside a whole and holy life as we stumble on,

or turn and depart; it braves it all, it will not stop.

Friday’s Poem: I Prefer Happiness

You once said that although you were drawn

to its music, you didn’t understand poetry,

all metaphor and simile, and why

didn’t people say what they meant.

You are a storyteller–we, born of the same mother–

but prefer spoken word, facts propped up by feeling.

I wonder what the difference is, in the end,

our voices as specific as bell tones parting silence.

Still, you want me to write all that you’ve labored over

but cannot quite say: the black heart of things.

We know how ominous was that era of darkness,

suffering a hair’s breadth from one another

though unknowing, each whittled down

by futility and terror, toughened by a scarcity of hope.

We were young then, now are well seasoned.

No, my dear one,

I would rather speak of ebullience.

Your effervescent laughter–

like Respighi’s “Fountains of Rome”–

even as your memory dims and the years truncate.

This: your expertise in salvage and reclamation;

your gift for leading and charging past dead ends.

Your strength as you bore on your back mattresses,

blankets, food to the midnight alley’s lost and woebegon.

Your trusting welcome of all creatures, whole or ruined.

So let’s set fire to the past and watch it burn,

smoke eaten by the heavens, flowers rising from ashes.

I would rather speak of happiness, our flags

forged from tatters and twigs, raised to the wind.

Our paths, severed then rejoined and our lives

linked forever not by the crucible of loss

but by every instance of warrior sister love

given and gathered and nurtured with light–

our song made up between us as we have sought our paradise.