Poems

Like Lichen

On Pearl Street you see everything up close
Street clowns and climbers are floats in a parade
Everything you experience, even your breath
Are atoms at play, live objects in the petri dish

Inside the Trident, jungle-grown aromas entice
Baristas pull down the heavenly brown shots
While professors chat about finance and system collapse
Convinced that the world we’re invested in matters

But sixty miles out on the Plains there is a new focus
The impermanence of human creation is now in view
You see the population holding dearly to the Front Range
Like lichen to a rock

And therein lies the power of mountains
Next to their majesty, a city of millions is but a temporary mound
Even the injustice of Rocky Flats is put into context
Look, over there, a herd of antelopes on the run

Stray Drops

Carelessly
do words form, fumble, and fall…

So too
a meandering stream turns

suddenly

to a gravity of rage,

pounding

perfectly natural rhythms
on innocent skins.

Eroded
rocks go on.

But what about
those of finer density?

Do they welcome new light?

And again stretch every fiber toward the sky?

Artfully Done

She left me
halfway to Boulder

Up and out of the Honda
to a boredom-free land

When we got to the show
I asked, “Where did you go?”

A face stared me down
it didn’t belong to my date

Her other lover was visiting,
could I not see?

Art was his name
color and light, his tertiary game

I was downright dowdy
compared to Art

Overheard In Chicago

When our apartment gets quiet at night
We can hear the neighborhood

When the neighborhood gets quiet
We can hear the city

The city’s always-on hum
Like white noise, but not as clean

Cars and sirens blow like trumpets
Over the bass of always-on hum

In the morning birds do their part
Offering something organic to the machine

Grid Lines

Spokes shoot out of a northwestern wheel.
They have names I like to pronounce:
Grand,
Milwaukee,
Elston,
Lincoln,
Clark.

Native paths well beaten
Once upon a time
To an inland sea.
Now the river is reversed
And our favored routes
Crisscrossed in concrete
By: Western,
Damen,
Ashland,
Montrose,
Lawrence, and
Foster.

Six-spoked super crossings
Hold traffic like a strainer
Over a sink.
I drain the clogs
North and west
Past the shops,
Into the trees and fields
Close by,
Right underneath.

I consider how far I might go.
All the way
To Madison,
To Montana,
To Bellingham,
Alaska, and
The Russian Far East.
A salmon will swim.

Martin Died

The paper stopped coming
And the ashtrays grew full
That’s how we took notice
Of this man’s passing

He was our neighbor
Upstairs, to the left
He lived for thirty years
In this building
He said he should have bought it
Years ago, a time
When he presumably
Could have afforded it

Martin was a warrior
With fifty years of pain
From Korea left lingering
But he was young too
With fight still in him
He got up everyday before dawn
And delivered the paper
From the outside step
To our door
A gesture of neighborliness
From a time gone by

Martin also had guns
And a police scanner
And a watchful eye
He reported to me that the place
Directly across the street
Was broken in to, basement level
Window left unlocked
In Martin’s windows flags drape
Little American flags

We made him cookies for Christmas
Left them outside his door
In the night, like Santa
He never mentioned it
No matter
It was understood
Martin liked things understood
Now I understand his small favors
Were noble ways of saying
“I’m here today,” alive
Running hard against
The loud, pulsing current

above all others upon a stream

There’s the pride
out front, even in name.
Omaha. Indian for, “above all others
upon a stream.”

Push past the mouth of the Platte
up the mighty Mo a few more miles
and there you have it,
a hilly splendor in four seasons.

Yet, for some a pushing off place we may always be.
No matter, ambition is well understood here.

Presidents and popstars,
Writers, saints, billionaires, and bums,
They’ve all got a home.

Now, Starbucks wants some.

Making Room

We keep tidy little closets
Tucked away in the recesses of our hearts
There we dump our sorrows like socks
And hang up our well-pressed hopes

Understand this is not a public venue
This is our secret hiding place
Where our pasts stare back at us
While our futures tread water

Until the Big Spring arrives
Gentle storms in tow
The shutters fly open
The drawers all dance

Something more powerful than we know
Takes a hold and will not cease its grip
Until all the outgrown outfits we harbor
Are freely given

We learn to let go
Of what no longer fits
We adopt new looks
Finding them perfectly tailored

Our new home has no closets
We keep it all out in the open
Nothing and nowhere to hide
The truth is all we wear

Soaring Notions

Planted
in the river valley
defined by high rising bluffs
a city has taken off to the west.
Buildings now step up the hilly inclines
beacons of civilization
visible to ships far out on the prairie.

At the brink
of new eras dawning
Omaha awakens to its core
river.
A new neighbor
bald eagle
introduced himself last week.
The pigeons took notice
and maybe a painter or two.

Urban renewal
a cause not new
has a pulse
in the city today.
Even in dark recesses of winter
we scheme
to add elements of awe.
We are, after all, proud hosts.

Up and over
stretched out
is a city like many others.
Not so downtown.
You could fly a kite in my apartment.
The bricks that encase me are not suspect to quake.
Echoes of conquests past
ring.

Cycles spin
and as the eagle returns
so does man
to soaring notions
of his own.

end of The East

at Council Bluffs
you’ve reached the end

a nation
out of trees

the Missouri River rambles
down from Dakota

and you know
to cross it is to go elsewhere

most drama seekers
find the stretch unbearable

but you need the poetry
of the Platte

like blood
in your veins

so you always pause to feed
with the South-bound cranes

Entering Fort Lauderdale

The back of my 32-year-old thighs
no longer command
top dollar
from the gentlemanly class.

Now I work
behind a bar
in a Bam Bam outfit
and men still look.

I let them eye my dance
with cash and whiskey.
Some still offer me money
to go home with them.

I say, “I’m not a whore, asshole.”
But I go home with them sometimes.
I take their money too.
It’s a free country.

Running On Batteries

At the great gathering of minds
Eyes all around me are downcast
Lost in the electronic maze of Xs and Os.
Fingers fly over QWERTY keys
Making meaning inside the ubiquitous machine.
Is this what we came all this way for?
Is this the new conversation
The Technorati loves to trumpet?
Here in the Austin Convention Center
There is no distance between souls.
No bridges need to be built.
Everyone is within earshot.
We can talk.
But to talk means unplugging from the machine
That forever demands to be fed.
I dare you, brave communicator
To walk these halls with no handheld friend.
I challenge you to sit still
And listen. You can type later.
Now is the time to connect,
To smell,
To taste,
To feel.

Meeting Richard Ford

Even though his face sears
itself into your mind
blue eyes like campfire coals
it’s the shoes that give him away
Chuck Taylor high tops
on a man his age tend to pop
maybe not in a more colorful setting
but here we are in the corporate confines
of the Minneapolis airport
sitting across from each other
waiting for a shuttle to take us
90 miles to Rochester
where the best minds in medicine
can fix just about anything.

Ford has with him a weathered leather shoulder bag
the kind that only looks humble
you can tell it’s a comfort to him
when you’re finally seated in the van
he pulls from it a notebook
and starts scribbling madly
you finally say, “Excuse me, are you Richard Ford?”

The conversation between writers
does not appear to interest the other passengers
maybe they’ve not heard of Frank Bascombe
or worse, the Pulitzer Prize
perhaps they’re just shy
anyway it’s not Harrison Ford on his way
to the Mayo Clinic, it’s Richard Ford
who kindly puts his note taking on hold
to encourage you, a writer with no books to share.

The van pulls up in front of The Kahler
of course he’s staying here
you wonder if anyone inside will notice
his casual, but classic, footwear.