Folding

May 6th, 2018

Folding his huge clothes,
My heart handles
Cotton altar cloths.

2018

Feeding My Father

April 21st, 2018

in our age or in theirs or in their deaths
saying it to them or not saying it –
if we forgive our fathers what is left
~excerpt from “forgiving our fathers,” by Dick Lourie

When Lewy
bodies in his brain
locked his arm midair,
I lifted the forkful
of eggs to his open lips.
My mouth opened too,
the way mothers’ mouths do
while feeding their infants.
The unexpected gift—
I found the truth: gaping.
I finally forgave him
for forgiving himself
for everything he did
and could not do.

2018

Touché:
A High School Teacher’s Sonnet

April 20th, 2018

For Derek

The sonnet makes so many students groan
As if I’ve offered them a bowl of mud
If they were cats, the sonnet’s a dog bone.
No love of artful language fuels their blood.
Shakespeare’s long dead, no use to their rich lives
Of spending every minute on the phone.
“Off and away,” I say; their eyes are knives,
Perhaps the tiny screen is their hearts’ home.
I get it—know the small black mirror’s lure,
The raunchy memes, the vines, the sexy text!
But still, such techno banter is manure
In which to sprout a bard’s mind, so complex.
Groan as they may until the couplet’s done,
Some even say they had a little fun.

2018

Before Dementia Steals Him

April 19th, 2018

Dad gives me this:
Please remember
If I ever forget you,
I will never forget you.

2018

On the Cusp of Voluntary
Economic Uncertainty in 2017

April 18th, 2018

Money auto-deposits monthly.
After years of milk-struggle,
Salary freeze, and now, slow gains,
Finally, a small measure of security.
Why would I give up
Living small and safe on the plains
For a new people and place.

I’m not rich but
I can over-tip.
I can buy art.
I can save for braces.
I can fear loss of comfort.
I can remember something
I used to know about being poor.

Magic was free.
Rooms of grandma’s furniture, free.
The forgiven land loan, free.
The majesty of Friday night pizza,
The sound of a generator powering
A VHS movie on a mountaintop
For my two kids, nearly free.

Poverty gave me preciousness.
That power is gone.
Now, sickened by
My own miserly arrogance,
I recall once knowing
That not even a president
Could rob me of peace.
Like a hermit in a cell, I was free.

2018

A Well-Built Home

April 17th, 2018

To provide an illustration of her well-built home,
My new friend– tall, lean, salt and pepper hair,

An early Harvard girl when Harvard girls were rare,
Said she likes to hop up and down in the shower

And shake off water before stepping out into the towel.
Her husband of over forty years brought it to her attention:

Have you noted the house doesn’t shake, he lightly mentioned,
When you jump in the shower? (Her story in me–a rhizome.)

2018

Tantra

April 16th, 2018

On a morning when I hunch
In the shower under the weight
Of the paperwork of the day,
Of the week, month and years,
Sidpai Gyalmo comes to my face.
Her vicious wily smile, lip corners
Curling over teeth needle sharp,
Tongue stretched out long
And pointed like a rock star,
Eyes wide and insane with will
To look upon a world that ignores
Our need for safety, comfort.
She rides on, black mule too small
For her size but vast, wearing skulls
Of worry around her neck,
Perched on the skin of the corpse
Of ego, our own very real
Impending death, and I give it a try.
I put on her face, crazy eyes,
Pointed tongue, exposed teeth
Water dripping like a baptism
Down our blue body and I am
Laughing at my courage to be silly,
To face this terrible world with
Its bombs and petty bureaucracy,
Its cemeteries, beds and kisses
With completely ridiculous fearlessness.

2018

Witness

April 15th, 2018

Grandpa’s final breath
Found its way into the lungs
Of my quiet son

2018

Lost Hat

April 14th, 2018

Big headed, he said,
too large to pass through,
before the vertical scalpel,
before pulling me feet first
from my mother’s riven womb,

hanging upside down
like a bloody, sleeping bat,
my mother’s warm body
for one moment–
my first lost hat.

2018

Large Canvases

April 13th, 2018

Unless rain. Campus always spotted
with students
on the lawn in solitude or small groups.
I’d walk
to the art department, a low-lying brick building.
The usual vague joy or dread
rising, not knowing
what problems I’d face before the canvas,
human sized. The welcome smell of turpentine
primed the hours ahead.
I loved that poison. Toxic anticipation.
In my corner, on a rolling shelf, a huge glass palette
the size of a table,
dried paint layered in colorful scabs,
an archeology of wounds of the current painting,
brushes thrusting
hard-end out of a mayo jar of turpentine, real turpentine—
not cheap mineral spirits for house painting,
nor the nontoxic
citrus solvent of motherhood, stealing minutes
from children—
Long hair bristle brushes gooey
with the grey sludge of sunken oil paint.
Too lazy or cool to clean them every day or week.
Leaving brushes in that swamp—
a good way to warp or kill expensive hog bristle.
Fascinated with pseudo self portraits,
I painted many women
who vaguely looked like me with better breasts, standing
in various depths of murky red seas,
lost in vast space,
knee-deep in the horizon, crucified, Tao- or Shiva-bound,
avoiding the gaze or turning
from various men. Decades of living the paintings inside,
I took myself out of that space to
drag huge swathes
of juicy blues, whites and creamy yellows over
still large canvases—that much hadn’t changed—
to recreate clouds from above or below,
blue punctuated by sun or moon.
Now elemental light. The between in here.
As if the wooden handle is a conduit routing sky,
lit spheres and space from the body.
I disappear.

Dad Says

April 12th, 2018

In a weary voice
The night before
A nuclear stress test:

“That’s the way it goes.
First your money
Then your clothes.”

2017-18

Homestake

April 11th, 2018

Pause on the side of the slope
In the powder near the pines
Ignore stone feet on skis
Snow a muffler of sound
No wind to remind you of skin
Close your vision and vanish
Two skiers pass like a sigh
Silence the final erasure
Mine zhine from the mind

*zhine (zhee-NAY) means “calm abiding”
in the Bon Buddhist tradition of Tibet

2018

Lahne’s Riddles

April 10th, 2018

If a man were paddling down the Canadian River
and he lost his paddle,
how many pancakes in a doghouse?

Seventeen, because ice cream has no bones.

* * * * *

What’s the difference between a duck?

A vest, because a bicycle has no wings.

* * * * *

Why is an elephant grey?

Because a blue bird is blue.

* * * * *

How many philaramics in a platicus rex?

Six.

tiny reveries

April 9th, 2018

arkansas river
by behemoth cottonwoods
swirls of water
agitate thoughts
until a rock
or peculiar pattern
of persistent
water somewhat solid
where the eye might rest
but off I go
mosquito stings soft skin
behind the knee
to slap me
into tiny reveries
of resentment

2018

Either Way

April 8th, 2018

Oh, to slow, to draw,
To draw perchance to poem—
Either way: the line.

2018