Willows and other wanderings





I lift my hands to touch the leaves, but never do

Pulling my fingers back from the finger-like leaves

That have always awed me,

Willow so full of grace, crafted like work of art,

An impressionistic masterpiece that steals my breath

Incomplete, always lingering unfinished,

So sad I nearly cry each time I see it

Each season giving it a new look though

No look is so tragic as that of winter

When its thin limbs are bare

I love the autumn best when its golden tears

Fall like rain to the ground

My feet easing though its flood as I walk

The river surface mirroring each sloped limb

So I cannot tell which side is up or down

And which side is the real me,

Sometimes this time of year

I stand at the bridge side and stare down stream

Seeing the rain of tree after tree

Like a gold frame around a natural masterpiece,

Individual leaves setting sail on the outward tide.

In the rain, I watch the water wear down each limb

To its nub, forcing the evacuating of leaves.

The river runs gold with their bleeding,

Making me ache as if each is a piece of me,

Each day sailing away

Hinting of winter.





Turbulent squawking fate

Forms around my fingers in the shape of an egg

Inside, the flesh, bone and marrow,

Moves with life


In May, it hatches a hand

A whole hand complete

With opposing thumb

And frivolous pink fingers

What quiver ceaselessly


The nails, soft yet easily broken,

Grow again much like the original

Each finger flirting with the others

Each one showing the bulge of additional eggs


My life is continued his this hand, this egg

As if I could keep existence gripped firmly

When I know in the end

It will always get away





This is not a love poem

Although love lies in it

Like an embryo in a shell,

Fertilized by love-making parents

Who have come together

In time to seed it

With their affections,

Patient parents hovering over

A speck of dust

Waiting for it to grow,

How so much comes out of so little

Remains one of the great mysteries to me,

How love making leads to love

How out of the beastly desires

We find tenderness,

How we manage with a little taste

To drink in each other whole

How out of this remarkable ache

We find happiness.

Sometimes, walking alone afterwards

I feel so full I could burst,

Wishing for your mouth on my mind,

For me to get inside of you,

Perhaps to remain there,

Like the embryo of an egg

Destined to explode with love





I got sick to my stomach by the time the bus reached Las Vegas

California’s smooth roads a soothing deception to the unseaworthy,

Hard seats jolting each bump to my brain.

I wished to have walked the dusty desert flats instead,

My blue jeans clinging to my sweating legs like snake skins


Even the windows provided poor relief, a bitter autumn sun

Beating at me through the tinted glass, me a voyeur to grim sights

Glass streaked with pale lines of too many cigarettes and greasy heads

Each stop dropping in on us a new population of strangers

Dusty tourists blown in from other states


By Salt Lake City autumn had passed into winter

Snow grinning down at us from the sides of canyons,

Each making me ache for my home back east.

California is a figment of my imagination, a looking-glass world

Filled with dreams dreamt from a distance turned into nightmares close up

I cannot live in a world without winter, on sea scapes filled with tan perfection,

With the illusion of perpetual love,

I’m always looking behind the curtain, up the yellow brick road,

For the man twisting the gears inside of me to make the illusions work.


Maybe that’s why I like leaving California

Stumbling out of that dreamscape into the real world

Where the cold still stings my face when I step from the bus

And the rarified air of Denver’s 5,000 feet high

Makes me feel clean again,

Clean enough even for you.





I refuse to write you one of those sour poems

One of those “I’ve lost my heart & soul,” pieces of crap

That ask you to pack your bags and hurry back.

The airwaves are stuffed with such muck in the guise of music,

The collective subconscious heavy with the ache of a million broken hearts

All those note books filled with verse of should/could/would haves

Making enough confetti for a Wall Street ticker tape parade.

Although if I could I would arrange such a parade for you,

Aching to stretch you out in the back seat, the world’s best cover girl

Coveted by the world’s most needy man: me

I carve you out of Ivory soap bars, as I dream of you in my shower,

You seeming so pure to me I would sip you as if apple wine,

You straight out of an American classic painting, cheeks red, eyes bright,

My stem so proudly displayed, aching for you, a perfect still life,

Me aching down to the roots and rotten to the core.





Worms crawl over asphalt in the dark,

Park closed at dusk as if for them

Their journey safe from human penetration

Although fishermen here know the trick

Of sneaking here after hours

Having their pick of worms to hook,

Plucking each up with high hopes they might catch

Something to bring home from the polluted water

Overhead, hawks hover while other night birds watch,

Hooting owls searching the riverside with wide eyes

For the scurrying of rodents, fluttering up, clutching in claws

The prey that came to prey on worms,

Each pathetic crawling creature struggling to get across the walk

Before doom comes upon them,

Seeking to dip their heads into rich wet soil,

Safe and sound,

Sometimes, I envy them, having no such safe ground

For myself.





From the posts of the old dock

The gulls watch the fisherman.

They look like distorted Hitchcock characters

In dirty white cloth coats and bent beaks

Laughing to the cast of reel and fruitless expectations,

Curses over lost bait and tangled lines,

Talk over “the ones” that got away

As the gulls take to wing,

Cast their gaze across the flat water

For the ripple of water, dive, then steal

The fish the fishermen could only talk about,

Rising and falling in the failing light

So light, so tender, it might make a love story

With only the fisherman suffering the broken hearts





I can tell the temperature by the cry of gulls

They seem louder with each degree below 50

Like children crying for ice cream,

The river side so covered with ice I need spread only sugar

To make their wishes true

Winter has caked in both banks and stretched a sheet of ice

Across the river top so tight a breath could shatter it,

Gulls reflected in its surface like rude guest ready for bed.

Their cries break the silence, but they cannot break the ice

Or get at the mocking catfish whose webbed backs

Shivering under the surface as quietly as ghosts.

The only hope glitters on the far side as a robin’s red breast

Breaks the monotony of white, hinting of the change of season

Soon to come upon us, when this frigid bedspread with draw back

To expose the underworld again.

I ache as much as the gulls do, shivering on this dock

As traffic rumbles over the highway bridge, sending shivers through the air

And slivered icicles down upon the flat glassy water.

I wait and watch for the car I know will carry you,

I know you always come this way,

I know that like the seasons, even your heart must sometime thaw.





For want of water I might even pray

Or lay down along the dried river bank,

Suffering for sins I cannot comprehend,

Stones, hot and sharp under me,

Like swords stabbing deep into my soul


I watch the children dance in waves of  heat

Dreaming of water, a myth told of times past

Few remembering when water ran free

We remember only the shriveling,

The sour strip of blue down the middle of where

Water had been,

Even the factories have surrendered,

Unable to hide their pumping stench


Instead of water, the air moves

Filled with the scent of withering willows

A fool’s hope that things will become flush again

As crows caw instead of gulls

And old men with backs flat against gray stones

Wonder if water had ever washed these waves of dust





They talk of love,

Teenage attractions

Spoiled on the vine or

Picked too soon,

The bitterest always the ones

Who bought wholesale

Male macho’ boasts

Fast cars, fat muscles,

Now ages later,

Dodging the reaper

And Cupid’s arrows,

Shopping around for

Egoless males

The way they might

Sugar substitutes

Always with that

Bitter after taste

Always with the remembrance

Of things past,

Every man an echo

Of the man who came before,

Back to that first man

And that first unfulfilled promise

Trading virginity for empty air

That in memory is as sharp

As a stab in the heart

Yet each still talking of love

As if love was even possible.



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