(elegy)

1 November 2011 at 11:24 am (2000, Poetry)

when it was winter love
i longed for the sweet smell of spring
i dreamed of when the days
would match the heat of you and i
and i knew that i could last
it never occurred to me
that you would not last
but death stalked the winter snows

my soul bears a splinter love
my lips crave the sweet taste of yours
my heart does not murmur love
it is cold it is gnarled and taut
i stare at the swirling of leaves
in the wind and i watch
while they wither and crisp and die
and i cry like a child

5/3/00

_________________

[Notes -Jonathan]

First page, written in a neat hand, black ink. Stuart Hall Tech Select, spiral bound, five section, pocket notebook, 9-1/2 x 6-1/2 in.
The third word of the second stanza might be “hears” rather than “bears”, but this reading makes less sense.

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Revisions

30 January 2007 at 12:44 pm (2002, Letters, Poetry)

Here is my dad’s response to my critiques in the last post.

N1
Here is a revision of Designer’s Brew based on your comments, followed by the original version, including some changes I made. The original words are in parenthesis.

DESIGNER’S BREW

This distillery mind of mine is active again,
taking grains of things seen, heard and felt,
brewing something new, some spirit substance
ample in head, bitter to the tongue,
placing it on the bar to be sampled by
God-knows-who. “Not my taste,”
some say, rejecting out of hand that which rose from fiery logs, curled through
narrow tubes settling in the collecting vat
of experience, was then bottled, capped, distributed,
stocked openly, my name on it. Some shrug,
desiring something with vintage attached,
unwilling to drink my less subtle,
harsher ale. Some prefer lighter sustenance.
But there are those who will smack their lips,
nod appreciatively consuming my designer’s brew.
Those discerning, exuberant connoisseurs
are the audience I ferment for.

Here’s the earlier version.

DESIGNER’S BREW

This distillery mind of mine
is active again, taking grans
of things seen and heard,
brewing something new, some spirit

substance ample in head, bitter
to tongue, placing it on
the bar to be sampled
by God-knows-who. It’s

not my tast, some may say
rejecting out of hand
that which rose from fiery
logs, curled through narrow tubes,

settling in the collecting vat
of experience, was bottled, capped,
distributed, stocked openly, my name
on it. Some shrug, desiring

something with vintage attached,
unwilling to drink my less subtle,
harsher ale. Some prefer lighter
sustenance. But tehre are those

who smack their lips, nod
appreciatively consuming my desigher’s brew.
Those discerning, exuberant (geniuses) connoisseurs
are the audience I (froth) ferment for.

I’m still not sure whether I want the poem to be in stanzas or with the new line breaks I have in the later version. I appreciated your comments, as you may have noticed by the changes I made in the poem.

N2
Here is the revision I made to Night, as per your comment, although I’m not sure it makes the poem better. I don’t think it makes it worse, though, so you tell me which version you like, the old one or the one with the added line.

NIGHT

Untorn and yet not whole,
this mothcloth sky, unpatched by cloud,
pounds forth its heavy fist of focus,
feeding imagination.
Clear sharp lines of trees
loom large and more than tree,
waiting for dawn to change their mien
to something not sheer line and black,
something more a tree.

P.S. Mein was a typo. I always intended it to be mien.

N3
I’m really happy you like PITY. Incidentally, I submitted NIGHT and PITY to the West Side Books Poetry Contest here in Denver. I think of them as my best short poems.

N4
I agree that GRIEF should be exactly the size it is. I might also call your attention to the F alliteration in the last stanza. There is another F word that I was hoping “fickle wings” might evoke in the reader’s mind.

N5
I’m also glad you like this poem. It is actually an old one that I wrote either while I was in college or during my 1957 sojourn in New York. Below is the original version, which was written (as should be obvious) in imitation of e.e. cummings. I like the newer version better, although there are some things left less to the imagination in the original.

IN ONE PACK-
           AGE, THE WORLD

in one pack-
           age, the world,
wrapped and
          rib-
b
  o
    n
      e
        d

(on the corner)
              waiting.

will i do? i asked,
                  he'd-
                      less of the
(heaven's warning thunder-)
                       c
                        l
                         a
                          p
                           .

she re-
        g(u)ard-
               ed me
                   (dis-
d
 a
  i
   n
    -
     fully.
i
shrunk.

sorry, i mum-
            bled, stum-
bling on
        my way.

wait,
said she,
        you
           (
            y
             e
              t
               )
                may
do.

I still like the original version. There’s something alluring about its explicitness and it is even clearer as to the profession of the woman, who is rib-boned as was Eve. the main change I had to make from one version to the other as far as the actual words was concerned, was the use of “shrank,” for “shrunk,” because the sexual connotation was not necessary in the later version. I think the newer version works extremely well and is, as you said, “mysterious,” which is something the original could never be called. The changes from “wait, said she, you yet may do” to “wait, she said, you may do yet” were suggested by Sheila on the basis of the original being archaic and breaking the mood of the newer version.

N6
Here is what I came up with re your suggestions.

TRAPPED

This desert of my mind
cracks like a dry lake
crisscrossed with hexagons of thought,
each one separated by unbridgeable
crevasses, doomed to remain
within its borders until
some far day in which
merciful clouds blotting out the sun,
pouring rain like mourner’s tears,
shall melt those remorseless rims.

N7
I will pull this poem out of the Stanford batch and look for a substitute since I think it will benefit from being put aside for later review. You’re right, it can be made much better. As for the name of the town, however, it is spelled Canon and pronounced Canyon.

N8
I have a feeling that MY FATHER will become a longer poem at a later time. However, that poem will be very difficult to write. I think this one is complete as-is, though, and will use it. Just the facts, Jonathan.

N9
The 10-line stanza was a typo. the last stanza should begin
I’m totally undisturbed…
See if that makes it read better for you. I have no objection to making it all one stanza but I think it works quite well in 5-line stanzas. In reality, I had originally written the poem in six-line stanzas of six words each line. At Sheila’s suggestion, I condensed it into five word lines and ultimately to five line stanzas with some lines shorter than 5 words per line when it worked better that way. I thought this was an interesting technical challenge to hone my skills.

N10
Thanks for the “yes” on PICTURE OF MY WIFE, although I’d like to have you elaborate on that just out of ego gratification. It was written in one burst as I just finished dusting her picture.

N11
I will work on this poem, which seems difficult to break into stanzas since it is a single sentence and I think should be a single sentences, since it is a single life. If you have any specific ideas, I’d like to hear them. I’m sure, though, that I couldn’t simply break this poem into even-lined stanzas and I’m afraid breaking it into unsymmetrical stanzas might hurt the cloth I’m trying to weave here. I’ve had Sheila and Jake York suggest at different times that I should lengthen the poem and have responded each time by doing so. Although I’m sure there is ample room for expanding this person’s life further, I’m not convinced that I can do so in a single sentence and for some stubborn reason, I want to hold it to that. You can take a shot at breaking it into stanzas that make sense to you and get back to me with it, but I only have about a week to get this stuff ready for submission. Also, all those words you had rouble with were typos. Barble should be Marble, Pieta should have an accent, but I let it go, thinking an editor would put it in, since I don’t know how to put it in Word. Enbrace should be Embrace. You’ve got a good eye, Jonathan.

N12
I’ll bow to your impressions here. I wrote this a long time ago and like the image, but it’s quite possible that it doesn’t stand on its own. There are a number of poems I can look at to include in this submission, including the one about my mother’s death, the one about your mother and me splitting up and the one about you and me in New York. As of now, I have 10 poems, since I’ve just eliminated two of them re your comments. That’s 10 pages. I can go to 15 pages. I’ve not included Marketplace since that would probably run 6-7 pages in itself and I’ve also not included Prince of Bums, since that would go at least 2, maybe 3 pages. I like them both buty think I should hold them out until a later time.

I hope you can find something to applaud in my latest revisions. Let’s see if we can’t get to final takes on these and look at what else to add, if anything.

Thanks for your comments and also for the wonderful picture of three generations you just sent me.

Love,
Pop

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Stanford University creative writing fellowship

29 January 2007 at 4:20 pm (2002, Poetry, Reminiscence)

In Fall of 2002, my father had hit a stride, returning with verve to his writing, especially poetry. He became inspired enough to submit for a Stanford University poetry fellowship. He did me the great honor of asking for my critique of the poems he was to submit.

Here is his “statement of plan” as submitted for the application:

Having put my 67th birthday behind me, I try to keep my plans realistic and achievable. I’ve come back to writing after a hiatus of 33 years, having abandoned the enterprise after the failure of my first marriage in 1969, to begin writing again six years after the demise of my second wife in 1996, chiefly as a way to express my grief. Now, poetic ideas assault me daily and I’ve been asked by several people whom I love and admire to not abandon the pursuit again. I don’t think I could if I wanted to.

Yet, the time away from writing and critical reading of poetry has put me at a disadvantage. I’ve succumbed to economy of expression so completely my poetry often does not realize its potential and I often opt to shorten my expression from lack of understanding how to more fully develop my ideas. It is in this realm I can most benefit from a Stanford fellowship. I’ve deprived myself of the companionship of other writers and the stimulation of instructors for a long time. Further development of my skills as a poet should prove of value to the Stanford University fellowship program as well as to me, individually.

Thanks for your consideration,

Norman Pearl

Here are the poems he asked me to critique, along with my commentary.

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A (brief) dialogue in verse

26 January 2007 at 1:50 pm (2000, Letters, Poetry)

In June 2000, a few months before moving to California, I inititated a correspondence with my father, who was living downstairs in the family home we bought together in Denver, April 1998. My wife and I (and eventually my first son) were to spend about three years in California, before returning (but briefly) in April 2003 to our house in Denver. In August, we departed for a 10-month stint in the Czech Republic, where I would pass time as a Fulbright scholar, researching and writing my dissertation. I found this correspondence in the form of email files on my dad’s hard drive. I seem to remember there may have been more on paper, that we passed back and forth under doors, while each other slept. (He kept odd and irregular hours, often rising before dawn, and sleeping partway through the day). The last few show his relentless struggle with words, his endless editing and revising.

—–Original Message—–
From: Jonathan G. Secora Pearl

Sent: Sunday, June 04, 2000 11:49 PM
To: Norman Pearl
Subject: Beginning of a dialogue in verse (I hope)

June 4, 2000

Beginning of a dialogue

You say there’s much of you in me.
I wonder then what’s left to be.

Am I to you a life anew,
and you to me a life to be?
Are even you your father too?
And life itself repeated through
this peregrine loop,
a hoop through which our who
is you and me and all the troop,
seeing our reflection true,
though never new?

And if myself you know
as if my now were yet your past,
how yet does there remain to grow,
or seek or see or be at last?
Do you indeed my future show,
my yet-to-be already past?
Or is there still a me to crow
about, a sail to hang on my own mast?

But then perhaps I must agree
that even in my novelty
perhaps some residue of you
remains; that even as I strew
my seeds, to show
the life that stems from me,
the seeds I sow, as well you know,
being some me,
come from some you.
And so I see, as seeds I sow,
the parent plant I too renew.


Jonathan Geoffrey Secora Pearl
Denver, Colorado, USA

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: RE: Beginning of a dialogue in verse (I hope)
Date: Tue, 6 Jun 2000 02:31:03 -0700
From: Norman Pearl
To: Jonathan G. Secora Pearl

First response to my son

As words in the same tongue
share the same sounds,
as oriental carpets
share similar strands,
our lives and those to be
are intertwined.

What was is not quite at end;
what is still may be;
what shall be is in your hands;
what is yet to be
only they comprehend,
whose futures on coupling depend.

Norman Pearl
Denver, Colorado
June 6, 2000

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan G. Secora Pearl
Sent: Tuesday, June 06, 2000 7:52 PM
To: Norman Pearl
Subject: Round II

June 6, 2000

And so, on couples life depends,
I can not argue that;
Yet I recall from in my youth
what often you had taught:
that many kinds of lineage
descend, and flesh is only one.

I learned, from you,
to listen well
to voices long since gone;
and carry on the dialogue,
for others to attend.

A dialogue of sorts it was,
though of the strangest sort,
for voices gone come not again,
and voices new are yet to be,
and only now my voice extends
to a future voice beyond.

Jonathan Geoffrey Secora Pearl
Denver, Colorado, USA
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: RE: Round II
Date: Wed, 7 Jun 2000 20:01:15 -0700
From: Norman Pearl
To: Jonathan G. Secora Pearl
CC: Michael Pearl, Kevin E Pearl

To Jonathan, response II

I celebrate those few whose gifts humanity thrives upon,
the Mozart who, it’s said, heard whole symphonies in his head
gives those who care to hear his works great joy or sadness.
Plato speaks now as he spoke long after the Atlantis of which he wrote,
long before many of the tongues he now speaks in were born.
Einstein puzzled out a universe of which he knew so little,
Michelangelo freed the figures trapped within the marble he worked.
Only a handful each century is needed to propel the human race
upon its forward course, and yet the miracle of Mozart’s music
would be mute were it not for those of lesser gifts
who share the common bond of humanity with the genius.
Plato’s works would not reach us weree it not for those
who crafted his words into the tongues now we comprehend and those
whose skills provided the printed pages on which they reside.
So with Einstein, Michelangelo, Augustine who shared with us
the inner workings of his mind, Paracelcus who inspired modern medicine.
If your gifts should soar with theirs, then return the favor they paid you
by providing your gift to those who come. Yet, also remember those
whose great skills provided you with the opportunity to communicate
with those great contributors and celebrate the heritage we share
beyond the coupling that carries that potential forward to those not yet
born.

(p.s. You could make this a little easier, Jonathan. Have pity on an old
man who needs his sleep.)

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: RE: Round II
Date: Sat, 10 Jun 2000 00:48:38 -0700
From: Norman Pearl
To: Jonathan G. Secora Pearl
Hello Jonathan,

I'm sure I'll be able to improve on this, but it's now 1:22 and I won't
get to sleep until I move these thoughts from my notebook to this reply
to you, so here it is.

"Such a sad face, my son,"  he said,
looking at the pouting face of the
eight-year old son visiting him
for the summer.  "I'm lonely, daddy,
all my friends are back in Baltimore."
He started to tell his son of all
the wonders New York held, the museums,
Central Park, Coney Island, but before his voice
could form a phrase, his mind had taken him
back to the terrible year
his eighth had been, how he
had struggled with a loneliness
far deeper than that his son was feeling now.
Nine months confined to home with only
his skinny, sickly sister
whom he was scarcely allowed to see
for fear of infecting her with the disease
that had turned his skin sallow
and made the whites of his eyes yellow,
with only his fragile, crippled mother,
afflicted monthly with fearsome pain,
his father, full of bluster and tempest
and the Harvard Classics heaped up
in the corner of his room, where his father
had dumped them after rescuing them from a home
he was working in with a brusque "Here,
occupy yourself with these."  And so he had,
over those nine months, reading every one,
his fingers dirtying every page in his
two-volume dictionary, for no one in the house
could answer the questions he had.
Plato, Aristotle, Cato and Pliny,
Pare and Paracelsus, Marlowe and Shakespeare,
the Curies, St. Augustine, Buddha and Lao Tze,
on and on, day after day, week after week,
Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson,
Thoreau and Voltaire, Moliere,
Ibsen, Doesoyevsky, and the rest
had carried him through those days
in their one-sided conversations
with the boy, and so
he took his son by the hand
and led him to his bookshelves.
"Let these be your friends, my son,
they'll never disappoint you
and you'll never be lonely again."

I hope that rings truer than the previous attempt, although it still needs
work.

Oh yes, and I thought you might enjoy this tid-bit, written many years ago,
when you were only a thought.

(god)

daddy
	yes michael
i know who god is daddy
he's my friend

god is my friend kevie
you better be good or he'll make you dead
	don't cry kevin
	mikie was only teasing

snuggle with me daddy
i'm afraid of the dark
	what about god mikie
	he's your friend isn't he

god can't snuggle with me daddy
he had to go home

(revised 5/27/00)

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: A small improvement
Date: Sat, 10 Jun 2000 01:18:39 -0700
From: Norman Pearl
To: Jonathan Pearl

I think this is a slight improvement over my earlier note to you tonight.

(response to round II)

such a sad face my son he said
looking at the tearful face
of the eight-year-old son
visiting him for the summer
i’m lonely daddy
all my friends are in baltimore
he started to tell his son
of all the wonders new york held
the museums central park
coney island but before his voice
could form a phrase his mind
had taken him back to that
terrible year his eighth had been
how he had struggled for
nine months confined to home
with only his skinny sickly sister
whom he was scarce allowed to see
for fear of infecting her
with the disease that had
turned
his skin sallow
and the whites
of his eyes yellow
with only his fragile mother afflicted
monthly with fearsome pain
his
father full of bluster and tempest
and the harvard classics heaped up
in the corner of his room where
his father had deposited them with a
brusque here occupy yourself
with these
and so had had
over those nine months
reading every one
plato aristotle cato and pliny
pare and paracelsus marlowe and shakespeare
the curies st. augustine buddha and lao tze
emily dickinson walt whitman thoreau
voltaire moliere ibsen doestoyevsky and the rest
had carried him through those days
and so he led his son to his bookshelves
let these be your friends my son
they’ll never disappoint you
and you’ll never be lonely again

(revised 6/10/00 2:17 a.m.)

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Response II revised
Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2000 17:24:51 -0700
From: Norman Pearl
To: Jonathan Pearl

Hello son,

Here is the latest revision of my response to your second poem, with a new ending

such a sad face my son, he said
looking at the tearful visage
of the eight-year-old
visiting him for the summer
i’m lonely daddy
all my friends are in baltimore
he started to tell his son
of the wonders new york held
the museums, central park
coney island and the aquarium
but before his voice could form a phrase
his mind had taken him back to that
pivotal year his eighth had been
how he had struggled for nine
months confined to home
with only his skinny sickly sister
whom he was scarcely allowed to see
for fear of infecting her
with the disease that had
turned his skin sallow
and the whites of his eyes yellow
with only his fragile mother afflicted
monthly with fearsome pain
his father full of bluster and tempest
and the heavy books heaped
up on the corner of his room where
his father had deposited them with a
brusque here occupy yourself with these
and so he had over those long months
reading every one
plato aristotle cate and pliny
pare paracelsus and the curies
marlowe shakespear and donne
buddha st. augustine maimonides and lao tze
emily dickinson walt whitman thoreau
voltaire moliere ibsen doestoyevsky
and the rest had carried him
through those days
and so he led his son
to the books upon his shelves
let these be your friends my son
they’ll never disappoint you
and you’ll never be lonely again
and perhaps someday
you may become a friend
to others yet to be

(revised 06/14/00)

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Revised response to round ii
Date: Sun, 18 Jun 2000 06:52:16 -0700
From: Norman Pearl
To: Jonathan Pearl
CC: Michael Pearl, Kevin E Pearl

(legacy)

such a sad face my son, he said
looking at the tearful visage
of the eight-year-old
visiting him for the summer
i’m lonely daddy
all my friends are in baltimore
and even they don’t think
the way i do
he had been about to tell the boy
of all the wonders new york held
the museums central park
coney island and the aquarium
but before his voice could form a phrase
the youngster’s meaning gripped his mind
and took him back to that pivotal year
his eighth had been
he thought of how he had struggled
for nine months confined to home
with only his skinny, sickly sister
whom he was scarce allowed to see
for fear of inflicting her
with the disease that had
turned his skin sallow and
the whites of his eyes yellow
confined to home with his fragile
polio-twisted mother devastated
monthly with fearsome pain
with his father full of bluster and tempest
and the heavy books heaped
up in the corner of his room where
his father had deposited them with a
brusque here occupy yourself with these
and so he had over those many months
reading every one plato aristotle cate and pliny
pare paracelsus the curies marlowe shakespeare
donne keats and shelly buddha st. augustine
maimonides and lao tze poe yeats emily
dickinson whitman melville thoreau and poe
voltaire moliere ibsen tolstoy doestoyevsky
and the rest had carried him through those days
and so he led his son to the books
upon his shelves let these be you friends
your guides and your peers for they
have written these books with you in mind
have entrusted their thoughts to you
in hopes that you will help shape
the souls of future hearts
the boy squeezed his father’s hand

(revised Father’s day, 2000)

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Senryu and Haiku

25 January 2007 at 1:06 pm (2000s, Poetry, Undated)

Senryu

Trash scattered about.
The neighbor’s dog, head hung down,
avoiding my gaze.

[see vii, on Haiku poems]

Bereft of their blooms,
do the thorny rose bushes
grieve as much as I?

[see ix, on Haiku poems]

Oh, curious bug
climbing up my kitchen wall,
don’t look down on me.

[see iii, on Haiku poems]

Were I to leave shore
would the waves swallow me up?
Would I return again?

[see x, on Haiku poems]

Would I travel far
if I had six legs and wings
or would I stay home?

[see xxii, on Haiku poems]

Has my life become
like the hapless horseshoe
leaning against the pin?

In my typing chair,
staring at the monitor,
waiting for e-mail

Haiku

[see xiv, on Haiku poems]

When the frost returns,
portending the winter snows,
will I be patient?

[see iv, on Haiku poems]

Dark clouds hovering,
obscuring the winter sun.
Snow is sure to fall.

[see xv, on Haiku poems]

Those fleecy mountains
rising on the western ridge.
My name called clearly.

[see xvii, on Haiku poems]

I seem to have learned
much about pain this winter.
Will I heal by spring?

Wearing my parka,
about to brave the snowstorm
in my galoshes.

Red nose, cold earlobes,
laughter, wet snowballs flying.
First winter snow day.

Get out those old skates,
muffler, coat and ear muffs.
There’s ice on the pond.

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“Cleopatra’s palace,” etc.

25 January 2007 at 12:42 pm (2000s, Draft, Poetry, Undated, Untitled)

Cleopatra’s palace lies under water,
pyramids sit sunken off the coast
of Japan; there’s a sunken road off
Bimini; muddy civilizations off shore,
buried under the meltdown of the
last ice age; even older cultures —
Plato’s Atlantis — making Cleopatra
seem like a newcomer — sleep
with the fish. Where will we be found
in another two thousand years?

We are the fossil-makers. Not in shale
will the future fossil hunters find what they seek,
but in measured boxes, some encased in concrete,
many huddled together, heaped limb upon limb,
skull upon skull, shall they find
once-elusive human remains, in prim fields
marked with crosses, stars, crescents,
what-you-may. Those future archeologists
will not find tools as in the past, those will
have found new owners at yard sales or
auctions.

In this ancient edifice of mine,
what creatures lurk in the crawlspace
between the stories? Shall I plant mushrooms
in that dark cave underneath the porch?
How would I retrieve them? What rope
would I use to bring them to me from
that darkness?

Will I be a winner in today’s on-line,
scratch-off lotto? What prize will I win?
How many times will I have to
type my name, address and phone number?
How many chances do I have to win
and what are the odds against me? So
many questions, so few answers.

Where shall we find another Bach to methodically
transport us from the depths of sorrow to the
heights of ecstasy within the forms he mastered?
Who will make us laugh like Haydn did? Will there
ever be another Mozart to carry us on his wings
from birth to death, exploring the depths of our
being? Where will we find another Beethoven
to bring us to the best of ourselves, to show us
how to be more than we are?

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Senior Bowling

24 January 2007 at 1:54 pm (2000s, Poetry, Undated)

In my old age, I’ve become a bowling alley bum,
straining for that elusive 200 game, making
new friends in the daytime senior’s leagues.
Sometimes, I wonder how some of us do it,
sometimes I even wonder why. There’s
Anna Mae, who seems barely able to lift
her nine-pound alley ball that takes forever
to get to the pins once she has dropped it on the lane
and John whose hands are so twisted he doesn’t
care to shake hands anymore. There are a couple
of us diabetics, comparing notes on sugar levels,
a bunch of us with prostate cancer, checking out
the various treatments our doctors put us through.

It seems as if we’re signing get-well cards
every other week and sharing birthday cake
at least as often, hearing those announcements
about the bowlers who won’t be coming back.
Dear Grace who, at 86, bowled in every league,
being diagnosed with diabetes only to learn
a few weeks later she had cancer of the pancreas,
passing on a few weeks after that. I wonder what became
of Dottie, who coughed her way forward, leaving
her cigarette in the ash tray as she inched
toward the lane? My friend Jim, who had his left hip
replaced a couple of months ago is now back
in the hospital with a cerebral aneurysm.

I haven’t been able to visit him so far. He’s in
intensive care. Don had to drop out because
he’s lost his eyesight. That didn’t seem to stop
Harry, who depends on Joe to tell him where
the pins are after his first ball. I worry about
Fred, who’s just turned 90 and looks very pale
and tired but keeps showing up three times
a week. Roger collapsed Tuesday morning
and had to go by ambulance to the hospital,
Marsha following in their car. Carlo Caruso
bowled a 200 game at 92, two days later he died
in his sleep. Mom warned me not to hang out in
bowling alleys. I wonder if this were why.

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My Father

23 January 2007 at 4:35 pm (Poetry, Undated)

Version 1

With his paste bucket, scissors and long table,
my father was a menagerie. He could measure,
cut and paste wallpaper like a stalking eagle
snagging prey. He’d fold the pasted sheets, graceful
as a swan, carry them like a pelican, bill filled
with fish, match the seams with the eye of a hawk.

Like a shark, he never stopped moving, devouring
his prey on the run. Then, like a salmon swimming
upstream, he’d seek out the next obstacle
to conquer. A bear of a man, he worked alone
with the singularity of purpose of Moby Dick sinking
Ahab’s ship, relentlessly charging until the job was done.

Version 2

With his paste bucket, scissors and long table,
my father could measure, cut and paste wallpaper
like an artist, fold the pasted sheets — enough to fill
a whole wall — match seams with hawk’s eyes.
He worked alone, relentless until the job was done,
like Moby Dick sinking Ahab’s ship.

When he’d washed his brushes, cleaned the bucket,
stashed his tools inside the station wagon, piled scaffold,
and table on its roof, he rushed through traffic like
a surly boar. At home, he brayed like a mule. He didn’t
drink. His father had been a drinker. He was faithful
as a wolf, though mom’s cat-like teasing would set him off.

During holidays and in summer, he’d be home,
staring owl-like into space. Nights, he’d play solitaire
in the dining room, huddled over the cards. I’d see him
when I went for a snack or came home from a date.
We’d mumble greetings. In my 20s, after my Army stint,
I found out he loved me. Damn, I miss him.

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Witness

23 January 2007 at 4:24 pm (Poetry, Undated)

A voice cried “Time”
from a mountaintop,
cold white, the voice,
clenched by the
“but for tomorrow”
whistling through mind.
From the mountaintop, “time”
echoed time, time, time.
The valleys crevassed below
droned back “if.”

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Strands of Time

23 January 2007 at 4:18 pm (2000s, Poetry, Undated)

Riding the ridge in Canon City,
Colorado, that thin, winding road
built by the sweat of the state’s
prisoners; almost afraid to stop,
get out, look at the vista below.
I stopped, stared at the thin bands of time
exposed on that ridge,

almost not believing I was looking
at millions of years, strands revealing
the birth of one-celled life, emergence
of the shark, cephalopods, the giant ones,
the rise of T. Rex. I thought I could
see their demise in an inches-thick
black stripe, stood there awed

by such a revelation, although
I’d assumed its significance
because that’s what it looked like.
I wondered which line gave rise to
my ancestors, finally returned to my car,
overwhelmed by my ignorance
of this rock that gave rise to me.

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