“Autumn in Dixie”
You mustn’t be afraid
to put your foot in some red clay either
or wear beggar lice like badges of honor,
nametags saying you belong to this afternoon.
You have to not mind some scratches and wildness.
You learn pines and cedars,
magnolias, oak leaf hydrangeas,
cypress and blackberry brambles.
Those glorious fields call your name
and for once, you know the answer .
The cattails hear your smell
by the sound of your boot
picking you out by your hum and thump of gait.
You really ought to be kissed
at least once and by someone you love,
who loves you back.
Someone in a straw hat and a daisy necklace.
Someone whose laugh you can’t live without.
You seek the dandelions and ladybugs
because they are shy
and don’t always come when beckoned.
(This goes for dragonflies, butterflies and shiny stones too.)
You must claim your place by walking through it,
attentively, slowly, daily.
Its sun must cling to you like honeysuckle
and the sticky juice of pears,
for however will you know where you are
and if it is home,
if you haven’t truly been lost in its high weeds and thickets,
if you haven’t had to let wind or sound
of running water lead you to the spot where you think,
where you believe with all your heart
that you are and found?
“What September Stands to Lose”
the last day to wear a sandal,
all these prepare to break or fall,
seasons require too much sometimes.
harvest pushing hay, pumpkins…
and small hands of late tomatoes barely making the cutoff
reddening the last of moments, the last of days, long ones at least.
Frost is waiting, but less patiently than before,
and you and I both know that it is only time
now keeping the mornings from ice.
on the verge September, her jumping off place easy tempting.
I might fear this month if I were a smaller person,
if autumn promises and her words,
her coming colors were not so sure a thing.
But this is a done deal.
Ask the trees, they’ll tell the truth whether you like it or not.
They don’t like to speak of it,
but they know about December’s darkness
and how cold and long a night can be.
Fall this year is familiar.
She rises to greet us, not at the door
but all the way from the curb.
She takes our hands and chats
as if we are simply going to have cake and coffee,
as if it is only an afternoon of gossip and a casual forgetting.
What September doesn’t mention or draw attention to,
what she will only admit if pressed,
is what a small amount of day we have left
and how much green we stand to lose.
It does something to not be chosen,
to wait in a still room, patiently silent and without a ringing,
to be Rapunzel without a climbing lover and with slow growing hair,
her tower seeming taller everyday.
Where to look with your eyes, what to do with your hands
when that most uncomfortable of moments forces you to stand
in that place: that place where sides and teams are meticulously selected.
(luck of luck) You are best friends with one of the team captains.
But they know your skills and how you can’t run fast or throw.
They know that you’ll continue to be their friend, in spite of the snubbing.
They know that you would do the same if you were in their place
and that you will understand their not choosing.
this phone is quiet yet I’m afraid
to leave its side. (just in case I stay nearby)
I’m on the playground again with all those faces looking back at me:
faces whose names were called.
Peers who walked over and joined the line
because they were desired and picked, because they could throw or catch.
Don’t judge me.
If you haven’t ever been that last one standing,
if you haven’t felt the feeling
of knowing that the team you are on had to take you,
that you were the last, that you were at best a default,
well then you don’t know my heart today.
You don’t know this place of shame.
You don’t know what it truly means to be asked and wanted.
“Not That the Earth Doesn’t Know”
not that the earth doesn’t know any better than to measure,
after all she is dizzy still from spinning,
from spiraling and longing to unfetter.
Can you blame a world for naming time,
for creating sweet words like “now” and “then” and “once upon”,
for “yesteryears” and “wishings”,
for peace and fig filled futures?
Is it the universe’s fault that I know
this moment right now is called September,
that autumn is on schedule with her evening’s less stifling,
that summer’s hot weather haze whimpers behind us
and that two to three weeks at best from now, an early morning frost
will cover the golf course?
What about “before” and “after”?
Where is “when” in all of this?
And I am angry with myself for not stomping
my feet more at this finite teasing
we are forced to endure, for not demanding
freedom from orbit,
for not calling these stars out into the yard for reckoning,
for not giving at least the galaxy a stellar butt kicking.
Surely I am not the only one dismayed
at this one way street.
Travel with me to the “currently”,
the “present”, the “instantly”,
“promptly” and “without a hesitation”.
Someone quickly kiss me with “now” on your lips.
Forget the “later” and “in a while”.
Kill “soon”!! (Soon deserves to die.)
Take “someday” and “looking forward to”
by their throats and squeeze until “maybe”
and “what if” drips from the corners
of their mouths and from their noses.
We mustn’t allow these seasons to own us
no matter how appealing it is to refer to a spring or winter.
Our war, our enemy marches with us, slyly whispering
how we can do it, how we can make it,
even going as far as allowing us to lean in times of fatigue.
Our demise will be the ease at which we live,
day in and day out lulling us into false safety.
Death won’t come by fire or stone,
but by a terrible calendar,
checking off the weekends and holidays more swiftly
than anyone could ever imagine, more horribly
effective than the sharpest of tools or the greatest of teeth.
It is not right this waiting you ask of me!
Ask instead the leaves to wait,
or the rebellious shoreline to restrain its urge
or the western sky to halt as it comes on dusk.
No, I know you won’t ask the leaves
to remain still in the hands of the wind
boldly shaking throwing caressing them.
Neither do you demand the surge
to leave alone the shore and all those tide enticing treasures,
its shells longing to be tossed and churned, collected.
I don’t see you even hinting of the sun
to delay say only an hour or so its setting.
You know twilight’s purple and orange’s desire to glow.
And yet you ask of me and my feeble heart this great postponing madness!
Do you really expect me to not faint at your absence?
How can I not but leap in your presence?
Darling, where would you have me do this lingering
and whatever are you thinking?
“Love Letters to the Front Coming Back”
All forest-gump-like they pile in unread heaps at my feet
the symbols we identify as words,
wrapped, glued, adorned,
officially stamped and returned already,
Even in this dire of address
the congruent thoughts
attentive straight lines attempt to convey
It is all that they can do to not jump from the pages,
shouting desires and wishes.
how letters retain hope and faith
happy and as giddy as the moment of their penning
the long ride over and back, the stained sacks
amongst the mailroom floors ineffective at dimming
silly jokes or photos of last summer’s tan and smiles
of birthdays or dreams of moon filled evenings
on the back porch as the bats come out to usher the night.
Some are fat and bulging with who knows what and news
while others boast deceptively thin but ever so important,
each one so much like the next and yet so different,
each one still glad in its mission
even in failure, proud to have endeavored such a feat
to have imagined, to have dared to think
of catching the sun and putting it on your finger as a ring.
“The Wood Remembers”
The wood remembers,
and cuts itself open to show its heart and rings
each one for a year to remember, some springs
bothered by too much rain
if that is possible for thirsty April and May
while other seasons remained dry with hardly
any growing at all, not really even deserving
of a ring, thin and barely there,
lean sick times where the grain turned almost invisible.
You my friend were never fooled by lacquer and stain.
You knew what wood was used just by a glance,
a simple sliding of your hand
across its surface and speaking of your hands,
forgive me, but it is not a secret if I call them clumsy:
your big hands dropped sometimes as many objects as they held, just like your home,
every item in its place of honor
or it was dropped to some other place to store.
You kept only those items which sang to you their songs of beginnings.
I remember your book on tree identification,
how you learned a forest
by its leaves and bark and autumn color changes,
and then the proud shape of the
branches in the dead of winter. You liked those bones the best,
saying how you never really knew a tree until it stood leafless and bare.
Now I know you are not on a puff of cloud:
No, that would never do for you. I suspect with those fingers of your
no harp playing either.
No, I fancy you are finishing up your music time with A.P. Carter,
Johnny Cash and Elvis. They are singing about that unclouded day
that you didn’t speak of but so wanted to believe.
I see you on the edge of the Crystal River
checking out the Trees of Life. I can hear you saying right this very minute
“I knew it!”
when you find out that each tree has a heart and each and every leaf a special name.
“from the moment she topped the tree line”
Keeping me up most of the night
with her incessant begging,
she tried to entice me to come
outside in the dark, outside with her.
She reminded me of shared past adventures
and promised me many more to come
if only I would surrender.
I answered her
how one of us had to be adult and earn a living.
Every hollow reason
flowing from my mouth left me ashamed and grieving.
Always a selfish lover:
on the nape of my neck she laughed at my discomfort.
I drew the curtains
and smothered my face with pillows,
but still I felt her hovering outside the window.
She sought my sleep.
I chased her in my dreams through the night
pausing only to admire what I liked about her best, her fullness
and to give her what she desired from me the most
a long, lonely, mournful howl.
I have to believe that all the joy and laughter
that you have sucked from me all these years
is stored somewhere,
bubbling over with giddiness,
happy trickling down its sides
into a frothy pool of delight.
Maybe the clouds hold my glee
and someday I will be walking
across a parking lot in an afternoon rain
when for no apparent reason,
I will simply start an uncontrollable giggle,
jumping and splashing in my lost puddles.