In the gaze of the other

"My mistress' eyes are nothing…"

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I’ve always been a little far sighted.

I can’t read what’s right in my face

And I can’t face intensely close faces.

It hurts my orientation, my spatiality,

Or maybe it’s intimacy I can’t face,

But I’ve the knack for planning ahead

Far into the future or two moves up.

My sight extends far into the un-here.

Though now, in the waning years, or

Maybe waxing, that is, expanding, my

Sight is delimited, far-sighted and 

Near too, somewhere between; really

Not the middle, mean, or average, how

Ever you measure space-time continu-

Um, more like focal clarity of one layer

While the rest blurs snowy opaque and

Blue in relief like sky, sadness or pearls.

I’ve trimmed off layers to the one visible,

My reality carved from seeds and history.

How the rain obscures sight I don’t know,

But I can see clearly how blindness grows.


On the Eve of Yet Another

Sitting across the table from my oldest at our favorite eatery, I could not help seeing what others must have seen in me 36 years ago: a tall, lean vibrant girl with a hyperactive, inquisitive mind and over burdened sense of responsibility for the buoyancy of the conversation. 

I love to watch her gesticulating hands, the petulance in her sea green eyes and the force of her concerns and wishes. She is all youth and wonder, strength and conviction.

My own youth is like an old 35 mm flickering reel, some parts skipping in fractured movement. The plot always seems to nearly unfold just as the threads run wild and loose. Just like me to crave the missing cracks, what lies in those stuttered jumps in the movie, however slight and seemingly insignificant.

If I could make a real movie of my teens to twenties, I would splice together actual footage of all the moments, days and weeks of laughter. So much laughter. My friends and I knew how to chuckle and wheeze ourselves into spasms, once we broke the ironic smirks broadcasting our quick savvy and adoptive world weariness.

The range of emotion exaggerated on a face, the wide-open eyes in surprise or indignity, the outstretched fingers flung from the span of taut exasperation palms, I recall to fleeting memories evoked by my daughter’s questioning advice on relationships, friendships and the state of the world.

She asks me who in their right mind would have a kid with our sadly looming future. And at the peak of her voiced question mark, I hear my own 20 year old voice chiming in, silently mouthing the words with her in grainy film footage. 

If I squint my reality a tad, she is me. 

But on the eve of yet another birthday, one of those off years signaling no milestones, no edges to encroaching decades or mid-split 5’s, I find myself repeating to her: “If I could give you one thing, my most valuable gift, I would export the revelations I gained both wasting time and suffering, just to push your learning curve so far back your starting point advantage would increase the laughing years twenty fold.”

Which always draws a blank green-eyed stare of indulgent tolerance.

By the time she gets it, hopefully I won’t be mere flickering light through film base covered in gelatin emulsion. 

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I Missed His Birthday, but Raising a Glass to Bill


My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun (Sonnet 130)

William Shakespeare, 15641616

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
     And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
     As any she belied with false compare.

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Jackhammer Song

An idling chain saw keeps rhythm with my back room dancing patter, 

Squaring tables and chopping fruit, two-stepping rectangle long sides

Coloring clear plastic eye-catching berry reds, blues and bumble-black.

Jackhammers turn my thoughts to you, muscle striata crisscrossing

A bare back strained in full throttle and thrust, arms braced at angles.

Broken concrete, that’s what it felt like after I was, you know, set free,

Like nowhere to stand for fear of falling again, in ankle-wrenching cracks.

But there they are to remind me, the construction workers–building–

Repairing the road, pipes or walls, I cannot know from here inside, hearing

And dancing as if I had rhythm or grace, as if I had time to notice and laugh.

Nail guns most certainly sound like giant mutant Swinglines on steroids, 

Though no paper stacks so deeply to need stapling, no two-bit bound book,

No, not like the one written to the back of my mind on scraps of bent memory,

Built to last, survive trapped steps danced in a backward line, shot-gun stapled

To the tar in my veins slick and crumble, hardened to the yielding roadway.

The steady machine hum and buzzle constant signal hard hat quitting time.

I hear the spooling of cords and wires rubber squeezed shut like garden hoses

Half circle’d serpentine in yard corners dark and dewy til Sunday mowing comes.

Only hard heads too entrenched in imaginary ditches to quit stay up to feed night

While sweat-stains run down shower drains of fixers and makers gone home.

By the time I turn keys, write pages, push pens on paper, close covers cleaned,

Those early rising sun greeting gritty orange vested denizens of asphalt and dust

Will have set their alarms to pillows, snores, grunts and swear to the sucking stars.

And tomorrow’s dance of rattle and ear-shattering drum will resume without me.

For maybe this night the secrets to staying will keep me there beyond the walls. 

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Cradle to Grave

One more I honor and pray will not be the last,

This poem, your day, awakenings to more days

Filled with complaints, facts, lies, jokes and sighs

Those last with mortal grimace and existential pain–

And celebrations.

No one fills your place, not before or after,

None who sits just where you do in my house,

Or my car, no one quite like you who inherited and grew

status, class, gender, race, trait, stance and ethnicity.

You made me.

One day you will unmake me just like the sun and earth,

My fiery Death whose smoke will awaken the ravens

Loosen charred Regret and Steam, neither life companions

On my walk, my rise and fall, blossom and decay, my stain

After you.