Stillness and Presence


“At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,

But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, 

Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,

Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,

There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”

T.S. Eliot, “Four Quartets” 

The dance is ongoing. It is presence. It never was nor will be but at the still point of our ever turning, evolving world–that is us. And the dance is lovely and freeing if you stay there.

Dance, Abe.


Hey there, 6 foot 2,

You’re the legend I 

Never really knew,

Just tales and arms

That wrapped me up

In dreams disarmed.

At least I think so,

Childhood being all

Those decades ago.

No matter still, as

Memory lays bare

A wild man’s stare

And disheveled hair

From too much work,

Sleepless nightmare,

Slaving for the jerk

Who paid pennies

For our family of 7

And zero amenities

Like air, health, ice

Or places to sit and

Eat, but for the mice

And rats and broken

Windows in summer

Through winter then

All over again you

Worked and worked

Like honey bees do

Except for the sweet,

Endless years toiling

Making their mark on

Sharp minds unfolding

Like cards in a deck

The ones spread before

Your outstretched neck

As you glance at a play

Grimace in your mouth

And hunch in your sway.

Time, cards, pills, and

Withering you rue it

All, taking for granted

Though you may intuit

That all you worked

For in shaving off days

Return in unseen perqs

Of watching the world

Change as you leave it

For survivors to unfurl

And laugh at the effort

Knowing it’s fruitless.

I watch you watching

Me with that wry smile

Sneering, laugh, a poke

A jab, a joke just to rile

Me, anyone who’ll hear

And play the game of

Conversations unclear,

Skills you never master

Unbothered to learn its

Nuanced turns faster.

But here you are 82

And not worse for 

The wear as you do

Your days like song

On repeat every hour

Seeking to belong

Longing for your arm

Missed as she’s gone

And none to replace 

The world you built

Sweat leaving no trace

Of life fretted in years.

Though sad and sagged,

You have plenty of life

To give, receive, begin

Again if you so wish,

Children, grandchildren

Happy that you exist 

As am I who love you

With much heart, laughs

anger and admiration too.

Happy Day, Father, to you, 

Dance the potato chip dip

Crazy, ape-shit, Abie-poo. 

 

 

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. 

Surrendering to the Holidays

  
“Pass the salt, please.” 

I look up at her from my veggie quesadilla plate, my eyes suggesting an answer to the question in my expression, but her face shows no comprehension. She wears sunglasses inside the restaurant.

I pass the salt.

Two shakes and she sets the shaker aside to pick at fake cheese melted over corn tortilla chips. Biting the triangle tip of a chip, she glances up–I think–at me, my head recently returned to face her after scooping up random bits of salsa to topple over one of the soft triangles targeted to dissect and devour. 

“When do you think you’ll know? I mean going back.” I ask but already know the answer. How can she know?

“I don’t know. You’re asking me something I can’t possibly know. I mean I could recover next week or continue on like this forever or get hit by a bus as soon as we walk out this door.” She waves to some indeterminate place beyond the restaurant walls. 

I know what she means. The asking leaps over logic into faith like a ghost limb needing to be scratched. Nothing there but habit and the act of speaking.

The gap of knowing and being spans eons now. We both know it, and yet we dance this ancient witless dance of caretaker and charge. It’s my job to ask the unanswerable questions and hers to stem the flow of fear with uncertainly, freeing and terrifying, reminding us both to surrender and enjoy lunch.

“Can we have a peaceful family Christmas dinner and forget for a few moments? Will we?” I ask uncertain of her answer, the truth of her answer. I fight the terrible urge to cough.

“Before the bus hits? Sure. Might as well.” She laughs, picking up the salt to shake it once more.  
Merry, Merry, Merry to one and all!