On the Heath: Poem 13

Alone on the Heath, a purple flower
where there once was dry reedy sand,
you, friend, rode the train to dusty plains
with me–and slept through shifting tides
along California beaches, we two, strangers
to this land, and no less to each other.

I watched your sleeping breast rise and settle,
like the rhythm of our first freedom days, lazed
into adulthood, we seekers of flame, depths
of our soulful hearts, walking poetry, youth
alluring to each other–comrades–and evil too.

I saw you leave that day, through cloudy eyes,
music, sand and weed drifting us alongside
our own nature, me, cautious and calculating,
ready to loosen within my comfortable shoes, and
you, riddle’s answer to: What is freer than free?

Air.

Who has stolen your breath, my flower?

Sleep.

Your forever frozen face stills time in its place.

 

Under Your Gaze: Poem 11


I live under your gaze
 
in a box
 
by the bus bench
 
in the bushes.
 
Though our eyes
 
never meet,
 
not a glance my way,
 
I feel your shame.
 
Don’t.
 
Judge my story.
 
You’ll find it in my eyes.

In Praise of Praise: Poem 9

Not a participation trophy fan, still, I believe in praise–fair props.

Praise the days, praise the nights, praise the accident that is us,

Our planet, our time, our space, our separate solitary worlds,

together and apart, unable to perceive reality let alone truth,

less a word than a gurgling gut full of sense and the sensible.

 

We commend, we lionize, we sing songs to the laudable, those

who earn their accolades in tributes, panegyrics and eulogies.

But who among us have not suffered the humiliating red ribbon 

Or the diagnosis despite healthy choices, good living, and grace?

Bits of luck, shame, misfortune, health and love–praise chaos.

 

Through the singeing piss soaked stain of soiled panties, sobbing,

Sitting beside the third grade boy crush and plum of my notice,

Shame burns indelibly, but the blush of recognition, heart-pump pride

in mastering a job well done, earned in doubt and fear, curtained hope,

A+, raise, high 5, and fist bump, all winking nod to gratitude’s birthright.

Looney Pantoum or I Suck at Rhymes: Poem 6

To cup a hand to an upturned ear

To hear what all there is to hear

Echo down the hall and up the stair

And keep my mind from turning fear.

 
To hear what all there is to hear

And keep my mind from turning fear

I’ll muster up ol’ brave good cheer

And fight the crowd’s scowly sneer.

 
To keep my mind from turning fear

And fight the crowd’s scowly sneers

I’ll hold my loves to me ever nearer

And never let them harm my dears.

 
I’ll fight the crowd’s awful sneers

And never let them harm my dears

Lest their hateful lies most insincere

Sway the surging tide to lesser cares.

 
I’ll never let them harm my dears

Nor sway the tide to lesser cares

Like hate and names no one dares. 

Framing targets in trigger hairs

 
Sway no tide to lesser cares!

Frame no targets in trigger hairs!

Come clean in consciences bared

For hate’s glare dies in love shared.

Angst: Poem 8


We’re leaving the Great Park.
It’s a scorcher out there.
Her team just lost six to one.
She’s quiet on the tortuous zag from the fields.
I don’t think she feels responsible.
At 17, she’s philosophical, albeit a touch cynical and weary.
She carries her angst in her pocket.
“What is nihilism?” she asks the road ahead after a while.
“Lately, I’ve been thinking about how minuscule
we are, especially in light of the cosmos and
the improbable non-existence of other life, somewhere.”
I haven’t hydrated enough.
My head hurts slightly.
“Well, it’s sort of like nothing matters,
an extreme sort of skepticism,” I immediately regret saying.
Her eyes widen and the depths of velvet brown
endlessly recede, raw terror swallowed–stored in a gap.
“But it’s not just the life’s a bitch then you die philosophy.
There’s something freeing about understanding our
insignificance in the larger scheme of things and our utter
significance at the local level, where we live.
It doesn’t have to be about uselessness.
The randomness and chaos of our births and deaths–
some take comfort in the just-is-ness of it.”
She still stares out at the road ahead of us, but I hear
her thinking it over, this great question of being and nothing,
all tied in knots to her senior year of high school,
turning 18, the possibility, potential, and unknown…
she who has always tightroped the anxiety fine line.
At 65 mph, those last 5 minutes take us no closer to home.

Heart of Hearts: poem 7

My father’s heart fell victim to heredity… 
Here you will find the rest of poem 9 of the poetry marathon. 

Heart of Hearts
Posted on August 14, 2016 12:02am EST by pgerber

My father’s heart fell victim to heredity four years ago.

The surgeon placed a stent in his aortic valve to brace

the walls and keep the blood flowing.

I imagine the stent shaped like a bridge to strings,

like the one that bolsters the cello

in the corner of my room collecting dust.

But even before that, he couldn’t pass the physical

to join the Korean War–his heart murmured

something the doctors did not like.

<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3

My father’s father died of a heart attack, or

maybe complications of diabetes that betrayed his heart.

He was a musician and a piano tuner,

who sometimes imposed a cello lesson on me,

firmly pressing my fingers to the finger board

nearly 45 years ago on that corner resting cello.

All of his 8 sons played musical instruments.

<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3

The 21 year old I work with at the sweet shop,

whose name may be Rob or Mike or John,

is someone I would say has a heart of gold,

but for his laziness, though still an amiable sort.

He has a pair of friends, twin brothers, who

come to pick him up from work and take him home.

One told me that Rob-Mike-John had five heart attacks

when he was only a sophomore in high school.

His doctor said he was lucky to be alive.

<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3

My mother’s heart is strong, always has been.

Her mind and body are ravaged by demented

disease, forgetting to allow her to live, but her

heart beats resoundingly under her ribs, her doctor says.

And though the cuffs don’t hurt her any more,

too little flesh on her arms, her blood pressure rocks.

Sans word, thought or flesh, she is pure pulsing heart now.

When Darkness Comes (Daylight): Poem 3


Daylight friezes trim heights,

Stony edifices still standing

Ancient decaying battles,

Fading listless gray above

Technicolor tile mosaics.
 

When darkness comes daylight
 

Photoshopped to his taste,

Scrumptiously thin-thin waifs

Adorn full fashion billboards,

Eye-catching corners round

Apartment ledge jumpers.
 

When darkness comes daylight
 

Poised for the leap, these

Downers decorate the city

Like gargoyle guardians,

Villains to pop protagonists

Puffing smokey smile rings.
 

When darkness comes daylight
 

When sirens slice vulnerable

Sleep like death opened out,

Who can hear the whispers,

Tunneled mice scampering,

Twisting babies suffocating?
 

When darkness comes daylight
 

In frozen wincing skies hidden

Behind baby blue blinds drawn

The day’s delusional dreaming,

But when the darkness comes 

Noble neon lights us illuminate:
 

When darkness seizes day’s night

Acrophobia–poem 14


When FDR declared the nation had only fear to fear,

he never had a gun to his head,

Ballistaphobia

never had a cobra hood opened at his bare legs

Ophidiaphobia

or strolled past the body of a jumper from a Manhattan 32 story high rise,

Necrophobia

the thump of the fall nearly lifting my feet off the ground.
 
But it wasn’t then that acrophobia hit.

No, it was the carefree days of carnivals and Ferris wheels,

free from regulations and safety straps, not even for seats

that turned upside down with the slow-turning wheel.

I was five and my car mates were nine and ten, measurably

larger, taller than I so that the metal bar kept them in as

the wheel spun us upside down and then right side up,

me clutching with all my strength to keep myself inside.
 
Thanatophobia. I had never heard the word in my five years,

but I lived my way through it many times since, perched on a ledge
 
peering down thirty floors into a postage stamp courtyard,
 
pondering the weighty sum of a life’s body at its impact against the immovable.

Have a Nice Day: Poem 21

When I came to California, a gruff New Yorker,
 
well nigh 38 years plus change ago,
 
the first time I heard, “Have a nice day!” from
 
a super market clerk after I had purchased
 
a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter and milk,
 
I thought to myself, “What the actual fuck?!”
 
I had no idea what she was up to or what she meant.
 
And then I heard it everywhere, “Have a nice day,”
 
said the ice cream store clerk and the sandwich shop
 
cashier and even the gas station attendant.
 
I thought I had landed on some spooky, sticky planet
 
of gooey good cheer, totally fake and reflexive.
 
So now, much more accustomed to the saying,
 
as common as “Where should we go to eat? Or
 
“Did you finish your homework?”, I jokingly reply,
 
“Don’t tell me what to do! I have authority issues,” and
 
I wink, the closest I can come to a smiley faced emoticon.

At the Diner (Hour 23)


At the diner at 4 a.m.,
cheesecake and coffee
the brew so dusty sweet
and the cake real ricotta.
At the diner, we’d talk
after the bars close
and the beer wore off,
and eat French fries
or eggs and put dimes
in the table top juke box,
hear our favorite songs
like Free bird and
Sympathy for the Devil.
And we’d splay our
legs on long, red, vinyl
seats sometimes cracked,
our backs against booth
walls of plastic sheen.
At the diner, we’d hum
the songs we heard at the
bar we just left, our favorite
local bands playing, while
we drank Heineken and
smoked Camel cigarettes,
out back for a J or two.
But under the bright lights
of the diner til quarter to 7 or
later, we’d laugh sometimes
spitting our coffee or Pepsi
at some stupid shit one of us
said, and everything’s funny
when you haven’t slept all night.
At the diner, off the expressway,
the waitresses know us, and
bring us our eggs and toast
the way we like them, sunny
side up and easy tan and grape
jelly in the little plastic peel off
boxes, three or four of them.
And every Friday and Saturday
it was the same for us three,
Deb, Jackie and me, at the diner.