On Sunday Morning

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New to this place,
I keep forgetting the rules.
I pop into the store for some milk, bread, cheese,
then grab a bottle of wine on my way out—
an afterthought really, I’m innocent as a cookie.
But the cashier seizes my bottle,
looks at me as if I tossed a puppy
into traffic, and tells me again
that she can’t sell alcohol on Sundays
“Till ONE PM.”
Nevermind that I don’t believe
in clock-watching deities,
or in deities at all,
unless you count butterflies,
and octopuses,
and redwood trees.
This is the deep south,
God’s country,
where you can buy a gun
but not a beer
on Sunday morning.

The Larger Geometry

If you’re in the mood for some spirit-lifting literature this holiday season, please consider the new Poems For Peace anthology, The Larger Geometry. Three of my poems are featured, along with wonderful work by many others. There is some serious talent here, at a time when we need it most. Wishing everyone a peaceful holiday season.

 

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Morning Prayer

In the beginning my love
for you was a balloon,
high and bright,
joy on a string.
The years brought trouble, doubt,
and the love fell to earth,
became a thing to carry,
everywhere.
By now it’s part of me,
and so dense with worry
that it hurts to think of you,
as if I were the one who is ill
in a hospital too far away.
This difficult, durable love,
may it finally be of use,
worth all it put us through.
May it be in your room,
steady and unyielding,
refusing to give you up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stranger Upstairs

Spooky, isn’t it,
when you pull into your driveway
and realize you don’t remember the trip,
not one light or turn or stop sign.
While you argued with yourself, heedless to hazards,
your mind, loyal as a dog, brought you home.

For something we carry around every day,
we don’t know much about the brain.
How can a wad of lumpy grey tissue
run the show?
Do our fears and memories live in its folds?
When we sleep,
how can that cold blackness inside our skulls
create the smell of bacon,
a sun-spangled lake,
an orgasm?
How are we fooled night after night,
dropped inside a carnival world,
made to do unspeakable things?
For whose amusement do we perform?

“Where are my glasses?” we say to ourselves,
as if we are speaking to someone else,
a steadfast companion forged at birth.

Just a little bigger
than two clenched fists,
the brain is a riot of neurons:
100 billion twitchy cells,
each one connected
to thousands of others
in a tireless bombardment
of electricity and chemicals.

I picture it as a city.
A crisscross of streets
with lights and signs
controlling the traffic,
some roads well worn,
others unknown;
one ways that limit us,
dead ends that stop us.
There are places we frequent,
shadowy neighborhoods we avoid,
here and there
a rousing new enterprise.

Aim for the horizon
or stay on the tracks—
it’s your life,
at least for a while,
until all the streets
begin to look strange,
one after another
going dark and quiet,
leaving you stranded
in perfect stillness.
Home at last.

A Postcard from Ted Kooser

I love this poem by Ted Kooser. It is among the many poignant “postcards” in his collection WINTER MORNING WALKS: one hundred postcards to Jim Harrison.

Fate, here I stand, hat in hand,
in my fifty-ninth year,
a man of able body and a merry spirit.
I’ll take whatever work you have.

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