“You be in this box of artificial light.
It feels like a hot house where nothing blooms
Under this neon ceiling that burns all night.
Where is the daylight in this damn courtroom?
Why doesn’t the jury already know?
My lawyer says ‘let them deliberate’
And then goes out with the D.A. for a smoke.
I heard them laugh about ‘it getting late.’
Tell me, what is a crime against the State?
The guy bitch slapped my girlfriend and took her hat.
Trust me, he had this death wish that couldn’t wait
But my lawyer never told it just like that.
God I want to leave this room and be free.
The jury enters but does not look at me.”
I woke up this morning in the darkness
And I woke with the need for morning light.
All night my mind made people that I guess
Were made up for the dreams I had last night.
Maybe my brain is like some bag lady,
Controlling, self-examining, so smart;
Gathering bits and pieces on her way:
The Greek Oracle with a shopping cart.
But what if she flunks her own quick quizzes,
And dreams some life that isn’t, and never was,
And I’m caught between my life as it is
And her dreaming and what her dreaming does.
Her crazy friends are having too much fun!
I’m just real glad they head home with the sun.
A tall shadow controls my autumn pond.
It moves on long legs and will stare and wait.
After the late March ice had come and gone
And the exchanged songs of the frogs that mate,
The lily pads rise through the clear water
To shelter the colonies of black tadpoles
That are born as eggs, like pupil eyes, pure,
And, like the rest here, uncompromising souls.
The summer heat reveals the baby fish
Spawned by the survivors of last winter.
By August it is like my winter wish:
Blooming like some Eden, ready to enter.
The heron knows nothing of what I mean.
By noon it will have picked the pond all clean.
Off with the lid of the fast boiling pot.
With white wine in a glass in my left hand
And with its tail clenched in its repeating knot
And feeling the steam, which it understands,
Is a lobster, tonight’s dinner, in my right.
But all along its thrashing tail and legs
Thick, fresh and glassy in the kitchen’s light
Are thousands upon thousands of her eggs
Expelled as her last act of preservation.
Now above the boiling water she lies,
Claws forced shut, on her back, in my occasion.
Far from home her children cannot survive.
Hungry, interested as an observer,
Like a God, beyond hope or help, I hold her.
The fireflies burn out well beneath the stars
And leave the shadows of the trees around me,
Naked here, in a galaxy at war.
Poolside, in my moon reflection, I will be
Dropping out of this humid world down to
The unexpected.Guillotined to cold;
Feet first with the water closing over you
And then shoving off the pool bottom, old
And stretching out as the new world runs by
Drifting utterly empty, my life gone
In my underwater wake and my eyes
Closed till I hit the wall and stand alone
In the shallow end and I am reborn,
I arise baptized with the coming of the morn.
Here, self-preservation is metaphor:
Two dry riverbeds that run the water
From the neighborhood to the reservoir
Hold the water when it rains, in order
That a semi-septic self-made swamp pond
On two grandfathered acres, that won’t perk,
Might be the birthplace of this flower on
This shallow marsh. Each spring I watch her birth.
The “Blue Flag”, out of the Iris family,
Has a throat of spectacled gold, and grows tall
On a solid single stem; fun, friendly
But at her roots she’s poisonous to all.
Self-preservation, as final duty,
Creates its own narcissistic beauty.
… But it’s one of those days where you start serious and end up with a joke…
The Janitor in the Classroom
I stopped to watch him clean the window glass
And wet mop the floor and make real sure
The day’s questions, unanswered, or unasked
Were washed from blackboards and the doors secured.
“His kids,” he calls them, who went home today;
They live the “life-changing experiment,”
Which is to navigate the unknown way
To save the future which we have not spent.
An old man’s mind makes orderly his past
But lives as the victim of his future.
He washes sinks and wipes the window glass
And prepares the classroom to make sure
The desks line up in geometric rows.
What they will learn will save him, this he knows.
… Oh well, what the hell
You never ever can tell.
If you think that he’s a dope,
We can end this with this joke:
An optimist’s fortune cookie
Tongue twister summary:
Our children are our heirs
Until theirs are theirs.
He will win reelection if he can:
1) Create chaos in the streets & fear in white Americans:
That ain’t over yet. This is at the heart of his campaign.
He needs looters and the fear of Black people because “it won’t be your White America in 20 years.”
If he can again provoke demonstrations, can use Federal troop, and get looters — imagine October and election day in November if he can get looters!
2) Eliminate the vote:
Aggressively underfund the Post Office so that the collection of votes can be curtailed for being too late, or lost. The post office is already underfunded. He will succeed in this if he has not already.
3) Control the media message:
a. Sinclair Broadcasting (which controls the broadcast network for small media TV stations across the country) recently broadcasted that Dr. Fauci created the virus and shipped it to China. It joins Fox and Tucker Carlson (who has the greatest following of any TV host) in broadcasting intentionally false information.
b. Attorney General Barr will soon reveal the results of the third known investigation focused on the opening of an F.B.I. counterintelligence investigation during the 2016 presidential campaign, as well as the debunked theory that the 2016 Trump campaign was bugged.
c. Forget the courts! They will have no force or effect before the election until they can move as fast as Twitter.
4) Polarize the vote:
Create a caricature of the “smug” and “politically correct” Democrats who remain arrogant, confident, and vocal that he will lose. He needs hate to bring out the vote.
5) Control and dismiss any feeling we may be losing our place in the free world:
Well, nobody has cared so far that we abandoned our allies:
1) South Korea, Japan and Asia, leaving them to North Korea.
2) The Kurds, surrendering the Middle East to Russia.
3) Europe and NATO (as they abandon us).
He has done that.
Or that our enemies:
1) Make fools of us when they pay a bounty for killing our American soldiers (but if a Black man kneels during our National Anthem in a 1st Amendment Constitutional protest he is chastised for disrespecting our military? Really?).
2) Openly interfere with our elections.
3) Build up missile attack forces that can now hit our country and our allies, because our president has declared that our historic anti- democratic enemies are, in fact, our friends.
He’s done that.
6) Avoid blame or responsibility for COVID-19 (“The China Virus”).
No problem! Say the governors have botched it. He’s done that.
Forget the polls. Why do you want to be wrong again?
Okay, last Tuesday I posted a grumpy piece about writing plays in a time when all the theaters are closed.
In response, I received unexpected wonderful encouragement.
I’ve decided to forgive my pen and write a thank you explanation…
Sometimes Life is a Bic
Within the four corners of your blank page
Lives the life’s work of a ballpoint pen
And the untranslatable language
Of its beginnings and of its end.
Its play at drawing portraits of doodle-faces,
Or stringing words to make a thought brought pure,
Or working the architecture of spaces,
Or just displaying the ego of a signature
Is to have enjoyed its own universe.
Even if it’s just dotted “i”s or crossed “t”s
And all work and no play has been its curse /It can mirror the joy we live and breath
But how entirely unlike your life or mine
Is a single thin line as a life defined?
… It is also an apology and thank you during this pandemic from me to you! ❤️
These posts and my blog are my second life as a poet/ playwright. Although I loved being a lawyer and starting the law firm, I have always wanted that second life.
Since March, I have grown increasingly despondent because the coronavirus has shut down the theaters and curtailed my evolving development. The quarantine made it darker, more claustrophobic and broke my heart. I stopped writing. I am too old now. I will never be what I had hoped to be.
But I have learned something beautiful. I returned to a sonnet cycle that a friend of mine suggested we write years ago. Both of us wanted an artistic life to be jumpstarted. Back in the mid-1990s, I didn’t have the courage to do it myself, so we began to exchange sonnets. This was the beginning. The Genesis.
The sonnets I have been posting these past few weeks are from that 1990s cycle. I went back to the beginning, and I want to say thank you to those that have given me a second life that I now better understand.
Although I love seeing my work performed, I have discovered that what I love most is creating, writing, and the discovery that entails. I delayed forever, but I owe a duty to Elizabeth Bishop (poet) and William Alfred (playwright, and my tutor), both my professors in college. They are gone now but the thank you is not too late.
From the start, they, along with Candace, my friend, taught me this real joy of discovery.
With two cords of hardwood stacked by the door
I’m ahead of winter again this fall.
All these years with no spark, no central core.
My art? To fortify’n avoid it all.
At Mount Auburn, my friend Candace and I,
Last winter, about this time, decided
To write a poem each week’n agreed to try
For e-mail delivery to the other by
Monday morning, coffee time. We would do
Fifty-two: Deadlines to keep us to it.
Miss Bishop and Professor Alfred too,
I hope these make you proud. Last night I lit
A new fire in an old fireplace
And dreamed I’d warmed your hands and touched your face.