October 29, 2013

Her voice sounded like a pigeon playing an ancient cello on 63rd Street and May Avenue
At dusk on an autumn evening when hate was still an infant and innocence not yet a sin

She liked ballin’ the jack where she could stretch her loving arms straight out in space
But keep her knees pressed close together to preserve the last remnants of womanhood
And then you twist around and twist around with all of your might

She wrestled with mortality and lost more often than not – but she never backed down
She bargained with the saints and then she beat them with two queens and two jacks

Every book in her sacred room was open – she loved when the wind turned the pages
Every word was a nugget to be savored and treasured and shared with the hungry

She was truly known by few – but sincerely loved by all

The Seeker

For Nancy Lee
10/30/2013

I don’t remember asking for the rain – but I am glad it decided to come this afternoon
The day after the Seeker went on her final journey of discovery was the best time for it
The Seeker has been so far away for so long – now she is farther away from my body
The Seeker has been so far away for so long – now she is closer to my soul than ever

Then the rain came and it washed away anything that may have blemished a memory
Universal voices sing The Seeker’s praises as she skips down the road of her own making
There is a quartet of voices – who have created other voices – who will be her legacy
This is more than The Seeker asked for but – somehow – less than she deserves

On a Rooftop in Cicero

Because a lifetime ago something happened on a rooftop in Cicero
And no one ever really got the whole story
So we filled in the blanks ourselves
Ours was a much better story anyway
It was all about this guy one summer night on a rooftop in Cicero
His mother was taking him back to where he came from

When he saw her face in the drunken haze of the shameful moon
He wanted to push her off of that rooftop in Cicero
She moaned and reached for his throat as she opened her eyes
There is some truth here – some of this story is true
She looked in the eyes of her own son and didn’t know what to do

Now his oldest son looks just like his best friend
It is uncanny how much his kid looks like his oldest friend
No one here seems to want to talk out loud about it

The Fighter in Repose

Bobbing and weaving through round after round without a trace of grace or irony
The fighter knows nothing but the fight – the endless fight that can’t seem to break him
Then the bell – he hears the bell – the sweet melodic chimes that call him to come home
He sits quietly in his corner – one hand full of love – the other full of peace
Like a solid roundhouse from a ropey southpaw – he never saw this coming – not here – not now
Like a Christmas kiss from Grandma on his frosty cheek he never felt anything better – not ever
The fighter is exhausted but he is done bobbing and weaving – for now anyway

September Birds Revisited

Your eyes flit across the page landing on the words long enough
To extract the pollen of my emotion
You are reading about birds – doomed birds – but you don’t know it yet
The coffee on the iron bench beside you is starting to get cold

I can see by the sparkle in your eyes where you are on the page
You are still here in Chicago – you love the child and his mother
I love you for seeing my family in them – seeing me and seeing my own mother
My coffee is perfect – crisp like the pages you hold in your hand

As you turn the page I am with you all the way to the small village in Italy
You stop to let something sink in – I think you might have an idea where this is going
You sip the coffee and look at me as if to ask the question you don’t want me to answer
Then back to the page as I pivot restlessly poking through my pockets for a cigarette.

I see the tears welling up and rolling down your perfect face and I feel bad for a minute
I know how the story ends so I’m not sad about the old man -I just don’t want you to feel conned
You know me well enough to know how it is going to end – but you’ve been tricked before
You place your hand on your chest and hitch once – twice – then you look up at me and smile

Later – at the bar – I am pouring drinks for the families at your engagement party
Your face is so tragically twisted in sadness it forces you to apologize to me
You look me in the eye – and through your tears – at your party – your big night
You ask me to understand – you tell me it was just one of those things

One minute we are sharing coffee and words and thoughts and love
The next minute we’re back on opposite sides of a chasm that is only a few feet wide
But it may as well be a few miles wide – you can’t even look at me anymore
And we are back in 1976 a low-rent Romeo and Juliet with nothing and everything to say

Now I am mostly tired

I don’t miss anyone who walked away
I don’t believe in miracles anymore

I caught my soul on a crescent moon
And I tugged a little harder than I should have

I was strong – until I wasn’t
Now I am mostly tired

Standing alone amongst the smoldering embers
An absurd superhero in a black and white melodrama

Standing along amongst the smoldering embers
Another long lost hot dog forgotten on a holiday grill

I am standing here with my chin up
And my finger in the air like I just don’t care

I just don’t care is the lie
I just keep selling to myself

The Sun Struggles Up

The most natural feeling as the sun struggles up is my bones grinding against yours
You are jarring and crushing and breaking your promises to the ghost of my childhood
Still a whispered breath trapped within your vena cava keeps me cold and you alive

The ribcage forged of your love protects the soul of my past and memories of my father
Washing the bony joints of our crippled fingers the dirty water runs down the baby’s face
The weak understand this is a baptism of desperation and consolation but not redemption

The charred remains of a dream I couldn’t afford and you couldn’t live without haunt us
Our bones have been put up for the first thaw and there’s something burning on the stove
We argue His presence in the room but we don’t deny it as we watch the sun struggle up