Three Drops of Claret

Three drops of claret stand out against the faded grey wood
The aged and weathered pole supports the buzzing electrical lines

The drops could be roses
The drops could be blood
This is the Trail of Tears
The saddest place on earth

This is Highway 51 south in Clinton, Kentucky
This is Washington Street in Clinton, Kentucky

The three drops of claret on the weathered old pole
Serve to remind me of one important idea
History is written by those who survive it

Summer 1969

Everybody has a Riverview Park – a Fairyland – a Kiddieland
A soft-focus poorly lit memory Gramma and a handful of nickels and live goldfish
A peculiar place where the smell of popcorn mixes with the aroma of motor oil
Rigged carnie games that somehow never taught us the vagaries of life in time
Dirty-faced men lean on boxes pushing levers provoking the cacophony of screaming children

The white picket fence between you and the deer until your dad brings you in to feed them
You mother unwraps a baloney sandwich and lays it on the creased wax paper for you
Gramma sneaks a cigarette behind the Tilta-whirl as if no one sees her there – puffing away
There is a small patch of trees behind the ticket booth – you’ve been warned so you steer clear
The sun becomes a sleepy penumbra over the tops of the trees out along Harlem Avenue

At Scott Powell‘s Desk

The slow moving plane flying over our heads
Underscores the reason we are all assembled here
Sitting at Scott Powell’s desk
The Pentagon cop shuffles back and forth
The kids glide about gracefully – mostly quiet
Some of the kids aren’t very quiet
That’s the nature of kids.
The Pentagon cop is there to keep the peace
He needs more than that bottle of water to keep his cool
The gravel we walk on is all that is left of the building
The gravel that we walk on is all that is left of Scott Powell’s desk
The gravel that we walk on is all that is left

The gravel gets stuck in our shoes
The shoes of the serious adults
The shoes of the curious kids

The day is perfect here at Scott Powell’s desk
The sun is warm like real love
The breeze is crisp like October

The affect is hypnotic
The affect is transcending
The affect is bittersweet

The trees struggle to keep their color
They struggle for their lives
They struggle to survive for the 184 who lost their lives here

Scott Powell’s desk is weathered and worn like me
Worn like these kids far from the safety of home
Worn like the Pentagon cop and his jaunty shuffle
On this perfect autumn Day

10/10/2015
Pentagon memorial
Washington D.C.

Postcard from Home

Postcard said he checked two shelters last night
They all full and I got there early
I had to sleep at the airport – no one likes to sleep on the blue line

Postcard said he checked at three shelters Christmas night

Postcard keeps himself groomed and ready to work
Nobody got no work
Nobody got no money
All the shelters fillin’ up
And I got there early

I wondered who felt better
After the burgers and coffee

1974: Revisited

On the crowded bus in the inky darkness
On the wings of a child’s naïve utterance
You get dropped back into 1974
A chubby kid in a tattered parka
Crunching through the new fallen snow
Your footprints tell the story from the back door
Through all of the yards ending at the railroad tracks
No one else from your neighborhood walks in this weather
You clutch your brown paper Jewel gym bag in your frozen fingers

Your basketball shorts are hand me downs
They were once your mother’s dance shorts
No one will ever know – that is your prayer anyway
The kids are more distracted by your cracked cardboard shoes
The school shoes pinch your feet and scuff the floor

The low-slung building overflows with familiar sounds
New gym shoes squeak on the highly polished floor
Bouncing balls beat uneven rhythm in their own time
Chuck Taylor rules the day – that big blue star glares at you
That big blue star threatens to remind you who you are
And the steamy locker room offers no solace – no comfort

You are not one of them – not in 1974 and not now
You are not one of them – not in this bus and not in this world

The siren piercing the night drags you back to 79th and Vincennes
Your little house on the quiet street is a hand me down
It was once your mother’s home
They all know – they all know

You finally get close to figuring out who you are now
You are you mother’s son and this is where you belong