On Congress Parkway

“Don’t look at my face!” she barked at me across the cold dry night
I couldn’t help myself – I looked at the hard, dry, cracked skin
There were no stains from errant tears on those withered cheeks
She hasn’t cried one salty tear since November 22, 1963

“Put the money right there” she pointed to a bag that smelled like death
She had no patience for another commuter trying to buy redemption for a dollar
I turned left on Financial Avenue and found my warm dry car before long
Damn the ones who taught me the need for salvation and the value of a dollar

 

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In Monroe, Wisconsin

For J.P.

You were the best of us
Even when we were at our best
In that big drafty room
Wearing clothes owned by other people
The love – big love – poured all over us
When you opened the door that morning
We let it wash our souls like Lake Michigan water
You were generous and brave and honest

Later you raged against injustice
You lifted the heaviest of loads
You were the best of us
Only you knew how good we could be
And you never let us forget

I was just trying to love you

When we were together there were nights in our bed
I listened to your breathing – shallow nearly still
Once I was sure you were breathing
Sleep could come over me peacefully
I couldn’t imagine life without you

The days that you didn’t call back fast enough
I worried that something happened
You are not a very good driver
The physical distance was difficult
You never understood my tone
You thought I was checking up on you
You thought trying to control you
I was just trying to love you

You’re gone from my life now
You buried the hatchet of finality
You did exactly what we all expected

I sleep alone now in my bed
I listen for my own breathing
Sleep comes over me peacefully
I don’t worry about your driving
I don’t wait for you to call
I don’t even think about you anymore

I Celebrate Your Life (a sketch)

It’s summer days like these that I miss you most, Sweet Sister
When the radio seems to be playing all the right songs
When the sun warms me but doesn’t burn me
That I most often think of you and the life we had at home

Sweet Sister – we never knew what we were missing
We had our own universe there in that place that was built on love
Looking back we learned it was somewhat fractured but no less brilliant

The day when you shocked that lily white world
In your pristine white gown and over-sprayed brown hair
You laid that crown on the virgin’s metaphorical head

The night we sat at the old picnic table and drank cheap wine
We talked about nothing all night long until we heard the birds
The sun came up over my right shoulder and hurt your eyes

There were people who thought better of me than of you
Their minds were small and their vision was blurred

You became more like the old man than I was – despite what they said
You became more like the old man than I was – despite how we were raised
You became more like the old man than I was – despite how easy it was for me

Then came that box of building supplies and we built bridges not walls
You always asked for empirical – all I had to offer was anecdotal

It’s summer days like these that I miss you most, Sweet Sister

I celebrate your life
I mourn your passing
Mostly I just miss you

State Street: Sunday July 1, 2018

There are so many broken souls moving along State Street on this steamy Sabbath Day
Some swing bony arms at ghosts – others hold fast searching for their own Great Whites
Their skin is as smooth as the peanut shells under the seats at the ballpark on Shields
The heat suffocates the reasonable and the cogent rushing from store to store for relief
The broken souls – their pock-marked skin rubbed bare at the elbows – seem impervious
No one noticed them when they were whole – no one notices them now – not today