Tag Archives: family

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

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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

The Ancient Ghost of Regret

Decades gone by like a heavy wind – we shared our lives – not always of our choosing
We traded kind words once – sometimes heavy punches – sometimes just our anger
We never stopped to explain or apologize – rarely showing gratitude – we just were
Consumed by perceptions of our own mortality and legacy we eventually drifted apart

There was one day – lost in the ether of the youth – when I killed what we loved
The ancient ghost I made that day haunts me – after all these years it still hovers over me
I had your trust and I betrayed it mercilessly until you cried – then I laughed at you
The ancient ghost of regret haunts me for not treating you better when I had the chance

More than a lifetime has transpired since that day when I made you so miserable
We have forgiven each other – unspoken apologies for pain we inflicted on each other
We have soared and we have floundered – sometimes together – sometimes alone
Still I can’t keep the ancient ghost of regret from knocking on my kitchen door at night

The Old Post Office; Door County; October 2017

It was the faded wall paper that brought him back to me
It was the cheery cherry wall paper that brought me back to him
It was that first glance thought the pristine picture window of the old post office
That brought me back to the man I aspired to be
We ended up there on accident – as was our wont back then
I ended up here today by accident – as is my wont these days
I don’t know if I have lived up to what he expected of me
I do know I still have time to navigate the course and make him proud of me

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

September 1, 2013

The stars came out tonight for you – they came out for you but you were gone
So I was left with my old cat and some cold beer and a pen and paper

I lost my glasses between the words and the beer
And could only think about how sad that someone else saw your stars
They were delicate like you – and quiet – and sweet – like you

It was the rain that ended the night – that turned off the music
It was a brief rain – but with lasting effect both cooling and sad
The pink clouds in the grey sky betrayed us but only after love and music
The sky crashed down and washed away the heat rising from our fingers
The sky crashed down and washed away the love rising in my throat

I saw the stars tonight – I saw each one and counted them
I drank another beer – then another and counted every star I could see
I rubbed the old cat behind her ears the way she likes me to
Then I wrote this down and I will never share it with you – but I wrote it for me

That has to be good enough – it is good enough for me and the stars
It’s good enough for the old cat and for anyone else who saw your stars but not you

I Just Couldn’t

(for Nelson Algren)

The last time I saw Nelson
He was wearing khaki trousers and an old Navy P-Coat
He had a wrinkled cigar in one hand and a silver pocket-watch in the other
One of the lenses in his glasses was cracked

He was getting into an old blue Chevy he had thumbed down in the rain
On North Avenue near Wells Street by the Wagon Wheel
He looked over his shoulder and half-waved good bye
I just kind of stood there and rocked on my feet
I sort of watched the Chevy pulled away

I turned to walk home that’s when I saw the copper flash
Lincoln looking up from the curb but I just couldn’t pick it up
I just couldn’t pick it up