Tag Archives: poet

The Bishop of State Street

The Bishop of State Street has seen more things than you and me
His hard dark eyes are barely contained in their bony sockets
Beads of sweat the size of a baby’s fist get caught in the folds of his nose
And in the deep dark dimples that crease the sides of his face
He keeps his head on a swivel because he doesn’t like surprises

The State Street crowd is changing too quickly and the old ghosts are gone
Younger – harder – faster people push by him but they don’t see him anymore
The rhythm of the change and the rhythm of the night remind him of the trains
The rhythms remind him of the trains that brought him up here for a better life
The rhythms remind him of beat of his mother’s heart when she held him home safe

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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

In Three Years (The Silver Shoes)

We never dreamed there would ever be a time that we weren’t together
You bought me these silver shoes when the black ones just didn’t fit anymore
Soon after the day we found each other – we knew that we would be better off apart
But we were trapped by empty promises to family and friends
The biggest and the emptiest of these lies were the lies we told each other
The biggest and the emptiest of these lies were the lies we told ourselves
We hung on – foolishly – to an idea that had long run its short course
There were nothing left but easy habits and low expectations

When I knew the weight of our life together was too much – I walked away
It was just before Independence Day – weeks after we marked our third year together
At that point you didn’t love me anymore – if you ever did at all – I’ll never know
I loved the idea of you but I only stayed because I was afraid to leave you alone
That final split was breathtaking liberation for me
That final split found me bursting out of the cold dark water
That final split was my rebirth into a better saner world

I finally pulled those new silver shoes out of the box today and tried them on
They are soft and comfortable like I always hoped we’d be someday
They’ll break down and fall apart in about three years – just like we did

In Kenosha

She has played piano here for a hundred years
Her bony fingers tripping lightly over the keys
Her clarion voice warbling songs of praise or sorrow

She is a slave to her own muscle memory these days
She says that it’s better than a slave to her practical memory

She has introduced the congregation to generations of babies
She has buried friends and loved ones and strangers
She will surely play here for another hundred years

When Hope Left Town

The trees are mostly bare now – the branches reach up to the cold gray sky
They stretch like the fingers of a drowning man in his last grasp with breath

The cold moist wind forces its way up the back of your flimsy regulation work coat
You wrap yourself around yourself – but the cold is an unforgiving master

Hope left town on Wednesday morning on a slow train heading far away from here
Hope left town on Wednesday morning breaking the hearts of the people who need it most

The children on the platform wave weakly as the train pulls away – they cry out loud
Their hearts are no longer their own as slivers fall away and down between the railroad ties

There is a storm coming – a purple electric storm will soon hover over all of our heads
The strong will survive – the lesser of us – not as much – but we don’t have any choice

Hope left town Wednesday morning and we did nothing to stop it on its way
Hope left town Wednesday morning – now it is up to us to protect each other from the storm

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