Tag Archives: tree

The Rise and The Fall and The Loss

I feel the weight of the loss of my county’s history
And my soul sighs for what my child will never see

This isn’t a diatribe against the epic leaps of progress
This isn’t a diatribe against our country’s growing pains

This is a search for the less amazing things we grew up with
The things we never knew we’d one day miss only now we do
The things that are lost now – lost to time – lost to decay – lost to life

My country’s history is not always an inaccessible concept in a too heavy book
Sometimes my country is simple in its story – unfettered by class or by nationality
It can be a phone with a dial and a party line shared with the upstairs neighbors
Or a one-piece clothes pin that snaps when mother is hanging sheets out to dry
But makes a great milk-bottle game to play at your birthday party

My country’s history is a brilliant tapestry of rich colors and dazzling hues

Much of my country’s history is crumbling before my eyes and no one seems to care
These aren’t renewal projects that signal the advance of a civilization – these are different
These are decay and apathy and a shameful loss of vision and potential
These are anger and spite and the idle hands that are the devil’s pleasure

Mother doesn’t even hang the laundry out on the line anymore
Mother doesn’t even host birthday parties anymore
I’ve had enough birthdays – I have enough history

Leaving Lookout Mountain

There was a single star in the Tennessee sky
We followed it north to Nashville
And then on toward Bowling Green
Before we moved on homeward – Chicago
Still my heart is winding around that scenic route
Flying off of Missionary Ridge
And bouncing back toward lookout mountain
Like the union soldiers did 100 years before my birth

I am charging up the side of that mountain
And like a good confederate soldiers
I leave a part of myself up on that mountain

Now I search the autumn Chicago sky
To find that lone Tennessee star
If only to let her know
That I have not forgotten her
And that I will be back to see her
As soon as I possibly can

Women and Tall Trees

Reaching bravely for the top
Some things slow but never stop
Been here since the day you learned to crawl

Holding her warmth close to you
Feel her heartbeat pulsing through
Leave here on the day you show them all

You can take all they have got
You can take their best damn shot
You might stagger but you’ll never fall

There can really be no mystery
When you review your history
The past cannot elude you
The future must include you

Reaching up to touch the son
Love her like a smoking gun
Stand there like the man you need to be

Hold her love close to your chest
Know her heart just needs a rest
This is what you’re waiting here to see

You can take what they dish out
Together you can tough it out
You’ll walk away together now you’re free

There can really be no mystery
When you review your history
The past cannot elude you
The future must include you


I want to take you to a place where the sun creeps over a horizon of silver birch trees and reflects off of the water’s surface like a handful of mislaid golden coins. The plank-board dock extends past the shoreline just out enough to make diving safe and have a place to tether the boats, but not so far that it disturbs the sleeping schools of the metallic-bellied fish.
The sky is as blue as your grandmother’s eyes when she wears that white silk blouse. You know the one that has the floppy bow tie in the front of it. She loves to wear that blouse when she has somewhere nice to go, maybe to bridge club.
Stubborn little patches of green grass burst out of the pockets of damp sand and reach for the sky, seduced by the blue. The roots miraculously wind down and around the varied layers of silt and stone.
An echo of a child’s laughter rings through the air, careening off of the slim trunks of the magnificent trees. It carries itself across the water with the wings of an angel. Up to where He can hear it and enjoy the music that fills His loving heart.
There, on the edge of the plank-board dock, sits the child in cut-off denims and a light loose fitting shirt. She sits quietly, her feet dangling in the cool clear water. Her arms behind her to support her. Her hands are flat against the worn wood, fingers curled up ever so slightly. She begs the sun to wash over her precious face, and it does. It does so gladly. With one foot, she kicks the golden coins that lay on the water and each drop causes a ripple as it lands, safely, back into itself.
I want you here with me, in this place, because of the beauty that it creates and inspires. This is much the same as the beauty that you create and inspire. The sense of beauty that is incorruptible and – some days – unfathomable, but it is something that I will always be grateful for.

Stories from the Back Porch

The unrelenting rain mutes the rhythmic symphony of the birds taking flight
They are trying to leave my father’s yard like I have done so many times in the past
My back porch offers them precarious safety due to the steady foot traffic of the squirrels
Below me a phone rings but not for me – I try to ignore it hoping it will go away anyway
I hear the heavy footsteps cross the floor then the phone stops ringing

Wet cold air sneaks up into my shirt but the serenity of the moment is nearly palpable
Somewhere down the alley a car crushes the gravel kicking up little gray stones
Wild rabbits have converted the abandoned car into a hutch to protect them from the rain

I am eventually offered the phone though I haven’t had coffee yet and should know better
The inane prattling of the voice oozing through the wires would lull me to sleep
Were it not for the stultifying documentation of the breathing death that will not sleep

A natural rhapsody swirls around the porch but can’t permeate the phone lines
One more cigarette to allow me the welcome distraction of burning lungs
One more cup of strong coffee to prop me up against what I am forced to listen to

The cacophony of the bittersweet melody in my own head makes for better dancing
The swelling of the strings against the vibrant thump of the tympani plays in concert
With the blood coursing through my veins and the vigorous beating of my heart

The harbinger heralding the decline of a life I almost had is finally – mercifully – silenced
The conundrum of representing western civilization replaces its amusing simplicity
To archive the lives of those who came before us for those who come after us
To promulgate societal concerns affording them no more dignity than soft white bread
To explore the emotional landscape that purges the loving fool in favor of irony

A soft-boned bird calls to me from a tree decrying my pomposity for all its worth
Her shrill bit of music pierces my heart’s armor for a brief and melancholy moment
Were she wrong I would pluck out her little heart and feed it to the squirrels
But she is right and the brilliance of her song usurps the power of the written word

My consolation is that what I have has been hard earned and come by honestly
Perhaps the little bird must be silenced as well if only to ease my conscience

She said get comfortable

She said get comfortable
But my shoes were too tight
And my heart as too big
She had to settle for sparkle
And a sweat creek along my spine
I could have loved her just then
Titled head and dime store smile
I just didn’t know who she was
I didn’t understand who she was
Up there on that old blue pillow
Way up above all of us – down below

Before too long I was released
Back to my clothes – my life – my dream
The cold air outside disagreed with the sun
The tenacious sun won the argument
I thought about the other her
The one out there on the road
And I almost got comfortable
For almost a minute – almost a whole minute

One Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas in my new first-floor pad
The second-floor walker had me tossing in bed
The little red Christmas tree burnt its last candle
Shopping for more was more than I could handle
Directors and actors still ran through my head
And all of the plays that still had to be read
There’s comedy pieces I pray they’ll find funny
There’s another one witty – I hope not too punny
When out on Milwaukee – it might have been Tripp
I heard a loud clatter – someone driving ripped
Away to my window I shuffled and stumbled
I could almost make out a squat form with a bundle
The bright safety lights from the Schurz parking lot
Lit my tiny courtyard and half of the block
I peered so much closer at the form with the sack
It was little old man who was straining his back
The little old man smiled up at the light
His eyes kind of sparkled in the still of the night
More rapid than camels the cruises pulled up
The blue stripe a blur – but the bright lights lit up
“Don’t move!” one guy yelled and he pulled out his gun
“It’s been a long night. You’ve had way too much fun!”
To my front door the old man sprang with a stride
I – quick – hit the buzzer to let him inside
As crippled-up sprinters the cops tried to soar
But the old guy made it in and slammed the big door
So up to my stairs he carried himself
I opened the door to the out-of-breath elf
And then like a movie the bull horn did roar
“Send out the old guy or we’ll break down the door!”
I returned to the window and what did I see
Twelve service revolvers all pointed at me
The old guy just sat down and pulled out a smoke
“You got any whiskey?” I thought it a joke
“I lost all the toys. They’re out there in the dark,
Now who’s going to deliver to Jefferson Park?”
His eyes looked so tired – a bright shade of red
His cheeks were so sunken deep into his head
His mouth was so wrinkled it looked like a prune
His beard was so threadbare there’d be nothing there soon
The butt of the cig he held clenched in his teeth
Smoke circled his head like a smelly death wreath

He had a sad face and a pasty white tummy
His death rattle laughter just wasn’t that funny
He sat on my nice couch just creeping me out
There was something pathetic about this old lout
With a turn of his head his old neck gave a creak
Something told me he was ready to speak
He spoke just one word – he whispered the rest
Those words hit me hard like his boot in my chest
He took one more drag from that damp cigarette
He thanked me and told me, “It ain’t over yet.”
Then he got up so slowly heading back to the night
“I’ll leave you alone now Kid – this is your fight.”
I heard his words echo as I watched him just leave
“I’m nothing these days if the kids don’t believe.”