Tag Archives: water

Strength and Beauty

(for J.H. at Water Tower Park
Wednesday, March 13, 2002)

On the stairs of the Water Tower
A symbol of strength and beauty
We sat and talked for just a minute or two
Nervous – I sipped my dying cup of coffee
Around us the beautiful people mingled and moved
She is of that world – the beautiful people world
Even in my own city – I have been a stranger to that world
Until today – until the cool early spring moment
When we she sat down next to me on those cold stairs
And she remembered my words and what they meant
I’m grateful that she shared her strength and beauty with me
There on the stairs of the Water Tower
A symbol of strength and beauty

We All Laughed

We all laughed at the road worn jokes that line our pockets with foreign silver
We all laughed while the lady rolled past us – some never noticed her beauty
A few of us laughed when the same old tired lines still didn’t work – did they ever?
A woman laughed too loudly at a story told too softly by a man she hardly knew

“I got games,” he said to me and I set down my beer – Heck I like games
A back as strong as the old oak that sheltered the white church out on Route 12
I was too tired to argue and I like the games so I played – no beer in my hands
It was an old swindle – an old con – and soon he was working the room with fever

We all laughed at the muffled voice through the tinny speakers – old school
We all laughed when you couldn’t speak as clearly as you would have liked to
I heard you laugh while the pink beer cups refilled themselves – magically delicious
This guy – no one recognized him – laughs softly and talks to the men about love – life

The sign on the highway said there was an alert for a missing child
The sign said she was last seen in an old Chevy pick-up – white – twelve years old
The truck – not the child – they never said a thing about the child – the truck was news
Driving home I couldn’t be bothered – new construction – lanes closed

1:00 a.m.

I do love the rain

I do love the rain
I like the feeling of the raindrops on my face
My eyelashes are diving boards sending the water cascading
In streams down my cheeks and into my mustache where some remain
Others trickle down to my lips and into my mouth

I like the hair on my head heavy with clean fresh water
Hanging in my eyes like leaves in a tropical forest a home for big black snakes

I like holding someone close to my chest
Protecting them from the lightning – protecting them from the thunder
Holding their soft shoulders and looking deeply into their eyes
And assuring them that the rain is good – the rain is wonderful
As a matter of fact – I do love the rain


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.

Water Now

I have torn the idols off of the walls
And dropped them in a pile in front of you
You rubbed my face in them
One time too many and now they’re gone
The one or two that remain will shrivel up and die
Then I can rub your face with them
Like I have rubbed your face in the past
And when the operator puts me through to God
I will wait on the line in that parking lot phone booth
Because I have plenty to say to Him
It will take more quarters than I have
But maybe I will be able to reverse the charges
Maybe I can get Him to pay for the call
I am sure that when he sees the piles
Laying on the floor around me
He will take me into his massive heart
And pay for the call and talk to me all night long

I have watched the last cigarette burn away
Like a Westside tenement insurance fire
Blazing upward toward the thick dark sky
Little children crying – clinging to mother’s rib cage
Legs wrapped around mother’s waist like a belt
No Christmas for these little muffins this year
No celebrity clean-up crews to shovel through the debris
From Cicero Avenue all the way to Pulaski and beyond
No one even notices what happened here today
No one hangs their head for a moment in silent prayer
There’s too much going on for anyone to consume
So they walk slowly from street to fear filled street
Burning their cigarettes letting the smoke carry them away
Up into heaven with their big glassy red eyes
Walking now among the clouds in their heavy black shoes
Their voices silenced and their hands jammed into their pockets
Their cigarettes are all gone now and the 7-11 is closed

I have watched the last of the children leave
Slamming the big oak door behind them
A thin handful of snowflakes scurry in – only to die
And you put your love face on for me
But I just want to sit in my big chair
And look out over the pure white winter grass
The big red plastic sled leaving tracks in the snow
They will search for Kilimanjaro
Only to be seduced like Hemingway was
You bring your love face to me and put it in my hands
I pretend not to notice but still you won’t leave
So I take you into my big hairless arms
And I take your weight into my lap where it is safe
My mind is with the children on their journey
The dogs are curled up and sleeping under my chair

She asked me who I was writing for
I told her it was my generation
She didn’t like my answer very much
Your generation doesn’t care she implied
You’re right I returned sadly
The ones who do care can hardly read
She laughed out loud right in our faces
But we knew that she was right this time
Her all-knowing self-righteous generation
With all of their sanctimonious soft-soap politics
They never had anyone to challenge their voices
Theirs was a time when prophets came forth
From the little towns and cities and they spoke out loud
And no one challenged what they had to say
The gypsy-prophet-minstrels that decried the right
My generation is throw away fast food wrapper people
As useful as that one brown shoe that we saw on Rte. 53

I have watched the last fire die out before me
All of the piles of all of the idols are ashes now
I have no place to rub your sad tired soul
I see that you have finally put that love face back into the closet
My generation is still reeling from that 12-year itch
But they really have no excuses anymore
I tried calling God one final time
But the number was no longer in service
What I got was a buzzing noise in my ear
And a set of “crown of thorns” serving plates
The Westside children who missed Christmas
Will find them under the tree at the mission
Or maybe on Lower Wacker Drive – Emerald City
The lucky children have returned from the journey
Their red plastic sled is cracked and dented along one side
Their little red noses are runny and cold like the dogs’
And the snowflakes in the hall have all died water now – water now