Poems

This tab is about poetry,and poetry as Robert Bly reminds us is about soul-forming.  That is to say, hearing poetry, speaking poetry, and writing poetry all share in a  transforming power  for the human soul.

My own poetry continues to grow over the years.  At first as a songwriter I only wrote lyrics for my musical friends.  Later, I tried to capture the feeling of skid road by writing mock graffitti.  I have also written a few memorials for those I love.  Here are four lyrics, a handful of graffittii and four Memorials for your reflection, Pilgrim.

Wash Me With Water                                                                                                     Music:  Pierre Etchelecu OFM

Wash me with water and I will fly to the mountainside;

Clearer than a morning snow on Zion I will shine.

Wake my tongue with earthen light, a taste of living salt

And I will send bright laughter out in to the dance of my youth.

 

Anoint me now with fragrant oil, over the soul of my heart,

Until the shadow of my days melts into sweetened balm.

There is a voice that cries aloud, “Prepare the way of God.”

And out across the desert sand this song is carried on.

 

Aged Together

Music:  Leo Nestor

We were aged together one strong wine,

Settled upon dark splinters of the same, same cask.

There came a dream that time would not dilute us

Or so it seemed, or so it seemed.

 

We grew well together, young trees alike,

Shading each the other from the long, long sun.

Grace was easy then as it fell from up on high

Into our years, or so it seemed.

 

Watching walls that crumble stone by stone;

Drifting towards December in our tired, tired love

And I knew then as you really were

And loved you less but more, or so it seems.

 

Still I can remember certain songs

Shredded into memories of a time, time when

We were ore than brother’s keepers of the wind

Or so it seems, or so it seems.

Advent Song                                                                                                                      Music:  Sr. Anne Cecile Daigle SNJM

What did you scour the desert to spy?

Gentle Able, quivering at dawn?

Noah testing heaven through green eyes?

Joseph the dream weaver, weeping the night?

 

Gideon of power, Gideon of armies?

Mother Ruth grown patient through love and beautiful?

David in mid-air, dancing over the cymbals?

Isaiah walking healed and at peace with fire?

 

Job crushed, a worm and not a man?

The Macabees handing Justice to the poor?

Or a reed, shaken fearly by another

more perfect witness drawing near?

 

The Gift                                                                                                                         Music:  Leo Nestor, Robin Frost

To the blind depth of the sea, venture your trust

And believe that one day by the shore

It will be returned to you.

For to withhold your treasure is to perish,

What fairer gift than hope is there to offer a friend?

Know this, giving is life itself.

 

An open hand be to the storm as to the sun

By a welcome rest for the unknown

And for yourself—just be yourself.

For to withhold your treasure is to perish,

What fairer gift than peace is there to offer a friend?

Know this, living is gift itself.

 

And when they all turn from your gift, leaving a scare,

Then to the blind depth of the sea,

Venture your trust again.

For to withhold your treasure is to perish,

What fairer gift than love is there t offer a friend.

Know this giving is life, living is gift, loving is life in gift.

 

I started writing both lyrics and music together when I created musical productions for St. Elizabeth High School of Pyramus and Thisby  (Midsummer Night’s Dream), Everyman, and The Second Shepherd’s Pageant.  I hope to have these here on the site in the near future.  I also began to write songs for the Church at this time, as is shown in the Songbook Tab.

When I came to Portland, Oregon for the first time I worked as an outreach driver for the County Detox in Portland’s Old Town.  I wrote these One Liners as if they were graffiti in Skid Row. 

One Liners

13.

Once a tear,

now a shrug.

4.

One way is a leaven,

quiet in the dough.

Another is a joker,

wild in the hand.

5.

Hope’s no more a cudgel

than Faith’s a wedge,

or Love’s a tool.

6.

Penance

is a prank

in bloom,

a gain.

8.

Ah!  To rise in lust,

only to fall in love.

9.

One hard nut to crack

waits with a will of wills

for a love of loves.

10.

Heartache is a nerve in pain,

prod by pincers of brain.

24.

I am!

Am I?

Umm…

I aim.

18.

Sentimental man I am, 

I am a boy in great part,

never-ceased-believing I am,

I am in love with the dark.

14. 

All my love’s

in patchwork squares

of one and several hungers

who gossip daily

at their seams,

teasing each other’s

poverty.

 

 

Second thoughts

17.

Tramp to tramp, jug to jug,

slobber to slobber, grin to grin,

Stare to stare, glare to glare

eyeball to eyeball, man to man.

 

Fist to fist, curse to curse,

sputter to sputter, spit to spit,

Shake to shake, snort to snort,

stumble to stumble, curb to curb.

 

Back to back, dream to dream,

shiver to tremble, dance to fly:

Love to kiss, have to hold,

richer to poorer, sick to death.

 

Run to flee, drink to grieve,

shudder to bygones, drink to drink.

Snore to snore, butt to butt,

brother to brother, bug to bug.

 

19.

Clank, clank, clank, clank,

clank, clank, clank, clank,

Drank, drank, drank, drank,

drank, drank, drank, drank,

Chug, chug, chug, chug,

chug, chug, chug, chug,

Glug, glug, glug, glug,

glug, glug glug, glug,

Pee. pee. pee. pee,

pee, pee, pee, pee,

Hee, hee, hee, hee,

hee, hee, hee, hee,

Whoooo Woooo

Whoooo Wooo.

22.

Once there was

a tidy, little wisp,

whose filthy rich Daddy bought her

a Grand Piano, which was very old,

and very valuable,

and very out of tune.

Of course she forced her fingers

through octaves, triplets and 

scales, scales, scales,

never dreaming of course

that Daddy’s piano was lying.

33.

What did you scour the desert to spy?

Gentle Able, quivering in the dawn

Noah testing heaven through green eyes

Joseph the dream weaver, weeping all night

Gideon of power, Gideon of armies

Mother Ruth grown patient through love and beautiful

David in mid-air, dancing over the cymbals

Isaiah walking healed and at peace with fire

Job crushed, a worm and no man

The Macabees handing justice to the poor

Or a reed, shaken fearly by another more perfect witness

drawing near?

24.

She had a bout of the flu

He only had an hour to

get it on and get if off

and get it back to the ship.

She hemmed and hawed,

but he was about

before you could say,

“Jack Sprout.”

He hemmed and hawed,

and up & goodbyed.

She turned about face

to the wall and cried.

25.

Tender the hurt,

poison the root,

bitter the flower,

sour the fruit.

Suffer the hour,

savor the warning,

darker the night,

nearer the morning.

Waken the sprout,

deepen the root,

sweeten the stem,

wonder the hurt.

26.

“O say can you see, Sir, 

four spacious whys 

twixt thee and me?

Why should I wake up,

let alone get up,

or bother to go out at all 

Let alone into thine cold

oceans, Sir, white with foam?”

“Loose feelings are loose nails

on the deck of life, Sailor, 

so pound, pound them down boy

with hard wear and a steady eye

or twist, twist their gist out

with the steel of an iron-clad will.”

“Up, up thy purple

mountain majesty, Sir.”

30.

Bud cracks

a pink wink,

Spring arrives-oh.

Bird creeps

a leap, peeps,

Spring alive-oh.

32.

These our hands and our voices,

welcome thee gladly along;

These our eyes and our hearts,

welcome thee quietly on.

These our faith and our love

welcome thee silently home.

He once tender as thee,

welcomes us  perfectly all.

 ******************************************************************************************

 four memorials

 Dear Mike   

What I remember most about our childhood   

Was El Rio, where there were no sidewalks,

Where the huge, beautiful red setters romped

Just behind the fence, out in the back forty.

 

And how could I forget the cook-outs,

Where whole sides of ribs roasted

over a roaring fire out on the patio,

fresh off the hoof, slathered in salsa.

 

I also remember games on the front lawn,

Touch football, croquet, hide and go-seek;

Three families of cousins all alive there

Laughing, breathless, young and carefree.

 

That’s mostly how I remember you, Mike,

As young, mischievous, strong, and friendly

A hero, a role model, a tease and a fine guy,

A strong man, a good cousin.  The cousin in fact

 

who once invited me to go camping overnight

out in the back forty; along with the dogs,

the neighbor’s escaped chickens, the apple tree,

and a fierce, full moon beaming overhead.

 

This memory still shines whenever I recall it

How I didn’t really sleep much that night

What with all the unfamiliar night sounds,

Like when the apples would fall on the tent. 

 

And then there were the two, giant Irish setters

Which were great, except you couldn’t move

Them once they were dead to the world,

Meanwhile, the Moon peeked into the tent

 

where you were also apparently dead to the world,

Sleeping, half snoring, half dreaming of tomorrow,

Totally unprepared for the great pain and sorrow

Waiting just down the road ahead of you,

 

Events that would change you and challenge you,

And reroute the entire river of your youthful life.

I can remember your white T-shirt rising and falling

In time with your breathing under that bright moonlight.

 

****************************************************************************************************

Mr. Spatz Moved On

Mr. Spatz moved on without me,

passing into thin air while I held him

taking one final breath and then

slumping against my arm a last time.

He was a big full-hearted guy,

Twenty pounds of black stripes

Not a bully, but brave and true,

always alert for my key in the door.

How can I relax without that purr?

What song now that this voice is still?

What rhythms will enliven me?

Who will sing me to sleep?

Your memory, my dear cat,

will just have to do for a while;

until another kitty comes along

to fill me with a glad, new  purr.

Until then, there is always the wind,

I guess, and even the rain —

Oh how you hated the rain

And begged me to somehow stop it.

But I could only do so much,

And certainly not stop the rain

Nor the disease that claimed you

Finally splitting us apart.

So, here’s to you Mr. Spatz,

Wait for me, watch for me

It won’t be very long before

You hear my key in your new door.

**********************************************************************************************

                                                                               Dad

Dad was a farm boy

from the Land of Lincoln,

where sweet corn was king,

and friend chicken was queen

                                              I only heard him share

four things about his youth.

Two were true and I wish

the other two hadn’t been.

He had a very long walk to school,

which he did whether he wanted to or not.

Something about the rest of his life

would always be just that irksome.

The white pony was the very best gift

he ever got in his whole life;

and something about the rest of his life

would always be just that joyous.

Then his father left them,

moved up to Chicago

and drank himself to death.

So they had to move into town

and to sell the pony

which made him very sad,

and something about the rest of his life

would always be just that sad.

By graduation day,

he was ready for the big world,.

He became a navy man

corn fed, patriotic, and proud.

And that’s just how he looked

when Mom glanced up

from the tie counter

at Woolworth’s 5 & Dime.

Their eyes met,

her breath caught,

his heart raced,

he grinned, she smiled.

Lucy and Desi, Dick Van Dyke

and Mary Tyler Moore god nothing

on Uncle Bob and Aunt Dean

since they moved out to California,

with orange trees in their backyard,

and trailer-tips to Arizona.

Now sixty-five years later,

at their anniversary party,

with steaks by Ed, music bty Pat

desserts by Chris — surrounded by

a cornfield of happy family members,

Bob grins, Dean smiles, they sigh.

And at long last an irksome

joyous and sad world view

completes itself, comes to rest

coaxed into sweet resole

by the fullness of a life

 both rare and well done.

Now rest in peace,

Uncle Bob, Bobby, Dad.

********************************************************************************

First Anniversary

So Dad now that you’ve moved on, tell me

do you finally understand things any better?

As you any happier?  Any more at Peace?

Or is it just the same old, same old?

Did the demential give away at the end

All that worry, the forgetting, the anger

Rising off your mind like morning fog;

Or is it still the same old, same old?

Was your own Dad there, after all these years,

Apologetic, hat in hand, perhaps in recovery,

or maybe not; even now eternally avoidant?

And you, either way, the same old, same old.

I know your Mother welcomed you warmly,

Looking you over, smoothing down your cowlikc,

Her own heaven finally complete on your arrival,

Even if to you it’s the same old, same old.

No doubt you feel disoriented without Mom nearby,

But I bet you’re proud of her hip surgery recovery,

and how well she and Chris are doing together,

and how Ed and Susan slip her away to the beach.

Can you really see us all now, Bobbie; I mean

can you look into our hearts and actually see

that tender place where you are sorely missed,

where nothing is the same old, same old any more?

********************************************************************************

 

A Postmodern Trinity                                                                                                          for Kenan Osborne

From Kenan into our lives,

this postmodern trinity:

God is dead,

Jesus was a layman,

Courtesy is truth.

Intensely, with eyes closed,

knees locked, fingers splayed:

God died in Jesus,

deliberately, lovingly,

and for our sake.

Leaving over the lectern,

now almost whispering:

dropped into a pit

after a short lifetime

of not much success.

Stretching up on tiptoes

smiling to the back rows:

Phenomenology

is courtesy,

Love alone understands.

Pleading like a candle flame

across the UC amphithearer:

We die, God understands,

Imitate Jesus?  Begin as you are,

grow into your truth with love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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