Such Smoking Days

These smoking days, sullen, but with birdsong,
Since yesterday, left a hope and a disappointment
As usual–enough magic to keep you hoping,
Enough to disappoint, and
Drive your sorrows deeper.

The end we know; but whether
it comes with a denouement… We can peek around corners
Watch other limbs fall
Try to see our chances
Reason against God,
Rage resignedly,
but then, rested
take the next step, some small step—the only step I see….

(4/2012)

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No, Virginia…

I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in Flagpole, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth: Is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia,

Your dad is right about Flagpole. As for your little friends… what do you think, Virginia? An old man in a ridiculous suit, riding reindeer around the sky? You are eight years old now, Virginia!

When a grown-up tells you some strange story that no child could believe… ask yourself why, Virginia. Why do people on TV want you to buy the latest in this or that, or build up this person while tearing down another?

Look with childlike eyes, Virginia, when politicians promise to solve problems that nobody can see, but ignore the real ones all around… Or when they go chasing enemies near and far, yet have no friends here at home.

What’s wrong, Virginia, when the poor are left no choices, and the wealthy few decide everything for their own benefit? When the land is destroyed around us to live for the present, yet nothing is saved for the future? When fear and ignorance are hawked like a magic drug, to make people powerless?

Virginia, there are times to believe the unseen, or glimpse the unknowable—to heed the still, small voice within. That is common to our human quest; let no one take it from you. But neither should you let men poor in spirit sell you cheap or mundane substitutes.

When the frightened and ignorant dress up their prejudices as religion—don’t let their false virtue fool you. When power is stripped of vision or humility, what kind of patriotism salutes it?

If Santa came to give us great gifts, what would they be, Virginia? Food for all? Cures for our sicknesses? Machines to end work? Something more? But what… ? Believe it or not , Virginia, the world will soon be in your hands. And when it is… what do you want it to be?

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Sweet Smells

I know these sweet smells won’t last—
I don’t even know where they come from.
Sorrows mount; I wake and cry them off,
Work another day, some better than others.  If I didn’t
think things will change,
Well.  These struggles are real, yes.  But so are those
unseen.  And little by little,
Things turn.

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Jim at 14

Daddy loved you most easily, you two were so alike,
an easy friendship grew. But life has a way…
One day, the preacher came to our house. 
“Your brother’s been hurt,” he told me,
“real bad.” A few minutes later
he told me the rest. None of us was ever over you.
We were broken, dangling, burned, and
still my life is all about wounds
And healing. I guess this is not a Hallmark card…
Altho I do like the dogs and the pretty flowers
The carelessness of this world smells of death to me,
And I am on its track.

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Reflections

A man looks at himself in the mirror; but there is no mirror.
He sees himself in his father,
His opponent, his friend —what is it he wants?
The cat sees her reflection, and jumps into the water after it…
All this looking, stretching toward what? Hoping for what? more than just a meal… even    that ecstatic meeting of the flesh
Is only a morsel, without that spirit reaching too

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Miracles Enough

We forget about the magic in this world, the blooming flowers,
As we tread upon dirt that once was stars…
Our very eyes are miracles—never mind the things we see:
Burials, lightning on the beach, the age of trees,
the thought that comes to me from you, the lies in the newspaper, careful work, prayer, good cooking, songs discerned at a distance, made by nature or man….
What is not a miracle? Tell me something that is not a miracle and I will say, no, you are tired—take a break.

But you are right: I did not mention our meanness and broken hearts, nor the stagnant eddies outside the river’s flow in which a soul can waste and wallow, or take a rest.

I will tell you my own story: how badly I began, how naivety led to despair, how stoically my futility begat its slow determination. (Do you want to hear about tediousness, or following the germ of faith, or tearing off my skin of bitterness leaving only this smoldering, patient resolve?)

Cry out…and I did, cried and prayed and shouted out that anger until I became,,,,myself—much sooner than I expected—the work of only decades, not lifetimes, much sooner than I expected —and still not finished, only better-equipped.

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Our Trip to Jersey

Mary (my sister) and I just back from the ‘burbs of New Jersey west of Manhattan where we staged a four-day multimedia event alternating living-room talks about family history/geneology, jokes about Italians (Jennifer’s husband Robert Romano plays a rather easy-going fellow with a sense of humor)… eating plenty (Italian or not)… I only tried one joke about lawyers (two in the family) but got no laughs…one big scene was the 90th Bday Bash for Marie who plays a somewhat addled but still-charming Matriarch. Mary and I, naturally, found a nearby footpath along the Passaic river to relieve the well-kept tedium of the ‘burbs, and to brace us for an all-day foray into Manhattan where we were able to purchase the entire Island for–get this….

No wait, wrong scene. We found no cheap deals in Manhattan (except a free, and wonderful, dance performance in Bryant park), but we could not complain. Both of us had spent time in “the City” before (visiting Deirdre’s family in Brooklyn during her growing-up years) and we were no strangers to the ways of the subs (subways? get it?) which have changed not at all, except the stations are more uncomfortable than I remembered and the train annoucements inscrutable. Which matters not, they take you there. Or somewhere. And then you walk.

Anywhere else in these once-United States, people give you directions by saying, ‘ but it’s too far to walk, of course.’ But in New York City, if they say “walk west till you reach Battery Park” then you had better be prepared for a hike…And we were, and I gloried in the city and picking our way thru the people, hanging out in Central Park, catching the last of the Sunday-morning service at the famous (?) Episcopal cathedral near MOMA, squeezing thru the packed sidewalks of Chinatown, buying (expensive!) street food at the Festival of San Gennaro in Little Italy…  We had talked of searching out plays or performances, but seemed to find plenty to do for free… even missing the Opera in the park… so I am ready to go back now…

Thomas, Alex, David, Robert, Marie, and Jennifer
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