Poetry

When people tell me they don’t read modern poetry, I understand why. Many of the poems I come across are inaccessible, their language convoluted, their meaning obscure. A poem should leave you gasping in wonder, shocked by its passion, blindsided by laughter or tears. A poem that leaves you scratching your head and saying, “Huh?” isn’t a poem at all. It’s an ego trip, and I don’t do ego trips. I do (mostly) joyrides, and I invite you to come along.

April 2021 – I seldom watch war movies; they are too hard to bear. Yet both these poems were inspired, years apart, by scenes from war films. “PTSD,” inexplicably, emerged in my head as a song. “Battle of the Somme” was provoked by hellish images of WWI trench warfare. Posted in honor of ANZAC Day on 25 April.

PTSD
Lyrics for a Country-Western Song

Were you thinking
that we would be the same
when we came back
               came back
from the war

Were you thinking
that we could just reclaim
the sweet young boys
                young boys
we were before

‘Cause it’s hard to see
the way it used to be
when the blood has splattered in your eyes
The fear won’t wash clean
you can’t forget the scenes
your ears keep ringing with the cries

So, good folks, don’t be thinking
we will ever be the same
when we come back
                come back
from a war

We got grenades in our heads
just a-waiting to explode
and hurts dug deep
                dug deep
in our hearts

Battle of the Somme, 1916

If I fall, you must know
You were my last breath
Of a happier land
Where all seemed blessed
Far from this exile
To a theater of death

Fever soaks the trenches
Like a river in flood
Guns spurt, riddled bodies
Weep anguished blood
Trampled corpses, abandoned
Succumb to cold mud

The vile grip of fear
All reason destroys
Sanity tossed on the flames
Like a child’s outgrown toy
The madness of war
A perversion of joy

In what moments are left
Before we face fire
Come heaven or hell
If my soul must expire
I will see naught but you
And clasp my heart’s desire

February 2021 – Two poems for Valentine’s Day, one for the oldest love of my life, one for the newest

Anniversary
(for Eric)

White wine and a lavender sunset
The beach band in Margaritaville mode
Watching the barefoot dancers
The little girl sifting sand
Tanned teenagers lounging and laidback folks
Grouped around coolers, beers in hand

Propose to me now
When the night is as open as a flower can get
Blossoming with good vibrations, swaying to the notes
Propose to me now and I will say yes to anything
To moonlight, to adventure, to a rock-and-roll dance
Though I know romance fades and bliss cannot last
Propose to me now and I will say yes
As I did so many ages, so many summers ago

Screen Time
(for Anders)

Do you know what you do to my heart
when I see you, half a world away,
propped in your highchair and puzzling
at the strange woman on the lighted screen
She has long hair and wears glasses,
and she points to pictures in a big storybook
Who is she and how does she know your name,
when you’re only beginning to know it yourself?

Clearly, it is an exciting tale
Her eyes go wide and she flings up her hands
Then her voice is sad and her mouth turns down
It depends what the busy animals are doing
She pauses before turning each page,
as if to ask, Do you like what you see?

Do you? Pink-cheeked from teething,
oblivious of the drool on your chin,
you turn your head and send a searching gaze
to Mom (chuckling), then Dad
(aiming that other, small screen your way)
There are people on screens everywhere,
and you wisely conclude this one must be okay
You give her a chuckle like Mom’s

When the story ends,
the woman closes the book
puts her fingertips to her lips
and blows something toward you
There it is, your name again
What is she trying to tell you?

January 2021 – Winter

I Am Like Snow Falling

In the whiteness,
the air is sugared
sweet granules dissipating
on the outstretched tongue
a slow-motion blizzard of softness
a soundless interim
comfort as eternal
as a cloud within a dream
a transition into awe
a farewell to being

Yellowstone in Winter

Solitude howls
Ice arrows
Bison mound into snow

Clouds hunt
Wolves erupt
Winds deliver frenzy

Owls muse
Foxes drift
Smart grizzlies snore

Streams nibble
Elk puff
Winter sings its psalm