Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dear Mr. Wilson

Dear Mr. Wilson,

I am unemployed. I am a poet.
I hope you don't take these facts about myself in a bad way.
Mr. Wilson, you may have known my father.
He had a 32" softball bat and a left-handed glove. 
I could always make six out of ten free throws from the foul line.
Our family was a secure one and a happy one.

Saturdays have always been my favorite day.
In the old neighborhood I wore a red sweat jacket with a patch
of the Chicago Sting sewn on where a shirt pocket might be.
The Chicago Sting is a soccer team. I was a great soccer player.
Unfortunately, my pep never got utilized thoroughly in,
that other sport, baseball. I would wear that sweat jacket
on Saturdays and rake leaves. I often got paid for chores around
the neighborhood, but I don't especially remember if I got paid
on Saturdays. This memory is permeated with the smell
of leaves burning. By evening, I usually began to get lonely.
I would walk home thinking of one pitcher especially.
My dad usually had a game on television.
His favorite team was the Boston Red Sox.

In the seventh grade I took a position at one of our local
baseball camps. I taught outfielders to turn their back
on the ball and chase it down with glove outstretched.
One of my students is the current centerfielder
for the St. Louis Cardinals. You may have his baseball card.

Upon graduation from high school, I took a job teaching
carving for a dollhouse company. My salary was paid
by an endorsement I did for the LimeDime popscicle product.
I often traveled. I made a point of walking into the poorer
neighborhoods on these trips. I was not scared. I found people
were usually happy with an explanation such as, "Hi, I have
a little girl. It's her birthday, and I'm snooping around
for some rags to make her a doll."

It's amazing that people never mind their own business
once you're friendly to them. On one porch I sat down on,
two little boys were tussling over a piece of curtain
that the red-headed one worked from his friend's shoulder.
He had been using it to attach a tree branch to his back.
As I walked up the stairs, I passed him marching around
like a soldier. It actually would have made a good scarf
for a doll if I had been creative in those days.

Dear Mr. Wilson,

My brother and I play at toy soldiers.
My sister is at the kitchen table. She is painting a dollhouse.
There is a signing off on my mom's show,
and we all gather around the radio to hear the clues
of Tom Mix - a cowboy on the trail of an outlaw Indian.
The toy soldiers are scattered, and my sister's painting supplies
are not put back in her bin. My father's paper is turned
to the page he stopped at in order to listen to the closing
of the program. We sit for a while in peace.
I tap my brother on the shoulder. My sister lights a candle
in the living room. I ascend the staircase first.
We dream of how to solve The Case of the Masked Man
which is this week's mystery. At breakfast the next day
we never talk about our dreams. 

Dear Mr. Wilson,

My dad's office is in the other direction than my walk
home from school. Sometimes my brother and I have exhausted
strategies for our skirmishes. I walk a few extra blocks
to the office. Mother serves tea. I drink the lukewarm tea.
Father uses a tin cup. I settle up to his drafting table.
I go over his drawings of the tilt-boards he uses to compartmentalize
the knobs and reels of the cameras that Orson Wells uses.
Sometimes I have just begun doodling. He walks in, messes up
my hair, and says, "Ain't that the truth."

I usually walk out the side door after that. My train of thought
is interrupted, but sometimes it's a good thing. On my way home
from the office, I stop at a basketball backboard. It is attached
to a tree hit by lightning. Mr. Wilson helped my father bolt
a metal rim to the stark face of the tree.

A Small Heaven

Give so that you may not be rejected.
We don't know how to treat ourselves.
You will find us in shallows, ashes I always need to talk.
You and I count on substance. He walks with a book
that weighs more than any you have in your knapsack.
She sweats through the first few pages of a letter.
My father is a reformer. My mother weaves the family crest.
The clues are well-placed. We have not succeeded.
I am tired of looking at things that are well-made.
God is not composed. Let us pray.

My best friend doesn't know how to spell.
My father is a generalist. I am a reformer.
We are both guests and housekeepers in this hotel.
As Dad, he struggled with me until math was simple.
As son, I forgot the pressure of the classroom.
The bricks of the schoolhouse passed through me
on the way to the library. I read underneath the painting
of a pen on the stage. It is only a painting I remember.
I prepped my walls and felt black instead of white.
I went to the fairground and heard the music
of my boiling days. I was a soldier without a battle. Let us pray.

My father told me to run with moderation.
My father told me to bicycle until I healed my weakness.
I played games until they began to seem like a classroom.
My dad and I played tennis. We followed baseball.
I sought to make a masterpiece in art. It took me years to learn
that repetition is an element in art. Let us pray.

A Rote

Great is the pull that controls me.
Humble is the pilot who flies me.
Fate is the wrench that turns me.
Destiny is the drum that keeps me time.
Deduce my story, differentiate me.
Finished is the grain inside me.
The end is near. Real is my hope to vanish like thief.
The start is miles away. Hurl my light restore me.
Do you find that your mind is in a kitten?
I wasn't banging up on you.
I was in the middle of a rote. 

Luff, that was tuff. The playoffs were a curse.
You knew that. I didn't. No money could bring us together.
I got good, and you got better. At noon it was complete.
Some year the best will do nicely.  Better than most,
that's what we said. Ride the trains or don't,
what does it matter to me.

I'm in the hornet stinging us bad.
We're in the moon watching you good.
Apples and oranges, the pumpkin is me base.
We are all I ponder. Flirt my night become me.
Grand the illusion desire me.   

Four of the days of the week are commas. Three are apples.
How fluid everything is. Enough of the fox that stops me.
Coasting is the mop I clean with. I do it for the reds and the blues,
sometimes the yellows, but let us not speak of things
that are beyond us.

I was the one destroying the good times. Yesterday I was depressive.
Today I am statistical. Multitasking in a hooverville yesterday,
I shut up ten cowboys. I'll cut you in half with this spoon,
this mattress, this nothingness.
Let us abstain from intellectual activity and play tennis.

A mile ain't so high. I been there. Maybe I still am.
We're still on the ground, babe. We're Jo in the dance
that leans on the universe. I follow Grail when the lads
strike up the band.        

I fade in and out like Manhattan on a button hook.
State nothing, yet say everything.
The allusion is a mild pleasure I possibly felt. Where is my voice?
Where is my heart? Lost in their luff.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


It would be nice to be able to read.
I'm learning how to read a new way. I hear the letters.
It's like reading a page of tiny flies. The s-h-u-z-u-z-z-i-n-g
is barely audible at first. It's familiar to me from the u-z-z-i-n-g
sound my bicycle tires make when I ride the crushed lime path.
I am on the path to find a book. So first I have to go to market
before I decipher the letters. Here, the insects will be helpful too.
Some of us here are looking for fruit, some for a new pair of shoes,
and some for a new identity.

I would be nearest to the type looking for a new pair of shoes.
As I said, the buzzing gets into my clothes so it follows
that it also get into my shoes. The pair of shoes I have now
is rather silent. They are a light pair of shoes. I can jump
over two feet in the air in them. This will get me to the top shelf.
The books still obey the rule of going no higher than the top row
at your pedestrian shelves. Most people believe that it was Lodi
who gave the books wings. Booksellers began noticing that several
of their books, usually the garden variety kind, were missing.
The books would be returned by people with serious overtones
in their kindness. "They must stay here for the time being.
The books need to be incubated," was the cryptic remark
the booksellers usually got.

Some of us readers, and we are few and far between,
noticed usually at the joints, the elbows and the knees, a tingling -
not uncomfortable - decidedly literary buzz. It was nothing
like arthritis or tennis elbow. I noticed it was like a fly caught
inside my elbow. Someone else told me they had a bumblebee
in their knee. I zoned out to the sound, several minutes later
noticing two pages turned in my book with complete comprehension
of the character I'd been reading who carried a skillet everywhere.
Others reported taking a book down from a shelf, being lulled
by a faint buzzing, returning the book unopened, and understanding
new qualities about characters left impoverished turning into friends.

One morning the bookseller Hearnszy noticed a faint buzzing
as he got ready to open his shop for business. He walked into his
shop, and it was as he said, "like the sweetest sound a fly can make."
That reminds me of the satisfaction of riding my bike on the path,
but back to the story. Hearnszy checked his e-mail. He noticed
he had e-mailed himself. The message said, "Hearnszy, open the front
and back doors of your shop, let a draft through, and the books
will follow." He scratched his elbow. It would be nice to listen
to the sound for a while, but might as well do what the message said.

The first to leave were several early editions of Leaves of Grass.
Several self-help manuals followed. Next a quote a day book
took to the air and snored through the narrow passageways
of Tilted Mind Books out into the wide afternoon. Hearnszy expained,
"The books that took to the air sounded like they were softly snoring
through my shop. None of them seemed to be in a hurry.
I actually read The Song of Occupations while the book took most
of the morning to dally out of my shop."

The state of affairs when I arrived at the marketplace was wonderful.
Half of Hearnszy's shop was emptied. The air was thick with flies
and bumblebees. A handful of books, who had not undergone
the transformation, loitered on the sidewalks at about eye level.
Most people were attracted to the flying insects because as Hearnszy
said, "Their sound was so sweet." The sound of my bicycle tires was
still buzzing through my body in the background. I found a copy
of Song of Myself outside the shoestore. It was an easy jump from
the ride to the cosmic buzzing of Whitman's loafing dance.
I have led several students into the new age.

The key seems to be bicycling up and down the path to get that
background buzzing in your body. The eyes still need to see the print,
but it is merely an object to meditate on - an aesthetically pleasing
one at that. I teach my students to treat their individual bicycle
buzzing as the page. There are mainly two characters in this new
language: the sonorous buzzing of the bumblebee and the ticklish
buzzing of the fly and all their combinations. I tell my students
they are reading unique books because each of their pages is formed
by a slightly different tire rolling round and round.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Friends are an open book.
They are the ingrediants of a fulfilled life.
Conversation is food. Silence is drink.
Personality is a gift. Ideas are candles.
     Expression is a runaway train.
Feelings are like leaves on a tree,
responding in the wind.
Belonging is like sitting at a fireplace.
Truth is gold. Questions are in the shadows.
The warmth of answers keeps flickering
in the fire.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Read my face

Read my face. I won't turn digital on you.
Brush my eyebrows with your long lashes.
Coil your fingers into my ears. Season my blood
with your breath. Lap at my nose with your wet tongue.
     Consume my hair in your fire.
Rule my earth with the color of your eyes.
Fight my battles with your fists.
I have no protection from you.
My shoulders are your two small mountains.
Your arms of fire dance in my forests.
I bathe my feet in your waters. Build your castle
on my two shoulders. The horizon of your lips
crosses a sea of tenderness. Birth me from the pupil
of your eye. Make my bed in your oceans.
Love me with your clouds. Dress me in your robes.
Give me a scent. Give me dreams in the desert
of your creation. Sleep with me in a home.
Undo my sharp corners. Silence my mind.
Make the sign of peace in all windows.
Witness my life. Toss me to the winds.
     Break my spirit with your law.
Feed me to hungry lands. Test me on your vine.
Rub mud over my eyes. Teach me how to change
colors in autumn. Fill my lungs with tropical air.
Make me as complicated as a snowflake.
Give me a horse to ride. Give him eyes of crescent moons.
     Make his hoofs out of the darkest coal.
Make his nostrils like wildfire.
Shatter my beliefs like thunder.
Give me the faith of all animals.
Let the races tremble at your name.
Lift me out of my body and into yours.
Send me a message that will never be deciphered.
Say my name in the innermost sanctuary of your temple.
Wash my face with the most subtle breeze of spring.
Cast me into the wilderness.
     Wound me with your superior spears.
Renew the enviroment with your fertile mind.
Enrich the soil with my decomposed dreams.
Catch the wildest fox. Turn the army into white light.
Patch the injured with new alphabets.
Critique the ending of this age,
and comment on the beginning of a new day.