Monday, June 23, 2014


I heard the game was tough, and they lost,
despairing in muddy jerseys,
turf jutting from face guards and heavy cleats.

Sweat-stained and sore, they showered,
and the camaraderie of the locker room
broke through the stern silence with boyish laughter.
Weekend plans made, they climbed into the chartered bus
and drove slowly through the misty night
to the airport, to go home, back to West Virginia.

The plane gleamed reassuringly, like technology always does.
The power of the lift, the whine of competent engines
flinging them into the clouds, driving them high beyond the storm
into the clear, star-filled night. But the flight was rough, and
nearing their goal, it happened; a jolting shudder,
surprised looks, and amid the confusion of savage g-forces
suddenly nothing remained but flames
and twisted metal
and silence
on the charred mountain.

This is when I first became acquainted with death.

These were my friends, my old team-mates;
two years before we jogged in the hot August sun
and ranged through snowy October backfields;
like dangerous tigers we hunted quarterbacks,
thinking we were forever young and strong
and invincible.

Jack Rapasy, Bob Harris, and Mark Andrews:

Jack was the joker, but he could catch a bullet
six feet over his head, and leave two defenders
to slam into each other as they met, mid –air,
where he was,
while he ambled smiling to the end-zone.

And Bob could throw that bullet, his baby-face
And million dollar smile belying muscle-thick arms,
rocket launchers, splitting Friday nights with their fire.

But Mark, gentle giant of a linesman, was like my
big brother; he taught me how to shift and pull and trap,
and admired my fierce tackle, my willingness
to sacrifice clarity to stop a power-sweep.

We grew up together, but Mark died far from home.

Their three caskets in our high school gym lay,
while I, staring at glaring metal,
stood silent and amazed
that never would they run,
or throw, or tackle, or smile, or laugh,
or again be.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

First Flight

The young bird hops,
into my open garage.

Head hunched
it studies the veined floor
like a map; lost traveler
cast low from
wooded heights,

and lifts to its mother
a raspy cry.

Too early from the nest
fearful of the sky,
unsure of tender wings,
not able to fly,
it’s helpless.

I want to hold it,
feel its heart
tremble in my gentle hands

return it
to shredded nest,
like a prayer,
cast it high to heaven
and watch it fly
or fall,

but I do nothing

when echoing its mother’s call
the youngster stumbles out the door
and into the still street -

I watch mother bird
diving near
as the fledgling
into familiar air.

Suisun Nocturne

The setting sun spills
over rolling brown hills
glancing back for one final flashing.

Then night’s black wind
heavy day's veil rends
with a gale from the sea coldly piercing.

When warm day is done,
cool night's just begun
its lusty old song sweetly calling

the cricket and linnet,
and bold frog in the thicket,
and dim trees gently swaying.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dark Contemplation

“Contemplation cannot be taught. It cannot even be clearly explained. It can only be hinted at, suggested, pointed to, symbolized.”  Thomas Merton. New Seeds of Contemplation

Through seasons of pleasure 
and months of pain, 
morning birds calling;
night’s howling trains

oh, fall into dream’s 
cold silent folds
where unyielding truth 
nightly is told.

The morning star’s rising
through night’s fading lace.
Soon sun will be glaring;
truth without grace.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Heist

Two grey-blue mockingbirds
alight on my cherry tree,
and set up their look-out;
the squatting male belches
shrill, harsh warnings, his
screeching song feigning pain
to make the gold-finch
and robin flee in alarm,
while Bonnie to his Clyde
picks at my ripe cherries and
knocks one to the ground;
flitting lightly down, she arises,
all Betty Boop
red lips pouting
between pointed beak,
as together they make their get-away,
high into the cottonwood,
beyond the reach of my constable cat,
to divide the fruit of their crime.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Windy Day

Image: A Windy Day, Joshua Shaw, 1840

We live in the land
of the western wind.

Sit silent and still
under dancing leaves.

See how it fills
the savage trees

with whispered passion,
strokes rough wood,

tender stems.