Hard Soles

Put on my hard soles today

Don’t remember where I got them

Black leather shoes like the boss used to wear

When he put his feet up on the desk and fired people.

 

Put on my hard soles today

They’re in better shape than me.

I don’t walk easy in them

More like a plod.

 

Put on my hard soles today

Trudged through newly fallen snow

Not much traction in the heels

The cold came in too soon.

 

Took off my hard soles today

Put on the running shoes

Bounced around the block

Two inches off the ground.

 

 

 

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Reasons For Not Writing Poetry #6

Let me tell you straight

What we have here is a business

We provide poems for some of the world’s biggest corporations

The wealthiest people

You’d think celebrities could do it themselves.

But they don’t.

 

An hour ago we had a rush order

From the head of a car dealership

Who gave us the first two lines.

“There was a young cowboy in Texas

Who dreamed of owning a Lexus.”

Want to finish that?

 

We get a ton of job applications

Not all of them English majors with student loans

We hired a guy who does elegies in church yards

And another who watches woods fill up with snow

And a gal who doesn’t leave her house and never stops – at all.

Boy, can she produce.

 

If you hear America singing

Listen on your own time.

Our clients don’t like downbeat content

Mighty Casey never strikes out

Of that sort of Dramatic Poem that is tragedy–

Avoid.

 

We fired a computer that wrote sestinas

You’d think it would make changes

And show up for meetings every once in a while

Be more of a team player

And take a little criticism

But it didn’t.

 

We turned down this Yukon type

Who couldn’t have cremated Sam McGee

We don’t want anybody raging against the dying of the light.

We said no to this smug little playwright.

Who, when in disgrace in fortune and men’s eyes, thinks of…

Somebody. I forget.

 

We’re a business

That walks in beauty, day and night.

Sometimes for a breath we’ll tarry.

We’re still waiting on a sonnet

Something about love.

How long does it take to count the ways?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Just You Wait

The doctor will be with you soon,

Or so you’re told.

You find a chair in row of chairs

With perfect Feng Shui,

Backs against the wall

Not too close to anyone else,

Where you can narrow your gaze

At the door through which we all must pass

As long as we have insurance.

 

You ask yourself

If you’re the first person who

Noticed the carpet’s infinitely repeating gray pattern.

Definitely not M.C. Escher.

More like…Escheresque.

The pale, Mission green olive walls and blond wood chairs,

The wall-mounted flat-screen showed smiling people

Stop smiling as they were told they should not despair that

More than a hundred bats

Were living happily just behind the dry wall

Of the house they just bought.

 

You ask yourself

If the red-faced sniffler,

Or that guy in the camo jacket contemplating gastrointestinal urgency,

And that bleary-eyed parent who had probably stayed up half the night

With the child beside her,

Were members of a secret society

Who only pretended to be ill

So they could explore the

Many fascinating and unique waiting rooms

And behave like those who are humbled

By stained glass, stone columns, clerestory windows

And the bird that flies in and doesn’t quite know what to do with itself

As a medieval cathedral reveals itself

As the house of the God

Who doesn’t have to make things right

Because they already are.

 

Did you hear a heavily accented guide,

Begin a bouncy little spiel

About the waiting room’s unique place and function in history of

commercial architecture and interior design?

 

Did you observe the gently enclosing,

But not confining

Effect of the coffee-colored blinds on the window overlooking the parking lot?

Now, come,  marvel at how the warm earth tones

With the the vibrant, if slightly worn covers of magazines

And the crucial absence of clocks,

Combine to evoke an institutional calm,

Suggesting that sickness and discomfort

(and a home infested with bats!)

Were all momentary aberrations

As we make our gentle, loving progress

On God’s green earth?

 

No? Well, then take these few minutes

While you endure the agony

Of bats screeching under your skin,

To be thankful that you have insurance (and the co-pay!)

So you can walk through that door

And be a child again

In front of the grown-up

You’ve been waiting for.

 

 

 

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To Go

When you drive a car in my neighborhood

You don’t notice

What’s between you and everyone else

Until

 

You’re stopped behind a light for so unbelievably long

You wonder what will happen to the garbage rolling across the road.

And when will they mow the median strip?

Or arrest whoever shot holes in the stop sign?

 

You realize that you are surrounded by people who just shouldn’t be on the road.

Banged up cars, smelly trucks, farting motorbikes,

A cyclist in the shoulder so everybody has to veer away

And look at that guy strutting across the crosswalk, like one push of a button makes him royalty!

 

And when are they going to plow the gray snow and salt the sheets of ice

That’ll kill you if you don’t watch out?

You want to change lanes but that creep won’t let you in!

And when are they going to fill the potholes?

 

It’s been two weeks and that streetlamp is still dark.

When are they going to stop raising the the tolls

Or finish the construction the tolls are supposed to pay for.

Stop slowing down like you’ve never seen a smashed car!

 

Where are the cops? That jerk in front doesn’t know how to drive.

Ever hear of turn signal?

Turn your high beams off and

Put the damned cell phone down!

 

I’m sure there are places where no one is in front of you, moving too slow

And no one is in back, flashing headlights and bearing down on you for going too slow.

Places with mountains, lakes and trees, and perfect weather

And city blocks with restaurants and shops and gleaming streets where

 

You can pretend you’re in a car commercial

Confident, smiling and admired from afar

For being the only person in universe

Absolutely certain that nothing ever ends.

 

 

 

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The Hero

They say you should never meet your heroes.

But you’ve met a few

None were what they were cracked up to be.

Some had merely cracked.

 

Not like a statue.

More like an egg.

You didn’t want what was inside

To seep out.

 

Because you didn’t know the right way to mop it up

And put it back in

And search for in that drawer marked Emergency Hero Repair

For the glue that would make the crack disappear.

 

But you tried with one.

You had seen him in his glory

Quiet, dignified, drinking beer:

A published author who wasn’t worried about who was paying.

 

Then you found him broken and

Angry at those who shunned him

Who couldn’t understand why

Partial paralysis and brain-damage had prevented him from being a hero.

 

He swore he would recover someday, and

He sensed that everything around you had lost its meaning.

He invited you to visit him. He promised beautiful sunsets.

He said he’d put you back together.

 

The sun sets were beautiful but his maid had quit months ago. The kitchen sink held a leaning tower of dishes and his referigator reeked from spoiled food.

You cleaned his house, mowed his lawn, cooked the food, fetched the mail and marveled how he had learned to drive a car with one hand.

You weren’t speaking properly, he said. He hated your writing.

He told you that you knew nothing about old cars, model airplanes, Swedish furniture, German beer, history, Puccini’s operas, Sibelius’ symphonies, science fiction stories and Raymond Chandler novels.

 

Could this be why,

You asked yourself as you watched the sun set,

His wife and children

Left him?

 

Then, before you had to leave, you saw his car slide down into a lake

You went in, freed him from the car, pulled his head above the water, put his one functional arm around your neck, dragged him to the water’s edge and carried him out.

He said you saved his life, then he yelled at you for not being as astonished as he was,

That you had done something right.

 

A few weeks later

He said he’d dedicate a book to you.

He was writing again.

You thought you found the glue.

 

You wrote letters.

He told you the sunsets were even more beautiful and

That book was at the publisher

And would come out, soon.

 

So you bought a hardcover edition

Opened it.

Saw it was dedicated to someone else.

Closed it.

 

After a while you read it.

It wasn’t his best.

You decided not to meet any more heroes

Until you became one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reasons for Not Writing Poetry #5

Someday a klaxon will sound in the swanky Disney Marvel Studios offices.

Those talented film-school graduates whose movies have made a pile of money

Will panic because

They’ve run out of villains!!!!

 

That big bucket stuffed with the stuff that

Makes nice, normal, reasonably good looking people

Put on a costume and make a big mess–

Is empty!!!!

 

And yet, when all seems dark for the Extended Universe

A plucky unpaid intern rounds up a bunch of quirky, trash-talking, highly talented film school graduates whose eccentric skill sets have yet to bring them a steady job.

They hatch a complicated plan that will require them to wear costumes, impersonate celebrities, fool security guards, steal fancy cars and get into high speed chases with the police, and other diversions

So they can break into the Writers Guild’s secret vault!!!!

 

That’s the storehouse of scripts that nobody–not even the latest internet streaming service– wants to film,

And pitches that nobody wants to turn into an original TV series,

And compromising, unquestionably career-shattering video and photographs of this producer and that director, which may explain why some of those scripts that nobody wants to film–are filmed!!!!

There, way in the back, shoved up against a wall, spilling out from a garbage can, are too many

 

Stepped-on thumb drives

Crumbling Post-It notes that were flushed down a toilet,

Restaurant napkins marked up with confusing plot details and the name of an A-list actor who might green-light the project

And furiously crumpled balls of paper!!!!

 

Inside one of those paper balls is a short, coffee-stained character sketch

About a humble person who

When not working in a coffee shop/Wal-Mart/cupcake shop (bookstore has been crossed out)

Writes poems!!!!

 

One day, you, the part-time poet, passes another coffee shop/low-price department store/cupcake shop (bookstore is again crossed out)

And you see a GREAT PERSON inside

You tenatively, respectfully approach and ask,

“Would you read my poems?”

 

Greatness pauses.

Greatness turns toward you.

Greatness glances down at what you hold in your trembling hand.

Greatness says, “Sure. Love to.”

 

And, for the first time in your life, you understand perfectly what a sartori is,

that feeling of effortless joy that comes from occupying a perfect moment, your body rising, your feet leaving the ground.

Until Greatness adds, “When I’m dead!!!!”

Your feet return to the floor.

 

Greatness explains: “While you’re scratching out your poem, I’m

Eating lobster

Driving a fast car with nobody in front of me

Making the play

 

Accepting an award

Taking a bow

Singing to a sold-out stadium

Making love on the beach

 

Guest starring in my own movie,

Making a half a billion dollars,

Telling a joke that gets a laugh,

Changing the world and then changing it back again.”

 

Greatness winks. “That Pierian Spring that you’re supposed to drink deep from?”

Your nod and remembering the interminably long “Essay on Criticism” by the famous 17th century English satirist, translator and poet Alexander Pope, who was sickly and deformed and never married and wrote that fabulous couplet, “a little learning is a dang’rous thing;/Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.”

“It’s a crock. What you want from life, you have to conquer.”

Your mouth shuts itself.

 

You walk for a while

Quickly

Without direction or intention

Until you find a costume shop.

 

The money you saved all these years appears in your hand. A caustic bile rises in your thoat. The putrid logic of violence-for-violence’s sake begins to make sense.

“I want to be Alexander…”

Your eyes move from pen that is in the clerk’s pocket, to the long, brutal sword on the wall.

“…The Great!!!!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reasons for Not Writing Poetry #4

Most people don’t know (and you’re not going to tell them)

That, if you had enough coffee

And a few cool locales where you could sit and be your marvelous, wonderful, imaginative, expressive self–

You could fill the world with so many poems that

Snarky people would make comments about quality and quantity.

They’d say you’re that you’re poem-luting the planet!

Poeming at the mouth!

While you wrap yourself in your creator’s cloak

And pretend to be oblivious

Of the self-righteous swagger of those 20th century American culture heroes

Those hard-drinking guys who led the pack,

Who went on safaris, drove Cadillacs into Las Vegas swimming pools, won awards, married badly and died ironically.

They didn’t care what their art was doing to the world.

They didn’t ask for whom the bells tolled.

They ate it up, spit it out

And kept going until they couldn’t go anymore.

Which is what people want from cars, farm animals, apple trees, beaches, and every mousetrap that’s better than the last,

But not from poems.

 

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