Excerpt

If it were all about
you
then my words might deflect
like sunrays off your windshield,
blinding the rest of us,
leaving us wondering
when the tick of the clock
might lead to something new,
something different than the everyday
breakdown.

But it’s not –
not about you, I mean.
And if you want to know more,
well,
you really need to pay attention.

Published in: on October 8, 2010 at 6:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Waking Up

Waking up
from more than just a good night’s sleep
or a dark and troubled dream,

waking up
from something old and rusted through,
from being and becoming who
you thought I might have been.

That’s what today is for
and what tomorrow will be again.

That’s why I’m over here
and below your feet
and skying through the air.

Published in: on October 6, 2010 at 9:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Cue

Timpani drums curl in a J
in the back of the room,
buffeted by the brass
and the woodwinds in rows.

The boys hold their mallets,
ready for their measures,
waiting, wishing their parts
were bigger, but eager
to make each note count,
to end with a flourish,
to drown out the rest.

Published in: on October 1, 2010 at 7:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Autumn

Outside by the windowpane,
branches claw and scrape the glass.
Windswept blooms collapse and fall
to grass gone brown.

Sparrows perch upon a limb
and chirp, their songs
pitched higher than yesterday.

Green leaves husk with yellow tips.
Sunset’s coming early,
and you stand here with me
in a wheatgrass field.

Published in: on September 28, 2010 at 7:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Farewell

So this is farewell –
Soon I’ll be waving my hand
from somewhere else
(I suppose we all will);
Soon the lights will be turned low
and our shadows will fade
like mist;
Soon the curtain will fall
and the stage will be left bare;
Soon we’ll count the last second
on the clock
and we’ll say our last goodbyes.
But just when you come close
to forgetting a moment,
a friendship, a celebration,
think of me and I’ll think of you.
I’ll be the one waving my hand
from somewhere else.

Farewell.

Published in: on September 26, 2010 at 4:33 pm  Comments (2)  
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Clear Night for Ursa Minor

Golden honeysuckle sits
at the creekbed’s edge.
You stand, arms crossed, under
the blue-black cover of sky.

You wait, watch. You map
out the night, tracing a line
in the red clay with bare toes.

Zebra finches in the brush
chatter and flap wings,
leaving you and the moon.

Published in: on September 23, 2010 at 11:25 pm  Comments (4)  
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Image and Likeness

Maybe Pope Leo the Great,
after meeting Attila the Hun,
wiped his brow and wished he could
just hang it up. That was years ago –
now such meetings are rare for me.

On the whole I am a power for good.
My roaring and clawing, a front
to match my unruly mane. I promulgate
with chalk on blackboards and notes
on Post-its – ‘Reflective tone’ and ‘I hope
there’s more of this’. People whisper
as I walk by – no one connects the dots.

I am a monarch among men.
No Aslan, no Christ-figure,
allegorical. No. At best
an apostle, a cowardly lion
who runs from the soldiers and speaks
Doubter’s words – ‘Is it you?
Can it really be you?’

I think and act bigger than others
would normally dare. The domain
I claim? The hottest weeks of summer.
I gild my days with sun’s gold, I secure
a ruby in my homemade foil crown.

I may have these things going for me –
egotism, greed for flattery,
boastfulness and bombast,
pomposity, snobbish superiority,
intolerant disdain of underlings.

No king am I, and no kingdom
is mine. Maybe if Tolstoy were my
sign in the sky I could roar
just for laughs, leave war behind, find
a peaceful palace of straw and wood.

Published in: on September 22, 2010 at 3:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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What You Think You Know

You think you know and wonder if it’s true.

The clocks tick-tock and sunshine fades to black

and one day – soon – there’s something less of you.

You count the days and hope for skies of blue

on bright spring afternoons, but white clouds crack

what you think you know – you wonder if it’s true.

You travel free and clear, reach for what’s new

in the distance.  Should you try?  You’ll go back

and one day – soon – there’s something less of you.

Then grab hold – who can tell what you will do

until the time comes?  Mind and muscles, slack.

You think you know and wonder if it’s true.

Do you claim to know it all?  Not a clue

will make a difference if you go off-track,

and one day – soon – there’s something less of you.

When calendars flip shut, evening is through

and finally there’s nothing left to pack,

you’ll think you know and wonder if it’s true

and one day – soon – there’s something less of you.

Published in: on September 16, 2010 at 3:52 pm  Comments (4)  
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Monument

Your gravestone juts out of the ground
like a hand hailing a cab
or waving from a distance
to a friend from far away.
It’s been years since I’ve been here –
not many family visits
or flowers laid down on anniversaries. 

I recall the tearful day:
a funeral, a burial,
a gathering in the hall,
stories told and silent moments shared.
 
That stone retains two dates,
a commemoration, a name,
but visiting here feels more
like walking throught a dream,
disembodied, timeless.
 
You are not here.
You do not reside beneath
this too-bright grass,
you will not show up,
surprising us like ghosts do
in those late-night made-for-cable movies.
 
Where you are has nothing to do
with this place, this time.
So if I drive by without a glance,
you’ll know why and you’ll know how
I remember.

Published in: on September 13, 2010 at 2:50 pm  Comments (2)  
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Part two of “Defending Champs”

And the other half of the story:

*****

            Palowsky kicked his cleat at a stubborn clod of dirt on the pitcher’s mound as he waited for the Padres’ manager to make his decision. He figured this would happen – why send up a batter Palowsky had struck out once and got to ground out the other time? All that remained was which pinch hitter would step up.

            Cropper tossed the ball his way and encouraged him to keep his arm warm with a few pitches in the interim. Palowsky took long, slow strides, exaggerated really, trying in vain to put the thoughts of this potential perfect game out of his mind.

            Here they stood, the Waves and the Padres, one the previous year’s World Series winner turned last-place team, the other falling short of playing .500 ball on account of a rash of injuries to key players. And the crowd in the Miami stands? Certainly no distraction to Palowsky as they were clumped here and there with long swaths of seats in between – some of them appeared to be otherwise occupied, as if the game were mere background noise to a book club discussion or chess match. And Palowsky watched Jose Pullman, a rugged former DH traded to the Padres a few months back from the White Sox, walk out of the dugout and tap his cleats menacingly with his sepia-toned bat.

            He’d never pitched against Pullman – he’d need to rely on Cropper even more than before, Cropper with his five years in the American League with the Mariners. He stared in at his catcher, felt a brush of cool air sweep across the infield, and caught Cropper’s first signal. – curveball, inside. Palowsky nodded and started his wind-up, retaining the long strides from just moments before. Was it tiredness setting in? Or anxiety at facing the unfamiliar?

            He curled the ball as it left his fingers and watched as Pullman prepared to swing, cracking the ball hard and high – and foul, so foul that Palowsky guessed the guy hit it out of the park, right by the opening gates.

            A thin film of sweat rose to a sheen on Palowsky’s forehead and upper lip, but he avoided wiping it off and caught Cropper’s toss-back without looking. Pullman dug in and seemed to crowd a few inches closer to the plate. Cropper signaled curveball, but Palowsky shook him off. Frustrated, Cropper signaled for a change-up, though he seemed reluctant, almost shrugging as if to say, ‘Can’t you trust me here?’ With barely a hint of a nod, Palowsky wound up again, nice and slow, but bearing down at the end of his pitch as if he were bringing the heat from earlier.

            Pullman didn’t seem to buy it; he started his swing, his eyes fixed towards the outfield where he presumed the ball would go in just a moment. The pitch looped in slow and sneaky, though, and in a few short seconds, Cropper was getting a new ball from the ump and Pullman’s count stood at 0 and 2, courtesy of a pair of booming foul balls.

            Instead of tossing him the ball like usual, Cropper trotted out to the mound, mask up and off his face for a moment.

            “So,” he started, massaging the ball with one thumb.

            “So,” Palowsky returned, a thin grin forming on his face.

            “This guy wants to eat you alive. He’s breathing fire up there.”

            “Good to know.” Palowsky paused, licking his lips. “’Cause I don’t think I can strike him out. Maybe next time I pitch him, but not tonight.”

            Cropper looked his ace level in the eyes and nodded. “That’s what I wanted to hear. I figured you must be getting tired.” He gestured with the ball for a moment as the head ump began clamoring for them to get back to the matter at hand. Both men nodded again and Copper pivoted, re-masked and shot back to his spot behind home plate.

            As Palowsky gazed 66 and a half feet away and took Cropper’s second signal of the inning and the night, he recalled being on this same mound about a year before, winning the deciding game of the Series and being carried off the field by his teammates. Ridiculous, really, like a cheesy made-for-TV movie or something. Here he was, a year later, pitching what would be the best game of his career, and would it make the news? Nothing more than a 30-second blurb on Miami local; maybe another 30 seconds on Sports Center, but all couched in terms of a disappointing and frustrating season.

            He wound up, his arm feeling like it had extended half a foot – maybe more – as he slung the ball in much the same way that he’d thrown his change-up. As before, Pullman readied his swing almost immediately; as it had done earlier in the inning, the ball sank, sank, sank, then met the tip of the bat and launched high in the air over the infield.

            Palowsky turned and watched his shortstop, some new kid fresh out of high school, call for it. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Cropper at home plate, his mask thrown off, his face expectant. It was over. It was all over.

Published in: on September 11, 2010 at 11:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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