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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Worse Than I've Dreamed

Goodnight 2012 Moon
"For years my list
remained unchanged:  I fear
the dark of night,
hide from the burning

sun, and hate our mean fate."

I have a list
of things I dread;
I keep it tucked
in folds of grey,

fear and chaos in my brain.

For years my list
remained unchanged:  I fear
the dark of night,
hide from the burning

sun, and hate our mean fate.

In the darkest moments
my list gives peace;
no harm is worse
than what I've dreamed.

When you died I lined out

one and added two
I had no reason
to fear before, must
keep the chaos contained.
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0    

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Band With No Rhythm

Rip The World In Twain
"Six-year-olds
        on the verge of turning sixteen...
remind us the world is an awesome place
        while proving that the universe is unfair."
Around humans so close to the ideal
        we find our old desires to never grow up
        validated:  Peter Pan and Jeffery the giraffe.
They stand so close to the truth
        that it leaves timeless scars.
Six-year-olds
        on the verge of turning sixteen
(so much about the world
        they will not know;
so much about themselves
        they should never know)
remind us the world is an awesome place
        while proving that the universe is unfair.
 ------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0    

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Maudlin Meditations

The Light Reveals All, B&W
"The world continues,
so I have to change, and you
remain the same; I have lost my
co-pilot and
the world has
lost
a friend.

So,
I seek out reasons to
be grateful for life."
I don't
have "happy"
days anymore, only
days in which
I make it back to bed
after sixteen
waking hours
with no emotional trauma.

A sleepless, feverish night allows
the sorrow
of five months to escape in an oozing
eruption of sobbing, weeping,
and whimpering.

What do I do
to make you stay real and complete
in my mind?  Does the pain
come from remembering more
or less?

The world continues,
so I have to change, and you
remain the same; I have lost my
co-pilot and
the world has
lost
a friend.

So,
I seek out reasons to
be grateful for life.
 ------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0    

Monday, January 28, 2013

Formerly Fat

There Once Was Music Here
"I rise up
and run the stairs,
pausing  to lock the
door behind me;
the bell has rung."
I have
powerful
legs from carrying
the weight of it all—
all these years:
your snorting laughter,
the pain in your eyes,
future hope/past regret,
the fun we never had.

I could not grow up
and leave it behind
so I grew out,
became bigger than
all of us put together -
a bigger container.

It was a germ
growing;
fed poison,
it prospered.

Now
I can rise
effortless
out of the chair.
My burden is less;

however,
in the cycle,
guilt follows pain.

I rise up
and run the stairs,
pausing  to lock the
door behind me;
the bell has rung.

Now
I have power;
no one looks
at me with pity.

Only the smallest
piece of you hasn’t
been given away.
 ------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0   

Sunday, January 27, 2013

On The Highway

Country Road That Takes Me Home
"On the highway doing 70,
radio volume set at 30,
screaming along with
Peter, Paul, and Mary."
On the highway doing 70,
radio volume set at 30,
screaming along with
Peter, Paul, and Mary.

White store, weathered gray,
“PRAY” the only word on its
yellow sign.

“That’s what I’m doin'
every day.”

Break for a dead cat,
hold its tail with a folded
piece of resume paper,
and move it to the
side of the road,
there is more dignity
in the tall grass.

“I slipped on the shoulder
and landed on my ass.
Guess, that is the cost.”

Bloody gravel chips from
my palms become floorboard
relics. Let the healing begin.
 ------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0   

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Love, Lather, Repeat

Left Eye - Color
"I remember the pain of
the soap in my eyes
as much
as
her
concern."
My left hand snapped up to
cover my eyes as I washed
my hair this morning; a
nearly
          dead
                   instinct:

As a young child,
in the bathtub,
Mom poured water
over
        my
              head.

So protective of my eyes,
Mom would encourage me
to hold a rag over them
while she cleaned my hair. 

I remember the pain of
the soap in my eyes
as much
as
    her
          concern.

The day I showed her
I could wash myself,
I remember her
looking away
and then
leaving
           the
                 bathroom.

But she was proud
of me when I came
out of the bathroom,
fully dressed and
hair a mess
with my
left
      eye
            red.
 ------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0   

Friday, January 25, 2013

Grey

The Red Lights
"Right and wrong are
small concerns with
open ears and eyes
informing an engaged
mind regulated by..."
Of white or black
I do not see;
life is best seen
in a scale of grey.

When some say "yes"
and others say "no,"
try saying "maybe?"

Right is not decided by
how loudly you shout:
"That's wrong!" 
                         "You're wrong!"

Right and wrong are
small concerns with
open ears and eyes
informing an engaged
mind regulated by
                            compassion,
                                                curiosity,
                            kindness,
                                            love,
                            hope,
                                      wonder,
                                                    generosity...
 ------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

On a Pedestal

Cartoon Woman
"You scratched away in your sketchbook:
Ink on paper,
the shape of her neck and shoulders
and her draping pink coat."
In the back of class
we both had our
                eyes
on the same girl:

short, sandy-blonde hair,
a pretty, smiling face,
heavy, dark-blue sweater
shiny, blue bell-bottoms and
pink, fleece coat hanging over
    the red chair back.

You scratched away in your sketchbook:
Ink on paper,
the shape of her neck and shoulders
and her draping pink coat.
A big pocket and some buttons visible.
You focused on what you could see.

I wrote a few notes in my notebook:
Ink on paper,
lines of poetry that capture an
aesthetic idea and a primal emotion
in images that capture that moment and
all of us in it.
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0   

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Flying Away in Pieces

Waiting For Payday
"The birds do their work
in seconds and fly away...
The only witness
is the white sea bird."
He doesn’t belong
on that bird filled fountain,
but he watches the antics of
black feathers and red feet
around his legs.

The other, smaller, twittering,
flittering birds of all the dusty,
dirty shades in a smog tinted rainbow
amuse the man with their twittering-flittering
and click-clicking.  He rips a thumb
sized piece off the full roll he
would have thrown away.

Little beak and little wings are barely
able to snap the bread off the table.
The bird wobbles in the air under the
weight of the bread. Other twitters
dive at the lucky one; they all hope
to win the prize. 
A full stomach is a full life.

The man watches as the bread is knocked
to the ground.  The black feathers own it now.
The man lets out a roaring laugh.
As the last chuckle leaves his throat
a snow white sea bird with pink toes and
pink beak swoops down, cawing in human tones
as it captures the prize.

Arcing back into the air the bread bobs
down the inside of the bird’s neck.
The black feathers and the twittering-flittering
learned long ago not to look up and
wish for what is gone.

No longer amused, the man tries to shoo away
a twit peddling peace of mind through charity,
hope through a handout.  Unable to dispatch
the twit and unwilling to endure beady stares,
the man rises to leave.

Another lands on his nose. The man snuffs and
puffs trying to blow the little thing away but
the bird pecks at his eyes.
Blinded and in pain
the man drops to the
ground and is
dumped upon by
the flocks of birds.

The birds do their work
in seconds and fly away.
The cleaned bones
clatter to the ground.
The only witness
is the white sea bird.

He already has a full stomach,
full life.
So he leaves,
content.
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0   

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

In this Together

Families By The Wisconsin River
"Playing in the dirt
we were forming
a new language, a new
religion – new lives."
The circle scratched
in the sand was to
show her who I am.

She bent down and
added eyes and
a smile; I
misunderstood.

Playing in the dirt
we were forming
a new language, a new
religion – new lives.

Soon there was a real
little person: real eyes,
real smile – real frown,
real tears.

The circle traced
in the flour was to
be playful, endearing.

She scrapes away half,
leaving the rest; I
now understood.
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0    

Monday, January 21, 2013

We Were Wrong

He Is Old And Cranky But Still Proud
"You would rage
and yell
at the radio,
beating your
fists against
the wheel,
pickup truck
defender of:
the unborn,
the persecuted
believers,
the misunderstood
protester."
We got fat
together, and
I find it
amazing that
we didn't notice
it all then:

the sins
of the family
and of sugar
in our blood.

The box
between us
on the bench
seat slid
back and forth
as we tossed
used, sticky
bakery tissues
into the box
in turns.

You would rage
and yell
at the radio,
beating your
fists against
the wheel,
pickup truck
defender of:
the unborn,
the persecuted
believers,
the misunderstood
protester.

Stretched out,
sleeping off
a glucose high,
my quiet
contentment
was a dangerous
consent.
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0   

Sunday, January 20, 2013

As Long As There Are Eagles

Immature Bald Eagle
"The eagles are filling the sky
again with their whistle screech,
and we have found each other."
“As long as there are eagles,
there is hope for the world,”
you say as they swoop and turn
lazy circles in the crisp
air over the river. 

The eagles have made a
comeback; so have we.
Life did not wipe us out.
We spiral up higher and higher,
our talons hooked tightly.

The eagles are filling the sky
again with their whistle screech,
and we have found each other.
I reply, “As long as there is
love like this the eagles will fly.”
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0   

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Drive Thru

"Girl With Bird"
"If I congratulate her, would
her smile fade or broaden?"
 The teenager
inside the
drive thru
smiles through
tinted glass
while taking
my order.

I pull ahead;
she turns to
fill a soda,
which reveals a
sonogram peeking from
her back pocket.

She hands me my
drink, we exchange money,
and I resist voicing
comments on the picture.

If I congratulate her, would
her smile fade or broaden?

She says, "Have a nice day!"
I take my food and say,

"You too." 
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0   

Friday, January 18, 2013

Care Givers

"When I cried out with her last breath
you were there to comfort me. 

     You joined me
     in sadness." 
When she yelled out in pain,
you comforted her.

     It became your pain;
     you were desperate to help.

I was humbled at your disappointed when you could not.

At 2:00 am when she wanted ice,
you brought it to her with a spoon.

     Often you had to help
     feed her the ice chips.
 
My heart is warmed by the cool relief you brought her.

When she needed a sympathetic ear,
you listened and made no judgments.
 
     You comforted her,
     allowed her anxiety to go.

When I cried out with her last breath
you were there to comfort me. 

     You joined me
     in sadness. 

You also shared the relief that her pain was gone.

(dedicated to the staff of four center
at Gundersen Lutheran - May 21, 2010
)
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0   

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I’m Sorry I Didn’t Reach The Sun

Head And Shoulders Above The Rest
"I reach for my goal;
It is the sun.
The light pulls me up."
The wind blows across
acres of hard ground;
this nervous time
is too much to bear.

I reach for my goal;
It is the sun.
The light pulls me up.

I am so close to it
when someone cuts
off my hands.

The wind blows me away,
tumbling over the hard ground.
The clouds up in the sky
start rumbling down.
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0   

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I See The Green, But Where Are You?

Inspirational Sun Through The Trees
"When I was young, you were my sun.
Now you are a distant star, seen seldom,
never heard from, and moving even farther away;
I cannot even see the red shift."
Your picture causes tears;
the one in my mind had faded.

When I was young, you were my sun.
Now you are a distant star, seen seldom,
never heard from, and moving even farther away;
I cannot even see the red shift.

Could I build a telescope or
construct my own Enterprise
for you to shine on me?

I followed you, you followed me and
then our time together ended.
You went where I couldn’t go;
I didn’t even hear your "I do."
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tomorrow

Jets At Sunset
"Tomorrow I will wake up confronted with
reminders of the past..."
Tomorrow I will wake up confronted with
reminders of the past:
                             the panes in the wall;
                             tubes on the table;
                             frames in the hall; and
                             flesh shades open in mortal fear.

My brain, a dog spiraling round its tether point,
has no choice now but to lie down. 
Sleep:
      The windows are shut,
      the TV is off,
      the pictures are quiet, and
      eyes are peacefully shut. 

Tomorrow is already here. 
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0   

Monday, January 14, 2013

My Righteous Kill

House Spider With Prey, View 2
"I killed
        in retaliation for
        the bite my mother received;
I killed
        to keep others from suffering." 
I
killed
a
spider
this morning. 

It
  fell,
      twitching,
                 to
                   ground
from
    door
        frame.

The blunt end of my pen was
                    covered
with its
soft tissues.

I killed
        in retaliation for
        the bite my mother received;
I killed
        to keep others from suffering. 

I
rinsed
my
pen
in
the
water
fountain
and,
upon reflection,
understand
how
fortunate
men
are
that
spiders
do
not
rationalize
like men.
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0  

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Final Assignment

"Tell us all what
it means to fail
miserably even when you
are doing the best
you can every moment
and where the will
to keep moving hides."
YOU
have reached the peak!
Today is a celebration
of many achievements from
the last four years.
This day solemnly commemorates
how you worked through
all of your classes
and have been enriched
in academics and life.

Some
of you here, however, 
just barely scraped by.
Your last assignment was
turned in thirty minutes
before the principal decided
whether you could take
part in today's graduation.

Our
approach to valediction is
backwards.  I know that
he/she/they worked very hard;
he/she/they deserve much praise.
But for everyone's benefit, 
the one who fought
the hardest, the one
who overcame the most
should be speaking today.

You,
the hardest worker with
the courage to stand
in front of the
whole town, I want
to know what you
would have to say?

You
just finished a marathon
and are tired; so,
you we don't expect
you to be perky.
What have you learned
about working hard, and
about working through pain?
About giving up and
then getting back up?

Your
final assignment: rehearse your
success story and never
hesitate to share how
you have overcome adversity.

Many
won't have any experience
with this - blessed with
good homes, good brains,
and lots of luck.
Tell us all what
it means to fail
miserably even when you
are doing the best
you can every moment
and where the will
to keep moving hides.
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Uncle

"I left him
sipping the last of his beer,
contemplating the attraction of
the water and how
anonymous the
ducks are
floating on the
wide river."
A long dead uncle
                           stumbled
along the bank and
                             sat
by me on a bench facing
                                     the mighty river. 

Alcohol on his
breath, a can
in his hand,
a lived-in khaki
shirt, and war
stories to share.

He had just
                 arrived
in town,
            off the train, and
was curious about
                            my life, and
                                              my future.

He got weepy
            about the past. 
Said he now knew
what the
            line about
                         rockets'
                                    red
                                          glare
meant. 

He shared the mistakes
                                   of a life time and
offered his almost
                           empty beer. I refused,
politely.

He cried and
                    leaned on my shoulder;
I left him
            sipping the last of his beer,
contemplating the attraction of
                                              the water and how
anonymous the             
                       ducks are
                                       floating on the
                                                            wide river.
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0 

Friday, January 11, 2013

We Old Men

Right Eye - B&W
"Products of bleak times;
the only answer left
for us is despair."
We are now thirty-four.
The gleam is gone;
the world is awful.
We've had no part

but picking up pieces,
trying to make whole
people – of ourselves, mostly.
You were the fighter

for those without fists;
I was the voice
for the dumb. Were
we wrong to think

anyone gave a damn?
Least of all those
we “helped.” No combat,
no blood, but plenty

of gore, the ugliness
of human nature is
the challenge for us -
haunts our dreamless nights -

and those who love us.
Products of bleak times;
the only answer left
for us is despair.
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0   

Thursday, January 10, 2013

How Do I Look?

"I
am never handsome
but I believed;
all that mattered
was what you
thought."
Will
I make it
through the day
without my morning
blessing, "You look
handsome!"?

I
am never handsome
but I believed;
all that mattered
was what you
thought.

Can
I make it
through the day
knowing you are
not waiting for
me to come
home?

Do
I make it
through the day
without anticipation of
reward, returning home
for your love?
I guess I
"muddle through somehow"
as the lyric
goes.
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0 

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Speak, Girl, Speak

"...Our dog is always near me and the cats
rush to climb on me when
 I come home; I am only
a substitute for you."
I hold my brindle best friend
( as you did so often) to
ask her if she remembers any
secrets you told her.

I loved that you had conversations
with all the animals. When I
try to talk to them, they
refuse to speak to me; the
 flock flies away when I call,
"Hi there little birds."

 I also still hug the cats
 till they cry. Our dog is
always near me and the cats
rush to climb on me when
 I come home; I am only
a substitute for you.

They are full of life and
 love, but I must prepare for
 the day I must hold them
and lie to them the way
I lied to you.
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0 

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Valentines Day 2006

"There is something beyond love
(greater than love, other than
love) that is so vital.
Why can't we name it?"
 
The world is often wrong.
But you remind me to
rise above the squabbling or
sink below it.  Either way,

you are there, and we
are safe.  I am better
for the "us" we have.

There is something beyond love
(greater than love, other than
love) that is so vital.
Why can't we name it?

Until we identify it, we
can just smirk at each
other and know it works.
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Starry Night

We Build Our Bridges Out Of Light
"This is clear as the orange moon light. Still
it is no less difficult for me;
I live in the place between the twin hills."
I live in the place between the twin hills
where the grass is a green ocean by a gentle sea
and cosmos and chaos have a battle of wills.

Some people (foolish, weary, and ill)
stand and ask me how can it be
I live in the place between the twin hills?

"Simple," I say, "We all can have our fill;
we all have a place on the human tree
as cosmos and chaos have their battle of wills."

This is clear as the orange moon light. Still
it is no less difficult for me;
I live in the place between the twin hills.

Most come and go over these hills;
they believe the climb allows them to not see
how cosmos and chaos have a battle of wills.

Regardless of all I have or how I apply my skills,
I know the battle is still within me.
I live in the place between the twin hills
where cosmos and chaos have their battle of wills.
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0 

Friday, January 04, 2013

Who Will Be Next?

Colorless Sun
"Did anyone see the darkness he hid
behind his childlike eyes?"

They are gone;
that cannot be undone.

"Who will be next
to use a gun?"

"Did he feel unloved?"
No one saw the clues.

"Did he feel alone?"
No one solved the puzzle.

We did not suspect,
until too late.
"Were all the warning signs
dismissed?"

Were there any at all?
"Whoever gave him the idea that
this was his fate?"

"Did anyone see the darkness he hid
behind his childlike eyes?"

No one is to blame.
"Did I miss some clue?"

We will miss them, move on,
value life more (at least
for a few days), and
wish for never again.

The works done with a gun
can never be undone.
They are gone;
that cannot be undone.
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0 

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Four Views Of Your Hands

Hand And Feet
"Woven between my fingers,
your essence, your power. 
You are the warp;
I am the weft."
I
Woven between my fingers,
your essence, your power. 
You are the warp;
I am the weft.
When our hands move
we make a pattern
that rivals the rarest
Persian rug.

II
Your music, tapping fingers/
clicking keys, makes deep
currents of love on
the page conveyed by
a singular monotone that
only changes in frequency,
not quality.

III
With one hand you
control the car; I
hold the other so
I can distract you.
I keep trying as
you drive us safely;
We roll along in ecstasy,
hand holding.

IV
There is wisdom and
experience in your perpetually
cold hands; Rubbing warms
them for a moment. 
One at a time
I cup them and
blow hot air, hoping 
breath enlivens.
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0 

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Story Teller

"As a young man,
the child went to
those books for comfort;
The words had been
rubbed away, made empty."
The stories father told
while touching the pages
proved to the child
that the gray, lumpy
eyes could really see.

He wondered about
father’s charade and
fiction's infinite parade.

The stories of kings
and evil intentions blocked
by good hearts who
sacrifice were intended to
teach his son something.

Even to father
it seemed no
story ever recurred.

As a young man,
the child went to
those books for comfort;
The words had been
rubbed away, made empty.

He boxed the
books and put
Father there instead.
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Leaves

Multi Color Oak Leaves
"...changing your life
only took a strong
gust of wind to
move the
lines a little."
When the leaves
first fell,
my sister and I
would rake the
leaves into lines
and make a
"house" or
a "school."

    We made forts.

Our leaf lines
like blueprints
on the yellowing grass

    I can picture that.

We pretended to
live a simple life,
teacher or student,
mother or father
it is a simple place...
changing your life
only took a strong
gust of wind to
move the
lines a little.
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0