Poems

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Gecko Love

It is late and you are gone

and only the gecko remains

hidden somewhere in this room.

With his star-fingered hands

he wriggles across the walls

as if scribbling a secret message

making his sad chirping sound

which is his cry and mating call.

His pale, transparent body

and dark, vulnerable eyes

watched over us once, witness

to our many nights together.

But tonight he is in hiding

and his sad call echoes off the walls

like the clicking of a restless clock

as if he too were missing you.

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Green Flash

We were wrong—the world

is not black and white

or so many shades

of gray—it is more

colorful than we

ever imagined.

What we saw touched us

that day on the beach

and though both of us

had seen countless suns

sink into the sea

with other lovers

neither of us had seen

the mystical green flash

until that evening

when the red sun sank

into the blue sea

and a sigh of wind

breather over us both—

there for one moment

a green flash hovered

on the horizon

glowing in our eyes

and though some will say

it was an allusion

like magic or love

(a trick of the eye,

a game of the heart)

I know it was real—

As real as you, me,

the sun and the sea.

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Lost Contact

As a boy, I dreamed of jungles wild with beasts

but dreams will fade with time and failing sight.

Now contacts cover my eyes (like plastic scales)

and the only beasts I see are caged or leashed.

Yet near a park in the city’s maze last night

while walking home, lost in the day’s details,

a lens fell from my eye and a film of tears

transformed the park into a jungle of trees.

All things seemed to melt and flow together:

my eyes were flooded, lights became like spears—

the lion wind roared through trembling leaves,

the rainy street became a brackish river

and while I wandered down its banks half-blind

the world was wild again and lost in time.

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The Church of Right Now

Whether it’s Saturday night or Sunday morning

or a weekday afternoon at Kaimana Beach

a work lunch, birthday dinner or weekend brunch

we celebrate the holy Sabbath of our friendship

whenever and wherever we are gathered together

in the church of what’s happening right now.

We are a diverse lot of expats, locals and pilgrims

with different creeds, cultures and dietary needs—

Christians, Jews, hoales, Asians, vegans and omnivores.

We wear jeans, dresses, business suits and bikinis

but we all follow the lead of our inner naked yoginis.

We have straight, curly, blond, brown and black hair

some thick, some thinning and some with none at all.

We ride bikes and motorcycles, drive SUV’s and EV’s

and run or swim with the rising and setting of the sun.

We are movers and skaters, surfers and soccer players

ultimate athletes and dancers always in motion.

We are enviros, foodies, fashionistas, writers, teachers

and consultants of health, wealth and sustainability.

We don’t make lots of money but do make a difference.

We are hip and funky but not too cool for grad school.

We are the Kaimana Krew and we get Canadian drunk

When there’s a birthday, holiday or any excuse to party, eh.

As different and unique as each of us is, we share

a love of each other and our eccentric personalities

a hunger for good conversation, music and art after dark

a thirst for wine and song, whiskey and poetry

and a lust for eating, drinking, laughing and dancing—

followed by a day of rest at the beach so we can recover.

So raise your glasses to each other and let’s celebrate

the spirit and flow of friendship that brings us together

in the holy church and sacred temple of right here and now.

And in thanks we say, Amen, Aloha, Shalom and Namaste.

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 Church of Bones

Three summers ago in Rome we wandered

into the Church of Bones and saw walls adorned

with the skeletal remains of countless monks.

There in that underground chapel you held my hand

as we slowly walked down the dirt aisle, staring

at the morbid artwork–masterpieces of bone

made from every part of the body:  skull arches

above us and a delicate chandelier of tibia and fibula,

star shapes made from jaw bones and femurs,

a lei of vertebrae around a smiling skull,

a winged hour-glass made with shoulder blades

to show how time flew even in the Dark Ages,

and an ornate pattern of pelvises, hollow hips

where desire once flared and faded like a flower–

all these remains laid out by some graveyard artist

who wanted to glorify God with his brothers’ bones.

With each step, you squeezed my hand and I held

my breath wondering if love could endure such death.

Then we saw the dark sign at the end of the aisle

and stood there staring at the haunting message

of those disembodied monks who still speak to me:

WHAT YOU ARE NOW, WE ONCE WERE.

WHAT WE ARE NOW, YOU WILL ONE DAY BE.

Alone now on my return to the Church of Bones

I recall how their words left us silent and numb–

that was their message and these are their bones

but I have a message of my own:  REMEMBER–

WHAT WE ONCE WERE, WE MAY ALWAYS BE.

We walked down this dirt aisle together once, alive

and in love, our souls married in that dark sanctuary.

But now they dim the lights in the Church of Bones,

a gesture from the Brothers, it is time to move on.

 (Published in The Atlanta Review, 1998)

PeteyDog-RIP

Disguises of God

If we were really made in God’s likeness

something strange occurred during evolution

making us stranger with each generation

and now I wonder if she’d even like us.

But we are blessed by angelic beings

who roam and play among us in disguise

and only when we look into their eyes

can we see who we were meant to be.

God hides in the hearts of these loyal creatures

who love and protect us and make us believe

in life again until the day when they must leave

and we bow down before our greatest teachers.

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The King’s Dream (For My Father)

Two score and ten years ago today
under the gaze of the great emancipator
an exiled King came back to the Capitol
of his country. He spoke to large crowds
about a dream that would unite the people
where sons of former slaves and slave owners
would sit down together at the same table.
Watching your childhood friend came to mind
Sonny, the sharecropper’s boy, who was
like a brother on your grandfather’s farm,
a former plantation. You played and ate
together till they told you it was time to part
because he was black and not your kind.
But he always remained in your heart.

Years later you tried to reach out to the King.
You were both young ministers in Atlanta
each with four kids on opposite sides of town
and you had called him to make a connection
trying again to break through the barriers
of the color line that divided the country.
But that meeting never happened because
you were called to a church in Charleston
and the slow road toward integration.
But he was hounded across the country
caught in the crosshairs of history
then called home in a flash of glory
and the muffled sound of a rifle shot.

Even after the King was killed, his words
lived on in you and all those he touched.
As we pause to honor this man let us return
to the capitol where he once spoke and hear
the nation’s first black leader pay homage
to the former King and the great emancipator.
Though the country is divided once again
And it feels like our dreams are dying
when greed still reigns over those in need
when black boys are still shot in the streets
and bullets rain down upon the innocents
I will always remember what you taught me:
the King’s dream cannot be killed.

Madonna and child

Madonna and Child

A Trailways bus, a country highway, dusk.
The driver, a sallow old insomniac,
is intimate with each curve in the road;
he sits on a pillow, bony hands steering
his shuttle along a memorized route.
Across from me sits a young black woman,
her bundled infant still asleep in her lap.
The reading-light makes a vision of them.
I wonder who and where the father is…
Dozing, only to be awakened by
loud crying, I see her holding his ankles
and rubbing cream onto his bottom and knob.
The baby struggles, his mouth open wide
in O-shaped agony, his eyes squeezed shut
against the chill and dark of a winter night,
his tiny-fingered fists waving in air,
not wholly innocent but innocent still.

Across the night deep in the valley below,
a dome of purple light lies over the city
like bright Atlantis many leagues away,
a world just waiting for discovery…
for me it’s just another Southern town.
The mother breathes in deeply, closes her eyes
and tries to see their fate, hers and her boy’s.
I whisper softly, “Let them be all right,”
wondering if anyone overheard
my unaddressed prayer. Kissing his chest,
his chin, his forehead, blessing his brown body,
she stirs him from the world of sleep to see
beyond the rushing dark and dying stars
the city’s constellation—there they will
begin again. The boy’s unfocused eyes
are opening, about to cry, but then he sees
the face (arrayed in light) that gave him life.
He feels the arms around him gently sway
and hearing her whispered words in his ear
his mouth opens in O-shaped ecstasy
(revealing toothless gums and speechless tongue)
and forms the sound of inexpressible joy.

A Last Look From My Father's Steeple

A Last Look From My Father’s Steeple

This is your first time and my last time
up the narrow winding stairs
where we slowly make our steep climb.
My father preached beneath this steeple.
Hands on the walls, our fingers
read the old brick like Braille.
Up the groaning wooden stairs
where your perfume lingers
we slowly continue to climb
wishing there was a rail
or something in the dark to hold on to.
As we ascend the hour draws near.
Climbing around the clockwork
we spot on the wall where years before
I’d scrawled my name—I was here.
You smile and I can only smirk.
Past the huge bells I hurry you
for the hour draws near.
Finally reaching the door,
framed and splintered with light,
I unbolt it and step on through
to show you what we came here for:
God, what a view from this height!
From my father’s steeple,
we can see the entire city up here:
houses, trees and cars, people
walking in the streets below;
modern port and sunken pier;
the Cooper River Bridge, whose arcs
span over the gray water’s gentle flow;
buildings, parking lots and parks.
The skyline is needled with spires.
Of the Four Corners of Law,
this church stands tallest and inspires
within me the deepest awe.
In your light-hearted way,
you tell me, I thought palms
only grew where I come from in L.A.
Then you ask me seriously,
Do you have any…you know, qualms
about moving out there?
leaving the South behind?
Watching the wind through your hair
I realize Charleston won’t change my mind.
Looking around my hometown
gently squeezing your eager hand,
I hear the clock turn and then the bells
begin tolling over the time-kept land.
The hour’s come and I pull you near.
There will be no final farewells
but remember, we were here.

 

 

 

 

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