To Be or Not To Be

as soon as I sat down in my chair on the
patio it started to rain again

I had to wear a light vest and as I lit a late
afternoon cigar I listened to

what seemed to be a host of kettle drums
sitting on the metal roof that would fade

in and out

then it slowed down to the sound of big
drops running off the roof to the worn

grass below that looked like a giant sheet
on a player piano rolling down

now that reminded me of the Steinway
that sat in our living room and

my piano teacher who quit

sometimes kids can’t be forced to be who
their parents wanted to be or want them to be

this can set the stage for a life of failure upon
failure upon failure

to this day I can sing some say as sweetly as
Nancy Wilson but I can’t play a thing

or read music yet there has been a choir or
two here and there

and that nervous but fine solo on Danny Boy

but my folks spent a lifetime discouraging me
from doing anything that I wanted to do

so acting and singing among other things
simply faded away like most of my dreams

much like the rain falling off the roof to
the ground

Along the River

the first of a string of cold nights
and mild days are a welcome
change

I am not outside at my usual
time so the stillness and quiet
are very refreshing

I can hear the drone of a lawn
being cut probably at the church
and a siren far away

add a loud bird and I think it may
be stereo another lawn being
cut on the other distant side of me

my tea went from sipping hot to
cool enough to gulp if I want to
with less than half a cup left

do you know what is missing
my steno pad as I opted to bring
my laptop outside for the first

time so my Namiki fountain pen
already a relic by age alone is now
a sure sign of my past

thirty-five years ago or so on a
day like today I’d walk from my
Kaserne to a bench along the

Nahe River to sit and fill a
notebook with all the woe is
me of the day and to pray

or cry

no cell phones and no PCs really
just a few word processors at
work using large CP/M disks and

floppies I think
about one sip of cold tea to go

you know the same God who
used to hear my cries then
as I looked out over the river

hears me now

I for one am glad that some
things don’t change and God
is one of those things

my father God has never
forgotten one of my tears as
we sat along the river

Tomorrow’s Train

the horn blasts of the noon train
were distorted floating in and out
on the strong and gusty winds

the sounds of this train faded to
the right of where I sat on the
back patio

a second faster train followed
horn blasting through town as it
moved away heading north

It seems that my dreams were
not in the wind or on a train

they pile up in my memory like
railroad ties stacked up in an
abandoned siding yard

birds don’t dream they fly
can you tell a bird not to fly
same-o same-o

people don’t fly they dream
can you tell people not to dream

at this point I doubt my dreams
will come true they could they
might but so far they never have

so I’ll be waiting for the wind and
tomorrow’s train

They Still Are

A swarm of birds, if there is
such a thing, flustered by the
coming storm vacated the
tallest pine one street over.

A butterfly zigzagged across
the back yard a few feet above
the lawn. In this wind it couldn’t
fly straight if it had to.

They never fly straight, do they?

I think the wind gusts up to forty
miles per hour have begun. One
big flying bug didn’t get the memo.
All bug operations have been

cancelled today due to weather.
Take a bug maintenance day instead.
Not a bug or critter in sight. I always
think of my Irish Uncle John on my

birthday on St. Patrick’s Day.

I’m guessing I was about ten which
made his daughter, Murphy, around
twenty or so. Long before I knew
girls existed, she was the fairest of

the fair. Uncle John made me feel
special when there was nothing
special. Thank you, Uncle John.
You are the only one who told me

that all today’s parades were really
for me. For my birthday. Because of
you, they still are for me.

Joyful Interlude

At some point I stopped
listening to music. For me
it was someone else’s joy.

Someone else’s story.
Not mine. Abuse of any
kind stops the music

of your life.

My LP records sit on a
shelf. I thumb through
them from time to time.

I can’t play my music
CDs either. I don’t want
to revisit a life of abuse.

Songs stir memories
I rather not have. But I
long for the sweet and

joyful interlude that
was written only for me.

[Author’s note: FYI, there is an exception. I have a group of CDs known as my car music, e.g., The Manhattans, Huey Lewis, The Commodores, to name a few, that I listen to on and off. But they stay in the car.]

Who I Was

It is a warm seventy-five for
a day in February, with a
refreshing gust of wind from
time to time.

One street over, the same
dog that barked its head off
yesterday is doing it today.

I’d guess that it was the same
train that went through with
a different engineer because

the horn blasts were new. It
was two shorts and long. Rest
and repeat. Rest and repeat.

What came next I couldn’t see.
It came and went too fast to go
take a look. The sound of a

military jet was so ear breaking
awesome, I was ready to reenlist
on the spot!

For me, twenty years in the army
flashed by with the sound of the
jet. That dog is still barking.

Daily I am faced with the reality
that I can no longer do what I
loved to do so long ago and not
so long ago.

I must be content with the things
I can do now. As I have gotten
older I rather do more, not less.

The Lord knows our limitations,
but we serve a God who shows us
his unlimited grace.

I trust God will open yet another
door I now cannot see. The dog is
tiring. I, too, may be tired.

But I do not tire of your grace or
your love for me. Age has stepped
in but my time is in your hands.

By your unending grace, I can serve
you as I am now because you are
the God who made me who I was

with the knowledge of who I was
to become.

Was Me

In my mind, that place where fantasy
and I meet, I watched wave after wave
crash on the shore. I saw heartache

after heartache wash away the lines
in the sand. You can’t cross a line if
it isn’t there, can you?

I looked up at the dunes. I saw a big
woman waving to me. “Come on!” she
waved with one hand while the other

kept a large floppy sun hat on her
head. On the beach the sand was hot
in the midday sun and the water was

cold but there was always wind on
the dunes. Her light sundress blew
against her side and back.

I started to walk up the steep path
from the beach to the dunes. I lost
sight of her where the path zigzagged

as I neared the place where she stood.
When I got to the top, it became clear
that the woman was me.

As I laughed and sighed, I looked at
the beach. I saw a little boy playing
alone in the sand. He looked up.

There was something about him that
said he always plays alone. As I
waved, “Come on!” I knew that the

skinny tanned little boy was me.

The Unspeakable

It was early in the afternoon.
We closed the bedroom door
and did what we said we’d do.

My wife asked me to tell her
about what happened to me
when I was a child.

I have seldom spoken about
the unspeakable, undoable,
unthinkable, unbelievable.

All true. We walked through
the secret places of my
childhood sexual abuse.

When I was eight years old,
I lost a lifetime but I didn’t
learn about it until I was fifty.

You listened and loved me with
each word I spoke. You love me
for all that we will share and do.

What I know, all that I hoped for,
longed to do, and deeply desired
would never be the same as we

take a new road together that
rose out of the fire and ashes
of the unspeakable.

The Truth

fantasy is not a friend

it makes you want what
you can’t have

and try to become who
you were not meant to
be

fantasy is a false enabler
of the mind

all that is true becomes
false and all that is false
becomes true

but only in your mind
not my mind

you own yours and I own
mine and our end will
always be based on

the truth

Odds and Ends 2.20

I am sitting out back on the patio where I usually sit on a stack of pavers that sits next to the hose reel. I use the other short pile of pavers as a table. Just big enough for a cup of ice water and a pen or some such thing. My phone is small enough to rest on the hose reel.

With my pen in one hand and cigar in the other and steno pad on my lap, I try to put my finger on what is so odd about this day after Election Day. I am not sure there is any difference between today after this election day or the day after a hangover. Neither of them memorable or so it would seem.

Looking around, it is actually a perfect no day. No bees, no hornets, no mosquitos, no flies, no squirrels, no birds, no dogs, no cats, no people, and no election day results. But like it or not, I believe there is anxiety in the air.

So, my God, I must ask. God, I am not asking you for my pick, I am asking You for Your pick. The likes of Lincoln, FDR, Reagan are gone. (I know there are more, but I can’t think of any others who stand out at the moment.) I served twenty years in the Army to support our country. It is our duty and privilege to vote. I didn’t want our country to go down the tubes then and I don’t want our country to go down the tubes now.

It is so quiet I can hear the distant rumble and whistle of the mid-afternoon train slowly making its way through town.

Any day now we will learn who won the election and I will thank you, Lord, for the next president you have allowed to serve your purposes for America and in the world.

Closing thoughts.

For me, someday this election will be a distant memory like all the other presidential elections that preceded it. Election Days come and go. My peace in this annoying, anxious, gut wrenching election process, regardless of the outcome, is You, my God.

The presidents or leaders of countries change. But praise God, Lord, You never change—you are the same yesterday, today, and forever. May God bless America.