Rosemary

Rosemary

Toward the end of 6th grade,
on a school field trip, 

Rosemary, 
much larger than I, 

grabbed me hard by the throat 
and kissed me full on the lips. 

I recoiled in horror, and wiped my mouth of it. 

She’s gone now, and she never gave me another.


Some nights, late and alone in the dark,

I long for one more,

but, it was a once in a lifetime event.
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The Handshake

 The Handshake

Can you see a narrow path, just wide enough for one
where two men chanced upon each other a long time ago?
In the morning glory, witnessed by a watchful sun—
did they stop and stare, and wonder, friend or foe?

Can you hear the roaring silence of unbridled fear,
louder than the wails of most destructive storm?
When men came face-to-face, blood pounding in the ear—
eyes wild for escape, sensing death’s true form? 

Can you feel the breath of danger cold upon your face,
and hair upon your neck bristling to attention?
Were two molded statues, crafted from God’s race—
rooted as the oak or maple, actions still undone?   

Can you see the younger of the two, stalwart as could be, 
his empty palms extended, no killing blade secret there?
Was hatred harbored in his heart, more difficult to see—
or reflected in his eyes as youthful courage rare? 

Can you hear the other man, older yes, tall and lean,
notch mute arrow and string his curved bow?
Was language infant then, the world still raw and mean—
that no words passed between them, oh so long ago?

Can you feel a seething warmth lick across your skin, 
a glistening swath where death simmers hot and near?
Were words so few that your actions cradled sin—
and in your throat you feel the choking grip of fear?

Can you see a selfish path where brave men often kill,
and must in desperate haste decide another’s fate?
Do you see a fiery blacksmith’s forge, hearts upon the anvil—
shaping desperate lives, facing heaven’s yawning gate?

Can you feel survival strain, amid death’s insistent call,
when the one with most to lose, smiled and stepped aside?
Can you feel the forest’s breath release a sigh for all—  
where two men chose civility over instinct to abide? 

Can you see a narrow path where many need to walk,
and a pleasant widening grew, and many pause to talk?
Where empty hands were grasped to show no harm was meant—
and where a wordless truce between two men was heaven sent?

Guilt

 
Guilt

A storm’s wrath had wrenched
the robin’s nest from the tree above.

Jerry and i, boys of ten or so,
stumbled upon it the next morning.
The mother robin stood her ground,
fluffing her red chest in defiance.

We two, pretenders of brave big game hunters,
executed her with a BB gun, and laughed about it.

Jerry grew up, played big-time college football,
and became a famous California detective. 

i went on to teach children our language,
and
lay bare my shame in poetry.

Speed Demons

Speed Demons

In our frantic dash through life,
we’ve devised

microwave ovens,
self-checkout lanes,
next day delivery,
and
blazing gigahertz.

Thank God for

slow summer days

that draw sweet corn seed seven feet toward heaven,
lingering kisses in the night,
and
the nine loving months that mother and child
are one.
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No Chance Encounter, This

No Chance Encounter, This

The hall seethed.
Movement.
Noise.
Teenagers herded
between classes.

He stepped in front of me,
an adult out of place,
white shirt and tie.

Like us, he had two eyes,
but one,
unmoving,
stared sightless
over my shoulder.

His good eye,
working for two,
eyed mine.

He minced no words.
"I hear you can write."

He might as well
have accused
me of breathing.

We all had been taught
the ancient symbols of
the alphabet,
the letters,
their shape,
their sounds,
the possible combinations.

We’d learned together—

See Jane run.
See Spot jump.
See Bob climb.

Ten years had passed
in the turning of a page.

Nouns. Verbs. Sentences.

We all could write.

I'd told no one
I treasured the books.
Only Mother knew.
She'd confiscated
the flashlight
more than once.

"My name is O'Sammon.
I teach the journalism elective.
I'd like you to sign up.
I think you'll be good at it."

He'd singled me out of the herd.

Someone had ratted me out.

I did.
I was.

A teacher made all the difference
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