Dirty Laundry

Dirty Laundry

I'd been digging a trench
from our well pump to
the house most of the morning.

My hands were eleven years old then,
and angry blisters had ripped
open the skin.

My stepfather, reeking
of tobacco and whiskey,
came out to supervise.

"Deeper and faster," he said.
"The pipes will freeze where
you're putting them."

An hour later he returned for
a second look. "You'd better get
a good education, sonny boy," he said,

"because you're the
laziest sonofabitch
I've ever seen."

I learned important lessons that day about
blisters and frozen pipes, but most valuable
of all was discovering what the man thought of

Mom and me.

Never have been able to
forget those lessons.

Shunned him, I did.

Listened to Mom, I did.

Took myself to college, I did.
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In Memoriam

Note: Today is the first year anniversary of the 
cold-blooded murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
My poem was written shortly after his death
to clarify his killers' utter cruelty.

A Wedding Dirge

Ezekiel connected dem dry bones,

Mr. Khashoggi? What a nice surprise.
What brings you to Istanbul?

What else? My love waits in Istanbul.
Now hear the word of the Lord.

Backbone connected to the shoulder bone,
Shoulder bone connected to the neck bone.

I need the required Marriage Document.
Now hear the word of the Lord.

Neck bone connected to the head bone,
Head bone connected to the arm bone.

Please come with us, Mr. Khashoggi.
Now hear the word of the Lord.

Hatice is waiting outside. She'll be worried.
Now hear the word of the Lord.

Arm bone connected to the wrist bone,
Wrist bone connected to the hand bone.

We insist, Mr. Khashoggi! You dare to write!
You overstep the bounds! You dare to criticize!

I write only of the truth. Is truth a crime?
Please. Our wedding is soon. Hatice. Hatice.

Hand bone connected to the finger bone,
Finger bone connected to the truth bone.

There is a dear price to pay, Mr. Khashoggi!
Now hear the word of the Lord.

I cannot breath! Please! I beg of you. Have mercy!
Now hear the word of the Lord.

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No Problem

No Problem
 
I learned my manners at Mother’s knee
until the words came naturally.
 
She taught me to say, “Yes, please,” 
and “Thank you,” and “You’re welcome,” 
 
until the words came naturally.
 
So when I fell and skinned my knee
or riled up a stinging bee,
 
I didn’t screech or foul the air— 
just pretended I didn’t care—
 
and nice words came naturally.
 
“Oh my,” I’d say to searing pain,
hoping my spot in Heaven gain.
 
I’ve lived my life while years have passed,
and know manners  have changed so fast,
 
still my words come naturally. 
 
And so I flinch, and cringe, and care
when the F word flies through the air.
 
When I say, “Thank you,” for kindness done,
some how the reply has become— 
 
“No problem,” spoken naturally.
 
I wonder too if Mothers have changed,
or greater forces have prevailed,
 
so that manners no longer matter
in our daily pleasant chatter,
 
and cheap words come so naturally? 
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Unanswered Prayer

Unanswered Prayer

When i was a boy Mother insisted i attend Sunday School and Church each Sunday, though she never once stepped through the door. 

i occupied a pew beside my sisters, and thought about baseball, rocks, golf, fishing, and just about anything else but our Lord and Savior. 

one fine morn there was a special feature—a woman came from afar to play glorious music on her harp for all to hear. 

wait a minute, i thought. Harp is a light Irish beer, and i’d much rather have a cold glass of it right now than her and that danged harp.

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Falling

           Falling
 
It’s a long way down
off cliff, bridge, or towering roof
 
when despair grips aching heart.
 
It’s a long way down
when illness slams final door,
 
and rips grieving family apart.
 
It’s a long way down
when phone shakes sleep awake,
 
long before another day should start.
 
It’s a long way down
when friends offer honest prayers,
 
meaning only kindness to impart.
 
It’s a long way down
off curb, or chair, or unmade bed,
 
when despair grips aching heart.
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Shirts And Skins

Shirts and Skins
 
There is a game like no other.
 
Its more sophisticated 
big brother,
basketball,
 
favors those born with 
 
extra long legs,
 
coiled springs for muscles,
 
and 
 
cat-like quickness.
 
The plainer version, 
usually played 
out of the spotlight
on outdoor courts,  
is known by the uniform 
the players wear.
 
Though the two games 
are similar in many ways,
 
basketball is played 
much closer to the rim 
at a faster pace
 
than we ordinary humans 
can manage.
 
But, if the outcome of a contest
between the two were
to be determined only by 
 
grit, hustle, desire,
and
love of the game
 
lay your money down on
the
 
Shirts and Skins. 
 
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