Led Astray

 Led Astray

What invisible monsters do we heed
knowing what we know
about ourselves?

Is it any wonder

our footpaths and streets are fouled

with litter,

and our seas and waterways choked

with plastic?

Had only we chosen as our guide

the likes of

Commandant Jacques Cousteau,

who wrote,

"The glory of nature provides evidence that God exists,"

our world might be more tidied up.

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Anything Helps

Anything Helps

He stood alone in the center island formed
by the intersection of Kolb and 22nd Street. 
 
Sleepy-eyed commuters glanced at his cardboard declarations:
 
Not Homeless.
Not Hungry At The Moment.
A Vet. Just Like You.
 
Sheets of white paper held in one hand flapped like 
seagull wings on the stirred currents of whizzing cars.
 
The light turned, autumn leaf red he supposed.
Cars slowed and rested.
 
Windows slid down.
Elbows protruded.
Voices sang out.
 
“Any of those old-fashioned rhymes today, Poet?”
 
“Hey, man. Make me giggle. Need one terrible like.”
 
“Loved yesterday’s. Read it to my kids at the dinner table.”
 
“Touch my heart. It’s hurtin' bad sore.”
 
“I got a feelin' you're gonna make me cry.”
 
He walked the line. Leaned down. Handed ‘em out.
Touched skin. Stretched his grin.
 
“Morning,” he said. “Feelin’ good today?”  
“Thinkin’ ‘bout yuh,” he said. "Blue skies day."
“Hope this helps,” he said. "Things are gonna get better."
 
The light changed color, golf course green he supposed.
 
Traffic edged away like a reluctant tide going out.
 
Some waved the words out the window in a 
 
see yuh later kinda way
 
and his ribs ached from the banging goin’ on inside. 
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Sustenance

Sustenance

Tis not so much the mac and cheese, 

but rather, 

the imperturbable patience 
of waiting 
for the troubling of the water— 

the softening of the noodles,
crunchy underfoot— 

the precise measurements,
of milk and butter,

and the

sipping from the

slender stemmed glass of soothing chardonnay.
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Deny It Not

Deny It Not

We are of the sea

and of the caves,

though 

time 

has rinsed us clean

of these dim 

memories.

And yet we still long

to splash about, 

ride the tumultuous waves,

and 

explore dark spaces.

Yes, we have

forgotten whence 

we came,

but  

our desperate thirst for water— 

our voracious appetite for meat—

and 

our hideous capacity for violence—

abate not.

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Latin As A Second Language

Latin As A Second Language
 
“Do you understand Latin?” Mr. Horace, the vice-principal, asked.
Standing my ground, I admitted to terra firma.
After all, I was in the midst of a second trimester of seventh grade Latin. 
At twelve years of age I was quite small then.
 
The spilled marbles cascading about the classroom had tripped me up. 
Needle and thread. 
I must remember me to patch the hole in my jacket pocket. 
Important details. 

“Do you know what innuendo means?” Horace asked. 
He’d closed the door to his office.
“Vaguely,” I replied. "Insinuating something wicked about a valued classmate?"
"Close enough,” he said, torching up a cigar.
 
When Ms. Strangle heard the marbles roll, every girl in the class had turned and stared at me.
 
 How about ipso facto?” he asked.
“Never heard of it,” I admitted, silently cursing my ignorance. 
“I may have been down with malaria that day.”
I gave him a moment, then added, “Or something much worse.”
 
 
“The enemy of one’s enemy, ipso facto, is a friend,” Mr. Horace recited proudly. 
“Ms. Strangle accuses you. Ray Cole vouches for you.”
“Ipso facto,” I said.
“Bully for them.”
 
When the marbles rolled, Ray had stood and pointed at Lucky Lucy Rabbitz, a known felon.  
Lucky Lucy sat two desks behind me, and had done hard time somewhere in Tukwila. 
She sharpened her pencils as if she were honing carving knives.
The hair on my neck stood on end every time she came near.

“Are you at all familiar with locus delicti?” Horace asked. 
“Of course,” I replied. 
“The scene of a crime. But in this instance, no crime was committed.”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” he said, blowing cigar smoke in my face.
 
Mom smoked cigars of course, but I got carsick when she did, so I never took it up. 
I felt the familiar gagging deep in my throat.
The air was so thick with cigar smoke I could barely make out Mr. Horace’s face.
I fumbled through my Latin note cards. “Getting nauseous in here,” I said.  

“Not my problem,” he replied.
“Do you play marbles during recess?’ he asked, his voice piercing the thick cloud.
Interdum, I said. 
“When the mood strikes.”
 
“Did the mood strike you this morning?” he asked. 
He moved the cigar’s glowing tip close to my face.
“No. I played tether ball with my colleagues to relieve the stress brought
on by studying Latin under the clumsy guidance of Ms. Strangle.”  
 
“Odd,” he said. “She thinks otherwise.”
 
“She has been misinformed,” I said. 
“An obvious instance of ad absurdum by a consortium of tattlers.” 
I added a footnote. “Let’s face it, some people are not cut out to teach seventh grade.”
I paused for effect. “But she might make a dandy cafeteria supervisor.” 

Mr. Horace giggled. 
“I was thinking the exact same thing,” he said, stubbing out the cigar on his desktop. 
“Off with you now, kid. Stay out of trouble. Do no harm. You’ve a knack for cover-up. 
Go to law school. Et cetera.” 
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In The Beginning

In the Beginning
 
Before a piece of writing
is published,
 
it is raw rhubarb,
sour to the senses. 
 
Granted, editing
is much easier now
 
than during the
quill and inkwell days
 
when supplies were dear
and research time consuming.
 
But editing is still
more the chore than treat.
 
There will always be a better 
word to be found,
 
a more precise 
image to be described,
 
and a sweeter 
sound of rhyme.
 
I suppose 
God 
wishes
our
useless appendix
was so easily remedied.
 
But then, that work 
took 
a mere seven days.
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