Ghosts of Christmas,( Present)
At night as child my mother would tell me
that crickets made noises to call out the names
of all of the babies who missed evening formation
who were out after dark ...
in the warm summer evening,
who forgot to come home or were out playing games.
"When babies get lost in the wet southern summer
crickets all search together " ,
(or so Mother said)
until all of the babies are found for the evening
and given hot chocolate and sent off to bed.
You say that your mother would hear this same chirping,
She would say to look up
and would point to the sky., She would say,
" You are hearing the sounds that the stars make
as they hang in the night,"
And your heard their soft voices
and you hung on her words as you looked at the sky
" The sound that the stars make,"
that sounds so appealing
and so much more romantic than what we discover
, a frustrated insect who's hoping to mate,
( you can rub your legs raw and still not find a lover)
Science calls up an image of thousands of crickets
all looking and lonely, with knee joints aflame.
All looking for love
( or an evenings, enjoyment)
chirping anyone's number and anyone's name
Crickets lead shortish lives that are brutish and briefish compared
children who keep them in jars,
the children however have lives just as fleeting when measured in
of firefly stars.
On my dusty front doorstep a cricket sits shining, like a red rusty
with a bright cricket song...
it occurs that I hope that our mothers were right
and that what science tells us is wrong.
I am the father of the Dungeon Master
He is twelve and unafraid
He lives in his room
With his rat, Gothar
He whispers at night and plans are made
To slay dragons and cats
when fast asleep...
But the best laid plans of rats and men.
get lost in the litter of the castle keep.
The Dungeon Master's rat, Gothar
With glowing eyes, the pet from hell
steals bubble gum from the lower desk drawer
drags it back to his prison
across the floor
While... preening in the windowsill
With fresh strawberries and toasted
oats The Dungeon Master's sisters rat
licks her face and cleans her coat.
Comes the Gatekeeper
laundry basket offering
piled high with clothes to throw on the floor
I the Gatekeeper, with one free hand
Knock three times on the bolted door
"Before the sun sets in the west and before the end of the day
you must answer me these questions three before you go out to play."
Forty seven and unafraid
I peer into the gloom,
"What is your name.
and what is your quest,
and have you cleaned up your room"?
But clever Gothar
scuttles from light with Halloween candy cluched in his teeth
Gleefully hides the cracker jacks
beneath the clothes,that litter the floor,
of the cage where his master sleeps.
My son asks me questions as we run the ditch road
he breathing easily (He runs like a cat) .
I, gasping and sweating, dry-mouthed and dry-lunged
with puffs of dust bursting in the road where I spat.
Racing loosely beside me a Thompson's gazelle
with poems in his soul and wings on his feet,
while I struggle to fill my dry ravaged lungs
made impotent by the middle age spread I have reached.
Our feet scuff and scatter the dry rotting granite,
The stones skip and scatter under dry tortured knees.
I see my son's legacy shadow before me,
dodging mirrored mud puddles through shadows of trees.
"How do people make sweat, how do people make spit,
how do people make earwax and tears?"
He asks knowing well I will tell him the answer
through knowledge-stained lips the wisdom of years.
I explain that the sages who work on retainer
and we who think ourselves wise,
all ask of ourselves the very same questions,
and with knee joints aflame, wipe the sweat from my eyes.
"Your question is studied by wise men and prophets
and by jesters who juggle for kings.
It's mumbled by wizards who peer into smoke
for the answers in mirrors, these very same things."
We run on for awhile as I give a long lecture
on hydro osmosis of plasma
And we dance dodging waterfilled ruts in the road,
an old dilettante suffering from asthma.
I explain in great detail the permentation of membrane
and saline transfer through soft tissue.
"Stop Dad". says my son, "... that's not what I meant".
The chemistry wasn't the issue.
"How do people make spit? Do they make it from tears ?"
are all of these one and the same?"
"Does the sweat and the spit come out of your blood ?"
"Does the earwax come out of your brain ?"
With the possible exception of earwax, my son,
these things are all one and the same.
The sweat and the spit come from holding back tears.
Tears come from holding back pain.
It's all just the same, just ask anyone who is a crier or spitter or
( But the earwax is different, and like lint in your navel,
the less said about it the better).
Ghosts of Christmas,( Present)
Treelot pointed plastic flags
Snap sharply in the wind
Like whips that flay the flesh from Christ
Our shallow breaths fog icy nights
We tread on shards of colored lights
And sell his trees again
Sawdust floats on icy puddles
Noble pine and Douglas Fir
Where yellow finches sit and preen
Play tag then call then flit unseen
Among the trees we walk between
Of frankincense and myrrh
We take them from a common pile
The trees are tightly tied with twine
We set them free and shake them out
With hemp the sacrifice is bound
We sort them out by shape and style
And line them up in single file
To walk Golgothas final mile
Like dominoes the trees blow down==
I could make it somehow if my loved ones all left
if my job were replaced by machine
If the IRS visited my home in the night
or if teenager vandals broke into my car and I froze both my feet
lost on a mountain and my nose and my toes and my fingers turned
As I groggily open one eye at a time
and my head starts to pound
and my hands start to shake
I wonder if life would be even worth living without chocolate to eat,
without coffee to make.
To the four major food groups
I've added a fifth
to my breakfast of poached eggs and toast
a Hershey Bar eaten with freshly ground blends
of Kona or Sumatra
but mostly French Roast.
The French are quite brutish and nasty and crude
and they spit on the ground at America's feet.
Their commitment to NATO, they'd rather avoid.
They scratch places in public
and pee in the street.
They are haughty as peacocks, charge too much for wine,
and they talk like their mouth's full of gravel.
At least that's what I'm told by the few friends I have
or at least by my few friends who travel.
But let's give them the credit where credit is due,
for I'm told they can cook and can sew,
and the coffee they make is the best in the world
and I drink enough coffee to know.
So I crawl out of bed and I stagger downstairs
My voice all aquiver, my dim eyes grow moist
as I fumble for coffee, my head starts to clear...
Clearly French Roast is my drug of choice.
A Jerusalem Cricket in a mid-life crisis
cursing God and asking ,"Why?"
Profound in urgent desperation
struggling against the rising tide.
You didn't think clearly. You should have done better.
... you brought it all on with the choices you made.
It's all your own fault and you know you deserve it.
(Robert Burns writes of mice and the plans that they laid.)
On the far Western bank of a block of green soap
in a urinal struggling I heard his sad cry...
I stared down transfixed, as in a dream
at the porcelain fixture I was sent down to clean
the nastiest insect I'd ever seen
and the ugliest way to die.