Memorial Day Weekend
It’s the month of Memorial Day and the sun is shining after cloudy weather for most of the previous week. And everyone we love and miss who has died and is gone now and will forever be gone except for in our memories of them is as equally dead today as they will be tomorrow and over the weekend and into the Monday when we have a special day set aside to think about them. Patti and I have been thinking about how and whom to entertain and on what days. And should we go with hot dogs or chicken or burgers or steak on the barbeque? And beer or margaritas? And whether I can get the pool up and running right. After all, it’s the official beginning of summer: white shoes and cargo shorts and a new umbrella for the patio furniture. So much to think about! Does it strike anyone else as especially absurd, almost wrong to celebrate all our dead loved ones by this narrowing of our attention to a single Monday? I mean if we love as greatly as I’m sure we all like to think we’re capable of loving, isn’t the need to set aside a single day to remember everyone gone now, kind of a small and cheap-ass approach to remembering them? I’ll tell you one thing — we’re not going with just hot dogs, even the really good German Sausage kind — Nope, that’s final.
It's only about burgers and hot dogs and the great, honored military dead, for those of you who’ve never buried a spouse or a child or anyone else you deeply love and miss. For others of us, it’s about placing flowers on graves and having to say goodbye, Again.
Our Mar-bar, a friendship never contraire
In honor of her 75th birthday, with great love.
“Our Youth is gone, over . . .” she said through her tears.
I’ve known many people, friends and loved-ones past and present, some close some always distant. But who among them have known me in return, have been there for me and loved me more than I ever deserved? You know who you are Mary; through times too hard to talk about, but not too hard for you to stick it out with me.
In our youth and still, today, many tears but far more laughter and the bluest eyes, forever.
Sparrows, A Springtime Salute
And yer default test for admission to immortality
At the time of our deaths It will be the sparrows that provide the litmus test — Not the birds themselves But our ability to render them —
“Did you notice sparrows?” Will be the question We’re asked by the universe, And we’ll have to testify:
“I saw their brown wings The intricate web of patterns Leading one feather to the next — The yellowish beak and their breasts… (Were they tan or gray or beige? Something like that, Sorry I’m not quite sure) Their tiny clawed feet Gripping a wire, a branch, A top fence rail —
“In May I saw their mouths dripping With green twigs, leaves, Brown grass for building nests — “
“Well, their songs, of course, their Chirp, chirp, chirp — And their skittish nervous motion Like pine cones quivering on high tree limbs When the wind picks up.”
“Summarize and conclude.”
“Yes, the sparrows did not escape me — I heard their breath, and Felt their softness And let myself turn into their flight — I remember them well — The sparrows, yes.”
“Okay”, The universe will answer, Close enough.”
When I was born
I was a first child. Three miscarriages' later my sister made it out and into being. When my old man first saw me he thought I was a pin-head, like Zippy. Dad was 6'3" mom was 5'1" I got pretty squished when delivered. I dunno, that’s all, for now I think. Zippy the pin-head. Fuck it. Nobody starts with a perfect hand, Aces fulla kings — Still, let’s just agree that mine was an inauspicious beginning.
And then there’s D A R K I like the lights out when I close my eyes; Just practicing for Later.
On Friendships Old and New
There is no “present” in life — and yet there is only the present
Family. Friendships. Dealing with strangers and with people once known and now no longer known. Is this social thing, the need and power of it, a natural part of every life, or is it more a particular aspect of each individual’s life, as in the differences between the length of our fingers, the direction of our fantasies, the size of our minds? I’ve always wanted and needed people and always felt the importance of them in helping me define who I am. This now includes people I’ve let go who have also let go of me; separations occurring sometimes with acrimony but more often just through divergence in our lives starting as a slow distance, but eventually unbridgeable both in time and in space of growing apart that finally becomes set. The levels of affection and intimacy once present in these relationships make little difference and have almost no impact on this inviolable unfolding of loss. So this poem is a way of saying to old friends living and dead, goodbye and sorry about the ways that this kind of shit happens.
I Don’t Think Of Myself As A Heroic Loner
. . . I’m not a loner. I’m not heroic. When I think about myself at all, I fluctuate between grandiosity and a despairing, withering self-loathing. Even the label “survivor” is too dramatic a descriptor. I am...I am not...And too soon I’ll be neither of those. And sorry to be the one to tell you, but same goes for you.
Efforts at Team Playing
Teamwork? Sorry, not so much
Spending a childhood filled with criticism and failed efforts to please an unpleasable father is not a good recipe for accepting “constructive” or any other kind of criticism.
I am not a good team player. I am not ANY kind of team player at all. Like Bukowski whose sadistic father seemed far worse than mine, I nonetheless learned early that the cost of trying to please my dad was above and beyond my meager means or best efforts. By age 10 or so, I knew that it was far better to skimp/skate by doing as little as possible, because doubling or even tripling down my efforts never altered the inevitable criticisms directed at me for my results. And so, when I’m tasked with any kind of chore expect me to perform with the minimal energy and to complete what I’m doing without expectation of praise and with disinterest, distrust and disdain of any appreciation from anyone for the results I achieve. I’ll do the shit I’m asked to do but I’ll do it as quick and dirty as I can and when I’m done I’ll be ready to pretend to listen, calmly and quietly as a lifetime of practice can teach, to criticisms and disappointment in my performance and results. On the plus side, I don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks or says at such moments. I’ve had way too much experience ignoring it all.
Monte Boden 50 Years Later
An old friend remembered
Monte Boden was the first of our gang of strong young guys to die.
He was killed in a fishing boat accident in Alaska in 1969. He was like all young adult friends of our young adult years; we thought we knew much more than we did, including our mythologies of personal invincibility.
Monte was an athlete, physically stronger and more sturdy than the rest of us and thus even more seemingly invincible until he died, rubbing our ignorant childish faces in his mortality and our own.
I was asked to deliver the eulogy at his funeral. I was only 19 years old, and I arrogantly felt my poetic skills up to the task, which they most certainly were not. But I muddled through as best I could and embarrassed myself partly by what I said, and by what I failed to say.
I remember Monte today, looking back nearly 50 years and from a dream I had just last night, in which Monte was the principal at a school where I’d been invited to speak. We saw one another and at first Monte didn’t recognize me but then he smiled and reached down (He was on a landing above me) so we could shake hands. We both laughed and he said “I’ll come down and see you” and I said, “Great.” But I woke up before I had a chance to visit with him and get caught-up on all the years we’d missed… he’d missed.
I apologize, Monte, for the shitty eulogy I delivered so many decades ago. And thus this poem about time and the past racing by but never really leaving and about love and friendships never really ending.