Posts Categorized: My Work

Poem Draft: On Sunday the Atheists Shop

While the lots of First Baptist
and Central Methodist are filled
tight like parishioners in the pews
knees touching knees
beneath khaki and hose
the atheists are on the move
weaving through town
as the minister stands to preach.

Faces unshaven, elastic
waisted pants slipped on
between bedroom and front door
tennis shoes lightly laced
the atheists shop. They pray
to finish before the worshippers
pile into the grocery store
the aisles overflowing with combed hair
eye shadow just so, and kids in collared shirts
as the faithful greet one another, hands
pressed firm, inquiring after grandma
or the girls, amidst the unwashed
who hunt for a bargain
and sample cheese, the lactose covered cracker
crunching and melting in their mouth
a mix of pepper jack and whole grains.

Carts heaped like collection plates
the atheists whisk through the checkout
barcodes scan, small talk is made, numbers
transfer from card to computer.

At home, the family gathers. Bags
are brought in, unloaded.
The ritual completes and the meaning
is found in another day, another week
spent together, preparing food
joining around the table as dinner is served
and silence gives way to voices, laughter
the sounds of people sharing a meal.

Poem Draft: Disconnect

Seek the solace
of a moment free
from text messages, status
updates from a person
who used to be your friend
but now is reduced
to an image, a sentence
that slips below the fold.

Find the focus
to be alone
to notice the sun
through the leaves, the smile
on a loved one’s face
the thoughts that wait
at the bottom of the cup.

Allow the world
to wait
to publish, remix, re-mash
as you turn off your devices
and settle into your seat-back
wonder as the seconds stand still.

Draft: Winter’s poem

High in the white pines
snow heavy limbs tip
the days’ drifts in a tumble.
The silence of the forest
disrupted by the weight of a squirrel
it’s body, a dark arc of fur
against bright skies
and evergreen, as it bounds
for the next branch, leaving
the sounds
of small avalanches
falling
to the ground.

 

(Inspired while out cross-country skiing with my wife on Lost Lake Trail in Northern Michigan.)

Story Draft: Social Media

At 3:46 am, while Anna Darson slept next to her husband of thirty-two years, in a ranch-style house along the frigid waters of Lake Michigan on a snowy weekend after Thanksgiving, an event was triggered, causing a program to gather data from various accounts, which culminated in an email delivered to Anna with the subject line: John’s Journey is Complete.

Anna, her breathes rising and falling, steady as the snow gathering along the lintel slept on, no mobile device or push notifications to beckon from her bedside. Her dreams were unremarkable. Flashes of joy. Blurs from the weekend, from the past. Their daughter Abbie, up from Chicago, making pumpkin pie with her father, George, as the Lions savaged the Packers in a surprising win. The cold air against her face. The bark of the dogs, steam rising from their muzzles, as they bounded through snowdrifts and back toward the house.

It was mid-morning, the exact time unknown, when Anna turned on the laptop in the kitchen to check the weather, when she logged into her email account and saw the message. John’s Journey is Complete? She thought. Her youngest son, living in San Francisco, was there a race he’d run? Anna enjoyed seeing those automated messages when John ran a marathon. Without expectation, Anna clicked on the email.

At 12:46 am, in the city of San Francisco, John Darson’s journey through life came to completion. John wanted to share his story with you. And, so, according to John’s wishes we’ve assembled the following timeline from John’s connected accounts and recorded metrics. Losing a loved one is always hard, but leaving a legacy has never been easier. ~ Journ.ey | The One Less Travelled By

Anna re-read the paragraph again. What was this? What happened? Was, John? Was her baby, her son? Was he dead? She shut the laptop. Stood and walked to the kitchen sink. Her hands shook as she gripped the counter. Her eyes were vacant. Aching to be filled by the whiteness outside the window. The cold reality of winter. She imagined walking out the front door in just her bathrobe, heading east through the hemlocks as they gave way to taller pines. Taking off her bathrobe and laying down in the snow. Feeling the cold against her naked body. The melt forming to her contours. The silence beneath the pine bows, the scent of the needles as numbness set in and she slipped away. Slipped away from this moment and the harshness sent her way. Then, her thoughts came back to the present. George? Abbie? They were out cross-country skiing. No point calling them. Let them have this time together. Anna opened up a cupboard, took down a glass and filled it. She then went back to the computer, opened it, read the email and clicked on the link.

But, what was there to read? There was no story, no legacy. It reminded her of boxing up the household after her parents died. Letters, recipes, ephemera full of love, along with the marks made by her and her brothers: the mismatched doorknob her dad never replaced and the screen door, ripped by her brother, and stitched up by her mom’s careful hand. But this? This journey, what was it? Anna read the top entry.

November 30, 2014, 12:46 am. Heart rate: 0 bpm.

No context. Just a time and a number. Anna scrolled.

November 30, 2014, 10:17 pm. Status update: Fun catching up with friends. Time to head home.

November 30, 2014, 8:02 pm. Check-in: Ozumo 161 Steuart St, San Francisco, CA.

November 30, 2014, 2:50 pm. Status update: Everytime is the wrong time to go to Whole Foods.

November 30, 2014, 10:22 am. Status update: John logged 120 points for #running!

November 30, 2014, 10:20 am. Heart rate: 117 bpm.

It seemed like the page scrolled on forever, but Anna knew it was finite. There would be a beginning, just as there was an end. Photos, videos, status updates, locations, heart rates, blog posts, it all came together in this digital collage in which Anna tried to find meaning, to make sense, but all she found was loss. She called John’s ex-girlfriend and it went to voicemail. Does one even know the friends of their adult children? In the account from Journ.ey there was a page to download all of John’s usernames and passwords. Anna thought about doing this. Thought about sending a message out in the hopes that his on lie friends would respond. But, then she got the call from the hospital. A human being, a voice with emotion transmitted across the country. The railing on John’s balcony gave way. He’d fallen five stories and passed on the way to the hospital. Yes, said the councilor, it’d been sometime after midnight.

The tears felt like they came from Anna’s gut. Grief rose out from the center of her. Fought it’s way out. She’d hung up the phone, but wasn’t sure when. George and Abbie should be coming back soon. Anna had said she’d make chill for them. Have a pot simmering on the stove. She waited for her family to return, for the shadows to lengthen on the walls. Anna waited as the heat switched off, as around the world updates flashed across people’s feeds, and the house felt colder, more remote. The snow continued and beneath it’s weight a pine bough crashed to the forest floor, the needles spreading out, dark against powder.

Poem III: Draft II (Contact)

I finished the second draft of my third poem for the week.  I still don’t have a title for it, but am thinking something to do with the sounds of clippers or lost in the sounds of clippers.

 

As boys we never
said I love you to
one another, but in the summer
haze beneath the sounds
of mom frying chicken
wrapped in the smells of green beans and bacon
which simmered through the windows
we cut each other’s hair.

The clippers electric buzz shook our hands
as one boy sat on a five gallon bait bucket
shirt off in the heat
while the other boy held down ears
hands against scalp, wrists
brushed skin, the back of the neck
tan fading along thin shoulders.

At times, we shaved mohawks and patterns
ran barefoot into the house to hide
the clippers, the footsteps and yells
the snap-swing of the screen door
always close, always near
a chaotic melody to the steady
rhythm of old men mowing yards.

Back on the concrete porch
white paint peeling, we always returned
apologies shrugged off, light
in our bodies and the breeze
as the hair fell beneath one boy’s touch
and we became light enough
to float away like the fluff of a cattail
coasting on water’s edge.

Poem: Draft I

Another poem for my writing challenge.  This is the second poem of the week.  Currently, it has no title.

~               ~               ~

Sunday afternoon, I joined you
on the porch to apologize, to talk
as the voices of neighbors crowded close.

Birds flush in spring, chased
and sang, their songs suffused
with sunshine and ritual.  I watched
our dog snuffle, his hound’s
nose deep in the grass
drawing his line taut.

Like another line, our future
an unspoken idea
stretched into the distance.

The conversation turned, I said
I don’t have a ring, but
would you marry me?

Yes, you said, leaning forward
and then back, really? You asked
and again said, yes.

All of the possibilities and joy
I felt, seemed to radiate from your eyes
as well, your smile, my smile
the tears trapped under our lashes.

I held you close, your body warm
against mine.  The argument forgotten
we watched as little girls played
next door and the dog pulled
on his line, longing for a sparrow
that pecked the earth.