Category Archives: Contemplation

Frames

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Sitting at my desk, staring at the framed pictures on the windowsill, I began to contemplate the nature of frames: frames around pictures; frames around windows and doors; frames around issues.  Squares; circles; rectangles.  My brain beats against the frame of my skull, my heart in its rib cage.  I thought about the relationship between frames and things framed.  Do frames imprison, complement, constrain, guide?  Here is my poem exploring the idea of frames.

FRAMES

Frames around windows—
windows and doors.
Frames around paintings
and pictures of smiling children
missing their baby teeth.
Frames around issues of law
in a reply memorandum.

Squares and rectangles,
borders and limitations.

Frames around the innocent
without alibi.
Frames around political cartoons
and Sunday morning comics.
Frames around Christmas cards,
posters and book titles,
product labels and lists
of edible ingredients, tri-fold
advertisements and dollar bills.

Circles and hedges,
boxes and constraints.

Forever

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Ice Crystals on Wood

I believe in an afterlife.  I believe that human beings are eternal beings.  We always existed in some form, and will live forever, always improving and growing, with the objective of achieving our full potential.  I sometimes consider what I will not be able to do during my lifetime that I would like to do in the hereafter.  So much!  This poem touches upon that wish.  In the meantime, I had best be making the most of this life, this time!  This is our time to choose, to learn, to love, and to forgive.

FOREVER

In Heaven
(if allowed)
I shall revel in eternity.

I will first master music:
a century for the cello;
a century for the oboe;
a decade or two for each other;
a millennium to compose for them all.

After music will come languages,
a decade each, longer for
dazzling Thai, Bushman, and Navajo.

I shall then conquer the science
of deoxyribonucleic acid
and genomic switches—
ten millennia might do.

I will take three centuries
to tackle cosmology:
quasars, black holes, star-birth;
encounters subatomic to intergalactic.

Then, I will study systems:
water and air and heat;
flora and fauna;
soil and seeds;
the interdependency and synergy
of all things.

Lastly, perhaps, will come
my study of the human mind:
the joys, the hurts;
the addictions and dysfunctions;
the condition of perfection.
A million millennia
will make a good beginning.

For the remainder of forever
I shall endeavor to learn
kindness, humility, patience,
generosity, and forgiveness:
the true arts of eternity.

Grail

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How does one put into words the fragility, beauty, and precious nature of life?  The more words we use, maybe, the closer we get–adjective upon adjective.  Or, perhaps, only a poem, with the fewest words, but bursting with meaning and imagery, can do the job.  Even then, words might not be capable at all, and we must yield to an embrace, a kiss, a memory, a lullaby.  My poem Grail is an attempt to encapsulate life, or at least a bit of it.  I hope you enjoy.

GRAIL

Even
a cracked and empty eggshell
evokes awe for new life.

The infant, you cradle,
as if a spark,
ephemeral,
of something infinite,
or divine.

Hold her, tight
and careful,
while she is yours
to hold.
She will bury you,
someday,
with roses and tears,
and tell your story:
you will inspire,
still, from the crypt.

First cry, first tear.
First laugh and first kiss.
Sips from the holy grail.

Finding Sleep

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I went to bed early one evening, overcome by fatigue, stress, over-stimulation, and worry.  But I could not sleep for all the ambient sounds that my ears so perfectly picked out.  Instead of sleeping, I scrawled out this poem.  Was it really sleep that I needed?  Or did I need the ability in the moment to find joy and wonder in all that surrounded me?  Did the ear plugs help or hinder my state of being?  Let me know what you think.

FINDING SLEEP

Bulbous beetle sees
my nightstand light
and bounces his exoskeleton
against the vertical trampoline
of the window screen,
bounces three times,
his lace wings rasping like
sheets of stiff cellophane;
he can’t enter into my room
to reach the light he longs for,
and we both are the better for it.

Incorporeal sounds sail through—
a filly whinnying over his weaning,
a puppy straining and yapping
at her collar and leash,
our cat defending her kittens
against the neighbor’s surly tom,
children screaming delightedly
as they run at night in the grass,
only to bicker over turns
on the round trampoline—
they all drift in
to settle upon me
like a New England Bible
on a dying man’s chest.

Orange plugs twisted into my ears
dull it all, stop even
the crooning of the crickets
and the breeze’s inviting whisper.

Tulips

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My poems usually result from a single poignant image, thought, or sensory experience. Through the poem, I tell the story of that experiential moment.  On occasion, however, I compose a poem from random shreds of sight, sound, thought, and memory, stringing them together like multicolored bulbs on a string of lights.  “Tulips” in one such poem.  Though the glow of each image is unique, yet a common thread joins them.

TULIPS

Special sauce drips
from the double bacon
cheese burger clamped
between fingers and thumbs.

Overgrown boys goggle and grin
at bikinis bouncing
down the beach
as the girls blink and babble
at biceps.

Not one yellow patch
or errant blade
mars that lawn,
frequently fertilized
and mowed twice
to a neat crisscross.

He smiles at himself
in his tailored suit,
white shirt cuff linked
and monogrammed, perfect-patterned
tie, long-point faux alligator shoes
shining.

JD. . . MBA. . . PhD. . . CPA. . . MD. . . DDS. . .

Though shifting,
even clouds have shape.
Air I cannot see
rounds the alveoli
of my lungs.

Blood spatters my face
from new battles
with brick walls.

Drugs at least
dim the pain.

You had better shut your
window against the wafting
putrescence of skunk.
Dogs know only
how to bark.

Put down your gun:
no violence pursues you:
your bullets would pass cleanly
through the clouds,
undeterred and unaffecting.

Run to retrieve
a vomit bowl
for him or her. Summon
the compassion to watch
as they wretch.

Surrender to the universe
inside you. Let go
your clutching at clouds
you are not meant to capture.

Stand unafraid in the mists:
the dews will coalesce
to cool and sooth and moisten.

Tulips swell before the house:
purple, yellow, orange, pink, red, each
bright under the morning sun.

An Evening

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I contemplate. Everything. I don’t mean to; I just do. I notice my abundance and my scarcity. I think about my gifts and talents, and worry about my abyssal weaknesses. I ponder my joy and my sadness, my human connections and my loneliness. I try not to allow meditation to slip into obsession, or depression. And my observations are not just about me. I thrill at the beauties of nature. The world, and life, are simply filled with mystery and unfathomableness and beauty and suffering that beg to be studied, to be understood. So I contemplate. This poem contemplates a quiet evening alone.

AN EVENING

A fish fillet simmers
in basil and salted lemon juice.
The baked potato steams
with butter and sour cream gobs.
Three cobs of corn.
Absence of conversation.

Fingers fumble with chords,
picking awkward patterns.
Crooning “Blackbird.”
Absence of applause.

On the big bed,
looking at paintings
on the walls.

No Diving

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Photo by Liddy Mills

I live in an apartment now.  My children come to visit.  Mostly I am alone.  But I have books, music, poetry, crock-pot dinners . . . and a hot tub.  My children and I sit in the roiling 110-degree water even when the ambient air is 20 degrees F, and the steam has condensed in frozen icicles hanging from the hot tub railing.  We talk about life, their soccer goals and rugby tries, sore muscles, ornery pimples, church dances, dates and the prom, stubborn cowlicks and bad haircuts, good books, good movies, hopes and dreams.  We flex our biceps and splash steaming water at each other and laugh.  Sometimes after work I soak alone, watch the steam rise, and write a poem.

NO DIVING

in the hot tub
three feet deep
no diving sign in the tile
ice clings to the chrome railing
steam, and contemplations,
billowing, billowing