PLAY BILL

They didn’t even know they dwelled in a landscape laced with caves – some of them running right under the campus. As a geology major, Leon Cody could have explained the workings of this underground. As a geography major, Dikran could have related the importance of flowing waters to the human condition. As a transportation major, Bruce could have linked underground energies to great subway systems. Indeed, had they effectively put all their studies together, there would have been a tremendous convergence. They held the potential of redirecting society, any way they united.

The ’oozers could have learned a lot from Leon’s collection of geodes, the bumpy brown rocks he collected in the surrounding countryside; they often appeared ugly, even repulsive, until cracked open with a geologist’s hammer. He always hoped they’d be hollow, their interior cavities filled with crystals that would appear even more wondrous when viewed under the ultraviolet “black” light. The ’oozers could have estimated people like geodes, anticipating whether they would be stone cold through and through or whether their heads and hearts would glimmer and astonish.

“Sometimes girls can be like that, especially when they’re both constantly on the go. They’re only roommates,” Mitch would have retorted.

Or females, beginning at the other end with Spencer’s mother. How far could you trust an old-boys’ network?

“See what you’re missing, Love!” her son whispered, betrayed by his own feelings of being left out of a movement that simultaneously disgusted and seduced him. He had buried too many yearnings – too much life force – for too long.

“Intellectualism is merely extensive rationalization,” Nita shrugged. Teak-wick! “The library is just footsteps and bells.” Teak-wick! “Did you catch the spring buds when they were taut, cracking in rainfall?” Teak-wick! “Gray branches exploding in bloom?” Teak-wick! “Earthworms mating on the rain-washed sidewalk?” Teak-wick!

~*~

For more from my THIRD RAIL collection, click here.

OF THOSE EMPLOYED THE OTHER HOURS

Sometimes Night Owls & Early Birds show up on the same shift. Not everyone, after all, works the standard 9-to-5 weekday.

Police, firefighters, hospital nurses and doctors, paramedics, retailers and restaurant staff, truckers, airline personnel, railroad crews, actors and musicians – the list continues.

As I newspaper editor working nights and weekends, I could spot them all, even when they seemed to be playing hooky in midday.

These poems arise in that awareness.

~*~

For these poems and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.

ALL PART OF THE MYSTERY

She was about to sweep away shards remaining from his high school crackup – more precisely, his breaking up over romance in his senior year. Ever since, his heart and skull had continued warring, sometimes erupting feverishly into a death mask mirrored in his own hands. Despite later dates and embraces, the artistic and social projects he retreated to whenever that suffocating midnight grip loosened, the self-therapy of hunchbacked miles along thunderstorm’d sidewalks, the scalding showers, exhausted jogging, throbbing woofers and shrill tweeters, hours of dreamless sleep – the kid had never fully eluded that gigantic amoeba. Disconcertingly, in trying to withdraw, he rolled back to his own deficiencies time and time again. The most painful message in all this, perhaps, was that he could not conquer everything he set out to accomplish; many things would remain beyond his range or his abilities.

In that brief, disastrous infatuation he had sought validation. Having a beautiful, charming, intelligent girlfriend would be a sign of completeness, of fulfillment. He believed that something in the mystery of woman spelled salvation, which is, of course, a terrible weight to place upon anyone. How could he burden his beloved with his own suffering? Any American boy who isn’t an athlete is handicapped – especially in the nation’s heartland. He wasn’t sturdy enough for football or even basketball, swift enough for track or cross-country, forceful enough for baseball, at least for the success he demanded of himself. He knew these activities weren’t “play,” despite usage, and believed only victory would compensate pain and exertion. His strengths and speed lay elsewhere.

But he remained loyal to people and institutions. Adolescent birds leave nests and stake out new territory. He yearned for loving, a special acceptance.

Read More »

PRELUDE & FUGUE 35/

red maple on gray rock against vertical tan stripes the pooling and hill *   *   * blue-eyed moth on yellow chopstick folder star lilies against horizontal green striation Chinese river scene, the coin inscribed from a tickle-free zone of “Dried Dark Plums” red maple on gray rock against vertical tan stripes pooling under a blue-eyed […]