Year of the Dog
The grey and brown-spotted dog, a German, short-haired pointer,
the muzzle of his handsome brown head acting like a scanner,
moved thoroughly but steadily forward
sniffing up and down every passenger at SeaTac
as they headed for the security check-point.
From shoe soles to baseball caps, from back packs to computer bags,
all was under scrutiny in the search for explosives.
Now, in the airport security line, there are
No more shoes to remove,
No more placing of computers in a separate bins,
No more placing of personal items and belts in bins
Traveling is a little bit easier now, and still safe,
all because of dogs!
Oh what fun! Fun in a serious sort of way,
a grandson, sixteen years of age,
and a grandfather, seventy-five years older,
Both whipped out their cell phones
to show with pride
pictures of their girlfriends.
Ah, beauty all the way around!
His, at sixteen, a tall blond, taller than he.
The grandfather’s, a petite redhead
who, at seventy,
inches less in height but with a tall presence,
Curling Up in the Sun
Even though she’d slept well, breathing easily
and deeply through the night,
she curled up now on the sofa, the circle
of afternoon sunlight
warming her, coaxing her, into a catnap,
a welcome one, it appears,
her deep, even breathing
attesting to the need.
Sitting nearby, he was struck by something
for the sunlight in its shift from east to west, had,
for a moment,
Old Gaelic Blessing
May those who love us, love us
And those that don’t love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if he doesn’t turn their hearts
May he turn their ankles
So we’ll know them by their limping.
Who can fail to note the humor? God turning ankles to help us identify
those who don’t love us, a wry wish from a Welsh mind having fun
but creating a further puzzle:
How do we distinguish a God-given limp from any other?
Written notes he wanted time to take, so much had happened
over the weekend, but instead,
notes of a musical kind,
All he could do was to try to step around the higher ones,
particularly the whole notes,
but the quarter notes could be tricky too
as he tried to avoid catching a toe
Some of the early scores at Saturday’s presentation
sacred in nature,
did trip him up but he was soon walking,
upright and alert,
In bed, the two of them sitting up, sipping coffee,
in the early morning,
their feet stretched out in front of them, legs crossed
under the luxurious beige comforter
forming twin peaks,
his peak a little higher than hers,
as he imagines a desert scene, the shifting winds,
radical temperature changes
and the surging storms,
causing the peaks to disappear from time to time,
only to return again the next morning,
the aroma of coffee resetting the scene,
another storm system may be coming through
The pleasures of partnership are many, two of them
evident early on
her slow awakening from a sound night’s sleep,
so warming to see and share,
the delicacy and tenderness of it like the unfolding
of a blossom
as it is kissed by the morning’s new sun,
opening to all the day has to offer
taking in its energy.
So she moves, then, slipping from bed
to make coffee for two,
that movement alone staggering him
with it’s sheer beauty,
It certainly didn’t start there under the big tent,
no circus in town this day.
It started, rather, under the bed sheet,
the hight count percale covering the two
softening the morning’s first glance,
her face, in repose, against the white pillow
drawing from him a deep gratitude
for their new, shared life,
his love meeting her’s at its highest point,
where trust and equality reign,
with no end in sight.
She responds to his touch.
The Artist’s Model
It’s a little after four in the morning, the dawn’s
has set the glass in the French doors aglow
spreading the soft, gray light everywhere
where he is,
no revelation to his rested eyes, as he rolls over
onto his side
and looks upon the face of the woman
sleeping beside him.
He waits quietly for her to open her eyes so he can
tell her what he saw:
The middle schoolers reach high to find their voice, to
put words to their vision for a better world.
If I were in charge of the world, the teacher asks,
what kind of world would it be?
Prompted by their teacher’s question,
they have at it,
climbing up the walls of their unspoken grief,
clamoring to grab hold
of something, anything, solid and real,
they gather clues, listening to themselves in
the pain of separation and loss.
Yes , one radical dreamer, opines,
Speaking Jesus Talk
Hearing his voice speak Jesus’ words to the disciples
the combination of voice and word
reaching his ear as one,
puts him one step closer to the scene,
one step closer to the disciple’s question,
ons step closer to the truth,
one step closer to Jesus.
Looking at the blind man, the disciples had asked
“Who sinned, the blind man or his parents?”
Reading aloud Jesus’ answer,
using his own mouth
“Exquisite” is the only name for it, one of those clear, warm
Saturday nights in the Pacific Northwest,
good blues music at a small outdoor venue as the sun
begins its descent,
some of the audience dancing on the grass, free-style,
waving their arms as if calling down the gods
to keep the night alive for one more song.
they stumbled upon a nine o’clock happy hour at a nearby inn,
The moment he opened his eyes, he sensed it.
Something different about the day,
steeple bells, he imagined, chiming in the background,
boat horns on the channel, blowing here and there,
celebration in the air.
Then he remembered, then he knew,
in a mere fourteen days,
the woman he’d had on his mind
had moved to his heart
entering his blood stream, and is now
coursing through his body, healing as she goes,
making everything new.
A character out of the Harry Potter series, Madame Hooch
flies around on a broom, a flying teacher
if there ever was one,
and almost as often she referees Hogwart’s most popular
game, Quidditch its called, doing with authority
what referees do,
instructing, warning the broom-riding players, issuing penalties
here and there.
He wasn’t drawn to the Madame Hooch in the story though,
but to the one dressed to look like her on the float in the
July 4th parade,
The Daily Work of Love
Our loving Father did not die.
There never was a God above.
It’s up to us, then, you and I,
To do the daily work of love.
Oh, loving Father, how sweet to hear, you’re not above and beyond
up there in the sky,
Not up there with a white beard, your white robes trailing,
as you move among the clouds
on a summer’s day;
Not up there in the sky, hurtling down thunderbolts of lightening giving the storm its say;
Late on a sunny, summer morning, I was driving down Burlington Blvd. in my Ford Pick-up when my cell phone rang. Instinctively, I reached for it on the dashboard and put it to my ear. Just as quickly the police car behind me flashed its lights and signaled me to pull over.
I immediatly obliged and rolled down my passenger-side window. Before the officer even spoke his first words, he noticed that my safety belt was not in use. Shaking his head, the officer dutifully pointed out that I was in violation of the law on two counts. On the first count, I explained to the officer that normally I would not have picked up my phone in traffic but in this case I was expecting urgent information about my medical appointment.
90th Birthday Celebration – Five Days of Marching Forth
Friday, March 3, 2017. My neighbor, Chelsea, invited me to attend the ArtWalk in Anacortes with her and her daughter, Aisling, who at 2 1/2 years is just to age of my great grandson in Vermont. After a pizza and- for the adults some- good micro beers, we strolled in the rain to Ann Reid’s studio to appreciate her intricate black paper cutouts on white background and from there to Burton Jewelers where we moved, stroller and all, through a nice crowd of onlookers who admired the jewelry and art work while listening to a live vocalist and munching on an assortment of foods and sipping wine. I’ve never experienced such a festive jewelry store.
90th Birthday Cards
Ninety is a magical number, for what other double digit
birthday would produce over sixty colorful birthday cards
loaded with sentiment enough to make him laugh and cry
by turn, so sweet and so funny,
knowledge of the signers giving them
added depth and meaning, love and honoring there
even in the wildest and of words and pictures.
Take the drawing of a happy pig sitting on a log
in a field of mushrooms with the notation Happier than
a pig in shitakes.
Or the home-made card with a photo of the honoree
on the front next to a frame of two young women
Letter to Aisling
Someday you may come across this note and I want you to know something about the photograph and who it is that’s holding you. At this time you lived across the street from me on South Fourth in LaConner and once in awhile the three of us would get together for a meal or some other activity your mother thought you would like.
On this occasion, you and your mother joined 36 other guests for a surprise birthday party for me, my 90th, at the LaConner Seafood restaurant. You called out “Bob, Bob” like you always did, opening you arms wide to be pick-up for a brief hug.
At One Point
At one point, when the loss was more than memory
his ailing wife asked him, “What’s your name?”
“Bob”, he said.
“It can’t be Bob”, she said.
“Why?”, he asked.
“Because you’re a woman”, she said.
“No, I’m not. I’m a guy!”, he replied with a trace
“You are?”, she asked, surprised.
“Yes, I am. I’m all guy”, he said.
“I guess you are at that”, she said. “I apologize”.
“No need”, he said.
It didn’t always feel like he had one
those last months.
Walking with his loved one
down the spiral, not of his choosing.
But there he was, there they were,
the descending path ever darker
as they made their way,
a bright spot, a moment of clarity,
now and then,
but finally, total darkness.
The separation death brought, sharp,
The moon, in full splendor, in December’s third day,
anticipates, foretells, some might want to say,
the vibrant, vital light breaking through on that noted night
in a remote land so far away
in the form of an infant son, barn-born
now in a manger, the young mother close by to listen
in wonder, treasuring her visitors’ words,
bright words that glisten
with power and promise, the “good news
of a great joy…”
Drumming On The Hill
Drumming on the hill, Big Lake in clear view
elicits the child within
to come out and play,
to frolic to the rhythmic beat in this summer’s
the water’s distant glistening and
the sun’s heat, warming us to each other
so led by the light to see, here and there,
first tentatively and then wholly,
a new sister or spiritual brother,
our many hearts into one
On a sunny Sunday morning, perfect sailing weather,
they stepped aboard the Cora,
the hors d’oeuvres, hand-fashioned by the skipper,
awaiting them on the small table in the salon
as they settled in
for the ride up the Swinomish Channel,
the four-cylinder Perkins engine as steady as their hearts,
the skipper and his two passengers good friends
by now and becoming even better ones
as their relationship to each other took lasting shape,
the skipper and she lovers, and he devoted to both.
The buoyed path to the San Juans glittered with sun specks,
Five Years Now
Five years now since Joan’s death, complications from
a broken hip, they say,
but we know better and long ago faced
the ugly truth of dementia and the brain’s
the last two years my wife lived,
a bittersweet time, too intense and traumatic
to overlook and move beyond,
crowding out much of what went before,
but not everything,
many beautiful moments engrained in poetry
one of them occurring today,
One afternoon, when dementia was in vogue,
his dear wife walked from the dining room
to the living room
where he sat reading, to say
“There are strangers in the dining room”,
anxiety in her voice.
Without batting an eye, he put down his book
and said “It’s okay, honey, I’ll take care of it”.
And he did,
walking into the empty dining room,
letting his body
speak silent words to the invisible group,
and then ushering them out the side door.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Kornelia !!
Thank you, dear one, for the last four, the fun,
a tear here and there, as you tear, and tore, me loose
from that part of my past, a time whose scope
is long and vast,
that put me down,
arming me instead with rivets of love and hope,
into a new view of myself,
less frown, as I healed, am healing,
into a new being, fit to create a fair and livable
future with love at the center of it.
Thank you, dear one, for the last four, the fun,
the sheer joy it brought, and brings,
at even the mere thought.
One Thing is Necessary
He was making his way to the big city with stops here and there,
people hurting, in need, he saw, poverty the rule,
the scent of Rome’s oppressive power
always in the dusty air,
choking him to anger,
the pretensions of the Jewish leadership as bad
in some way, an imperial tool
making a virtue of hypocrisy, but now
some rest, a few hours with friends, Mary at his feet,
listening, absorbing all she can.
Martha, the sister, distressed, pleads for Mary’s help
in the kitchen, with a dinner to prepare.
When he walks in the early morning, there’s no telling
what he’ll find.
Often he finds nothing which is alright, too,
for nothing binds us to ourselves like the lack
of something new.
Sometimes he’ll spot a coin or two on the road,
a penny or a dime, once even a silver quarter,
pleased to think his solitary time, after all,
had a fiscal value or worth of some kind,
no matter how small.
This morning’s discovery took him another direction,
if the truth be known, toward recollection, for there,
Some time was spent trying to come up with right word for me for the year 2017. I finally got it. My word was “breath” or variations thereof. Breathing is the first thing we do coming into the world and the last thing we do leaving it. We do it continuously between the first and the last. So, an important word considering the reality it represents, the very breath of life. The practice of deep breathing has become critical for me as I develop ways to improve my health and my level of energy. Yoga, like Thai Chi, is helping immensely. My vision to be dancing to live band as I celebrate my 100th birthday depends on my capacity to breathe easily as I move across the dance floor holding my sweetheart, whispering sweet nothings without pause into her delicate, receptive ear.
He sits at his computer, his back to the morning sun.
As he edits a writer’s plea and prayer to bring calm
to hurricane Irma,
a category five threat to coastal Florida,
he sees the sun reflected
on the upper right-hand corner of the screen,
a pink globe, suspended, a harmless ornament
decorating the printed words below.
Three days of wood smoke from Washington state’s
raging forest fires,
double-paned glass in the windows,
the computer screen itself,
In the old world, weary and war-torn, faced with overwhelming odds,
and too weak to fight another day, the white flag is raised
in surrender and quiet ensues.
In the new world, still weary and war torn and with odds to bear,
the enemy’s unseen and there’s no flag to raise.
The action has shifted inward.
Surrender has moved from “giving-up” to “giving-in”,
the ‘victim” becoming “victor” in an act of ultimate trust,
as intuition, love-driven, finds fulfillment in the nature
of who we are, evolved beings,
composed of stardust,
with capacities to love, heal and create
like any god.
The three angels winged their way west in the form of his three oldest grandchildren, landing at their grandfather’s house, not only to rest but to celebrate his 90th birthday. No wonder he saw it as a visit from on high. Why wouldn’t he? They all had their own lives to lead, and the trip cost them in both time and money. But here they were:
Kora, three months pregnant, with a child and husband at home in Vermont, and a full-time job, selling her shotgun to finance the flight; Nora, working long hours as a deck-hand (with her brother) on her father’s boat, in Alaska’s waters, and pulling in the halibut, her share soon converted from fish to cash to get her down the coast; Marsh, working to improve the client base for his new company
This is a case where the story starts with a cat stuck high in a huge cedar tree and ends with a story about the homeless at MacDonald’s.
My neighbor had only just moved in across the street when one of her two young cats went missing. Finally, two days later as she was walking the alley, she heard its cry, a forelorn “meow, meow” from a big cedar tree that edged the alley some 25 feet above. Reaching it with a standard ladder was out of the question. Fortunately, a crew from a tree care company was working on the big oak tree next door to my house. I explained my neighbor’s plight to one of the young, sympathetic tree pruners who agreed to see what he could do. Soon he arrived at the scene,
Oh, Valley Man, Valley Man, no dilly dally
Valley man, sixteen years
working with the town of LaConner,
bringing his skills and serving with honor.
Straight-backed and tall he stood,
exceedingly good at admin and planning,
at clarifying codes, fixing roads or For my friend, John Doyle
vacating an alley,
was this man of the valley.
Telling the citizens they had but to comply
was no easy task he knew,
but always he would do his best, screw
up his courage, and sally-forth,
What’s Your Secret?
Now that he’s reach 90 years of age, everybody wants to know what his secret is.
The secret is there is no secret.
At least, not in his case. In his case it’s all transparent.
It’s partly the luck of the draw.
And two other things: addiction and a flawed heart.
If it wasn’t for addiction and a weak heart,
he wouldn’t be here today.
Addiction to pipe smoking and coffee made him see that he
had an addictive personality
and the only way to stop smoking and drinking coffee
was to find something else, another, healthy, addiction
Looking back at a journal entry dated a mere month
after his wife’s death, September 4, 2012,
he was surprised to find
three short lines he had scribbled out
to account for their long marriage
of 61 years.
Why had he done that, just at that time,
He can’t recall now.
Maybe because he expected to be asked,
but never was, the secret
to such a long-lasting marriage.
Ever since she left for a month he’s been hit by waves
coming and going with the tide of his emotion,
at first crashing in upon him, knocking him down
and then, as easily, letting him stand,
and then knocking him to the sand once more
as if to knock some sense into him,
to shake loose any hidden thoughts,
blind spots protect there by his guardian ego,
never intending to yield.
Then, at the end of the first day spent alone,
When he entered the pub he saw it right away.
The table in front of the cozy fireplace was occupied.
In mock seriousness he asked the couple seated
there if they would consider moving to another table,
so he could enjoy the fire for awhile.
He then offered the couple ten dollars to rent the table.
At that, all three of them broke into laughter,
the sound of it trailing him to his table by the window.
While seated there alone looking, by turn, out the window
and at the menu, the woman at the fireplace table walked
The world can be a stage all right, but that doesn’t mean
we’re always actors.
So went my thinking after the pastor at my church got
sick suddenly and wanted me to take over her
The first job the next day was to conduct a renewal of wedding
vows at the Anacortes Yacht Club, the next town over.
She had the service typed out. All i had to do was read it.
If I were an actor, I would be assuming my pastor’s personae,
Tell me, Oh Muse of this new delight, of this new love,
that seems so much to do with your ascension,
this new unfolding of spirit, moving you, dear Muse,
a step closer to your dream
for yourself and therefore
The current love between us I’ve prized and I know it’s
been the same with you, a source of inspiration for me,
you are my Muse, after all,
and a model for you, for the new earth, two persons,
an older man and much younger woman,
It was still early, 8:00 AM or so.
Kornelia, my muse and housemate, and I, had already talked
about her daily post and how much I liked it.
She writes and I edit most every day, so we always have a
lot to think about and confer over.
I had just returned from my hour’s walk and was in our new kitchen
brewing my first cup of cream-laced tea
thinking about Kornelia and how much I’ll miss her.
She leaves for Hawaii, just a short week away, and will be gone
It can be a mysterious business, channeling the truth
from some source deep within the universe,
coming to the receiver in a coherent stream,
a verb packing power,
bringing insight upon insight
about the world and humanity’s place
in its invisible but dynamic folds .
But what truth does the channel itself reveal,
the Swinomish Channel in this case,
a noun in disguise?
on a bright, blue and white afternoon
There was no other way to describe this Easter Sunday.
The little church, packed to the brim,
was alive with energy,
from the trumpets’ first notes, exuberant and pulsating.
Beethoven’s Ode to Joy with the organ and trumpets,
heralded the opening words from scripture,
the shocking discovery of the empty tomb
caught up in the music, as the choir,
behind a floral cross, proceeded down the aisle.
The words of the first hymn “Christ the Lord
Has Risen Today”
He’d not met them before but there they were,
They’d found a remote cabin along the river
but it was the wrong cabin and the wrong river.
They had to drive back to the turn-off,
take a left and go a couple of miles further
until they saw the mail box and driveway.
They had been warned.
The place they were looking for was in a valley,
too hot in the summer,
too cold in winter
for city folks from Littleton.
Oh, sing me, sing me, to a new land where is heard
Where men and women work and play for equal pay
And all is right, nothing wrong, nothing wrong.
Oh, drum me, drum me, to a new place, where is heard
Where men and women dance in step, neither following
Nor leading, graceful and strong,
And all is right, nothing wrong, nothing wrong.
Oh, fife me, fife me, to a new space, where is heard
Equality’s highest note,
On the Edge
Don’t read Billy Collins’ poetry first thing in the morning.
That’s what he did.
He rolled over to the edge of the bed,
planted his bare feet on the carpeted floor and reached
over to the bookcase for one of his newer books,
in this case, Billy Collins’’ Aimless Love,
the poems within going off in every direction,
with no end to the subject line.
Every action could become a poem
his legs over the edge of the bed and feet on the floor
became an earlier time.
I looked at the picture in the newspaper, a black and white picture
of what Jesus might have looked like,
a scruffy face,
a dark beard and mustache conforming to a normal jawline,
short, curly hair, uncombed, to match the beard,
with ears small and close to his head.
The head-on portrait makes it hard to describe his nose
but it seemed to be in proportion to his face,
neither stubby nor long,
the swarthy complexion what I would expect from anyone
from the mid-east.
The eyes, staring straight ahead, not quite focused,
Beneath the Cross
Who would he have been, then, beneath the cross?
On that day they led Jesus, abused and bloodied,
to the crucifixion site,
would he have been a Roman soldier?
He could have been.
Being a member of the Emperor’s military
gave him a certain prestige and power.
And though, right now, he was assigned to the fringe
of the empire, to keep the peace,
advance in rank was possible with better pay.
A good job as jobs go.
Mockery was not his thing but he did his share,
stripping him down.
Oh, Minerva, my pedestaled maiden, Why I have given you
such a name I don’t know,
after all these years in each other’s company,
it just came to me now, at this moment due, maybe,
to the Italian marble from which you’ve been sculpted.
A Roman goddess noted for wisdom,
a source of inventive power,
would not be my first guess, noting, as I have,
your young, elegant features, your beautiful face
slightly downward and to the side, as if not wanting
to appear too inquisitive but still listening.
Is this your muted message, then, my dear and ageless
Minerva, listening, the way of wisdom?
Valleys are good at catching water, the Skagit
the hard rain, incessant, some winters,
this winter, sogging our spirits,
the sudden break-through of light only a tease,
to remind us of what, for the moment, is not,
slogging our way through yet another gray day,
compensating the best we can,
some to Arizona or Palm Springs,
the rest of us taking it in stride, laughing
more than usual,
shaking off our umbrellas and any dark thoughts,
spreading out our wet coats and minds
to dry the faster,
Putting a house key under a door mat is no
Home owners have been doing it ever since there’s
been locks on doors,
leaving keys for others, out of plain sight,
under the mat.
This time, though, the simple act of hiding a key
was a final act,
and thus dramatically underplayed.
for, after thirty years, he was turning over his house
to new owners.
He’d never lived thirty years in one place.
Marching in Place
Over the heads of the gathering crowd, you could catch,
here and there, a glimpse of a cedar hat
and know the source’s incessant beat,
the throbbing sound of drums
drawing attention to the indigenous women’s plight,
the missing and murdered unaccounted for,
another sad story in equality’s long and arduous fight.
Others, joining the crowd, had their issues, too,
the women and some men ready to march,
holding their placards high and proud
but wondering just when
the parade down Seattle’s Pine Street