Life With Horace

poetry & essays


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river styx road

The sign flashed by
and laughing, I returned
to check. Erudition
in this pass through town
an unexpected treat, the turn
sharp uphill, through
new growth woods
wound into dimming light. Odd
reversal, since darkness
craves descent, rivers too.
An old boarding school,
still alive, sits squat
on its hill, lawns
sloping, a likely source.
Was this name a clever
jape, a waistcoat suited
classics master’s
pompous bid, to open
student eyes to
life outside their gate,
processions moving boatless
up the styx.
More likely, a sober
tribute to the aftermath
of war, or claiming flu.
Memories summoned
quiet smiles, this shortish
balding man, long bereft,
kept passion tucked
into his vest, along
with grief.
He would always see
that turn, the name
its badge
of quiet honor.


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until then

there may still be
      wind, that has not kissed
            my face

or light on vernal
      water, not seen through
            my lens

or singing, that has
      yet to hum along
            my bones

or time with friends, dancing
      in green waves, sand on
            my feet

or words to share, flowing
      from the mouth of
            my heart

but, there was always love, with
      you, so if I skip the rest
            to waltz out in your arms,

it will be enough to
      know these gifts waited
            with me, just in case.

_____________________________________________
a birthday poem for Mike

Damselfly wings


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reconciliation

I still wear
it on my skin,
remembering
touch, intensely green
as if emeralds had visited.
every nerve end bathed in
the musk of an old perfume,
a hand there, and there
the shape of his head
bent down to me, walls
all twilight, music
tracing curves, the beat
of time slowed
to gray, wanting it
endless


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sans bliss

We were
long split atoms
even then, the possibility
of us had ricocheted,
competing thoughts
a white sound mask.
Inexperienced, I flung
my satin stole of
certainty over each
shoulder. Wrong headed,
ignorant of the deeper
dance of lust and love,
that shook its head,
and left to visit other
lives. Tantalizing milkweed
silk, a fluted thrush note
fading, every time I would
have ventured back.

____________________________
for S


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black hole hollow

ordinary dirt with ruts
this road winds down
to swaddling trees
restrained by boulder walls
stone guarding stones
upright story flags
pocked with black moss flecks
lichen crumbling scratchy
under finger tips
shallow letters with
bare bones accounts
I want to know
the face the runes
and numbers represent
his life was short
did he know love
or solitude
while free to live
above despite
hard scrabbled days
if not him whose
heart still glows
coals flinging out
the half life rays
that drew me here
to hollow’s end?

______________________________
a cemetery and its road on the New York – Vermont border.


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sideways view

I can see you, all of you
from where I sit
a few thousand miles
up or out, take your pick
your lives are match flares
as we pass away from light
small bursts of color
flaming out, why green
or red or blue tonight?
my whims connect the dots
entertaining tales that may be
lies or just bad guesses
we know you watch us, singing
songs and writing maudlin verse
to our cold rocks and shifting shape
light breathed in and out to wax and wane
you could not know that we are joined
silly schizoid world, for you
it’s either his billboard smile
oddly neutered, hardly male
or country place of, me
who lives to hunt, a
woman with a wicked bow
one would never see us as
a pair much less coupled by
love up on our pockmarked
fluorescent lighted sphere
sling shot surfing
to the beat of star pulsed
fragments of forgotten gravities
we have a running bet to see
which way you leap as
we sail by silvering the clouds
our tote board running neck and neck
for half a million years

_______________________________
Doug Anderson’s weekly writing workshop has us all digging deep, and laughing a lot. the prompt: a myth from other lips.


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truth bag

being somewhat deafer now
imagined sounds dodge out of sight
bird noises, then coyote yips
creatures speaking to the moon
beavers stripping bark
soft words at night
wood thrushes as the day begins to fade
those I care about and want to hear again
a ways away, surrounding me
ear uncupped, not straining
that would be a marvel, singular gift
tears come just imagining

there is sometimes respite, when
the steeply rising road
is muffled deep in snow
no one singing in my trees
and outside silence is complete
ears freed up to hear what’s close
damned mouse scratchings in the wall
dogs nesting into warmth
wood timbers easing into sleep
unfrenzied thoughts
words emerging into verse
I call a truce until it stops
and plows cut through to rescue, me
ungrateful for release

none of this is worth a moment’s pain
but silence in the face of
evil, senseless, stupid acts
everyone can see and hear
(the instant truth of emperor sans clothes)
becomes a drawn out screaming wail
that grabs me by the nape
and shakes things loose
my voice plinking rage
words landing on the floor
about to skitter off, afraid
I snatch them up
so many jacks without a ball
and throw them in my truth bag
to pull out at will, tamed
for my answer

______________________________________
a prompt from last night’s writing group with Doug Anderson: silence


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heaven’s way

up the crumbling road
they ran, from
quiet stones,
bedrolls flapping, dodging
early morning rain of
green encrusted may,
laughing as they came, the
dash of youth
and all of life ahead.
from my window perch, I
wished me in their place
and longing, turned away,
spring too heavy
for a shredded heart leaking
messy love, right
down my shirt
and, crept around the room
certain of impending death,
a Duse to the core.
I mended,
they dried out.
we all moved on
to older lives
she left hers first
too soon, and young.
decades on I return
to lushness, grays and greens,
wet kissed, fizzing
temporary love
and wonder if her spirit
is there too,
revisiting lilac scented
nights, among the stones
on Heaven’s Way

________________________________
Heaven’s Way is a cemetery road in North Bennington, Vermont.


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not quite endings

the music stopped, shimmering
in dust beamed space
our voices stilled
waiting for the flood of response
I fall into the silence
all energy given away
to singing’s singular joy

what I thought was love
ok it was, no holding back
died, stabbed and poked
to rubble not worth picking through
a lucky escape it turns out
in time to save my heart
and savor all that’s left

a long goodbye jumps the queue
to sudden extinction
love lives on the mountain
ashes soaking into moss
his spirit coming back
to say that 40 years were
worth it all in all
and how are things?

the chatter quieted thank god
and in its place
a single sound takes shape
one note clearly formed on endless breath
much to my delight I find
it comes from me
I had been singing all along
and never knew

_________________________________
a prompt from tonight’s writing group with Doug Anderson: endings

pond below the mountain


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a haiku for place with notes

up the dipping road
mountain arm is bear’s shoulder
my home lies below

______________________________________
multiple joys of September, cloud fingers dip into mountain creases, swamp maples step forward, my pine flags flying, one more trip around the sun complete