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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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


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intentional space

there is a place
now blank, erased
by grief and purposed
brain reset
wild pigment
bits of memory
color orts
of what had been
a heady time
inevitable yang
disguised
by yin’s rose lens
the peace I’ve earned
tells me straight
to recognize
the mis-steps
scrubbed away
yes child
snatch that pink
lensed pince-nez
from your nose
when new love appears
to see necessary truth
and only then jump
into its depths
with joy

__________________________________
sitting on my porch in early morning, bird songs on all sides.


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stepping onto grass

a sip of camomile
to soften nerves
a quiet moment on the porch
observing fire flies
punctuate the trees
travels through cloud rain
to touch a friend
like me a score or so ago
waiting for the sun
to shiver start the day
mind’s eye reaching for
the girl child of my heart
lace tokening her gaze
unruly brother
brought to sudden tears
on catching sight
of unanticipated beauty
tethered by her father’s arm
last moments as the impish girl
who stood upon his feet to waltz
then stepping firmly
onto sea scent grass
to speak her promises
and dance, love wrapped
as woman on her way

________________________________
twenty three years on, that lovely day still resonates.


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for the taking

perhaps the stars
hold memories
diamond pinholes
punched in winter black
life stretched
across infinity
expanding overhead
even as my focus
might be squeezing in
and only looking back
a tempting counterweight
to shrinking time
well nuts to that
I’ll take the milky way
with thanks
refusing blinkered days
or thoughts
and will not shut
all possibility away
this heart and soul
are slated to remain
open for business
indefinitely


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longing for blue

longing for blue
for the swell of
waves at noon
wind changing
light flaking
on their crests

lunch at a glass table
over hot flagstones
flesh still warming
we rode ice sharp water
round the whirlpool’s
seaweed walls

wine in the blood
languid tune in my bones
we sit shoulders touching
shaded corners
of a sea green room
calling


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in place of

in place of tender walls of green
hot sunrise vibrant pink
flamed above bare trees

in place of overwhelming days
unblinkered eyes and free range thought
released to roam

in place of broadbrush turning trees
leaf sun catchers glow chrome yellow
against the rising dark of hills

in place of touch and fire spooned nights
quiet gratitude for unweighted days
I am whole to dance again

in place of trees wrenched rudely from my woods
nightly sunset glory offered up
its afterglow on every side

in place of childish blankets of regret
unflinching truth accepted flings me up
to land as newly tempered steel

and then


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and then

standing still
feet feeling steady rock
in unfamiliar balance
time stops it seems
a blink really
the stream
of then to next
flowing over and around
and somehow through
bones in a shiver
of recognition
no longer straining
to spring free
of oz like cages
revealed as
weightless frauds
their power merely dust
looks ahead
so curious about
what comes next
but firmly rooted
in this moment
and leaps from
rock to rock
given over to
joy at last