Life With Horace

poetry & essays

beauty of white against dark green

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what don’t I remember?
my collier brother brain
hoards words and time
with colors joining hands
to sing their song

I don’t remember
any moment spent
without a color wash
intensity of thought

I don’t remember
understanding those who hate
preferring to destroy
instead of build

I don’t remember
living days or nights
without a music counterpoint
embers into torches lighting memory

I don’t remember
sunsets painted on the undersides
of clouds or nature come to flower
without feeling joy almost to tears

A leftover prompt, from Day 29. Things remembered, and what they weren’t.

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How to mend a fence

It all depends, the farmer said,
on how high the fence and wide the gap.
How tall is just enough to push thoughts out
or hold emotions in, and had I thought of life
enriched by feelings? Is the gap a full on
crop of breaks, or something less,
some oddly chronic stutter of connection,
fluorescence hindered by its oozing ballast.
Can we glue chain split apart, or pickets
freed by loose, bent nails?
It all depends, the farmer said, on how we view
the things that we might do for love.

Day 20. The prompt from NaPoWriMo Day 19. To write a didactic poem, instructional. No restraints.

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heart of the matter

heart (hart) n.
chambered, steady
quiet presence
of love’s river
laced with
and courage
lost sometimes
mended often
freely given
ready always
for encounters
with joy
my soul lives there

Day 17. A little behind, but no matter. A definition poem.

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san san for aggie

sitting up her eyes meet mine
a dog, she cannot hold the stare
full of love, she can but try
trust earned, love gained a certain sign
my eyes smile back with soul laid bare
this gentle dog now surely wants to play
we run the grassy hill my dog and I
eyes search for sticks, she loves to lead the way

Day 14. a san san, seven lines with three images or words repeated three times abc-abd-cd.



the wind has yet to shift
and racing out toward our spot
and green umbrella shade
I know the grainy sand
will burn until my feet delve down
to meet the remnants of
cool night and seepage
from a moon tide
long fled back toward the deeps

the slap of rope against
the few remaining masts
plays metronome for waves
that curl and thud
against the offshore gusts

quick voices giving way
to silent contemplation
of a prize well earned

small bodies bent to summer work
of finding crabs in shallows
rimmed by treasure rocks
and seaweed drifts

the simple arc of shore
embraces islet archipelagos
that make approach
by keeled or daggered boat
no easy thing

and at the western end
a point of land pokes out
its pines shaped by
prevailing ocean breath

it boasts a solid shingled house
set into skirts of green
downsweeping lawn
and chimneys waving
out to sea
the focus of siesta dreams
I try to live without regret

Day 11. the prompt to closely describe an object or place and finish with an abstract line that seemingly has nothing to do with that object or place, but which, of course, really does.

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I wear the cloak of having loved,
not tightly but clutched light,
threads of life thrown on
to walk the path of next,
companion on the loops and hills ahead,
the grains of my allotted scores
falling through the hourglass neck of now
their descent soft breath to kiss my cheek
then drop away to join the humus
steeping just behind.
what colors must it hold, this cloak,
to lie so soft against my skin,
what memories all skeined,
though some were nettles
leaving welts and tears,
others joy that grabbed me by the nape
and shook my soul awake,
then weaving strands of love
presented as a gift, no toll required
or so I thought, glowing rich and warm,
elusive dancing beams
that stayed a while to walk among
wild golden flower fields
communing with my heart, until we faced
the sunset edge of certainty.
in dimming afterglow I saw
the dark cast Janus face of fear
instead of love, mouth open wide
to swallow all my peace.
abandoning this portent of a frozen life
I turned away before full night
without a backward look,
Eurydice sans Orpheus
shedding petal tears
but never love
walking fast toward the light

I have always seen time, carrying its map in my mind’s eye, a form of synesthesia. Personally I think it explains the sometimes weird but welcome linkages of time to physical space that pop up in my poems.

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a single voice

a single voice in open throated song
its beauty and intent a gift
can open hearts, tap into tears of joy
waves of brilliance sent out to meet infinity

a single voice can speak of love
tendrils creeping softly to surround the soul
spun strands of shimmering delight
to last forever if only as a memory

a single voice can crush
the spirit of a trusting child
or shower it with all it needs
to grow and light the world in turn

a single voice can stand against the dark
one simple flame of truth to push back
those who hate and would destroy
and join with other sparks to light a torch

a single voice can cry for help
from frozen valley shadows
faith laying bare all fear and need
certain that another voice will answer

I am here

music often moves me to tears, and listening to a brilliant young singer recently started me thinking about the power of just one voice.


things I didn’t know I loved

I didn’t know I loved the deep
soil spirit under reedy marshes
connected to it through my bones
by a vision of roiling changing life

I didn’t know I loved to sing
that songs we sang would make me cry
joy in a quick moment on the backs of notes
voices together light to dark

I didn’t know that I loved dogs, people, places,
color memories, until they were gone
layered goodbyes dimming
sunlight to dusty motes on gray air

I didn’t know that I loved touch
I thought it dormant, dried but not forgotten
only to find a fire so ready lit my blood sang
even as I would cry aloud

I didn’t know that I loved words
that they would fill me
pull me with them words from my eyes
words from my simmering core

I didn’t know that I loved life
sweet along with sharp and hard
rushing in over tidal flats escaping just as fast
that I could cherish it not just live it

this list poem is from a marvelous poetry workshop taught yesterday by the poet Doug Anderson. we read “things I didn’t know I loved” by the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet. the exercise was to write our own list poem by the same title.

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o chippie my chippie

bright sunlight this morning
coming home I leave the pond flats
almost turning in
you run gaily out across the road
right in front of me
from the gap in my fence that
all you chippies race along
and drive the dogs mad
(stop oh stop go faster)
fast but not fast enough
a tiny thump small pebble sound
(oh no oh no oh no)
one of my own maddening
sleek sloe eyed chippies
and come back fast to get you
I know your markings
pale backed curious explorer
(tears flow helpless geysers of regret)
only a glancing blow
no crow carrion not today
you are part of this place
I gather your warm soft body
(the child inside my heart wails
oh no chippie why why oh why)
with a poachers spade dig a hole
by the door it needs a guard
now that is you safe soft shrouded
under a small river rock cairn here in eden
(I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m so sorry, I loved you)