Life With Horace

poetry & essays

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Things I didn’t know I loved

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

I didn’t know I loved to sing
that song could make me cry
joy a quick moment on the backs of notes
voices together light to dark

I didn’t know that I loved sense of place
color memories until they were gone
layered goodbyes in dim sunlight
dusty motes on gray air

I didn’t know I still loved touch
thought it dried and done 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 every empty place
pull me with them words from my eyes
words from unheard thought

I didn’t know how much I loved my 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 came out of a short poetry workshop taught in 2015 by the poet Doug Anderson. We read Things I Didn’t Know I Loved by the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, and were prompted to write our own list poem by the same title. This is the revised version.


I am

The wires look thin
that hold me up today
but they will do
it takes their strength
to float a legend’s frame
when truly whole
I knew my soul and name
before he ever did
I would be adventure
possibility bravery all of that

We left the Meadowlands
a river’s span away
from spiky city spires
and flew out over water
turning east and north
a winged pack mule
I was engined up packed
with so much fuel to keep us
out of clutching waves
it left him barely room to sit
he held the stick to fly us true
although his word was pilot
imagining he flew for history
and felt himself a hero
almost fledged

My engine and my wings
flew on god I was
brave and gallant
and did not let him down
when he lost heart
we reached the ocean’s end
on fumes crossing pitch dark
coastline almost out of spirit
he and I exhausted homing pigeons
on approach we coasted over
new green fields
to roars and cheers
and many dancing lights

He stepped down to claim his place
first as the upright man
I hoped he was
but empty of true heart
away from fame
pretending admiration
for an upraised arm that
spawned annihilation
he served us all behind the scenes
as we slid closer to another war

I hear he had great loss
knew sorrow and perhaps
was even humbled at the end
but I never felt
an inkling of that truth
now peaceful and alone
I am at rest suspended high above
the eager eyes or older memories
that know our history
and I bear witness

I am the spirit of St Louis

Day 21. The prompt was to tell a famous myth through the eyes of a minor character. I chose a modern tale. (note: I have edited this poem tonight to correct my ill informed impression of Lindbergh’s “admiration” for the Third Reich, when in reality he was an agent of the US military, surveying the strength of axis air power. His personal life was a genuine mess, but I have only hinted at that.)

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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.

she sent a shower of stars

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journey to my tribe

the sky’s first star night’s scout
piercing the scrim of fading light
that hides the spirit dome of heaven
once seen it must be wished on
our lore never for ourselves
to make the magic work

my heart stored its wishes where it could
in the beams of other stars
under the wings of catbirds
in the warmth of sleepy dark
deep in thrush song
or layered in the lamp hung blue of early night
all forgotten over time
in the flow of life away from wonder
wearing down the prickly instincts
of a younger self

walking in my wake unseen
there was a dream gatherer
Ninhan my ancestor of the Mohawk people
taking wishes to her heart
against a future need she knew would come

some years ago my heart connected
with the force of messy life
in a nearby marshland
talisman and refuge
where my feet felt rooted
its spirit cloaked my shoulders
settling on my skin and filling my eyes
the very heart of life

seeing this she knew the time had come
and sowed the air with a wish become a dream
and so I sang again
another as a glowing drop to open up my eyes
rejoice once more in line and color

my deepest wish was to create without restraint
to find the headwaters of my soul
almost buried by the dark paned windows of an early time
faces of blank fear following me from age to age
until I went there in a dream
to vanquish them and bring back light

her answer was
to shower me with stars
a million wishes worth
that set me sparking
whirling to catch words
and once more find my voice
to shout aloud with joy


The lover

Brown eyes that relegated those of graceland’s long-gone king
to minor status, a dedicated would-be ladies man
busking for apples and caresses on his velvet nose,
infinitely curious, sidling up to eager hands to give as well as take

His middle life was night to bright days at Bedlam, his courage fable worthy
walking a path of pain and fear right to the brink, rallying when all hope
seemed gone, taking a chance at life found only in his dreams

Great will and vital spirit, embers fanned by voices of his sudden liberation
he chose life, a miracle of parts, his resurrection measured by small steps
great victories for him and for the people working to reclaim his life in full

Despite his none too patient jennys and indifferent sheep
once healed he stood his ground, they were his charges
as was any child that came within his reach, a solid presence for small bodies
lovingly benign, an echo of his youth

His friendship won was golden, taking morning kisses, braying out his siren call
sometimes fierce, he never claimed perfection nor did we ask it
he led us gently to communion with his world, departing when he knew
his work was done

The pasture slope near his beloved tree is where he rests, and we will visit
bringing love

For Simon, who died yesterday, January 3, 2015. and for Jon and Maria who shared him with us.