Poems





Verses from the Lake

And Other Musings 


***


Citizens

A dove, feathers puffed out like a softball 

Against the fog and chill near the shore,

Belies its mythos of 'Peace'

By charging, wings-raised, at a chipmunk

Encroaching on her sacred space 

Beneath the bird feeders. 

A Pileated woodpecker, 

Perching on a tired birch tree,

Drops more suet than she eats 

To a waiting scarlet-capped Crossbill

New to the vicinity and obviously

Happy just for scraps.

Harbinger is the ‘word-of-the-day’.

The north wind whispers
To the assembled feathered and furried multitutude, 
“Winter days are a-coming!
Shhh, Shhh, Shhh!"

***
Haliaeetus Leucocephalus

In the foggy Minnesota morning

Just outside the cabin door

A single silent wing flap

Atop an oak tree at the shore.

A Bald Eagle rises in the autumn sky

Till the eye can no longer see

This epitome of Majesty


***

Father and Son

Two eagles arrive just before dusk

As we sit lake-gazing, wine in hand.

They silently appear, wending their way

Into the shoreline trees.

One, a dark-feathered adolescent, lumbers

Onto a decrepit, dying birch 

Desperate to achieve balance 

On weakened branches.

Its mentor, with wizened white head and tail,

Perches in majesty in a sturdy oak.

Suddenly, both rise in simultaneous circle

Reassessing the lake-potential for supper.

Upon return, the youth chooses a better limb,

Perhaps seeking some sort of avian approval.

With another silent extra-sensory communication

The two birds soundlessly disappear across the lake.

Beneath the branches

In silent sleight-of-hand,

Myriad tiny occupants of the leaf-strewn carpet,

Chipmunks, squirrels, the variegated family of birds,

Having fearfully disappeared

Reappear as if by magic resuming their forage.

Woodland life returns to peaceful normalcy.

The lake turns red from the sinking sun.


***

Interlopers

The lake has been invaded by alien avians.

Sudden herds of foreign birds,

Shrill-voiced red wing males, 

Brightly colored shriekers,

Dowdy females with demanding children

Pleading greedily for seed,

Cowbirds, starlings, grackles squat, uninvited

Inserting their own muttering lives

Into the low-key cacophony

From the branches above. 

Snooty native finches,

Chattering chickadees,

Tuxedo-clad nuthatches,

Even the stolid sparrows

Impatiently pray for the impending exodus

Of these uninvited transients

Whose presence has deflated local

Pine needle-covered property values.


***


Justice

(An Allegory)

In the morning sun
A gray squirrel, tail flailing wildly, 
Gesticulates, wordlessly. 
Announcing his presence
To the assembled avian multitude
Beneath the feeders.
His posture says,
"Look at me! Am I not beautiful?
I am your king!"
In their diversity and strength of numbers
They dismiss the rat-like rodent narcissist,
Ignoring his posturing bombast,
As a raptor in the tree top
Ponders the mammalian morsel,
Then silently swoops.

***


Lakeside Lunch

Gazing through the lakeside window

Pondering my noon repast. 

Black Forest ham in a lettuce wrap?

Perhaps a beer? Perhaps a nap?

 

I did not see the burglar’s face 

Moving at his leisure pace

Monsieur Bruin approached the feeders

And, with superhero strength 

Drew the wrought iron shepherd’s hook 

To open maw and probing tongue.

 

 I opened up the porch screen door

Yelling in a threatening voice!

Herr Bear spoke not the least response 

Or cast a glance toward my face.

 

Angrily grabbing a can of juice 

I tossed it at the furry derriere!

With sullen look of “Whatever! Dude!’

Frere' Bear turned his back to me 

And with ursine dreams of better fare

Waddled to the neighbor’s yard

Perhaps hoping for a 

‘Not too hot, Not too cold. Just right!’ 

Bowl of porridge.

 

***


Bird, Bee, Song

If I could be a bee 

I’d choose to snooze in fields of flowers

I’d snuggle my honeybee 

And nuzzle her muzzle for hours and hours

Life would be so fancy free 

If I could be a bee

 

If I could be a bird 

I’d fly above the highest trees

I'd bask in sunshine and sing from the weeds

I’d whistle of thistle and sunflower seeds

You’d hear my wond'rous warbled word 

If I could be a bird

 

If I could be a song 

The words would tell you of my love

A melody so sweet and strong, 

Like birds that sing and bees that buzz

A carefree life with nothing wrong 

If I could be a song

 

***

Adolescence

An eagle passes overhead, fully grown, but

Sans the white head and tail of adulthood.

Twitchy, furtive, perhaps adolescently impatient,

Impulsively, the young bird lands, splashing,

 Floating for several minutes

In the shallow water by the lakeshore.

Contemplating,

It fumbles for a moment.

Wings lifting, it walks on the water,

Rising to the sky, and back into the treetops

Again, watching, waiting,

'Til it disappears disappointed

Back to its nest on the far lakeside.


***



The Loons

I rise in the night

And head to the room of contemplation. 

From my seat by the open window

A full moon is bright enough to read by. 

Sounds of conversations in bird-tongue,

Mournful but magnificent, 

Chortle offerings of friendship

Mixed with the keening warnings 

Of predator approach.

 

The lake had only one pair last year. 

This year there are eight couples.

A grassy island hides nests and progeny.

Turns are taken en garde'.

Dare we hope that change is possible?

That a chance for healing can occur?

That Nature might gaze upon us 

With undeserved empathy and compassion 

Rather than retaliatory vengeance? 


***


Instinct

She clambers between the rocks,

Claws seeking space for her massive carapace.

The tree-lined bank had been a formidable barrier,

But she has persevered.

The annual trek, driven by Darwinian repetition,

Is a heroine’s journey of procreation.

Slowly crossing the unforested yard, she stops

At the approach of a curious golden retriever named Barkley

Who yelps in pain as he loses a significant portion

Of his inquisitive snout.

Unfalteringly, the wash-tub sized Snapping Turtle

Waddles on her way and then, begins to dig.

Sandy soil gives way and a small hole

Finally accepts a few leathery eggs.


Later that night, under the evening moon,

A skunk somehow scents and senses the presence

Of the newly laid baubles.

The morning sun reveals

The torn and gobbled evidence.

Mother Testudo has returned to the water 

Oblivious to her offsprings’ fate.

 

Epilogue:

A cabin guest, 

Walking down the stone-studded path

To gaze at the slow sinking sun,

Notices a tiny, skittering movement 

In the ferns and broken twigs.

He carefully picks up the single, tiny Testudine survivor,

Placing it near the shore and grins

As the lone baby turtle enters the welcoming water.


***


La Ardilla Roja 

The Red Squirrel

And her tiny red-tailed child

Beneath bird feeders

Hoover up seeds and debris

Thrown down by feathered friends, 

Brethren who live above 

Fellow citizens of the lakeside

 

Sans her reddish tail, La Ardilla Roja

Would be no bigger than a chipmunk

But her fierce, dark eyes are twice the size 

Of those striped, cowering compatriots.

La Mama Roja’s fur is scarred and striated from encounters

With those who try to keep her from her forage

And the protection of her ruddy-furred child.

 

A large, mature gray squirrel admiring the seed-filled moss 

Flexes his bushy tail and throws his weight around

But, fearing potential embarrassment,

Yields to his smaller, russet, feisty foe and

Escapes chattering in frustration to a higher branch.

 

Indomitability, and fearlessness have

Defeated machismo and greater physical size.

The gray male’s tail-switching bluff has been rebuffed.

La Ardilla Roja, La Mama, Hero-parent

Now rules the moss-covered lakeside turf!


***


Minnesota Murder Mystery

(A true story)

Two bodies of dead Downy woodpeckers, 

Were discovered this morning

Laid out parallel to each other

Gang-land style, assassinated,

Lying on their backs in gruesome fashion

On the wooden platform

Next to the legs of my gas grill.

They appeared to be

An unfinished late-night snack

Chewed a bit, but not mutilated

Or decapitated in the habit

Of a Cooper’s Hawk or a Merlin

So ,who could have done the dirty deed?


Owls who live in the trees nearby

Night-time prowling the lakeside air

Capture cats and their kin

Thus eliminating local felines 

From the list of suspicious characters.

Perhaps the owls themselves are the culprits,

But, they tend to take prey to their nests

Then coughing up the bones

Which fall to the ground

As furry or feathery pellets.


So, how can we discover which brutal creature 

Could capture and kill such fleet, aerial

Citizens of the lakeside forest?

Here in northern Minnesota

The nearest detective, gumshoe, Private Investigator,

A famed sleuth of mystery and mayhem

Is near at hand, not very far away, 

Just a hundred miles due west. 

We need to get on the phone and call…

Fargo North, Decoder!



Folks! I believe I have perhaps solved this case without the assistance of our intrepid detective, Mr. North! I suggest that the two Downies, mother and daughter, were asleep in their bird house (attached to the tree in our backyard) when a clever raccoon climbed silently and opened the clean-out door to the birdhouse using its wooden knob. The killer then quickly entered, dispatching both the defenseless birds. Carrying the bodies to the side of our cabin, theis nocturnal rapscallion placed them intentionally where I do my outdoor cooking. The message from the thief is plain.  "Feed me, and not the damned birds!"


Forcible Entry


Location of the Deceased

***

Bangkok versus Minnesota 

Hell-hot and steaming 

And sweat-soaked silk shirt

Beats stone cold and shivering 

‘Til finger-bones hurt. 

Rainwater rushing 

Down streetdog-filled streets

Beats slipping and sliding 

On snow covered feet.

But, summertime visions, 

Sweet corn in a dish,

And friends and cold beer

And home-made smoked fish

And lakes, crystal clear…

An expatriate’s wish.


***


Willie’s Blues

(for Wm. Murphy RIP)

As phoebe flits by gathering insects for her brood

Waiting open-mouthed in the nest beneath the eaves,

Willie surveys his domain from his perch on the birdbath.

Suddenly, in an urgent animalistic request,

Willie calls out for chipmunk companionship

Chuck, Chuck, Chuck! Chuck! Chuck! Chuck!

An alpha chipmunk pleading for romance

Chuck! Chuck! Chuck! C’mon! Baby! Let’s dance

Chuck, Chuck, Chuck, Get funky now!

 

A burly, bearded human approaches the tiny striped rodent

Glowing cigar in one hand, peanuts proffered in the other.

Friendship offered, readily accepted 

Peanuts fill up chubby cheeks.

Now, his purple Parker Fly guitar and a song

Chuck, Chuck, Chuck!  I’m pleading for romance

Chuck! Chuck! Chuck! C’mon Baby Let’s dance!

Chuck, Chuck, Chuck! I’m pleading for romance

Chuck! Chuck! Chuck! Let’s give our love a chance!

 Chuck, Chuck, Chuck! C’mon Baby, Let’s dance!

Chuck, Chuck, Chuck!  Get funky now!


***


Miscellaneous Musings


Homage to Edgar Allan Poe

I live a life of languid loneliness

And sail from shore to star-kissed shore.

Oft off’ring songs to fools and thieves

‘Midst the springtime buds 

And summertime leaves,

And wondering what this all is for

And what means the somber 

‘Nevermore’. 

I bask in love of one so fine and fair

The years can not this truth deny

The pulsing pounding of this stricken heart

That sometime seems prepared to fly apart

At word of love or oft-heard heartfelt sigh of 

“Nevermore!”

I ponder weary, worldly chores and curse the 

Fool who sails to other arduous shores

Fleeing from the fleeting feeling 

That his dazed mind holds, reeling 

In sad demure unseeming  

‘Til his fruitless life lies

‘Nevermore’?


***


Autonomonous

I don’t claim to be no renaissance man

Dancin' through life, doin’ the best that I can.

Jack of some trades, I’m the master of none,

Living my life  just having fun.

Sittin’ ‘round thinking ‘bout right ‘n ‘bout wrong,

Making up poems  singing my songs.

I like to cook,  I love to eat!

Play my guitars, Man! This life is a treat!

I like drinkin’ beer   I enjoy sippin’ wine

Love bein' with my wife, every day is just fine!


***


On the Streets of Shanghai


      Pride

A man in rags 
Cooks jiaozi
In a battered black wok
Over a smoky fire
In a 55 gallon oil drum.
He sells them to common folks
On a street in a poor part of town. 
He wears a clean, tall, white chef’s hat. 


    Dignity

A man in rags,
Who has had a stroke,
Shuffles on his good leg
Between cars at a stop light.
Dusting windshields with his good arm,
He sings out of the good side of his face.
He isn’t begging for money,
But, if you give him a coin,
He will give you a half-smile. 


 ***


Notes from Turkey


Premonition: Istanbul 1983 

In the back seat 

Of a restored ‘54 Chevrolet taxi

On Istiklal Street in urban Istanbul

A sulphurous yellow fog constricts my lungs. 

I gasp for breath and ponder death

In a country I both love and fear.

I am asthmatically immersed 

In the miasma of burning lignite coal

That heats the winter neighborhood.

 

Later that night

In sleepless bed 

I listen to the whistle

Of my respiration and

The drumbeat of my struggling heart

Awakening in panic, I stumble to the kitchen

Opening a tap to fill a glass with water.

In the sink a red-legged centipede

Fully eight inches in length

Stares glaringly at me,

Defying, daring me to intercede.

Grabbing a dirty kitchen knife 

I sever the interloper

Into wriggling partitions

And return to my sleepless bed.


***


Firik

From Istanbul across the border to Thessanoliki

In a battered, yellow Volkswagen Beetle

As the sun begins to set, we drive through fields of fire

Burning the spring wheat to create the firik, a smokey bulgur delicacy.

Just ahead of the advancing flames, storks leap on gangly legs

Snatching insects of all sizes and shapes 

And retreating just before the line of fire.

As the sun descends, dragging the dusk into dark,

Silhouettes of avian gourmets prance in the firelight.

Gorging advantageously, perhaps to return to the nest

To regurgitate sustenance to their waiting newborn.


***

One More Night of Passion 

Istanbul is a siren spirit calling out my name

Crescent moon with a single star

Mesmerizing, Paralyzing, Hypnotizing, Tantalizing,  

Turkish delight on a moonlit night


As the call to the faithful echoes in the wind

The sound of a voice echoes in my mind

With a restless regret for the sins I didn’t sin

Just sadness and sorrow as I leave it all behind

Please, one more night of passion   A sign from up above

One more night of passion  One more night of love

 

Like the heat of the sun burns the winter chill away

The heat from a glance burns me till I want to stay

But the wisdom of years says this thing is not designed 

Just sadness and sorrow as I leave it all behind 

Please, one more night of passion 

Before the years have left me blind

One more night of passion 

Before I leave it all behind

Please, one more night of passion  

A sign from up above

One more night of passion  

One more night of love

 

Like the smell of the sea licking at the shore

The scent of her skin caresses my mind

But this fruit is forbidden  I cannot ask for more

Just sadness and sorrow as I leave it all behind

 Please, one more night of passion 

Before the years have left me blind

One more night of passion 

Before I leave it all behind

Please, one more night of passion  

A sign from up above

One more night of passion  

One more night of love

 

***

Ramazan

To be a witness 
Was never my intent.

As I turned the cobbled corner,
I saw the muted crowd.
I saw the fatted calf
Facing toward the sacred place.

A hammer descended.
A blade sliced quickly through.
Prayer and song arose
As blood flooded the concrete,
And the smell of death 
Surged through my nose.

 

I made my way shakily to my home
Past hovels of whitewashed stone.
Soon the Imam will lose the sight
Of the thread of black and thread of white.
The minarets will glow their praise.
The call to prayer will flow and raise
All hearts to celebration.

The gathered faithful will share the food
With those of lesser fortune
While I, cringing uneasily
With queasy stomach,
Contemplate my evening meal.


***

 


Back in Iowa 


Iowa Rain

The early morning

Iowa rain 

Has water-colored

The muddy ground 

From brown to green,

Willfully speckling the yard

With scattered dandelion-yellow.

A change in the light

Awakens this sleepy-eyed city

As sun-warmed buds 

Turn coyly into 

Blossoms of white.


The wind from the west

Will soon send the pollen in swirls

And maple tree seeds

Will twirl to the earth.

Birds and squirrels will

Nest and procreate while

Spring peepers peep 

In the dew of the night

And in the early morning 

Iowa rain.


***


The Black Bowler Hat

In a roadside café a tired old man

Gazes grimly at his breakfast.

Eggs over easy, hash-browns, kielbasa sausage,

And a mug filled with a tepid hint of coffee

A black bowler hat 

Is politely placed on a chair next to him 
As his mother had taught him to do

Decades ago.

 

A blast of cold air ruffles his thinning hair

As twin six-year old girls hold open the door. 

A pale woman with red, winter cheeks 

Pushes a husband-filled wheel-chair

Festooned with oxygen and breathing tubes

And seats him next to her at the table.

 

When the family’s food finally arrives, 

The old man watches as the woman

Holds a coffee cup for her husband to sip

And then lovingly spoons some egg 

Into his bird-like mouth

 

The twins giggle as they fill-in a coloring book with Crayola.

Whipped cream mustaches from their hot chocolate

Leak down upon matching red outfits.

The mother assists one twin with her drawing 

Then bends over, gently kissing the other’s curly head

Crudely crafted with crooked corn-rows.

 

The waitress brings the old man his bill 

And as he stands to leave.

The little girls look quizzically at him. 

He places the Black Bowler Hat on his head, 

Tips the hat as if to say good-bye, and smiles. 

In bashful return

The twins shyly flash tiny Chiclet grins.


***


Reunion

In a visit surprise, two old buddies stopped by.

50 years back, they were young. (So was I.)

Time disappeared as we talked of the past

And our youth reappeared, recollections amassed.

Glasses were filled and guitars were uncased

And old songs were sung and our cares were erased.

And, the problems of present-day, everyday life

Dissolved in the dust with our troubles and strife.

Yet it seemed, in an instant, the swift moment passed

With promises made. This would not be our last.

But, who knows what happens? Who knows what will?

Who knows what wishes our hopes will fulfill.


***