Context

The White Stone

I’m not exactly sure where it came from
the small white stone
sitting on a bookshelf.

I believe I brought it home from my mother’s house
after she passed away.

It’s not exactly round
but the edges have been worn smooth
as if it had been tossed in the surf
for ages.

Most likely, it had been brought home
from some summer vacation
to the shore
years ago.

It could have been from anywhere along the eastern seaboard;
Mount Desert Island,
Cape Cod,
The Outer Banks.
These were the destinations of my childhood.

Now, with the seawater dried off
and no sound of the surf
or gulls overhead
it has lost a little of its luster
but none of its meaning.

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St. Patrick's Day 2015

I never was particularly aware of being Irish growing up.
I didn’t know the origin of my last name
It didn’t start with a Mc or an O.

There weren’t any signs of Irish culture around the house,
at least that I knew of.

Probably the closest we ever got
was when my father would whistle
“I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen”
when he was driving the car somewhere.

Years later, I found that several generations back
a young Irishman married
a proper Boston Brahmin.

I’ve never learned the full story
though I suspect that his in-laws love their grandchildren
but didn’t tolerate anything else Irish.

As much as I wonder about John and Lucy
I am also curious about Kathleen from the song.

What was the home she longed for and did it really exist
or was it simply another idealized memory?

It‘s a familiar refrain.
In another song, a farmer talks
about taking his wife back east
for Christmas,
if the harvest’s any good.

But the harvest rarely is
as good as we hope
and even if we do make it back east,
we find things have changed.

I think of Tarkovsky and Nostalghia
of Woolfe’s Angel, looking homeward
but not being able to go back,
and I sit, writing,
knowing I can’t go home again, either.

My mother’s dead,
my father’s in assisted living,
and my childhood home
is now owned by strangers.

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Background Noise

The sound of a distant jet buzzes in the background.
In the family room, the dialog from a television
takes on a common rhythm.

The sleeping dog shifts and snorts
my daughter, wearing her headphones
blurts out so brief random sound
in response to whatever she is listening to.

As I record my observations
I can hear the sound of the keys
on the laptop being depressed.

As I seek for writing material,
I scan Facebook and the evening news;
a scandal in Washington,
conflict internationally,
and gossip about celebrities.

All of this is background noise
as I sit in my chair
searching
for absolutes.

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The Weather Map

As a child I would watch the weather report
on the evening news
when my parents weren’t around.

I’d copy the weather map,
the fronts, the low pressure areas
so we would know
when to expect rain.

How will the crops grow?
When will there be good drying weather?
Will there be school tomorrow?

These were the concerns of my childhood.

Years later, I lived in a city
and the weather seemed much more remote,
like wind, fog or snow
in poems from yesteryear.

It would be what it would be,
until I moved on a boat
and the storms and tides
became much more immediate.

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Just the Right Word

I pause
motionless
looking out the window
searching for that word
as if it would float by
or the different view
would allow it to re-emerge.

What is that word,
that idea,
of waiting
for a thought to come.

If it were on the internet,
la song streaming,
which then paused,
I’d know what to call it.
Buffering.

But my own thoughts?
I glace over to the rocking chair
with my daughter’s book bag
currently sitting in it.

Nothing.

I glance around the room
at clutter on the piano bench
or the kitchen table.

If I sort through this pile of papers,
or this collection of knick knacks,
will I find the word I am looking for.

As I try to conjure up the word,
I think of a grandfather that had Parkinson’s
or an uncle with Alzheimer’s.

But I’ve always been absent minded,
too easily distracted,
always searching
for just the right
word.

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