Poetry

Poetry

Background Music

In a crowded café
a struggling young musician
tries to be heard
above the din;
the clink of plates and dishes
and the excited talk of the patrons.

It’s a fundraiser
for a local charity
which seeks to care
for the downtrodden.

Even the dress she is wearing,
hand made by a talented aunt
will be auctioned off.

The attendees
are so busy doing good
that they don’t even notice
the beautiful poignancy of her song,

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Spring Run Off

The first slow drips become steadier
as the sun beats down
on the ice dams
on the roof.

I remember the streams of spring run off
trickling down the road
on the way to the bus stop.

We would stop and build dams
made of the sand
that had been spread on the icy roads
during the winter.

In school, I would learn about
Smetana’s Moldau
a symphonic poem
starting from two small springs
not much different from the spring runoff
making its way down the road
towards the bus stop.

Later, as the weather got warmer
we would canoe down the Battenkill
swollen from the spring run off
before it slowed back down
to an indolent summer river
passing New England farmland.

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The Tenth Leper

The long line of witnesses
appear before the appropriations subcommittee
telling the stories of their struggles
and how one agency or another
had helped them survive.

Every budget cut affects someone.
The powerful are always there
to make sure they get their share.

But speaking before a lawmaker
can be frightening to the disempowered,
the broken, the victim.

The activists find those
that are willing to speak
and can be coached.

They provide classes,
transportation and motivation.

Yet there is more to it than activists
seeking to keep the services they believe are important
funded.

The disempowered find a little power
and the broken find repair.

The chair thanks the witness
and reinforces the encouragement.

The legislator in the chambers
or the voter watching on TV
can hear something else
important.
Those who have been helped
saying thanks.

The Talisman

Throughout my life there have been objects
not necessarily magical or sacramental
that have taken on special significance.

They haven’t been the unattainable
objects of desire,
lost, partial, untranslatable.

Nor have they been transitional objects
like the blanket my sister had
or the velveteen rabbit which became real.

Instead, they have been trinkets received as gifts,
practical objects used long past being worn out,
or some combination of the two.

There was the reversible fall jacket
that lasted through much of high school and college
until finally my mother convinced me
to get a new jacket.

There was that coffee mug
which I was given
when I worked in the high school library
helping with inventory
and stayed with me for over thirty years
until the last time we moved.

At other times
there have been coins
which I carried for years
almost like prayer beads.

Perhaps, they are more like H.D.’s mullein-leaf
causing us to perceive the other side of everything
including time.

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Cognates

I read through the ‘about’ page
of a website my daughter uses at school
“to help students excel at tests”.

It is the wonderful world of
SAT verbal prep.

My SAT verbal prep
was translating Catullus.
“Odi et Amo”

Now, I am enamored with words;
their feel on my lips,
the thoughts they conjure up.

And as much as I value computers
in helping us connect to one another,
the idea of learning words
to excel at tests
I find odious.

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