She looks at me ... eyes drenched with love and confusion,
"What is it that tears you apart so?"
I look at her, and through her,
past the sensible answers,
turning the pages of my life in only a moment,
and into the expanse where pieces of me die every day.
The clarity of my answer runs the miles of every thought I've ever had.
It's lost among a million images that paltry words can't describe.
It's me watching my daughter by herself in the yard
after she's told me she doesn't have many friends at school.
And I'm praying the thoughts in her little head aren't sad,
tearing myself apart wanting to see the world through her blue-green eyes ...
a whole other life and consciousness,
sitting alone in the yard.
It's me wondering why I didn't tell my son I was proud of him
a hundred more times than I did.
It's a single look that I remember when he was two.
He looked up at me and his eyes said, "Do you not have time for me?"
And it tears me apart because now he's eleven.
People tell me that I'm a good father and that tears me apart
because of a look I remember nine years ago ...
sitting alone in his room, watching Winnie the Pooh.
It's us when we were first married and dirt poor.
It's me waking up every day and feeling as though I've failed them.
It's me using her love to hurt her.
It's my grandfather taking me fishing when I was a boy,
and how strong he was.
It's me taking my grandfather fishing now,
and how weak he is.
It's the things I want to tell him but never will.
It's me as a child walking through the woods at night
with no idea where I'm going, but hoping that when I get there,
a monster will try and kill me.
It's me as a lost teenager with my mother at home crying
because she doesn't know where I am ... or if I'm alive.
It's a dead friend that I let drive drunk.
It's a live one that I let drink alone.
It's because of the hollow ...
the one that takes everything I have and tells me
I have nothing to give.
It's the black hole that is always fed and never full.
It's me sitting alone, looking out of a window
with rain running down it, and wishing I could cry too.
So I tell her, "It's nothing."
And the truth in that lie is one she'll never see.
She hears, "I'm fine."
When I really said,
"I'm hollow ... it's empty space that haunts me ... It's nothing."
A dark tunnel under the streets of Beijing
A mother tries to wake her child from his bed of newspaper
She looks frail and lost
He looks hungry and weak
My brother and I, well fed and healthy
Watch this scene with the itch of tears starting to form
We look at each other in the shame of being blessed
And without a word, we walk up to her, emptying our pockets on the way
She recoils at first, and I can't help but think of a beaten dog
My composure wants to fail
I want to cry
Instead, I give her the brightest and most gentle smile I can muster
We hold out our hands, wishing we could do more for them
She looks at it, and quickly looks back at us ... in shock ... or suspicion
We nod, and she takes the 500 RMB, enough to feed them for quite some time
It's all we had on us, and anything less would have insulted our purpose there
Few things are as great, as giving til' it hurts ... giving all
Looking at the ground, she takes our hands and kisses them
She's crying, and doesn't want to look at us
I duck down so she has to look at me, and she does
I kiss her hand like she did mine and smile at her again
She smiles back ... and it is a thing of pure beauty
The whole world couldn't buy the memory of that smile from me
We came out of the other side of the tunnel ... penniless ...
The richest men alive
I came to visit the old baseball field in the dying town where I grew up. It was less than a whisper of what it once was. My first steps on the dirt sent my chest to thumping, and the still wind held the scent of chalk and nachoes. I could see the shadows of my youth running the bases, and I wondered if those steps had ever taken me anywhere. I made my way to the scraps of homeplate and dug my feet into the same ruts I'd stood in over twenty years ago. The decayed plate was like bones of forgotten friends, and I gave it a tap with a bat I would never hold again. My vision narrowed to see a pitch that would never come. I swung. Somewhere in the distance of my memory, I heard a crack. I looked to the dugout at the ghosts of my teammates and grinned. I looked behind to the empty bleachers and gave a nod to my grandfather. The pride in his ancient eyes was as bright then as it ever had been. In the silence, the crowds roar was like magic. Then, for what I knew to be the last time, I ran. I ran with all the thunder of a thousand feet, kicking up the dust of a thousand games. I ran with all the joy and speed of summers past. I ran with heartache and wishes, and echoes ... of a hollow sound.
Caleb A. Smith
I place a hand grenade
into a box of words
and pull the pen out
I hold a pad in front of my my face
and call the resulting destruction
I am the shadow of a shadow,
the black under grey.
I am the meeting of breezes,
and the death of them both.
I am the drop of dew with no blade of grass to rest on,
lost in the earth.
I am the wave that never crests,
forever at sea.
I am a cloud behind a cloud,
never pointed at by lovers.
I am the leaf that doesn't fall,
alone in the wind.
I am the ash over coal,
with no warmth to give.
I am the traveller's road
when the journey is over
I am the box I opened in the attic,
only to find it empty.
I'm in an arena full of people where fights are taking place. My dad informs me that I'm on the fight-card.
"But, I haven't even been training.", I argue.
"There's no time for that.", He tells me, and runs off into the crowd.
I'm trying to find the locker room so I can change out of my cowboy boots, when a little person runs up to me. He hands me what I guess to be 17 cents.
"What's this for?", I ask.
"Shove it up your *ss!", He yells at me.
I consider kicking his teeth in, but I don't want to cause a disturbance. Instead, I just stare blankly at him and wonder what I've done to deserve 17 cents up my butt.
"And stop following me!", He screams as he runs away.
For whatever reason, I decide the 17 cents would be of better use in my truck, so I go to the parking lot. It's there that I find four men chasing a monkey.
"We have to catch this monkey before the fight is over!", One man informs me. "If not, we could have a riot on our hands!"
I quickly see the logic in this and join in to help. It's a large and mean looking monkey, so I scan the area for a weapon. I find a chunk of firewood near the automatic doors, snatch it up, and run for the monkey. But, I'm too late. The monkey staggers up to me with one hand out and the other over his heart, like Fred Sanford having, "the big one".
"Who shot the monkey?", I ask.
"I did", One of the men tells me. "He was my monkey."
I know that I need to get back inside to make my fight, but the monkey's owner pulls out a knife and starts skinning the beast.
"There's no reason to let this meat go to waste.", He says.
Again, I quickly see the logic in this, and join in to help, as I know these men have never skinned a monkey.
During the skinning process, which I will not go into details about, Dolph Lundgren shows up and introduces himself as Joe Montana. We all introduce ourselves, except for one very pretty Asian girl, (I have no idea when she showed up) who doesn't want to give her name. After I introduce myself, Dolph says,
"Hey, aren't you supposed to be fighting next?"
I wake up.
I took my son fishing
down on Slippery Lake Bridge.
It's a wooden bridge with rough-cut timbers,
smoothed on the edges by all the behinds that have sat
and all the legs that have dangled.
I remember being there as a child.
I remember my uncle taking my arms
and swinging me out over the edge.
He was the kind of uncle that you were never quite sure
whether he would let go or not.
I remember a lesson I learned there as a boy.
So when my son asked me,
"Dad, why do they call it Slippery Lake Bridge? ...
I thought you said this was Old River."
A grin worked its way to my mouth,
"I did. And it is. But I'll tell you about that later...
for now, grab that bucket and go fetch us some water."
I pointed, and like a good son,
he went for a bucket of water.
I could tell he was confused about me withholding information,
and I fought the smile that wanted to surface.
It wouldn't do to go and give the lesson away
before it was learned.
I watched him tip-toe his way down the bank.
I watched him scoop up half a bucket of water.
I watched him turn and take two steps back up
before he slipped and fell in the mud.
He came back to me with more water on himself than in the bucket,
trying to wipe the mud from his clothes
but succeeding only in smearing it more.
He looked at me with a mixture of hurt and amusement,
"Dad, I think I know why they call it the Slippery Lake Bridge."
I laughed heartily as I clapped him on the back,
"It's a mighty slippery lake ... ain't it, son?"
We are on The Great Wall after our climb.
There's a larger area here where you can get souvenirs and even engraved plaques
that read, 'I climbed The Great Wall of China'.
We're met with a group of high school students.
They are from Chicago, and part of an orchestra of some kind.
There are lots of giggles and shy glances.
And guys in the background with looks of, 'whatever....'
One of the girls asks me, with overly animated hands,
"Ummm, we were wondering ... are you a model?"
Before I can answer, my brother chimes in,
"Yeah, he models underwear. You've probably seen him in Calvin Klein. I'm his agent."
I give him a look that says, "YOU ****!"
He gives me a look that says, "Just roll with it."
So, they ask my agent, "Can we take a picture with him?"
He considers this, like a good agent would, and joyfully declares,
"Well, of course you can!"
This whole exchange makes me feel somewhat violated.
Shortly after, I'm getting my picture taken with twenty beaming young ladies.
My agent is leaning against the wall with a look of victory on his face.
And maybe somewhere in Chicago,
there's a picture of a bunch of girls and one redneck from Arkansas ...
that will be pointed out as,
'the Calvin Klein model we met on The Great Wall of China.'
Life is funny that way.
I dedicate this poem
To five poets that sing
Their words to the world
They are poets ... everything
Sometimes they are travellers
Capturing mountain and shore
Delving the depths I adore
Sometimes they are rulers
Tender and just
Sometimes they are lovers
Naked in grief ... and lust
Mayhap they're a joker
Here to tickle my funny
Or slap my hand
When I eat the bunny (that's you PD)
You are painters of magic
And carvers of life
Poetry is everywhere
Revealed by your knife
So, to Andrea Dietrich and Heather Ober
To Laura Breidenthal and Poet Destroyer
And to Nette Onclaud
Wherever you are ...
I say thanks for your words,
Your comments, and inspiration
You are Queens of the Soup
In this poetry nation
*for Sandy's dedication contest
Jessie stood on the rusty edge of the old drawbridge over the river. He bit at his lip
and gripped the supports until his knuckles turned white. Not a single one of us would
have blamed him for backing out. He knew as much, but he was the only one who
hadn't jumped. Heck, I was scared for him. He wasn't the best swimmer and had no
business being up there to begin with. I believe we had all just about decided he wasn't going to do it ... and then he was gone. I remember leaning over the edge and watching
him fall. His arms helicoptered and his feet ran through thin air, like he was trying to
climb back up. He landed awkward in the muddy water, leaning too far forward. He
surfaced for a moment before the current sucked him back down. That was the last
time I ever saw Jessie, and they never did find his body.
The old drawbridge was torn down 9 years later, and I was there to see it. I stood
on the bank and watched the cranes lift the steel supports from the pilings, trying to
remember which one Jessie had gripped so tightly.
Sometimes we don't make it across the bridge, and the current takes us somewhere
we never planned on going. But I reckon as long as the river keeps on running, we'll
keep right on jumping in ... as though our youth is enough.