Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The First Dance - Junior Prom

This image indicates a junior prom in 2011. Mine was in 1962. That makes me somewhat elderly I suppose.

I have been a dancer all life long, even on stage a bit as an amateur in musicals. I love every part of dancing and especially the chance to handle the female form in unusual ways. You get to throw them around and instructors teach you how to do that with artistry and grace. I cannot tell you how fond of that I have been.

Once my heart opened, music moved right along. That didn't happen fully until middle age. But first I was into choral singing (baritone) in high school, then self taught guitar and in middle age, the keyboard and a return to choral singing.

I have become a competent writer too. I was schooled well enough that the engineers I worked for saw my skill. They used me because writing was essential to engineering in my neck of the woods. Engineers pretend not to care about writing and composition until the job needs a polished product. Then if they can't cut and paste good former word assemblies they get a guy like me to do the creative part.

We are called technical writers when writing is exclusively the job, but I was an engineering designer. Engineering presentations are wicked training because they teach a person that creative writing is always at some point what I call word smithing - building the presentation. There is a required form of some kind, however loose.

Learning to recognize that one's writing contains the error of broken form and also to let loose enough of one's own work to truly edit it are both essential skills. A writer worth getting a professional chance must have these skills at a sufficient level.

You just cannot expect the boss to take up the fundamental slack. If he has to get that involved then he doesn't need you. She, maybe. That an editor will do it is a myth created by novelists for their stories. Only specialists in some arcane field or other can get away with abysmal preliminary editing of a project.

The larger word collections, like a novel as an example, are even more demanding in this way, not less. That's because the truly professional wordsmith must lead the reader through dense complexities and make them seem easy while doing so. That is what a good form enhances.

Do you think this applies to poetry even more? No shit, Sherlock. Do you think some poets may have no clue? *Sigh*

The First Dance

I can't believe
I had the guts to ask you
out, let alone dance
with you as if I
knew how, me faking my moves
and dripping my sweat
between my wide eyes
as I stare at you, drink you
in as you move like
all that's beautiful.

January 7, 2011 9:15 AM

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Summer Love - A Magpie Tale

A Midsummer Night's Melancholy by Michael Sowa
Chosen by Tess for Magpie Tales, Mag 276

Summer Love

It's become awkward
and muggy besides, cobber.
(That's Aussie for pal.)

The dog wants a friend.
The cat has what it wants now.
And your painting shows
a late afternoon
but you have called it a night,
a hot summer's night.

And me? I sit here
in my basement writing you
this aside on love.

‎June ‎28, ‎2015 3:12 PM

Another Michael Sowa:

Friday, June 26, 2015

Tracking You

I follow your sign,
the bent twigs, the partial prints
filling with new rain,
filling with old sand
while I feel my heart slowly
drain of memory
as I forget you
and how you touched me like sky
touches all the earth.

‎January ‎7, ‎2011 9:01 AM

Thursday, June 25, 2015

In The Storm

I have never actually been in a tornado. I have been in a city when a tornado hit across town but I never saw it and only learned of the touch down after the fact. That was in Dacca (Dhaka) in what was then known as East Pakistan and now as Bangladesh.

None of the storms I have been in actually got too big for me but I can't say that for the young papaya in our back yard in Dacca. It snapped in half about three feet off the ground from the wind in one of the storms. I claim I love weather like this. I think I tell the truth. However, I am not fond of ice storms. I live now in the Portland area of Oregon and we do get ice storms when winter conditions are just right. I hate them.

In The Storm

When the tornado
hit my street I was too high
to care or to move
and I was carried
over the top of slow things,
aimed like an arrow
fletched with eagle quills-
one step beyond all belief-
and willing to fly.

December 30, 2010 2:57 AM

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Transition - Three Word Wednesday

For Thom's Three Word Wednesday where this week he chose the words:

Lump; Nervous; Puzzled.

I am fast approaching end of life, I think. I am doing pretty much as I planned many years ago. I believe you can wreck a whole lifetime legacy of good living by dying poorly and so my task has become first to understand what it means to me that I die well, and second what I am to do to maintain my readiness and what little grace as I may possess.

I am not completely sure of that much about it all. Also, I do not think every day of it. One thing is very clear. It has been clear for decades now. Death is not my enemy. I should not fight and resist as if I could successfully defeat death. So my question is, how do I befriend death?

Understand, this is not the same as trying to die.


This lump of gristle
used to be my nervous heart
which puzzled me then
but now lies so still
and gray in my wide open
chest and I wispy
and ghost like float up
looking back and back and down
from ten miles away...

from further than that.

‎June ‎24, ‎2015 2:16 PM

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hypatia Has Left The Building

Up at Tilden Park in perhaps late fall, 1950, that's me deciding which creature I would ride on the carousel. And of course that is my mother Hypatia. She was a beautiful young woman in those days, and a highly competent one. She was an instructor in Speech and Drama at Cal Berkeley, and had graduated Phi Beta Kappa, cum Laude, and was the valedictorian speaker of her graduating class. No one else had ever done that to that time in Speech and Drama. She shared the podium with Harry Truman who was POTUS at the time.

The youngest of her mother's first three children, she was named Hypatia by her Dutch immigrant father. He named the older two, the first, Philippus (Philip - a patronym of the family, either Hartog Philippus or Philippus Hartog) and Penelope. Penelope's namesake was of course the wife of Oddyseus. Hypatia's namesake was a famed mathematician and librarian, a philosopher at the fabled Library of Alexandria in Egypt. In the poem, "your sister's daughter" refers to Penelope and her daughter Toni-Jo.

Tilden Regional Park is described like this: "One of the District's three oldest parks, Tilden has been called the jewel of the system, and its recreational activities have become a happy tradition for generations of East Bay youngsters. From a carousel ride and a picnic to a swim at Lake Anza and a stroll through the Botanic Garden, Tilden has variety to delight everyone."

Hypatia Has Left The Building

I looked past my book,
raised up my glasses and heard
you gasp and rattle,
fuss though you had gone
flying while lying so still.
I called for a nurse
and we gave you some
morphine then to ease your wait.

She came past sunset,
your sister's daughter
whom we took in to protect
all those years ago.
I sat on one side
and she sat on the other.
I held your left hand
She spoke, told stories,
told you how much she loved you.
Then you breathed your last.

Your son, your daughter
by your side - others were there.
we saw you gently


‎May ‎19, ‎2014 9:28 PM


2001 was one of those years for me. My mother died in January. My lover of two years left me in February. I moved to my mother's house and sold my house of thirty years in April. My father died in June. My wife of twenty years died in October.

You would think at thirty years in a place I would own it. There were severe money troubles a couple times and the refinances of the house put ownership in the coffin but covered the debt. My financials are still in good standing, have always been in good standing. However, I have never had much money even though I have had, I suppose, enough. I at least have never been driven to stretch, to somehow find ways to find more than was coming more or less naturally. I am grateful for that. Pretty good for an old ex-dope dealer who at least was never caught.

At the end of January of 2001, my mother had gone in for hip replacement surgery so that at 79 she would not become bed ridden by deteriorating hips. They did the one with the most damage first and the other was to follow. Hip replacement is a big surgery although not necessarily a hugely dangerous one. She was in a recovery center because hip replacement creates a bed ridden recovery for the first weeks and mom lived alone. I visited every evening.

On this one evening, she was looking okay and we were talking quietly. I was speaking and she interrupted by raising her right hand, index finger pointed, then she took that hand to her right ear and caressed her earlobe. She was unconscious right then. We got an ambulance and took her to hospital. She woke up in the ambulance on the way, I guess because when I saw her next she was awake. I guess she napped some of the time and in two days she lapsed into coma. In another day she died. She had had a massive stroke and died of brain depression from the swelling in it.

My sister had to arrive from the Kansas City area, a small town to the south of the city on the Missouri side. It took her awhile. On Mom's last afternoon on the planet, she started to fail. I was there and I alerted the staff that she was obviously uncomfortable even though in coma, and they gave her morphine to quiet her. In fact she pitched quite a fit for someone unable to move. She was not ready to go because we had not all gathered. It was that evening that my sister did arrive, and others were there too. I sat on her left side while my sister sat on the right, with others close by, a small gathering of friends and family.

After perhaps half an hour with all of us gathered there, Mom no longer could breathe and we held her and spoke to her as we watched her depart for other places. If you feel like you want to learn more about all this, here is another post with this history written back in May of 2009. There are actually several posts that include aspects of this history but I will not go further here.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Living With A Big Dog

This view of the house is an image from Google Maps.  The house is a corner property, though the street beside it is a gravel paved extension.  The house I am writing about is to the immediate left of the "H".  I live under it.

Stella is the part Irish Wolfhound who lives with us here on the promontory overlooking the Willamette, the railroad tracks and highway and the idle papermill below.  The promontory park is behind the house to the left.

I have posted several times this year various aspects of my life that include her.  I guess that shows how I am smitten by this large and gentle creature. She can be fierce if she thinks she needs to be.

She is silent in her approach. She comes around the corner and lays down at some point. I look over as I do my computer work and there she is as if by magic. That's the creepy part. Other times as this is a basement, she will thump down overhead and then do stuff that the floor amplifies. Most evenings I am the last guy awake and she spends those hours down here with me as if I need a guard or a minder. I probably do.

Living With A Big Dog

If you weren't so trustworthy
it would be creepy
what you do down here,
appearing on your towel
spread in the corner
with the tiniest
of your big dog sighs leaking
from your salt peppered
fur curly broad frame.
What is Irish about you
I wonder and what
some other wolfhound
dream fractional and extreme?
I have seen you fight,
don't care to again.
I like you best so wanting
to please us, trying
to understand how.

May 10, 2014 8:38 AM

The poem is part of my collaboration with Irene Toh which happened during spring of last year. See Orange Is A Fruit

Sunday, June 21, 2015

At The Beach - A Magpie Tale

Image by Bert Stern, chosen by Tess for this week's Magpie Tale
Check out the contributor list. As for my poem, you could pin it on him or you could pin it on her. Either way works.

At The Beach

In those days I thought
maybe I could still keep you,
at least for a while.

I schemed and worked up
snares for your soul, so I hoped.
I thought I needed
you so near I could
feel your breath in my fey ear.

Then you got too hot
and you rose up off
the blanket, shook off the last
of the sand, put out
your hand to them all
and they led you far away
despite what I said.

‎June ‎21, ‎2015 12:33 PM

Saturday, June 20, 2015


Birth canal of the goddess


My mother was fey
though she tried for showing it
on the stage instead
of in the wide world
and she passed it on to me
though she did not mean
to do such a thing.

Born son of a Gaelic witch,
born under the oak,
under the laurel
with mistletoe eyes and thoughts
thirteen hundred years
ago and again
this time to a fey actress,
what would you expect?

December 29, 2010 8:18 PM

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Close Call

A Close Call

The sun is dissolved
from the inside to the edge
as you plainly see
and I will dive in
to its vacancy quite soon,
just as soon as you
crookedly grinning
bow low to the golden glow
then kick me on out.

According to plans
all this is right on schedule
no matter the hiss
of the approaching
alligators, the meaty
smell of their exhales.

‎June ‎18, ‎2015 4:09 PM

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Divorce

The Divorce

As if a dolphin
rolled beneath my crackling edge
breaking surface once
in a sparking spray,

so it is that you and sand
and the tidal rip
stir beneath my skin
and split me open again,
but only this last.

I will not permit
more than this, cannot permit
the stories of us
to reach the warm pools
and stretch in the sound and light
with the other clams.

‎May ‎9, ‎2014 3:27 PM

This poem was written in collaboration with Irene Toh. We traded poems back and forth in the spring of 2014. To see the poem Irene wrote go to her blog, Orange Is A Fruit

Process notes: while this poem is bound to Irene's seashore and salt air, it is also reflective of my reading Phyllis T. Smith's historical novel, I Am Livia.

Livia Drusilla was the wife of Caesar Augustus. I am at the point in the novel where it appears there will be a divorce between them due to his certainty that he must war with Marcus Antonius. She is just as certain there must no longer be any Roman civil war pretty much no matter what.

Prior to that war, not yet Augustus, Caesar Octavianus and Livia Drusilla, at least in this novel were married and loved each other deeply though she could not concieve a child with him. Since she had already borne children, the implication is that it was Caesar could not concieve.

It is a similar apparent divorce that I am writing of here. Caesar won this war with Antonius. At this point in my reading, very near the end of the novel, I am in suspense concerning Caesar and Livia. Any reconciliation is now totally in Caesar's hands.

There is a parallel to my own life. In 1969 as we returned from overseas, my step-father chose to divorce my mother after eighteen years of partnership. The children, neither of which were his had been raised. For whatever reason, though she had borne me, she always miscarried his children. There was little left between them from his perspective if not from hers, and he was desperate to have his own flesh and blood child.

My Dad's life was motivated by children. First he raised my mother's only child (me) and her sister's oldest girl child who came to us before her fourth grade (my sixth). My aunt died of a metastasized breast cancer, I believe.

My step-father resumed his bid for a PhD in Education at that point, moved to Arizona to do so, and in the process met a Southern Belle who was willing to give him a child. He finally had a late in life daughter and the privilege of watching her become a beautiful young woman before succumbing to bone cancer.

That was his third try for his PhD. He never got it. The woman he married had family money. He never needed to work for a living, though in the early years of their marriage he continued his career in School Administration.

I loved my step-father who also obviously loved me. He carried himself with an imperial mein. He chose my mother as his mate though she already had a child, and in so doing he turned from all chance to continue in a professional football career.

In those days the entry level pro football contracts were barely living wage contracts unless the player was a top star. My Dad was qualified but not a top star. In his marriage he no longer had the time or the freedom to continue. He was an offensive center and a defensive linebacker and he played one season with a San Francisco Forty Niner farm team before hanging up his cleats.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

How Some Poems Arrive

How Some Poems Arrive

This time the poem
came all aflutter after
the sun hit high noon.
It spun like leaves do.
landing in the lilly patch
beside your new green
sprites stuck ankle deep
in odd haphazard places,
you spurning straight rows
which I agreed made sense
since it was green sprites
we were growing at this time
no matter what they

‎June ‎11, ‎2015 3:09 PM

Note To Self

Note To Self

It was not sunrise
after all was said and done,
more like mid-morning.
The lines are clearly
drawn on the concrete sidewalk
in green chalk, blue chalk,
even some orange
if you can believe that crap.
But you, my darling,
have donned your summer
drapes despite all my warnings
you'll soon be upside

‎June ‎10, ‎2015 11:10 PM

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Bread Line - A Magpie Tale

Image offered by Tess for this week's Magpie Tales.
Click here. Go to The Mag for the whole lineup of story tellers.

The Bread Line

Really dry hard ground
all around and no water
in the summer bowl,
and yet you got smile
on your pinkish workman's face.

Makes me wonder what
you are up to now?

As for me, I'm in the line
for hope and pork chops.

‎June ‎7, ‎2015 8:24 PM

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Looking At The Geese

The Clackamas River At Clackamette Park

Looking At The Geese

My understanding
left the building long ago.

My loves congregate
like the Canada
Geese that flock in the local
park come running at
the first sign of bread
held in my old cranky hand.

In no time at all
I find reflections
of you in the sleek black shine
of mother goose eyes.

‎June 6, ‎2015 10:17 PM

Looking East Up The Clackamas

Clackamette Park is a local park placed on the southeast corner of the confluence of the Clackamas and Willamette Rivers. The bridge shown is the 99E McLoughlin bridge spanning the Clackamas, which is the dividing line between Oregon City and Gladstone, Oregon. At this point the Clackamas runs west to the Willamette while the Willamette flows north to the Columbia situated on the north Oregon border with Washington.

Here's a link that will give you a map, I hope.
Clackamette Park Map

You can perhaps go to street view and take a virtual drive of the entire area if you have the patience.

Ticket To Hereafter

If you are a trained swimmer as I have been, the image of treading water is not a desperate image. Swimmers are taught to tread water first thing as the fundamental step in the mastery of the water environment, right up there with the ability to float in still water. The central teaching concerning treading water is to use as little energy as possible at any given moment. I was a life guard and swimming instructor at one point in high school but I did not last long in that endeavor.

Treading water is instinctive to most animals. It is a fact that four footed creatures can swim without training up to it. We are bipeds. This means we have to be taught to swim for the most part, but also that we can excel at it.

Ticket To Hereafter

I have tossed salads
but I'm not the first master
of onions and eggs.
It is not like that.
I shall hold my own, likely
unmoved, clear sighted.
I told you, meant it.
My thews are still flexed and full
of magic and blood,
even though I'm of age
and gray. My eyes are dimming
and my time is short.
They all chased me once,
no longer. I tread water
near the final drain.

December 29, 2010 5:14 PM

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Philosophy Lesson

These are not my cats nor my window. However the cats could have been Carl Sigmund Cat (called Sig or Siggie or Sigmund) and Jonathan Livingston Cat (mostly called Livvie), both long ago dead. Livvie was all black with red highlights in the fur when the light hit it just right. He was just about the most cowardly cat in the world for his size. He was huge. Sigmund loved to go on walks with us.

This is actually tongue in cheek. I hope. Years ago in a small gathering a guy said, "Life is hard. Then you die." It was the first time I heard that and it made a huge impression. I think this is graffiti that somebody claims is a Hemingway quote. I love it.

Unfortunately the spare nature of the quote is often a longer drawn out process in real life. Life is hard. Then you suffer for ages. Then you circle the drain for a while. Then you die. I am somewhere between the second and third sentences though my "suffering" while limiting is not painful.

Elsewhere I have been taught that this limitation is a gift, a teaching that comes from the life source. School has always been easy for me. I worked hard not to get straight A's so I wouldn't be noticed by the shitheads who hate teachers' pets and think grades come from favoritism. That set the tone for school all the way back in the 1950's for me.

As for the poem... It is not a fabrication. I have had this situation in my actual life though not many bird carcasses near the seeds. Instead there was direct evidence that the birds caused the large scatterings of seeds and shells below the hanging feeder. I think the messiness of birds is one of nature's ways of reseeding the earth.

I have kept cats most of my adult life. I have always tried to keep them fed well enough with high nutrition food that they have small motivation to hunt. I think I have been fairly successful except that being on the hunt for a predator is probably the happiest moment in her life.

Philosophy Lesson

My cat said life's hard
and then she died. The neighbor
cat has taken hold
of my porch and hunts
the birds who drop down to eat
the sunflower seeds
which fall from the plate
under the rafter outside
my kitchen window.

Life is hard, they chirp,
and then they die, one by one.

December 27, 2010 2:52 AM

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

What Could Have Been

I'm thinking right now
of the time that could have been
had I gone native,
taken that thatch hut
for home on the hill's back side
close to the crab filled
(they're red crabs, with
eye stalks that raise up)
and there's
monkey troops that pass
along the hill line
and the monsoon floods it all
every damn year.

‎December ‎28, ‎2010 4:51 PM

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Merchant

In Asia, the barbed wire strands that Americans are used to at the tops of walls are replaced by shards of glass. This over the top example is apparently from Vietnam, a photo taken in 2010. Many compound walls will have at least a line of shards down the center of the wall caps.

My Dad, Mom and I lived in two houses in Dacca, then East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. This was August, 1967 - June, 1969. Both house compound walls had a centerline of glass shards. The compound iron gates locked. There was a gate guard on staff. Everyone had a staff. Ours (a Western family of three) was a butler, a cook and a gate guard. The school my Dad superintended had a driver. He was ours too. You had to hire a service staff or else risk consequences. That was what we were told. Anyone, local or foreign above a certain economic level had servants.

My poem was written in response to the poem moss & camellias by Irene Toh

The Merchant

I worked hard at it,
at erasing the scuff marks
in the ivy trails
on the outer wall.
A lookout told me you stood
on the glass shard top
face, the concreted
cap of that high wall and hailed
me but I was not
at home, not at all.
I guess that’s just the right thing.
I hope you got down
okay. As for me,
the trip went as it should have
and I made a pile.

May 8, 2014 11:15 PM

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