*** Random Poetry Anyone? ***
Burning Dad’s Coat
November 26, 2004

I burned trash today, this dreary winter day. The flames would not start the fire. Each match fizzled out; the tissue paper started, but being damp, would not continue to burn. I thought I might need gas to get it going, but gasoline was back at the house so far away. The tiny flames struggling to burn, smoked and scorched, sputtered and glowed, and then ended their short –lived life.

My dad died when I was sixteen. He died right in front of me, or actually below me. My grandfather, dad and I were building an extension on a small horse barn one winter day in December 1962. My grandfather and I were on the roof setting runners to nail the shingles on. We had put up the frame work and runners all in one day. My dad stayed on the ground while Grandpa and I nailed them down. The pitch was a gentle slope and pretty close to the ground where we started. As we worked on the slope increased. My dad handed up a bundle of slats for us each time. The roof was three quarters done, the pitch higher, dad did the same routine but this time when he shoved the bundle up over his head, he fell down, and gasped his last words, “Oh Dad!”

We called the fire department; they came but didn’t know where to go and drove right past the barn. A car filled with young boys gawking trailed behind the fire truck and I felt like throwing rocks at the jeering smiles inside. They came to see something exciting, chasing a fire engine for the fun of it. I didn’t want them to see my dad. I was mad. But the fire engine driver never saw me running to catch his attention.

A few days after the cremation and funeral, a man from the funeral parlor brought the clothes my dad died in. I was afraid that if my mom saw them, it would bring back memories that she couldn’t control, so I decided to burn his shirt and pants. They wouldn’t burn. It was as if they had fire retardant on them, wool pants and flannel shirt. They smoldered and smoked, shriveled and scorched, but they just wouldn’t flame up and be done with it. It was hard work burning my dad’s clothes and it mad me feel dirty. But I had to do it to protect my mom. She was out for the afternoon and I wanted to get it done before she returned. It was a dark secret, a dreadful duty; the smoke smelled of flesh as the wool sizzled, shriveled and scorched. Damn it! Why won’t it just burn up and get this thing over with. I felt sick and heavy and dark inside. I felt I was a murderer. I felt caught in the shameful act of hiding evidence from a crime. I felt guilty, confused, but refused to let on when she drove up just as the job was done. I didn’t let on.
I feigned a half smile as one might expect from a girl whose dad just died, trying to be polite while grieving inside. The smoldering fire inside me seeped or leeked ugly smoke for many years until I finally laid him to rest.

      ( 11/30/2004 09:30:00 PM ) San_dra#

Two poems 5/23/04

My husband is glad,
But I am so sad.
He’s looking to opportunity new
But I’m leaving good friends, just a few.
He’s buoyant and gay,
I’m gloomy and sad to say
Good-bye to people I value like you.
You are irreplaceable, forever, unique you.

Prometheus was bound to a rock,
His eternal punishment for bringing light to man.
He could not die; he could not move.
The day’s heat scorched, the night’s chill froze
And he endured bound to the rock.

Blood carries the flow of life,
Blood links the distant cells, feeds and nourishes all.
A cut, a severing apart, blood sets into motion curative powers, tiny invisible fibers extend and link, make the stream thick,
Repair is soon begun_ invisible strands that bind the wound and become pathways for the future.

Prometheus was bound to a rock,
Prisoner for life,
Prisoner for eternal life,
Bound to stay, couldn’t move, lost control_ imprisoned on the rock.

One day a woman came by, followed by flies.
In perpetual motion, she could not stop.
Her torture was as severe as his.
Where he could not flee, she could not rest.

She could not stay, for a while or a day.
Her life had no permanence_ no friends, no home,
Just eternal running from eternal pests.

They herded them up like cattle,
Men, women, and children.
Loaded them up on the train cars like cattle,
No food, no water, no care.
Took them to a far off land,
No home, no family, no friends, no hope.

The invisible threads that bind
Torn asunder.
The steel heel marches on frozen ground,
Pounds down the swollen face, the teary eye,
The silent pleading cry
For understanding, for pity, for relief.
No. The march goes on.
Crushing the flowers and the ribs,
Darkening the night.

Prometheus, tied bound, yells
But is not heard.
Wandering woman scrambles ahead of the thundering heel,
Turning wheel, crushing all in its path.

Where is the mother that weeps
And cares for the lost and cold?
Where is the mother whose love consoles,
Warms, and wraps the broken lonely souls?

Let me fly from Prometheus’ hold
To the sky
And with eagle eye
And seeing, know
That deep in the hell blow
God’s love resolves all,

The invisible strands grow.
A blossom,
Never before possible grows.
A bud of eternal Love,
Opening imperceptively
Radiates the fragrance of eternal Love continuously.

      ( 11/30/2004 09:08:00 AM ) San_dra#

Halo Effect
Erika, I want you to imagine a beautiful scene. Think of the most serene scene of water, a pond, surrounded by steep sides completely covered with lush greenery. The steep banks are vine covered with the shallow areas artfully colored by brilliant yellow flowers bordering the water's edge. Next to the yellow petal flowers, shooting up in clustered spikes, are purple flowers clinging to a stem like so many plums. Endangered birds find this spot a sanctuary to rest and nest. The pond, created by a stream is never stagnant because the water flows continuously from the stream in and out of the quiet spot. Fifty foot poplar trees tower over the banks and reflect their majesty in the surface of the pool. The air is quiet with the fragrance of berry and aromatic volunteers.

You can reach this secluded peaceful spot by a little walk down a trail to the streams edge. The trail is hidden by wild grape vines that cover everything but the berry vines. I went there today with the little rubber boat. I went down the stream and successfully paddled over to the quiet water. In this peaceful spot I thought how can I tell you and convey the serenity and beauty in words. Could I say it is as inspiring as Walden Pond of Thoreau? Would the rapture I felt come through if I compared it to a Monet painting? Could I entice you to come here and see it for your self?

Just then a boat speeded by. He had come from the main river and was exploring all the off-shoot streams now that more water is let out of the Oroville Dam and the waterline is higher. He crashed my sanctuary and tore up the water. He saw me and didn't wave but just leaned his boat in a fast arching curve as he cut through the water. He left huge waves that knocked over the wild grasses and flowers along the banks smothering them in water, unable to recover their upright position. He had to duck under the low branches that bow out into the water at two narrow spots. It is as if he cased the joint before hand when he was speeding up and down the river he figured he could make it through those wooded spots. He went right over the low part of the beaver dam. After he passed me, he came to a shallow spot where his propellers hit dirt. They stirred up a lot of mud, which turned the water brown. The stream has not yet after a week, recovered from the shock and impact of his quick visit. The mud flowed darkening the stream for close to thirty minutes and the purple flowered plants still lay on their sides washed over in the shallow mud.

I tied up the boat and decided to walk or swim the rest of the way down by the beaver dam. I was afraid that in the boat, I would loose control and be swept out into the fast current. While I was walking down stream in the still muddy water, I marveled at the eddies and the water surface. An unidentifiable clump of some thing floated by. I thought it was crud or fungus. Then something which reminded me of the spiders I had recently concentrated on floated by; I felt a fear go through me when it turned out to be harmless. Then I noticed something I could not explain. All around my shadow's head, in the muddy water appeared to be radiating like spokes on a wheel creating a halo effect in the light-refracted water.

Why was it there? Would it show up on other parts of the body? I held out my arm, but its shadow had no halo. This was not an aura or illusion. This was refracted light. But why did it appear only from the shadow of my head? And why did the lines seem to all come from a central source?

I turned around to go back up stream to make my way back toward home. The water was still muddy but, now facing the sun, I saw no shadow and no halo. I trudged some time before it dawned on me. The sun was glaring its reflection in my eyes. It looked like a shattered fracturing sphere bobbling across the water's surface. Oh, that must explain the halo. Sure enough, when I turned around with my back again to the sun, my shadow again had the halo effect in the water. Why the radiating lines, I do not know, but the sun was definitely the source. Another one of life’s mysteries solved, at least partially.

Picture of beaver pond from the little stream

      ( 11/29/2004 11:58:00 PM ) San_dra#


1 First Impressions


Dear Sue,

First I'll tell you about what I saw When we arrived at our new ranch home. My car trailed my husbands cab-over down a bumpy road that billowed dust from the wheels. "Let's get off the road and drive on the grass," I thought. I saw many familiar items including farm implements but in new locations and in disarray. Then I saw the sleeping-quarters. There wasn't enough room to unpack the car. There wasn't room for one more thing. So I left the car as it was and found in the stack of clothes in the back seat the new swimsuit and towel I got at K Mart for a grand total of $20.00. I was still hot at 7:20 pm and we were tired and sweaty from the long drive from your home, (8+ hours).

Aaron and I decided to go for a walk and or swim at the river. The dirt path had been disked and was ankle deep in fine dust. Aaron quickly got sidetracked with tying up young sprouts and I made my way alone to the trail the beer-party and fishing people had created. The trail ended at an inside stream that broke off from the river. It was deeper than when I saw it before and I knew I couldn't cross it on stepping-stones and twigs as before. So I took off my clothes right there. It was over-grown with blackberry bushes and trees. I had bought the suit in a hurry and hadn't even tried it on for size. It fit, but as I suspected, the leg holes were cut up on the thighs. Well, there was no one here so just go ahead and wear it any way. I put my sandals back on to make walking on the stones easier.

The silence, the sense of aloneness and the serene beauty has an effect to take you into yourself and to deeper layers of truth. Simple things take on symbolic importance. When I got to the other side, I saw the main river, which I had never before. The sun was setting but was still above the west trees that lined the river. It glared my vision. I looked and saw that the river was flowing down stream to the East. (That seemed strange.) A fish jumped and then another. The water felt cold after being so hot all afternoon. But it was refreshing to wash off the sweat and dust. I wanted to write down my impressions before they faded away like the little eddies the current made swirling from my body as I waded to my waist.

The sun's glare made the water look black. Did I dare swim without knowing the currents or depths? No, prudence won out and I continued to wade out deeper and deeper but only where I could see under the water. A fisherman across the river cast his line. I heard a rumble that seemed to be getting louder. It reminded me of the sound of kids on a sidewalk skateboarding across the cracks. I'm glad our side of the river doesn't have a levy road. They become thorough -fares for strangers on your property. The tall poplar trees have gone to seed and the pods are bursting open with white fluff.

I watched the fuzz float down the river with the ripples and occasional segments of seaweed. With a little courage I made the plunge and swam sidestroke and then backstroke up stream. I found I could swim against the current and make a little progress. The fun part, float on the back and go down where I left the towel. I heard something. It turned out to be Aaron making his bare-foot way to the water's edge. The eerie mystical spell was broken, the sun was down behind the trees and I was ready to return home. The second day at the river was quite different. I ventured out earlier, around 5:20 PM to take a swim. The sun being higher made the water blue and green instead of black as before.The air was warmer and the water seemed to be moving slower. The surface of the water was covered with the poplar fluff. It made it look dirty and not so inviting. The swim was good and I found some water grass I used to pay a dollar to $2.00 for at Pets Smart. It turned out to be an underwater bed of size, not just a few sprigs floating down stream. There may be commercial potential here.

End of First Impressions 6/13/04

Path to the River

End of the Path

Sun Sets Behind Feather River’s Trees

      ( 11/27/2004 06:54:00 PM ) San_dra#

Spanish Nights

Tonight the cobblestones are slick
With spilled, sticky brew, sloshed
From the bottles and cups of revelers

Stumbling from one door to the next,
Tobacco and sweat emanating from
Each dazed face, deaf from the pounding

Techno and blind from the flashing
Lights and writhing shadows
That wrap around the darkest corners.

I love this place, the humid air rich
With foreign vowels and the lilting laughter
Of my friends, flirting with men

Whose language they barely speak. We wash
In and out of each bar and club like seaweed
Floating with the tide, drink specials

Here and the best DJs there, all enticing to our
Hungry American appetites—it can never
Be enough for us to devour.

All too soon we’re stumbling with the rest,
Trying to remember down which alley
We’re staying and which cathedral looms

Over our rooms. Just another Spanish night
Of living and forgetting the places that we call
Home, in favor of one that feels more like it.

      ( 11/14/2004 01:15:00 PM ) Lisa#

El sonido de las olas

I dive under the water,
As clear as any lens of
glass and lukewarm like forgotten
tea in the afternoon. The salt
stings my eyes so I close them,
feeling without seeing the
shimmering sand sift between
my fingers. I can hear
the ocean’s voice, suspended
in this moment of underneath,
filling my ears with melodies
as much as water;
¿Vas a tratar?

I come up for air blinking
and gasping, then tense
my muscles to dive again
as the next wave crests
followed by another and another,
again I shoot to the surface rubbing
my eyes and pushing my hair
backwards, bracing as each
wave hits and my toes
slip in the soft sand
and I stagger backwards,
out of breath and defeated,
unable to force my way out
and ride, my back to the sky,
over the never-motionless waves.

I turn my back to the spray, harsh
and uncompromising; the waves
have won today. I stumble
as they pummel unceasingly
first my back and then my thighs,
and now my calves, perhaps
no longer a constant deluge but
just a light slap to say
I told you so—
Te dije, ¿no?

* * *

I should have known, should have
listened. I heard them on the radio
as I drove along the sun-bleached gulf,
past the rocking trees whose palms
were forced to kow-tow to the relentless
pre-hurricane winds. But I was fooled
by the bright sun and the warm air
that enticed me to jump in my car
and head straightaway to the beach.
I heard the angry ocean even before
I could see her tossing and roaring
like a hungry two-year old.
But my hunger also drove me,
overconfident in my own skill.

I had seldom seen a wave
too great, or felt an undertow
too strong to keep me away.
This was not going to be the day that I did.

I parked across the road, on
the other side of the row of
palm trees, still whipping about
like so many weak stalks of grass.
But the sky was bright without any clouds,
and the golden azure sparkle
thrilled me as I watched it rise high
in the air and fall crashing, white caps
forming from miles and miles away.

* * *

I stand wrapped in my towel, blanketed
from the flying sand and staring
once again at the raging waves.
My ears are filled with salt
and sand but I can still hear
the roar.

I will come back tomorrow.
Maybe I am a fool. But I thirst
for the best wave, for the longest
ride on an unending curl,
belly down to the earth
yet above it, floating and flying
along an inward-collapsing tunnel
of agua and bliss. And these
ominous winds and this
erratic ocean cannot drench
my thirst, nor can any amount
of salt water, inhaled as I am
rocked and flipped head first
into the soft bottom that instantly
becomes a Brillo pad, scouring
my arms and my face.

I cannot be hushed
by the screaming wind
that knocks me aside
and fills my mouth
with grit. Tomorrow
my shouts of triumph
will be louder than
the sound of the waves.
Es una posibilidad,
pero veremos mañana.

      ( 11/14/2004 01:00:00 PM ) Lisa#


They sang together under vermillion
Skies, rouged in such a way to suggest
That night would never come. She offered
Lilting harmonies to his sprawling
Melodies that intertwined in crescendos
With the dips and turns of lightning bugs,
Dancing on the wind. Russet faded
To violet as their song spread itself,
Trickling through branches and caressing
Far-off ears that could only wonder.

Too soon the choruses of crickets joined
In to welcome the darkness and the music
abated, drenched in the heaviness of night
and the sweat of still air. Two hands
glided over now familiar landscapes,
coming to rest in each other tightly
until the crickets ceased serenading,
and the lightning bugs stopped dancing,
and the last sound the stars could perceive
was the whispered breath-- I love you.

      ( 10/11/2004 07:55:00 PM ) Lisa#

the walls aren’t white
i always thought they would be white,
but instead they’re blue or pink or green
with a pretty border right along the top of the wall,
just under the ceiling.
nurses don’t wear white either.
maybe because it gets dirty.
maybe because they don’t want you to know where you are.
they wear teal or pink, with bright designs and prints.
some wear blue.
you’re wearing blue today.
you’ve worn blue every day.
i don’t think that you’ve changed because i think
that it hurts when they move you.
i wonder if you like all of the flowers all over your room
and the balloons that say “happy birthday grandma”
or if they make you sad because you’re here.
i wonder what goes on inside of you as i look at all of the
tubes going in and out and watch you close
your eyes tightly as the pain gets worse
and you reach for the button
and push it
and get a stream of pain medication flowing into you.
i guess it doesn’t matter how often you push the button.
it won’t be much longer now.
you tell me that it’s not morphine because
that makes you see pink people and pink balls
and you’d rather not.
you can still make me smile and laugh even though
on the inside i’m crying.

i wish i had words to say to you.
i’m not used to such silence.
you were always asking about my family and about school,
telling me stories about when he was a little boy
running around your house scaring the cats and breaking things.
stories about your mother
and about people i’ve never met that have fascinating lives.
you have had a fascinating life too.
you cared for your mother until she died just three years ago.
you mothered two children
and now have four grandchildren, one just born last year.
i wish you could be alive to see us get married.
i wish you could be alive to play with your great grandchildren.
i wish i had spent more time with you when you were alive.
you’re alive now,
but it’s not the same.
when you were healthy you would always
ask me to come see you
and i would smile and agree and i always
meant to but i would never make it.
now i can make it,
but it’s not the same.

they’ve sent you home today.
away from the not-white nurses in their not-white hallways and bedrooms.
back to your house and your husband.
you just got married five months ago.
i want to come see you today,
but i don’t know what to talk about.
the weather isn’t nice.
it’s raining.
you were always the one to ask me questions
so that i didn’t have to think of things on my own.

he cried for the first time yesterday.
i can’t imagine being the one to tell you.
but he did it, and he’s been strong until now.
until they sent you home from the hospital
because there’s nothing more that they can do.

i want to give you this poem,
but i’m afraid that you won’t understand.
that it will make you sad.
and that it will put you in pain.

it’s cold and raining outside.
i’m wearing blue today.
but you get to change.

      ( 3/16/2004 09:05:00 AM ) Lisa#

“Law offices of Childress and Clark, how can I help you?” Toni said sweetly into the receiver, forcing her lips to turn up into a smile. Her mother’s advice resonated in her mind. They can always hear you smiling on the other end. She figured it had helped her land the job here. That and her short skirt.

She listened to the rambling with half her mind on the word puzzle that was partly hidden beneath the papers covering her desk. Without these puzzles to keep her busy, her IQ would probably drop significantly in her employment here. She feared it already had. And this was the benefit of a college education?

“I’ll put you down for ten O’clock next Thursday, ma’am. Mr. Clark is booked until then. Yes I understand how important this is. Mmmhmm. Yes ma’am. Certainly, I will make sure he knows. Buh bye.”

Toni sighed inaudibly as she hung up the receiver. Then she pressed the intercom button. “Mr. Clark?” The speaker crackled as his deep voice reverberated through.

“What Tori?”

“I’ve put Mrs. Levanstrom down for ten O’clock next Thursday sir. I couldn’t push her back any farther than that or she would have stormed the office.”

His snort was audible even through the cackling speaker. “That’ll do. I’m going to need some more of that coffee Tori. And I’ve got another stack of papers in here for you.”

“Right away Mr. Clark,” said Toni, rolling her eyes at Marissa, who had a desk facing Toni’s. Marissa smothered a chuckle with her thin hand. Her long, curly blonde hair stood in a huge contrast to Toni’s dark brown bob.

Toni reached up to smooth her hair unconsciously and pushed herself up out of her padded desk chair. The ancient monolith creaked as she rolled it back, releasing the old smell of the countless secretaries who had graced the chair in the past. Marissa sniffed the air. “Mmmm, I do miss Dorothy. She had great taste. I love Chanel.”

Toni ignored the comment as she made her way to the coffee pot. As much as Marissa smiled and performed, she didn’t fool Toni. She’d most likely gotten her job as Ethan Childress’ secretary by sleeping her way there. Toni hadn’t asked and didn’t care. She didn’t plan on sticking around here that long anyway. Let Marissa aspire to become a career secretary. That was more than most people with a GED could hope for, and Toni doubted Marissa had even that.

There was still a pot of good French vanilla simmering, sending out aromas that reminded Toni more of the café next to her college than the Law Offices of Childress and Clark. She mixed in cream and sugar, then navigated her way around her desk to tap lightly on Thomas Clark’s door.

“Come in Tori,” his voice sounded muffled through the door.

As she pushed it open, it caught on the thick rug that Clark favored, maroon like the rest of his furnishings. He didn’t look up from his desk, which was neatly arranged and had an alarming stack of papers on one side. His head of dark hair, thick with streaks of grey, motioned to the stack.

“Go ahead and grab those. I’ll need them back tomorrow.”

Toni swallowed another sigh as she approached his desk, unsuccessfully trying to keep her heels from sinking into the carpet. She set the austere black mug on his maroon saucer, grabbed the stack, and staggered out of his office.

Marissa was watching with a smirk on her face, as she filed her nails down and blew on them, sending tiny fragments of fingernail spiraling about the room, caught in the currents from the vents up above. Her desk was as organized as Clark’s, but that had more to do with a lack of work than obsessive neatness.

“More cases for you to file? People to call? Have fun with that. I think I’ll take an early lunch.” With a final blow on her fingertips, she stood up and stretched backward like a cat, causing her generous chest to rise and separate the buttons that barely held her bright pink shirt together. Like many other things about her, her supermodel figure stood in contrast to Toni’s, which was hardly thin by today’s standards. She gave Toni a smile that didn’t reach her eyes, grabbed her coat, and sauntered out the office door, heels clacking on the polished wood floor.

Toni let her sigh out this time, and dropped the stack on her desk. She winced a bit as the sound bounced around the now empty office, but when a few moments passed and neither lawyer investigated, she settled into her creaky old chair. The smell of Chanel and Glow mingled with the French vanilla, and she smiled a bit. At least she had a comfy chair, and the office smelled good. It could be worse.

She closed up her puzzle book and stuffed it into a random desk drawer, pushed a pile of papers to one side, and grabbed the stack of folders. She opened the first one and read through it carefully. Just because this was a temporary job for her didn’t mean she couldn’t do it well. She pulled out her keyboard, turned on the screen, and her fingers started to fly over the keys as her eyes darted back and forth from the file to the screen.

It only took her the better part of an hour to finish the stack, something, she reflected, that would have taken Marissa a week or two. Then she winced. She was probably being unfair to Marissa, who did do work most of the time, but at the moment Childress had a huge case that he didn’t trust her with. He’d been cooped up in his office from dawn till dusk for almost two weeks now, and Toni actually pitied Marissa a bit because she was basically being ignored.

Instead of bringing the files back into Clark’s office, she pulled out her puzzle book and switched her mind out of “sleep mode.” The scratching of her red fountain pen supplied the only noise in the empty office. There wasn’t much to absorb sound, with a few wooden waiting chairs, two lone pictures gracing the eggshell walls, and one small plant next to the door. Compared to the lushness of Clark’s office, this place was less welcoming than a mental institution. Or at least that’s how Toni saw it.

While her right brain solved puzzles, her left brain calculated her next pay check, deducted student loans, and tried to factor in groceries and gas and the electric bill. She put the pen down for a second and closed her eyes. She should be OK for the next month. And soon the acceptance letters should start rolling in. Then she could kiss this austere office, Clark’s opulent taste, and Marissa’s ‘cute’ ass goodbye. If this job didn’t pay so well--. But it did, and it would probably look good on future job applications. Her real title here was “intern” after all. So what if that was a façade to lure cute law students. She’d seen through the ruse right away, and hadn’t cared. It was a steady paycheck.

She was startled out of her reverie by the sudden appearance of Clark at her side. He wasn’t even looking at her, or her desk thankfully, but instead was pulling more files out of his briefcase to drop on her desk.

“Get to these after you finish the ones from this morning. I’ve got a court appearance in half an hour. You can leave when you want, I won’t be back in today.”

He whisked his coat over his shoulders and was gone as the door closed behind him with a thud. Toni waited a moment, then grabbed her own coat with one hand as the other attempted to organize her desk. She wasn’t going to let this opportunity go. She powered down the computer and grabbed her purse, this time exhaling with relief as she headed for the door.

      ( 2/07/2004 12:40:00 PM ) Lisa#

Poetry is cool. So are short stories. Care to join in on the rantings? Email me at lmalo7fc@mwc.edu

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