Friday, November 30, 2007

Ancient Leaves

One of the trees out my window
is holding on to her leaves
for dear life.

They are shriveled, ancient,
brittle, used, light-brown
in color, and facing
the cold but bright morning

Some say that one needs to
give themselves permission
to die. Some hold on longer
than needed, while others say
goodbye upon first landing on Earth.

I'm not sure what it is with
these leaves. Are they survivors,
or merely afraid of flying?

Perhaps their mother tree
needs a little shaking.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Woke up.

I can't do something
so I buy a new machine.

The machine needs batteries
so I go to the store.

Machine still doesn't work,
so take another trip to exchange
the machine.

I try to do the something,
but realize I need the more
expensive machine. It doesn't
need batteries.

Return the machine and batteries
and get the more expensive machine.

Get home. Hungry. Eat dinner.
Then it is too dark to do the job.

Maybe in the morning . . .

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Trying to pick the best breath is not easy.

Some are forced, some preachy, and some pathetic.
Where is that pure breath
that seemed so right at the moment–
unencumbered, fresh, ruthless, and brilliant?

Where is the one that came from my heart and soul,
and did not try to console, persuade, and impress?

Where is the one that I would save in a burning fire,
if there was only time to save one?

Where is the breath that I could take
to the next life
to show who I really am?

Oh, here it is, the one
where I stumbled over a twig
laying in the path.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Dirty Dish

Sometimes we just face a
dirty dish, full of crumbs,
once showered and purified,
now tainted and ready for
a cleansing.

What was on the plate was good
enough for our innards,
but now needs to be
sterilized off.

I imagine an invisible army of germs
hovering above the dining
room table, waiting for my
last bite before they
attack. God bless them for
holding out until I finish eating.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Another Morning

I look out the same magic window
that is never the same.

Yesterday, all was still,
while today the wind caresses
the few tree limbs with leaves
and the yellow orange school bus whizzes by.

The sky is white, ready for rain
or a few frigid snow flakes.

The woodpile
waits for winter.
The logs are fast asleep
with their ends
darkened with moisture.

The evergreens, in their moment of glory,
display their rich greens and
mock the shedding trees
for giving up their year's work.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Brrr . . .

It is cold this morning.

Everything is still.
Even the shriveled
leaves are asleep,

their molecules hibernating
until the sun shines again.

The dogs go out, but come
back moments later
when they smell toast,
chancing that the possibility
for a handout
is greater than

the discomfort from
the brrr
of the winter morning.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


I pick up trash by the street.
I fill a garbage bag
with whiskey bottles, fast food debris,
and unmentionables.

I wonder if these gifts appear
through some miscomprehension
of the free-speech doctrine
guaranteed by the constitution,

or if the trash's disposition
is the result of civil
or divine disobedience,

or perhaps, if some of the drivebys
are just thoughtless
or downright angry

Friday, November 23, 2007

Not without Money

A poem about money.
Hardly likely, she said.

Money is crass, cold. It comes
from the wrong side of the brain, he said.

We need to wash our hands often
and well when we touch money.
It is laden with germs and viruses.
A living depository, she continued,
for all things evil and small.

But what about a box of chocolate?
I said. You can't have such things
without money.

A necessary evil, she said, and
besides, can't you steal a box?

And go to hell? he said.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

(Thanksgiving) Warts

This morning I was sent a picture
of a man who was half tree.

He has an uncontrollable case
of warts and his limbs look
like the roots of a tree.

I suppose that he might have
a future in a freak show, but
otherwise there doesn't seem
much, on this special day,
for him to be thankful.

The odd thing, as I consider
my minor aches and pains,
is that he carries such
an enormous smile
on his face.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Seeing Through

As if I had surgery for nearsidedness,
now that the leaves have fallen,
I see the horizon line,
so carefully hidden a week ago by the leaf-laden trees.

I should know more now,
being able to see through my former reality.
I can tell where
the earth ends and the sky begins,
and if I was a little wiser I could create
joy and harmony on Earth, or even with the neighbors
who complain about where the leaves have fallen.

It is much colder today,
suggesting that winter is on its way.
What was opaque is now transparent.
What was middle aged is now becoming old.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Am I Proud?

I'm continually being asked if I'm proud
of the accomplishments of my kids.
I noticed that I'm always confused and
just nod "yes," to be polite.

In the same way that I'm not
proud of Einstein for his
special theory of relativity
(I had no part
in its creation),
I feel that what my kids
have done was often in spite
of my advice that would
have only taken them to
places they didn't want to go
and/or shouldn't have gone after all.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Sometimes our lives are about making choices.
We come to a fork in the the road,
our GPS isn't getting the proper satellites
and we find ourselves facing a serious dilemma,

A Buddhist said that people who meditate
to make choices get more confused.
Maybe it is the clarity
that makes the choice harder not easier
because the meditator sees all the
ramifications of the potential decisions.

Freud recommended that we flip a coin
and see how we feel about the coin's decision.
I tried this and 8 out of 10 times
the coin was wrong.
I scolded it severely.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Leaves Looking for Good Home

She said if you don't
rake the leaves
the grass will die.

If grass needs that much upkeep
should we keep it?

If grass dies,
then it won't need to be mowed,
and more robust plants
will grow in its place.

You can't rake every leaf.
But your neighbors will try,
and if you wait long enough,
the wind will give your leaves to
your neighbors' rakes and
mulching mowers.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I Like Liberals, Even if They Aren't

I like liberals. You'd think,
(as the expression goes),
I like them because they
are liberal, but no.

I'd be on their side
if they were truly liberal,
meaning they've accepted
the complexity of life
and see the costs and benefits
of all proposed solution,
and then "own" their beliefs.

But today's liberals have a
specific ideology, which
in my mind, makes them as
short sided as conservatives.

Note: I was told, early on,
that one should not speak
of politics or religion.
More forbidden fruit to partake!

Friday, November 16, 2007


When I was a kid,
my mom did not believe
in anything she could not see, including God.

My friend Bruce wanted me
to go to church with him.
I asked my mom for permission to go.
She said no,
that I was too young
and too impressionable.

I don't think I ever went
to Bruce's church.
Before long, though,
I was attending up to
four churches a Sunday,
trying to get a bite of that forbidden fruit.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Generous Tree

We have lots of trees,
one of which is very generous.
Every fall this elm covers our neighbor's yard
with an elegant layer of golden leaves.

"I'm retired and tired," our neighbor said,
"and I don't have time for these leaves.
I'm going to cut down my oak tree as well.
I don't want to work anymore."

My giving tree, so used to the
morning shade provided by the oak,
droops her remaining leaves in sadness,
and then releases the next cadre of leaves
in protest, as if to say,
"do we not see the gifts
that we receive?"

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ode to Junk Mail

Admittedly, liking junk mail
is as politically incorrect
as being enthralled with a
very unpopular leader.

Before you deny it,
think how devastated you feel
when the mailman comes by
and your mailbox is empty.

Much of my junk mail
is the same junk mail
I've received before
—— many times before.
I get a kind of "deja vu"
fondling, and then disposing of,
these pesty, but familiar, friends.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Can't do a poem today.

I look out the window
and there is stillness everywhere.

The wind is still,
the sky is blue,
and the shadows are frozen.

The big dog sneaked
up to our bed and is fast asleep.
The parakeet is quietly admiring
herself in her mirror and only occasionally
do I see a car pass on the road.

Maybe I'm living in still photo,
with these letters magically
appearing on my computer screen
as my fingers twitch.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Train

We took the train from Chicago to Portland.
We'd board in the afternoon,
spend two long nights,
and arrive the next morning to the open arms of our grandfather
who would take us to our favorite hamburger joint.

We are all on a train,
with different destinations, different speeds, and different distances.
The cycle of light to dark to light to dark to light to dark
is our common denominator.

We take work to do on the train,
but our true work is riding the train,
and seeing where she takes us.
Our belief that where we go to bed is
where we wake up is an illusion.

My dog looks out the window anticipating the next stop.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


It is early.
The wind woke the leaves
and the tall grass
before the sun could
say good morning.

A petite solitary cloud,
tinted red from the sunrise,
looked on
from the eastern sky.

Gradually, the overcast
took the cloud in her belly,
moving gem into memory.

Soon more light came to the plants
as the rising sun
quieted the fall breeze.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Yesterday and Now

Yesterday the leaves
had their last hurrah.

They were bright and cheery,
warm with color and moisture.
They fell one at a time,
each tree proudly still retaining
its summer green
punctuated with the lone leaves
failing to resist
their ultimate daring death dive.

Now the leaves are homogeneous,
willingly falling three or four at a time.
Shriveled up like antique folks,
tired of holding on,
now ready for a long winter sleep.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Box

I have a strange little box
inherited from my parents
who inherited it from my grandma
who inherited it from her brother.

It is a small silver box
with an image of a man
under a Bodhi tree.
I don't think he is the Buddha
because his legs are dangling
over a rock, and he's reading a note,
the contents of which is probably lost forever.

Inside the box is a wisp of air,
filled with my great uncle's pipe smoke,
and laden with the secrets of his far eastern travels
where he acquired such a treasure.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Stockmarket Dives

Up and down she goes.
The bears trample the bulls
or visa versa
from interest rates
to war to the dropping dollar.
There always is the
daily raison d'etre.

We sit back and watch
assets soar and plummet
making our hearts skip a
beat and our heads
ache a little (or much).
What once made our day
now only reminds us of the adage
"what goes up must come down."

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Ode to a Leaf

The leaf comes and goes,
falling through air in a spiral.
It doesn't hit the ground,
but is gently cushioned
by its shadow.

If left to its own devices,
it will decompose
and then regenerate.

If left to our rakes and leaf blowers,
it will be taken from its cycle
and be forced to another,
perhaps less natural, destiny.

The leaf is an old timer,
knowing full well its impermanence.
Still, it basks in the sun until evening.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Parakeet, Dog, Leaf, and Rubber Band

My parakeet,
obviously lonely from a lack of adult companionship,
sings two songs intermittently,
in a last ditch attempt to be part of a conversation.

My dog, fast asleep,
after a hard morning of clearing the yard of invaders,
dreams of unsavvy spring rabbits.

An autumn leaf,
tracked in by some careless pet or person,
precariously lies in the middle of the kitchen floor,
awaiting its death from a shoe or broom.

A rubber band, resting on the floor,
carefully defining the intersection of three oak floor boards,
is unmoved by a parakeet's irritating chatter,
a dog's dreams or a leaf's demise.

Monday, November 5, 2007


Tomorrow is the day after today.

How often do we spend
today on tomorrow?
Anticipating, planning, waiting . . .

We wake up tomorrow
and it is a new day,
but no longer tomorrow, only today.

We spend the new today
as we spent the old yesterday,
anticipating, planning, waiting . . .

Suppose there was no tomorrow,
which there (really) isn't
because it hasn't happened yet.

What would it be like living today . . . for today?
Not anticipating, not planning, not waiting.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

It is nothing.

Sometimes our dog barks at nothing.
The hairs on her neck bristle and
a little bump forms between her ears.

She's threatened by her own shadow
that she doesn't understand tho
she's been living with it all her life.

Our bird chirps away, oblivious to
the ghosts in the front yard and
the shadows that follow our dog
around the yard.

Perhaps we could send our dog to bird school
so she'd learn what it means to cry wolf.

Or we could send our bird to
people school to learn to say,
"Shh. It is nothing."

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Libraries used to be quiet places
where people read books.
Books are not quiet, though.

They speak directly to our
brains and souls.

Now, people talk in libraries,
huddled around a row of computers.
Or they talk on their cell phones,

oblivious to that very personal
tête-à-tête between a book and its reader.

Someday the books may leave to
be recycled into paper towels
and newspapers. The talking will
also leave as the sound waves
dissipate into the ether.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Death of a Nut

I'll never understand
why my dog Zoe becomes so upset
when a lone squirrel
visits her territory.

I don't believe that
any squirrel ever did
her any harm.

I can't even believe
that in any previous life
any such creature
trespassed against her,
unless Zoe had miraculously
been reincarnated from a lone nut,
buried by some enterprising squirrel,
for a scrumptious winter snack.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Best Laid Plans

I woke up early, really early.
The dogs didn't even get up.

I thought I'd look out the window and
write a poem about nature.

It was pitch black outside.
The only nature to be seen
was in my mind.
And . . . then the phone rang.

Today's plan was changing.
Nature once again was supplanted by
a little forgetfulness, and
perhaps a little
unconscious deliberation.

And the poem about nature . . .
became one about the nature of life.

Joshua, 1980