Once More to the Moon

The stars will blow out they say
tho none have seen one up close
or this far away for that matter.

And for now the center still holds
the “deep heart’s core” burns on
of course tempered with age.

The tool worn and bent its handle
once forged so hot to the touch
now almost cold the closer you come.

The further astray and adrift
solo in space in your egg shaped
spiral lost in your milky way.

Why nine chains to the moon?
Because things arranged in threes
allow a mysterious symmetry.

The Old Busker

He stood beneath a bank of trees
near the beach of a green spring
the wily busker taking deposits
of fruit in his cowpoke hat basket
a few choice purple cherries
a couple of greenbacks
and a nugget of fool’s gold.

He sang of broken hearts
paper torn into many pieces
litter along the roadway
how love collects like dust
up against the bent guardrails
that’s my heart in pennies
he sang out on the highway.

He worries the strings of his guitar
with his bent wire fingers
flap slaps the hook smacks the box
shapes his fretful music
the earth wants a cover
creeping vines and grasses
if any have many piled carpets.

Woolly and Blue

Yes, lend an ear or
if you can’t hear
a hand everyone
needs help some
day sooner or later.

A great funnel follows
this big bang spiral
the universe a canal
of turns and twists
through a milky orifice.

The birds play the leads
the melodies while the trees
rhythm leaves in the wind
as I wile away the evening
dressed in hearing aids.

More than sound is here
to hear is to feel motion
an eyelid angel’s kiss
across the baby’s lanugo
can you hear this?

To Forgo

For days on end we go without
disavow our yielding yellows
surrender calls our voices
You knew what was coming

The abyss, an abyss anyway
I often want to share mine
with you but then I forget
your name your hands

Every morning now I finish
flex the memory stretch
credulity as they say no
more evidence than an empty

basement the attic too
the whole house spotless
not a speckle or a flake
of what used to take place

the romp stomp jerkings
the peaceful long sleeps
no need to hark but now
lend an ear or a hand.

Marine Layer

Loveliest of evenings long passed
close kissed in dark dwelling alley
irate tenants hissing us go away
and we felt the marine layer coming.

Felt with our youthful tongues day
and night passing slowly into the mix
of salt and hair and wet sandpaper
rubbing away our persistent presents.

And while yesterday we had sun
today we have none though they say
the globe is warming you wear your
flannel nightgown winter and summer.

Vaccination Loop

Around noon yesterday, a bumper to bumper half block line of cars continuously moved like connected parts of a tram and entered the dark barrow shaft entrance to the Oregon Convention Center underground parking mine, while a similar line of cars exited back into the partly sunny Portland spring day. Once in the garage, visitors politely and patiently vied for parking spots, which quickly opened and closed thanks to an efficient and extensive mass vaccination loop leading from the garage and through the building, organized by volunteers and clinicians from various organizations, including what appeared to be a deployment of an Oregon National Guard platoon. With the exception of the mandatory wait after being vaccinated, to watch for reactions, visitors had no still time to browse the book brought along or take out the knitting needles. Indeed, few were even looking at their cell phones, intent and occupied as they were with following personalized directions and moving along – short stays at this or that staffed table to answer a few questions, show ID, sit for the quick shot of vaccine, and schedule the second appointment (if this was the first) while waiting for the reaction release time written on tape and displayed on one’s shirt to expire.

The goers to this convention seemed mostly older folks, most of whom no doubt did not consider themselves particularly old, just of a particular age, which would be considered an inadequate definition of a person. Yet here we were, grouped together by age and moving along like a line of kindergarteners on a field trip. Except for the Guard, everybody looked somehow out of uniform. Question: How can you tell a group of people is older? Answer: There are no tattoos. One fellow I noticed was wearing the rubber shower shoes we used to call go-aheads, shorts, and a flowered t-shirt, not regular gear in a Northwest winter month. A newcomer from California, maybe.

Not without some trepidation had I prepared myself for the field trip before leaving home: what to wear? what route to take? what book to bring? Did I have my ID and medical card? How would I prove my appointment confirmation? This last, it turned out, I had over prepared for, and unwittingly as a result momentarily fell from the loop. Once into the building and into line, I noticed just about everyone was carrying a piece of paper, a print out, it turned out, of their email appointment confirmation. I no longer have a printer, but the email came with a QR (Quick Response) code that can be saved to and read by a cell phone or other scanner. And I had already pre-confirmed via online registration site the appointment, so I thought with that and my QR code saved to my phone, I was good to go. There were two lines moving quickly, everyone six feet apart and masked, instructed to be ready with confirmation proof. We were not yet within the Exhibit Room itself, but still in the lobby with its majestically high ceilings and large windows and aisleways full of natural light. When I reached the volunteer at the end of my line, I showed her my QR code on my cell phone, assuming she would scan it. But she said, “No, I need to see the date.” I had before leaving home cropped the code so it was fully visible, cutting off the rest of the email, including the date. As I now scrambled to find the original, she brushed my effort aside, pulled me from line, and directed me to a woman at a computer located at the end of a kind of train siding line, where no one was in line, so I quickly made my way to the computer and showed my QR code. Instead of scanning it, though, she asked my last name, looked at her computer, said, “Hi, Joe, go on in.” I merged back into line, my confidence in the efficiency of the loop restored, even if my QR code never did get scanned. I was reminded of the time when my girlfriend and I went to see the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the LA Forum. We waited in line while the gatekeepers took tickets and ushered people toward their tunnels, and too late realized that they were also checking purses. When my girlfriend opened hers, the little pint of as yet unopened Southern Comfort placed comfortably and clearly visible within, the gatekeeper said, “Go on in.” Jimi would have been 78 today, and could have fit comfortably into the vaccination line with the rest of us.

Also, as it turned out, I had overdressed as well as over prepared. I began with my loose fitting Red Sox t-shirt, thinking I would take my outer shirt off and easily roll up the sleeve of the t-shirt to take the shot. Over the t-shirt, I wore a flannel long sleeved shirt untucked, and over that, a vest with many pockets for holding things like book, pen, and cell phone. And over the vest, a bright yellow, thin rain jacket. In both vest and jacket pockets I had stored an extra face mask. At one station, I was given a packet of information with a page to fill out: name, address, phone number, etc. And mother’s maiden name? Good grief! And the same questions, this time answered yes or no with check mark, I’d already been asked by a nice enough fellow at the station where I picked up the form, and from where I was directed to a grouping of round tables with golf pencils available for the filling out of the form. At the next station, an Army NG Sergeant asked to see my papers and ID. He did some work on his computer, scanned my medical card, wrote 70 in bright red ink at the top of my worksheet, and pointed me to yet another volunteer who directed me into a vaccination line. It was at this point I recalled the infamous follow the yellow line at my downtown LA draft induction physical, circa late 60’s. What a loop that one was, but I was now on deck, next up, and was directed to a desk number where sat a clinician with vaccine at the ready. She invited me to sit, and that’s when I realized I had worn too many tops. Trying to take the rain jacket, vest, and flannel shirt off all in one swift move, my arms got all tangled up in sleeves and tails and I fell into the seat feeling like a kindergartner who has just failed hanging up coat after recess. More questions, mostly the same ones, the shot (routine – the loose fitting t-shirt at least proved to be a good idea), bright day glow green bandaid, the piece of tape showing my wait time stuck to my Red Sox shirt, and I was on my way to the waiting area to sit out the reaction wait time and schedule my next appointment, all the while wrestling on the go trying to put my arms through the sleeves of my mess of shirts.

The wait time proved invaluable as the cell phone scheduling of the second appointment looped and looped, looking like it was going to take as long as it took the schedule the first appointment – over an hour, while getting the vaccination, from parking to shot, had taken only about 15 minutes. But a volunteer happened by, I asked her for help, and she looked at my phone and said, “Oh, just type something into that space, anything, hi.” And I did. I typed “hi,” hit “schedule” again, and the loop stopped looping and kicked out my appointment: 3 weeks out, at 7:45 AM. Good grief!

Field trip over, headed back home, reflecting on the experience. Before getting a vaccine appointment, folks generally are experiencing frustration and anxiety over the computerized process, the apparent vying for a limited number of appointments, feeling uninformed as protocols and procedures seem to change weekly, thinking it shouldn’t be this way, stuck in a time loop. The Convention Center experience, to the contrary, was personable, friendly, efficient. And I was sent home with a card confirming what I had just accomplished. I have it stuck with a magnet to the icebox.

How to Relax

No point in pointing to made one’s way
each momentous breath passes coming
in spaces between arriving & leaving
you learn to breathe with the tummy.

To breathe is to fall loose
into mattresses of surf
full of air bubbles drifting
to shore with a slow tide
as light as moon goes
in the sky and on the sea.

Sitting on the wooden bench under the lilac,
while Chloe plays in the age-old schoolyard,
Papa awaits the second coming, not knowing
what to expect, unable to recall the first coming.

I will write you flowers
every morning to read
with your bitter coffee
a bright yellow squirt
of sun oily blue green
froth on top.

You sleep with a cat
whose soft purr
gives you pleasure
all the joy of color
impressions for the day.

You are soft like warm
butter barely melting
down a scone topped
with a couple of gummy
candy raspberries.

The butter wets the real
fruit jelly rounds to light
pigment an open place
for lips to play and tongue – wait
you didn’t think this
was really about flowers, did you?

Here are two flowers
the one calls a honey bee
the other falls asleep
petals open softly fictile.            

There is so much silence
hear the rustle of ants
hustling across the counter
for sugar and sweet
stuffs, see the apple
blossoms opening feel
the bees approach
touch the molten lava
freeze it you can
but no matter.

Once we admired multiple
uses of one another
of the now tossed
cast off laugh
tassels flipping
flopping bouncing
from rear view mirrors
windows all rolled down.

Now we adhere
to this new silence
deafens touch
asks for something
that is nothing
blends with the wall
wearing night caps
and socks to bed.

Outside cold winds blow
bare branches whip
the rain’s violence pours
mercifully out a kindness
allows for sleep and sleep.

The rain falls and falls all
night long soaks through
the ground walls fills
the basement rises
up the stairs
floods the living
room wicks up the wallpaper
and pours out the windows.

What Shall We Do With a Drunken Surfer

She bops down to the beach to dance
in the sand by the water the seaweed
brittle and he trips aback and nearly falls
like the drunken sailor in the shanty
“Ho! No! Thar she blows!”

She desires to dance politely
he wants to throw the bottle
into the waves they bouncing
round two junks in the vessel
carried away in a rash riptide

With a message for the great white
whale they glide over the stonefish
ease through a fluther of box jellies
the moon full but the night not fair
the music stops the beach empties

He awakes in the bottle rolling in the ripples
with her sound asleep soft nipples
in the warm sand above the water line
calm and sober like the walrus
angel watching over you

What shall we do with a drunken surfer
who dreams full of fishes seaweed wrack
brack Saltwort Ale and other foolishness
who never caught a fish nor wave enough
to feed his wife out combing the beach