Introducing Grandpa to Ferlinghetti's
"A Coney Island of the Mind" 
 

I wrote this poem in 1965 after a visit to Grandpa John and Grandma Mary Stuckel.  We all loved to hear him giggle.  

It was published in the December, 2020 issue of Caesura. 

 

Introducing Grandpa to Ferlinghetti’s

“A Coney Island of the Mind”

 

 

      He reads silently for a moment,

     then says quietly, "demented roosters," and nods,

     turns the page.  He reads again.

     His rocking chair has stopped rocking. 

     "A kissproof world of plastic toiletseats tampax and taxis,' 

     Oh, my," he says and puts his hand to his forehead. 

     Grandma fries chicken, turning it

     carefully with a pair of tongs.  She looks up

     to listen when he reads. 

     Grandpa licks his finger

     delicately to turn the page,

     throws his head back and guffaws.  "Limp buried peckers

     in the sand's soft flesh," he shouts. 

     Grandma shakes her head. 

     "That's not poetry," she says.  "That's pornography.

     Poetry is pretty.  About sunrise

     in azure forests."  She says azure like

     a mispronunciation of Asia. 

     Grandpa is laughing hard now, gasping,

     "And Christ climbed down." 

     "I'll pray for you," she says.  "That's sacrilegious."

 

     Picking dandelions for salad, Grandpa says the best ones,

     the tenderest, tastiest, grow in cow pies.

     "But don't tell Grandma," he says.  "That

     would spoil it for her."  He lets the bucket bump

     against his trousers.  We wash the dandelions

     with the hose before we take them in.  "These are a tonic

     for your digestive system," he says.  Then, quietly,

     "Do you have any more Ferlinghetti?" he asks. 

     "Give it to me before you leave." 

Maybe

 

This poem appeared in the spring 2021 issue of the San Pedro River Review

(Vol. 13 No.1).  The theme for this issue was Kerouac's Highway Gone Wrong.

 

Maybe

 

If you hadn’t strolled along

so sexily, wearing cowboy boots.

Being a cowboy maybe,

a landscape trapped in your

belt buckle. 

Maybe a moon and desert,

a lake and sun,

maybe just mysterious marks

in stone

that led you to me and my maybe lips,

my maybe marriage,

my definite children.

 

Maybe we could go to Tahoe,

but we couldn’t be writers together.

Maybe that wouldn’t work.

It snows.

It would be too cold.

Maybe there wouldn’t be enough money.

Maybe it’s better knowing

the other

exists.

Maybe.

Maybe it’s better to leave that,

forget it.

Maybe in that moment before dying

we’ll regret the lack of courage,

the failing,

we brought to each other. 

Climbing Crowsnest

Crowsnest Final.jpg

Third Wednesday published Charlie Chaplin in Volume XIV, No. 3 Summer 2021 (June 15th).  Here it is with a photo of Charlie Chaplin as it appeared on their Blog on June 10th as the poem of the week.  

Charlie Chaplin.png
Ferns

Glimpse magazine published Ferns in their spring 2921 issue #53. 

 

Ferns

 

               When the child gave signs

               that it was ready to be born,

               we stripped

               the fronds from four Lady ferns

               using a downward motion

               and saying a prayer

               that the child would slip

               from the womb as easily

               as the fronds slipped

               off the stalks.

               Then we pounded the stems of the ferns

               and boiled them and gave you

               the liquid to drink,

               the curled leaves to eat.

               We saved the other leaves

               for you to rub in your hair

               to make it grow

               longer and blacker.

               And we saved one brown

               midrib

               to weave into a basket.

 

               After we cut the cord,

               we carried the child carefully

               over the oyster beds

               to dip him in the water

               to hear his voice on this earth, 

               to let the ferns make striped

               shadows on his body,

               so his life would be full of light.

The Rupture published this piece on 10/15/2021.  It's the first poem in a sequence called Four For My Father.  I wanted them to be published together, but that didn't seem to be happening.  However, the Bryant Review has accepted the other three poems.  They'll be published together in the spring, 2022.  

Your Broken Lines

"You have to move with the river," he said.

"Otherwise, it will kill you."

He dove from the bridge, came up for air

a black dot, downstream, guided by invisible

filaments from shore, his arms

stroking white caps.

 

The current tried to pull my

skin off, yanked my hair back,

threw me against rocks I tried to

cling to but slid away from,  

slippery moss washing

over my arms. I tore

my nails over granite.

I leaned deep into the river,

to float low, drift in the green,

let my lungs fill with water.

 

He pulled me out by the arms and left me

face down in the small rocks on the edge.

 

In our family, we struggle with

the places where the line gets tangled

and drags us through rough water by the hair.

I don't know what you struggle with.

I cannot see your broken lines.

I only know they are there.

The Quality of the Light 

Pure Slush, a magazine based in Australia published the Quality of the Light in an anthology called Love, in their Lifespan series, Volume IV.

The Quality of the Light

In the middle of an argument, you lift your arm

and I see the soft, white skin

that never gets the sun.

 

You sit in the grass in the park,

wave your arms and talk,

but no one is there.

You wear jeans and no shirt.

You read a sheaf of papers. The wind blows one

my way. It bears a notary's seal.

You lie back, close your eyes.

But your fist is clenched. You should be wearing

a shirt. You are so white, and the sun is so hot.

    

A stranger appeared as I knelt in my garden.

He was young, wore a white shirt open at

the collar. "I've come to serve your divorce papers," he said.

I stumbled to my feet and held out

my hands, covered with strawberry juice and dirt.

"For me?"

He read my name.

"You didn't know?  I'm sorry," he said.

His bright white shirt flashed through

the falling darkness.

 

I sat frozen to the sofa. "You can't even get 

a job," you said. But I knew I could sell oranges

from wooden crates beside the road.

The sign would read:

TREE RIPENED IN FLORIDA

(and brought all this way in bags for you.)

Behind the sign, in the dirt I'd allow thieves

to gamble for what had once belonged to us.

 

Now, even from this distance, I want to raise

my arms, to shield you, and if I could tell you anything,

it would be a warning against a darkness falling

that has nothing to do with the quality of the light.

Your Broken Lines