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."
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.
If you hadn’t strolled along
so sexily, wearing cowboy boots.
Being a cowboy maybe,
a landscape trapped in your
Maybe a moon and desert,
a lake and sun,
maybe just mysterious marks
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 would be too cold.
Maybe there wouldn’t be enough money.
Maybe it’s better knowing
Maybe it’s better to leave that,
Maybe in that moment before dying
we’ll regret the lack of courage,
we brought to each other.
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.
Glimpse magazine published Ferns in their spring 2921 issue #53.
When the child gave signs
that it was ready to be born,
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
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.
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.