Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Day Poem

Thanksgiving Day Poem

My people were all poor people,

the ones who survived to look

in my eyes and touch my fingers

and those who didn’t, dying instead

of fever, hunger, or even a bullet

in the face, dying maybe thinking

of how their deaths were balanced

by my birth or one of the other

stories the poor tell themselves

to give themselves the strength

to crawl out of their own graves.

Not all of them had this strength

but enough did, so that I’m here

and you’re here reading this poem

about them.  What kept them going?

Maybe something in the souls

of people who start with nothing

and end with nothing, and in between

live from one handful of nothing

to the next handful of nothing.

They keep going--through the terror

in the snow and the misery

in the rain--till some guy pierces

their stomachs with a bayonet

or some sickness grips them, and still

they keep going, even when there

aren’t any rungs on the ladder

even when there aren’t any ladders.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Day Kennedy was Shot


What were you doing the day Kennedy was shot?

I was a student in a sophomore high school geometry class.

The teacher read the message about Kennedy being shot and said, "That will teach him to ride in convertibles."
He laughed but no one else did.

Minutes later, school was cancelled.

I took the city bus home, the same way I did all the time.

It was a gray cold Chicago day, and felt more like December than November. There were snow flurries falling. I loved Kennedy and kept thinking they must have the news wrong.

When I finally got home, there was nobody there. My mom and dad were working and wouldn't be home for 3 or 4 hours. My sister was probably with her friends. 

I turned on the tv. Watched the news.

I didn't know what else to do.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Tornado Poem

Tornado Country.

We lived in the midwest for a long time, the flat country between the Mississippi and the Ohio River. We lived in Charleston and Normal and Peoria, Illinois, and we lived in Lafayette and West Lafayette, Indiana. We lived through four tornados and I don't know how many more tornado alerts. One time we hadn't finished doing the paper work on the damage one tornado did to our house when a second tornado hit us.

Here's a poem I wrote about a tornado that hit us when we were living in Charleston, Il.

My Daughter is Outside Playing

In the quiet space of the dining room
My wife and I lay out the place settings

The forks beside the Wedgwood plates
The spoons and knives in their places.

A napkin in her hand, she pauses
And tells me again of how her mother

Would starch and iron the squares of cotton
Wash the plates by hand and again by machine.

I smile, nod my head and turn to the window
See the roof next door lift, shingles

Exploding like scattered sparrows, and there
It is—the howl of the locomotive wind

And then a pounding at the glass door
And a screaming that will not stop.

The photo is from the New York Times.

The poem was picked up by New Verse News, a literary journal that focuses on poems about the news. Here's a link to it.  Click here.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Old Jokes

I love old jokes. They're the people's true poetry, and remember, the older the joke, the sweeter the whine.  

Here are some of my favorites. 

A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, "Hey, why the long face?"

A man walks into a bar carrying a chunk of asphalt in his hands. He gets the bartender's attention and says, "I'll have a beer and another for the road."

A guy walks into a bar carrying jumper cables. The bartender says, "You can have a drink, buddy, but you better not start anything!"