Leaf of Life

How deliciously iridescent was the budding leaf
when it burst into bloom on an extruding limb of the tree –
another leaf sprouting forth from those that preceded it;
another leaf to burden the boughs of that time-worn tree;
an added weight until it no longer could bear life’s fruit.

But what a tiny leaf — no danger to fell the tree, no danger
to bend the bough to the bone-filled earth. I shimmered
and glowed from the dew that caressed me at sunrise,
bouncing and dancing from the touch of the morning breeze,
singing as the surging sap filled my tiny veins;

I expanded and thrived in the sun’s dappling shadows,
growing rich and lustrous with the cleansing of the rain,
expanding into an age-ripened leaf able to comprehend
my identity among the fledgling leaves, able to sense
my uniqueness among the flowering branches.

Then one day, bursting with the strength of my youth,
I tore away from my roots, snapped the stem that held me
and leaped onto the winds of flight that bore me upwards
and onwards into the swirling currents of life.
Freed from my umbilical cord, I soared into the future.

Aspiring heaven and seeking to reach unimagined heights,
I strained to devour all the delights presented by the wind.
I soared into maturity with each season stealing a piece
of my life-giving fluids until, as a waning leaf,
I began to shrivel and wilt from my pleasure-seeking years.

When the buoyant winds no longer could lift my dying cells,
I began to swirl and twirl downward into the twilight
of brittle decay, falling to the ground beneath
the time-worn tree where once I budded and bloomed
with life. Curling into myself I became one with the earth.

(First Hon. Mention, Category 20, NFSPS 2018 Poetry Contest)

And Then to Flight

The eagle spreads its wings
but does not soar.
The swallow lifts its throat
but sings no more.

The meadow ‘neath my window
Fades from sight,
The shadows in my room
Surmount the light.

My body frees the soul
So grudgingly
And sinks into the grave
Eternally.

This Triolet received First Place in the 2015 ISFPC Contest.

Twilight on Hermosa Beach

The sun ignites the clouds to flame
as it sinks into the waiting sea. Overhead
a perfect formation of birds, silhouetted
against the last tinge of light, silently
wing across the sky to nest for the night.

Spindly-legged sandpipers scurry
across the beach as an impatient wave
tumbles over the outgoing tide, eager
to drench them with spray. The ghostlike form
of a man trudges down the Strand, dwarfed
against the background of billowing breakers.

Jupiter dimly blinks in the onrushing dusk, emerging
in all its brilliance when the last hesitant light
sinks beneath the sea. The oppression of night
silences the birds and all that can be heard
is the crashing of waves upon the sightless shore.

(Won First Place in Category 3 in Pennsylvania Poetry Society 2013 poetry contest)

 

The Masticator

(with apologies to
Omar Khayyam)

I sat across from her fascinated,
no, hypnotized, as I watched her mouth
gnashing up and down on her food,
moving two scrunches per second.

She had thin lips, maybe an inch
beneath her long nose that looked
like an arrow pointing to a mouth
that never stopped masticating..

When she halted long enough to talk,
her mouth opened like a sewer grate,
the salivary juices running down
the sides trying to escape her teeth.

If we could see ourselves as others see us,
would there exist idealistic poetry?
Would Omar Khayyam in his Rubaiyat
have changed “The moving finger having writ . .”
to:

The masticating mouth does chew
and having chewed gnaws on, nor all
its gnashing nor its grinding shall eradicate
one morsel from its culinary function?

(In the 2012 Senior Poets Laureate Contest,
“The Masticator” won the Indiana Honor Scroll Award)

The Last of the Wild Oats

The jar was full so many years ago,
But thinking it more wise to be discrete
I only flung a handful sparingly —
Upon a pair of eyes that shone with love,

A smiling mouth that curved like angel’s wings
As laughter rang like music from his throat.
When once I flung the oats too carelessly
The wind returned the grains with such a force

My eyes were blinded by the gust until
My tears exposed the folly of my deed.
Then wisely did I watch the coursing winds
Before I sowed my wild misguided seeds.

The jar now had so little left to hoard
I thought it best to close the battered lid,
But when I thought Why harbor such a few?
I turned and threw the last into the wind.

With some regret but knowing that at last
I’d freed myself from love’s uncertainty,
I cleansed my mind of all entanglements
And chose to walk the path of chastity.

Then suddenly those seedlings I had scorned
And tossed away with grim decisiveness
Returned with such a force my body reeled,
For love appeared and filled my hollow heart.

Don’t think of love as only for the young:
It comes to anyone who has no fear
Of throwing to the wind those last few seeds
That in that jar lay dormant through the years.

The Dance of the Dust Ball

Pinned to the splintery post
supporting the screen on the porch,
it hung like a transparent ornament,
dejected, apathetic, yet straining
to be released from its imprisonment.

It was an accumulation of many things-
cat hairs, fibers, fluff, dirt, grime-
that had formed into a circular mass
of weightlessness, only to be entangled
in the splinters of the rough porch post.

This dust ball had no soul, no spirit.
It was an object formed to float freely
with no gravitational pull to force it
into submission. Yet, here it was
entangled in the splintery post.

Suddenly, a gust of wind pushed
through the screens, swirling within the porch,
fluttering the leaves of the potted fern,
whipping the grill’s cover, and then,
finding the shackled dust ball, set it free

It soared! It danced! The wind filled
it with buoyancy, giving it life,
letting it dance wildly across the floor.
Oh, how it rolled and twisted, vibrating
with the joy of being liberated from its shackles.

For a moment it lived. For a moment
it soared with the joy of freedom, knowing
no bounds. Then the wind died!
It fell to the floor exhausted and listless,
only to be impaled again to the post.

(Won Second Place in Category 16 in NFSPS 2012 poetry contest)

Mississippi’s Measure 26

I heard him say, this man
from Mississippi, to use
any form of contraception
is murder. Even if the woman
is put in danger, let her die!
His seed is more important.

Oh, the vanity of this man
who thinks his sperm
so supreme it takes preference
over a woman’s existence.
She is nothing more than a vessel
to fulfill his egotistical control.

I say to him “spill it on the ground”
and let it fertilize the soil
that soon will become so barren
it can no longer feed the mouths
of the billions more unwanted
souls whom your seeds will create.

Chios Remembered

I remember the sight of the olive trees whitened
and drooping from the weight of the arid dust;
the lonely, barren, rock-strewn hills wracked
and severed by devastating earthquakes,
vibrating from the heat of the merciless sun,

the sleepy-eyed burrow meandering
down the cobblestone street with a cumbersome
wooden saddle strapped on its back; the early
morning cry of the vegetable peddler hawking
his produce still damp from the morning dew;

the licorice smell of ouzo drifting
from the cafes; the aroma of frying calamari;
kokoretsi sizzling on the spit; loukoumades
bubbling in hot oil; the pastry shops
beckoning you with their savory sweets.

I remember standing on the balcony watching
the Aegean Sea with its rippling waves laughing
and sparking in the noonday sun; the siesta,
after the noon meal, taken in a room cooled
and darkened by closed wooden shutters,

and at dusk sitting at the wooden tables
lined up outside the cafes, sipping the hot
Turkish coffee and watching families, hand in hand
with their children, parade up and down the square,
all dressed up in their Sunday finery;

nights spent with family and friends in tavernas,
toasting with retsina, savoring the spicy foods,
straining to understand the strange language,
delighted when I could, and warming my body
with their love, laughter and friendship.

(Note: “Chios Remembered” received first place in one of the categories in the 2010 Poetry Society of Michigan poetry contest)

Lamentation

Flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood, you suckled
on the nutrients of my body, growing from a tiny seed
into a burgeoning root that pushed from my womb
into the world, opening your lungs to inhale
the air of life, screaming your objection.

I held you in my arms, gently as a precious gem
that might disintegrate into dust if I pressed you
too closely to my breast But there you were,
the fruit that grew from the soil of my body,
always to be my other self, never to be severed
from that umbilical cord that wraps around my heart.

As you grew, I taught you to walk in this world
unafraid, I taught you the courage of manhood,
I held you close and said love, never hate,
for that will destroy you. I tried to implant in you
my heart, my soul, but I wanted you to be better than I.

And then, my son, you surged into manhood
with love and patriotism in your heart.
You sprouted u+pward like a strong limbed tree
believing in brotherhood and the veracity of country,
unable to understand the evil in this wanton world.

But the hearts of evil men care not for a mother’s love.
They are full of greed and hate, they want to destroy
the seeds that grow from our bodies. They want to plant
their own wicked deeds into the hearts of humanity
to take control of the world for their own satanic appetites.
They will not hesitate to bloody the world.

When the country you loved called you to sacrifice
your life to fight the evil that had exploded, unhesitantly
you agreed. How could you do otherwise when I
had taught you love of country. A part of me died
when you left my embrace, but perhaps I had been dying
a bit each day since you left the security of my womb

Heart of my heart, flesh of my flesh, they took
you away like a lamb to slaughter. They put that gun
in your hand and said “kill”. If I had taught you the evil
of this world, would you still be alive? Oh, my son,
the umbilical cord wrapped around my heart
is squeezing the blood from my body!

(Note: “Lamentation” won the 2010 Indiana Senior Poets Laureate poetry award)

Ode to the Dandelion

Oh, selfish yellow springtime child
That augments so prolifically,
You spread your seeds in arrogance
And dare the earth to disagree.

You raise your tendriled yellow head
And wantonly vociferate:
I’ll conquer all without regard,
The land is mine to propagate!

You paint the fields so lavishly
They shimmer with your color gold.
You nod and smile within the wind
And think you noble to behold.

But there are those who have no care
For all the swagger you assume,
You’re much more tender to digest
Before you burgeon into bloom.

So vain, conceited dandelion
Beware the culinarians.
They’ll roughly pull you from the ground
To feed the vegetarians.

(Note:  “Ode to the Dandelion” won the 2009 Best Poem of Indiana Poets in the Senior Poet Laureate Award Contest.)