at a starbucks near you ~ a poem (and observation)

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he stood in front of me in line.
on the back of his white t-shirt was taped
a slip of paper, also white, on which
was hand printed in faint letters:
out of order

who hasn’t felt out of order from time to time?

he was a thin rail of a young man
with eyes hidden behind ray-bans,
while about his neck floated streams
of white surgical gauze giving him the allure
of a wounded French aviator (à mon avis, at least).
his purpose there, however, was prosaic enough:
he wanted a cup of ice water, which made perfect sense
on this hellishly hot day in la la land.

another man sitting nearby, not understanding,
said to him, yo, someone has taped a sign on your back,
but the young man said nothing in reply.
instead, after getting his drink, he moved on
to the side counter, where he dumped out half
the ice water and filled the cup with cream
all the way to the brim.

Perhaps only then did he have the proper mixture,
the magic elixir, to put the self back in order.

and yet once out the door, rather than continue
on his way, he stopped and turned to watch
the glass door slowly close in front of him.
how this added to his starbucks experience
I’ll never know.

mistress of my fate ~ a poem

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With my mother’s fortitude
and my father’s stoicism
I do okay.

Since you can’t choose
what traits are handed down,
you might as well capitalize
on the best of them.

Which is what I do now.

Not so in the past.

When I was young
I was heedless and self-indulgent,
a fool who made promises and
commitments,
then ran away,
following for the most part
lessons learned in childhood,
the worst lessons.

And for years
I regretted many things.
I berated myself, believing
I was the mistress of my fate
who had failed to carve
out of the shapeless future
a living work of art.

But the years have brought
a clarity that was never there before:
I see the totality of the past,
the patterns that shaped my life,
and I recognize my mother’s fury and
my father’s forbearance in me.
And I understand the virtues
they eventually came to be.

breathless ~ a poem

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she touches her lips in a circular fashion
à la jean-paul belmondo
at the movie’s end.
what is this girl,
this beautiful abject girl,
thinking as she stares beyond the camera’s lens?

too many threads and loose ends are unraveling
in this circular tapestry
before our eyes,
before her eyes,
her wide possessed eyes,
by turns caring and uncaring, innocent and knowing.

love – redux ~ a poem

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I loved you in a dream.
I woke up remembering that
whereas in real life
I never loved you at all.

I had forgotten that feeling
of air filling the chest to capacity,
of believing that destiny had a way
of working itself out.

I had forgotten my habit
of magical thinking,
of seeing someone everywhere,
in everything.

I remember writing poetry,
in old-style handwritten form,
terrible poems, in notebooks
tossed long ago.

But these poems were never for you.
And that feeling of love –
it was never felt in your presence.
And yet…

here I am thinking about you,
dreaming about you,
and after all these years
this poem is for you.

pass on pasadena ~ a rant

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Are there cities that you just can’t stand? Cities that for no easily justifiable reason suck the life out of you? I remember meeting a Londoner in St. Petersburg once (and I’m not talking about either London or St. Petersburg in this regard – just relating what this man had to say) who told me he hated Los Angeles – it had no soul. Being from Los Angeles, I felt I had to explain. I said, L.A. is such a huge metropolis with so many different communities and vibes – weren’t there perhaps some areas he liked better than others? No, he replied. He hated it all and couldn’t leave fast enough.

Now, I think I know how he must have felt. I feel the same way about Pasadena (California). At different points in my life I’ve lived in that city and worked in that city and nothing good has ever come of it. (Just recently, I had a job there and breathed an actual sigh of relief when I walked out on it.) If you have never visited Pasadena, let me give you a glimpse beyond the pomp and circumstance of the Rose Parade. As you drive in you’ll notice the sky becoming gun-metal gray due to the place it occupies in the San Gabriel Valley, much like a sewage drain. In other words, it does a good job of collecting the region’s smog and keeping it trapped for most of the year. Although there is a backdrop of looming mountains, mostly they appear as a strangely spectral border threatening to seal you in (think of the TV show The Dome). As you drive through, you’ll note a general grayness to the city itself, despite the admittedly pretty Craftsman-style houses. But it’s this very quaint and old-fashioned ambiance that I find oppressive. (And, yes, I realize there are shiny new districts with top-rated restaurants and the like but these appear to me like so much finery on a decaying corpse.) And then there is the glut of century-old high-spired churches – churches competing in grayness with the sky – churches on every corner. Yes, Pasadena is an old-fashioned and downright God-fearing city. Of course, if you like this sort of thing, stop reading here. But for me, I’m already feeling panicky just giving you a glimpse. I’m thinking of the experiences now, my personal experiences that, rightly or not, are forever embedded in the landscape. The people I’ve met, the people I’ve worked for (of course, I’ve met some great people, too), these people have mainly caused grief.

In short, there just seems to be something about the city and its people that are not conducive to my good health, mental or otherwise. Though the place may be God-fearing, it does damage to whatever I take to be my soul. So, I do understand perfectly now what that Londoner was feeling in regard to Los Angeles. Some places you’re simply better off just passing through.

the moon is full ~ a poem

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the moon is full, ensnared, as they say, in the branches of a tree (in this case, the branches being bare, ashen and brittle).

once, to me, the moon was like a hole in the sky, when a. and i walked across the sand near midnight, the ocean at our backs, and i imagined, because i couldn’t see the ocean, that we were in a desert – a persian desert – with no destination in sight.

and once the moon was so bright it rivaled the sun, though its light was silver white and its rays were like a pollen of radiance. that was in new zealand, in moetueka, i believe, after d. and i – sweet d., who is more made out of moonbeams than a. ever was – canoed in the jade-colored tasman sea.

at this age and still the moon enraptures, makes me want to write a poem. i guess there is still some wonder in the world.

 

well-laid plans ~ a poem

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she marked the calendar
she counted the days
a month
a week
a day
and then she would be free

but that was not meant to be

perhaps a celestial event
had transpired affecting the tides,
the ratio of day to night,
her well-laid plans
in any case nothing occurred
as she had foreseen

the day passed
and when it had
her whole world was different
and she was chained
to circumstances
without promise of release