Leaders

featured in the poetry forum June 17, 2016  :: 0 comments

Some were born clever.
You know them –
those upright, dripping
quipping monsters
who can drag
whole rural territories,
forgotten capital cities,
hamlets full of hapless
Hamlets behind them
in their wake.

And their breath smells of
confidence and confusion.
Their stare trembles hearts
but lasts less than
we were promised.
Their intentions are clear
but only in retrospect.
Their promises are always kept.

Their latest pictures appear
with those blurry figures
standing behind them,
figures we recall from
childhood, figures who
kept us up most of the night
praying they would go away
and leave us to the simple pleasure
of just being left alone.

editors note:

Yes! Follow your own lead. – mh clay

Time

featured in the poetry forum December 31, 2015  :: 0 comments

Time weighs us down
like too many lunches would
or your grandmother’s quilt
on a summer day.

It fills us to the brim
like champagne glasses
misshapen balloons
or punctured tires.

Dances us around
like a reluctant suitor
a poorly trained bear
a badly played tune.

Runs us down
like a herd of small dogs
a pride of house cats
or the four o’clock bus.

It collides with us all
like a blind prizefighter
two inbound flights
the twain finally meeting.

Time, all by itself, weighs us,
fills us, dances, runs,
and we collide.
Then time stands by a lamppost
Smokes herself a long lazy smoke
Watches us all go by
And heaves a great sigh.

editors note:

This year has come an’ gone. A great spectacle of human endeavors; some for good, some for other. Let’s give’em one more; see what they do… – mh clay

Why We Have Drones

featured in the poetry forum July 20, 2015  :: 0 comments

Early on killing must have been close up
With something sharp, a dagger-like stick
Or stone pushed home, up so close that
You would almost embrace your enemy
Feel his strength yield a bit, up close you
Could hear his last words, even when you
Didn’t understand them, you heard them
Even smelled and tasted them, felt them
On your cheek, a last word and his last
Breath, then the nothing of his death
A dead weight to push aside or lay down
Perhaps stumble over, blood literally on
Your hands, your weapon, your clothes
The smell and feel of it, a reminder of
What you have done, hard to wash away
Something that intimate must stay with
You, follow you, haunt you, and play games
With your imagination, reversing the roles
The blade piercing your stomach or chest
Your blood, your last words, or changing
The partner in the dance, your best friend,
Your wife, your children, killing them all
This close up.

editors note:

Easy, when one can do it through a screen. Why not? We do everything through a screen. – mh clay

Something is Missing

featured in the poetry forum January 10, 2015  :: 0 comments

It often disturbs me awake
Draws me room to room
Each window in sequence
Shades up, blinds open
Even out the front door
Nothing up or down the street;
As always the presence of
Absence is troublesome,
An uneasiness that wanders
Through my day, the way
The house seems emptier
My work more ironic and
The numbing days I get
Through knowing that more
Will follow, a progression
Without any real progress;
Something is missing, gone
With the people I knew
The years I felt whole and
Nothing quite replaces it,
An empty mailbox, silent
Phone, a simple word I keep
Looking up but never can find.

editors note:

Loneliness is doubly painful for a poet, obsessed with the search for the perfect word to describe what’s missing… – mh

Final exam

August 31, 2014  :: 0 comments

I got ready for all this – did the required reading,
took notes, underlined and highlighted,
searched the library and the internet, listened
carefully, prepared and reviewed, stayed up
nights going over things, did everything possible,

But here I am stuck on the first question. Not only
do I not know the answer, I don’t even understand
the question, the terms and phrasing throw me,
seem all wrong, an unanswerable what and why;
and the others, I’ve looked ahead, seem the same.

I’m in the wrong room, took a wrong turn along
the way, settled in too quickly without looking
around, took the first place open before looking
for familiar faces, took whatever they handed me,
and sat down and just began.

I studied all the wrong things, took the wrong things seriously,
spent hours puzzling. I can hear people around me
breathing, one is jiggling his foot, someone is tapping
a pen to an irregular beat to my time here,
this blank, the pay back for my inattention to detail.

Sale Item

featured in the poetry forum August 31, 2014  :: 0 comments

The guy who sold me this
even guaranteed it
doesn’t work here now
that I need him and
his wonderful sense
that things will work
will go on – his brave
words in the face of
reality; certainty like
his shouldn’t pass
from this world, but
his former manager
and co-workers seem
reluctant to recall
his smiling face, his
way of getting a person
to walk out of here
with over-priced
potential junk
under his arm
on his plastic, smiling
completely sold
never guessing he’d be
back in two days
looking for someone
who may or may not
have worked here
sometime in the past.

editors note:

Another victim, vanquished by a vanished, positive purveyor of products untried. Caveat emptor! – mh

Knowing When to Stop

featured in the poetry forum May 31, 2014  :: 0 comments

In traffic it’s simple enough; the signs are there – an abrupt
one word command that doesn’t suggest alternatives, no
please or thank you. Even the color sets off alarms in us,

fire truck red, blood red, a blazing primal shade highlighting
the command to stop, cease progress and notice the others
around us, the other drivers’ need to stop and go in polite order,

or the pedestrians who persist in walking about, who think
nothing of crossing, stepping bravely out into the crosswalk
believing in the power of that one word and our instinctive
reaction to it. We stop, it’s that simple, something outside
of us commands it and we stop; it’s parental, it’s big brother,

and in traffic it mostly works, keeps us inline, waiting our turn,
makes us think of others and consequences, of how one thing
leads on to another, how an important part of going is stopping.

And then, if we stop even briefly, a heartbeat, an aside perhaps,
we have the moment, a necessary and calm moment withheld
from all this, and when our turn comes we continue on, like always.

editors note:

That’s it! We need those little moments to find center, achieve balance. No! Stop! – mh

Second Amendment

featured in the poetry forum March 5, 2014  :: 0 comments

We live in such a dangerous world, a place
where survival of the fittest wags the dog,
where wolves howl just outside the door,
circle, close in, where plotters plot, gunners
gun, bombers bomb, where addicts are
desperately seeking a fix, and fixers can’t fix
a thing. Read the papers, watch the news un-
fold across the various screens that filter it all,
advise us, warn us, threaten; drive down Main
Street at rush hour and feel the hostile nature
of us all, gestures, horns and screeching brakes,
the things we can almost hear them yelling as
as we pass, locked in, a pistol in the glove box,
always ready to protect what is ours from
anyone who crosses us, cuts us off, flips us
the bird; this is as it should be, treacherous,
hazardous, precarious, perilous, watch the sun
rising up and falling, beating down on us all day,
watch the crows attack the birdfeeder, push
and shove their way in, watch the neighbor’s
pit bull pee on your irises, watch your neighbor’s
leaves blow on your newly raked lawn, watch
them closing in, then go get the shotgun they
didn’t get, load up, stand by the front door and
wait for someone to knock and then let them know
just how dangerous this part of the world can be.

editors note:

We want the freedom to defend ourselves; while someone else wants to tell us what to defend against. – mh

Poem Written by Hand

featured in the poetry forum January 7, 2014  :: 0 comments

I compose now, when I compose,
at a keyboard, but I remember this –
pen in hand, writing the cursive loops
and lines the nuns taught me, fought
me to use so many years ago.

One end points upward, outward at
some point just beside infinity, while
the other unwinds its blue line down
the empty page.

It’s a pen after all, not a brush, nor a
hammer, nor a gun, for that matter,
and so in its own way it’s harmless,
makes nothing happen, but this, this
temporary smudge, this, this poem
I’m writing by hand.

How many years was this the all of it,
the way it went, but handwriting seems
so private now, impermanence waiting
to dissolve or transform into type on
the screen, or on the print-out page.

It’s an age since I tried to capture
the features of a poem like this,
the strum and straddle, the plum and
paddle of it, and its punctuated pride.

I haven’t drifted down the river of
a page, like this, like this in years –
my line in the water, the sun beating
down, and those mystery fish moving,
waiting just below the surface,
the surface of my words.

editors note:

So many ways to ride the river. Use a paddle, an outboard or your best breast stroke; just ride. – mh

Lawn

featured in the poetry forum October 20, 2013  :: 0 comments

I have laid siege to this lot, seems like my whole life,
perhaps longer; in this forever war, forever have I waged
the good fight against nature, against the inevitable,
Sisyphus pushing a Toro, mowing the green down as it
grows up behind me, its counter attack, its ironic violence
against this aggressor. I feel it in my back, in my right knee
I hear it stretch and grow bolder. I hear it these nights
Plotting, planning its recovery, certain of its final victory.
But, I arm myself, buy fuel, sharpen my blade, check the oil,
work out designs, choreograph the battle, line on line,
precisely measure pace and timing, step boldly out, again.

editors note:

For the scions of suburban mythology, this side o’ the fence should be shortly shorn, shiny and green, green, green. – mh