THE BARTENDER’S TALE

featured in the poetry forum July 26, 2022  :: 0 comments

Part One: New Hampshire

We are having lunch with our poet-artist friend,
Looking down toward the big lake,
Luminous glow of peak reds and golds
In an October mist.
The bar is crowded,
Favorite domestic brands on draft.
Why would you go to a bar at noon on Monday?
To watch a replay of Sunday’s game,
To see if the Patriots win this time,
Or have a beer with your sandwich,
Which you could do by the window,
At the table next to ours,
And look out at the muted foliage.
Mainly, we conclude, for companionship,
The sense of being part of something,
Even—especially—in a resort town
In the off-season.
We are ready to go.
We hug our friend and say
So long until June.
There’s an empty place at the bar now.
I may come back in a while.

Part Two: Pennsylvania

I think of the bars on every corner
In the sad rust belt town
Where I grew up.
Priestly barkeeps move their towels
Back and forth with Rogerian attending.
Jesse and I walk by at dusk
Carrying our baseball gloves,
Close enough to hear those Pennsylvania voices,
The murmur of disappointment and companionship,
Esslinger, Schmidt’s of Philadelphia,
Old Reading Beer.

editors note:

Bygone bars and long-gone labels. Step up and remember. – mh clay

AT THE BARBERSHOP

featured in the poetry forum May 22, 2022  :: 0 comments

The bus station used to be there,
Where that bank is now,
At one end the barbershop
We went to, my dad and I,
In his last years,
On afternoons late with August regret,
Witch hazel, diesel fuel
Mingling in the foyer,
Our outings, our time together,
Brief respite for my mother.
He could still feign conversation then.
Mr. Melton nodded gently as he
Trimmed an apron of gray.
I heard talk that seemed to be of baseball,
Or a sudden expletive, not deleted,
In a voice that sounded angry but was not.
The bus station was torn down,
My father died,
Mr. Melton found another shop across town.
I still went to him some,
Even after his hands began to shake.

editors note:

Sometimes we go now for then. – mh clay

AT THE CELL PHONE LOT

featured in the poetry forum March 17, 2022  :: 0 comments

Because we have not done this before,
Are 81 years old,
Because it conforms to the way we do
Other things,
We arrive at the cell phone lot
An hour before her flight,
Our friend’s daughter, only child,
Coming to take her father,
Recently bereaved,
Back to the Midwest,
To her family, his family,
His daughter, her wife,
Their son,
Only child of only child,
Trombonist in the marching band.
The week before we had mourned
A passing; poems were read,
Family photos on the mantle.

We watch planes land.
Cars come and go
In the cell phone lot,
The insolent competence
Of people who do this all the time,
And we eat our Subway sandwich
As in the days of
Our grandchildren’s concerts—
Handel’s Largo from Xerxes
Scored for high school band.
The phone rings,
Her plane is on the ground.
In grieving
You see the best of families.

editors note:

Bringing their best to the worst. – mh clay

KAYAKING JULY 2016

featured in the poetry forum January 10, 2022  :: 0 comments

Red and yellow kayaks
Bright in the morning sun
Our younger daughter
And youngest grandchild
Paddle up ahead into a blue day
They will be leaving in an hour
We will walk up the hill
To see them off
Faintly tearful
I will slip a check in her pocket,
A twenty for tolls
You don’t have to do this, she says
But we do
My parents did
I have come to see
These woods, this pond
Not as places
But as our lives
Across the water, a loon calls
We have studied these
On the Loon Center app
This is the one that says
Where are you,
Where are you?

editors note:

Such sweet sadness we bear when those we love aren’t near. – mh clay

AUGURY

featured in the poetry forum October 10, 2021  :: 0 comments

The ancients thought that
You could tell important things
From the flight of birds.
Those who think a hope for peace
Lies in emulating nature
Have never watched three hummingbirds
At a feeder on an August morning.
Myself, I attend closely
To the goldfinches
In the northeast quadrant,
Dusk, coolness settling in,
Propitious,
Hopeful new undertakings
Late in life.

editors note:

Picks precurse portents. Pick well! – mh clay

CLONING

featured in the poetry forum July 16, 2021  :: 0 comments

At eighty we have,
With a certain optimism,
Bought a new smartphone.
They lie side by side on the counter,
The old and the new,
Passing information one to another.
If only humans were programmed that way:
Maybe not.
Contacts, dimly remembered,
Playlists,
The great hits of the ’70s and ’80s,
The secret music of the passage of time.

editors note:

And one day, our phones will carry us. – mh clay

MAGAZINES

featured in the poetry forum April 9, 2021  :: 0 comments

My poet professor friend
Brought me a bag this morning
With magazines in which
His work appeared.
I am to keep what I want
And pass the rest on
To others here at Golden Pines
Who value
The stewardship of possibility.
Magazines
May not be quite
The proper word,
Those small-press journals,
Most from college towns,
By which our culture is preserved.
He frets lest this seem vain,
But it is rather a great
Kindness, a gift of friendship and
Something more, which with my own
Magazines
I cannot yet bring myself to do,
Which is to spare his sons, his heirs
A task.

editors note:

Our legacy, left as possiblity or just as piles of stuff. Pass it on! – mh clay

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

featured in the poetry forum January 10, 2021  :: 0 comments

My neighbor is on his ladder,
Taking down the Christmas lights;
His wife has gone inside to rest,
Just home from her chemo.
I start to say something like
Well, time to pack ’em up
For another year

But decide not to.

editors note:

The same old thing is not always. – mh clay

RAINDROPS

featured in the poetry forum October 9, 2020  :: 0 comments

On the dock,
An oak tree my umbrella,
I do not feel
Raindrops so light,
So widely spread
That their faint impressions,
Circling outward,
Form Venn diagrams
On flat, gray-green waters
Before they disappear.

The drops quicken:
Which of them will push
The brook beyond its banks,
Hurtling downstream
On cable news,
Which will combine with wind
To bring the white pine
By the turtle rock
To rest beside a windfall
From the Hurricane of ’38?

editors note:

Each a part of alphabetically named disasters; year after year. – mh clay

INDEPENDENT LIVING

featured in the poetry forum July 28, 2020  :: 0 comments

The governance at Golden Pines
Intends to raze St. Joseph Hall
And so is not replacing
Those who move on
As circumstance conspires,
To Assisted Living,
(As if there were some other kind)
Or Health Care or Memory Care
Or other destinations.
One wonders, then,
What they must feel,
Those who remain,
Bringing their groceries in from the car,
One or two small bags,
To see only seven names left
On the directory
In the dimly lighted hall.

editors note:

The race to be the last present resident takes a lot of time. – mh clay