Mood Clash





My Mother Sang To Me


A minstrel's lyric on a city street

betrays a moment past, a memory

held captive by a siren's song: retreat

is my indulgence, to a panoply

of silver maples scattering the sun

upon my eyes like tiny dancing sprites,

the specters of my boyhood beasts undone

by strains from Orpheus and shrill delights

of Pan's seductive reed, the sounds adrift

on perfumed breezes in the melodies

my mother sang to me. And as they lift

me on my wistful passage, and appease

a soul beguiled by scheming Time, I yearn

for certainties to which I canít return.





On Recalling a Sound from Childhood


The faintest drumbeat, then a moment's pause,

a murmuring of Siren voices, strains

of cherubs cooing with polite applause

as modern Icarus at last abstains

from fiery ecstasies; and swept away

am I by pulsing rhythms to a womb

of newborn memories, a brief foray

to teary shuttered eyes, the air abloom

in musky sweetness, languid dust afloat

like tiny buoys on the warming waves

from yellowed windows; and the skies emote

with longing as a mournful hum engraves

its cadence on my mind, embracing whims

that lure me back to childhood seraphims.







Remembrances within me, stony gray

in Gothic elegance, and hallways dim

with hurry, hurry to a faraway

dominion that invokes the ancient hymn

'In partes tres divisa'; and the hush

of windows stained for seraphim who chant

in rhythm to the pungent airy blush

of incense, as the godly men incant

heroically; and with their boyhood games

young gladiators seek identities;

and as a grasping cityscape exclaims

in arrogance, its cherubs pass marquees

and towers that declare their day adjourned

until a thousand times they have returned.








In blushing shudder, dusty spirits puff

and curtsy through the dullish yellow light,

imposing mischief if I'm bold enough

to respirate, and teasing me, contrite

as demon sighs, succumbing to the bawl

and whine of the automaton that shocks

and shatters tender ears, a free-for-all,

a train derailed, harmonic paradox

of clean and chaos, puppy in a scoot

to parlor harbors, haunches signaling

surrender with colossus in pursuit,

with fumes of sweat and balm still hovering

above the gritty battlefield, and soul

and flesh of domicilic maids-of-war

whose carpet sweeping armaments cajole

me with a hint of soon-to-be decor

unfolding in a fervor of cartoon

and symphony, with queenly epilogue

of etiquette, precision, and festoon.

And I, omnipotent as puppy dog,

with widened eyes, in waggish wonderment,

reverberate with silver-tongued refrains

and garland in the air in testament

to this respected keeper of domains.






Mother's Housekeeper (sonnet)


Her blushing scented buxom petals puff

and curtsy through the dusty yellow light,

imposing mischief if I'm bold enough

for scrutiny, and teasing me, contrite

in prurience, succumbing to the brawl

of scrub and suds and flesh and grunt that shocks

pubescent ears and fires a free-for-all

within my Spartan loins, a paradox

of blossomings and battles in my soul

before the domicilic maid-of-war

whose chamber grooming armaments cajole

me with a hint of matronly decor,

as I reverberate with tense refrains

to this uplifting keeper of domains.







Against the night I roil and thrash,

awaiting the renewing balm

of dawn, the seething black and brash

intensity that offers calm

and then enlivens me, and spurs

a fiery burst of reveries,

and crafts melodic overtures

from falling rain, and fantasies

of color from a single leaf,

and incantations of esprit

before the morning's all-too-brief

ascent retreats to memory.








Leviathan of surging cylinder and steel,

disdainful, bullying, its horns against the earth,

expelling fumes and fuss and fury and surreal

nocturnal yellows in Cyclopean rebirth.


Awaiting sleep, enveloped by a sound, caressed

and succored, craving mother's milk, the calming hymn

that wails with passion from afar; and I'm possessed

by moments past, suspended on the interim.







Train Station


The whine of the rails lured me here,

to the frayed edges of a century gone by,

to the plaintive creaking of curled planks

and the musty stillness inside:

where my eyes protest the oily vapors

from coal-blackened walls,

and dusty floors retrace the hurried steps

of the fedora-clad men in creased and faded photographs,

and the muffled hymn of tittering children

flickers above the heavy silence;

where yellowing walls

embrace the image of an iron seductress

clothed in her puffy white gown of steam;

and a display case of tarnished bars

secures a graying conductor's cap,

etched in the long-dried sweat lines

of crematory summers.

Duskiness veils the travelers' pews,

tottery and time-worn,

once comfort to the dapper and the derelict,

witness to endless days and deadlines;

and as I cling to them,

the rhythmic mourning of a far-off rail beckons,

christening my moment of quietude.









Yanked outside for an autumn walk,

leash taut as the muscles pulsing

in the little furry engine ahead of me,

his impatience signaled by pony-sized

leaps and snorts in the direction of

the cheery squeal of the schoolyard.

From beneath a row of rusting poplars

we approach a rainbow sprinkle

of jackets and backpacks, a

tabletop of spilled candies come alive,

pixies bobbing and darting and

tossing off colors in sunny slices,

faster faster,

like scores of pinballs bouncing

between fence and wall and

toward cotton candy clouds in the

crisp blue bubble of oxygen

trying to fuel the wildfire.


In the center is a great

purple-legged creature,

a tangle of tubes and platforms

where children are devoured

and then spit out like popcorn:

in and out and around they go,

fairy tale pages turning with them

and then flapping in disarray

as the tiny pulses of energy

scatter in chaotic harmony

to a new game, this way and that,

like alternating magnetic poles

in frenzied near misses, with a

wide-eyed disregard for the

carnival of motion around them.


Others rustle through mounds of

leaves along the black iron fence,

where ripple-red sugar maples sprout

from the ground like giant lollipops.

Near the courtyard, in the shadows of

the scholarly auburn brick walls,

authority figures stand at attention,

stiff as tin soldiers,

waiting for the calm of the classroom.

As I approach the fence,

tiny shrieks of glee compete with

my own little companion's rowdy overture,

and little hands clamor through the bars

for ticklish puppy licks.


Then, abruptly,

the shrill command of a warning bell,

and the chaos turns to quiet, and only

the leafy breezes can be heard from

the far edges of the playground.

The sky turns to cardboard

and the trees to inky stains,

but the children will be back,

scrambling to outdo their playmates,

watching for puppies at the fence,

remaining blissfully unaware of

the existence of other worlds.





To My Son


All bouncy, waggy, and inquisitive,

the little boy behind the dog-eared grin;

and puckish, prankish, always positive

in spirit, cubby huggable, and kin

to sprites and soulmates in his restless mind.

He travels on the breezes to a land

of kings and noblemen secured behind

tin soldiers, where his boyish contraband

abounds with games and mischief and chicane

and feats of derring-do on carousels,

and jesters, magic acts, and circus train,

and heroes, scalawags, and ne'er-do-wells.

But through the clearing air, on eagle's wing,

he's spirited away to distant peaks

where vigor bubbling in a mountain spring

and patience breathing as the balsam speaks

entice him to adventures yet unknown:

above each precipice a new plateau,

with every dusty rock a stepping-stone

to manhood, with the haunting tremolo

of Sirens heralding his odyssey,

until his youth becomes a well-worn trail

where all the footsteps left behind will be

the dreams in someone else's fairy tale.





To My Daughter


My pixie snowgirl, pink and cheeky pout

and bubbly giggles lifting her above

the clouds, where cherubs fill the roundabout

with candle-flicker eyes and turtle dove

caressings, sparking neural tickling fires

inside me. On my lap a dawning mind,

a word and letter toolbox that aspires

to build foundations for her castles lined

with knights and damsels. From another room

I hear her rhymes ascend to mythical

companions in her storybooks, on plume

of sweetest songbird, as a gardenful

of gentle fauna seek to share her dreams.

Young woman now, but she is pixie still

in spirit, following a light that gleams

upon the path beyond her self, the thrill

of life embellishing the silken waves

that part her lips - so rare a melody

that every Siren pauses and engraves

the haunting sound upon her memory.

Adventurer, protectress, at the side

of Artemis, and fettering her bow,

delighting in the creatures who reside

within the yellowed woodscape. And the glow

around her shows her prideful patriarch

embracing her, as Zeus does Artemis;

as daily it's her pleasure to embark

upon her passage to endearing bliss.





Father's Garden


To never end, we thought, the morning light

that kissed our eyes, and breezes whispering

with children's voices, pausing to invite

us to a secret world, and conjuring

a playground dressed for spring in purples, pinks,

and lacy bluebells. Daddy always near,

with teasing words and reassuring winks

as fingers black and fussing disappear

beneath a nursery of soil to coax

the precious start of life from needy sprites

of gladiolus. As he turns and smokes

his cigarette I seize upon delights

and whims of pussy willow magic wands

and piney beds for tiny acrobats

and games of hide and seek in grassy fronds

above our heads, where growls of jungle cats

are tamed to laughter by a kindly oak

who lowers crooked fingers in support,

as dandelion parachutes evoke

a frantic chase, and milky clouds exhort

imaginary palettes to create

a masterpiece of shapes upon the sky.

And daddy always near. As I await

his glance the clouds of spray intensify

around him while he walks the rows to tend

his brood. But ours a world of pixie dust

that slowly casts a spell: though we pretend

the day is young, the man to whom we trust

our failings and our dreams becomes our squire

and shepherd, hand in hand through dimming fields,

enchanted lands departing with a choir

of cherubs as my waning spirit yields

at last, a playful hug and soothing voice

securing me beside him in the car.

And now are memories: how birds rejoice

each morning at my window - from afar

I hear them congregating with a hymn

of greeting for their gardener; and of

our mother telling us they needed him

to tend the angels' garden up above.








Old Man


The weary stand of birch

releases its grip on the cabin

where the old man once sat,

gnarly and bent as a bristlecone pine,

decked in tractor cap and

checker-red corduroy,

skin leathered by sixty summers,

a smirking glint of gold

between tobacco-stained teeth.

He watched me from a porch

pocked with feather and bone,

its walls leaning on bug-chewed

timbers, sweet chimney smoke

twisting toward the filmy pond he

shared with the leeches and the beavers.

But that was long ago.

I stand in the dullish ambers

of a November woodland

that is secretly reclaiming the

tumbledown one-room habitat

as its own.


I step behind the cabin,

where lurching from the earth

like grotesquely shaped headstones

are the ruins and relics

of better years:

the powdery gray ribs

of a hay-making machine;

a Chevy pickup,

its once-vibrant red skin

now a burnt-out crusty orange,

its one good eye

staring eerily at me;

a fossilized trailer,

half-hidden, as if in shame,

by tall fronds of

swamp grass and cattails.


Scattered nearby are

scum-filled bottles

and the ghostly images of

Mounties on Drewry's cans

and a feathered warrior

on a Red Man tobacco tin.

The scent of fresh-cut cedar

returns for an instant

from the slanted walls

that used to be a sawmill.


The pond looks much the same,

but without the telltale plop

of a turtle rolling off a sunny log

or the panicky watery slap

of a beaver tail.

The old man used to curse

the dullish rodents

for flooding his land;

he'd flash a yellowish grin

at the sight of a plump carcass

under a downed poplar.

Occasionally I'd hear dynamite,

then paddle out the next morning

to find the targeted dam

already rebuilt.


A glint of sunset abruptly glances off

a shattered window pane at the cabin.

The old man is in my eyes again,

grizzled jaws working his chew,

brownish spittle on his shirt before

a suspender can be raised to his mouth.

He was too stubborn to ever get cancer.


Sounds were few around him.

Occasional sandpaper-scratching grunts

seemed, more often than not,

to be mocking my ignorance

of woodland survival.

I would spend the nights

in my own plywood shack,

flames hissing through the

seams of the potbelly stove,

deep-night downpours

rattling the metal roof

like a team of drummers,

mice rustling through my

food bags in the dark.

I once returned after a long absence

to find a tiny skeleton at the

bottom of a polished steel pot.


I turn to leave now,

passing a sparse and scaly

fire-damaged great red pine

that appeared,

like a battle-scarred old man,

to be waiting for time to pass.

How many years has it been, I wonder.

He must have been about the age I am now.

The dusk sends scatterings of

silver and blackish gray across

the forest path in front of me.





Chicago: 100 Years After Mr. Sandburg


Still husky, always hustling, this audacious town.

By day a brawler, never smiling, but at night

on sleepless silver-dusted sidewalks not a frown

is seen as style, romance, and revelry unite.

Impulsive like the mighty shoreway at its side:

one moment rising up in arrogance and rage,

soon after lapping playfully, all puppy-eyed,

in changing masks of passion, all the world its stage.

from top to bottom pleasure paths of greenery

abound with frolickers and fountains, flowered lanes

for toddlin' through the park. Above the scenery,

securing city's center in its shadow, reigns

a palace guard of steel and glass, its fortress wall

unwavering and gleaming as it keeps its pledge

to line the sky, like sentries at their master's call,

extending reach throughout the day to water's edge.

Beyond the towers lies a palette of diverse

and vibrant colors, cultures, clans, and dialects

where buyers, sellers, guests, and dwellers all converse

in languages that long-time city life perfects.

And through its quickly beating heart are arteries

of rail and road and airway, and the urge to roam.

But ever-changing seasons (and a lakeside breeze)

are always tugging on their sleeves to call them home.

Yet it is cunning, too, behind the glass facades

of commerce: breaking and rebuilding clever schemes

instead of stonework, while defying all the odds

by crafting deals, creating hope, fulfilling dreams.

Still bellowing and bragging, always primed to taunt

but never taunted by pretenders, boasting miles

of jazz and razzmatazz, and well-prepared to flaunt

its contrasts: painted women, master artists; smiles

of pitchmen, pleas from paupers; marble pleasure domes

and sculpted galleries that grace a city brash

and proud; and rusty brick foundations of the homes

of those whose sweat restored a town from mounds of ash.

Chicago! Still with shoulders massive, and a voice

that laughs convincing laughter, its inviting arms

thrown open wide, as if aspiring to rejoice

with sons and daughters who evoke their city's charms.








Colonnade of silhouettes

streaming left and right,

oozing popping fleeting

like a fusillade against my temples,

shimmering black puppety patterns

receding from the periphery,

pulsing with the slapping on the glass

as the spokes of great

barley row wheels flicker at my side,

behind snapdragon spears and lacy shields

and a bloody battleground of sumac;

and the future seeps from the horizon ahead

like floodwater under the door,

and a serpent tongue

satiny and swift and seething

steals through hissy ripples of mist

and slithers beneath my feet

where kitteny pistons purr

throughout the night.





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