Sonnet to Jim

You were the ‘50s before Rock and Roll –

Hank Williams and whiskey and black &

white Maverick episodes on our old TV,

a football helmet without a face guard.

 

As I grew you devolved from idol to man.

Despite your stand as tougher than leather,

time did what it sometimes does to mortals:

steady decline but subtle, gradual,

 

like your ’73 black Bonneville –

muscle turning to rust, Rilke’s Panther

pacing in its cage, a bone handled knife

gone dull from lack of honing. Then nothing

 

but dust. Now you are the prairie itself:

all around me

                         nowhere to be found.

2nd Prize, South Dakota State Poetry Society contest

-Pasque Petals, spring 2018

Raising My Stepfather

 

1975. You show up uninvited, in polyester,

laughing. I am seventeen and life is not funny.

I don’t need another dad. One was bad enough.

You offer hugs, words of love. Look, I am tough,

words don’t mean nothing.

 

1985. You show up with hugs as I struggle

through divorce. I am twenty seven, learning

to glean strength from hugs, and hope

for something better like the life of love and laughter

you brought my battered mother.

 

1995. I show up for holidays. You are grandpa to ten,

three of them mine. Hugs are everywhere like candy

at a parade. We look at used cars, both needing a break

from the family noise. I am thirty seven. You are not

turning out so bad. You still think life is funny.

 

1998. I show up. You are dying, cancer.

For the first time you have my mother crying,

you bastard. We lie in your room with tv,

no words. You don’t complain. You laugh

at the television like you think it is funny.

 

1999. I hug you, want to hang on tight

enough to make you stay alive. I am

forty-one, have grown to love you.

Your timing sucks, a few more years

we might have been friends.

-Pasque Petals, spring 2018

Following Up 

                                       

I guess you didn’t get my letter, since

you died before I put it in the mail.

But maybe that’s OK –

I mean, what was left to say anyway?

Confession (I never liked hunting,

or peeing in public)?

Are you proud of me? Will I see you again?

I’m taking a class on how to be less of a man.

It involves poetry, and crying.

I remember you saying,

“I’ll give you something to cry about,”

and now, finally, you have.

2nd Prize, Wisconsin People & Ideas contest.

-Wisconsin People & Ideas, spring 2013

Behind You, Somewhere

I’m writing to you from some country,

how far from you I don’t know.

Some things seem so familiar.

The hills are still here, but the trees

seem older, the cars newer,

than when you were last seen.

Someone said you lived in that house

over there, but it was yellow then.

And you climbed the blue water tower.

I could never imagine your view.

 

This letter may not reach you before I do,

and if it did I doubt that you would read it anyhow.

I didn’t bring my glasses, you’d say. I’ll read it later.

And then you would lay it down

on a table, or a cloud,

to float away on an open window breeze.

And I would follow.

-Wisconsin People & Ideas, spring 2013

Snail

 

I do my best you know, considering

the length of my brain waves,

and with everything happening so fast.

Faces, things appear, disappear.

Like lightning bugs.

Sometimes all I see is a blur.

Sometimes a loud noise,

or maybe whispering, then nothing.

The point is to stay focused,

keep out of my shell. But I swear,

sometimes I blink my eyes

and find myself somewhere else,

and a whole lifetime has gone by.

-Free Verse, 2007

Advice on Taking a Leak Alongside

the Highway in Western South Dakota

 

In the great plain distance between

small town cafe and gas station,

beer can between your legs long

empty and no relief in sight,

you might find yourself standing

on the shoulder of a lonely road,

your only friend in your hand.

It will be a good idea to stand with your back

to that unending prairie wind,

unless you hear the sound

of the rare oncoming car.

Then you may be forced to choose

between the wind and the windows.

Your decision will, as always, depend

on your courage, and the strength of the wind.

-Red Booth Review, 2002

Boys on Bikes

 

I was back at the farm

last night,

and you were there,

riding the other bike

down the lane.

 

I was beside you

on the blue one,

looking down

at our Red Ball Jets

pumping us beyond

the speed of sound.

 

I guess it was a dream.

The moon was gleaming

on the chrome, the only sound

my breath, and the crunch

of gravel under the tires.

-Wisconsin Poets' Calendar, 2007

Inertia

It’s like this sheet of paper lying on the table.

And the pen suspended by the fingers.

The mind not commanding the hand.

A flywheel free of its clutch, disengaged.

The light might be green but we’re not moving.

Maybe we’ll sit here and listen to the radio.

Wait for a good song.

-Poetry Jumps off the Shelf, 2005