Sunday, September 6, 2015

3 poems for Labor Day

The first poem below arrived while I was working at the now defunct Border's Books & Music chain. A girl around seven or eight came up to the register, slid a CD across the counter. I picked it up: The World's Most Beautiful Melodies! Sure, it was one of those cheesy repackaged CD's by some fly-by-night label, but I immediately thought what could they possibly be if it were true? All for only $3.99.

For The Girl Who Came to the Cash Register with the CD Entitled The World’s Most Beautiful Melodies                     

     What can they be?

                      The record of a sea-creature,
                                          half-woman, half turtle, floating
                      in the surf, tuning it’s eyes to the sea?
                        Or the rain,
                                     drumming the branches of a tulip tree,
     in a forest long gone, torn down, locked
                                                                    inside the mind of a poet
             walking an empty corner of the Paris Metro, lost.
                                                                                     Or the scrape
      of beetle legs against cardboard
                     (song of cement-dust falling softly onto clay tile:                              
                                                                                    jagged stones
            coupling on the bank of a jagged stone river,
                                                                        no water in sight).
                                                                                  And there is a man
                       putting a dead sparrow out to dry in the sun,
              waiting for the ants to eat their way down to the source.

            When they are done,
                                      he will take up the paper-light wing bone,
                          cut three holes in it with a grass blade,

                                                                                              and blow…


Sure, it's an odd choice of what 'beautiful melodies' might be, but being odd is the joy of being on this earth, yes? Revel in it. 

The second poem arrived during a blizzard year in Iowa. I had a crap car. To make sure that I got to work in the morning when the temperature dropped below zero (Fahrenheit) I had to start the car up around 3AM. It's about work and time. Why are most of us trained to accept that the natural order of things is to spend most of our lives doing something we don't want to do?
I think it's apt to quote William Morris here:
"It has become an article of the creed of modern morality that all labour is good in itself; a convenient belief to those who live on the wealth of others."


                                                                             three AM, four AM Time

                                       to lace up the boots, creak of powdered snow

                                                                under the soles five dollars an hour, six

                           dollars an hour seven Force open the frozen car door,

                                                                slip behind the wheel eight hours a day, five

                       days a week Through the crystal windshield

                                                       a hooded figure moves porch to porch, clutching

                           a plastic bag to pass through these hours, so desperate

                                             for them to end Can’t shake this dream. Turn the key

                               there is a life out there, there is a life  –

                                                                    the way the dandelion releases its seed

                                                      when you whisper the right word    The car

                                         moans to life. Come dawn, I can make it to work.  

    (previously published in Hanging Loose Magazine)


All true. Hooded figure included. No symbolism required. 
The last poem is one of the first I ever wrote. It may be the first, writ back in the foggy ruins of time, Northeast Philly, when the world was young and pretty. I think it's self-explanatory.


Old man beckoned with an index finger

Wandered across his yard

Boots sunk in wet grass

Said he needed help

In his dark garage lifted a bag of cement

He thanked me

Left his driveway

Left wet boot prints

Never said a word

Never saw him before or since

Most honest work I ever did

(previously published in Lilliput Review)


  1. C: A beautiful confluence of poems. If anything, this little post might stand against the tide knelling the death of Labor Day.

  2. Every word you write opens my mind, twists the images I'm used to seeing and taking for granted into different shapes with new meanings and possibilites. I leave the page seeing things differently, sometimes a little, most often a lot. Thank you.