Fresh Brown Spots

Seems long ago a bottle of Brut by Faberge
On his bureau proved an advertisement campaign
Successful. I don’t know if it gave him any more
Victories on the road or anywhere else I prefer
Not to think about. Was it Joe Namath or some
Other Archetype of Men who sold it to me?

My best friend and I scoured the land
Collecting smooth stones, lucky stones,
A small one and a larger one glued together;
painted into a little dog for him, its hard
head and body garnished with seven holes
punched from paper for feet, ears, and tail.

How do we count our fathers’ birthdays?
I guess it doesn’t matter, anymore. That bottle –
Broken, empty, or lost; just an uncounted thought.
The tiny but cute creature maybe burying bones
In between boxers in the top dresser drawer.
When do we become grateful for the counting?

And when do we become grateful for the last?
At some point, the puzzles prove too difficult,
No more body parts to mend and patch with a kiss.
We still count, but now, we cart the kids. A small hand
Clasped in our own, sprinkled with fresh brown
spots, assures us of the best gifts ever given.

JDC – Into the Heart (1987: Age 16)

April 14, 1987

You have gone away,
But you still remain.

You have disappeared,
But you are still in sight.

There is one place
Where everything lives forever;
One place
Where nothing can be tarnished.

Into the Heart

Into the Heart,

Into the Heart-
To remain

And we will run until we reach the stars.
As we follow our separate paths
I will forever run by your side.

Now you have run into the Heart-
this heart,
My friend, forever.

This poem was written for one of my best friends as he neared the end of a school year and a pending move to Kansas. He was an Air Force brat, but had lived in New Hampshire an unusually long time enabling us to become close friends. He made me promise to never do to my kids what his dad did to him and his brother, forcing them to move around the country. In one of the great ironies of my life, he joined the Air Force and kept the promise to himself and his family; I joined the Navy and broke that promise. Maybe this is why I have always carried with me a measured degree of guilt when I see him, feeling like I let him down. That being said, my kids have seen the world, and I don’t think they would change the adventure, even when they do miss the friends they have left behind along the way. We still get to visit, like we are now, and they laugh and play and smile with those friends who have entered their hearts forever.

Over the next few weeks I will be spending time with my 16-17 year old self from 1987. In no particular order, these poems will be presented in the final form I found them on computer discs discovered in an attic many years ago. This will culminate in the next entry of my Into My Own, My Story as a Writer series found here:



Counting Cars (with Spoken Word)

The child counts cars with hash marks
Make and manufacturer recognized
From advertisements, pages ripped
From sports magazines of his father.

The Ford Mustang was a first favorite
Before poor design choices threw out
Strength in exchange for Four Eyes.
Two gens later the muscles are back.

Now cars and vanity and statements
All mash up together in a price tag
Out of reach of the man’s desire.
The price of gas, alone, too much.

A bike seems much more practical
To and from with saddle bags full
Fresh produce, cold dairy, sweets
The slight oxygen burn of legs.

The child counts cars again, always
Going along for the ride, never driving.
By now, hash marks have cut through
His paper marking up the leather seats.

Stars, Memories, and Stories

Asked to describe the night sky
He recognized his deficiency
Not knowing summer’s stars
As he knew winter’s,
As if as a child,
Busy playing,
He failed to look up
At gifts awaiting him:
Myths and legends,
History of the universe
Slowly told by fading giants
Sending their stories
Through vast space
To his imagination awaiting them
On this verdant planet alone
Needing to tell tales
Nowhere else told.

Now they are clues for him
To be alone in the telling,
Truly alone,
An alone he once feared,
An alone he now embraces
Like that child embraced play
So inside the moment it forgot
To be remembered
And was better for the forgetting.

Venus shines brightest,
As always,
Gently reminding him of the sun
Now lighting the play of children
Forgetting to save memories
In other hemispheres
As only children know.

The city is close enough
Its vast and arrogant lights
Hide the full story,
Though hints remain:
Like treasure hunts,
A glitter here,
A twinkle there.

He thought of Odysseus
Navigating the turbulent rage of Poseidon
By their lights
To return home to Penelope
Faithful weaver and unweaver of cloth
She’d only finish when his ship’s mast
Pointed to the sky that awaited them
Two old souls
At the end of their journey
Meant to sit together
Counting stars to measure love
Limitless, like the journey of a life
Lived inside the safety of hearts
That only know a story children can tell
Playing together
Memories forgotten
And better off for it.

Some nights fireflies
Are more than enough
Like tonight
Walking alone
His way finally lit.

Image: John William Waterhouse – Ulysses and the Sirens (1891)

Juvenilia: Vision of Tomorrow (1986: Age 15)

July 31, 1986

The world is restless under my feet
I haven’t seen the sun in days
Black clouds hover the ground I walk
Yet there is no one to see what I see

The world rots in universal entropy
No light finds the grass I walk
Heaven’s tears flood the pours of my dry skin
Heaven’s roars frighten the tiny children

Here in this isolated town sleeps a naive soul
Blind by youth to the world in his eyes
He knows none see his visions
He knows he speaks false words

Here in this isolated town I sleep
Blind by youth to the mad world in my eyes
I worry of love and other bittersweet passions
I will rise above to see the world

Over the Appalachians and through the pines
I long to have the vision of years
Yet only through time will God grant my wish
I will still dream of mares in the night, and white stallions.

Lightning flashes in my eyes
The princes and slaves, two-faced societies
The land ahead is covered by clouds
I run onward in spite of my blindness

Does she on the blue-green hilltop have sight
Are the stars above hers to gaze in a dreamy awe
Does she lie blind like the naive soul I am
She is one of the merry youth

A naive child searching through the attic
I look for the key to open my sight
Soon I will find it and unlock the door
Open my eyes to the winds eluding me

The key has been stolen
The door opens before my naive eyes
The wind’s howl threatens the lies in my life
Of sweet music and star filled skies

Shut the door- my eyes burn
My ears long for the sweet music
Reality is upon the blue-green hilltop
The stars are ours in a dreamy awe

Is this my sight?
Are these mountains only my visions?
Will you look with me or sit alone?
I, naive child dare to be an adult

There she rests alone on the blue-green hilltop
She has the stars in her gaze of dreamy awe
If only the stars were not behind the clouds
I would trap the stars in her gaze

The world rushes behind the drag of my feet
The light of the sky is hidden for me to find
I write these words never to be understood
Like the scream of a child in a moonless night

Please let me gaze at a starlit sky
One last chance to wish upon my naive falling star
Soon the truth will burn this naiveté
My child will crumble in the heap of an adult

She sits with me on the blue-green hilltop
The stars are ours to gaze in a dreamy awe
The sun will shine upon our new days
The blackness of night will pass

Will the world wait for me?
I gaze my dreamy awe one last time
Run from the hilltop with me, dream and weep
Soon the world will turn in the palm of your warm hand.

Image: Hilltop – Edward Henry Potthast

This Cup

I offer this cup to you
refill it with the blood
of imagination and immortality
offered like a gift from the gods.

I let it slip from my fingers
into the desert of adulthood.

She offers this cup to me
filled with blood shed
to resurrect the gift of love
piercing the limits of imagination.

In her hands it throbs
with a longing for childhood.

We offer this cup
a dry vessel filled with blood
to rediscover life in red
more vivid than imagined.

In our arms lips shiver
and restores our innocence.

We fill this cup
with truths lost in the desert,
the blood of mortal life
and love immortal.

Your gentle hand
fills my cup.

Image: Breakfast Still Life with Chalice by Willem Claesz Heda 1634

Liquid Jade

The ocean runs like liquid jade
Poured between fingers, pure and clean
Empty like I wish to be long enough
To settle between ears that heard too much.

God poured his glass of water here
So that I could see the bottom
A reminder of spots that can be touched
But many more that remain to dive for.

Should I take a break from these poems –
Lyrics to songs I sing alone –
Try to dance to a song everyone knows?
Not to give the night to conformity

Just to break the darkness
With a light from wax,
Words melted with a flame,
A spark that smells familiar, if foul.

Did the child wonder,
That darkness would not scare him?
Did the chid wonder
What darkness would inspire?

Image: Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky

Into My Own: My Story as a Writer, Part II – Why I Wrote (1986)

I began my autobiography as a writer with an essay that explained how I began writing. It told the story of how I wrote my first poem in a note to a friend and how intoxicating those early days felt after finding this vehicle for getting things out of my head into the world. In reality, I had no idea what that world was all about let alone how to communicate with it. I had merely discovered a tool for getting my thoughts out of my own head, perhaps simply to communicate with myself. So, why did I write? This communication proved invaluable for me to understand who I was. It took another half dozen years for me to learn the phrase introvert and what it meant and probably another dozen or more for me to really understand what the definition truly meant in real terms. I did know that my head got stuck on things that other people didn’t seem too interested in and I was labeled as Serious.

Continue reading

Will You Speak to Me of Monsters?

“Here I am, now, Boy, here I am.
Will you tell me about the monsters?
Will you speak to me, at all?”

Boy turns his eyes up, blank from the long absence
He opens his mouth and looks for a word to begin.
A silence slips from his tongue that tells more
Than any mash up of words can. We stare until
Eyes, blackened and dry, beg for mercy
From the desperate plea for an understanding
We cannot afford, the cost of his words too high.
On my knees, not to beg, not to pray, nothing but


His eyes follow my descent. Now something else slips
From his lips, more telling than the silence that collapsed
Me: “You. It was you.” My blackened eyes see the brown
In his. His hand reaches up and wipes sand from my cheeks.
His soft-skinned fingers bleed against the coarsest of skin.
Drops of his blood like necessary tears
To drain the black from my soul.

“What do I do now, Boy?”

“Speak to me of the monster…”

“I thought you would be safe here, so I left to defend us.”

“There was nothing to defend, without me inside you.”

“There was nothing to defend, without you inside me.
And so the monsters came, one by one, and for a time
I won, and chest decorated with medals, head praised,
Onward and deeper into the world, farther from you,
The monster who proved more intelligent than designed
Evolved to meet my defenses and slip inside them.

Once inside, it ate from the inside out until nothing
Remained of us but the poison half a man becomes
Without the boy he left behind who could steer him
Back into goodness like an anti-virus, like penicillin.
Until finally, it all collapsed, bones could bear the weight
No more, and the contorted flesh no longer fit the skin.
They all stared at me, a beast, a demon, a too human man
For the hero he pretended. There was nothing to defend.”

“Without me inside you.”

“Here I am now, boy, here I am
Will you speak to me of monsters?
Will you speak to me?”

I have no words, just my hand and weary legs.
Help me stand, help me walk, help me out of here.
Let me back inside,
I know the way to the stream
That trickled down the hill in the woods.
There we will drink clean water
To quench your thirst.”

He turns his eyes up at mine, our brown mirrors
Look inside one another and see
There was no monster.

There was no monster,
Just a child needing to know love
From the man who left to defend him
When there was nothing to defend,
Without him inside.

Image: The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli