Monday, November 13, 2017

The Unforgettable

I was an anxious young scholar back in the late 80s when I attended Trinity College in Deerfield, Illinois. My freshman year, stranded on campus without wheels, the long, northshore weekends were, at the beginning, depressing and unbearable. So, my long-suffering father, without so much as a whisper of complaint, would drag himself - dinnerless, clothes still soaked in nylon vapors after a long week laboring on the factory floor, north, through the Chicago rush hour up, all the way from Tinley Park to Bannackburn, then down again. Why? To haul his only son, along with his college homework and his laundry, back to South Holland for the weekend. 

And this way we would travel the insufferable miles through the thick city, week, after week, after week, in silence. 

In silence, except that I would make it a point to subject him to the latest tunes that had captured my rebellious heart, courtesy of the JC Penney tapedeck buried in the dash, and the week's latest mix tape. Every week, all the way back home, week after week. The Alarm. The Cure. Big Country. R.E.M. The Silencers. Simple Minds. 

And so we'd go, the two of us, riding with no words between us through the long, long city on Friday night, the selfish soundtrack of my struggling new-adulthood drama trying to crowbar some vaguely angry and pointless point into a tired and good man's life.

But, of course, all revelation has its roots in underestimation. My dad is many things:  among them, a musician. And also - of course - a dad. Little did I know that he was slowly giving me and and my fervent demands for attention a fair shake. 

And so it was, one night, in that long struggle against Chicago traffic, when this song ended, and he asked, "What do you like about that?" And I explained. And he understood. And then he explained. And I understood. And we talked about improvisation, and genre, and precision, and ambiguity, and four-part harmony, and poetry, and faith and art. At the time, we rewound the tape and listened to this track again. He said he could appreciate it - he may have even said he liked it - but it didn't matter at that point. He was showing me how to be a dad, and it's an example I try to hold up in front of me every day as I navigate my boys' days. 

This song is near to me for many reasons, but especially for this.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


Slowly, I am unbecoming.

I can read it
In old machine language,

And plain;

In wet leaves that
Shimmer on torn limbs, among
Vortex signatures that have bested
And trail.

In my teeth, I feel
Each step.

Under lamplight,
Near floods,

In old spring,

I have
Become difficult
to recall.

Still, I am lifted up
In old ways forward;

Among the
Calls of
Dreamed birds.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

NaPoWriMo 4-29-2017

In dreams of torn
Fence, fence lines,

Shovel is
Put to neck

Of stationary fronts
That snake


To this city
From an unseen Gulf,
Then suddenly east. Then
Suddenly south,

Debris signatures
Hot, still
On the radar when

Atmospheric pressure catapults
Catastrophic calm,

And the tops of trees
In their old instants
From bolt-taking panic
To sold-farm stillness.

And my compromises -
My thumb-breaking springtimes - their

Choices and wonderments

Stop mattering
In the ways we all think
Lives and moves among us.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

NaPoWriMo 4-22-2017

All those sunsets from which I stumbled.

It only took a few
Before I could read
At last
The list of my cruelties.

A few more,
And I learned to inscribe it
Along any passageway
Or path forward

It isn't a bad thing, or even sad.
Just indelible, hard.

NaPoWriMo 4-21-2017

Did you know that
Robins can dive, reckless
And deadly as any
Hawk or Peregrine?

Sit still in your own yard
Or local park long enough,
And you will find it for yourself.

All it takes is a bird, a tree and
Something wanted
On or in the earth beneath.

It's always been that simple:
Predation and desire,
Perches on the same limb.

NaPoWriMo 4-20-2017

I am not myself
I told the landscapes.
The blurring shorelines.
Still, I was. And am.
On this earth, will be.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

NaPoWriMo 4-19-2017

Without explanation,
Or reason,
The sudden silence comes.

And silence in answer.

And the silences first spill, then gather
In tired,
Empty nights
Pictures of Elohim.

Imagined, abandoned, or known,
He shadows us along the
Rivers and the four-lanes.

We are dogged, birth to death,
And drowned, one way or another,
In his pleas for our return.