Saturday, June 30, 2018

You Should Go Where You're Going (poem)

You Should Go Where You’re Going

         (A rap: all in a rush, breathless)
I met some other people –
The people that I thought were the same,
turned out to be different,
and the people that I thought were different,
turned out to be the same.
Which threw me for a loop,
‘cuz I was ready to join their troop.
But what troop was that?
The people who were the same
I wasn’t sure I liked ‘em anymore,
but the people who were different
instead of wanting to dislike ‘em,
now they were fourscore, yeah, fourscore.
They were cool. Turns out, we went to the same school.
I was all mixed up. What is this? Am I now grown-up?
Maybe it wasn’t so bad. But after all these years, I been had?
Still I wasn’t sure, so I turned to her, and if you can’t trust her
who can you trust? She said I was – that I was – 
well you know, that it was good, it was good, and besides,
you should trust what’s right, inside, outside,
listen to what’s right, don’t fight,
don’t fight what comes to you,
when you learn something new,
for you might learn something new
when you meet some other people.
 (Brakes on, full stop)
Yeah –
Yeah –
I met some other people.

North Andover  June 2018

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A limerick

A limerick: A veggie or a fruit?

I once ate a veggie named “fruit”.
It was odd but also a hoot.
It was different than most,
And delicious on toast.
It was from the same planet as Groot!

Alternate finish:
It tasted like plum, berry and root!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Good In-Land Town (poem)

A Good In-Land Town

In August 1702, Judge Samuel Sewall wrote about his travels
to Andover – what is current day North Andover –  in his diary:
   “…rid with Mr. Woodhouse and Smith to Andover,
    a good In-land Town, and of a good Prospect.”

A good in-land town,
she shares her name with her British twin.
But no ruler here wears the crown,
for we are home of the citizen king.
Her citizens, now or years ago,
famous or not yet so,
share in her renown.

From strands of bell, bronze and maker,
from mother, muse and meter,
from wool and woven time,
from service made sublime,
from these we make our rhyme.

A.B. the poet, you know her name,
walked to the meetinghouse,
that first simple frame.
With words, her soul did search,
and thus made poetry her church.
Simon, the well-known man,
the Mass Bay governor, was her spouse.
Yet today, the greater fame, Anne commands.

In 1806, Revere and Son poured the bell.
Lifted high in the fourth steeple by Captains Johnson and Stevens,
in the new fifth meetinghouse soon it would dwell.
When the church was the town, it called from its tower.
These tones still carry over tree, town and common,
but for all people now, it keeps the same hours.

The 19th century mills were cut – whole cloth –
        from New England’s ingenious habit and spirit.
But it was the men of North Andover who made the mills,
        with Davis and Furber as the ratchet and sprocket.
In this yarn about wool,
        from the corner of Water and High Streets,
their shop sent machines to weave their twill
        to every state, and to the world.
In the rhythm and thrum of the mills,
        these men were the heartbeat.

To America and to the world,
women and men from this town went forth to serve.
Women and men heard freedom’s word.
They saw a common foe and risked their lives to fight it.
They saw a wrong and tried to right it.
And those who paid with limb or life,
their families and townspeople still observe.
What these men and women gave, may we honor it.

In a good in-land town,
history is not done,
no final bell has rung,
her story is still young.
Time offers more renown.

Those who serve the town,
in public place or private space,
serve it well if one must tell,
when History and common good are the guide.
Then we may go on to say
that in a good in-land town
and in America today,
the voice of the citizen has not died.

June 2018  North Andover, Mass.
Read at the North Andover Selectmen's meeting, June 18, 2018

Monday, April 16, 2018

Connected (poem)


Every pore
every cell
every breath
every heartbeat
connects me to all that is.
When I spin,
is it I who turn?
or is the entire world turning
around my stillness?
I am here with all my kin
only separated by this thin veil of time
only separated by this thin veil.
You touch the whole world.
The whole world touches you.
You are inseparable.
You are one.
Go forth and act
knowing the power you have

April 2017  Johns Island, South Carolina

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Poetry Is (poem)

Poetry is
reality, distilled.
It’s not the transcendent,
try capture, and fail,
or all wonder,
well-imitated, but pale.

Poetry is
reality, distilled.
It starts with the corn or the rye,
the simple things at hand,
already born, ready for the fire.

Poetry is
reality, distilled.
It’s the bottle with a rag,
in your hand,
ready to throw –
light it.
It’s the alcohol –
ignite it.

March 2018   North Andover, Mass

Waiting In The Colonial Churchyard (poem)

Waiting In The Colonial Churchyard

Waiting in the churchyard
For something to save me
Waiting in the churchyard
Stillness comes to me

Here is the quiet steady God of Franklin and Jefferson
Persistent as the field grass
Good unbidden, though not undeserved
Mine to have, yours as well
God in the world
To be gathered like wild wheat
Nature’s honey or free grown grapes
Like the colonist’s self-reliance
I am better saved if I save myself
But isn’t that gift of salvation
Still freely provided, wildly sown for me?
To be saved from myself, by myself
God still rightly gets the kudos
God in the world
God of the world
God for the world
God in us
God of us
God for us
Stillness in the churchyard is what I see
Quiet goodness is what I feel
I am glad

June 2014 North Andover, Mass.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

A Bell Rings Thus (poem)

A Bell Rings Thus

    One bell rings from First Church.
    The Revere bell rings out,
    calling across common, town and wood.
    One bell rings from First Church tower,
    calling out, one bell, distant and plaintive,
    rising and falling on the wind,
    plain to me.
    Counting time, counting forward, counting back,
    one bell rings from First Church,
    carrying time, carrying me, bearing me back.

Oh beautiful sound,
turning me from my desk,
turning me from my task,
rolling into my room above the ancient town,
calling across open air, into this open dormer,
you open a direct line from the cathedral tower.

From the cathedral tower, the bells are
calling falling ringing singing.
Calling above the old town, the bells are
bringing the morning, bringing their matins.
Ringing above gray streets, gray walls, gray folk,
reaching all, reaching me, the bells are
turning gray to gold.

Ringing ringing,
ye harmonies hidden in the air,
you are a standing ovation of angels
singing on assignment, a posting from heaven to us,
announcing your mysterious angelus.
Bestowing, naming or knowing?
Perhaps all, none or thus.

Ringing in tune, each bell is
turning spinning clapping laughing,
joining in harmony, together creating
this standing ovation of joy.
Assembling in the air above the town,
pouring into my ears, your sound is
standing angelic in the air.

My music teacher, you remind me
of heaven’s harmonies in our world.
You are here all along,
but I forget, so I was sent
this ringing reminder.

Oh beautiful sound,
poured into the bells by the master bell maker then,
you are pouring your sound into my ears today.
Your first pouring is still ringing ringing.

The bell keeps ringing long after it was struck.
Now I am struck by your sound,
calling to me above the town,
ringing on your direct line.
In tune with yourself,
you are in tune with the world.
You do not need to be struck to ring.
You ring,
bringing gold to the gray town,
turning me from my task.
Ringing ringing,
oh beautiful sound,
a bell rings thus.

October 2015 North Andover, Mass.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Six Grandfathers (poem)

The Six Grandfathers

Under the sky, bright with the crown of sunrise, the land sits dark, waiting.

Alone, the night still around me, I stand in the Dakota park, watching.
At first light, I see a land and sky newly made, washed clean by the night’s hard rain.
From afar, four colossi gaze, their dawn mountain serene above the plains.
Hidden from my eyes, guarding the native land and sky, two other faces reside.
On the mountain, with the four, the Warrior and the Healer-who-sees still preside.

The faces of the four, my eyes do plain receive.

On the inner eye, the two of the spirit fall.
I gaze at them, all these times, alone in this common hall,
yet to my mind, do their words and deeds conceive?
Here is what I lack, pray tell me how? How to know these six?
They answer me quick, an easy fix. Turn around the scene.

[compass North]

The eyes of Washington keep watch from the mountaintop, as if our soul to measure. 
A gift from the sculptor, an offering from his workshop, the visage whole, he sees. 
The ancient humors show themselves, in proper measure handsome  
the sanguine, the melancholic  
the ready hope and slow anger, leavened by patient earn’ed wisdom. 
How to see what he sees? 
Turn around the scene.
I follow his gaze, as he surveys the far countryside of time.
I follow his eyes, wonder at their demand, 
do the people and this land 
still earn the temper of this man?

[compass East]

Jefferson’s eyes look east to the sun, as if ever to the new day open.
With authoring words he wrote, not with his own, but the creator’s pen.
His words still ring true through the world, self-evident,
for all who would gather in the light of the new day.
But his life left many in chains, left a bell still ringing in the American night,
a bell of warning, of time lost, of pain,
of old scars from the lash, of shackles that remain. 

My eyes travel with his, with history our guide.
On our own corps of discovery from above,
I fly with the author across the great divide.
On my return, I see anew the same land he loved.
Our history near, I hear his words echo in me.
Standing here, I am left wiser but less happy.

[compass South]

Lincoln guided a nation through the wilderness of war,
our Abraham.
I follow his eyes to the south, to freedom and justice for all, to a new country.
The United States.
He told us why we fought, and what was right. 
Although his sepulcher journey passed into the night,
we have the hope of this man, his still living words, eloquent.
His eyes look to us
to complete, to dedicate, to consecrate, to hallow
what his words inaugurated.
His eyes look past me, still brooding over this land.

[compass West]

T.R. defends the land. He looks west, great vistas in sight 
There he fought the good fight.
His big stick diplomacy had its day,
but here is what stayed:
He opposed the narrow few, spoke for the common man,
and a gift that was new  
He bound us to a vision of the common land,
to protect our true nature 
from our own careless hand.

[compass to the Land, compass to the Sky]

For those of us who came before, may the journey be told 
For those of us who hunted on plains and woods to the east  
For those of us who lived here a thousand summers, ten-fold  
For those of us who crossed the western bridge, before it returned to the seas  
two faces are hidden in this land, in this sky, never old. 

Black Elk and Crazy Horse, we know their names; 
their spirit winters in these hills and pines. 
Do they long to tell us of tribes, our kin, alive, not past? 
Do they long to tell us our story, our country, recast? 
I stand in darkness at sunrise, I stand here, held fast. 
Do they see one land, one history, one people, at last? 

[The Six Grandfathers]

I stand on their mountain, I look from their summit. 

I gaze to the compass points of spirit and granite. 
To the north and south, to the east and west, to the earth and sky, 
How to know these six?
At today’s first light, the six grandfathers reply 
Turn around the scene.

Their eyes measure and judge, 
in hope, 
in righteous anger, in compassion and justice, in sorrow and healing,
showing what was earned, what was borrowed, what was taken,
and what has been given.
From where I stand, they show me where to look. 
Our grandfathers guide us, there are four in books, 
On this mountain, I see more than four grandfathers; more directions are fixed. 
For our people, in our common land, in our story today, we have six.

January 2018 North Andover, Mass.


"The Six Grandfathers" is the Lakota Sioux name for the mountain known today as Mount Rushmore. As "The Six Grandfathers", the mountain was part of the route that Lakota leader Black Elk took in a spiritual journey that culminated at Black Elk Peak. Following a series of military campaigns from 1876 to 1878, the United States asserted control over the area, a claim that is still disputed on the basis of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie. Among American settlers, the peak was known variously as Cougar Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, Slaughterhouse Mountain, and Keystone Cliffs. It was named Mount Rushmore in 1885 during a prospecting expedition by Charles Rushmore, David Swanzey (husband of Carrie Ingalls), and Bill Challis. (from Wikipedia).

For an account of the ongoing story of Mount Rushmore, read about Gerard Baker, a Native American, who was appointed as superintendent of Mount Rushmore by the National Park Service in 2004. Baker worked to bring the Indian perspective to the interpretive program at Mount Rushmore. The material at this link was researched as part of the Ken Burns special on the National Parks.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Shards of Dylan (poem)

Shards of Dylan

I feel the steel, it cuts me deep
Anyway I reach for it, it's real, it keeps
The touch I want so very much
The chance says take a leap
But I stay away, yes I live there
In my church, I say a prayer
What will I do tomorrow?

I turn to you, inside I burn
Tell me what I have to earn
I hope this doesn't take me down
Yet here I live, it's still my town
Tears and fears on the sinner's face
An empty room, a womb for grace
No escape, the door I cannot trace
But I see a frame, an open pane
I stare into the open air
If I go, I know not where
For still I face tomorrow

July 2017  North Andover, Mass.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Big Room (poem)

The Big Room
   Or an evening walk in the rhyming universe

The evening sky brightens outside, and draws light from my room.
The dogs, impatient at my feet, want to move, let’s leave this tomb.
I laugh, is the workday through? Their leashes on, and mine, undone,
we step into the outer room, now the realm of the setting sun.

It’s eventide, half summer, as we step into the gloaming,
into that room with no ceiling, the three of us go roaming.
Into the warm quiet nightfall, we enter this swirling place.
Leaving our home, my dogs take me on a trip through time and space.

The fading light is stealing, background radiation, fleeing,
new stars and planets are appearing, pearls in a pink champagne sea.
As the swirling sky darkens, what’s left still ignites my brain.
It leaves me with this feeling, our familiar world is strange.

It looks as if I’m standing on the edge of an open field.
It looks like a man with two dogs – instead the infinite, revealed.
I feel the arrow of time, the sky aquiver with twilight.
My hand draws the bow of the Archer, his dart flies across the night.

In this room, my hand can reach to the edge of space and beyond.
From me to that star, I could skip a stone across this pond.
Can my spirit bear the lightness of The All within my reach?
Yet here I am, in the big room, dizzy, with dogs at my feet.

Overhead, there to the right, shines Vega, Mister Sagan’s star.
He had a billion or two to share, but this one was the door.
Twenty-five light years, a short step away, Contact was the book,
where Ms. Foster met her Dad, or an alien with a kindly look.

How can all this be so welcoming? It could squash me like a bug.
But it doesn’t seem so inclined  somehow it feels more like a hug.
A hadron glow still warms the sky, and the worlds around each star.
The radiation might be dangerous, but still, it warms my heart.

Summer solstice, June 2017, North Andover, Mass.