A Poem Always Loved, Never Truer

Love Song: I and Thou

BY ALAN DUGAN

Nothing is plumb, level, or square:

the studs are bowed, the joists

are shaky by nature, no piece fits

any other piece without a gap

or pinch, and bent nails

dance all over the surfacing

like maggots. By Christ

I am no carpenter. I built

the roof for myself, the walls

for myself, the floors

for myself, and got

hung up in it myself. I

danced with a purple thumb

at this house-warming, drunk

with my prime whiskey: rage.

Oh I spat rage’s nails

into the frame-up of my work:

it held. It settled plumb,

level, solid, square and true

for that great moment. Then

it screamed and went on through,

skewing as wrong the other way.

God damned it. This is hell,

but I planned it. I sawed it,

I nailed it, and I

will live in it until it kills me.

I can nail my left palm

to the left-hand crosspiece but

I can’t do everything myself.

I need a hand to nail the right,

a help, a love, a you, a wife.

Alan Dugan, “Love Song: I and Thou” from Poems Seven: New and Complete Poetry. Copyright © 2001 by Alan Dugan. Reprinted by permission of Seven Stories Press, http://www.sevenstories.com. Source: Poems Seven: New and Complete Poetry (Seven Stories Press, 2001)

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Destined

One can imagine

That there existed a rock and,

Compelled by a motherly urge,

She transformed herself into an egg

From which sprung a small feathered beast.

But as for the other

great rhetorical query,

There is a definite answer.

While love

And positive input,

The creation of beautiful memories,

And wholesome foods

All work together to form

A perfectly constructed

And warmly lined nest,

None of this is any match

For the tenacity,

The strict adherance to balance

The sheer violence,

Of nature.

All life leading to,

And made of,

all death.

Pocketful of {Dead} Pets

I bury myself in caring for things
I may not be able to keep alive;
Was it my subconscious that wrote out “carrying” when I thought I meant
To say caring?
Do I focus my efforts on things
I see as redeemable?
The cat,
another in the dime a dozen story
of released kittens,
mangy,
bug ridden.
I left her to die,
with a litter of flea bitten young
when I realized I could barely even keep myself alive.
Then there was the puppy
who showed me how my eyes gleam red
in the face of things
I can’t control.
Poor mutt.
I’ll never have my own dog
again.
I did better with the bird
I found in the mouth of a cat,
dragging myself from bed at noon
to judiciously cut nuts and berries
into slivers, on a saucer,
and watch him eat
until every morsel had vanished.
He stayed with me until he was able to fly
and I was sad to realize
how badly I had wanted him
to stop depending on me.
There was another cat,
kicked
and thrown
by the neighborhood children.
My daughter told them I had taken their pet.
I refused to give her back,
but she got out
and was pregnant before she was a year old.
There was nothing I could do.
They started keeping her inside.
There are dog packs here
always seen
eating trash in the ditches.
I leave them alone.
At least they have each other,
often just pairs,
one small, one pit- no surprise.
I killed the infant mice
out of laziness
and cried for two days
at my abhorrent behaviour.
I decided I hate mice.
Vicious little bastards,
worse to one another
than my awful feeding schedule and lack of warmth
could ever be.
Maybe I saved them, after all.
Now I have a starling.
She’s so afraid
and I just want her to know that I love her,
with her twig thin legs
and immaculate claws.
My heart melts when she gapes at me
and fluffs up contentedly in my palm.
I want her to live forever.
We fed her the caterpillar we failed to feed.
I don’t know why it wouldn’t eat,
like the fifty some caterpillars we watched hatch yesterday,
walked about hunting on behalf of,
for very specific leaves.
Four courses we provided
and they’re having none of it.
Their mother only lived five days.
They were her only purpose.
She was beautiful and I don’t want
to end her legacy.
We won’t even get into the pets I had
as a child,
under my parents’ regime.

Disclaimer: If I made it sound like I killed my puppy, I didn’t. I gave her to a guy who named her Lilly and apparently taught her to ride a skateboard.

Daily Dose- Bottle

via Daily Prompt: Bottle

I nearly drown
Way back then,
My head held under the surface
of years
of your inability to cope with your own shadows.
You struck fiercely
Out of fury at your own brokenness.
You inflicted the kind of misery
That made eighteen years seem insurmountable ;
Absolutely not worth pushing through
To see what comes when dawn breaks.
For years afterward I would tell myself
What a childish fallacy
That perspective had been.
Life outside your walls was magnificent,
Smooth sailing freedom.
What I couldn’t know,
Recognized too late,
Was that my demons should have been faced immediately,
Not left in boxes in dusty corners of my mind
To grow
Into beasts that fill all corners,
Gaining strength beyond my own,
waiting, until their victory was guaranteed,
To stage their coup.
What I didn’t realize
Was that my demons would not simply pause,
Tamely allowing their vessel control.
They quietly pulled the strings,
Hiding behind all my seemingly innocent desires and motivations
Until it became impossible to ignore any longer –
The Truth
That my younger self bottled up
And clutched tightly
On nights when the end seemed more promising
Than endurance.
She knew
What I wanted to forget.
She knew
That some stains are set deep
In the fabric,
Some stones
Can’t be chipped out of the foundation
And no matter how wide open
The future seems,
Sparkling before me like a crystalline sea,
You tied a stone around my being
That no matter how fiercely I paddle,
How desperately I try to stay afloat,
My soul will be drawn to the ocean floor
As if by magnetic force.
My younger self knew, too,
That survival was an option,
A definite possibility,
But unlike my featherweight counterparts,
I would require significantly more emotional muscle
To perform the same mundane daily tasks.
“Normal ” for me,
Would be a struggle,
A dogged attempt to keep my head above water
Across a never ending sea,
And to give in to exhaustion
Would be the end
Of all I worked so hard to gain.
You see, my younger self had a tangible enemy-
You stared her down with shifting eyes,
Controlled her every move.
Your opposition was obvious.
But your pitiful girl
Grew into a thing that forgot
To fight.
I find myself wondering, was it worth it, after all?
Can I learn to see the unseen forces
Guiding my actions,
Enough to overturn the mutiny,
Like you never could?
Do I know who I am,
Apart from the demons?
Do you wonder the same,
As you stare at the phone,
Knowing it won’t ring,
On a day your daughters have only escape
To celebrate?

Daily Dose: Unmoored

via Daily Prompt: Unmoored

They told me,

When I was young,

That the dock was the only safe place.

No life preserver

Or boat

Could serve at substitute for the semi solid wharf,

Despite what I saw others act out;

Flying across the water

Or pushing it aside with their bodies,

Gliding,

Weightless.

“Weightlessness is sin, ”

They impressed upon me.

” The cruel spirit

Of hatred and vengeance for the wayward,

Would never put more on you

Than you are able to bear.

But He built you weak

And He built you fragile,

And He built you wicked, and to untether

From the pier of misery

And righteous fear

Is to lean unto your own understanding;

To selfishly profess

That you are your own master

And challenge He

Who had his son tortured

And put the blood on our hands. ”

What they failed to mention was

The beauty of the open sea,

Made all the more breathtaking

In contrast with its fearsome power.

They never mentioned

How  the waters were teeming with life,

Unimaginable shapes and shifting colors

That may have burned awe of a majestic creator into my mind,

In place of paralyzing fear.

Unmoored, at last,

Adrift amidst alien scenery,

I see the futility

Of life at the end of a rope.

What then, is your faith,

Having never faced the Power you give your life to,

Out of horror at the thought

Of facing the Power?

Your anchors be damned,

Any and all.

You think you’re in control-

Wages, dreams of wealth,

religion, and grave plots;

Waiting to rot,  like the salt encrusted timber

You lash your soul to,

Until the day

It’s taken back by the sea.

May 12th, 2017

My hands are dirty
And my face is raw
And this is where I belong.
I may never see
The countries I have heard of
And thought about
For so long.
The world is like a dream
Unreal;
Mystical,
Promising and foreboding,
And I could hide away forever,
Telling myself
I didn’t miss out on anything
Or
I could forge ahead,
be every part
Of everything
And make peace with my smallness,
For it is all I have
And the world is indifferent.

Daily Dose – Harmony

via Daily Prompt: Harmony

He’s taken down the oyster shells

That hung on the back porch,

and the photos from over his work bench.

He’s begun to empty the kitchen drawers

of keepsakes

and papers,

opting to throw out the old anniversary cards.

He said he’ll have to sell the chickens,

but, by the way he’s been leaving the coop open

I think he might just rather they wander off,

like he told the dog to do

when he defeatedly opened the  door, late last night.

IMG_20170422_114112

He forgets, at times,

whether or  not he’s already had his pills,

with no one to help him keep track.

He’s facing his own mortality,

before reaching sixty,

and his wife,

high school sweetheart,

decided it was too much

for Her to bear.

Long gone is the harmony

of living side by side under the guardianship

of mountain sentries,

relentless and proud,

as she turned out to be,

however,  without beauty

but all the ice,

demanding, in the divorce,

that he sell what was to be his final resting place,

their children’s fairy tale castle,

so she can have half the money.