Little Boys Cry
Little boys cry.
Tears storm down their cheeks
and wet their tiny T-shirts.
They cry at the sting of pavement- scraped skin.
Left alone, they cry tears of fear of abandonment.
and homesick tears at summer camp.
They cry their eyes puffy and red.
They cry so hard—their—breath—comes—in gasps.
And their mothers,
and young aunts
They cry on the playground,
in the car,
and at the grocery store in front of strangers.
They cry at the dinner table
and—they—fight—the –sobs—and —try to –catch—their breath.
they cry for comfort,
until their grandmothers die,
their aunts marry,
their mothers tell them:
Big boys don’t cry.
Then they hide their tears,
run to their room,
lock themselves in the bathroom,
until the eyes clear,
the redness dissipates,
and the tears put there by the age-spotted hand of natural selection
to communicate discomfort,
to reveal humanity ,
to bond the tribe
The brain’s orders to the lacrimal glands
mustering only a fake John Wayne mist,
produced to keep girlfriends from leaving.
But the young women only look away,
Big boys don’t cry.
They just become Thoreau’s men of quiet desperation:
No tears of pain
No tears of sorrow
No tears of humiliation
No tears of disappointment
Stuck in solitary confinement
Not even tears of loneliness.
And without that cleansing saline
the soul’s wounds do not heal,
and the tears come out like heart-attacks,
as the deflection of withdrawal
the pulling away of alienation
the clenched hand of rage
the fist of violence.
And no one comforts a silent, violent Frankenstein.
at age 72
found his tears again,
at his ex-sister-in-law’s funeral,
crying with his ex-brother-in-law,
tears plopping out of his drought-stricken eyes
as heavily as a summer rain on a dusty field.
Sixty years of grief bursting out.
The salty fluid pouring out of his eyes, his nose, his mouth,
irrigating the close-cropped cemetery lawn.
I’ve held that moment for two decades now,
Guarding its secret.
Dreading its message.
My own eyes as a dry as a sage brush hillside on a too-hot August afternoon,
waiting for the thundershower.
A Note from Mallory’s Progeny
Barely old enough for pubic hair,
we were Peter Pan’s lost boys
dancing amongst lonely boulders
in forgotten fairytale mountain meadows,
flower strewn and lush green from snow-melt.
We stood on top of snow-covered mountains,
magically rising above cotton candy clouds,
and sent make-believe yodels into the blue void.
Our happy thought at night: we were climbers.
Then St. Helens, with her beautiful white curves
the idyll ended
and the storm years arrived.
We were young wolves loping up mountain slopes
morphing into spider monkeys
swarming up rock and ice faces
standing, briefly triumphant, on summits
lustfully looking over the sea of peaks
sheiks eyeing their harem
choosing which peak to climb next
and which one after that.
And if we ran out of daylight
we slept curled in the rocks.
We sat terrified on high alpine ledges
the smell of lightening
flashing death daggers,
hail piling up like frozen popcorn.
Strung out on treacherous leads,
the abyss staring at us,
we uttered primal cries to our mothers.
We huddled shivering in deep freeze lockers hacked out of ice.
And when daylight came,
when the storm ended,
we bottled our fear
and climbed on,
Icarus on the very edge of that Black Hole
flirting with its gravitational pull
and some of us got sucked in
bodies still roped together lying broken in bergschrunds.
We performed CPR on climbing companions,
their dead limbs bouncing in the talus with each compression,
a single stream of dried blood across one cheek.
We skipped the funerals,
and climbed on.
It un-jumbled our lives,
brought us a brief peace,
the traumas of war, betrayal, loss
dropped away as cleanly as a stone kicked off a Yosemite ledge.
we skirted too close to that Black Hole ourselves:
immobilized by pulmonary edema,
we were dragged down Himalayan Peaks,
knocked senseless by rock fall,
we were helicoptered to hospitals,
we took falls
we climbed on
we became old men with sun-scarred necks,
ancient Whitebark pines
weathered and curled leeward by mountain winds
but our bodies are not statues, frozen marble-white like Mallory’s on Everest
so we limp out the door
to climb again
not because it’s there,
but because we still need un-jumbling
we still crave tranquility,
because every time we tie that re-woven figure eight
on the other end of the rope
there’s a brother,
whose eyes burned as brightly blue as deep glacier ice,
a fellow lost boy still dancing in fairytale meadows.
A Failing Grade in Right and Wrong 101
Fifty-eight dead in Vegas
the Dow gains a hundred -fifty
bump-stock sales soar
Senators send thoughts and prayers.
Fifty-eight glass-eyed corpses,
on blood-soaked pavement.
the Hobbesian contract broken again
interview the girlfriend
talk with the brother
autopsy the brain
dissect for answers
but no lobe of morality
no Center for Right and Wrong
just indifferent gray matter
upon indifferent gray matter.
500 years after the birth of the church of reason
evil fairies gone from the town well
demons removed from the plague
but where is our heart?
Our ministers recite Psalms:
Lean not on your own understanding,
but trust in the Lord with all your heart.
conceived in mysticism,
chipped in stone,
gave the world faggots for the bonfires of medieval Christendom.
An eye for an eye,
a lie for a lie,
and soon the whole world was ignorant.
Seventeen dead in Parkland
Ten dead in Santa Fe
the sabbath brings eleven dead in Pittsburg.
Our leaders serve lukewarm soup to the survivors,
mirroring our lack of empathy.
And when you stare into the abyss,
the abyss stares back.
But, hey, the bulls are running hard down on Wall Street.
Adam Smith rolls in his grave,
Kant’s categorical imperative rolls its eyes at charitable deductions,
and Jesus asks, where is the love brother?
In an affluent society,
goodness only comes baked in a Sarah Lee Pound cake.
Perhaps Vonnegut was right,
it’s all about moiling for more money,
lusting for better copulation.
harnessed by the Id,
to gang-rape the Ego,
outfox the Superego.
Mill’s Utilitarianism blushes.
Gin and tonic golfing
and Wimbledon watching
on the working man’s dime.
College admission bribing
gas lighting cover-ups,
cram the victims face in the vomit of her own sorrow,
drag the spouse on Oprah’s stage,
blinking in the glare of the apologetic melodrama.
Just like the johnnies-come-late -to -Jesus
in the God squad pod at the County jail.
Lost in the wilderness,
where is our compass?
Another head -chopping video on the ‘net,
our politicians promise revenge.
An eye for an eye,
and soon the whole world is blind.
In heaven, Jesus and his faithful scribe Mathew shake their heads,
the Dalai Lama grimaces,
and Gandhi’s ghost cries in the night.
500 years after the birth of the church of reason,
the boy who paints rainbows,
the girl who tends her own garden,
still live with the stink of burning flesh.
A Dove with Transfixed Eyes
If you could capture sadness,
hold it in clasped hands,
what would it be?
An endlessly cooing dove with transfixed eyes.
A burrowing mole,
carving a hole,
in the heart of your hand.
And if you formed an expedition,
left the broad delta of sorrow,
travelled to its headwaters.
What would you find?
An empty bedroom at the bottom of the stairs,
the sound of a siren coming to collect its cargo,
an unused pillow on a double bed,
an old woolen scarf hiding beneath the socks in a dresser drawer,
the first glimmer of infidelity in a lover’s eyes,
some radio’s forgotten song,
serotonin- starved synapses deep in the brain.
And if sorrow were the time of day,
when would it be?
In the early morning when you first awake and remember,
in the late afternoon mirror reflecting opaque eyes,
when melancholy hangs from your body
like a nerve damaged appendage,
or when the lights come on at closing time in an emptying bar
and the hazy smoke of sadness still lingers.
And if sorrow were a sentence
handed down by a sly hanging judge,
what might grant brief reprieve?
The surprise hollyhock in your Mother’s garden,
the swaying of the big Doug firs in the backyard breeze,
that dresser drawer scarf with both hands,
to that radio’s forgotten song,
the promise of the numbers on a dollar lottery ticket,
the first thrust of a new lover’s hips,
or just a tiny pink pill for the synapses.
And if you could discard sorrow,
how would you fashion it?
Bury it in an unmarked grave, in an unkept cemetery,
sweep it into a dustpan, toss it out the backdoor,
or have sorrow dart, like a young sparrow, from unclasped hands.
Death in the Toy Room
The aftermath of birthday number two,
left a slowly shrinking green balloon,
chased, bouncing about the tiny toy room,
then found again,
too close to the radiator,
it sizzled broke,
collapsing into a tiny piece of green nothing.
And my son,
picking it up,
went from me,
to his grandmother,
to his uncle,
and back again,
asking that it be fixed.
But we could only shake our heads.
He neither angry, nor sad,
that not one of this trio,
the fixers of all things
could re-inflate the dead balloon.
His grand mother finally ending his entreaties
with “Sorry honey I can’t.”
with the will of all the king’s horse and all the king’s men.
Provider of car seats
Cure-er of earaches,
early investor in college funds,
vigilant surveyor of hidden dangers in rented homes,
had also fallen short.
And it was only the beginning.
The Coldest Bivouac
Benighted before over the decades that our bond had carried us.
But this night,
this long night,
My maniacal quest for this mountain’s top,
had led us off route.
Chased by betrayal,
fueled by fear,
in an amphetamine- like frenzy,
I had led us off route,
up steep, verglas spackled granite,
lead after lead,
until, the frenzy gone,
hand muscles cramping,
fingers fetally curled,
I was left whimpering, hanging from the rock.
My trusted brother.
Our skins color proved us different Mothers,
yet brothers still,
had taken the lead,
and brought us to this tiny rock ledge,
just as the red sphere of daylight disappeared on the horizon,
and the cold seeped in.
Our rope, coiled,
made but a single mattress.
My head on his chest
the dark, infinite, star-spangled universe above,
the tiny lights of the valley a lifetime below,
but us in a cocoon of rock and rope and cold.
And the thump-thumping from his chest.
And time slowed beyond comprehension,
10 minutes, hours
a single night, an eternity.
And the cold,
and the thump-thumping,
No lover’s heart have I listened as long.
Driven by cold,
much faster now than a clock’s second hand.
Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump.
His warmth, my warmth
my warmth, his
his life, mine
and mine his.
And the infinite night stretched on
and he, no doubt, praying
the daylight that would allow him to stretch the umbilical cord of our rope upwards,
towards the summit,
towards the sunlight,
towards the warmth.
“Be kind to everyone you meet, for we all wage great battles.” Admonition attributed to Plato.
Trying to Get Home
On the county backroads we used to navigate drunkenly,
we now ride in this darkened limousine,
with a driver up-front, unseen.
Two hometown, childhood friends,
are in the seat between.
One attends AA,
the other treats his hepatitis C
and then, in the backseat, there’s me,
just awakened, and wondering what miles we’ve traveled on this dark ride,
over familiar roads, now obscure,
through tinted windows what was real,
now just twilight and blurred lines.
Next to me, the ghost of a friend both distant and near,
measures the time between,
the years I’ve slumbered.
And I ask, who is the driver of this automobile?
And, what, oh what is my malady?
What class can I attend
What is my therapy?
To open my eyes
to help me see
which of these forgotten roads
leads to our hometown
Siddhartha’s river of peace
in his last years.
My childhood chums,
fellow troubled-times travelers
But what, oh what is my malady?
And who is the driver of this automobile
that carries us through a landscape unseen
AA, hep C, and me.