POEM: Robby Burns’s Hat

Here’s my contribution to the memory of Monday. For more, read Dan Wilcox’s Birthday Poem, 2009 and his write-up of the event.

Robby Burns’s Hat

Crusty snow beneath our boots
as we watch a limber young poet
scamper atop the McPherson Legacy.

Once settled between Robby’s legs,
he takes the beret — the same one
they used last year —

and balances it on top of Robby’s head.
The last time, it was up there a week before
a less young, but no less limber, poet

found the beret at the base of the Legacy
and rescued it from oblivion, restoring
the cap to its place of honor twelve months later.

And so it goes, year after year, in honor
of the man who started it all, and who
made the trail through the snow that we follow.

POEM: Last Night I Watched

Last Night I Watched
by Jason Crane

Last night I watched an American president-elect on the television and cried. Next to me was my wife Jennifer, tears running down her cheeks.

Last night I watched the awakening of a nation that had all but given up on its principles and ideals.

Last night I watched Jesse Jackson hold one finger to his trembling lips as he wept, the marathon runner finally crossing the finish line.

Last night I watched John Lewis talk about the unbelievable road from “Whites Only” bathrooms to steel truncheons on the Edmund Pettis Bridge to the steps of the Capitol.

Last night I watched an actor from The Color Purple rest her chin on the shoulder of a friend as she watched an African-American man speak about his future presidency.

Last night I watched an ocean of joyful tears give a gentle lift to the ship that is America.

Last night I watched Walt Whitman as he knelt down and pulled a blade of grass from the rich earth, singing.

Last night I watched as Kenyans danced on dusty ground, arms raised toward the glorious sun.

Last night I watched as a crack opened in the wall, and looking through, I could see the glimmering field of stars.

POEM: My Birthday Poem

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My sister, mom, dad and friend Kevin at my 2007 birthday shindig.

Here’s a poem I wrote in 2007 after celebrating my birthday with friends and family at Thali, our favorite Indian restaurant in Rochester.

Birthday
by Jason Crane

This is my birthday poem:
Stuffed full of Chicken Makhani,
Squeezing the plastic skull
With its bulging brains.

This is my birthday poem:
Grumpy-faced children
Fight off the smiles
That take over their faces.

This is my birthday poem:
Moving from one end of the
Long table to the other,
A timeline with forks and knives.

This is my birthday poem:
A box of old feelings
Hidden away in the closet,
Buried with new garments.

This is my birthday poem:
Pedaling slowly to Barrington Street,
My young son beside me,
Dodging the potholes.

This is my birthday poem:
Enchiladas and rice
And a dusty courtyard;
Beyond — and old bookstore.

This is my birthday poem:
“Daddy wants jam and bread.”
And knees in my back
Keep me awake in the small hours.

This is my birthday poem:
Tucked in, supine,
Balancing a notebook
On my stuffed belly.

(September 2007)

POEM: Reggae Shack

In 1999, Jen and I lived just over the bridge from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. I played in a dance club on the island, and Jen taught ESL. There was a guy who frequented our club, and who was known to just about everyone who knew the island. He was your typical working-class islander, living the beach life to the best of his ability. He was a big reggae fan, and one morning, in the small hours, we was found dead outside a little reggae hideaway near the beach. This is his poem.

shack.jpg

Reggae Shack
by Jason Crane

2 a.m.

Waves examine the sand, retreat.
A bird nestles its head
into wings.

The air holds a final sigh,
a letting out of breath from
tired lungs,

the gritty sound
of reggae on worn vinyl
from a wooden shack
nestled in the trees
only a few feet away.

Bright smiles on black faces,
sweat on glasses of unlicensed beer.

Voices ease past the half-open door;
slip, unconcerned, into water.

Again, the waves glance at the sand;
the bird looks up, startled
by a dull wooden sound.

A head lolls against the tabletop —
spent, unknowing, spirit released.

He is found alone;
arms splayed out in
supplication, or exhaustion.

(July 1999)

POEM: Aidan Arrives

Our neighbors recently had a baby boy. This is the poem I wrote on the day he came home from the hospital.

Aidan Arrives
by Jason Crane

Sunday morning —
Sweet soul music,
Archie Bell and the Drells
Can’t stop dancing
While I sweep locust leaves
Off our porch.

Then it’s Marvin Gaye with a
Soul sacrament, his own
Worship of the joined human form,
While I fill the recycling bin and pick up
The kids’ rockets and bouncy balls.

Across the street, a ceramic pelican
Heralds the arrival of a new
Baby boy
Who comes home from the hospital today.

The Stylistics sing a backdrop to
Dog walkers, leaf rakers,
And two brothers chasing each other
With a bright orange butterfly net.

Our rope swing sways in an autumn breeze
As the little one starts crying,
Not wanting to come inside.

Then a red Jeep rolls to a stop
From a speed so low that the brakes
Are barely needed.

The neighborhood is instantly alert.
A silent signal —
And the boys screaming “The baby!” —
Brings everyone from their houses.

A dad (!) takes his first steps
Onto a driveway filled with new
Dangers and joys.

His wife slowly emerges from the passenger seat,
One hand on her lower back as she
Leans against the Jeep for support.
A circle of eager children is
Held at bay
By cautious parents.

A boon is granted —
A glimpse of tiny new life
Nestled in blankets,
All but covered by a striped hat.

Young Mr. Magoo has come home.

They slip past the pirate and the ghost
Suspended from the porch
In preparation for Halloween.

The door closes,
And the street lets out its breath.

(October 2008)

POEM: For Henry Grimes

For Henry Grimes

Henry sits
in a plastic chair on
the balcony,
drinking water and watching
the lake.
Below the surface,
roiling motion.
Outside,
reflected sky.

Henry waits
to be surprised,
never knowing where
this note — here —
will take him.
Sometimes
he doesn’t find his way back
for a long time.

Henry talks
with his hands,
plucking and bowing his message,
going to the ritual and
inviting all to follow.