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Category: My poems

POEM: Creeley’s Balloon

Listen to this poem by pressing the play button above.

Written on a lazy afternoon while overdosing on the poetry of Robert Creeley.

Creeley’s Balloon

Why can’t we feel the Earth going around the sun?
Why can’t we feel the world spinning?
I tiptoe on squeaky floors so as not to wake my son,
while the cat sleeps on his back under two sheets of paper.
Now I’m in bed, listening to a love song by an old Nazi
and reading Creeley, most of which I don’t understand.
On the cover of the book he’s grinning,
spent cigarette in his lips, hat on the back of his head.
I think he’s in a hot-air balloon, somewhere
over the western desert.
What is lighter than air?
What is heavier than sorrow?
Faded in the background, a mesa,
above it, a cloud,
captured by the lens for just that one moment.
Who snapped the photograph?
Who is the other passenger?
“It was at those times that I carried you.”
I used to find that so comforting
until I realized that “those times”
call for us to plant our own feet in the sand,
on this shifting ground that is spinning, whirling
around a sun in a galaxy
that is itself spinning
in a universe
that is growing into something we cannot explain.

And yet

there is Creeley, now long gone,
in his hot-air balloon, smiling at me,
and I tiptoe to the bathroom, and my son stirs.

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POEM: The Soft Friction Of Sliding Glass

Listen to this poem by pressing the play button above.

A love poem.

The Soft Friction of Sliding Glass

On the living room carpet, after the prom,
she raises her pale arms in the light
coming in through the sliding glass door.

Understanding, amazed, he reaches down,
takes hold of the bottom of her sweatshirt,
and slides it up over her head.

For the first time, there is nothing between them
but air, skin and propriety.
He can’t believe that this diminutive, angelic gift is his.

He leans over to kiss her,
but even more to feel her skin
and the rise and fall of her breath.

They slide to the floor, arms around each other,
mouths and hands and thighs and stomachs
searching for every inch of long-sought completion.

For all that there have been many moments of exploration,
long afternoons desperately quiet in her upstairs bedroom,
it is these few moments that he will remember most.

Sitting quietly on the couch many years later,
accompanied by the gentle rush of a fan in the next room,
he will close his eyes and once more

feel her under him,
his palms remembering the soft friction of her,
his body still responding, even now.

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My first book!

I found out Tuesday night that FootHills Publishing, a 25-year-old independent poetry press, is going to publish a collection of my work. I really can’t believe it. Huzzah!

Watch this space for more details…

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POEM: Tomorrow the wedding

I wrote this in Oakland, CA, in October 2008 while getting ready for my sister-in-law’s wedding.

Oakland photo (c) Jason Crane
Oakland photo (c) Jason Crane

Tomorrow the Wedding
for Amy & Michele

Tomorrow the wedding

      today hauling cans of soda,
      bottles of beer.

Phone: the Italian groom

      carrying a bouquet of balloons
      back to the apartment.

Meanwhile…

      eastern family, recently landed,
      descended from the pure blue.

Our temporary hilltop home,

      where we sit silently
      on the sun-warmed porch,
      looking out over Oakland
      at the glittering bay beyond.

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POEM: Robert Redford’s Banker

I wrote this on a plane trip to San Francisco in 2008, while sitting next to the gentleman described in the poem.

Robert Redford’s Banker

makes perfect check marks
next to the names of Maui restaurants
that he’ll visit when the plane lands.

With measured strokes,
he moves money
from one worthy cause to the next.

The handwriting in his register
shows the passage of time,
a certain revealing tremor in the fingers.

A small picture of the actor —
in his halcyon days —
rests on the tray table next to a bill

from the banker’s club, a map of Maui,
and suggestions for avoiding problems
with Medicare and the tax collector.

He nibbles a deliberate biscotti
and counts to three on his left hand,
fingers pressed, one after another, against his thumb.

Perhaps he’s not counting at all, just
reassuring himself of his own tactile reality,
one not represented by ink on watermarked paper.

The plane touches down, the banker gathers loose papers
to his chest and moves off into the terminal,
searching for his connection, dreaming of the stage.

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POEM: Maple Leaf

Listen to this poem by pressing the play button above.

I wrote this over the weekend on the train from Albany, NY, to Rochester, NY.

Photo (c) 2008, Brian Cameron
Photo (c) 2008, Brian Cameron

Maple Leaf

ice flows on the canal
and I flow the opposite way,
bound west on two steel lines
toward my old not-home

now the water is a river
filled with half-wild islands
and on each piece of snowy ground,
a flock of waiting birds

Amsterdam, Utica, Syracuse —
ancient and exotic names
they have turned their backs
on the water and rails

further on now through fields
where sparse grasses and weeds
poke up through the snow
like drowning men’s fingertips

blowing snow, fog-like
makes of the rail line a dream sequence
empty nests wedged in tree limbs
empty factories with no hope of spring

for an instant, beside the tracks,
two men with rifles search the trees for prey
while nearby an empty backyard
where an empty swing set sways

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POEM: bus stop effigy

Listen to this poem by pressing the play button above.

Image (c) John Brodkin
Image (c) John Brodkin

bus stop effigy

bus stop effigy
low-wage lynching
victim waits
to move from one
rat hole to the next
stop on the line
with only ends
no destinations
no cessation
puffy down coat
conceals smoldering
fire in the gut
winter air hides
shamefaced blush

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POEM: William Can’t Tell

The thermodynamic arrow of time has always interested me, both as a concept and a phrase. I wrote this syllabic poem last year, my first such attempt. Thanks to Huw Price for allowing me to use the epigram.


Image courtesy of Rush W. Dozier, Codes of Evolution – the Synaptic language Language revealing the Secrets of Matter, Life, and Thought, Crown Publishers Inc., New York, 1992.

William Can’t Tell

Late in the nineteenth century, on the shoulders of Maxwell, Boltzmann and many lesser giants, physicists saw that there is a deep puzzle behind the familiar phenomena described by the new science of thermodynamics. On the one hand, many such phenomena show a striking temporal bias. They are common in one temporal orientation, but rare or non-existent in reverse. On the other hand, the underlying laws of mechanics show no such temporal preference. If they allow a process in one direction, they also allow its temporal mirror image. Hence the puzzle: if the laws are so even-handed, why are the phenomema themselves so one-sided? — Huw Price, from The Thermodynamic Arrow: Puzzles and Pseudo-Puzzles

chaos does not lessen
along the arrow’s path

and time cannot be measured
by order or its absence

the arrow flies forever
no pressure no resistance

thermodynamism
beneath the lives of every

woman, man and baby
throughout this blind creation

there is no bow, no hunter
no target, no intention

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POEM: Sixty-Seven Unopened Videocasettes

A poem about seeing my biological father and grandmother for the first time in 30 years.

Sixty-Seven Unopened Videocassettes

Thirty years and fifty percent of my DNA
have brought me to a double-wide with a steep driveway,
tucked away in an enclave of trailers not far from the iron banks of the Ohio River.
She asks me to call her “nanna” because all the children do.
He’s missing most of his teeth — waiting for a new set of dentures.
I have no hook on which to hang this porch conversation,
this three-decade history lesson and game of tag.
So we talk about tobacco farming, long-haul trucking,
and spying on the Russians from within a cigar tube deep beneath the Mediterranean.
I learn about great-uncles and great-aunts and an extra uncle,
only to learn that money and land and other tragedies have driven wedges into this family, too.
I want to walk into the dining room like Antwone Fisher,
but the table is given over to Charlie Brown and Linus —
Christmas decorations awaiting transfer to their holiday destination.
There are sixty-seven unopened Star Trek videocassettes,
a bathroom crammed with history books,
lighters from the Navy,
a robe almost like the one I wear,
and an old shaving cup with a worn brush.
No matter what happens, I’ve erased the most terrible vision —
awaiting the end with the moisture of regret dampening my cheeks.
“The next time you come, darlin’, we’ll have chicken and dumplings.”

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POEM: It isn’t merely the fashioning

I wrote this last February while thinking of my friend Julie White. She knits, cycles, gardens, teaches and other worthwhile things. Visit her blog.

It isn’t merely the fashioning
for Julie White

It isn’t merely the fashioning
of new meanings from the threads and whisps,
rather it is the intention, the

unsounded affirmation of a
relationship, woven into each
chosen strand and intricate pattern.

Pearls uncovered in the depths, the craft
rows back to shore, where it is met by
the warm wool and the gathering in.

One must take stock in it, and accept
the gift for what it is, speech rendered,
unspoken, as textile manuscript.

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POEM: At Mr. Frost’s

I wrote this poem after a visit to Robert Frost’s house in Shaftsbury, VT.

Stone wall behind Robert Frost's house
Stone wall behind Robert Frost's house. Photo by Jason Crane.

At Mr. Frost’s

Bathed in
autumn
sunlight
on a
table rock
in the fallow field
behind
Robert Frost’s
stone house,
I’m reminded
of the poet’s
advice
to not press
the poems
too hard.
Sometimes sunlight
is just that,
and fallow fields
need only
sun, seeds,
water
and time.

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POEM: Long Haul

Photo from the David Faust Collection
Photo from the David Faust Collection

Long Haul
(for my father and his father)

it wasn’t easy keeping all those wheels on the road
another late-night diner and a nap in the cab
hauling one of the damned things was hard enough
it took a man to pull two

it wasn’t easy to raise seven of them
the boy was first and then six — six! — girls
you’d think we would have stopped trying
to make him a brother

and since he was a solitary boy even then,
he would put on his suit and walk down to the little church
that was happy to have an usher
an extra boy to pass the hat for what little there was

he wrecked the car, I made him replace it with college money
I wasn’t teaching him a lesson about responsibility
I was trying to hang on to my boy
the one who’d always had his eye on the horizon

and then later, when he was home from the service
we’d go down under the church to drink at the Legion hall
thick smoke in the air, cheap beer on tap
looking down the barrel of a one-stoplight life

it took a man — and I knew it — to leave
to drive and keep driving until he’d built a better life
to be more than I was and to do it with dignity
and I never told him, but I was proud



(Thanks to David Faust for letting me use a photo from his collection of St. Johnsbury trucks. That’s the company for which my grandfather drove.)

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POEM: Memorex Hummingbird

Hummingbird photo by Derek Scott.
Hummingbird photo by Derek Scott.

Memorex Hummingbird
by Jason Crane

Memorex hummingbird hovers above the nectar cup;
animatronic woodpecker hunts for scuttling food.
Nature or Disney ride? Who can say?
Disconnected as we are from snow falling off branches.
I hold the binoculars steady and point out the Blue Jay
as it pecks the last leaf on the winter elm,
and through those lenses peek the unspoiled eyes of my son.
He shouts, “I see it!” and is rooted to the spot,
A sapling full of the coursing energy of the yet-to-come.

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POEM: Gene Ludwig

GeneatClefClub
Photo by Ben Johnson, Sr.

I saw organist Gene Ludwig in concert earlier tonight, and wrote these three pieces while watching the show. If you’d like to know more about Gene, listen to my interview with him on The Jazz Session.

Gene Ludwig

1.

Gone deep inside, he slides
effortlessly across the organ keys,
never losing the sense of weightlessness
every earthbound mortal
longs for.
Unlike most, he isn’t held
down by gravity, not forced to
wear the chains of step-by-step,
inch-by-inch. Instead, he
gently leaves the earth, smiling.

2.

Perhaps he’s the local mortician,
skin made alabaster through
affinity with those he serves;
or an accountant, toiling away
until life’s energy winds down
like the gold watch they’ll give him;
he could be any one of a hundred
buttoned-up Rotarians in grey flannel suits,
friends with the mayor or with
the chief of police.
Then he sits down at the organ, and
joy springs from those ivory fingers.
He strips off the grey shell,
revealing the light at his core.
That light is the only thing
that reaches us faster
than his sound.

3.

Grabbing two handfuls of
electricity, he
naturally believes that life is beautiful, that
everyone has ready access to this
level of presence, this certain
understanding of the melody.
Doubtless, they all
would trade places
if they could, exchanging
Gene’s grace for their own.

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POEM: Bernard Orrin Joseph Flanders, 1912-2009

grandpa

A poem for my grandfather. The first letter of each line spells out his name.

Bernard Orrin Joseph Flanders, 1912-2009

Bent over one of many art projects, he is perhaps
eyeing a stitch in a pattern, or
running his hands across the smooth surface of a
nascent scrimshaw.
All of our houses have some
reminder of his artistry,
done on commission or by surprise,
or given over after a move to a smaller apartment.
Rarer pieces, such as the carved nameplates
resting from nails set
in doors of his own making, will
never pass from their owners’ hands, nor will our
joy dim each time we catch sight of
our names carved in the
soft wood.
Each of us holds onto whatever small treasures we’ve
placed so carefully in the bank of our memory.
He never seemed to understand the weight of his gift,
feigned embarrassment at our gushing praise,
lowered his eyes
and said, “It’s
nothing,
don’t mention it.”
Each of holds onto whatever small treasurers we’ve
received from him, ever thankful that his love has been captured in
stitching or ivory or wood.

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