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Category: My poems

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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