About what’s at the center

I used to question     what was
at the center     of me
all the time     searching
for answers     to half-formed questions

such a waste     of time

so much better     to give from the center
now I teach     young people
now I love     my wife and sons
now I write     poems to share

the center is important     but so is reaching out
looking inward     to find
what you have     to give

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to a prompt at Big Tent Poetry about what’s at the center. This is a prompt that I always intended to respond to during April, but just didn’t get to; I think because it scared me.

I offer it today as a farewell to Big Tent Poetry. I have been a benefactor of the wonderful founders and participants of that online community – and for that I am most grateful. It has helped me find a voice that I wasn’t sure I had within me. To borrow part of a line from Elizabeth, whose poetry I admire: I have come “to the sound of my own soul singing”.

I am in a very different place in my poetry writing than the founders of Big Tent Poetry. I certainly don’t feel confident enough to host a site as they have done and as others are doing. I am still finding my center and doing what I can to reach out. I will do my part and write the best poems I can, and offer encouragement to others who are doing the same. And I will always be grateful to the wonderful people who host sites, like Big Tent Poetry, that are such a force for beautiful communication.

And I wish Carolee, Deb, and Jill the best of luck at A Fine Kettle of Fish. I will be following their efforts. I hope the kettle will find them more centered as well as reaching out and inspiring each other. They have certainly given enough of themselves, and for that I am grateful.

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Please Say Yes

I’d like to come over and play.
It’s a little cool here by the ocean.
I’d like to stretch out for a bit
where it’s a little warmer.

I like coming east.
It’s fun traveling over the bay
and toward the foothills,
warming in your light embrace.

You can do that magic trick
where you make me invisible.
Then we can do it all over again
tomorrow, if that’s okay with you.

This morning the sun said yes to the fog.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the noble and fruitful sharing prompt at Big Tent Poetry. I borrowed a line – “This morning the sun said yes to the fog.” – from  Linda Jacobs. You can read her poems at Linda’s Poems. I encourage you to check out the very last show time at Big Tent Poetry.

Pacific Grove

I don’t remember a single fact
about the elephant seals of Año Nuevo,
or the conversations I had with friends
who spent the day whale watching,
certainly not what we ate
that night in the dining hall,
or why I decided to run ahead
of my classmates and teachers
back to our lodge.

There I discovered our bus driver
playing the piano in the lobby.
He stopped when he realized
I was there, and went to his room.
No one else heard him play.
I was the unwelcome audience.

I was moody that night
and couldn’t explain that I was sad
because my own enthusiasm
had broken something magical.

That unregarded man played
such beautiful music with hands
that had brought us there safely.
I would not even remember him
were it not for the broken music,
and what I really learned that night.

* * * * *

This poem was revised in response to the prompt from Big Tent Poetry to revise a poem from about a year ago.

The first version (see below) was originally written in response to the day twelve prompt to write about a city at Poetic Asides last year, in April 2010.

Pacific Grove

In the excitement
of that first junior high
overnight field trip,
I ran up the hill by myself,
ahead of everyone else.
It was after dinner,
and I discovered the bus driver
playing the piano in the lobby
of our lodge.
He stopped
when he realized
I was there.
No one else heard.
I was the audience,
solitary, unwelcome.
I had broken something magical.
This is what I learned
on that field trip,
not the marine biology
that was the purpose:
Some people are far more
than they appear,
certainly more
than the work they do.

Being Small

Every boy is small with so much inside,
but he wants more. He wants to be like dad.
He cannot wait to be powerful and
big. Until then he will play at greatness.

Then he will be between boy and man, his
eyes on girls. He will want his hands there too.
But he will have to satisfy himself,
making his smallness grow with his own touch.

Then fully a man, probably still not
satisfied with his smallness – the organ
that hangs and his place in the world – he finds
he must search for something more. He finds love
and learns the smallness he can plant in his
love will grow and he can have the greatest.

* * * * *

This poem is a sonnet written in response to the about being small prompt at Big Tent Poetry.

You know

it’s not true what you said
gay teachers are not
converting your children

and Muslims are not our enemies

they’re not true, so
quit saying those things

yeah, yeah, it’s still a free country,
but it wouldn’t be
if we put you in charge

yeah, well, free speech
applies to me, too,
and I’m tired of exercising it
fighting your bigotry
and narrowmindedness

oh, yeah, that’s good
resort to name-calling
you know what
you can call me
faggot commie liberal
but it doesn’t change what I said

yeah, well, I’m done
with you too

(you’re probably racist too)

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the “it’s not true that ___” prompt at Big Tent Poetry. I also incorporated the quit what you’re doing prompt at Poetic Asides.

“the only one in the world”

the only one in the world
is the world itself
there is no other like mother Earth

I know I’m unique
that genetically speaking I am
the only one in the world

just like me, but I am small
and what sustains me
is the world itself

we neglect her at our peril
there is no escape if we kill her
there is no other like mother Earth

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the “only one in the world” prompt at Poetic Asides. It also fits with the escape prompt at Big Tent Poetry.

As the month is coming to a close, I’m starting to think about which five poems I’m going to submit to Robert at Poetic Asides as my top five for the month, so I’ve been focusing on those prompts more over the past few days.

Shameless plug: If you want to read the other three poems I posted today, you’ll find them here: Message in a Bottle, falling poem, and a little trifle I called Second Thoughts.

Public Service Announcement

Drivers, start your engines!

Show pedestrians and other drivers
your inattention and rage.
Driving with two hands is not permitted.
Your dominant hand must
at all times be occupied
with something other than driving.
Options include texting,
changing settings on your stereo,
and applying make up.
You are not limited to these options;
we urge you to be creative.
Do not bother signaling lane changes.
Tailgaiting, honking,
flashing your highbeams,
and flipping the bird
are expected and encouraged.
Excessive speed is required.

This is an open course.
You are amateur drivers.
Please drive irresponsibly.

Thank you.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the Big Tent Poetry prompt about what you would shout down the street.

“I am sorry about my fear”

I am sorry about my fear
it was my mind’s way
of avoiding pain

I know you loved me
you asked me to stay
that made me want to leave

I loved the feel of your
body beneath mine
it was always best

in the morning, the sun
on your skin, the bottles
of Speakeasy beer on the floor

by the bed, but the burning
inside my heart was not
passion, but fear

and the beer smelled
and the sun was too bright
and I just wanted to be without

* * * * *

This poem is in response to a prompt at Big Tent Poetry that begins “I am sorry about…”. I also used a Prompt Mash-Up from Not Without Poetry:

The following prompts are from Bill Alton. Use them as titles, opening lines, or combine all of them into a single poetic form.

1. My body is a speakeasy.
2. Morning comes without the sun.
3. I loved him most when he asked me to leave.
4. Pain is the mind’s way of burning through fear.

Process Notes: I took all of the nouns from the sentences above (body, speakeasy, morning, sun, pain, mind’s way, and fear),  some of the verbs (loved, asked, leave), one adjective (burning) and one preposition (without).

Doggy Love

i’m willing to eat your dis / once
because you are a kid
and don’t know any better / yet

watch as i pull / a long pink balloon
from my mouth / blow it up
twist it into a doggy for you

you will play with your doggy
for five minutes
until you turn away your attention
and your doggy falls
to the grass / pop

i’m willing to eat your sadness
over and over every day
if i have to
because i love you

you ask for another doggy
but i am out of balloons

i offer you a hug instead
it helps calm your tears
but it doesn’t make you happy
and we both know it

but the hug makes me happy

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to three prompts: one, a love poem at Poetic Asides, a poem beginning “I’m willing to eat…” from We Write Poems, and one in which you pull a small object out of your mouth from Big Tent Poetry.

The inspiration for this poem came when I was reading “Willing to Eat Worms” by Amy Barlow Liberatore at her blog, Sharp Little Pencil. Thanks for the inspiration, Amy.

Richard (aka Mr. Walker)

Everyday Miracle

it’s happening right now
I look out at the Pacific
and imagine those molecules
gaining energy and momentum
leaping from the ocean
into the air – and staying there

leaving the salt behind
fresh water floats free
no boiling required

then they move closer together
a haze that obscures the view
subdues the blue with wispy
curls of gray-white hair
a summer fog that pours in
through the Golden Gate
cumulus clouds heaped together
bright against the azure sky

rainfall in February
and then how bright
everything appears afterwards
as if the air has bathed
sun shining on wet grass

puddles for children to splash in
rivulets running against the curb
falling into paved-over streams
that lead straight to the bay
then heading out to sea
under the Golden Gate again

where the bonds of three dance
preparing to leap and fly again
more powerful than man
changing state
shaping earth
supporting life

* * * * *

This poem was written as an ode to a thing I love in nature from Big Tent Poetry.