So It Is

“Every stage of human life, except the last, is marked out by certain and defined limits; old age alone has no precise and determinate boundary.” – Marcus Tulius Cicero



From SEN-ESSECE 

on the art of aging 

Posted August 2015

Photograph by Antonio Robles

So it is
that old is
as old does
nurtured on the past 

imagine everything you perceive
as nothing other than a decaying dream,
aging in an only lifetime

the willow would last forever
rebirthing in the soil
of your content

birds would sleep with the elephants

aging, a thing of the past,
a shadow creeping slowly up behind you

fragile is
as fragile does
tempered in the mold

cast before there ever was

bent and shaped by the wind

we remain
just the same as always

some age like the oak
others like the weed

all have work to do 
all feed the soul of the gardener

who plants the seed
and waits for someone
who knows
there is nothing to forgive

so it is 
through thick and thin
we learn to walk
we learn to swim

to crawl 
from beneath the waves
time and time again

hello

goodbye

and in-between

a subtle sigh

 

Sunday Morning Read

P.E.W.S.

“To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.” -Henri Frédéric Amiel

Comes a Time is a collection of poems and essays exploring the aging process -senescence, and the attributes - essence that make us who we fundamentally are. 

Available on Amazon & Kindle
PEWS

Notwithstanding the pickling and pruning of the average agenarian the most widely seen cognitive change associated with ageing is that of the Procedural, Episodic, Working, and Semantic memory. The functioning or lack of is uniquely personal and can be of some concern. Personally this memory/recall thing doesn’t really bother me until I think about it. If you live long enough all the closets in the upper house become cluttered with stuff you only go looking for when something or someone plants a seed, otherwise out of sight, out of mind.

I know I’m not alone when I leave my mind behind—climbing the stairs, entering a room going after something that, just an interminable second ago, was the most important priority, focus, quest on my agenda, only to return to the origin of the thought to re-enact what it might have been that I was after.

Procedural: Perhaps it’s not that my motor skills are any less vibrant than when I was younger—I still remember how to ride a bike, it just that I’m not all that interested anymore in pedaling about, and I still could walk, talk and chew gum at the same time if it weren’t for my dentures. When it comes to how to do stuff I may have forgotten a few things, but now I know how to find it on YouTube or Wikihow.com.

Episodic: Early grade school left me with just one off the top of my head episodic memory: the little old lady teaching grade 5 periodically zoning out and starting to take her clothes off in the front of the class, and someone always running to get a nun. Those mental tags about where, when and how information is picked up don’t sit out there on a garage sale table waiting to be plucked, they have to be searched for, and the search gets a little more interesting with the ageing process.

Working: Trying to manipulate the present is like trying to altering the past, and processing information is more work than the curmudgeon in me generally wants to deal with. Irritability comes on when decision making demands a perceived unreasonableness. I know if I pay attention I just might learn a thing or two, and if I’m lucky it will stick.

Semantic: Seemingly patience has become my patron saint of forgetfulness. It allows me to abdicate responsibility in the land-of-forget-me-nots where greycells become the dandruff of should haves and oops, maybe, if only I had remembered what I ... Sometimes it’s just lazy mind. With the esposa a walking rolodex, I don’t really have to dig deep in the recesses of the skull for the names of people that I meet, and when searching for the meaning of things, Google has usurped my semantic memory, transferring recall from my cerebral cortex to my fingertips.

Do we really need to remember every name, place, event, taste, smell, song etc., why not take every new encounter as a surprise—a fresh face, a familiar but exotic smell, a subtle and refreshing taste, an exquisite moment, the feeling brought on by sound of the Moonlight Sonata. I have learned, and keep reminding myself, I need only to be the keeper of the world around me to relive the memory of all that I have known and cared for. I need to be joyful of memory and open to what comes along when it does, and when it does I’ll be seated in the first pew, knowing it will unfold in its own time at the altar of love.

There’s A Seasonal Thing

“What makes old age hard to bear is not the failing of one’s faculties, mental and physical, but the burden of one’s memories.” – W. Somerset Maugham

Comes a Time is a collection of poems and essays exploring the aging process -senescence, and the attributes - essence that make us who we fundamentally are. 

Available on Amazon & Kindle

There’s a seasonal thing 

about this life we live

benchmarks that have a history
quarterly objectives unmet and mastered

a mile marker that you remember 
in passing along the way

good feelings ingrain themselves 
at a very early age and never let go
only, if only you enter laughing
and somehow never let go 
of the possibility, no matter
how slight the meaning
                                      of joy

for misery needs a definition
and wanting comes with loss

There are blocks of life where life has left 
holes in the garment I was born to wear

years where the waves came crashing in
and years where the sands tumbled into empty spaces
leaving gold nuggets and empty shells

sucked into the undertow of subliminal anxiety
     and fear of knowing

into the comfort
of silence and forgetfulness

nothing to hide
nothing to remember

the broom and dustpan of our memory
sweeping anything and everything 
into the holes we create in our conscience

where all, 
all thoughts and actions,
from the sublime to the inhumane,
               can be forgiven.

Men As They Age

“Men are like wine – some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.” – Pope John XX111

Comes a Time is a collection of poems and essays exploring the aging process -senescence, and the attributes - essence that make us who we fundamentally are. 

Available on Amazon & Kindle
Men as they age

some turn into cooks 
as if the less they have to do,
the more they are able to do,
in the art of living

for some, the mechanics of it
gives way to the subtle blending
of ginger, curry, and fresh cut vegetables,
sautéing in a pot thirsty for broth.

for others, living in a space 
compatible with the essence generated
by a loving relationship with longevity
playing upon the subtlety 
the aliveness of the moment,
just being in a dance,
simmering in a sensuous sauce.

then again not all men intend
upon the now and again,
and sadly miss the point of being
able to give and let live,
in the art of living.

Re-tire, Re-tread, Re-make

“Age isn’t how old you are but how old you feel.” – Gabriel García Márquez

Comes a Time is a collection of poems and essays exploring the aging process -senescence, and the attributes - essence that make us who we fundamentally are. 

Available on Amazon & Kindle
Re-tire Re-tread Re-make 

time comes 
when you need to stop expanding 
in the universal scheme of things 

whoadown, slow down, 
leave behind the rebound, 
spend time staying healthy 
doing the daily comealong, 
     and not much more.

Re-mind re-start re-take, 
go with the flow of a transcending theme 

quantity dis-abled, quality en-abled, 
joy embedded in the doing and so much more.

It’s all about making room 
for the new shoots, 
nature nudging you to go out and play,

reinventing yourself versus 
becoming  a product 
of a disposable world.

If you don’t use it, 
     you know,
it wears down 
from lack of friction with life, 
     and rusts.

Ageing Vacillates

“By the time you’re eighty years old you’ve learned everything. You only have to remember it.” – George Burns

Comes a Time is a collection of poems and essays exploring the aging process -senescence, and the attributes - essence that make us who we fundamentally are. 

Available on Amazon & Kindle
Aging vacillates 

between acceptance and intolerance
or is it that we reach a stage of gestation
where we just don’t care
to hold anything inside, anymore.

A stage of -agenarian development
where it’s not worth maintaining
a decorum of politeness
when it comes to natural functions;

breathing, 
expressing an opinion, 
and of course, flatulating.

Bodily functions have a humor all their own;
  kids guffaw at farts,
  women smile at fluffs,
  old farts just don’t give a damn.

     Nobody talks about it.  
Everyone turns their head and ignores it.  
     Life goes on.

On a given day, 
everything consumed,
is digested and then exuded.

It’s how books are written and read.
It’s how thoughts are shaped and spread,

how life absorbs creation
  and is put to bed.

Comes an Age

In vain it tugs at the knob
of the invisible door.
As far as you’ve come
can’t be undone.
– Wislawa Szymborska

Comes a Time is a collection of poems and essays exploring the aging process -senescence, and the attributes - essence that make us who we fundamentally are. 

Available on Amazon & Kindle
A C
A Coming of Age
moves you from the center of the universe
to an ever expanding understanding 
of just where you might fit in,
assuming of course you listen.

Some, like the snowdrops, enter in act one,
acknowledge an audience, and disappear.
Others, like the Hawthorne tree,
wait until everything around them blends
to the moment, guarding against trespass,
are last to leaf and first to leave.

Aging allows you to render the bark
around you as part of yourself.
Even in the shedding of mindfulness,
greycells synapsing into the ozone,
everything meaning something closes in,
becomes important, if only to you, 
and to what you are, to what you love, 
and who loves you.

Some enter screaming onto a tapestry
of color that never dulls from the wear 
and washing of lifetimes.
Others slip silently 
into a white antiseptic wrap 
their story never heard.
 
If you have managed to leave alone
everything that has touched you,
aging is the glue that sticks the pictures 
to the pages of memories that mean the most.

Memories you cannot delete,
re-minding you of why you are here,
not just still here, in reflection 
a meaning for being, 
reflected in the hearts of everyone
that has orbited around your star.

Some age slowly, while others,
blossom and are gone.

Some stick like mud and harden
in the sunlight, others 
a wisp of dust in a breeze.

When you reach a point
in the long deep obsidian season 
of the mind, waiting to feel the reflection 
of your story,  there appears out of nowhere

a covey of snowdrops huddled together
in a garden of dirt brown leaves and winter wreckage,
nature bare-armed; nothing standing
between the source of light and the receiver.
 
a point in time where, 
rather than from the internal combustion 
of a dark and distempered soul,
in the comfort of an all encompassing light

there appears a promissory note
in the greeting of dawn

not just another day aging along, stumbling 
upon potential fulfillment

just possibly coming to term
with the aging process

a process we never leave behind
or plan for

Comes an age where we are thankful
for the oneness of the day.

Comes an age asking only to be helpful
to be of service.

Comes an age where divine spirit 
flows through you in love.

The Music You Love No Longer Plays

 I have reached an age when someone tells me to wear socks, I don’t have to. – Albert Einstein
 
Comes a Time is a collection of poems and essays exploring the aging process -senescence, and the attributes - essence that make us who we fundamentally are. 

Available on Amazon & Kindle

The music you love no longer plays
at the top of the charts

the melody that rattles in your
morning mind is vinyl

stages of your life begin and end
like mile markers on the interstate

remembrance becomes a veteran’s parade of wars
with the newest and the oldest stepping in time

supposing there’s a logical reason 
you are known by what you did, 
         and where it all began, 

somehow it chaffs of greatness 
bending to the whims of what matters 
       for what was left behind 

what remains after the flood, 
the drought, the insanity 
of scorched earth and genocide,
is the cream that always rises to the top,
      and always will 

a common lesson in gratitude 
for the moment and a promise 
of better things to come, 
just because it makes sense.

songs grow old and lose their shape,
memories linger long 
in the recesses of the mind

ever present, 
we wait for the future
to sit down beside us, 
and listen to the music.

Sunday Morning Read

A Coming of Age


Comes a Time is a collection of poems and essays exploring the aging process -senescence, and the attributes - essence that make us who we fundamentally are. 

Available on Amazon & Kindle

A Coming of Age

As a certifiable Septuagenarian no longer capable of dividing but still alive and metabolically active,  I now, on occasion, think about aging and growing old. I suppose it comes with the body politic. Never have liked the word “old” unless, as Francis Bacon remarked it appears to be best in four things; old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read. 

A 2009 Pew Research study indicated that the average respondent believed old age begins in the mid-sixties, and older as opposed to younger believed old age started at a much later point. That’s a no brainer. In a Daily Mail article, according to young Brits, old age starts at 52. I’ll have none of it. I knew someday if the good lord willing I might reach the seventh age of man described by Jacque in William Shakespeare’s As You Like It; as second childishness and mere oblivion, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything…and all that didn’t sound too appealing to me.

Living in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts old was in; New Yorkers and Bostonians fought over decrepit chairs and 3 legged tables once buried in the dust of damp and moldy barns, on sale as priceless antiques of the not so ancient pilgrims. Malcolm Cowley in his book of personal essays, The View from Eighty he quotes an octogenarian friend “They tell you that you lose your mind when you grow older, but what they don’t tell you is that you won’t miss if very much.”

The word “old” needs a little help standing on its own, and it has nothing to do with canes and walkers, it’s the tags that follows it around like an old dog: “old bag,” “old fogey,” and “old timer.” I can relate to defining old as of former times, like “days of old,” having been aged for a comparatively long time, as in old brandy. My commanding officer in the Air Force was the “old man,” and that was acceptable. Unacceptable would be the terminology dating back to 1775 for wife or mother as the “old lady”. That might have worked for the founding fathers but politically incorrect today. Mi Esposa occasionally has to remind me “you’re getting old honey,” but that’s usually when certain parts of my anatomy won’t take no for an answer.

The word aging on the other hand is the process of becoming older. In the narrow sense, the term refers to biological aging of human beings, and other living creatures. Gabriel García Márquez, in Memories of My Melancholy Whores writes “Age isn't how old you are but how old you feel.” 
Lewis Thomas writes in his book of essays The Fragile Species: “It is possible to say all sorts of good things about aging when you are talking about aging free of meddling diseases.  It is an absolutely unique stage of human life—the only stage in which one has both the freedom and the world’s blessing to look back and contemplate what has happened during one’s lifetime instead of pressing forward to new high deeds.”

Here’s the rub, things can and do go south in the process of aging: one thing after another goes wrong, and the cumulative impact of these failures is the image of aging. However, normal aging is not a disease at all, but a stage of living that cannot be averted or bypassed except in one way, nicely summed up by Maurice Chevalier; “Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative. Nevertheless many regard aging as a slow death with everything going wrong. Florida Pier Scott-Maxwell, a playwright, author and psychologist, nearing her nineties wrote “When a new disability arrives, I look about me to see if death has come, and I call quietly, ‘Death, is that you? Are you there?’ and so far the disability has answered, ‘Don’t be silly. It’s me.”

When I finally did come to the awareness I was aging somewhat, I was encouraged by the latest discoveries in cell biology—my body, with a few exceptions has a makeover every 10 years or so with old cells discarded and new ones generated, the pace depending on the workload. Why I don’t act my physical age is because there are some ornery cells hanging in there from birth to death. My brain has mind of its own and doesn’t generate new neurons except in mediating the sense of smell, and where I remember faces and places. I’m not there yet, but I guess someday I could be referred to as an old fart.

Doris Lessing wrapped it all up for me when she said, “The great secret that all old people share is that you really haven't changed in seventy or eighty years. Your body changes, but you don't change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion.” I want to think I’ve aged more like a gem of polished driftwood washed up on a white sandy shore rather than a gnarly old oak tree all bark, no bite. 

Sunday Morning Read

A Sneaky Twitch of an Itch

An Abstract/Concrete challenge for your Grandchildren to draw what an Itch looks like!

A Sneaky Twitch of an Itch

I know an Itch named Sneaky
He’s longer than a finger’s reach
He’s faster than a swat
and just when you find
his favorite spot
he simply disappears

You can’t tickle the Sneaky Itch away,
he’ll simply hide behind your laughter,
and as soon as you say
good night or good day
the Sneaky twitch of an Itch is back
after your nose
your toes
and even your ears.

An Itch in the small of your back
can just about bring you to tears

Catch me if you can,”
is all he’ll ever say,
and just when you want
to take a rest
is when he’ll start to play

How does an Itch know
when your hands are full
your hoods done up
you’ve just put on your boots
or even worse, when
your head is on the pillow
your pillows on the bed
you’re just about to fall asleep
when an Itch finds a toe
and it’s Sneaky
who won’t let go!

One Itch, ouch!
Two Itch, ouch!
Three Itch, FOUR!
you start to scratch
and then there’s more.

Sneaky has lots of friends.
In corners and coveys
and crevices they keep.
An Itch it just seems
is always out of reach.

An Itch could be a who 
or a what or a where,
They’re everywhere!
They’re everywhere!
They work in teams you know
and hop from hair to hair
and always let you know.
They are bold and brave
and never scare.
First they’re here
		and then they’re there.
Itches can be anywhere!

Now even Itches
have times when they mind
	and thank goodness!
For even a Sneaky Itch sleeps.
There are good Itches
like a tingle or a tease
that come and go as they please.
And then there are bad Itches
that never, never go away
simply because
you want it that way.

You can pretend 
an Itch does not exist.
Believe It (if you can),
but an Itch is an Itch
ignore it you might
in a flash there’s a scratch
Over here			Over there
Even when there’s nothing
an Itch is always there!

All Itches love to travel.
They can drive you crazy
just trying to keep up!
They’ll tickle the top of your head,
slide down the curve of your back
stopping every now and then
along their journey for a snack.

Mornings are particularly pleasant
for they have been waiting all night long
for just the right moment to strike
and when you are lying in bed
and you are still half asleep,
that is when a Sneaky Itch is at its best.
Or, when your skin is 
really, really dry, an Itch 
can make you cry.
They love you when you’re flaky
when the dirt builds up
or you’re hairs gone snaky
and socks if you wear them
for more than a day
Hey!  It’s heaven for Itches
that won’t go away.

Wishing away an Itch won’t help,
but we all know they don’t like water.
Even though some Itches are super tough
and won’t wash away in a shower,
if you take a warm bubbly bath,
scrub yourself clean
and rinse away the soap,
for it’s the Itches only hope
you’ll not quite clean the dirt away,
and just to be certain
you’ve chased the Itch away
get Dad to add a little powder or cream.

An Itch can wear many disguises.
They can feel like a tickle
or feel like a twitch
A cat hair can sometimes confuse you
A trickle of sweat
A loose dangling thread
Or heavens forbid crumbs in your bed
A dry bit of skin or a wound that is healing
A breeze through the hair
A fly that won’t scare
They’re up your nose
and in your ear;
nobody knows
what disguises they’ll wear

While you are chasing
what could be an Itch,
they’ve nestled in a crack
in the small of your back
in just the right spot
out of reach of a scratch
to hopefully 
DRIVE YOU CRAZY!

Friends help out with Itches
especially the Itches
that hide out of reach
or hop from the top 
of our head to your toes
while you’re washing the dishes
or falling asleep.
Nothing, nothing
is better than this…
A Mom or a Dad
who scratches that Itch
when it’s just out of reach.

What does an Itch look like?
Heaven Forbid!
Are they green?
Are they purple or gray?
Do they have long skinny legs,
and tiny little wings,
tentacles, teeth and scratchy things?
Is the Sneaky Itch here to stay,
or can we make him go away
with a rub or a scrub or a scratch?
…and where do Itches go
when you chase them away?

If you know what they look like
Or where they may go,
Please…Please
Let me be the first to know.

Sunday Morning Read


BORN TO BE A TAMALE

Chapter 11

Campo De Fútbol

Lorena informed Amador her son would not be able to come to Tijuana for several days. Working at the Continental Maritime of San Diego shipyards in Barrio Logan he was unable to break free. Pancho only ever made the trip at Amador’s request to help familia cross over. He would be there as soon as he could manage it. In the meantime Chuy became a little more adept at following Amador around his property. It was a modest ranch, and even with the advantage of Chuy’s youth, El Anciano was still able to keep him running like a chicken chased by a rooster. Amador, was taking full advantage of the temporary help, and seemed to find humor in Chuy’s attempts to milk a vaca, and herd the cabras, none of which he’d ever experienced in his pueblito. “Age in Mexico,” Amador reflected, “is a badge of honor in mind and memory, for on the outside the uniform shows you are made of flesh and bone, worn down by the labor of life. It says nothing about the life that burns within.” 

It was particularly blustery and damp on the morning Amador’s grandson finally arrived and after introductions the three men sat on the veranda, comforted by the chiminea, and drinking hot canela, Amador addressed Chuy’s question of whether it was safe to cross the border.

“Pancho knows the fastest route through the canyons and hills. He has made the trip many times. He knows where the Border Patrol are stationed on the Canyon rims. They are persistent, and I am told arrest fifty percent of the migrants, deporting them as soon as they are caught. ¿Digo la verdad Pancho?”

“Yes, you speak the truth Tío.” 

Pancho, in his mid-twenties, was shorter, and stockier than Chuy, his jet black hair was tied in a man bun. Oblivious to the weather he wore an open sleeveless cargo khaki jacket over his tee shirt, and displayed an array of tattoos that covered both his arms and neck. Pancho held the hot drink to his lips with both hands, staring across the soccer field, and spoke over the rim of the cup. 

“With few resources it is difficult for the Border Patrol to apprehend all those crossing on a daily basis. They are armed though, and fearless. I think it’s a numbers game. They act like they are corralling cattle.” 
“Pancho also knows where the bandidos lie in wait in the hills. Not all, but along with some coyotes they prey on people and can be the worst of the dangers.” The endless stories Amador had heard over time made him stop and contemplate the tragedies, and he spoke in a low voice as if the hills beyond were listening to his every word. “They rob, rape, and kill those who are on their own, with no remorse. ¿No es así Pancho?” 

Pancho nodded in agreement. Sadly it was the way it is and there was no repercussion for their crimes. In San Diego Pancho was a former member of a street gang that helped rather than tormented his community, and he knew well of those that preyed on immigrants.

“You must be aware my nephew,” Amador continued, “your journey has just begun. It is filled with danger. Not only here at the border, but danger will be with you as long as you are undocumented in El Norte. Even Pancho, born in California carries the fear.” He looked at his grandson for confirmation. “¿Digo la verdad Nieto?” 

“Yes Abuelo, you speak the truth. I don’t think it will change for many years to come. Even as a citizen, born in the United States, because of the color of my skin I am looked upon as a foreigner, as a second class citizen. If I were younger, and didn’t carry my birth certificate I would be prey to be rounded up and deported. Today the San Diego police are sending any young child and teenager they find living on the streets, under freeways, and in Orphan’ Barrios back across the border to Tijuana. The San Diego government is paying the policía in Mexico to take these children off their hands.”

“What happens to them when they are sent back”? Chuy was not liking what he was hearing. As with the elderly, children were revered in his family-oriented country.

“They are imprisoned, or disappear into the hands of those who would use them to further their aims.” He spoke indifferently as if the cruelty of it was a foregone conclusion.

“Pancho tells of street children, but it is also true of adults.” Amador spoke as if everything he was holding inside him needed to bear witness to his amigo’s son, who would soon face the danger of a bullet in the heart. “Where you are going there are people who will hate you for the color of your skin, fear you because you are not like them, and want to rid you from their country like vermin.” You could hear both anger and despondency in the old man who had lived too close to the wall of xenophobia for too long. “You Chuy, will always fear arrest. Deportation will stalk you like an illness you can’t shake—or until you return to the safety of Mexico…someday it may come to pass…hear me sobrino…you will always have familia here, who will love and care for you.”

The young men remained silent for a long time while Amador stood and looked out across the Campo de Fútbol—the field of dreams for the many thousands he had watched cross over the thin barrier separating two different worlds. 

“Marca mis palabras Jesus Ramos Rios, hijo de mi viejo amigo…los sueños tienen una forma de convertirse en pesadillas.” Amador spoke in a firm voice telling the son of his old friend to mark his words, “Dreams have a way of turning into nightmares.”

Chuy would put an indelible mark on Amador’s words, yet he was determined to find, and hold onto the American Dream. Late that night under a mantle of darkness and rain Chuy crossed over the three strands of barbed wire, that would soon become a ten foot wall, and safely guided by Francisco Cortes, was welcomed with open arms into the anonymity of the Barrio Logan and Lorena Trejo Cortes’s loving home.

Sunday Morning Read


BORN TO BE A TAMALE

Chapter 10

Las Canelas: The Cinnamon
Amador was up at first light, as he was every day to feed the cabras y pollos and milk the last few vacas hembras remaining from what was once a prideful herd of vacas. When Chuy joined him on the front veranda Amador had ready a couple cups of pajarete; a popular morning desayuno Amador prepared with fresh cow’s milk, chocolate, sugar, instant coffee, and 96-proof alcohol. At one time he would host a dozen or more of his neighbours: farmers, trabajadores from the rancherias who stopped in for a brew that guaranteed a full stomach and the energy to work the fields and livestock. Time and age had dwindled that gathering down to an occasional hardy few. 

“Tell me Tío, where do I go from here?” Chuy, wrapped in a serape that his uncle Amador gave him against the cold, sipped the pajarete. Like the machaca this was a first for Chuy. A taste he thought he could get used to. 

“My two hijas, and thousands of our brothers and sisters have made this journey,” Amador stared off into the distance and his gravelly voice trailed along behind, “you need to follow your dreams wherever they may take you.” The old man marked his words like a metronome that played a solemn march, often repeating what he thought was important for the young man to carry with him on his journey. He emphasized Chuy needed to follow his dream in order to achieve his goals.

"Do you see the fence across the field?” 

Amador pointed north across the narrow two lane street to three sagging strands of barbed wire at the far side of the adjacent field, a few hundred meters from where they sat. Chuy stood and stepped to the front of the veranda. He kept the serape wrapped tight around his shoulders against the chill. He could clearly see the makings of a fence where there were a few men standing around in the field in front of it.


“The area before the fence is called the Campo de Fútbol. No one has played soccer on it for many years.” He continued slowly as if in formulating his words they came from a distant memory. “It is a staging area for those who are crossing those three wire strands into California. This time of day there is not a lot of movement except for a scarce few who will bravely attempt to cross during daylight. Soon, like last night, like every night, the people will arrive by the hundreds, and wait to venture across under the cover of darkness.” 


“Is the border like this everywhere?” Chuy returned to his chair. He expected armed guards, a kind of barrier, or a checkpoint to prevent people from passing through. This looked too easy.

“Millions of undocumented immigrants have entered the United States along this border. Tijuana, I am told is the busiest crossing anywhere from here to Juarez, to the east and beyond. I don’t believe they are illegal pollos as the Americanos call them. They only want to find a better life, safety for their niños, and honest work to feed and house their familia. Why should that be called illegal?” 

Amador poured himself another pajarete and topped up Chuy’s, and followed with a contemplative moment while he sipped the drink. Then continued.

“My nieto Pancho, you will meet him soon, he is the hijo of my daughter who lives in San Diego, and your primo. Pancho tells me America has started building a wall to stop the flow. Starting at the Pacific Ocean it will end where the sun rises in Mexico. I hear it is made of steel landing pads, left over from their last war. It is getting close.” He looked off to the West toward the Pacific. “It has not reached Cañón Zapata…yet…soon…it will be here.” 

“What happens when it does? Will people stop coming?” A question Chuy already knew the answer to. The word ilegal gnawed on his mind like a bad toothache. He knew from the stories he heard crossing over the barb wire strands would make him a criminal in the eyes of many Americanos. 

“They will never stop coming.” Chuy could hear defiance in his Uncle’s voice. “You cannot stop the search for a better life by building a wall. In time, it will come down like all walls…not in our lifetime maybe…in time. Wait and you will see, before the day is done how that plays out here and everywhere, I imagine in the world. The buses never stop coming here, or anywhere else along a border that holds the opportunity for their children to live in peace and prosperity. They know it is going be a long walk. They know it is going to be difficult. Once they cross the barbed wire, they don’t know when they will be able to feed their niños again, or find a place they can call home. Many are captured and returned…some will die.” 

Chuy could sense a sadness in his voice that came from deep within, as his own thoughts, an undefined mixture of apprehension and anticipation, carried him across the field and into the hills beyond. 

“Many nights un curo will say mass for the immigrantes. For some, the unlucky ones, it will be like giving last rights. He offers them his blessing before they journey north. It is the same every day…every day.” He turned to his nephew, and looked deep into his eyes, and measured his words. “I think you will be okay. Like your Papa, I see you have the blood of courage running through your veins, and his strength will carry you into the future.”

“Where do the people go from here Tío?” Chuy’s memory of his Papa was through the eyes of a small boy and the stories his Mama had told him of a brave and determined man who’d loved him. Now, his future lay on the other side of a soccer field in a land so big Mexico could get lost in.
“They go looking for work in San Diego or beyond. Most stay in California and although I have never been there they tell me it has good Mexican roots. It is a vast country. Your mother writes you are going to a place called Minnesota. My daughter tells me it is as far away as your imagination can take you.”
Over the past couple days Chuy had traveled further than he had in his entire life. To travel thousands of kilometers more was well beyond his capacity to envision. What was right before him, crossing several meters into a place called California struck him as a giant leap forward. 

“What comes after the fence Tío? Is it safe?” 

Asking such a question was a struggle for Chuy as he tried to come to grips with the unknown. In the sheltered space of his pueblito, for the most part, the unknowns were safely tucked away under God’s roof, in the wisdom of generations as related to the children by ancianos y madres, and the street smarts Chuy gained by walking the cobblestones. Everything Amador knew what lay beyond the three strands came from the stories he heard from those who had been deported, or returned to Mexico on their own initiative. He had desire to ever venture beyond his vision. 
“Beyond the border it is brush, canyons, hillsides, and many dangerous dirt trails. If you did not know where they lead it could be fatal. You will need a coyote, a name they give to those who guide people across the border. A coyote can only take you so far, after that what you encounter you will have to learn to live with.”

Chuy’s destination beyond the three strands of barbed wire , he would come to learn, was to be the home of Amador’s daughter Lorena Cortes. Her hijo Pancho, would be his guide. His coyote. He would have an open invitation to stay in San Diego as long as he needed to orient himself to the things he would have to be aware of before making the long trip across the country. Lorena married Antonio Martinez Cortes and they had lived in San Diego for many years, both becoming US residents by the time their son was born. Francisco Cortes, nicknamed Pancho, was an American citizen by birth. Amador did not answer whether it was safe or not except to say Chuy’s Papa thought his village was safe until a stray bullet found his heart. 

Chuy followed his Tío around all day like a puppy trailing after its master. He instinctively knew when to watch and when to help having followed behind a Jefe all his young working years. Actually several bosses, for in way the older men he encountered were all substitutes. After all the chores were finished Amador prepared a meal of steamed birria—with a small herd of goats, estofado de cabra was a staple stew at his casa. After filling up on two bowls of goat stew Chuy joined his Uncle again on the veranda. 
The mid-winter sun had the unruly habit of tucking behind the Pacific Ocean early this time of year. The buses shuttled by and their cargo disembarked while a steady stream of families traipsed along the roadway toward the soccer field. Amador pointed out many were escorted by coyotes, who made it a profitable business charging immigrants to smuggle them into California. With January being the coldest and wettest month of the year in Tijuana, Amador had prepared a hot drink to temper the cold and warm the soul. He revealed to Chuy he normally set up a stand at the end of his property to sell the brew he made. It was what he usually did most days in expectation of the hundreds who gathered there, along with a collection of vendors who set up on the side of the road. Tonight he’d made an exception in order to be with his young visitor. When he set up his table he sold, for a few pesos, a hot canela-flavored drink spiked with tequila. Las Canelas, the Cinnamon, is the name of the Soccer Field as it is known in Tijuana. His tequila drink was Amador’s contribution to the wellbeing of the men and women milling about the field, waiting to cross the border. Amador claimed it would help strengthen them for the difficult, and risky challenges ahead. 

To Chuy the scene unfolding before him brought to mind bazars that were set up in the village plaza during Las Posadas, the Christmas season festivities. The only thing missing was the paseos de carnaval. There were no carnival rides for the niños as they huddled with their mamas, but plenty of chocolate caliente to drink. 

Amador knew the young hombre’s journey into El Norte was not going to be a ride on a carrusel, the message he had for his nephew who would face the difficult and risky challenges ahead, was “si está destinado a serlo, estará allí para él, lo que tenía que hacer era mantenerse fuerte y aparecer.” If it is meant to be, it will be there for him, what he had to do was stay strong and show up.

Chuy’s journey across the border: New postings to be continued every Sunday Morning

When Dawn Breaks Across the Stillness of the Night

Published in Ageing Beautifully in Light of You

“If I had tried to find you, you would have never appeared outside my dreams, and I would have been forever at a loss for words.”

When dawn breaks across
	the stillness of the night
and daylight filters through dreams
of all we have pleasured and pained

we are there for each other

unboundedly wrapped in arms and legs,
anchored to the soft and wonderful,
a wedded link to the possibility
of all that is beautiful in a relationship
where someone listens, someone cares.

mornings are made for us
our days open in a dance
	of warmth and loving,
one with the passage of light
no shadows in and out
of our hours together and apart.

the grumps, frumps and frailties of aging,
churning out the chapters of lives lived,
melt beneath the covers		drift away
with each passing moment
	of each and every day

we have the pleasure of our company

and the comfort of knowing
in our heart and soul
we are fearlessly where we want to be.
yesterdays sauntered aimlessly
  and lulled about heaven
	    casting no shadow
		      leaving seldom behind
now it’s all in a day’s grace
this loving space we are in,
walking giftedly beside each other
no less favored then before
but lighter footsteps and fewer doors
with a companion to love, trust and adore

as we journey now,
on the evening of our lives
toward a sunset of the visible light
more spring than fall
more time trailing behind us
	than to be laid down

the life we share is not the beginning
for we have always known each other

nor will it be the end
for we will always be together
		time and time again

Sunday Morning Read

BORN TO BE A TAMALE Chapter 9 Tío Amador Arias Trejo

Chuy, was tall for his age compared to the average Mexican male, with a well-developed physique from working since receiving his first communion and becoming a soldier of Christ. As a young boy he understood his shaved head kept the ubiquitous lice at bay, but as a teenager he let it grow to ponytail length like the Huichol Indians who occupied the lake region for over ten thousand years. Chuy was aware he lived in a world that stretched beyond his imagination in time, and his unusually light skin tone had a Spanish lineage that was always a mystery, dating back somehow to when the conquistadors arrived and settled the north shore of the lake. All he could remember, from the stories he heard from the Ancianos of a time beyond, when memory became myth, his ancestors always worked the land the Huichol named where the water springs forth, and those who settled in his home over the centuries became part of the firmament that covered the volcanic surface, and became the roots of future generations.

He felt conspicuous staring around at what he considered a foreign place, and yet he knew it wasn’t, it was the black, brown and golden skin tone of his homeland, something he would take with him wherever he went. Inside the terminal he searched for a place to sit, and located a bench off the beaten track where he waited and watched with an inbred patience. His Mama had sent a letter to her late sister’s husband informing him of the approximate date and time of Chuy’s arrival, and describing what he would be wearing. His uncle Amador AriasTrejo would remember her late husband’s alpaca coat. Anybody who knew Julio Ramos would recognize him in his son. Chuy was the perfect image of a father he barely remembered.

Chuy struggled to remain awake for as long as he could out of curiosity at the comings and goings, and not the least for fear of the unknown, and the weight of the money hidden in his boot. He couldn’t overcome the strange feeling of being alone for the first time in his life. In his village there were few strangers, everybody knew everybody, as it was really all one big familia. Eventually sleep got the best of him, and he laid his head on the mochila, just for a little shut eye. It wasn’t until the clamor and noise of a city already on the hustle that reality began to break through his dreaming, and a blaring loudspeaker announcing arrivals and departures startled him into an awareness of where he was. He clutched his  mochila, sat up rigid, his toes scouring his boot to reassure him everything was all right.

The sun had already shaken free of shadows when he stepped out onto the sidewalk and unlike the lazy sunrise back home sauntering down the mountainside never gathering speed, here everything, everybody, every kind of vehicle was in motion. He stood in awe of the turmoil around him, and wondered if this was the way it was everywhere outside his pueblito. He stood and waited, clutching his mochila. Not knowing what else to do, he waited on the sidewalk until an el anciano emerged from the crowd.

Thehombre the old man approached out of the crowd was the image of his amigo; with the same shock of black hair, and the same confident stance of a man on a mission that he well remembered of his amigo. He recognized the alpaca coat that once belonged to Julio.

Buenos Dias. ¿Eres Jesús Alfredo Ramos, hijo de Julio Ramos?” He said good morning in a commanding voice that betrayed his image, and asked if he was the son of Julio Ramos.

Chuy was momentarily taken aback.  He did not expect his uncle to be as old and diminutive as this man appeared. He thought he’d be more like the only image he carried with him all his life of his Papa, a giant in his mind.

“Sí, ese es mi nombre, y debes ser mi Tío Amador Arias Trejo?” He acknowledged yes, he was Jesus, and he realized the old man standing before him must be his Tío.

His Uncle Amador wore his years like a man of the earth who had kept his head focused on the ground in front of him. Beneath his trampled sombrero that sported a frayed feather in the back, his face was a road map of Mexico, and his eyes, black as coal, and deep as diamonds penetrated Chuy’s psyche.

“Si, bienvenido a Tijuana. Ven, tenemos un camino por recorrer.” Amador was not one for small talk. He welcomed the young man to Tijuana, told him they had long way to go, turned, and started walking.

Tío Amador strode with a limp, but kept the steady pace of a much younger man, never looking back. Having had little opportunity to do anything but sit since he left the pueblito, Chuy was stiff and had a hard time keeping up with Amador along the narrow sidewalks of Tijuana. Chuy’s head vibrated left and right more than his feet moved front and forward as he scanned the neighborhood. Raised on cobblestones, pavement was new to Chuy, as was the scenery; not a tree in sight and for once he could walk without having to look down; unlike in the Village where broken cobblestones and dog shit were always a challenge. The buildings were a mismatch of faded and cracked multicolored casas, shops protected with wrought iron were jammed together like a mouthful of broken teeth separated by dark, narrow alleys, and on every corner a congested side street with no end nor beginning in sight. They walked until the gridlock opened up to sporadic casas, parched fields, and a calamity of fencing.

Amador Arias Trejo lived in an area well to the east of the city center and visibly close to the border between El Norte and Mexico, in the Colonia Libertad neighborhood near Cañón Zapata. The Great American Dream came to rest on the old man’s doorstep. He had married Chuy’s Mama Maria’s older sister,and they had lived in the pueblito in the same neighborhood until his Abuelo died, and left him the house and property in Tijuana. Born and raised by the lake it was a difficult move away from familia. The economic opportunity inheriting from his Grandfather, what to him was a sizeable property with cabras, pollos and a small herd of vacas, could not be underestimated for a couple with two niños who had been confined to the poverty of circumstance. Chuy was the first visitor from the pueblito in years and he was welcomed into his Tio’s casa with open arms, or as much excitement as the old man could outwardly muster.

Upon arriving at their destination Amador went about his chores, while Chuy tagged quietly along in awe. The old man never slowed down until he had finished his housekeeping of the menagerie and mélange of his rancho pequeño. The small ranchero seemed a lot bigger by the time a tired Chuy had the opportunity to sit down at Amador’s table. Forcena he made something special for his sobrino, machaca guisada, a beef stew made with dried beef marinated with tomatoes, onion, chilies, and cilantro from his jardin, served with beans, tortillas, and salsa. It was a feast Chuy, having lived on jicama since leaving his pueblito, had no time to savour while devouring it.

Evenings were much colder this time of year in the far north, and as they sat on the patio in front of Amador’s casa by a small, comforting chiminea fireplace, they watched small groups of men, women, and children traversing the road fronting the property. Chuy could see they were all heading to a field on the other side of the roadway. Buses periodically stopped to discharge more people onto the field. Vendors began moving in, and setting up along the roadside. It peaked his curiosity but he politely waited for his uncle to comment on the goings on.

As they sat and observed the gatherings Chuy relayed all the good wishes and stories about the relatives back home, how his mother was faring, and the changes in the pueblito with the influx of foreigners. The last time Amador had made the trip south was over thirty years ago when his friend Julio had married his wife’s younger sister, Chuy’s Mama. He described a grande celebración in detail as if it happened yesterday. Amador told out of school anecdotes about Chuy’s father his mother had never shared. Julio’s nickname was Papi Chulo, a ladies man. Amador clarified it was before he married his esposa. After that visit he never had the opportunity or inclination to return to the pueblito. He had el rancho and familia to take care of. When his two daughters married, and eventually immigrated to the States, and after his esposa’s prolonged illness and death, he had no desire to travel anywhere, content with his corner of the world.

As they sat and watched, Chuy relayed all the good wishes and stories about the relatives back home, how his mother was faring, and the changes in the pueblito with the influx of foreigners. The last time Amador had made the trip south was over thirty years ago when his friend Julio had married his wife’s younger sister, Chuy’s Mama. He described a grande celebración in detail as if it happened yesterday. Amador told out of school anecdotes about Chuy’s father his mother had never shared. Julio’s nickname was Papi Chulo, a ladies man. Amador clarified it was before he married his esposa. After that visit he never had the opportunity or inclination to return to the pueblito. He had el rancho and familia to take care of. When his two daughters married, and eventually immigrated to the States, and after his esposa’s prolonged illness and death, he had no desire to travel anywhere, content with his corner of the world.

Chuy’s journey into the Promised Land: to be continued every Sunday Morning

I Want to Paint a Picture in Words

Georgia O’Keefe

I want to paint a picture with words

for you to look upon in wonder 
at the texture,
the composition, 
the blending of content 
with color and awe.

I want to write a poem
that you would want to frame
and hang on a wall.

Possibly crocheted or,
etched into a shellacked heart. 

A poem that could be
engraved on a floor mat
welcoming you to my home.

The ultimate of course
would be my poem,
blended on black velvet
with a picture of Elvis.

Then again maybe a line or two
to be read at a morning meeting,
embossed on the top of a covey calendar
 
I want to build something with words, 
that makes you stop the car,
step-out, stand in wonder, 
admiring the grace, the majesty
the complexity of form and motion
where nothing stands still
everything is moving in a dance
of vibrational energy.

If able, with the right word, 
the perfect medium, 
a stroke of the pen in a dance upon a page
that generates an emotional response,
unexpected, controversial, intriguing. 

A poem in color that states
what I intend
                     and you feel

A Long Lineage of Poet Saints

On writing poetry continued.

Caravaggio’s St. Jerome
A Long Lineage Of Poet Saints

Coming from a long lineage
of poet saints
the forgotten
offspring of Mira
the laughter of God
the remnants of Rumi

It is not that I have heard
God whispering in my ear,
or feel the Spirit
laying down beside me
in a lover’s embrace

It is that I have penned already,
and forever to be repeated,
the sigh that comes from knowing
the beauty of a universal plan
should there be 
one

God’s Gift to Aging Poets

On Writing Poetry

The Poor Poet 1835 by Spitzweg
God’s Gift To Aging Poets

God’s gift to aging poets 
is convenient lapses of memory, 
without which scraps of paper 
scribbles, and scratched out rhymes
would inundate the mind
leaving nothing behind.

if all the poets within you 
      lined up on parade,
each would have book in hand 
    written in sand 
      for the waves of time 
to wash away

every poem ever written
               by a poet thus smitten
takes its chance of being well-spoken 
or never given
               a second glance

               so for the poem 
that is lost to the eye,
for the voice not yet heard,
for those leafed in a book
             a letter bundled, 
in a stationary repose

I suppose it is said, 
            laid to bed,
       to arise when needing 
            to be read

Sunday Morning Read

BORN TO BE A TAMALE

Buscando El Sueño Americano

Searching For The American Dream

Chapter 8 Adios Hombre

Twenty years was a long time when tied to the heartstrings of casa and familia, and for a young man with a sweet taste for the Promised Land on his lips it must have seemed like a lifetime. Jesus Ramos Rios was born under el signo de la cruz, the sign of the cross, a ritual blessing that carried with it a plea for assistance and acceptance of God’s will. After hearing stories from the Americanos of a place beyond his imagination, he awoke to the dream.

He was hearing the campanas in the bell tower, possibly, for the last time in his life. Bells that sent him off to work and his brother and sister off to school. Bells that beckoned the villagers to mass. Since no one he knew owned a watch or a clock the bells told everyone what time it was, when someone had died, reminded them of a special occasion, and on a calm sunny morning in January 1992, they announced the departure of one of the pueblito’s sons.

Since the turn of the 20th century foreigners slowly turned the lakeshore into a tourist destination and during Chuy’s formative years the influx of Norte Americanos and Europeans had grown exponentially building more permanent homes to retire in the village of the sun. Hanging around them, and listening to their conversations Chuy had picked up the gist of what they talked about and their stories of fascinating places and unimaginable wealth had captured his imagination. In the last five years every Thursday there was a Spanish or English language movie shown in the Plaza on a concrete wall and for the past couple of years he had put aside a few precious pesos, and taken a seat on the ground in front to watch and listen. Most of it was magic that aided in cultivating an aptitude for language, and it served him well working with the Gringos.

Two events had brought him to this moment as he passed the Cathedral; his brother Rafael, following in Chuy’s footsteps working in construction, who had graduated from grade six was able to work full-time to help support his Mama, and his sister Annia now old enough to attend school in the mornings and in the afternoon when the workers took their afternoon break between 2 and 4, help maintain their taquería, a small taco stand set up on the sidewalk in front of their casa. Their labors provided Maria with the means to free Chuy up to pursue his dream. The second thing that captured his imagination were stories told by older men in the village of the wealth and prosperity of those who had immigrated to the land of prosperity. What burned in his chest the most were the stories of his cousin Raul Ramos Lopez, who resided in the land of ten thousand lakes. His primo had a home of his own, a good job enabling him to send money to his esposa’s familia in Guadalajara and he was, first and foremost, an American citizen. Raul, aware of Chuy’s desire to make the journey offered him a place to live, and sent him a few dollars to help him get started on his trip once he crossed the border. It would be a long and difficult journey from California to Minnesota.

Jesus’s nickname was Chuy, a common name given to bring the bearer under the special protection of the son of God. Unlike his Mama, who with a sad heart feared for her hijo, Chuy had no reason to doubt that prosperity was ahead of him in El Norte, the land of opportunity. He was fortunate he had no preconceived notion of the arduous and dangerous journey that lay ahead of him for it might well have confined him to the relative safety of his pueblito for the rest of his life. Thousands of immigrants made the trip across the border to a new place they believed held the promise of a new life. Thousands faced a different kind of reality: separation, exploitation, deportation, incarceration and possibly death. Many more joined the tenuous building blocks of a reluctant multi-cultural society under the anthem of We the People.

There was no hesitation in his confident stride along the carretera, the two lane highway connecting his village to the main town on the north shore of Mexico largest freshwater lake. From there he would catch the autobús to Guadalajara forty-five kilometers north. A time worn mochila held the contents of his wardrobe: an extra pair of work jeans, a couple tee shirts, and socks and underwear. Along with the clothes on his back, it was the sum total of his possessions. In the pockets of his latePapaJulio’s well-worn alpaca coat his Mama had wrapped around him, he carried her green beaded Our Lady of Guadalupe Rosary. For sustenance along the way she had chopped up a root of Mexican turnip; Jicama, high in fiber and water, that was noted to contain many essential vitamins and minerals. Almost equally important as his guiding angel the rosary was his notebook with directions of what buses to take to the border, along with the names, addresses, and phone numbers of relatives who lived in Tijuana, California and his final destination, the home of his cousin Raul in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Chuy had in his pocket enough pesos to pay for the trip to the border. His left boot held the dollars Raul sent him to help kick start his trip once he arrived in California. Getting American dollars into his hands was a journey in itself. He had a lot to learn when it came to greenbacks and its purchasing power, and he had no idea how far it would take him. It was more money than he had ever possessed, he knew that much, and although he carried it with brash confidence he constantly clutched his stash of pesos and wiggled his toes for reassurance the greenbacks, as Raul called them, were still there.

The initial leg of the journey by autobús would first take him to the terminal in downtown Guadalajara. Chuy had never travelled beyond the north shore mountains bordering the lake where his pueblito hugged the shore. When the bus crossed over the Sierra El Tecuan Ridge and headed down into the Atemajac Valley, the Valley of the Stone, spread out as far as he could see lay Guadalajara, next to Ciudad Mexico, the second largest metropolis in Mexico. Sitting in the front of the autobús he watched in awe as the city spread out before him as far as he could rimmed by near and distant mountains. He thought it was like a trip to the moon. When the autobús pulled into the Nueva Central Camionera, a hub with tentacles that reached out to every corner of Mexico, Chuy had landed in a massive moon crater. His fascination at the milieu around him: the crowds, the noise, the demands on his senses, kept him hyper alert, until he sat back in his seat in the first row of the next autobús heading to the border city of Tijuana. He remained on his perch like a bird surrounded by cats getting up whenever the bus stopped to let the passengers disembark, stretch, drink water, and use a baños to relieve themselves.

With the windshield, an arm’s length in front of him, and in full view of the driver he was his copilot mesmerized by the road coming at him at breakneck speed and the passing scenery was like holding onto a chain of low hanging windblown clouds racing over the lake. He remained fixated on the yellow line for the two thousand kilometer, day and half trip through the States of Nayarit, Sinaloa, Sonora, and Baja California. The multiple cities during the day were brightly colored beads on a tether of clustered humanity, and during the sleepless night starlit constellations. The dilapidated autobús shuttled in and out of Ciudad Obregon, Hermosillo, Mexicali, and countless pockets of orange and yellow orbs, each separated by a desert of darkness, until it docked at the Central de Autobuses de Tijuana. He arrived at his destination late in the evening of the second day on the road and could not imagine how the terminal and the surrounding calles could be any busier if it was in the middle of the day. Ten kilometers east of central Tijuana the bus terminal and surrounding area was a beehive of commotion, a crush of lights, traffic, and people. Coming from a village where once the silence slipped behind the western mountains, except for days celebrating the saints, darkness beyond closed doors, was dressed in silence.

Chuy’s journey across the border: New postings to be continued every Sunday Morning

Forever is a Joshua Tree

Father's Day Musings
Joshua Tree National Park Pete Saloutos
Forever is a Joshua tree

here is music for you
the nugget of you
to while away the other side
of knowing you

never after the gold
just the panning of it
the mechanics
dredging layers of shale

the dust
the gold dust
the panning of it
rewarding as a chainsaw
primed to clear the land

here is music of a time with you
forever now
for the searching
for a clearing in the pine is over

the Joshua tree will always
be a place
to look for
we have been
a place to be
where the deer have lain

there is a formidable mountain
to the east, and tomorrow
I shall pack a small tent
and stay a few days upon it
from there I have a perfect view
of what we have shared
the mountain seems like the right place to be

here is music for you

when sung

when made a poem of

a poem 

such as you

Crayons

Father’s Day Musings

Crayons

Draw me the hum of small talk;
copper whispers on a Big Chief 
scribbler sky lined with expectations 
from a sleepless eye.

Draw me little whispers. 
 Faintly voiced grumblings 
of a withered old Indian 
talking to no one listening. 
Tight little whispers
spreading the dust of loud days
 like a warm quilt over children, 
who tire with clouds in their eyes.

Before a bird becomes
		a sparrow, jay, or hawk
Before a tree becomes
		a trunk, limb or leaf
Before a child becomes
		a gender, name, or number

The night’s an empty coloring book
and days are made of crayon.

			

Highrollers & Handlegrips

Father’s Day Musings

Oil on Wood Gabo Mendoza

Highrollers & Handlegrips

this realm of fathering
is in constant need of repair!
a smorgasbord of missing links,
flat tires, spokes, fenders & frames
bolts, belts, brakes & rims
snapping, popping
and bending the wrong way

a clutter of pipe & tread
a glut of spare parts
a havoc of highrollers & handlegrips
swelling & diminishing in perpetual motion

this domain of father and son
propelled by love
is an adventure in imaginary speed
and solitary flight
training wheels
in preparation for the open road

The Ripening

Father’s Day Musings

Acrylics Candis Flesher-Dodds
The Ripening

children blossom on the vine
	when they learn
to create rainbows out of light

when they learn to appreciate 
	how the sun thanks the day
by reflecting in their parents eyes

when children
	learn the language
		of butterflies and stones

listen to grass growing

notice leaves changing colors

then the ripening

	begins

Muddleheads

Father’s Day Musings

The Spirit of Haida Gwai Vancouver International Airport
Muddleheads

In legend there is a little spirit
called the Mouse Woman
and when your child is in trouble
she will always come to the rescue

begin there, today and tomorrow
setting mouse traps 
as soft as your arms can hold
and bait them with years to come

You know that time is patient
You know that it is stalking 
the body of your child 
like a bad day dream 
waiting for you to fall asleep
the heartaches and traumas 
you can mend and put away
it’s squeezing love out of dark clouds 
but you know that
handing him over and over again
while you wait the distance
in the sterile corridors of your heart
while you watch for the slightest sign
that your child will always be
 running home to your arms

the invisible nibbles away
at the little things that make us human

It is said, the Mouse Woman
has little patience with muddleheads,
but when your children are in trouble
the tiny spirit will come to their rescue

begin there
setting mouse traps
as soft as your arms can hold
and bait them with  tears of joy

Sunday Morning Read

Born to Be a Tamale

Chapter 6

Destination Paradise

Destination Paradise

An hour away from the southern border Harriet removed the Spanish lesson CD, and inserted the one she’d saved for this moment, a recording of Adoro; popular Mexican songs by Plácido Domingo. She wrestled with her excitement getting in the mood. Walter’s mood changed from irritation at having to derail his perfectly scheduled route to silent aggravation at both the road he was on and the pending destination, and being serenaded by a Mexican yodeler. When he tolerated music he preferred Hobo Heaven by Boxcar Willie or country artists singing railroad songs in English.

Having reached the border and after idling for what seemed like hours in a  traffic quagmire a grumpified driver left behind Oh Canada and El Norte never imagining he might never return. Harriet had prepared well for crossing the Paso del Norte International Bridge into Juarez. She knew the traffic lights hanging above the lanes turned red or green. Green meant drive into Mexico without stopping for inspection. Red, the one Walter caught, sent him into the arms of Mexican customs where a bored looking official waited with a clipboard. Harriet had prepped Walter to let her do the talking, knowing he would not understand a single word. Except in the cab of a his locomotive, patience wasn’t a virtue he’d practiced. She had all their papers in order, and after a cursory examination of her vehicle’s inventory and the obligatory mordida, and paying the requisite fee to register the van, they were on their way to their first stop, Chihuahua City.

After a couple kilometers they were stopped at a roadblock. Armed military dressed in black, their faces covered in balaclavas, with menacing weapons of destruction, fingers on the triggers, silently scoped Walter as he sat frozen behind the wheel, his gaze focused on the road ahead that was not Steinbeck’s “Road of Flight.” They said nothing, did nothing, stepped away from the van, and waved them on. He had paid no attention when Harriet previously informed him of the US State Department’s current travel advisory cautioning citizens to “reconsider travel” to Chihuahua state due to gang activity. Not a favorable introduction to Mexico for Walter, Myrtle Beach, was looking a whole lot friendlier, even with their Smokey the Bear traffic traps. Walter continued to remain sullen until they reached the outskirts of the capital city of Chihuahua. The capital of state of Chihuahua had nothing to do with miniature hairless dogs Walter referred to as fish bait.  Founded in 1709 it’s Spanish Baroque-style Chihuahua Cathedral would have normally been on Harriet’s bucket list, but she was drawn to her destination like a magnet in search of rare-earth elements. It was getting dark, the thermometer hitting below the freezing mark when they pulled into the Holiday Inn. After check in the closed restaurant left them raiding the vending machines. Walter, misery personified after a ten hour drive was not reassured by Harriet’s tomorrow would be better comment.

After filling his tank with coffee and poking at the foreign object with the name of Huevos Rancheros, he was behind the wheel on an uneventful 6 hour drive across the Chihuahua desert reaching their second stop Torreón. An industrial city, named after its big tower, hosted the third tallest statue of Christ in Latin America, and row after row of factories. After they ate an early dinner at the Hotel San Ignacio Inn restaurant, Walter took his aches and pains to bed, leaving Harriet alone to reassess the next leg of their drive. She’d already put the hassle of getting to this point behind her. She’d rehearsed staying quiet and letting Walter do the driving countless times over the years. She knew if she’d had a driver’s license most surely they’d already be having la cena in the village. With Ayn Rand and the Iron Horse safely tucked away in their room, not being the tourist season she was the only patron in the Hotel San Ignacio restaurant.

There were sometimes when abdication had its merits, driving was one of them, taking out the garbage another, and if she really thought about it she could come up with a list. Now, however, here in Mexico, she’d have to work on a totally lista nueva. She learned something along the way about her own self-sufficiency and purposefulness. Until now she’d never believed in herself nor been courageous enough to challenge the norms of their relationship. Walter didn’t have a syllable of Spanish in his repertoire, and with everyone speaking at a clip faster than his brain could ever begin to assimilate, and on the periferico all the road signs reading like braille; not to mention paying for their meals and rooms with some kind of currency that looked like play bills from Monopoly—he was totally discombobulated and driving blind. Harriet automatically commandeered the role of conductor.

With the restaurant lights dimmed, soft and pleasant music in the background, and when the handsome young waiter, with a smile that made her feel special, set a frozen margarita on the candle lit white linen tablecloth in front of her compliments of the house, temptation beckoned. She thought back to the one and only time in her life alcohol had graced her lips. She was seven years of age when the priest held the chalice to her lips at her Holy Communion and she had a sip of wine. But now that she had landed in Mexico, she supposed it would be ungracious not to accept the local customs. Thinking forward she ruminated on all the tasks that lay in front of her. She had accomplished mucho already, and she was now on the verge of putting everything she wanted in place. In her mind it was already a done deal, so it was no surprise after her second delicious frozen margarita she was also a done deal, and the helpful young waiter had to guide her to their room.

On an all-day drive to the village, with the exception of stressfully navigating the cities of Aguascalientes and Guadalajara, Harriet’s co-piloting, consisted of translating the traffic signs, and locating eating and watering establishments; which for the most part were at the Pemex gas stations and OXO convenience stores. The cities required combat ready nerves, and a lot of loud coaching at Walter to keep him attentive. Savoring them until she had crossed the border, she managed to finish the two small books she brought along for the journey, Village in the Sun and House in the Sun, both written in the 1940s by two authors who’d lived for over forty years in the village Harriet would soon call home. The paperbacks had been her retirement gift from the library staff in lieu of a gold plated watch. For the last leg of the drive she had also selected two operas she wanted to hear, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly which she never tired of hearing, and Verdi’s Rigoletto with Plácido Domingo in his operatic debut at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, in Mexico City, an absolute on her Mexican bucket list. She assumed correctly Walter, who had learned from years in a locomotive how to numb his hearing to the constant rhythm of hissing, puffing, and chugging could do the same with her choice of noise.

Guadalajara was the last major city they crossed before coming to the village. In 1992 it had an estimated population of three million plus souls and Walter was sure they were all out driving on the evening he entered the Metropolis from the north. Harriet guided him through the maze: the glorietas—merry-go-rounds he couldn’t figure how to get out of, bumper to bumper lanes, cars switching without signaling, and thanks to her dated maps, somehow she managed to avoid all but a few nerve wracking adjustments to stay on track. The village was approximately 55 km from the center of Guadalajara and before reaching it the road snaked to the top of a mountain where she had Walter pull over. The sun was languidly setting behind a range of mountains at the far end of the lake, a haze of cloud emblazoning the sky with a brilliant fuchsia over a body of emerald green water that stretched from one end of the horizon to the other.

The view, even in a dimming light took her breath away. It was exactly as Harriet pictured. The very same scene she’d read over and over about when Captain Alonso de Avalos, on a Spanish expedition in 1522 stopped and dismounted, and viewed the Chapala Basin, and the mountains beyond a great body of water. She remembered Langston Hughes words, “hold fast to dreams.” She was, right now, “no broken winged bird” nor “caged bird,” but a swallow dancing freely. She had travelled on Salinger’s “road of flight,” and had successfully broken free of the stagnation that was turning her soul into dust. She closed her eyes, and under her breath said a prayer of gratitude to the Virgen of Guadalupe.

After stretching Walter’s patience to the limit, all the while drumming his fingers on the steering wheel, they continued down the far side of the mountain to the village in the sun.

Sunday Morning Read

BORN TO BE A TAMALE

Chapter 5

Down Mexico Way

Down Mexico Way

Situated at an altitude of 7,000 feet, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, the terrain had prevented the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad from ending up in Santa Fe. The rail line was diverted to Albuquerque, New Mexico, an hour’s drive west of Santa Fe. If Walter knew this he didn’t make mention of it to Harriet. His plan was to follow the rail into Colorado, turn south at Pueblo toward New Mexico, and connect to Route 66, keeping the conductor on route. There were two westbound highways out of Dodge City. Harriet had already determined Walter’s route was untenable, it added another day to their drive, and she was tired of the run around and impatient to head for the border. Besides, Santa Fe was the one and only station she really wanted this train to pull into.

As if as an omen, Gene Autry’s “Down Mexico Way” was playing on a local radio station as she guided Walter to the onramp for U.S. 160. At first the two lane highway followed the route west straight toward Colorado, but gradually changed and meandered in a more southwesterly direction. In a show of resoluteness the co-pilot folded the maps and stored them in the glove compartment, sat back in the passenger seat and focused on the changing Southwestern landscape. Thinking he was on course to follow the Southwest Chief, Walter occasionally glanced at the parallel railroad track and assumed he was on the right path. After several hours of driving when his stomach was grumbling he thought it strange, and his curiosity peaked at not passing Garden City, Lamar and La Junta train stations; names he recalled from reading the maps. Entering Boise City he pulled into the Blue Bonnet Café to grab a bite and mitigate the grumblings of an empty stomach. The city was a place he didn’t recall seeing on the maps.

As he stepped out of the van something didn’t feel right. Instead of the distant mountains of Colorado it was as flat as his home province of Manitoba. A couple of inches of snow covered the landscape and made it even more puzzling. Harriet was as nonchalant as ever, marveling at the winter scene, and not buying into Walter’s confusion. She knew exactly where they were—200 miles from Santa Fe, and due south was Texas, leading to the border. She estimated they were half way to her village in Mexico.

Unaccustomed to strangers, the proprietor Alfalfa “Bill” Weaver came over to introduce himself after they sat down. Walter skipped the niceties and went right to the question. “Where are we?” When he heard Boise City, and the owner went on to expound, the northwestern edge of the Oklahoma Panhandle, the snowiest place in the State, averaging 30 inches of snow every year; the lights went on and it dawned on him he’d been sidetracked. Harriet’s response to the inquisitive look on Walter’s face was simple. She must have taken the wrong track, but they were heading toward Santa Fe, and would end up there by evening. End of conversation. After ordering the café’s famous battered chicken fried steak covered in rich country gravy, they ate in silence. Leaving Walter wondering why the smile on Harriet’s face.

The restaurant appeared to be a go to place in the city and they watched a steady stream of clientele wearing Stetsons and boots pass through the entrance. The walls were covered with pictures and paraphernalia presumably of people and places around Boise City. Harriet thought they could use a good dusting. Many of them captured scenes which piqued Walter’s interest, and took his mind off how he came to be in the Blue Bonnet Café in the first place. Pictures of locomotives, rail yards, and an engine house, and foremost in his line of sight one of a depot with the date 1925. He got up to take a closer look and started a conversation with Bill about his favorite topic, trains. When he sat back down his sullen mood had evaporated.

It turned out Boise City was a railroad junction dating back to the early 1900s that once ran lines to Kansas, Colorado, Texas and New Mexico. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad had a side line that came through Boise City’s station. The depot still served the Santa Fe and BNSF lines. The railroad still operated from Dodge City to Boise City and it was that track he saw as he drove along U.S.160. When they pulled out of the parking lot Walter first had to go and check out the depot. Built to the standards of 1910 it still looked in good shape, the paint job closer to pink than the Santa Fe Colonial yellow. Walter was satisfied, and the storm over the Dodge City cutoff had blown over. Where the tracks led from here bemused Harriet, and would have to wait until after Santa Fe.

The B&B closest to the Santa Fe plaza, the one Harriet had researched long before the planned escape from Winterpeg, she found to be as perfect as it was pictured in the advertisement. It was the former home of an American poet and writer whose close friends were frequent guests or residents of Santa Fe: Georgia O’Keeffe, D. H. Lawrence, Tony Hillerman, O. Henry, Paul Horgan, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Igor Stravinsky, Willa Cather, and many others she could rhyme-off in her head. Harriet knew their Dewey decimals, and had admired all of them over the years. It was a librarian’s fantasy to feel their energy. With its thick mud adobe walls, stone walkways through its walled in garden, and the capper, a kiva fireplace in their room, she had looked forward to staying at the B & B as her last hurrah north of the border, and bugger the expense or Walter’s protestations. Walter, of coursse could care less about any of it. After driving seven hundred kilometers he went and ordered a hamburger and fries at a nearby restaurant before crashing and burning in their room. He left Harriet savoring chili rellenos and corn soup at a bistro close to the Georgia O’Keefe museum, first on her bucket list. She had a good couple of hours before nightfall, and planned to make the most of it having memorized the sites she wanted to see.

Santa Fe meant “holy faith” in Spanish, and for Harriet whose Catholic faith carried her through to this point in her life, standing on the dirt floor of the San Miguel Chapel, the oldest known church in the United States, she was spellbound. The church predated the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec (Our Lady of Quebec City) in Canada, by a couple centuries. The first and only vacation they’d shared together had been by train; Winnipeg to Halifax compliments of the Canadian National Railroad for Walter’s twenty-fifth anniversary with the company. At Harriet’s insistence they visited Notre Dame in Quebec City, which did nothing for Walter.

After visiting museums and shops she took a cab and headed toward the Santa Fe Opera, 7 miles north of the city. Her accommodating cab driver gratified to have a paying customer in the off season was more than willing to park and wait for her. The opera house was open to visitors, but only operational during the summer tourist season. It was built on a Mesa and faced west. She located a seat in the balcony overlooking the open stage and beyond, a view that took her breath away. Now, late in the afternoon, with the rich colors of a desert sunset, and a backdrop of the Tesuque Valley, under the Jemez Mountains, it was like staring at a painting by Monet. Harriet had read in the brochure Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly was performed in 1957 on the opening night of the Santa Fe opera. She had listened to the opera so many times over the years she could play the arias in her head. It’s a story of the power of attraction between two people, and how it got sidetracked and went off the rails. Closing her eyes she could hear the orchestra and chorus filling the space around her, and felt both melancholic and heartsick. In her twilight years, Harriet was looking forward to a new beginning, a new adventure after being stuck going nowhere for so long. She acknowledged, sadly, she and Walter were likely never going to be in sync with one another.

Her commitment to the marriage, from the very beginning was rock solid, and would continue, God willing. She’d read where marriages evolved to a place where partners could read one another’s mind, and finish one another’s sentences. She assumed that came in time with togetherness and being on the same page. Over the years she had read Walter’s book enough times, it had become worn and dog eared predictable. The librarian had leafed through his genres to no avail. The storyline of the slender, athletic, boy jock had morphed into rigidity after sitting in the cab of a train for years on end. There was no Mystery, no plot, no suspense, and motivation was nonexistent; Drama, Humor, Fantasy all sat on the shelf getting dusty. Romance with any emotional satisfaction and any optimism, never quite gathered enough steam.

He did, however, bring home the bacon, and never complained about her cooking. He tolerated her Catholicism, and respected her for being the conductor of her domain. She knew, sadly, that Walter would never settle easily into her dream of reality. Her role was both the Monarch Butterfly winging its way from Canada to Jalisco, Mexico, and Madama Butterfly waiting for her man to show up. She had no expectations like Cio-Cio San, he’d be coming home. He would be there, in body as always, not in spirit, not in a particularly loving way, just always there, with his golf clubs, his scotch, and memories of a train he’d never leave behind. Her love, however, was singular and complete.

Harriet had memorized the lyrics of the beloved aria from the opera now playing in her head, “Un bel dì vedremo,” and on this one fine day, she could hear the soprano singing—‘and I wait a long time, but I do not grow weary of the long wait.’ She had come to her resolution a while back, she would wait no longer for her man to arrive. Forty plus years of waiting was long enough. She had no intention of committing suicide as Madama Butterfly did, waiting on Pinkerton’s return. She planned to live in her year round garden unencumbered without the conditioned Catholic guilt, and enjoy her retirement. She had conceded after Kansas City to let Walter’s train keep on rolling as long as it headed toward Mexico. Mañana, she would point the old Iron Horse south to El Paso, and the Mexican border, and that would be it.

Walter thought his itinerary was preferable. Harriet would have none of it, and after a gourmet breakfast of artichoke & potato frittata, while Walter downed his black coffee and sugared donut, she pointed him toward El Paso, Texas—No más discusión!


 [JTD1]


New postings to be continued every Sunday Morning

Sunday Morning Read

BORN TO BE A TAMALE

Chapter 4

A Striped Cap, And A Red Bandanna

A Striped Cap, And A Red Bandanna

Eating alone in the Howard Johnson restaurant where they had stopped for the night back in Sioux Falls, Walter had conceded he didn’t have any control over their final destination, but maybe, if he checked out Harriet’s maps, he might somehow be able to influence their immediate route. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway chartered to serve Kansas in the mid-eighteen hundreds, was among the larger railroads in the States, and it eventually reached as far as Pueblo, Colorado. It never made it to Santa Fe for geographical reasons and bypassed it to stop further west in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Walter loved the raw hammer to spike history. He had no time for reading novels with one exception Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. He suspected Harriet named her cat Ayn Rand to tempt him to tolerate the four legged creature. Atlas Shrugged the novel, focused on a fictional railway company, and was based in part on the administration of the AT&SF railroad. Walter could relate to John Galt, the protagonist, a man who epitomized self-interest. Born a century earlier Walter knew he would have surely earned the badges of honor given to the men who worked on the railroad: a striped cap, and a red bandanna worn around their necks.

Topeka, where they stopped for the night once housed the most famous of the forty-seven Fred Harvey depot diners. They were built every 100 miles along the AT&SF railroad to encourage settlements. The uniformed Harvey Girls had served clientele in all of their fine dining establishments and it was documented five thousand of them eventually married customers. The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe railroad ceased operating passenger trains twenty years before Walter made his cover turn on I-70. The Southwest Chief’s, intercontinental track built parallel to Route 66 replaced the AT&SF. Walter’s detour derailed Harriet’s plan, but connected him with the Transcontinental going in the same direction and he reckoned that would be enough to appease Harriet. The Southwest Chief, ran from Chicago, Illinois through Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and ended in California. Although the train route bypassed Santa Fe, a point of interest for Harriet, they could possibly detour there without losing time. If Harriet wanted, they could continue on Highway 66 through Arizona. They would then be able to visit the Grand Canyon, and more significantly Winslow, Arizona. The headquarters of the Santa Fe Railway. It was there Walter could eat at the last Harvey’s in existence.

His revised itinerary made perfect sense to Walter. Schedules were always adjusted when necessitated by a higher force. His was not to reason why, as Chief Engineer it was his job to make it happen. It had been that way all his life. He didn’t have to put a name on who or what, he just followed directions. Eating a solitary meal in Topeka’s Howard Johnson’s restaurant, gazing into an empty parking lot where Harvey’s once stood, Walter pondered his options. Harriet meanwhile, alone in their room with Ayn Rand steamed like an overheated locomotive at the change in her itinerary. Sitting on the edge of an uncomfortable bed in the hotel room, Ayn Rand beside her, Harriet calmly waited for Walter to return to hear his rationale. She didn’t buy his spur of the moment story of switching tracks. She’d let him know she was not pleased he failed to discuss his plan ahead of time and wanted to hear the options he had for getting back on track.

She had honed well her librarian’s ability to listen, and astutely grasped a reader’s interests and likes, and she felt for Walter and understood he was trying to hold on to a life that had left him standing on a platform holding a stamped ticket, while the train had kept rolling on. Like most of the locomotives coming to the end of the line being retired and sold for scrap, she could empathize with the Iron Horse’s last hurrah. In the end she was always the one that had to let it be. She always acceded to the simple solution, the easy way out, the least disruption of the path forward, deference had been ingrained in her since the first glimpse she had of who she was, or could be and failed to follow through. Harriet had the strength exhibited in all her mentors on the bookshelves of her life, and only now was she finally beginning to turn the page of her own story. Harriet would not yet give up on her Scot, and hoped Mexico might give him a new lease on life.

Most Scottish men called their birds, doll. The nickname never worked for the little woman, and Walter had no railroad lingo equivalent. He settled on conductor. It was a hole in one in the club house at his golf course, and in the train yards talking to the boys, they all understood to whom he referred. On the home front, it was a slightly different story, “Harriet” and the occasional “Hun” became the single rule she laid down early in her marriage. A small gesture, but for her an important one in a constant struggle with an overbearing spouse to maintain an identity, other than “the wif.” Over the years placidity and sufferance set in and she ceded control, as she had done before her marriage to the male figure in her world be it her father or a priest. By using the word hubby, one he found acceptable, she could say no to Walter in a way he interpreted as a, yes-but-not-now, or on the rare occasion a maybe. Acquiescence was simply not in his vernacular.

The hubby seldom had anything good to say about anything, even about himself or his accomplishments. He had climbed the ladder to the pinnacle of his career, had a low handicap, and for some unknown reason it was never good enough. He made intolerance a virtue, cynicism a positive attribute and he considered everyone around him incompetent. Harriet, over the years had never been able to find out what was hidden underneath the family kilt of her Scot, and she left the why of it alone.

When Harriet expressed a point of view or gave her opinion her library skills came to the fore and she was adept at monologuing Walter into forgetting what the initial point being discussed was about. It was then he would retreat into the boob tube or fall into contemplation with Johnny Walker. She came to a reluctant decision to let the train keep rolling along down the track Walter planned, providing it was headed toward her specified destination.

On the following day, by the time they reached Dodge City, Kansas, they’d traveled around 2,000 kilometers in total, about the same distance as the Southwest Chief’s rail line, and Walter’s arthritis got the better of him. He needed to rest his weary limbs, stiff from sitting and steering. After having to towel wrap the indignant feline and sneak her into the not-so-pet-friendly High Noon Hotel room, Walter stayed sequestered with Ayn Rand, while his conductor went off to take in the sites. Harriet had never had a fondness for country and western music nor a liking of the Western genre per se, yet she couldn’t seem to shake the song “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling,” which played in her head as she wandered through Old West Street with its historic buildings. The iconic western movie High Noon, starring Garry Cooper, took place in the New Mexico Territory, a long way from Dodge City, but for Harriet it seemed appropriate for the moment. She focused on the lyrics that reminded her of her present situation: “I do not know what fate awaits me, I only know I must be brave.”

It was a brisk and windy day, the sun had not cooperated to make it pleasant. A good day for cleaning her head of clutter. Walter’s revised plan to continue driving west into Colorado, after which he’d follow the train tracks south to Albuquerque, then on to California, where they would cross the border at Tijuana didn’t work for her. Other than the fact that his route  bypassed Santa Fe she conceded it was a plausible alternative route to her village. Most of the tourist attractions on her postcard: the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert and a myriad of “Get Your Kicks” were at the west end of route 66. It would also give the old Iron Horse the elation of making it to the end of the line in San Diego. Once she realized she was again giving in it did not sit well. She’d watched all of the CBS’s TV series 6 years ago, and the message conveyed that stuck was Route 66 “was going somewhere.” She knew where to find somewhere, Santa Fe was it, then south to El Paso and the Mexican border. She decided to take his boot off the pedal, and put her foot down. Colorado was out, breakfast at a Harvey’s in Winslow was out, and the clickety-clack on the rails to the last hurrah would just have to wait. She’d had enough of his zigzagging across the country.

Returning to the High Noon Hotel the door to their room was wide open and Ayn Rand nowhere to be found. Harriet panicked. Her Russian Blue was an indoor critter, and not one to go wandering. When she called out, a very distressed feline ran from under the van into her arms. With Ayn Rand tucked safely back inside Harriet went searching for the culprit. She found him in the hotel office deep into arguing with a scruffy looking character standing behind the front desk. With his nasal voice, grey scraggly beard, mop of hair curling beneath a trampled black fedora, she swore he was the spitting image of Hopalong Cassidy’s sidekick Gabby Hayes, who appeared on her neighbors black and white television, every Saturday morning when she was a child. Harriet leaned into the open door and listened. Walter was demanding that the man behind the counter help him find the critter. Walter was akin to an angry mob pressing Deputy Hayes to form a posse, and track down the bad guy. In turn Deputy Hayes told Walter, in no uncertain terms to “Get Out of Dodge” if he didn’t like the rules. Harriet moved to Walter’s side, and broke up the gunfight. She told Walter Ayn Rand was safely back in the corral so there was no need to form a posse. Walter back stepped away from the counter. When it came to Ayn Rand she was the Sheriff. She then turned to Gabby Hayes and expressed politely, in no uncertain terms, that they had already paid for their accommodations and were not leaving until tomorrow morning—Period! She had no intention of bending to a get out of dodge cliché, and stressed Walter would leave a big tip to have the room demoused. She was sure she heard her spurs jangle as she walked back to their room, assured neither man would catch the humor in a homophone for delouse. Harriet put a check mark on a lesson learned—never again leave the Chief in charge of Ayn Rand.

New postings to be continued every Sunday Morning

Adios Tye Guy

Papa John, Tye Guy, Son of a Gun

Adios Tye Guy

Well Tye Guy you made it over half a century 
in your own time zone: yesterday, not so much tomorrow, 
always today where everything new was old and valuable. 

Your pockets were always full of whatnots: souvenirs, 
pick-me-ups, from your daily Marco Polo wanderings, 
around the landscape with a head full of Harley’s, 
and most importantly, the curious clutter of people, places, 
and things that filled your life.

You had traits we all carry with us; stubborn
on a whim, possessive over intangibles, single minded 
when distance came between your body and my nose.

Acceptance was how you looked at the world, 
and the not-so-good and uglies were tempered 
with a sigh so deep you only ever let it surface 
with a shake and a smile. You jumped into the unknown
with no fear of failure, the outcome never the object.

You knew critters and plants could not hurt you,
it’s where your caring shined. All it took 
most of the time was a hug to make you feel safe 
and no longer alone in your mind.

Sometimes the universe calls your name 
welcoming you home and the world doesn’t 
want to let you go because it loves you.

Some times on life’s journey it comes down 
to not wanting to do it anymore, 
and it’s time to say adios. 

Your acceptance of who you were 
is a lesson in life you have taught me. 

It takes a strong person to know when it’s time 
to take a ride on a Hog for the last time. 

I know when I’m up for a ride 
		you’ll be there with me.

this old apple tree

 
 
Google pic winter apple tree
  

This old apple tree

is a holiday inn for birds.

A bastion of bugs that are room service

for anything that flies, crawls and festers.

.

I imagine me as a tree

with hot apple pie & ice cream

on the menu.

 

My blossoms, particularly beautiful,

a canopy for an apple crumb and coffee

on the deck, followed too soon

by the smell of rotting apples underfoot,

 

then naked, baring but an apple or two

hanging on like loose skin

flapping in winters’ long, cold, breath.

 

I imagine being reincarnate

offering a feast of fruit

in every lifetime.

 

I’m to look at it all,

the crusting apple tree

budding outside my window,

without imparting my perception

 

for then it becomes

all that I am.

Pre Pandemic Repost from 2015

Sunday Morning Read

BORN TO BE A TAMALE

Chapter 3

Harriet’s Itinerary

Harriet’s itinerary was simple. She had mapped out the fastest route through the States to El Paso, with one detour to Santa Fe, New Mexico, which included a short drive along the Mother Road, Route 66, maybe as far as Arizona, keeping in sync with the vintage postcard she had saved over the years. From the Mexican border it was a two day drive to her paradise. She had it all mapped out, in stages, compliments of the Winnipeg Automobile Association. They provided insurance for driving through the States, and into Mexico, as well as the designated locations of pet friendly Howard Johnson Hotels enroute. Ayn Rand would be a front seat passenger for the distance with her litter box stowed behind the driver’s seat. Included in Harriet’s collection of favorite books was Max Apple’s The Oranging of America, outlining entrepreneur Howard Johnson’s, on the road search for spots to relieve himself, and build his hotels.

Their first stop on day one was Sioux Falls, South Dakota where they would spend the night. Day two was overnight in Kansas City, Missouri, then on to Joplin, Missouri and finally stopping over in Tulsa, Oklahoma. From there they would connect with Route 66. She knew the Mother Road had been decommissioned in 1984 and only a western portion remained drivable, but that didn’t matter I-40 paralleled the old route, and they could join 66 after Santa Fe. From there it was all downhill to Mexico. She had her maps organized in sequence lined up on the dashboard to maintain her tight schedule—and that was the way it was supposed to unfold.

In her planning she’d focused on two different objectives, one literary, and one sort of historical. As a young girl living a cloistered life in Winnipeg, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, captured her imagination. She found his memoirs of growing up on the Mississippi fascinating. The poet, novelist and playwright Langston Hughes once wrote—“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” This she held prominent in her mind as she researched for her village in the sun. Another piece of classic writing she loved, was The Grapes of Wrath, the story of the Joad family leaving Joplin, Missouri and journeying along Highway 66, heading for a new life in California. The ”Mother Road,” or “The Rode of Flight,” as Steinbeck called it, eventually worked its way into American lore, and further into Harriet’s vivid imagination. Then there was Will Rogers and N. Scott Momaday in Oklahoma. Harriet’s list was endless. Like the Joad Family, Harriet was fleeing from the stagnation that had been slowly turning her soul into dust.

Her destination was an unpronounceable Axixic, and it predated the Spanish Conquest of Mexico. She had a decent grasp of Spanish, but translating it to mean, where the water springs forth, stretched the imagination. Harriet had envisioned a leisurely drive to the Mexican border, singing along with Nat King Cole’s “Get Your Kicks on Route 66,” and stopping along the way at the Howard Johnson Hotels, visiting places that fed her librarian’s innate curiosity, and exploring the culture and histories of each State.These were like the best laid plans of Mice and Men.

Harriet was prepared for the long drive. She’d waited over forty years to make this move, and with the CD “Learn Spanish in 10 Easy Lessons,” 3.6 kg of unsalted mixed peanuts within easy reach, and Ayn Rand, her Russian Blue cat curled on her lap, Winnipeg, hopefully, would soon be a distant memory when they reached the Mexican border. Now, as the skyline of Winnipeg—Winterpeg as she called it, no longer appeared closer than it was in the passenger mirror, she leaned back, listened to the first track from one of the opera CDs she’d brought with her, she was more than ready to be Walter’s co-pilot to keep him on the straight and narrow.

Over the years living with the Iron Horse, their communication had become a series of instructions, signposts, and directions for navigating a marriage that traveled on a narrow gauge track. Driving thousands of kilometers with little or no conversation was not much different than the road she had already journeyed. With her WAA maps within easy reach, her soliloquy for the initial phase of the trip was follow this lane, follow that one, turn here, turn ahead, left lane, right lane, and keeping heavy footed Walter close to the speed limit.

By the time they reached their first destination after a full day’s drive, the only respite having been a short lunch break at a rest stop, the hours of sitting and stress had aggravated the aches and pains of Walter’s osteoarthritis to the point his normal irritable self put a choke hold on the steering wheel. Too tough to seek treatment, Walter’s arthritis had progressed unheeded for several years. When Howard Johnson’s added on an extra charge for the pet friendly room, and stipulated they must stay with the animal at all times, the gout in his big toe took over and Harriet had to step in. She stayed with Ayn Rand and had her meal delivered to the room. Walter had previously suggested, citing the lack of pet friendly hotels, they find a home for the cat, and leave her behind. The look Harriet gave him reminded him of a runaway train; a highball signal waving a lantern in a high semicircle, with the switch thrown, he immediately swerved into a siding avoiding a head on collision—the subject being laid to rest.

Walter took Harriet’s maps out of the van to have a look see while he ate in the restaurant. Harriet and Ayn Rand enjoyed a quiet meal together away from the grump. Her nerves were a little frazzled from Walter’s driving. He was heavy footed and tailgated as if he were coupling train cars, and motored along like he was the only vehicle on road, paying no attention to other drivers. By closing her eyes and focusing on practicing her Spanish she managed to relax. It did nothing to appease Walter who had no interest in learning another language; figuring anyone who didn’t speak English couldn’t possibly be worth his time or bother. His attitude foreshadowed possible difficulties ahead living in Mexico. He also had no interest in anything historical unless it had something to do with what the Indians called the Iron Horse. This did not auger well with Harriet’s itinerary. Her planned stop for day two in Kansas City, Missouri, the gateway to Joplin Missouri and Route 66, slid right off the rails.

Approaching Kansas City, after another full day on the road, Harriet was relaxed back in her seat, her eyes closed, listening to Mozart’s choral opera Idomeneo as Ayn Rand slept soundly on her lap. Walter, hunched over the steering wheel navigated a downpour, with the windshield wipers going full throttle. He strained to read the overhead directions, and nearly missed his turn off to I-70 at precisely the crescendo moment Harriet was listening to the opera when a terrible storm destroyed King Idomeneo son’s ship, and a sea monster rose up to claim the prince’s life.

As she opened her eyes and glanced out the window she caught a glimpse of a barely visible roadside sign—Topeka, Kansas, 64 Miles. She thought maybe Walter had made a wrong turn, sat up and fetched her book of maps. They showed he’d left Missouri, and they were heading westward into Kansas. She turned off the opera and sat attentively waiting for his explanation. It seemed plausible, but was highly suspect for she knew Walter never made decisions on the spur of the moment. Train schedules were cut in stone, and the engineer’s job was to follow it to the minute, arriving at every station stop on a dime, right on time. He was supposed to have pulled into the station in Kansas City.

Chapter 1 posted May 10 – New postings to be continued every Sunday Morning

Free to Be Me


free to be me

 

Free to Be Me 

I wish for you the perfect gift

under the perfect tree

not locked in a box, ribboned or tucked in a sock

but open for all to see

as visible as the brightest star,

this gift, hopefully received most festively,

would simply, and mindfully be

“a present me”

in this season of your making

I wish for you garlands of friendships in waiting,

a thousand lights of joy, harmony, and fullness for the taking.

I wish for you a time of believing

in a Pandora of possibilities set free

a time to walk through the door

that has truly opened in your mind

and imagine you are as unique

as an individual snowflake caught in a flicker of candlelight

destined to brilliantly adorn the wonderful tree of life

where your light shines        and others see it

where your life matters        and others feel it

the gift I have faith you will accept most festively,

would be the peace of mind

that comes from believing in yourself

and finding the way, to finally say

“I’m free to be me”

What If?

Acrylic Candis Flesher-Dodds
What If?

What if God crafted you with her own hands

and everything that floated by your space

stuck, everybody you crossed paths with

left an indelible mark on you?   Would you,

given insight to the wisdom of your soul

be any less beautiful if life had left you alone?


What if you were stored away in some dark

and unforgiving closet of your mind,

lined up neatly spaced from contact with another,

on a shelf, out of reach of yourself?


Would you be any less than if someone

discovered what marvels and mysteries

you possessed, and brought you forward

to acknowledge in the light of their eyes

your own uniqueness and beauty?


What if all the clocks in your universe

stopped at just this time of day

and you had to live with yourself in the second?


Would you muster in your heart

the strength to say I love me, if knowing this

all the daunting drudgery

of time and time again

would simply go away?


What if all you had were one hello

and one goodbye,

and you were blessed to live forever

in this only lifetime?


Would you recognize yourself

if there were no Elysian fields, no heaven or hell,

no re-imbursement on previous trips,

only here and now,

earthbound, one with the world?

–

Would you then believe in happy endings?

All That I Can Be

Photo J.T. Dodds
All That I Can Be

1.
only ever one glass of wine
no matter how beautiful the pair might seem together, 
each crafted individually exquisitely unique
engendered with a particular essence
a minion among snowflakes, crystals, stars 

yet nothing about us 
	uniquely other than 
one person, 	an individual cell, 
	a single being, being human
one body, 	one mind,
one soul of an old and scarly cat,
smugly contemplating tolerance

everything we love expresses how we feel
about this organ of water and air
this mind of matter and darkness
this exposed soul of a universal want 
and need to plant the seed 
that I am the earth 

I live in light and love
I breathe my air
I admire the flower I am
that grows upon the earth I nurture
for as I churn from day to day
the wind I create caresses my body

I am the earth
	I am all that I see, 
		all that I feel
			all that I can be

2.

if we were one light
how brilliant would we shine

the heavens would cease running away
and look back upon us 
as the star over Bethlehem 
or the light of Mecca

if we were one surface
monumentally varied and etched
with the wisdom of ages
what a beautiful color our skin would be
blinded by the light and sensitive to the touch

if we were one breathe
drawing in everything that has been 
and will be, nurturing every pore of our being, 
filling the valleys and rivers of our awareness
with an inner sigh of recognition.

that we are the earth

	all that was and will be

all that we can see 

	is what we imagine love to be



Published in "Leaning to Lean Back on Living" Collected Poems

Born To Be A Tamale – Chapters 1 and 2

BORN TO BE A TAMALE is written as a parallel narrative, a story similar to a pot of pozole, cooked over an open fire of reality, simmering with themes of tolerance, diversity, and social activism. Two diverse protagonists in search of a dream over the decades bordering the new millennium. Two strands intersecting in a mix of political and social issues all the while focused on familia, and understanding relationships in cross cultural and national communities. BORN TO BE A TAMALE follows the journey of Jesus Alfredo Ramos, (Chuy) starting out from his pueblito in an effort to escape the poverty of circumstances and crosses into El Norte in search of the American Dream. Woven into his story is the resilience of the human spirit, and speaks to the conflicts, joys and heartbreaks that come with the immigrant journey. At the same time as the young hombre is starting out on his journey, Harriet Gregson and her husband Walter, arrive in his village having driven from Winterpeg, Canada. Harriet, a retired librarian is in search of her dream—a year round garden where ice is only for margaritas. It takes over twenty years before the two protagonists arrive at their final destination and share in their dreams.

Born To Be A Tamale

If you’re born to be a tamale, the leaves will fall from the sky”  “Si naciste para ser un tamal, las hojas caerán del cielo”

Leaving It All Behind

On the morning of her first day in Mexico, Harriet Gregson pulled back the curtains, and peered out the open second floor casement window of her no frills hotel room to something she’d never experienced in mid-winter Winterpeg—a beautiful mild sunny morning. She inhaled a deep breath of clean, brisk air, and exhaled to the peeling church bells in the campanario, welcoming her to her first day in paradise. She could see the bell tower from their window. She had read the bells called the faithful to Mass, celebrated festivals, and mourned the passing of villagers in their pueblito.
She watched as a young hombre wearing a long alpaca coat with a mochila on his shoulder as he passed in front of the Cathedral of Saint Andre the Apostle, his right hand automatically going to his forehead, below his heart, and then left to right shoulders: in the name of el Padre, y del Hijo, y del Espíritu Santo. Harriet automatically followed suit with a little cross on the forehead, lips, and heart, the way she knew Mexican mothers would greet the morning.
Harriet’s ritual blessing was a prayer of thanksgiving for the first morning in her new homeland. Jesus Ramos Rios’s blessing was a plea for hope and protection on his journey into the unknown. He stopped and looked up at the second floor window of the Hotel Giglio Dell’Opera, and witnessed a woman also making the sign of the cross and thought, maybe it was an omen of good luck. As he continued on and disappeared under an umbrella of red roof tiles, Harriet had no idea he would someday find a place in both her heart and her home.

Chapter 1 Winterpeg

Looking back, it was only a couple weeks prior to the sound of those Cathedral bells, yet already a lifetime ago, when Harriet sat by the bay window on her mother’s favorite Queen Anne Wingback armchair, Ayn Rand her Russian Blue cat, a constant companion, curled on her lap. In her hand she held a well-traveled illustrated vintage postcard with the graphic, “Get your Kicks on Route 66,” displaying in glorious technicolor tourist stops along the way: Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, and a genuine Hopi War Dance. Outside the afternoon sun had turned the bare maples into a carnival of lights with the remnants of the previous night’s ice storm. She stared into the hot ashes below the grate in the fireplace, the sparks replicating a distant village of candle lit windows. While listening to “A Walk to the Paradise Garden,” an exquisite interlude in Frederick Delius’s opera, A Village Romeo and Juliet, she drifted away in her mind to a perpetual paradise, where gardens grew year round, and ice was only for margaritas. Harriet seldom missed an afternoon listening to the Metropolitan Opera’s Saturday Matinee Radio Broadcasts. This winter’s day was special; the opera was perfect, and the ice storm was the last she’d planned to ever have to endure.
Her husband Walter would be coming home late in the day smelling of cigar smoke and scotch, a little tipsy from his retirement party. She knew he wasn’t interested in her finalized details of their retirement plans. His attitude all along about his pending retirement was if he ignored Harriet’s fanciful journey into an imaginary Shangri la, she’d come to her senses. Outside of watching golf and The Toronto Maple Leafs hockey on T.V., he had no personal expectations for the future outside of the status quo. Walter was “The Big E”, the handle given to a Chief Engineer on the Canadian National Railroad, and one with plenty of seniority, or whiskers as it was called. On his last reluctant day he was presented with the engineers traditional gold plated T Eaton Pocket Watch fronted with a Canadian Railroad Dial face, and Walter was sidetracked onto a line leading to a terminal. Walter, nicknamed the “Iron Horse” by his union brotherhood, would have worked until the trains stopped rolling.
Harriet, however, had taken hold of the Iron Horse’s locomotive, grabbed hold of the cranky reverse lever labelled a Johnson bar, and slammed on the brakes. Working in the library system she’d thoroughly researched her pet project, and found her place in the sun with a climate to die for; two seasons, a dry winter and a rainy summer, all in expectation of the day Walter would pull into the train station for the last time. She had put the inherited home her parents had bequeathed her, where she’d shared domicile with Walter, up for sale, and had recently closed the deal. The curmudgeon could follow her dream, or take his golf clubs and find a new caboose to call home.
Harriet was decidedly old school, and just having turned sixty she’d aged like the doily that graced her mother’s armchair. She was like the crocheted linen thread, with white fretwork and cross hatched with fine lines. She was never concerned about other’s opinions, and who she was clearly showed through. She maintained her charm and gentle beauty, and in keeping with her profession as a librarian she was an open book. She held on to the traditional values of her Catholic upbringing even though she never joined the nunnery as her Ukrainian parents had hoped. She’d met Walter in their high school senior year. He was the yearbook’s stubborn smile, a tall thin Scot with blue eyes and wavy hair, and the promissory note under his picture was full of accolades proffering his potential. Harriet’s photo by comparison displayed her pale complexion, ash blonde hair and green eyes as they peered out from beneath her dark rimmed glasses. In capital letters below her picture, it read the #1 BEST SELLER. A blurb she never could figure out.
Harriet had been in Walter’s radar for some time, and his attention put an end to her parents chosen career path after a fateful Catholic Youth Organization dance, and a romp in the back seat of Walter’s parents 1950 Pontiac Chieftain Catalina Coupe, resulting in Harriet’s pre-graduation pregnancy. Given the close knit Catholic society in Winnipeg, and his pending engineering scholarship, Walter had no option but to marry the maiden. Her acceptance changed the direction of her life from handmaiden to God to handmaiden to Walter. Neither God nor Walter had Harriet’s interests and dreams as primary focus, and her schooling in the art of diligent Ukrainian daughter blended nicely with his dominant male psyche.
After high school Walter continued on with his dream and became an engineer, entering a lifetime coupling with the Canadian National Railroad. Harriet, after miscarrying their daughter and being told she was at high risk to conceive another child, accepted her fate with God’s good grace. In the years that followed, Walter was content to spend his days riding the rails. Harriet, embracing her love of books became a librarian who roamed the stacks of the library with thousands of authors and stories—and lost sight of who she was.

Chapter 2 Walter’s Capitulation

When retirement was beginning to look like an undesirable reality Walter initially ignored the idea of moving anywhere, least of all to Mexico. It was all foreign to him. Like the French Frogs in Eastern Canada, he said they don’t even speak English. The only point of reference he had for Mexicans was the boys in the railyard calling them, Beaners, that he assumed was somehow related to Mexican jumping beans. He took to the idea in his usual condescending manner until Harriet sublimely led him to believe year round golf might be an improvement over sitting around the house wearing winter clothes for half the year.
When it came down to a permanent move the Gregson’s had their first all-out argument. It ultimately resulted in Walter’s capitulation, followed by a long consultation with Johnny Walker Black. Walter and his buddies at the Tuxedo Golf Course convinced him Harriet would eventually get over her Mariachi romance, and would settle sensibly on a condo in Myrtle Beach, close to a golf course. For the time being he went along for the ride and left the details up to her, his usual modus operandi. The house was sold furnished, and with Walter’s insistence they put everything else in a storage unit to be shipped once they were finally settled. Harriet knew his pension from the railroad was more than adequate to partially pay for the storage. She packed what she held dear, and left her baggage behind.
In 1976 Walter had bought a brand new two door subcompact Sunbird. His father had owned Pontiacs and he kept to the family tradition. Walter only used the car to run errands and commute to the Golf Club. The singular passenger the backseat ever saw was Ben Hogan, disguised as a bag full of golf clubs. For the trip south Harriet insisted on a vehicle bigger than a lunch bucket, and he was forced to trade his beloved Sunbird in for a 1990 Pontiac Transport minivan.
Harriet had never obtained a driver’s license, nor had any desire to drive a car, in Winnipeg buses were plentiful and she could take public transportation anywhere she wanted to go. The library was a couple blocks from home, and when she did need a vehicle, which was seldom, other than for groceries, her Walter did the chauffeuring. She had not expressed any misgivings over driving three thousand kilometers with Walter though it played on the back of her mind. Harriet, had no excess baggage only what she deemed relevant, including her mini library of favorite books and music. Walter on the other hand would have needed an extra caboose to keep everything he wanted to cart along, over Harriet’s protestations.

Born To Be A Tamale is  a parallel narrative novel in search of a publisher. I’ll be sharing it in excerpts over the weeks to come in hopes my fellow bloggers who believe in cultural diversity and happy endings will enjoy reading it as much as I had penning it.

Dia de la Madre

Photo by Antonio Ramblés

Photo by Antonio Ramblés

The elderly and mothers are two pedestals that stand, uncompromised, as the natural order of life in the village. No longer universal in the celebration of life, but here it is the way it is.

Dia de la Madre

full of a lust for all life

full of children’s dreams

 

  

Madre

is everyone’s

reason for being,

well past sunset

Madre dances

in celebración

everyone takes turns

the words change,

the rhythm repeats itself

all in joyful noise,

and laughter

all too brief this day

celebrating

Madre

Why not every day?

Repost from 2014

There is a sacred place

b morning symphony

There is a sacred place for everyone including

google image

google image

you, where there are mountains in your rocking

chair time, and from where you sit you can see as

far as the spirit wanders and the eyes amaze.

 

A place for you where the sun remains anchored

to the universe, the world revolves and falls

backwards into the waiting arms of the full moon,

into a safe space, where your thoughts become one.

 

Where you can stand astride the earth, stretch

your arms to tether the polar caps and captain this

giant ball of atoms as it hurdles and spins through

matter, creating a wind of possibility combing

your mind.

 

In this your sacred space, the sky envelops you.

You are part of all that you see, and in the

distance a silver horizon drawn on a white canvas,

slowly disappearing into canyons of your mind,

searching deep into your soul, where you become

a part of every possibility.

 

Here, the visible boundary is the luminescent aura

of all that surrounds you.  Where in the remnants

of rainbows you go gently embracing your spirit,

letting yourself believe in you.

Repost from 2014

It’s a Mum’s Day everyday, somewhere

From English Historical Fiction Authors Blog
TEETHING SILVER 

There’s was a job waiting in heaven
for a little lady that loved the world,
and from what I know, the world loved her.

She began her apprenticeship
as a guardian angel over a century ago.

Since her birth, almost everything we know
in the world today is new,
except how people can treat each other.

She had seen the worst 
that we can do to one another, 
and through it all, 
her touch  simply said,
I believe in you.

She gave us all the gift of giving
and taught us all how to give it away.

She was forever trying to pass things on.
for she had a passion for the beautiful and gentle.

“the heart of my child 
was forever packing away
small portions of herself 
emptying her neat shelves 
into the safe closet of my lifetime

the teething silver that caps 
a crystal vase 
a white dolphin 
grandmother's lace

these were things I never deserved 
for my hands are too thin and callused 
for the porcelain fingers 
for the delicate embroidered plates 
for the intricate silver lockets 
and fine boneware of her life.

these were the things of memories 
that graced the evening years,
they belonged to the last light in mum's eyes”

Her environment was a sharing of how 
she viewed the world as it should be, 
could be, would be if only.

Because of her,
I am proud to receive
and thankful to give.

Parochial Neighbors

Cat on a Fence Alex Colville
Parochial Neighbors

On occasion fences are necessary
	for parochial neighbors. 

When my vecino’s little patch of dirt, 
	a postage stamp jardín,
not the least attractive to my eye,
lures my feline’s compulsion
for establishing a comfort station
over an otherwise engaging perimeter,
harsh mindsets cloud tolerance.

Distain for critters
does not compute in my world
where the sun rises and set
on all things beautiful.

Prevention, the only prescription
for curiosities inevitable challenges—

Well aware of the futile effort
to quell wanderlust in my siete gatos
I’m in for a day of erecting a fence! 

Knowing full well
		it will in time 
humble to the will of the acrobatic skill
intolerant of barriers & closed minds

In the absence of solutions futility reigns 

Defying Gravity In A Hamaca

Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Defying Gravity In A Hamaca

Certainly I’m not the only one
of sidereal significance
	fixed to a distant star,
feet firmly planted on a spinning 
teetotum precariously balanced
	on the breaking point

gasping onto air
knowing full well the unknown
	can bring out the eraser
	hit the delete button
reach the tipping point of no return
all in one revolution

With no breaks on the spin of things.
earth twirling like a column of Bobos,
I should be in a tailspin instead of dancing 
with the swallows, instead of slow dragging time

leaving gravity in a hammock
I’m no longer an object in motion
no longer accelerating
	like a ripple of a wave
		on a pebbled shore

for it is siesta time in Mexico
and I’m waiting for Newton’s 
application of an outside force
	to change direction

Listening For The rainbirds

Listening For The Rainbirds

It is cool enough this morning, a whisper of vapor 
rising off the coffee, cloudy enough for the sun 
to snuggle under covers. Eventually, at its own pace
day will sweep away the cobwebs, combing 
the recesses of sleep fogged minds, and lay a linen 
of silent heat over the village, until siesta’s 
	sluggish footsteps faintly trouble dust.

Devoid of shadow, perros melt into sidewalks,
abierto dusky doorways beckon breezes, trabajadores 
hunker down under jacaranda, a dry raspy wind 
canvases the village with a lingering hot flash 
	while life slumbers in stifling heat.

It is hot enough this evening butterflies 
lie quiescent, hummingbirds torpid in the flowers 
of the orchid tree, thirst bares the bones of caballos, 
while time, cerveza in hand, squats on noche’s 
doorsteps waiting for the sun to lean over destiny 
	waiting patiently for the rainbird's song.

It’s the time of year when petals bully their way 
through open portals, chimes play the wind as it chases 
temperature around a budding garden of hungry gnomes, 
man and beast scour the sky for rain clouds 
	with the patience of expectant fathers.

It’s the time of change the rainbirds have been 
calling for, the parched throat of gnawed over 
fields have been thirsting for, when nature’s narcistic
search for the green in its reflection takes center stage 
	and waits for the applause.

The Ways You Walk Beside Me

couple vettriano-butler

couple vettriano-butler

 These are the ways we walk together.

Forgotten fears, footsteps behind us

dissipating in the laughter

of our growing old together,

capable of having too much fun

as my friend

in the garden we long since planted

with the soil of our spirit and desire,

you enrich my union with the earth,

your water nourishes

the very root of my being me.

you look upon me without judgment

and when momentarily I lose sight of who I am,

I turn to my friend

and your light is always in the window,

the way to your heart always open

 –

it is you I come to

when I want to be alone

and need to be held

 as partners

Palm-to-palm fingers entwined

in wonder of the world around us,

venturing in unknown surprise

in a no fault relationship

trusting we are there for each other.

we talk to one another

and I am in awe of your wisdom.

we share our space,

I am saturated with your nearness.

 –

side by side in cadence,

indivisible in the light

leaving one set of footprints

in the silt and sands of our memories.

I will be forever courting you in delight

 

your lover

unblushingly undressed

before the mistress of my passions,

you lovingly invite my touch,

my humbled hands

conduct a symphony of joy.

you welcome the heat of my desire,

my body enters sacred ground

finds fulfillment in your fantasies.

my love lies down to sleep

beside me

the companion

of my dreams,

your soft hands

laying beside my head

holding the night together.

I close my eyes knowing

when I wake

you will be there beside me

waiting as the dawn waits for daylight.

you say my name, goodmorning

and I am at peace with myself

  

mi esposa

there is no bond between us.

no neediness or wantfullness,

only loving the warm comfort

in a winter’s darkness of our flesh

folding over one another.

a husband

needing to come home to only you

to catch the moonlight

as it lays shadows across your body,

wanting always to breathe you in

Footprints in the Dust

Photo by Antonio Ramblés

Photo by Antonio Ramblés

Days are what you make them, so after the cats are fed, the coffee savored, and the Hibiscus has opened its petals to embrace the sun, it is time for a walk through the village.

Dawn lay in bed this morning

as if not wanting to get up,

the earth turning on a breeze;

            still lake, still mountain.

As the sun yawns awake,

I linger under the covers until the rooster,

his call the sound of turning the key

while the motors running,

stops to gargle,

my neighbor Maria

starts the laundry machine,

and I am beckoned

by the seductive aroma of coffee.

 –

Above the garden wall,

beyond the bougainvillea,

royal palms dancing in a wind created

by the feeding frenzy of swallows.

The full moon almost visible to the touch,

hangs around as the morning sun

climbs the mountains;

two old friends passing,

and caught in-between,

the fisherman’s day has just begun.

DSCN3966

Photo by Author

Leaving my flowered canopy

 I saunter quietly past garments

 hanging onto barbwire fences and rooftops,

 soiled moments and colors fading in the sun

only to be greeted with the morning revelry;

the tires on the carretera sounding

like waves lapping the lake shore,

God’s alarm clock calling the faithful,

a mixed bag of fiesta and bustle.

Photo by Antonio Ramblés

Photo by Antonio Ramblés

 After La Lluvia, a tropical tease

 when the mountains were dressed in colors

 of hand-woven shawls and bright sequined  skirts,

 dry season dressed in peasant garb

 made an entrance with dust on its’ tongue,

 and stripped to bare bone.

Cool mornings exit

when shadows go silent.

Photo by Author

Photo by Author

Fishermen row back to shore

when half day is done,

trailing white pelicans.

In the afternoon heat.

I pass by my neighbors

resting in the shade

their sombrero’s tethered in dust.

In this thirsty landscape,

gnawed to the bone,

life is nourished on a blade of grass.

 

In a slow tango heat burns day away,

evening simmers.

Returning to mi casa, Los Bobos

foolishly dance over dry birdbaths,

the smell of polle on a spit,

a warm breeze combing the bougainvillea,

reverberating rockets

chasing the evil spirits away.

Across the glazed Lake Chapala,

at the feet of the Sierras,

the villages turn on their lights;

fallen stars.

End of day, all season have their way,

a child at play,

a lover’s warm embrace,

a fall from grace,

and in the season of saints,

for every heartbeat,

at last,

a place to sleep.

A pre-pandemic repost

Señor Bag Man

photo by J.T. Dodds
                                       Señor Bag Man

The long shadow has an attitude all its own, 
the audacity that comes from knowing the path, 
no tale to drag along, no cumbersome baggage, 
nothing but the sun on the Bag Man’s back.
Idly mapping his morning destination, as if the day,
after slipping out from beneath a blanket of stars, 
had nowhere to go in a hurry. 

In search of whatever the Universe sends his way,
prepared for the hunt with an armful of plastic bags,
he pauses momentarily, and poses for the camera, 
the ci-devant mayor on a red carpet, standing 
a world away, across a mote of cobblestones. 
Serenely comfortable in his own skin, Maître de 
of this exquisite village, steadfast, commanding. 

It seems we were destined to end up mirroring 
the one thing we have in common; searching for 
whatever comes along. That preeminent smile, 
that spunky airborne chin, knowing what’s left 
on the ground, after I pass by, is his for the taking.

I bet Bag Man you’d fare well in a throwaway 
society, a numero uno rag-and-bone man, 
wandering around the moment, listening 
to the rhythm of the bandos playing in your mind, 
while I, a magpie hording broken dreams, 
observe in silence. 

He doesn’t know what he’s missed: smog, asthma, 
black rain, the exhaust of society eating itself alive. 
I bet he doesn’t know or care that the epic battle
between good and evil has been lost
to the squabbling of have and have nots.


Who’s the rabbit? Who’s the hare?


You’ve no need to go there, do you Senor Bag Man? 
The sweet smell of fresh air combing your beard, 
living in a world where windows and doors 
are open portals to whatever the day brings. 

The silent observer, roguishly taunting life’s tourist;
and I, the usurper, the cutter ant, seeking 
understanding from the rear end of a camera, 
while posing just for you.

Where were you when I needed you?  When I 
slugged along littered streets, aimlessly looking 
for something to pick up and hold onto?

Had I known of this cobblestone environment 
where saying hello, pausing to be recognized,
is a natural celebration of acceptance, 

it would not have taken me so long to learn
that all I have ever really needed 
was to share a moment with the Bag Man, 

and all that I have ever searched for, consumed 
and discarded, was no more than scraps of life
to fill an empty plastic bag.

In A Cloistered Garden

Mi Casa es Su Casa
In A Cloistered Jardin

There is not a morning goes by the critters 
are not waiting impatiently in the kitchen
for sustenance. So often they sniff, give the paw,
and walk away. Knowing that it is there 
is suffice to satisfy, temporarily any appetite. 

There’s not a day goes by where life 
does not ask me to engage. Some days
are hungry, some days are satiated.

It all starts with the garden I tend in my mind:
mission readiness takes root, compels me 
to accept the call of the meow,
share what I have with a stranger at my door,
as if I were the sun, the shade, a taste of water
on dry lips answering to a turn of events.

and so it goes, the cloistered garden I reside in 
demands attention and a commitment 
for me to be heedful, caring with it 
an obligation to know my place
when it comes to watering the tree of hope,
living the dream of the butterfly
			in sharing the light, 
all in an effort to divine being human
where cats control the narrative.

Life As It Is

La Vida Tal Como Es
Life As It Is

A grouchy Mayan head
wrapped in a rebozo of garden brilliance, 
wearing a crown of uncombed flowers,
lords over his space behind these walls.

My neighbor’s horses, beyond the wall
neigh in along with tequila con limón, música 
emanating from a boom box accompanied 
by a chorus of cocks, hens and hungry dogs. 

Science, religion, politics strive to define 
existence while skimming the lake, echoing across 
mountains, impregnating the air, life dances 
to the rhythm of conscious matter and  mystery.

Shadow and sunlight tease time, chimes provide 
the subtle vibration of the pulse of a tempered day’s 
shuffle behind a sauntering burro, while a languid 
wind pauses to nibble on the crest of palms trees.

Barely a breath of a breeze ground level
where shutter speed is the blossoming of a hibiscus 
the silent glide of turkey buzzards circling overhead,
represents a world sans deadlines within and without.

In this land of handmade walls and separate silences
what seems to be a boundary to some, is but a portal 
to two different worlds. life as we know it,
		and la vida tal como es

Mexican Dawn

Mexican Dawn

Life manifests over desayuno
and it all works out, 
until a tumor 
of aggravating consequences
curdles my morning pajarete
	cows udder discontent

Tubas y tambores 
	belch & beat
Campanas de iglesia 
peal & chime, bekoning madres 
and driving out the devil, 
a barrage of cohetes 
celebrate a parade of patron saints
treble & bass, vihuela & guitarrón 
strum and hum emanating 
from the earth’s core
obliterating any sense of solitude

the hibiscus fails to open, 
the hummingbird 
falls prey to the cat, 
dawn enters 
stepping barefoot on a scorpion.

Then again, 
a rainbow of silence
with a whisper of a wind
as if the earth 
momentarily slows
to let the dust 
of humanity settle
leaving the swallows 

to sweep the air 
of carnal memorials 
residue of what used to be.

if only it were true
in the ongoing chaos 
god & man create,
before the world grew hoary 
and ill-humored
and became a sadness of itself

if only it were truly
every dawn a new day
of bittersweet chocolate overtures,
a morning mañana
for whatever lay ahead, 
an allegro, 
embraced by a daily minuet, 
and a sonata rondo
to round out a dog eared day




*Published in Footprints In The Dust on Amazon and Kindle

In Between Before And After

Wind From the Sea – Andrew Wyeth
In-Between Before And After

a wind it is said is 
the manifestation of the Tao

it is everywhere and nowhere
it is visible only in how the world responds

in itself, it is of no substance
it is noticeable 
in absence, and  presence

	Lao Tzu says

If on the wind is carried
the consciousness of humankind
what will can change the direction of the wind
for there is but one consciousness
and many ways unconscious

Somewhere in the thinking,
the nonphysical human element gets lost.
What would cause be
without the shouting mind creating the illusion
that it alone, restrained momentarily by silence,
in effect, can change the face of the wind

You cannot hide from the wind
nor leave well enough alone
unless you box yourself in
bury emotion deep to the bone

limbs of trees creak and stretch in the wind
like old dry arthritic bones 
waiting for the moment to snap. 
then, not a stir nor a whisper,
the willow weeps in silence
nothing moves when the wind lies down

then the rustle of air
that hustles from tree to tree,
bush to bush, leaving a wake of
momentary silence in its path,
a precursor, of what’s to come.

everything not tied down shivers

	Eckhart Tolle says

We seek the familiar
for in the re-creation 
of what is known
comfort in the knowing, 
at least, regardless the pain, 
what is remains in control of the mind.

Leaving nothing behind
fills the present moment
no room for the unknown
nothing to interfere 
with the past-future continuum, 
the safe zone protected 
from the winds of change.

what is it really? 
a breath of fresh air?
can you taste it, smell it, touch it,
hold it in your hand?

can you capture it
hold it down, 
change its direction, 
chase it down?

can you see it
other than a response 
to its presence?

you can hear it
you can feel it
with the wind in your face
you know you are alive

	Venice J. Bloodworth says

You look out your window and winter 
has appeared as if out of nowhere. 
In your mind it is cold and bitter, wind-swept 
sleet whipping parallel to a dull gray wallpaper, 
and you buy into it, 
a cutting chill down the spine.

Time to change your condition in life.

Inside where it is warm and of comfort,
enjoy a mindless moment.  
Listen to the music of wind chimes, 
and the branches of the apple tree 
tapping on the windowpane.  

Time to change your mind about life.

birds dance in the wind
circle, hover, dip and dive

in the wind they thrive
they play it

wind moves water

      Deepak Chopra says

If you are who you have been,
mesmerized by memory, 
you are not who you think you are

when the wind stops, not a breeze,
not a whisper of thought.

Silence is the songbird
harmonizing with the soul
it is the sound that carries with it
the in-between before and beyond

Life renewing itself
is the wind that calls your name
catching a glance in mirror
of a momentary you, 
a reflection in passing
of the essence that remains

wherever it comes from
wherever it goes
it always runs; hot, cold, brisk and bold
soft, sensuous, subtle, uncontrolled
yet consistent with this whirling dervish 
we stand down on
the wind swipes upon it ever eastward
scurrying in front of a tailwind 
in search of dawn

there is nothing that stands in its way
in its path everything bends and bows
wind is change 

for nothing stays the same
once the wind passes through

	Marianne Deborah Williamson says

Beyond the pale,
a parting of the mist

a whisper of a breeze
in the open window 

curtains dancing

experience becomes a choice 
in how we perceive 
each and every change

a moment subject 
to the winds of time

or simply, another miracle

the invisible hand of sunlight, the spirit
of motion scrambling from the sea,
over the mountains, across the deserts
into the plains, an unseen force
affecting the motion of life

the wind can roar
like a train passing through the brain,
or whisper
like a fat cat purring in the sun

it can blow the seeds
of discord and conflict,
or in a cool breeze
on a hot day,
carry with it
the promise of rain

The Language of Love

The Language Of Love

I don’t have the words to tell you how much
I love you, but this I know: I am not at fault
for trying, for Pablo Neruda, who in the still
of night, with his sonnets, ripped the future
words from my mind, giving them to Matilda.

“…when I hold you I hold everything that is-
sand, time, the tree of the rain,
everything is alive so that I can be alive:
without moving I can see it all:
in your life I see everything that lives.”

I am bereft of the words to tell you how much
I love you, for that knave Robert Browning,
in the middle of the night, ran off to Paris
with Elizabeth, and plucked the future out of
the very words I could have penned to you NOW.

“You are around me for once, you beneath me, above me-
Me—sure that despite of time future, time past, --
This tick of our life-time’s one moment you love me!
How long such suspension may linger?  Ah, Sweet—
The moment eternal—just that and no more—
When ecstasy’s utmost we clutch at the core
While cheeks burn, arms open, eyes shut and lips meet!”

I cannot find the words to tell you how much
I love you, for Walter Rinder’s Spectrum of Love,
deftly captured the thoughts penned up inside of me,
and in the silence of the night left me speechless.

“When I touch you, / or kiss you, / or hold you, /
I am saying / a thousand words.”

Even to this day, this hour, I can only repeat
what has been said; therein lies the beauty of words,
like sunsets, never the same, blossoms erupting 
in beauty over and over again, the very scent of you, 
a breath of color in moonlight, the sound of my heart
beating to the rhythm of your soul 
over and over again when lips meet, 
	how much I love you.


100 love sonnets #Vlll Pablo Neruda, NOW by Robert Browning, Spectrum of Love by Walter Rinder

Then & Now & Forever

Eric Fischl
Then & Now & Forever

It’s been a long flight
for such a soft landing

day one daydreamers
on a rollercoaster ride
slowing to a two step
on a magic carpet

having stumbled along
head in the clouds,
full moon all the way
lighting the path,
all the while
leaving our baggage behind

through it all:
teardrops, raindrops,
sunshine & sorrow,
there was always tomorrow

and a comfort of mornings,
each day gifted 
with a new memory
of what it is to love life

then & now & forever,
an unhurried waltz,
the final piece of the puzzle
caring for one another—

a warm touch
calming two restless spirits,
returning to the moment
life said

Hola
I love you

The Anatomy of a Poem

morning sunrise
The Anatomy Of A Poem

Conception,  

The moment you breathe it in, 
it rummages in the blood stream, 
crystallizes in the lungs 
where it can take wing 
and exhale into the dimension of its manifest, 

leaving behind a thought: 
a raindrop on a petal, 
a whisper on a breeze 
carrying a word, a phrase, 
a seed nurtured in memory, in surprise, 
in harmony with a note 
from a symphony of rhyme

shaped by the world it is gifted with
words take on  a life of their own

Communion,

Thoughts synapse in a haze, naked, 
fumbling blindly in the dark, tangled 
in a maze of dense vine kicking and flailing; 

a dream floundering in a matrix of letters 
and emotion in a plea for meaning

until

just above the horizon, 
a glimmering image,
a sound, undecipherable at first; 
a pitched battle between 
cacophony, 
euphony, 
assonance, 
consonance 

pounding on the door of poem, 
all seeking recognition of purpose:

Enter the lovers dancing to a distant voice
that wraps love & hope in its arms,
or huddled in the corner of the mind
a frightened adolescent, confused, 
tormented by awareness of a world view 
where truth hurts and seeks an audience.

  Consummation

In the end, pen to paper
	opens to interpretation;
a rare bird’s melody

a mood ring wrapped around the mind
touching a heart
	tweaking a memory

a clean laundry of words
		hanging on a line
in a stanza of breeze

an image wanting
		seeking consent

life owns the world it inherits
so too a poem left to its own

The Butterfly Poems #3 – Expressiveness

Acrylic by Candis Flesher-Dodds

expressiveness

 

there are no walls or fences

there are no hurdles to overcome

there are no obstacles

to reach that perfect place

where in her imagination

     she lived a life filled with grace

speaking kindly of herself

for the first time, the words

filled her world with light

and all her fears took flight

her reflection absorbed

by the wings of butterflies, erupted in applause