The Good

There was a once and long ago,  
That industry was everywhere;  
And though some hated those machines,  
We used them to increase our share 

Of all the good that this world had. 
And with those goods, we did more good: 
We sang in homes and in the bars, 
And it was simply understood 

That this was what the new world was. 
Alas, we didn't, couldn't know 
The good would move to somewhere else, 
And we'd be left with 

Long ago

Where Does Love Go

“Where does love go when it’s gone?”

‘Wherever it came from.”

A message sent from Florida 
Where you and I were once... you know... 
I guess your reminiscing, since 
It seems that time, and wine, have flowed 

Into the veins you call your life. 
I say I hope I find you well, 
Then slowly you unfold a tale  
Of loss and choice, of ebb and swell -- 
And I see years long past remain 
Within each of us, differently. 
I seek to understand, because 
However things have come to be 

I do not, could not, wish you ill. 
You were my lover, are my friend, 
And I wish you the happiness 
Far fewer know than now pretend. 

For each of us, and all of us, 
There's nothing simple, now or then: 
There's myriads within each heart, 
Both what we are and what we've been.

When a person writes in the volume that I’ve written, it’s easy to see patterns. That’s a nice way of saying I write the same things over and over.

When I started writing poetry here, I spent much of the first few years reliving old relationships. Part of it was to better understand myself, but an equally important part of it was trying to understand better the women I had been involved with, something I don’t think I’d done a very good job of at the time.

Of course, I realized the obvious things, looking back. As a younger man, I may have been overly focused on the physical aspects of the relationship, for instance, or at least, focused to such a degree that I let other parts of relationships flounder. I also realized that being selfish comes pretty natural to me: I never had to read an article or watch a YouTube video to learn how to do it.

In addition, there was this: girls often find early that boys don’t always treat girls like, well, human beings. This tendency in us guys is very pronounced, and it is not always as ill-intentioned and baneful as it can be. I was interested in working through why I struggled to see women as just other people, then using that knowledge to better understand the actual women I had dated.

Eventually, life strips away the pretense and the fantasy in any relationship that is carried on long enough; all too frequently, then, people come to resent the other person for not being what they never were. Love is less about embracing fantasies than respecting and valuing realities.

When my ex girlfriend in the poem above messaged me, it was to talk about a breakup she had recently been through. The reasons she had broken up with him were perfectly understandable, at least to me, but I could see her struggling with the notion that it had in some way been unrealistic perfectionism on her part that had ended the relationship.

All I could think to say was, if regret could be converted to energy, it would be the ultimate renewable energy source.

“Where does love go when it’s gone?” she asked me.

“Wherever it came from,” I said. “Or to wherever it is going next.”

A Teacher, a Painter

My mother was a teacher, and my father was a painter. I grew up in a house full of her books and his paintings.

I think it is safe to say that the modern world has as strong an interest in identity as any age before it. I chose to identify my parents by a profession (for my mom) and a hobby (for my dad) even though she didn’t become a teacher until she was around 40, and he gave up painting before I was born.

Defining an identity as being boiled down to single word or concept is part of our human tendency to want to substitute simple things for complex things. My mom was a singer, a reader, a union organizer, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a swimmer, a humorist, a melancholic. My dad was a pilot, a windsurfer, a track runner, a human rights advocate, a chorus director, an insomniac. And that only scratches the surface on each of them.

As storytellers — and I assume anyone with a blog or reading blogs is a storyteller — we struggle to transfer our known perspective through the prism of the unknown perspective of readers. So much that has become part of us — so much we have experienced — has been done without words, and that context informs our every thought. So we try to say how we feel, but our words fall short of conveying our meaning. I can describe my parents to you, though, and can bring parts of them back to life through stories. Which is just one reason why storytelling is magic.

I’m grateful to my parents, now, in ways I probably wasn’t while they were still alive. That is sad, of course, but I suspect it is common. My children, and their children, will one day describe me in some way: maybe, “he was a mathematician” or “he was a pianist”. They may also see in me some light I’ve long since lost track of. Or, they may truthfully remember the darkness in me, for there is plenty of that.

My mother was a teacher who taught me that I should never stop learning, and never stop wondering. My father was a painter who loved to show others the hidden beauty in things, and encouraged me to do the same, as best I could. And I hope for all of you the same things: truth, goodness, and beauty.

A Study in Disappointment

THERE we stood, my dad and me: 
Him staring at a painting. 
I was looking back and forth 
Between him and it. 

He asked me, 
"How many colors do you see?" 

"Green, orange, yellow... maybe blue?" 

"No, all of them. All the colors are there. 
Look, pink, purple, gray, brown, teal..." 
But I couldn't see them. 

For art doesn't begin with what you can draw, 
It starts with what you can see. 
And I was given only partial sight. 
I couldn't see it, though I tried 
With everything I had. 

It takes some doing to be a disappointment 
To your parents at age ten, 
But I managed. 

For I was not an artist, as he was, 
I was given no key that opened those locks, 
Neither at ten, nor now, 
At sixty. 

He could see what I could not; 
And he could see
I could not

Though, he too, clearly 
Wished I could

a child’s view of water towers

he saw them everywhere they drove 
these sentinels in silent watch 
and wondered how they worked, and why 
he never saw the scaling 

that must betimes be necessary 
given ladders and the rails 
that indicated close-up life 
must sometimes be in order 

with lights that flashed at nighttime, and 
bright patterns to bedeck the day, 
these must be visible from high 
as equally as low, 

and how he longed to climb one, just 
to see the way the whole thing worked; 
for these must the pinnacles 
of every town and country

in a winter market (3)

As the night wound down, 
I realized, that she 
Was enjoying the safeness, 
But I, 
I felt my resolve slipping, 
So it seemed best to say 
Good night. 

I know things could have 
Gone another way; 
I know, because 
She told me later. 
But it seemed right 
To let go. 

I've been told what it is 
That we men are, 
And I would be lying 
If I didn't say that 
I am very much like 
Other men. 

For that night, though, 
I did what seemed best 
For both her and me, 
And I'm pretty sure 
I was right. 
Still, it is a magical memory: 
Perhaps, most of all, 
Because it contains 
Nothing to regret

in a winter market (2)

The conversation turned to 
Each, our latest breakup; 
The guy she thought she loved, 
And then, the gal I thought loved me -- 
And how she wanted, now, no more 
Than good coffee and freedom, 
While I was seeking inspiration, 
Music, and some peace. 

It was important right just then 
To be the unexpected, 
For something told me, everything 
Could fast go off the rails. 
It's strange how often I have been 
The guy that women trusted, 
And how I've tried to view that as 
A kind of sacred thing, 

Relationships come in all kinds, 
Varieties, and flavors; 
And sometimes being less 
Is something more.