with every game of Candyland
and slug bug
and Colonel Mustard in the Library with a wrench
you hold a counterweight
against the hand that would push the red button
and the hand that, in turn, would do the same
you gamble to keep the blue sky above them
you pack their rooms for college and apartments
go back to work to cover costs
edit papers, wash garbage bags full of clothes
tell them every life story of your own that might help them from making
the same mistakes, knowing they will anyway
you gamble that
while they learn to drive in traffic, work full days
figure out what plants grow back year after year
that the air-traffic will be ordered in the night sky, along with timed streetlights
that planets will propel around the great kickers and slingshots
all while they sleep
Again, you are up all night, gambling
I SAW A MAN
I saw a man in the neighborhood today.
If you walk much in town you have seen him.
He’s been walking the streets rain or shine for decades.
Seems he can’t say much.
Points and grunts or loudly hums – Ooohs or Uuuhs –
to show the passerby his vest or glasses, a flower he’s picked.
My friend – for surely he considers me, perhaps everyone, his friend – never hurries, never fails too greet another walker.
I expect he’d stay – smile and point and coo – for hours were I so inclined.
Today as I passed on my bike he stood – mid-street –
head cocked skyward.
What do you see old buddy?
What could I see were I more like you?
My Friend, Wasserman
When I take a walk in our small town
I pass Clemansview Stables.
Inside those bold white fences, horses shuffle
eager for my apples and carrots.
gallop to me neighing.
After I give them treats
they let me fondle them,
run my hands
along their sides, brush the flies from their heads.
One horse, much bigger, stronger
rises up after I give him apples
opens his mouth with a smile, almost.
With his big teeth, it’s ghoulish
but I love it. His tongue
is as big as a man’s hand.
I learn his name is Wasserman,
He is eighteen and retired.
In his racing life, he was a crowd favorite,
won two-thirds of a million dollars.
He even has a bobblehead likeness!
After he retired, his owners took him to the track,
a good-will ambassador. He let
kids pet him and give him treats.
He was a celebrity but now
he lives quietly in our town.
I never learned to ride
but when Wasserman gallops toward me
I feel a touch of his wildness.
And when I remove a burr from his mane
and I am so careful
and he is so still,
our bond is settled.
My imagination flares:
I see my legs bowed around his big body
his marvelous legs stretching out front and back
my hair and his mane flying
me and Wasserman
taming the wind.
Gambling with a Sestina
What’s to be done with our precious lives?
From first cry to last breath,
our soul is searching for a home.
Life is earnest, but to live’s a gamble–
Playing games of chance,
we seek out company, we strive to be alone.
We mate, we marry, we face our fate alone.
We search for meaning for our lives.
With luck, with skill, we earn our chance:
Roll the dice, hold your breath
(any choice, a gamble)–
But its love that makes a house a home.
Then children come into the home
and no choice you make is yours alone.
So throw your whole soul into the gamble.
You’re lucky to bear witness to their lives.
Dig deep, take big breaths–
Be grateful that you have the chance.
I’m grateful for this gift of chance.
To embrace the world, to build a home.
All my heart, all my breath,
my work, my path, not fate alone.
So what shall we do with our precious lives?
At any cost, it’s worth the gamble.
These crazy days, we gamble
with a virus that cheats at games of chance.
A high stakes game—we are playing for our lives.
Close the bars, keep the children home
while the old folks die alone
fighting for their breath.
All things change from breath to breath.
Life’s an existential gamble
and no one wins by luck alone.
But with faith and skill we have a chance
to craft ourselves a home.
This is the purpose of our lives.
Not will alone, but heart and breath
For our only lives, we gamble.
All for a chance for home.
Oh, here is light again
pulls you out of bed
throws you in the kitchen
to let out the cat
desperate green tomatoes wait
for late fall sun to turn their jade
a little yellow
long afternoon shadows call up
chill draughts and bone ache
not yet frost but soon
fierce arctic wind will twist
down broken pine limbs
So, hunker down like garlic knobs
and minute pink potato babies
or sunflower seeds dropped
unpecked by goldfinches
and weather this
tilt of earth
‘til it lifts us
to a summer Thursday
The Dice Rolling
In the town of Paradise, just and unjust vaporize
in their burning cars. Barely any bones
remain among the ashes. But Starbucks
still stands strong on Main Street.
The hurricane was said to wipe out Zika
in Puerto Rico. Turns out, not so. Death,
like false hope, offends us but nothing galls
like the sheer arbitrariness of fate.
In moments of madness we long to hold
those dice in our soft and clawless hands.
But in all the ER’s of the world, dread
clutches the throats of those who must decide.
“There are two great pleasures in gambling; that of winning and that of losing.” – French Proverb
It is because there is no God to dread
–At least not one who hovers overhead,
Like translucent Charlton Heston–
That Pascal was wrong to shove chips all-in.
Better to take responsibility as we live
And bet on the categorical imperative
Behave as ladies and gentlemen,
sinning when we must, not when we can,
and then, mostly sins of the flesh,
for which we absolve ourselves afresh.
Odds are, life, well-lived, requires
no extension when it expires,
then, when consciousness discharges one night alone
our regrets won’t linger like stale ozone,
after lightning lances the desert floor,
fouling the air as it starts to pour.