The Passing of Grandfather Red Oak

You stood for three centuries,
giving shade and shelter
in the ancient forest,
where so many times
we walked in silence
on warm Sunday afternoons.

You graced us with your beauty,
and we marveled at your enduring strength,
helping us not be quite so afraid
of death’s inevitable knock,
and the chill that forever remains.

You fell with great thunder,
like that shaking the skies,
and left the deepest impressions
the earth below will always remember.

So much you’ve seen
throughout your life,
I cannot begin to imagine.
So many birds delighted
as you held them tight during storms
and in the darkness of the night.

Your leafy canopy gone,
but never forgotten.
Your rugged bark
so many woodpeckers once climbed.
And oh how we loved your rusted leaves
that fell in autumn
and brought back so many memories.

The hole you leave behind in the earth
and most of all in our hearts
can never be filled,
but rest now, sweet Grandfather Red Oak;
for your work is done.

A tribute to a magnificent red oak tree that
stood for over three hundred years in the
Holden Arboretum in the Cleveland area.

Click here to hear me read this poem.

Dad and His Words

Dad always loved words–
long ones, short ones,
tall ones, and fat ones.
He especially adored unique words
ringing in your ears like musical notes.

He minced words every chance he got,
and he still does at eighty-five.
Good-spirited verbal volleyball was his sport.
No crossword puzzle was safe for long
when Dad had a sharp pencil in his left hand.
Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary was his best friend,
and Roget’s Thesaurus was a close runner up.

Dad loved writing poetry.
Not something most millwrights do
in their spare time.
Every morning the muse danced for him, and
there were poems about nature, the Holy Spirit,
and anything else lending itself to rhyme.
Yes, Dad liked rhyming poems best–
those sounding like harps, guitars and pianos.

Each poem, when finished, was always printed
ever so neatly in Dad’s best handwriting
with a blue ballpoint pen.
Much later, of course, he turned
to the old black Royal typewriter
that went clackety clack,
when its silver keys were pressed into action.

Yes, my Dad had a love affairs with words,
and everyone who knew him
knew of his passion for morphemes, collocations, idioms,
phrases, colloquialisms, and euphemisms.
And everyone was surprised
that a man turning wrenches for a living
could turn heads and hearts with his words.

Most of all,
Dad was a man of his word.
His word was never idle chatter
nor meaningless fill for empty spaces
on a page or in a conversation.
Like most men of their word,
Dad opted for silence
over promises he could never keep.

Thanks Dad for teaching me to love words
and for insisting that I live up to my word.

Click here to hear me read this poem.
(Takes a few minutes to download.)

Response to Being Tagged

Kai tagged me and so I must share 8 random bits of information about myself.

Here they are:

1. I love my wife (Mary) and my two sons (Jeff and Jason) very much. How they put up with me, I will never know. All three are important teachers in my life.

2. I was born with an insatiable curiosity and interest in many different things. Sometimes my divergent interests cause me to move in too many different directions in my life. I am easily distracted by these differing interests and must work at keeping them in balance.

3. My real calling in life is spiritual guidance. I resisted it for too long, but began surrendering to it in the early 1990s. I was on my way to being a minister and missionary fresh out of high school, but did an about face when my hormones got the best of me and led me astray.

4. I gave up an academic/athletic (football) scholarship at a small church college in Kankakee, IL to go to the University of Arizona in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I lived in sin nonstop for three years and have never regretted it.

5. Because of my last name, most people think I am a full-blooded Italian, but I am only 25% Italian. The other 75% is 50% German and 25% Swiss.

6. I have worked on economic consulting projects in 41 US states and 13 countries during my career. In the early 1980s, I spent the better part of two years working in East Asia. It changed my life in more ways than one.

7. I love writing. Poetry has been a part of my life since my high school years, but I have only taken it seriously in the past four years. I just published my second book of poetry, which is far from my last. I have published nearly fifty academic and professional journal articles, book chapters, and monographs on economic development and environmental issues. I co-authored a book on economic development in 1999, and currently I am writing a new book on leadership.

8. My career is shifting in new directions that reflect my spiritual path. Poetry, workshops, book-writing, speeches, and life coaching are likely aspects of the next leg of my career. Meaningful work, authentic leadership, creativity, and personal transformation are all reflections of this new path. I try to live up to Gandhi’s advice: “Be the change you want to create in the world.”

Rather than tag anyone in specific, I invite everyone to share their life with others.

This Week’s Best Selling Poetry Books

Which poetry books are selling best? Don’t know? I didn’t know either. The Poetry Foundation provides a reasonably good answer to this question.

What is the Poetry Foundation? The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience.

Click here to read about the best selling poetry books in America by the large and small presses, according to the Poetry Foundation.

The top five books for the week of May 6th are:

1. The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems (paperback) by Billy Collins (Random House).
2. Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins (Random House Trade Paperbacks).
3. Thirst by Mary Oliver (Beacon Press).
4. New and Selected Poems: Volume Two (paperback) by Mary Oliver (Beacon Press).
5. New and Selected Poems: Volume One by Mary Oliver (Beacon Press).

You know what is really funny? Billy Collins and Mary Oliver are two of my favorite contemporary poets. I might add that Mary Oliver hails from the Cleveland area.

Lost in the Moment on Erie’s Shore

Like a thirsty dog,
the lake lapped the shore,
leaving driftwood and other minute possessions
for treasure hunters, young and old,
in search of clues,
shedding light on the miracle
we call life.

Sun fell through outstretched trees,
lining Erie’s coast,
adding to the mystique,
luring us to the magical water’s edge.

Just beyond the worn stone breakwall,
silver-white lake gulls bobbed the waves,
occasionally swishing their longish bills
in the steel-gray water.

A pious-looking fisherman,
with a scruffy graying red beard
and large rough hands,
dumped his leftover minnows in the water,
creating a commotion among the gulls,
who quickly traded their peace for a savory meal.

As we rounded the top of the last hill,
looking out over the sparkling lake waters,
we eyed a large freighter in the distance
and heard its bellowous horn.
Only then did we realize,
we had been helplessly lost in the moment
on Erie’s beautiful shore.

Click here to hear me read this poem.

Declaration Day

On this still spring morning
the silence is broken
by twenty-one stinging shots
and the haunting sound of taps
that drifts and lingers
like a ghost
across the cemetery
behind us

Each note
speaking the names
of so many serving
and dying
in battlefields
and on innocent streets
in wars
not theirs
that killed and maimed
so many

Remember those
who believed
in their hearts
they had done the right thing
for country
with their lives

Click here to hear me read this poem.

Click here to hear the sound of a bugle playing taps. (It’s worth it!)

The Battle of Bands on Religion

Religious belief.
Few topics are more hotly debated,
and yet most debates go nowhere
except in closed circles
always meant to be left open.

There are debates between circles of belief,
like Christianity and Islam, and
there are debates within circles of belief,
like what different brands of Protestants believe, and
there are debates within circles within circles of belief,
like what different brands of Christian fundamentalists believe.

Most all appeal to an authority,
which they claim is the highest, but
how can there be any truly final authority,
when there are so many?
There can’t be.

The good news is that most belief systems
point to something higher,
which, in one way or another,
helps us keep our insidious egos in check.

The bad news is that most religious debates
seek to emphasize differences
and ignore what all share in common,
which is that none have the answer for all.

Many have tired of the ranting and proselytizing
of organized religion, and have chosen
to label themselves spiritual.
But I find even the spiritual camp
to be overflowing with debates
about who really knows the real deal
when it comes to the Divine.

And then there is the ongoing raging debate
between science and religion,
which makes me laugh, as now we watch
both using consciousness as a fulcrum
to lift up their ideologies.

So what are we left to believe?
Believe what you will, but remember
that whatever you believe
can and will limit what you know.

As for me,
I am writing this poem,
instead of sitting in some hard church pew
on this Sunday morning.

Click here to hear me read this poem.

This poem was prompted by a recent exchange with one of favorite aunts about religion and spirituality. By the way, neither of us won the debate. 🙂

What We Try to Leave Behind

Fresh out of high school,
I left home–
the place I knew best, and loved most,
with a heavy broken heart.
The break-up with my high school sweetheart
was the obvious reason for taking flight,
but truthfully, I had wanted
to get away from what I was
for a very long time.

I will always remember that warm summer morning when I left.
Just two days after July Fourth,
and just two days before Mom’s birthday.
I remember studying the Greyhound bus ticket,
and thinking of John Denver’s song, Leaving on a Jet Plane.
I felt like crying, but my anger wouldn’t let me.
Somehow the break-up, a summer job in Tucson,
and my deep-seated desire to see the world–
all seemed to fall into place,
and so I got on the bus.

Traveling sixty-eight hours on a bus across America
gives you plenty of time to reflect on your life.
My high school love was not completely forgotten,
but the sight of so many other beautiful young ladies,
like a couple of straight-up vodka martinis,
helped to ease my pain.
I re-read her last two letters,
and kept returning to one thing she had said:
What we had was real, but so are our dreams
to make something of ourselves in life,
and that we should not sacrifice.
Otherwise we are likely
to blame ourselves and each other forever.

While the hurt stun deeply,
I knew I wasn’t willing to give up my dreams.

No mental or emotional conclusions to my questions
during the long hot bus trip, but somehow
I felt like I deserved better in life.
That the life I was given,
but really I had created,
was not good enough
to match the “I am somebody” self-image
that quietly grew inside me
over my first eighteen years.
And yes, the “I am somebody” image
is just a cover for my real self-perception:
“I am nobody.”

I remember looking up the meaning of narcissism
in Mr. Sharpe’s English class, and thinking
I wasn’t narcissistic, because
I was sacrificing my dreams
to be what everyone else wanted me to be.
Upon reflection, that is exactly what I was.
I was consumed by my own will and desires.
I could think of nobody but myself.

I wanted to move on to another life–
in another place, and maybe even in another time.
I thought I could do it; that is shed the life I had,
like a man throws away an old hunting jacket
because of the blood stains
that won’t wash out.
So the Ohio Valley and all it meant to me
became a memory–
left to rust away, like the local factories
that once supported so many men and their families.

For packing so light,
my suitcase seemed so heavy.
Much heavier than I ever realized.
I guess that’s the way life feels,
when it’s filled with blame, anger, and sadness.
And all along,
I thought I had left those parts of myself behind.
Just for a fleeting second,
I felt the tiniest hint of regret.
But that was washed away,
as the bus door opened, emptying us
into a dingy bus terminal just outside St.Louis
for a restroom and snack break.

I never turned back,
but for a long time looked back over my shoulder
at the ghosts that seemed to be following me.
Eventually, I stopped looking back,
and the ghosts disappeared–
into my dreams, awakening me often as shadows,
where the unknown and forgotten
always seemed to linger and dance.

There is a lesson in all this, and that is:
No matter how hard we try,
we can never live happily until
we claim all parts of ourselves.
No matter how hard we try,
we can never forget,
nor go back and change,
what are lives really were, and still are.

I realized all this some time back
while rummaging through some old things
in a trunk in the basement.
I found that old hunting jacket.
I slipped it on.
Surprisingly, it still fit,
but mysteriously, the blood stains were gone.

Click here to hear me read this poem.

(Warning: Sorry, but this is a very big file and it will take 3-5 minutes to download, BUT I think you will enjoy hearing this one.)

On Spotting a Red Fox in the Tall Grass

I saw a red fox today,
and watched it stealthfully wind its way
through the tall grass on the edge of the forest.
Its bushy tail, with a distinctive white tip,
swayed back and forth,
as it carefully made its way toward a nearby thicket.

It didn’t take long for the birds and chipmunks
to spot their cunning predator,
and scurry away, abandoning their lunch
to avoid becoming the fox’s midday snack.

Nor did it take long for the fox
to sense my footsteps closing in on him.
The rusty red canid froze in the grass,
hoping I would lose sight of him.
Then, without warning, he bounded off
into the forest depths,
leaving me only with my footsteps.

I know it sounds silly,
but I felt privileged having seen the creature.
He made me feel that just maybe
God was smiling down on me today.
And I swear, as I was walking back to the house,
two huddled chipmunks high-fived me
to show their appreciation to me
for scaring off the dredded fox.

I told them they could save their applause.

Click here to hear me read this poem.

Cloverfield

There are many fields of clover,
but just one Cloverfield
that means anything to me.
Cloverfield was a special place for me,
as a boy growing up in Martins Ferry,
along the shores of the Mighty Ohio.

I don’t remember when I first visited Cloverfield,
but I recall passing many peaceful summer afternoons,
lying on my back amidst the sweet clover,
watching clouds pass overhead,
and dreaming of far off places
that someday I would visit,
if only in my words.

I didn’t know back then
that James Wright,
Martins Ferry’s first poet son,
had also discovered this place–
this magical field of clover,
where contented Holsteins fed, and
where poets were born.
Well, at least a few anyway.

I didn’t know back then
that Cloverfield would mean anything to me today.
I didn’t know that all those quiet afternoons passed
watching the clouds and listening to the birds sing
would come to mean anything to me,
but they did.
Oh, how they did.

Perhaps there is a Cloverfield in your life.
A simple place where you feel suddenly alive.
A place that feels like home,
where you’re not afraid to talk to yourself.
A place clouds are allowed to be more than clouds,
and where your voice is yours,
no matter what words you say.
A place where poems, like clover,
grow thick and sweet
without even trying.
A place you don’t mind taking to your grave
because you know
you have found your place.

Dedicated to James Wright, a man I knew only through his words, and Annie, his sweet wife.

Click here to hear me read this poem.

Glorious Springtime Leaves

Once they make their minds up,
the leaves on the trees in the forest grow
at lightning speed in springtime.
Sometimes it takes them a while to get started,
but that’s true for all of us,
as we ready for new growth in our lives.
And for all of us,
including the leaves waving to us from high above,
adolescence is an awkward time–
some say, an in-between time,
when we can’t quite decide
whether to be a caterpillar or butterfly.
Each leaf a magical photosynthetic factory,
giving so much unselfishly to something higher;
something more deeply rooted,
something touching the sky, and yes
something that goes beyond itself
to create a forested world,
sheltering even those without leaves.
So, I too, like many poets before me,
pay tribute to the leaves,
towering above us, but always there
grasping sun drops,
and forever waving hello.

Click here to hear Don read this poem.

Meditation on Highest Callings

Help me linger
in the morning sun.
Help me soak up
its powerful warming rays
that fall like velvet
through the trees.
Help me dance
in unending circles
in the scented breeze
blowing gently
across the yard.
Help me never again deny
the magic
that life sweeps across me
in every breath I take.
For then
I have reached my highest calling
in accepting
what life does bring.

Click here to hear me read this poem.

T-r-u-t-h

Those of truth
live in shadows
like those rarely seen.

Those of truth
try their best
to go unnoticed,
like the last flicker of sunset,
before it turns into night.

Those of truth
have stopped searching,
because they know, they have
all they will ever need.

Those of truth
pause to wonder
because wonder is
even more than it seems.

Those of truth,
last and foremost,
find Scarborough Fair
in all they see.

And those of truth
will always know
the end is near
for all but truth
that lingers long
and wanders wide.

But in the end,
truth we know
can never hide.

A Day Without Expectation

Some mornings, even before
we launch out of bed,
we set expectations
about how
the world should be.

Some days,
we form ideas too quickly
about what we want
from the world, and
in so doing,
we preclude truth’s possibilities,
which can set us free
of the illusions
growing inside our dreams.

Just this morning,
as I shrugged off last signs of the night,
I set demands on this very Sunday,
which greeted me
with cheerful chirping birds
and a slight breeze,
rustling the young spring leaves
in the nearby forest.

Fortunately,
a tiny voice inside
nudged me back to reality:
let this day be what it is, and
may you befriend the surprises
that it brings.

Second Printing of Stilling the Waters Released

I am pleased to announce that BookSurge Publishing just released the second printing of Stilling the Waters, my first poetry book, which was first published in 2005. The first edition of the book sold very well. I was encouraged by the publisher to make some changes in the book’s look and organization.

Stilling the Waters is now available on Amazon.com and other online bookstores.

stwcover.jpg
(Click on image to enlarge it)

Blue Sky Meditation

A perfectly blue sky
hung overhead
all day long.

Something about such a sky
makes you wonder deep and wide.

Something about such a sky
makes you release yourself
just a little bit more
than you ordinarily do.

Something about a sky
without clouds
makes you carefree
and almost endless.

Something about such a sky
unfetters you
releasing you from yourself
and letting your heart float
like a bright red balloon
into the sky’s vastness.
And there
you disappear
and become the sky.

Don’t Forget Who You Are

Don’t forget
who you are.
Never lose sight
of what makes you real.

Don’t forget
who you are.
Always remember
what makes you special.

Don’t forget
who you are.
Forever see
the beauty
surrounding
who you are.

Don’t forget
who you are.
Just for once
look at yourself
and how wonderful
you really are.

Don’t forget
who you are.
Close your eyes
and imagine yourself
and why you’re here.
There is a reason.
There is a reason
why you’re here.

Don’t forget
who you are…

Reflecting on Our Karma

So much karma to work off,
In this life and the next,
So many little things we scoff,
No need to write in this life’s text.

Through life, through life,
We walk and we walk,
At times, it seems too much strife,
So we talk and we talk.

There’s no undoing what’s done,
And no changing what’s happened,
Wherever we are, a new chance has begun,
A better life ahead to be captained.

There’s no good looking back,
Or feeling ashamed,
Or searching for a new tack,
For some life still to be named.

What’s done is done,
And life goes on,
What’s done is done,
And life goes on.

Going Back Home

Seeing the river again
and the rolling green hills
took me back
to another time–
a time before this time,
when all I was
was much simplier.

I carry around more complexity now.
Complex stuff that people carry with them,
like subtle dillusions of grandeur
that a two-bit play actor
would hold onto
just because he thought
others expected him
to hold onto these notions,
and because
we can never go back
to the beginning,
even when we visit
the place we were born
with best friends from then.

The faces are different now,
but still the same.
You know what I mean–
people struggling to get by,
people trapped in their dreams
that they pray will save them, and
people who will die, wishing
they had done
so many things differently,
while they had the chance.

But we can never go back–
back to when we began
as young boys playing beside the road.
Young boys in Martins Ferry.
But we can rejoice in our reunion
in another time–this time
when we are much older, and
when we can remember earlier times
with much love in our hearts.

Dedicated to Dan and Richard. Thanks for all you have given to my life.

Boys’ Night Out for Seven Tom Turkeys

Seven wild tom turkeys
on an early Monday evening
struttin’ their stuff
by the side of a country road.

Seven tom turkeys.
Gobblin’ and peckin’,
like preposterous virile young men,
while the hens tend to their poults.

Seven tom turkeys.
Seemingly oblivious to everything,
save their fanned tail feathers
and bright red wattles,
hanging from their chins.

Seven tom turkeys.
Thankful for May and spring flowers,
and relieved to have survived
another last Thursday in November.

2:47 AM: Imagining Life

So many thoughts at 2:47 AM.
Mostly loose ones,
drifting like ghosts
in and out of you.
All as fugitive as breath, yet
some presenting themselves
as incarnate as rays of sun,
lingering at sunset.
We know better,
or at least we should.
We can be closer to ourselves
when we’re captured
by moments like this.
Night moments, when
it’s quiet enough
to hear the house sigh,
and you can glimpse
another side of yourself–one
demanding the utmost gentleness
before it will show itself.
But even that disappears,
like the dream awakening you
in the first place.
You wonder what really holds us–
here in this moment.
It all seems so fragile.
Not in the sense of shattering
like a glass slipping from your hand, but
more like a mirage on a hot summer day.
One moment it’s here, and then
it’s gone in the next.
Just like life.

Morning Clouds and Sun Sing Their Songs

Scarlet-orange clouds
painted their way
across an early morning sky.

I watched them
slowly turn,
like autumn leaves,
into a chorus of color.

I heard them singing…
Simon and Garfunkel’s song, Cloudy.
I laughed
at how out of tune
a couple clouds sounded,
especially those singing bass.

After all,
this is Saturday morning,
and there is no need
for thundering voices
to fill the sky.

The sky brightened suddenly,
as the sun jumped in
with its own song:
the Beatle’s Good Day Sunshine.

Getting Past Ourselves

Our biggest struggles
in life
are with ourselves.

Some escalate
into battles, and some
into life-long wars
that take
the best part
of who we are.

And
when we lose
that part
of ourselves,
the struggles deepen,
causing the battle lines to grow,
exposing more of us
to even more
of what consumes us,
breaking us down,
and ultimately destroying
any hope we have
for peace.

The answer is
always the same,
and that is to surrender;
letting go of all
that causes us to struggle,
including even
our desire for peace.
For as long
as we struggle
even for peace,
we remain
at war with ourselves.

Each Day We Paint

Paint we do
each day
on our life’s canvas.
Some days
the brush moves beautifully,
leaving behind
inspiring sunrises and sunsets.
And other days,
we paint dark clouds
that pass over us
and shadow our life.

Paint we do
each day
on our life canvas.
Our hand
at times
is steady and focused.
And other times,
it trembles uncontrollably
with fear.

Some days
the brush never leaves
the hand that feeds it.
Other days,
the brush lies untouched
on the table,
where neglect
hangs heavier
than any storm cloud.

Paint you must
today
on your life canvas.
Remember always
most of what you paint today
can be undone
by tomorrow’s strokes.
Including the glorious sunsets,
the storm clouds,
the smiling faces,
and even the tears
streaming down your cheeks,
painting straight from your heart
onto your canvas.

Paint we do
each day
on our life canvas.
Given the choice,
paint boldly
but gently,
and with patience
toward yourself.
Paint what lies
deepest
in your heart.

Never Close Enough

It’s hard at times
to feel close enough
to Mother Nature.
Even when draped
in her glorious colors,
dazzled by her magic, and
overtaken by her beauty each spring.

It’s hard at times
to feel close enough
to Mother Nature.
Perhaps I expect too much, and
want to hold onto
what belongs to everyone,
but really no one.

Maybe I dally too long
in the wake
of the precious Mother’s waves of glory
that lap at me until
I submit to her persistent advances.

And then,
once I am hers,
resting comfortably in her arms,
she sets me down,
only to pick up another child.

Our Fathers Died Fighting

Our fathers died fighting
in places we never knew.
Far away places never imagined.
Places like Timbuktu.

So many faces died fighting
for things they didn’t do.
Our fathers died fighting
in places we never knew.

Too easy we forget
in dark graves they lie,
and for most, before their time.
Without glory, without fame,
in far off places
they died fighting.

Places we never knew.

A tribute not to war, but those who died fighting.

Shall We Dare

Shall we dare
linger one more moment
and let the warm morning sun
fill us with peace and comfort?

Shall we dare
lie perfectly still and listen
to the rhythmic beating
of our hearts resting in love?

Shall we dare
forgive ourselves for what
we so much more easily
can forgive another?

Shall we dare
stray from the known path
and explore one not known
during our daily walk through life?

Shall we dare
grant another blessings
that we ourselves
cannot possess?

Shall we dare
accept what we always questioned
and question
what we have always accepted?

Dare we shall
all this, and more
and in so doing
allow the life we love to appear.

The Epic Tale of the Dreaded Sumo Chair

When most Americans think of 1973,
they think of Richard Nixon and Watergate.
For me, 1973 was the Year of the Chair.
I will tell you why shortly.

Those were my college days, and
the days of living in crowded Little Italy in Cleveland,
where everyday everyone battled
for a parking place near their house.

Even with my tiny red VW Beetle,
which never started
when its distributor cap got wet,
it was a struggle to park
within a 5-minute walk of the apartment.

Those were the days
when the City’s sanitation workers,
a.k.a garbage men,
picked upon Monday’s trash maybe on Wednesday.
Too often, your car competed with garbage cans
for a place to park.
And in the springtime,
when the spirit moved folks
to throw away
what they held onto for too long,
there were more garbage cans and boxes
than cars parked on the street.

Our neighbors to the west of us–
the strange ones nobody knew or rarely saw–
every spring engaged in some potlatch type ceremony,
where they threw out what seemed to be
most of their belongings,
including a huge ugly brown stuffed chair,
that I suspected doubled as a sumo wrestler
on Saturday evenings.

I will forever recall
one fateful late Monday afternoon,
when I arrived home from school,
went to my little red Beetle,
and readied for my drive to work.

Trash was piled as close as possible to the front,
rear, and passenger side of my car.
Extricating my poor car from the trash
would be no easy matter,
but something no less that must be done.

The object was to get my car out,
without toppling the mountains of garbage
surrounding my little car.
Finally, I decided to slowly pull the car forward
and attempt to nudge the trash out of the way.
Those old stick shifts never were very reliable,
as you will shortly see.

I thought I had the car in first gear, but somehow
it jerked into reverse, and sure enough
the mountain of trash behind my car
was sent flying in all directions.
I was pissed and mortified at the same time.

There was no time to clean up the mess.
After all, it was those damn nobody-knows-em neighbors’ fault
in the first place.
With nobody to be seen,
I pulled my Beetle away from the curb
and off I drove for work.

No sooner did I reach Euclid Avenue,
when car horns began honking.
Surely everyone is crazy, I thought,
as I drove to the traffic light at Severance Hall,
where the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra plays.
Then I learned the reason for all the honking.

The guy in the car to my left points frantically
to the rear of my Beetle.
Confused, I turn to see what is the matter.
I thought I was hallucinating.
There, at the rear of my car, was THE chair.
Not any chair, but the goddamn sumo chair,
which we dodged every day in front of the house.

Dumbfounded, I jumped from my car,
in the middle of rush hour traffic,
and discovered that the 400-pound chair
was no longer the street’s problem, but mine alone.
I quickly sized up the situation:
sumo chair on my bumper,
a dozen or more baffled people
standing in the nearby bus shelter,
and the esteemed Severance Hall just twenty yards away.

My primal instincts kicked in at this point,
and I began spasticly jumping up and down on my bumper,
trying to free my little car from the wiry arms
of the dreaded sumo chair.
By now, a crowd had gathered to watch.
Without looking at them,
I sensed their eyes fixed on me.

One last jump, and the sumo’s hold was broken.
Now, what does one do with a butt ugly 400-pound chair
in front of the City’s respected concert hall?
I grasped one sturdy arm of the chair,
and with unexpected Herculean strength,
I dragged the chair from the street
and onto the sidewalk, directly in front of Severance.

An older Asian man, waiting for his bus, was screaming at me
that I couldn’t leave this chair here.
He indignantly informed me
he played violin for the Orchestra,
and this act was highly insulting.
I screamed back at him: It’s not my goddamn chair,
and I have to go to work!
With that,
I leaped back into my car and sped away.
In my rearview mirror,
I saw the crowd swarming around the sumo chair.

For the next two weeks,
the chair proudly maintained its position
in front of the home of the Cleveland Orchestra.
Everyday I drove by the chair.
Eventually my embarrassment gave way to humor.
Even to this day,
I quip about endowing an honorary chair at Severance Hall;
perhaps for a violinist.

Reflecting on a Meaningful Life

Life in the abstract is meaningless.

How’s that for an abstract,
and therefore meaningless answer
to the critically important question:
Is your life meaningful?

I ask the question because I care,
and also because asking you the question
creates a mirror allowing me
to reflect upon my own life
and its meaningfulness.

Certainly philosophers serve their purpose
by raising age-old questions
perplexing all pondering them, but
a meaningful understanding of life
flows from living a meaningful life.

Should I say that again?
I shall.
A meaningful understanding of life
flows from living a meaningful life.
Mr. Thompson, my much feared and revered
high school chemistry teacher, was right:
The proof is in the pudding. Always!

So, what is a meaningful life?
Look in the mirror
and ask yourself that question.
Prescriptive answers by another
to that question, are indeed unjust.

You must decide for yourself.

So, how is your life, and
is it meaningful enough to you?
Moreover, how do you decide
whether your life is meaningful?
For most of us, we decide
based upon what is most important to us.

And what might that be?
The list is nearly endless, and
it includes everything from love
to fame and fortune,
good health, family, and friends,
serving a higher purpose,
attaining spiritual enlightenment,
helping others,
freedom and individuality, and
for some novelty and creativity.

Is my life meaningful?
As I stand before the bathroom mirror,
on this gorgeous early May morning,
an unexpected smile breaks out on my face.
I think: What a ludicrous question!
Need I ask such a question of myself
on this beautiful day,
overflowing with life possibilities?

Indeed, my life is meaningful, and
not for any particular reason.
It just is; as I am.
And that is enough for me.

Now that I’ve resolved that issue,
I am curious to know:
How did mirrors ever get to be so smart?

Immigrant Reflections

On boats they came
from far away.
Places large and small
they left behind
with their hearts in tow.

For many,
never to return again
to where they started.
To where their hearts began.

And from the boats,
now leaving them behind,
they travel onward to find a home
where their hearts can grow like flowers
dug up from one bed and planted in another.

New lives they’ll sprout, hopefully better
even than the dreams carrying here.
And yet alone they’ll be,
because they left behind
those they loved for the very first time.

So many they will never see again.
Whose hearts will die, broken
because those they loved
moved so very far away.
And some who left,
will try their best to remember,
and not forget those left behind.

New faces, on their children born,
will wear the names of those left behind.
And these new faces,
if they’re lucky,
will be reminded time to time
of those they never knew.

And perhaps, if they are lucky,
someday they will see the faces
who first wore the names they now wear.

Dedicated to all leaving the home they had to find a new home.

The Flowering You

It’s springtime!

Imagine you are a flower.
This is your day to bloom.
Show off your new blossoms.
Allow the sunshine to touch you
from your roots to your leaves.
Smile at the other flowers around you.
Sing! Flowers have beautiful voices, you know.
Raise your head proudly, and feel
the gentle breeze moving you from side to side.
Wallow in those refreshing spring showers
that make you grow.
And by all means, give thanks to all
who have helped cultivate you
throughout your beautiful life.