Grandma’s Ball of String

old and new, tied together
like the large ball of string
grandma saved and added to
for more than fifty years

a grandmotherly thing to do
not just save string, but
string together family
otherwise lacking connection

without strings attached
her love brought us together
nurtured and helped us grow
like tender young flowers in her garden

each expression of her love
a thread of hope
spun out to us
just when we needed it

even her unassuming smile
unraveled us, bringing laughter
at times tears
always helping us find ourselves

even after all these years
grandma’s ball of string is still working
sustaining us
connecting us to what matters most

Bumble Bee

plump black and yellow bumble bee
pollinating creature you are
always on the move
never an idle moment in your day

your fuzzy body tickles flowers
uncontrollable laughter it ignites
your hum-like buzzing voice
gently carries in still morning air

drifting through the garden
beauty touches you, all along your way
determinedly moving flower to flower
giving and taking each stop you make

the cat in the window, sitting ever so still
invites you to play some dastardly game
need i say
you dare not partake

watching you makes me wonder
a favorite flower have you
your frequent stops, a clue perhaps
the sprawling shaggy veronicas
might be it, at least today

a wish offered to you and all other bumble bees
may flowers sprout a lifetime
and may summer last an eternity

A Day in the Life of a Chipmunk

through the garden she scurried
with overstuffed cheeks, about to explode
she darts without warning into the burrow
next to the tan boulder, midway between
the snapdragons and the delphiniums

her first litter, now grown
and oh yes we saw them
those brown pelted beauties
now likely a second on the way

then, just as late morning sun paints
ivory white streaks on sleeping flowers
mom chipmunk reappears
this time perched atop the boulder
her lookout to the world

a leisurely full-body stretch and
hasty scratch behind the ears
and again she’s off for a refill
from under the feeders at the forest’s edge

Fourth of July

Now it seems
after the Fourth of July
the summer scoots by so much faster,
making us almost wish the Fourth away.
But as a young boy,
July 4th was long and eagerly awaited,
and then summers lasted an eternity.
Always then,
up before the hazy sunrise.
Boundless energy
exploding in all directions.
Rapid-fire machine gun firecrackers
breaking the morning’s silence.
Sweltering heat at noon
as we guzzled gallons of cool-aid.
Pick-up baseball games,
badminton matches, and horseshoe contests
throughout the inexhaustible day
that went on and on.
Dips in and out of the pool
and even a run through the sprinkler.
Favorite aunts hugging you
and begging you to tell
about your secret girlfriend.
How did they know?
Maybe because they were
secret girlfriends at one time.
Picnic plates filled with things we still love
but won’t allow ourselves to eat today.
Barbecue smoke wafting across backyards,
whetting our insatiable appetites.
Uncles, tipsy from much beer, telling bawdy jokes
kids shouldn’t hear, but always they did.
Excited laughter
giggling through life’s usual humdrum.
Magical fireflies twinkling yellow
in the alluring darkness,
prompting our chase
long after bedtime.
Skies graced with exploding rainbows
and mesmerizing color extravaganzas.
And best of all: Sweet dreams
and painless happiness everywhere.

Clouds Amaze Me

Clouds amaze me
how easily they make friends
with other clouds, but
always maintain their independence, and
how they put themselves
at the mercy of the wind, that
keeps them from becoming
too set in their ways like mountains.

Clouds amaze me
how they drift in wisps and billows, and
how they dress up as scowling old men
with stately white beards, or
naughty elephants standing on hind legs, or
even battered pirate ships
on a tumultuous sea.

Clouds amaze me
how they seduce my imagination, and
how they make me want to dance, and
how they make me want to be
something other than I am,
if only long enough
to know what it’s like
to be someone or something else.

Clouds amaze me
because they can be whatever
they want to be, and
finally just like good poems, they
leave the right parts of the story untold.

To hear this poem:

When You Don’t Make the Team

Do you remember in fifth grade
when I didn’t make the basketball team
and you told me not to cry
because men don’t cry?

And do you remember telling me
that’s the way it goes. Just accept it.
That’s the way what goes?
Basketball? Life? My life?
And accept what?
That I can sleep in on Saturday mornings
instead of playing basketball with my friends?
My friends who sneered at me and taunted me
like I was some worthless piece of crap.
My friends who will be immortalized
by the school and the other kids
because they made the team.

You didn’t even ask if I came close.
I was the last to be cut.
Not the first.
I almost made the team.
Why do they pick just twelve players?
Why not thirteen?
Do they have just twelve uniforms?
I’ll work and buy my own.

You don’t even have a name
if you get cut from the team.
The coach just calls out the names
of the boys making the team.
I never listened so carefully in my whole life.
I can’t believe I didn’t hear my name.
Maybe the coach just forgot to call my name.
Should I ask him if he forgot to call my name?
I don’t understand what I didn’t make the team.
Was it because of the two shots I missed?
Was it because the other boys’ dads knew the coach?
Why didn’t I make the team?

So what am I supposed to accept?
That I am a total loser,
and my life will never amount to anything?
That basketball isn’t my sport,
and I shouldn’t bother to tryout next year?
My life is over
and it’s barely started.
And you don’t even care!

What do I do instead of crying?
Just hold it in?
Get angry?
Go out and practice my shots?
Maybe I’ll just stop trying to be somebody
or make something of my life.
Maybe I’ll just run away
to some other place, and another family.
One that cares about me.
One that understands me
and helps me figure out what to do
with all this pain inside
that won’t go away,
no matter how hard I try.

You could have said you were sorry
that I didn’t make the team.
You could have said you’d help me
be a better player.
You could have said you’d talk to the coach
and find out why I didn’t make the team.
You could have said there were times in your life
when you didn’t make the team,
and you survived the pain of rejection,
and over time you grew stronger.
That’s the way it goes?
Do I have to figure all this out myself?
Why don’t men cry?

Click here to hear me read this poem.
(I have used a new reading style with this poem. Please let me know what you think. Also, in my reading I provide some context for this poem.)