A Sunday Morning Reflection on Nothing Special

White satin flowers
Azure summer sky
Gone for now
No need to cry

Wispful thinking
Maddening dreams of hope
November morning
Life’s unending scope

Seasons change
One to another
Watch your window
Thank Earth Mother

Faint gray-white clouds
Paintbrush sky
Leaveless trees
Oh my my

Easy going Sunday morn
Nothing to be done
Take it easy
Walk don’t run

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.

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!)

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.)

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.

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.