Fresh Words


I use this page to post a variety of pieces, both those just out of the sluice, and older pieces that feel fresh to me at the moment. I generally keep them up for a month, or a few at the most.

Look for new poems (and more) at the start of each month.

Shadowing   (new in August)
We Have to Become Human   (old but new in July)
Not So Still Life   (new in July)
The Purpose of Life  (new in July)
For Mimi   (new in June)

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A spankin’ new piece of flash fiction that definitely coincides with this month’s Home Page theme of Secrets.

 

SHADOWING

He’s random and a stranger but you’re curious so you shadow him for blocks to see what strange things he might do, and he walks quite a ways, then stops, walks a bit further, and stops, stands in the shade himself for a minute, the day has grown quite hot and he walks into a store and returns with a bottle of water, you wish you’d gone into the store but you were afraid, what might he have done in there, anything strange now went unseen, he might have shuffled the candies, played with the gum, fingered a donut, pocketed something you’ll never know what, you’ll never know, so he opens the bottle and sips at the water, walks on, closes the bottle, walks, opens the bottle, sips more and leaves it open, sips more and leaves it open, all the while walking, the sun is bright but he hasn’t a hat, why does he not have a hat on a scorching day, he walks in the sun and sips at the water, sips at the water, closes the bottle and sets it down alongside a building, it’s one quarter full and he leaves it there, there’s a strange thing, maybe not, still seems odd, who’s going to take it, somebody might, you stand there looking but he’s gone ahead, he’s quite up the walk and now you might lose him but don’t want to clue him by hastening, you walk on, he walks on, you walk on, he stops, you keep walking, he stands, you keep walking and wonder if you might surpass him, he turns to his right and walks into a market, you follow him in this time, what else to do, and of course you might witness some oddness, some strangeness, but what if he sees, what of it, you’re just walking too, now you’re here in the market, both of you, but for different reasons, you to observe him, he to do what, you don’t know, presumably to purchase what, you don’t know, you gather your wits and conjure a strategy, gazing at pretzels, gazing at crackers, it’s not a big market just two meager aisles surrounded by coolers and freezers, you gaze at detergent trying to look like you’re looking for something while finding a spot to observe what he’s doing, when all that he’s doing is staring at mangos, standing and staring, unblinking, unmoving, what is he doing he’s staring at mangos, strangely, oddly, normally, who knows, and now you’re staring at him staring at mangos, possibly for minutes but likely for seconds, you’re staring, he’s staring, he notices you staring and falters his reverie, you turn away and grab the nearest item, a bottle of water, in fact it’s the same kind that he had been drinking, how odd, but you grab it and head for the counter, he’s there right before you buying his mango, pays deftly and exits relief as it is without looking your way, you fumble with bills for your unforeseen purchase, complete the transaction and exit yourself, look left then right and catch him just turning a corner, you walk toward the corner, open the bottle and sip at the water, walk, sip at the water, walk, sip at the water, the day is quite warm still and you’ve been walking for some time, you sip at the water, get to the corner and turn and start down the block, glance down the block and there’s no sign of him, no sign anywhere, again a relief, and what matter, you don’t know him any more than when you started, not really, you don’t know him at all, do you really know anyone, you walk and breathe deeply, walk and breathe slowly and deeply, sip at the water, walk and breathe slowly and there he is, just ahead on your right on a stoop in the shadow, sitting contentedly eating his mango, you’re going to pass him and there’s nothing for it, nothing to do except walk, you’re approaching, he looks up, you smile, what else to do, he stands with the mango as you reach the stoop, jangles his keys in his other hand and says with a smile, “Care to come in?”

 

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Here’s an old fave that complements my diatribe about being versus becoming human at the bottom of the July 2018 Home Page. Some of you have seen it before.

 

WE HAVE TO BECOME HUMAN

We have to become human if we want to be pumas.
We have to become human if we want to be Schubert.
We have to become human if we want to be truthful.
We have to become human if we want a big choo-choo.
We have to become human if we want to eat rhubarb.
We have to become human if we want to ruminate.
We have to become human if we want to hear roosters.
We have to become human if we want a blue frou-frou.
We have to become human if we want to speak Zulu.
We have to become human if we want to wear bloomers.
We have to become human if we want a pluperfect.
We have to become human if we want to shoo-be-doo-be-doo.
We have to become human if we want to see Newton.
We have to become human if we want to push broomsticks.
We have to become human if we want to seek sutras.
We have to become human if we want to meet Rumi.
We have to become human if we want to free Mumia.
We have to become human if we want to be ruthful.
We have to become human if we want to drink root beer.
We have to become human if we don’t want a boo-boo.
We have to become human if we don’t want in lieu of.
We have to become human if we want a new room.

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This piece was written listening to Sidney Chen perform at Garden of Memory on June 21, 2018. You can read a full description in the Reflect on the July 2018 Home Page.

 

NOT SO STILL LIFE

On the dresser lies a box full of you and what you might be,
with a glass bead, an old photo, a crimson liquid in a vial,
a dried cricket, a dried leaf, and a certain folded piece of paper
folded in a certain way. How the box has come to be there,
how it has been filled, how you came to be, and how you know
you are, are questions best left asked quietly in deep of night,
for then only those who need to listen will, and listen well.
As if in answer, the box springs open and breaks into
full-throated song, filling the room with sentient sound.
The windowpanes hold the dark at bay; only moon leaks in
while the streaked old glass reverberates, and keeps that rung
and resonant voice alive and strong within the waiting walls.

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Written during a fit of existential optimism.

 

THE PURPOSE OF LIFE

I move hundreds of objects around every day,
literally hundreds – socks, dishes, pens, books, bags,
empty bags, bags full of groceries, bags full of bags,
containers of food, chunks of flesh, parts of plants, various soaps,
pieces of metal, pieces of plastic, pieces of wood, so many,
so many. Sometimes I think that the purpose of my life,
of all human life, is to move these objects around.
Sometimes I feel like an ant. That might be more than simile.
It’s really not that too far-fetched, if you think about it.
After all, we’re so fond of ascribing to bees the function of moving pollen,
of rats to knowing the way out – but do you think that’s how they see their lives?
I think not. So why can’t we, in the greater scheme of things,
and we are in a greater scheme of things, are we not,
much as our hubris and wack sense of self might lead us to think otherwise,
mightn’t we, as I say, in the greater scheme, in the dance,
in the cosmic funk, mightn’t we really be fertilizing, or preparing to fertilize
something we can’t see or comprehend, with odd chunks
of plastic, metal, wood, trash, farts? Might we be purposed,
divinely or not, to set some galactic far-from-human bloom in motion?

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Written to poet and extraordinary woman Mimi Gonzalez upon her departure from the Bay Area for Michiganer climes.

 

FOR MIMI

from Richard – 5/18/18

Yo whippoorwill, how’d you get so
shiny in the night, how’d you drop that
camouflage for wild dark panache, how’d
you spin that plaintive song to glee?
Yo whirling whippet, how’d you flip that
spine, how’d you perk that eye, how’d
you snap that tail to playground’s end?
Yo whipwind, where’s your wend
a-gonna lead ya? Yo wiler, yo way,
how you gonna snapdragon your day
into a true-bit two-beat rhyme
signifying so much more than fine?
Yo whiplash mistress, yo signer,
how you gonna find your mind, how you
gonna mind your kind, how you gonna
kind your way through time? Yo mind.
Yo kind. Yo finder, how about some
pretzels in the park, how about stark truth,
how about a swim? How about a minimum
balance? How about scrim and scree?
Yo glee-maven, yo deep diver, yo spree,
glade that glad, yo, farm that charm,
slip that mane into Aeolus’ sheen and
shine, sister, shine, mind, shine, you,
be. Carve a trail from here to ye.
Be a trail from larva to the sea.
See a grail and give it, give it,
give it back to the wide, wide breeze.
Yo heart beating in a bank,
clay this day and shape us, shape us
please to a stance, to a stand, to a key.
Your hand a wing beating in the dark,
stirring air that brings life back to a cry.
Yo whippoorwill, yo sky, bring us to
the city by the narrow way, pouring
past and future into day, gleaming eye-light
from your handsome brow, and seething with
a knowledge wanted, knowledge had, and
knowledge yet to be. Your time has come,
yo clock, so chime, whippet, chime, will,
chime your heart back into us, charm us
back to the winsome land, till that song
from the fall-strong reeds, and spread
your walnut arms to greet the next full trill.

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