Nothing has happened yet.

Nothing has happened yet.
That is what I like best
about the quiet of the morning.

Some days I spend those
precious moments making
a list for the rest of the day.

But then I’m already in the next
hour, next day, next week.

So I take the time, whenever
I can, to just listen. Even the
click of the keys as I write this

seems less hurried than it will
when I toss out the first “High Priority”
CC: of the week. And so I listen,

and breathlessly hum a hymn
to the stillness.

For Wallace Stevens

The upside, you think,
is that you will be
able to say that you’ve
been here before.

Like the Emperor of
Ice Cream did, sitting
behind his desk, dreaming
of writing poems instead
of policies for policies.

There are more ordinary
things on your mind than
you ever expected. Balance
sheets balance the lofty
expectations that dangle

from every cubicle shelf.
You will be able to say
that you’ve been here before,
you’ve fought the good fight,
treadmilled the long race.

You’ve done something. You’ve
contributed. You were praised.
And you will scribble your way
out of it, late at night while

your spouse sleeps, for you bought
this quiet moment with time
you used more conventionally,
but with all the same discipline.

Crunching numbers and counting
syllables? All the same,
all in all. Stockholders?
Readers and critics?

Not much different, at least on
first glance. But then–neither
are you. Though this late night
at the kitchen table, upon keener,
closer inspection, somehow must be.

Country Song #137

I know the way to Nashville
by heart.

I don’t know it like a native,
sure only know it as someone who remembers
it in a certain freeze-frame.

So when I drive in and see the cranes
(the kind that build skyscraping condos, not the kind that land on them)
dance across the horizon, as people pretend
this is different from Atlanta

I am less disoriented than puzzled
More like a backup singer or television extra
No cue cards for me, no understudy.

I just drive past the place that used to
sell all souvenirs for $1.00, that now sells
the best sushi in town, merge into the roundabout
circling with all the rest of the chorus, driving
One more time around for Nashville, before they tear it down

Tuesday Morning Invocation

On coffee’s time
this morning
I let my heart grow a bit
more patient.

I speak in paragraphs, I know,
when the world expects a mere portion
of haiku.

I grow impatient with the world
so impatiently interrupting my drawn-out
though-out, plotted-out sentences.

And, so, though the coffee makes
my heart flutter a second faster,
I savor each sip, watch the sunrise,
hoping that with each semi-colon-instead-of-a-period,
each meandering, adjective-packed phrase,
each to-be-edited-later clause

I might slow everything else down, too.

Beer and Pizza the Night Before a Funeral

You will gather around a table in
a home you’ve never been in,
share a meal with people you haven’t seen
for a year or four. Some, not ever.
Four of you will find yourselves in Africa
in the years to come. You talk rat races and
NGOs and ways you might change the world.

You will order a pizza from the place no one
ordered pizza from when you were students.
The suburban life has taken hold these days.
You will drink too much beer, toast one another,
and toast the one two of you know, the one no longer here.
But do not fool yourself. She was never here in this house,
with this crew. Still, your grief. It is yours.

And then, the unexpected–You will steal a yard sign:
The one from the Neighborhood Association announcing the
“Homeowner of the Year”; and you will place it in the
Only unkempt yard of the development; the house shared by
the band of Christian Rock stars who are always on tour,
whose grass always needs to be mowed.

The earth beneath their amazing grass will be soft
enough to receive this wretched sign, its hyper-manufactured, too-perfect
fonts telling off the neighborhood. You will leap back into the pickup
truck that whizzes through the neighborhood, trip over something
or other, your furiously-paced half-whispers broken by giggles
that will explode into guffaws once you crash through the front door.
The children never wake.

You are too old to be doing this. And yet, you feel too young for what you will do tomorrow. Pack into an auditorium, listen to someone sing show tunes very well, listen to someone tell the spiffed-up partial truth about a life that ended too soon (No one tells the whole truth), sip wine and eat expensive cheese like you did when you cleaned up after Board of Director meetings, just before you were told to make yourself scarce again.

Though it’s been but a year or two, there will be plenty of folks who will have forgotten you. One who remembers will talk about his divorce and mid-life crisis; another will tell you the same stories he always tells; and then there will be the toasts to one no longer there; one half-remembered because no one tells the whole truth, especially to one too young to be there, paid only part time when you were supposed to be there.

You will re-learn, tomorrow, to keep the grief to yourself, as if it were the giggle that betrays a crass joke you share with friends. But tonight, as you lay your head in a strange bed, you learn there are no signs in the universe–except for the ones you steal, repurpose, and give away, hurrying back to strange house, made warm by the noisy ridiculousness of your laughter.