NOTE: The three poems for this month are all response poems to statements from other poets. The first was a typo, “I loved in…” instead of “I lived in…” but it stuck in my brain, and the poem came along from that simple error. The second poem came from a discussion online about various aspects of forgiving someone else. One of the speakers said “Forgiveness is a meeting place.” And there it was. The third poem came from a statement/question about the anxiety of dropping a submission in the mail (physical or electronic) and wondering why that should still be a problem. The people who provided the impetus for these poems might or might not recognize themselves. It doesn’t matter. I am grateful to them for the inspiration.
I loved in San Francisco in the late 50's.
Never mind who, or why, or how long
or even how many. I lost count.
Edna would understand that, understand
the lone trees that in winter
bare their souls for careless birds.
Carl was there too. Close. Warm.
He loved cats, or so he said, then gave
the fog their feet to tiptoe in on.
Quiet. A luxury in that busy place,
defined not as the absence of noise
but of all human noise. The beach,
the waves, the sunsets from Alcatraz
burning that famous bridge, like
God burned a bush to make Moses stop
and listen. Just listen. The bush,
the bridge. Neither was consumed.
I loved in San Francisco. Deeply. Desperately,
but far too soon for the famous Summer,
the rebellion against the old guard.
Too early to pretend I was the one
who started it all.
On gray mornings when I felt no affection,
no connection to anyone around me,
I would stand alone on the Presidio cliffs
watching the morning mists obscure
the towers of the Golden Gate,
hide the passing of love.
fences to cross, fences to mend
i know the mystery of barbed wire
fences that go for miles across
new mexico's high terrain
know exactly why they are there
what happens when they fail
the cost of tracking lost cattle
time, wear and tear on the rancher,
his horse, his truck
i know the techniques for crossing
such fences without damage
to myself or to the wires
but there's always a nagging fear
that some errant barb will find me
no matter how carefully i climb
and there it is. the quick cut,
the cowboy's curse, the long cure
months from now, the scars will fade
the physical pain will slip away
leaving a lingering dislike for the place
where i dropped my guard and let
something of no consequence sting me
oh, but there is a solution
to every sticky problem, be it
horse, or friend, or man, or pride
and i know that just over this rocky rise
is a quiet canyon called forgiveness
forgiveness is a meeting place
for wind and water
for sand and sage
for sorrow and arrogance
for anger and humility
in the swirling wind,
sand will scour me clean
spring's clear flow
will wash away my desire
for revenge, for retribution
against an unforgotten barb
anger, arrogance, and sorrow will fade
into the shadows of a sandstone cliff
and i will ride away with all that's left
a new sense of humility
having met forgiveness
Meditation on Mail
So it's done. Letter has dropped,
rattling lightly to let me know
it found its path down the chute.
And my stomach screams "Oh, no!"
I ask myself: Are you still running?
Somewhat in disbelief, of course,
after so many years, so many
revelations to my heart. Heaven,
who knows that heart best, has whispered
times beyond counting, "Be brave. Be
at peace. Be content. You are worthy."
And I, too human, whisper back
"Yes, Lord," then go my way
wavering between His confidence
and my delicate ego
that goads me to write
from the depths of feeling
then scolds me for the nakedness
of frail, private things
put on public display
Nothing to do but wait. The mail
cannot be retrieved. Not legally.
The reply comes, and I hesitate.
Raven or dove? Does this winged messenger
return with empty beak, black eyes filled
with the remorse of no footing found?
Or with white wings, bearing an olive twig,
sign of peace, that drops, prophetically
into my outstretched hand.
Dove or raven. Raven or dove.
Even as I reach for the envelope
I realize that yes, I am.
I am still running
from the locusts of my fragile fear.
© 2018 Jim Lewis
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