Archive for ‘Doug’

June 27, 2020

This Glorious Passage

by HemmingPlay
Hummingbird hovering at red trumpet vine blossom

Photo by Roger Levien

My past is as implausible as
the tale of a frail
butterfly that flies from Mexico to Canada.
Why? How? To what purpose?

Here and now, I’m between
million-year-old mountains
and the damp, salty shores of
one of an ocean’s quiet, protected bays—
where the fish and the plants and the chemistry,
change day by day, but where the whole is eternal,
where a thousand centuries is as a day.

An ocean and mountains
show us who we really are,
Mere children pretending to be
some heroic captain,
braced on a stormy quarter deck
defying the gale,
the rocks too close.
But the ocean knows it
has swallowed many like us before,
and will take many more.

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June 24, 2020

In the 11th Year of the War

by HemmingPlay
Ruin of the Oracle at Delphi

The Oracle of Delphi didn’t predict it’s own ruin.

And the 11th spring of the war has stumbled into summer.
The rains fall as normal. The birds seem oblivious to us.
And look! There goes a pretty young woman
with sandals and legs and curly hair.
I want to call out, say hey,
my heart, I have the wine and cheese,
let’s remind ourselves how precious
is this brief life.
But I don’t.

Disease and insanity stalk the streets.
I thought my old age would be different.
I thought my people were better than they are.
The line between good and evil runs
Through the center of the human heart.

Sometimes it twists in one direction,
sometimes the other. The same person
is capable of great evil and great good,
but who would cut their own heart in half
to root out the evil?

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June 15, 2020

Why I Write

by HemmingPlay

A writer of modest talent can only hope one day to put together a word or two—on a rare week, a phrase—that’s worth keeping. This is not the conceit of petty perfectionism. This is just the reality of having a mediocre vision that cannot totally grasp what floats in and out of view. It’s the curse of having an mind’s eye that comes close enough to see the possibilities dimly, but does not quite have that extra something that would make it all clear. The curse of the ‘if-only’. The torture of the dreamer who is granted a taste of a truth in the night but loses it upon wakening. The humility of Moses on the border of the promised land who may not cross over, no matter the sacrifice. And virtue is no guarantee. The world often rewards those of questionable credentials.

It’s a frustration that has to be managed—The gap between what might be glimpsed, a brief impression of something sublime and the skill that, were it a painting, only manages stick figure drawings.

So the experience is one of enduring the sense of of constant failure —even accepting it as the price— to press the cheek up against the foggy glass that keeps one just beyond the truth…. Throwing the lariat a thousand times at a stallion that prances just out of reach, hoping that one more throw will tame the beast and bring him nearer, to feel the heat and the true wild life of him. Yet still, as seems to be the way of the Plan, It is a way to learn humility, and patience and forgiveness. Nothing need be wasted, and the great wheel grinds always, and grinds exceedingly small.

That’s the job. Putting up with failure long enough to feel the hot breath of something beautiful.  It is insanity. But oh, so seductive.  

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June 1, 2020

To the Daughter I Never Had

by HemmingPlay

I don’t mean to sound unkind, and I am far, far from perfect, as a father or man. But I have spent some time in your future, and hope to help you avoid some of what just ordinary life, and poor judgement and the next 20 years of wear and tear might do to you, as it has to too many of your older sisters.

For now, you revel in the intoxicating power your young beauty has to excite desire. It just landed in your lap —no pun intended— and by God, you’ll use it. And, it’s fun for a while. (You’re smart too, but that will last longer.)

Older women like to mock men’s appreciation for younger women. “You look ridiculous–” they’ll say “–panting after her like that. “Don’t you realize how ridiculous you are?”

Yes, we feel ridiculous a lot,  especially when we’re reminded of it—and often when we walk by a mirror, so we don’t need more reminders. Do they, do you suppose?

But we realize it comes from losing the illusion of immortality, of hurt feelings, and fear of being left behind; from the cosmic unfairness of time slipping away, and also a realistic understanding about how men are suckers for a good visual. You feel you can’t win. Ever. Some days Sisyphus wins, some days the rock wins.

Actually, the rock always wins. It’s the same for us.

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May 7, 2020

The River

by HemmingPlay

The river is.
It is in the secret places of the
mountains and marshes,
in the droplets of rain falling
alone and silent
from the tips of pine needles,
gathering in the rocks,
gathering,
falling
All one.

The river is at its source
and at its mouth,
the same river.
At the waterfalls, the springs,
under the bridges,
the ferry boats,
in the rapids and the
quiet pools.
In the ocean
all at once,
only in the present—
without time,
without past,
without future,
eternally
becoming.

http://hemmingplay.com

May 6, 2020

Boomer’s Elegy

by HemmingPlay

Ooops. Might have screwed something up…

We said love would save the world
We faithfully sorted colors of glass and three kinds of plastic
We took reusable bags to the grocery
We turned the water off while brushing
We thought everyone would do the right thing.
We thought our parents were wrong about everything;
We were only partially right. 
We thought rich people were smart and the smart would get rich
We were almost always wrong, except for the evil smart ones. 
We thought there were heroes (and some of us still do)
We thought we’d beaten the Nazis once and for all, ’cause or our dads did it.
We thought our dads were wrong about a lot of other things.
We were wrong about that, too. 
We thought feelings were more important than facts.
We thought wishes would turn into dishes,
We thought wishes would let beggars ride.
We thought things would only get better.
We thought magical thinking was thinking.
We thought swords could be beaten into plowshares  
We thought FDR saved our grandparents, and loved him for that.
We thought Ike was great, but too old for our future.
We thought JFK was cool, and that the other stuff wasn’t important
We thought Johnson did some good things, but was a hick
We thought tricky Dick was bad then, then found out he was worse
We thought he was the worst we’d see; we were wrong.

We are nearing the end, and can’t believe the ride is almost over. 
We can’t believe David Crosby has three fatal diseases. 
We can’t believe Joni is old and decrepit. 
We thought… oh, who cares what we thought. 
We were right about some things, wrong about most, 
We thought we could change things, and maybe we did, 
We thought and we thought and we experimented and
We come to the end, chastened but unbowed. 
We thought we were doing the right thing. 
We don’t get to write the history, dammit. 

 

April 21, 2020

Opposites

by HemmingPlay

What would reason and sobriety be without drunkenness?
What would desire be without Death looking over its shoulder?
What would love be without the possibility of its loss?
What is the point of promises if nothing really matters?
What would attractions between man and woman be
     without the eternal antagonisms of the sexes?

Life happens in the space
between
opposites.

No exhale without
an inhale,
no breath both in
and out.
Man. Woman,
Yet none can be both
wife and husband.
Order.
Disorder.
Freedom.
Slavery.
A life of the senses.
A life of the mind.
Birth.
Death.
Always one pays for the other,
Each necessary, precious.

Breathe in…

April 21, 2020

Wayfarers

by HemmingPlay

I wander toward
an unknown destination.
Pretending a purpose.
As do you.

Free (for a change).
Hungry to learn your ways, how you touch,
why you sigh, where
your shy ecstasy waits.

The sunrise, the sunset.
The passing of the seasons.
New life in the spring.
A baby’s smell.

Each moment burns bright,
then is gone. Another comes.
God is there.
Listen.

Death has been
my companion,
making life sweeter. Happiness?
Never permanent.

Rejoice.

April 8, 2020

Memory

by HemmingPlay

Memory is the not-quite-living museum of our lives, and dusty.
You’re not sentenced to remain what you already are.
You may change, grow and split the hardened
carapace of a self that no longer fits,
and like the seven-year locust,
climb high into a tree and
claim your rebirth.
But first comes
mere courage
and risk.

 

March 23, 2020

Silences

by HemmingPlay

What an odd boy, they used to say of me.
They’re still saying it.
But I’m a writer, my dear, and not right in the head.
That’s all it is. But I do know how to
take my time and listen,
sitting under the willow tree in the spring as the birds
bring me happy messages from God.
I will take my time with other important things, too,
so lay your curves of water here beside me.

If this pleases you,
You may pay me back with your
gift of second sight,
and tell me where my true nature hides,
where my pain
scuttles unhealed,
my illusions fester.

I will love you all the more for it.
These are gifts we give, freely
and they bind us in profound ways
because they reveal.

read more »

March 20, 2020

Love in the Time of Corona

by HemmingPlay

I’ve grown tired of disappointing women.
And of being disappointed in them.
I know that’s too broad a conclusion
from a very small sample.
Don’t care. I need a break,
and Corvid-19 is a convenient excuse.

I’m hiding out from another virus
of my own making,
sheltering in place and
eating frozen vegetables.
Aware this might become permanent.

I had a long life with a woman who died,
a life better than most, I think,
not as good as some.
But still, what do I have to complain about?

Younger people have their difficulties,
stemming mostly from being naively stupid,
but older men and women bring
a lot of experienced stupidity to the bed, too.
(If it ever gets that far.)

read more »

March 16, 2020

Vanities

by HemmingPlay

Feel your belly button,
where you were attached to
your mother. But
try not to think about
about the night you were conceived.
Whether it was a result of
a hand up a skirt, urgent kisses
and fevered promises
and premature explanations
on your mother’s couch.
(After consultations with
your inner editor,
let’s instead say it was
after a long talk over wine,
Chopin on the stereo,
tender kisses and happy plans.)

What does it matter now? You’re here.
Don’t screw up.
That’s what it comes down to.

Or wind your watch forward
(humor me, you digital ones)
a thousand years.
Was there ever a coffin
built to last the whole trip?
One that was worth the price?
We could ask Tutenkamen, I suppose,
(Who was bad at office politics
and is still dead.)

read more »

March 12, 2020

Old and Young

by HemmingPlay

A difference between

the young and the old….

Most of the people the young loved

are still around.

March 11, 2020

Eyes

by HemmingPlay

I met a widow once,
wrapped in loss.
She said
she could not see a better
day coming.

I looked over my shoulder,
along the long road,  
and gave her my eyes.

March 11, 2020

A Modern Man

by HemmingPlay

I walk too often in the echoes of a cold canyon,
sometimes accompanied by my wife,
dead now barely two years. She’s silent, amused,
faintly attached to this world and soon to go again,
impatient with me for hanging onto melancholic vapors
when it’s obvious–to her, anyway–that I just haven’t wised up yet.

But I’m a so-called modern man, allergic to undue connections,
Even when a dream comes and I
am lurched through a deeper portal and part a
gauzy barrier to walk with skeptical ghosts.
All I know when I wake is this bag of meat and its
pedestrian priorities.

She knew. She told me to find someone.
Knew I would only trust the secrets, the warmth and dampness,
the round softnesses I could hold,
with nipples like rosebuds and mysterious eyes;
knew that all man’s scripture could be held on a 3-by-5 card,
if he weren’t so stubbornly drunk on himself.

March 2, 2020

Purpose

by HemmingPlay

Sooner or later
each of us asks
did I have a purpose?
What was I born to?

I had such a moment this morning.
Each of my life’s 2. 22 billion seconds
had to have gone exactly as it did
to bring me to this,

to experience the flock of warblers
that burst out of the sky
into the middle of my morning, singing
of their wild and precious lives–

up from Mexico, or Central America,
bonded in struggle from all those days aloft,
looking for food,
for grass and moss for a nest.

The things prayers are made of,
for this moment.

 

March 1, 2020

Mountain Morning

by HemmingPlay

The mountains, lustrous at dawn.
Below, here in the valley,
the droplets of last night’s rain
shimmer on blades and twigs, their
molecules respond to the sun
like a woman rising to
meet a beloved’s touch.

Wait.
Something is going on up there
on the deep-packed slope.
A whirling figure of white, of mist,
there, yet almost not;
A snow giant,
like a tranced dervish, twirls in
the morning’s new energies—
it whirls violently,
fingerless, wispy hands thrust
high into the cold blue,
200 feet tall, or more.
A mile, maybe. It’s hard
to tell from here, as it’s
insubstantial. Massive.

read more »

February 26, 2020

The Curvature of Water

by HemmingPlay

The curvature of water

And here, in the kingdom of clouds,
vast continents of mist
dwarf the mountains,
lumber lightly
in from the ocean,
float improbably, silently.
They sometimes, when the air is cold,
leak acres of crystal
in the high wilderness of fir and grizzly,
burying the trees and crags of the
inaccessible mystery in white.

And here, over the empire of emeralds,
they sweep and swell and
break apart and spill out
mighty rivers and silver lakes,
wash the air clean and
sift down through my willow tree,
bit by drop, sink from sight and
hurry to refill the ocean.

read more »

February 6, 2020

Questions That Come With Age

by HemmingPlay

185762016_0

The clock… relentless.
What’s my allotment going to be?
How to make the best of it?
How to keep dignity,
avoid a failure of imagination,
avoid self-pity….

“Savor each moment…”
Yes, well that’s a cliché.
I know what’s coming,
What I’ve lost for good.
The trick is to
Savor these, too,
With a little grace.

No lies in the mirror.
No false smiles.
No regrets.
No cruelties.
Kindnesses given
with no expectations.

There are enough
bitter herbs around.
But

One surprise smile is enough
to recharge a whole day.
Thank you, darlin’

read more »

February 5, 2020

Among Thistles and Roses

by HemmingPlay

I’ve disappointed a few.
A few have returned the favor;
I’m angry for a while at both of us, but
also wonder if I am simply wrong
to expect more.

My beard is grey, but inside
is the deluded spirit of Ulysses,
yearning to go down again to the sea
in ships, to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
But let me refill that cup, and from somewhere,
perhaps in my own throat—
is that a bird? or merely
the cry of a frightened child,
longing to be gentled
against the soft comforts of
undemanding love?

February 3, 2020

Island Moon

by HemmingPlay

Full moon sliding fast over the water,
enough to read by,
be burned by,
rolling bright and cool
to the west, painting
a wrinkled, twinkled path
on restless waves of
aching blue turned dark,
reflecting clouds and stars.

Magical island nights, but doomed.
As the moon waned
a little more each night,
so did the magic.
Precious, but fragile.

read more »

February 3, 2020

Distorted Passage

by HemmingPlay

I swim in
streams and rivers
instead of on land,
looking up
through ripples
seeing mere refractions
of unknowns
filtered through milky moonlight.

Down small creeks,
under
branches splitting
the sky,
dark firs waving in
the breeze like monks
chanting,
and oaks bragging of age;
rocks and crags,
shifting, rippling,
dropping dappled shards of
sunlight on
crystal, chuckling waters.

read more »

January 31, 2020

Cowgirl

by HemmingPlay


I encountered a young Colorado woman, once,
from a distance. Our trails crossed in our personal badlands.

A beauty, she had the raw fire of a mustang.
I caught her at a terrible time in her life.
Or should I say, she caught me.

Her marriage was coming apart,
her husband having lost interest and sunk into cruelty and betrayals.

We never met, except
as passing
electronic ghosts. She writhed and wrote of her pain,
her bruised pride and injured beauty.
She touched us with her anger and anguish,
her soul’s search for beauty nonetheless,
In that state she painted lurid images of
what she would do with me,
to me, what she wanted from me,
pinned against a wall, legs apart,
full of anger, fury, revenge.

read more »

January 29, 2020

Passion, Courage, Choice

by HemmingPlay

I have chosen to seek
each day the path of courage
and passion.
I fail, often.

I don’t
say this with bravado,
because I do not feel brave.
If I could choose something
easier, I would.
It never gets easier.

But to make the choice each day,
Each minute, to turn and
face the sadness and suffering,
of the world; the pain and joy,
each on it’s own terms
and not be defeated by it—
that is something that
must be chosen again,
and again, and again.
It is the job of poetry.
No compromises.

It is not a choice of pleasant fictions,
a diversion of entertaining nothingness;
nor like the fog of opium that
leaves us still breathing,
but dead.

Each night, darkness does not fall.
That is the wrong image.
Rather, when the earth spins away
from the sun, it rises up from the deep places
of the earth and the oceans, from
the caverns and the bottom of rivers and lakes and seas.
A deep exhalation.
A time for alternatives.

read more »

January 28, 2020

Too Anything

by HemmingPlay

She said it was too hot,
too slow,
too fat,
too skinny,
too long,
too short,
too near,
too far,
too messy,
too loose,
too tight,
too much,
too little,
too soon,
too late.

We were too drunk. Too stoned. Then, in the afternoon,
too sober.

But it was not, and never would be, too anything.
Except, maybe, too unkind.

January 28, 2020

School of the Electric Fence

by HemmingPlay

Photo by Richard Calmes

I suppose I knew this,
once upon a time,
but love is a little like
the electric fence I used to
crawl through to get to the woods.

You have to be cautious, not timid.

(I wouldn’t go so far as to agree with
Crosby when he said being with Joni was
like falling into a cement mixer.)

read more »

January 26, 2020

Grief Journey

by HemmingPlay

 

Loss and pains.
though just part of living…
set us apart,
others didn’t understand.
But we knew. We just knew. 

We wrapped ourselves 
in each other’s griefs,
grateful to need no explanations,, 
understanding without words;
afraid of more losses
(can I go through that again?) 
resisting pain, 
change and the unknown.

January 7, 2020

Primitive

by HemmingPlay

 

By Sharon Olds

Sharon Olds

 

I have heard about the civilized,
the marriages run on talk, elegant and
honest, rational. But you and I are
savages. You come in with a bag,
hold it out to me in silence.
I know Moo Shu Pork when I smell it
and understand the message: I have
pleased you greatly last night. We sit
quietly, side by side, to eat
the long pancakes dangling and spilling,
fragrant sauce dripping out,
and glance at each other askance, wordless,
the corners of our eyes clear as spear points
laid along the sill to show
a friend sits with a friend here.