Longevity has its place. Though frog choirs sing this night with same voice as tomorrow. Their sultry hymns sire, future lost empires; With promiscuous noblesse of a Pharaoh. Life cleaves brevity from our hands. Yet communes with creation’s permanence. Oh, what wonder beyond all reason stands Before ordinary joy’s eminence! Wait. May I speak to my fair Eurydice? For I feel her presence, too soon bygone. Her kind speak only through memories having passed along the dawn’s baton. I shall follow soon enough through that door. If breath’s my master, let me be it’s whore.
I enjoy coincidences, or rather the uncoordinated repetition of something that slowly brings that thing from subconsciousness into sharp focus. A couple of weeks ago I had a frog week. I woke up at a remote hotel an hour east of Tampa, Florida and paused for a moment before getting on the elevator before the sun had risen. On the glass on the third floor several large tree frogs had left interesting tracks making their way through the morning dew to where ever it was they planned to spend the day out of the sun.
A couple of hours later I was checking in my rental car at the airport. While grabbing my stuff out of the back seat, a tree frog emerged from a hiding place somewhere on the back of the car and hopped up to greet me with an expression that said; “oh my god, that was the scariest thing that has ever happened to me! Did you see how fast we were going?” The National Rental Car attendant and I looked the little guy up and down and surmised that left to his own devices his chances of making it safely out of the concrete jungle filled with cars was not very good. So I caught the frog, took him over to the grass and trees just outside of the rental car return and wished him good luck.
I shared the pictures and the story about the tree frog having survived an hour long car ride with a friend several days later and on her way to work that afternoon she looks down and discovers in the parking lot of her local drug store a tree frog, a plastic tree frog, that looks exactly like the one I had set free that week. The world is a strange and mysterious place. Maybe it followed me home from Florida.
I wrote this sonnet several years ago, shortly after my Mother died, an attempt to play with ideas around immortality and mortality, in the sense that frogs singing to us today are no different than the chorus sung 10,000 years ago or 100,000 years ago. Time and experience in many ways are not linear, rather more circular, our common experiences rolling on and on, in the circles we make with other people and the universe around us.
The crowd rose to its feet for his final walk, In blue catcher’s gear, not worn in years. He strode to the plate, slowly crouched, then caught, One final pitch to end a great career. Joe then tipped his cap, left to acclaim. The win in the balance, three outs to get. No letting nostalgia disrespect the game, There’ll be time for laurels, we won’t forget.
But who’ll mark the next fifteen? My Mother – Gone, who loved this Joe. Baseball her last one Great love affair. Always rooting for our Hometown heroes; Hrbek, Morris, Mauer Molitor, Winfield and Puckett. All sons Who rose, beyond the hopes of their brothers.
Traditions don’t start out as traditions. It becomes a tradition when its been going on for so long you can’t remember when it started. I have been to the last home game of either the Minnesota Twins or Oakland A’s for over 20 years. I can’t tell you the first time but I can tell you the year it became a tradition; 2003. That’s because the previous year in 2002, the Twins had faced the Oakland A’s in the first round of the playoffs and won the series 3-2, going on to lose to the eventual world series champions the Anaheim Angels in the second round. The next year my Mother and I looked at the schedule in May and I bought tickets for whichever team was home for the last game of the year. It just so happened that they alternated for a series of years while she was living in the Bay area and a big A’s fan and Twin’s fan. From 2003 to 2015, the year before she died, we would go to the last game of the season together. And what made those games remarkable was the consistency with which either the Twins or the A’s made the playoffs during that 13 year period.
The decade of the 90’s saw the Twins make the playoffs in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2010. A remarkable run fueled by great young players, but at the center of every one of those teams was Joe Mauer. Justin Mourneau won the AL MVP in 2006 and Joe Mauer won it in 2009, each having a remarkable year that wound never be equaled again in their careers.
Joe parlayed a run of greatness from 2006 to 2009, that saw him win three batting titles, the only catcher in major league history to do so, into the largest contract ever signed by a Minnesota Twin, an eight year 180 million dollar contract that made him one of the highest paid baseball players at the time. It has pained me during the past 8 years to see sports writer after sports writer criticize Joe for not equaling the greatness of 2006 to 2010 during the course of the past eight years. Yes, Joe never hit as many home runs again as 2009 or won another batting title; injuries, concussions and age finally catching up. But let’s make no mistake as we look back on Joe’s career – Joe Mauer earned every penny he made in this game.
Joe has been the greatest baseball player that each of us as Twins fans had the privilege to root for over the past 15 years. Joe accomplished things as a hitter during his career that put him in the mix with some of the greatest players of the past 80 years. Joe’s batting title in 2009 with a season long .365 average has only been bettered since 1941 by Ted Williams, George Brett, Wade Boggs, Nomar Garciaparra and Ichiro Suzuki. The fact that Joe was a catcher, taking a beating daily behind the plate from foul tips all season long makes that 2009 season stand out as one of the best by any player in the past 100 years.
Joe never changed as a ball player. He certainly doesn’t fit the mold of today’s MVPs, with all the focus on home runs, launch angle and the hit for power cybermetrics that dominates baseball now. Joe’s sweet swing never changed from his first game to his last at bat. He could hit for power once in a while, but it was not his bread and butter. Joe was one of the best 2 strike hitters in baseball history. Joe seemed to more often than not work the count deep, waiting for his pitch to shoot the ball the other way into the gap or up the middle. He was not a pull hitter, he was a smart contact hitter and he wasn’t going to change.
My mother adored Joe Mauer. On a visit to the Metrodome back in the 2000’s she took home a give away Joe Mauer doll. To this day, that doll rides her trike that she grew up pedaling as a three-year old. That Joe Mauer doll was her good luck charm during the Twins playoff years, her silly companion watching every single game during the regular seasons and a fond reminder of her unabashed love of Joe as a baseball player.
What makes Joe Mauer a special ball player, is more than what he accomplished on the field. In all the years of Joe’s career he not only had to carry the expectations of on field success, he had to carry an entire regions hopes and dreams of being the hometown hero off the field as well. Although the elusive elixir of winning a World Series alluded the Twins during his tenure, Joe never once disrespected the game. He never once embarrassed the team or the state of Minnesota with an off field or on field issue. Joe played this game of baseball with as much finesse, class and skill as is humanly possible. I will always feel fortunate to have been present to watch him on his last moment in uniform, watch him collect his last hit, a classic hussle Joe Mauer double to the opposite field and take that final pitch and walk off the field. Thank you Joe for a great career!
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
A couple of weeks ago, an acquaintance asked why I didn’t have cable television as an explanation for why I was sitting in a bar watching a baseball game that was on TBS. When I said it’s because I prefer to spend my free time writing instead of watching TV, she said, “I’m an English major, what do you write?” I said I write a blog about poetry. She proceeded to feign interest and asked if she could read it. I should have said no, as baseball, beer, bars and poetry don’t really go together, but I pulled out my phone, pulled up that day’s entry and handed it to her. She borrowed my glasses, proceeded to read the days poem with complete lack of interest dripping off of every syllable and continued on with my commentary in the same vein and then handed both my phone and glasses back to me, saying as she did, “you do realize you are not the first person to utter these sentiments?” I said yes, I am aware that nothing I write is unique and proceeded to go back to watching the game, smiling as I did. At least she found something I said related to something she considers poetry.
Her comment underlines one of the great questions about my artistic endeavors that I wrestle with; is anything I create original or is everything a derivation or a poor imitation? This is one of the reasons I write sonnets, their strict structure conveys clearly I am not trying to claim I am inventing something new. Rather, I am infusing the poem with a historical backbone that can’t be ignored. Does this mean that because my writing is unoriginal in its form that it is less creative as well? Possibly. I choose to write mostly in rhyme because I find it more entertaining. If it is a poor imitation of more talented writers throughout history, then forgive my amateurish attempts as simply that; being an amateur. But it doesn’t mean my creative process doesn’t have value to me. My attempts to put to paper my own thoughts refine and sharpens my human experience. The process of writing brings a mindfulness to my daily routine that is worth the effort, even if the end product is mediocre.
I can always point to similarities to other poets in anything I write, the subconscious coloring inside and outside the lines based on what it currently finds interesting in whatever I am reading at the time. I find this to be true even when I have been involved in the creative brain storming process of writing called an Exquisite Corpse, invented by the Surrealists in France in the early 20th century. An Exquisite Corpse involves multiple people contributing to a drawing or a poem with only a small prompt to guide them on their portion, but no full understanding of the other’s contribution to the finished work. You would think that this collaborative spontaneous process would create the most unusual end products because of the inter-play between different people, but in hindsight there are always the footfalls of influence of others mixed in along the way.
The poem Eating Glass came about from a modified version of an Exquisite Corpse done online over email with a friend. I can point exactly to the words that are not mine, as I consider her contribution stronger. The start of the poem is based on an actual recurring dream I have frequently since I was a child of eating glass. The dream always starts out the same. These are pleasant dreams, not nightmares. I am usually outside, somewhere relatively rural and picturesque and I come across a broken window pane, a broken wine glass or a bottle, usually old and I am intrigued by the color and delicateness of it. It feels like the most natural thing at first, to feed my curiosity and take a little bite. I carefully select a shard and remove it from the cracked maze that is broken glass and hold it in my fingers. The first tentative bites are crisp and crunchy, like satisfying clear delicious glass Doritos. I take another bite, then another and suddenly I am conscious that I have a mouthful of glass and fear creeps in. The remainder of the dream until I awake is not panic, but the careful removal of every shard from my bleeding mouth.
I have not named my co-writer, unsure if she really would want transparent credit. The final stanza contains contributions from both of us but it is her words that another friend told me stops her dead every time she reads this poem; Can we manage this? We need not be alone they say….
This poem elicits stronger reactions than any other poem I have been involved in writing. People either like it or dislike it, there is no middle ground. What is at the heart of this poem is loneliness. Eating Glass is about the conflict between wanting to be in a relationship and the safety in the intention of being alone during middle age.
By T. A. Fry and J. M.
Tell me, does my Succubus owe you a favor? How else, would you come by your knowledge of my dreams of eating glass? Each of us wraiths, if not true to our dreams.
Pass over, let me slumber this night, content in chewing shards. Tomorrow shall bring another Exquisite Corpse, defiant in defiling my larder.
Why do we fear agony or tragedy as companions on this journey? We fight them, coddle them, while crooning in the darkness; “It’s unfair!”…Cry or don’t cry…. We fuck with furious fingers.
We have been here before. Liars, drunkards and whores, swapping omens, conjured from bloody entrails. Not one ending with: “……happily ever after.”
Can we manage this? We need not be alone they say…. But I am weary, contemplating another’s demons in my crib, next to my own, mewling to suckle at my tit.
I have walked a great while over the snow,
And I am not tall nor strong.
My clothes are wet, and my teeth are set,
And the way was hard and long.
I have wandered over the fruitful earth,
But I never came here before.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in at the door!
The cutting wind is a cruel foe.
I dare not stand in the blast.
My hands are stone, and my voice a groan,
And the worst of death is past.
I am but a little maiden still,
My little white feet are sore.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in at the door!
Her voice was the voice that women have,
Who plead for their heart’s desire.
She came—she came—and the quivering flame
Sunk and died in the fire.
It never was lit again on my hearth
Since I hurried across the floor,
To lift her over the threshold, and let her in at the door.
Poetry and play are synonymous in my life. I realize that is not true for many people, the process of reading or writing arduous to those that find little pleasure in it. I wrote Even A Man several years ago in October as a lark. I was remembering childhood horror movies in anticipation of Halloween and looking back on those movies that had made a particular impression on me.
In the 1960s television consisted of 5 broadcast channels on our black and white tube tv in St. Paul; ABC, NBC, CBS, Public Television and one independent channel WCTN that was local programming. A highlight of the local channel was Mel’s Matinee. Mel Jass a local TV personality hosted a movie in the early afternoon and regularly showed horror movies. Fortunately he mixed them up enough with other movies that once in a while I could sneak one over on my Mom and watch a movie that wouldn’t be otherwise allowed on the rare sick day when I stayed home from school or a rainy Saturday afternoon. These were horror movies unlike today’s genre of horror, which consists mostly of torture porn with prolific gore. These were classic B-movie titles from the 1940’s and 1950’s that were more campy than scary. Movies like The Blob, The Wolfman, Dracula and one of my all time favorites – Gargoyles. I was shocked to learn as an adult some of these films were made in color, it was just my TV that was in black and white.
I must have watched The Wolfman 10 times as a kid. It is burned into my brain that there is a witch like character who chants a short poem several times in the movie; “Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and Autumn moon is bright.” I remembered those lines and wondered if it was tied to a longer poem, that predated the movie. Not surprisingly it wasn’t, it was only part of Hollywood horror script writing. So I playfully set out to finish the poem, using only the first line as a prompt.
Even A Man
By T. A. Fry
“Even a Man who is pure at heart and says his prayers at night,”* May become a wolf among the lambs, when the moon is full and bright. Beware the growl, a yearning yowl, that sets some men apart. `Best you fear the danger near that comes from grizzled hearts.
It’s not purity that will restrain a man or subjugate his obsessions. Nor the piety of his refrains, a fairer measure of his mind’s possessions. Many holy men declared a war; righteous virtue as their banner. And sent to their deaths countless scores while pious in their manner.
For men will slaughter their sisters and brothers to usurp what they desire. And enslave their children for wealth and power to build their own empire. If only the moon could show our doom and reveal terror lurking near, We’d damn their slurs and kill the curs and never evil fear.
But here’s a truth that in this world there is good upon these lands. For your mirror shows a deeper woe in whose visage wicked stands. Before you decree that you can see those worthy of your wrath. Best hold tight and shine a light upon your heart’s true path.
*The opening line is from the 1941 film The Wolf Man.
There are no happy endings. Endings are the saddest part, So just give me a happy middle And a very happy start.
–Shel Silverstein – Every Thing on It
Take Me Home
By T. A. Fry
It came to nothing, nothing less than grief. A grief of narrows, a prescience lessened, No – depleted of volition, beneath Lame-blames of why bright love prescinds. In the end, you would not let me buy Even cream. Nothing too small to be denied, Each offered comfort for a grievous sigh, Cups of bitter-black cooling as we cried. I asked, “what part of it was not belief?” You said, “All of it”. . . . Apparent you thought Something could be bent by love into relief When all alone, that right has to be wrought. If these truths are not enough to batten, Then down, down, deep-down, the hatches fasten.
I think praying mantis have romance figured out. There are certain species of mantis and arachnids that the females bewitch their male suitors with enticing pheromones (Chanel #5) and after having wild sex with them, they bite off their heads while the males are still in orgasmic bliss, consuming them for a little post-coital protein snack so that they don’t have to get out of bed to go to the fridge. The only downside is Pfizer’s business model for Viagra would be shot to hell, no repeat customers but at least us miserable sex-smitten suckers would be put out of our misery in one final act of glory, or is that gory…..
I am not suggesting that we legalize patricide or boyfriendicide but in the #metoo moment that we currently live in I do think we might be able to pass a bill that would reinstate the use of public stocks as punishment for a week as part of a rehabilitation program prior to going to prison 5 to 10 years for men like Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein.
But what happens when love ends the good old-fashioned way, it disappears behind a pail of dirty diapers or under a mountain of bills, and the vagaries of life and health overcome romance? That’s when we are left to wondering, why wasn’t love enough and regretting that we somehow couldn’t make it work.
by William Shakespeare
That you were once unkind befriends me now,
And for that sorrow, which I then did feel,
Needs must I under my transgression bow,
Unless my nerves were brass or hammered steel.
For if you were by my unkindness shaken,
As I by yours, you’ve passed a hell of time;
And I, a tyrant, have no leisure taken
To weigh how once I suffered in your crime.
O! that our night of woe might have remembered
My deepest sense, how hard true sorrow hits,
And soon to you, as you to me, then tendered
The humble salve, which wounded bosoms fits!
But that your trespass now becomes a fee;
Mine ransoms yours, and yours must ransom me.
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains He who was living is now dead We who were living are now dying With a little patience.
–T. S. Eliot, “What the Thunder Said”
by T. A. Fry
Pray tell, who lured whom with their siren song? Love hunters circling each other, as fair prey, With broad-heads sharpened, our longbows drawn, Stalking cherished game to dress, then slay. The truth? I walked willingly to your sight. Cross-hairs plain upon my breast. One last chance to taste my blood and die, as is my right, in pursuit of raucous love and romance.
Where from here; pinnacle or whipping post? Our Love a cause and cure of fatal wounds. A life restoring poison for a final toast. “Fare well my love. Farewell. I’ll come home soon. To release the hounds to bound and bay your scent. For love is nothing if not evanescent.”
I wrote this sonnet a number of years ago, when my Mother was still alive. I wrote it on a lazy Saturday and read it to her after we had gone to church the next day. She listened and smiled and said, “read me the last three lines again.” My Mother had sung a siren song a few times over her years and the memory of it was welcome on that day in her 80’s.
The challenge of love is what to do with it when the rest of life crowds in and overwhelms. Love can be the last bastion, the final straw and brilliantly unsuitable – all rolled into one juju bean, kind of like the Moody Blues for those of us who listened to AM radio in the 1970’s.
Not Anyone Who Says
by Mary Oliver
Not anyone who says, “I’m going to be
careful and smart in matters of love,”
who says, “I’m going to choose slowly,”
but only those lovers who didn’t choose at all
but were, as it were, chosen
by something invisible and powerful and uncontrollable
and beautiful and possibly even
only those know what I’m talking about
in this talking about love.
Awakening to warbling of a wren, Remembering when, the future bade As unending line. The past was nearer then, A shadowland, where tears were unafraid. Afternoon shade slipped by on green grass blades Beneath canvas hammock as my tent. No other purpose than to play was weighed. And orange popsicles were heaven sent. No divine mystery to be unwrapped. It lay before me with simplicity. Choose cool shadows or sunshine for my nap, And snooze without hint of duplicity. Then, a long summer evening to be spent, Devoid of care or thought of where it went.