The sun rises with no less dazzling sway, And yet, gardens sulk in muted eloquence. Nature’s splendor is colder ever since Quietus bore your gentle hand away. It’s your silence which weighs upon my days. Unexpected things will make me wince. For I miss your voice, your elegance All which hold me still amidst the fray.
You draped and shaped us with loving shears. Thin striplings pruned and fed to reach the sun You protected us from winter’s coldest years To bloom again despite what’s done is done. In mourning, I’ll manage through these low tears Ever blessed to be your beloved son.
One cold Easter, the lilies glass-house grown, We met as friends to share the Eucharist. Not a one of us needing to atone For witnessing the other’s interests. And oh what witness it has been! Our care For the others, a fondness borne of less, The brazenness that shines of goodness shared, Then acceptance of each other’s humanness. These friendships minister to our need, Of want of connection across divides, Of age, of gender and of even creed. Each of us in turn, the other’s guide. For what mattered most as we broke the bread. Was the bond in stillness, not what was said.
My own writing serves sometimes as a painting or postcard for a memory, that allows me to viscerally reconnect with events in the past, whether good or bad. Yesterday was one of those perfectly normal Saturdays, that needed to be preserved. It began with a quiet morning of writing outside and throwing the ball for the dog, despite it being in the 40’s and crisp. Then fellowship and communion with longtime friends, spiritually tending to each other’s gardens at noon. And from there came a detour to my favorite book store in Minneapolis, Birch Bark Books, in honor of independent book sellers day. Birch Bark Books is owned by the incredibly gifted novelist Louise Erdrich, so of course we had to buy some books. We then went to a gallery next door where Prudence Johnson, whom I have had a crush on since around 1985, was singing covers of Buffy St. Marie tunes. Then after a quick dinner of salmon and corn on the cob, we were off to a night of viewing short films from the Banff film festival, rounding off the day with a night cap of wild dancing at a friends annual gumbo house party until nearly 1 am, the music DJ’d by my best friend from high school. It could not have been a more satisfying day, right down to my sister being re-united with her beloved lost dog in the morning, who had been separated from her for one terrible night the evening before.
It is so easy to take for granted the pleasure of normalcy in middle age. Those days when no one is ill, there is no crisis at work, no child, even grown children, are temporarily undone by the stresses of the world. A day in which the companionship of your partner is complete, from waking up together, to helping each other with chores, to making meals and dining together, to playing, really playing with each other in the simplest of ways, like dancing. I realize that unfortunately the pleasure of normalcy is that it isn’t always normal, so yesterday, I treasured every second. And then set one piece of it in a sonnet postcard, for me to look back on and remember the goodness of yesterday.
I hope if you are reading this, you have the most wonderful of normal Sundays.
love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail
it is most mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea
love is less always than to win
less never than alive
less bigger than the least begin
less littler than forgive
it is most sane and sunly
and more it cannot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky
It’s Valentine’s Day, a day hopeless romantics unite to eat prix fix expensive dinners with cheap champagne with someone who makes them smile. I hope you’re one of ’em. Dating in your mid 50’s requires a bit of a thick skin and a sense of humor. If you are one of my fellow 50 something daters, love is in the air if not chalk candy hearts in your dish. If you haven’t heard, the company that makes those went bankrupt. This is not a cosmic karmic sign that love is dead. In fact it is a love success story as a new round of investors has bought the company and plan to have inventory in place for next year so your chalky lite-pink BE MINE candy can wind up in your squeezes tummy.
I do find it just a tiny bit odd, that all of us who are mid 50’s, at this incredible junction in our lives, for most of us helping our elderly parents or parent, watching our 20 something children launch their adult lives and/or ushering in grand children, while still dealing with late stage careers and trying to navigate the last stretch without getting side swiped or down sized, while reeling from watching friends be stricken by cancer, despite dealing with all that stuff on our plates, (not to mention male and female menopause), we then set this preposterously high bench mark to simply go out on a date. You would think with all those stressors we would make it easier to eat Tai food over a glass of wine with a member of the opposite sex who responds in much more human sounding responses than our pets or dead silence in our downsized apartments. I do laugh at the bios people post on online dating apps and the criteria they have for agreeing to see someone for the first time. When did we get that choosy? Answering 438 questions on-line to filter out dates? Yikes. It didn’t work that way in high school or college.
Sadly, many of us in our mid 50’s suffer from PTSD – Post traumatic stress divorce syndrome. Or even worse yet, the traumatic loss of a spouse because of death. In both cases we are coping and adapting to the loss of a partner. If it is because of divorce, we have come through the grindstone of a once successful marriage that deteriorated into something that was no longer successful and have enough bruises and scars accumulated that we’re still recuperating and wondering if we have what it takes to take a run at one last great love affair, preferably one that take us all the way to end of our lives. It can be even harder emotionally to move on for those still dealing with the processing of grief. Dating is daunting, but the alternative of not dating is daunting as well. How do you find that person that can meet you at your level for companionship? On-line multiple choice quizzes? I don’t think so. Probably have to roll up our courage, take a shower and get out there on a date and find out.
Fortunately, I have good role models in my life that you can find love at every stage. My 87-year-old father is dating an older women for the first time and the two of them bring happiness and fun into each others lives on a daily basis while steadfastly maintaining their independence. My friend Liz, who is 91 and in an assisted living facility, just moved again so that she could be only a couple of doors down the hall from her friend Jerry. Both are confined to wheel chairs these days, but eat 3 meals a day together and always have something interesting to talk about and a kind word for the other. For both of these couples there is no screen time intervening, they are 100 percent present in each other’s company and have the most optimistic of spirits.
I wrote Generous Eye – the sonnet below, on a Sunday afternoon, after having gone to church with my Mom, we were sitting next to Liz, her wheel chair parked right next to our pew. The pastor’s sermon made reference to generous eyes and I wrote it down in my bulletin as a writing prompt and this sonnet eventually emerged. At the time I was dating a french speaking woman and the only thing holding our relationship together was passion and it was obvious that wasn’t enough to sustain a relationship going forward. My writing, I think like most writers, is not autobiographical, it is an attempt to create a reality I hope one day might exist.
Romance is this odd magical trance, where it can’t begin generally without some attraction but as the relationship matures into something lasting, it needs to soften and be flexible, just like our bodies as we age, into a greater focus on companionship, while wanting a partner whose ear is still tuned to hear the ancient lutes and lyres playing the song that stirs our bones and keeps us going. I am envious of those couples, like in the song below referencing Johnny and June Cash, whose love lasted through the best and worst of their lives. We all aren’t so fortunate. But we should all keep trying, your Liz or Jerry might still be out there waiting for you. Happy Valentines Day!
by T.A. Fry
As salient desires spark like steel on flint, with generous eye and gentle ear you scold my broken ways, without the faintest hint your loyalty sways, nor spite has taken hold. What’s after passion? Mon amour, je t’aime! Will lust be lost amidst our dwindling fuel, as ancient bonfires cool? I’ll not condemn this reckless plight where human hungers rule,. For sexual desire knows no bounds of youth. All hear its song from deep within their flesh. It sings; “Caress me dear….with the naked truth. Heal from gentle touch as two hearts enmesh. Savor carnal knowledge, as a worthy goal, And love me as I am; body, mind and soul.”
May this season make you blessed, Every day with tenderness; Renew our dampened spirits in its sway. Rejoice in twinkling candlelight, Young and old all spry this night, Cheerful with renewal New Year’s Day. Hark our dear one’s joy Rally our inner girl and boy, Inside our hearts’ a tiny silver sleigh. Santa’s not gifts beneath a tree, The true gifts are family, May each flourish in both industry and play. And so I’ve devised a simple plan Spelled it out in anagram,
Merry Christmas one and all this holiday.
Is it naive to want to want the world to be a better place this time of year? Then let’s be naive together in wishing each other the sentiments: “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men.” The words nativity and naivety are french and come from the same Latin root that means just born. Every year, we need to birth anew our understanding of peace. Peace that is an outpouring of compassion, the capacity to empathize with even those we disagree. Peace arises from the certainty that there can never be peace for me, until there is justice for everyone else. Justice is not a means to retribution. Justice has to be a road to peace, for Justice = Just Us.
May this world find real solutions to the most intractable of conflicts in 2019 and forge a brighter future for us all.
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 Mollie, Winfield and adopted Puck. All sons Who rose, beyond the hopes of their mothers.
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.