Thursday, September 29, 2011

Potters' Hands

Potters' hands are dry
From handling wet clay.
As oils in the skin are stripped away.

Potters' hands are calloused;
Not as rough as hard labor leaves them,
Those scabrous scales that form on flesh --
No match for wood, brick, stone, or steel
That rubs skin to blister, then thicken and scar.
But these are from labors of love
Caused by movements as repetitious as rituals,
And like the smooth callouses of playing guitar
That make performance more of a dance,
These hard nodes produced
By throwing pots perfect the task.

Potters' hands know the patience of mother's work:
Swaddling an infant,
Kneading dough into plump loaves,
Wringing out the wash,
Soothing a feverish brow,
Smoothing wrinkles with the heat and pressure of ironing,
Plaiting hair, knitting a sweater or mending a garment.

Potters' hands are strong,
Shaping clay is not for the weak:
Earth resists being molded.
God could tell us a thing or two about that.

written July 2009

Thursday, September 22, 2011

June Bugs

For a long time they frightened my brothers, sisters and I.

If those bumbling fat beetles had a bite it would be vicious.

We measured the potency of bites by the size of the insect.

Ants and mosquitoes mostly made us itch,

While the sting of bees and wasps could make us cry.

And by that standard, these chafers had all the signs of a killer.

How were we to know all that bumbling about,

Bumping into us was not testing their targets,

But simply poor navigation.

Finally when we saw no one was hurt,

We gave them the same deference we gave

To butterflies and lady bugs,

Dragonflies and doodle bugs.

One brother once observed they looked drunk

With their unsteady gait and faltering flight patterns.

We thought that was so funny

We started calling them boozy beetles.

But we did not know what made them tipsy

Until I observed them one night

Through the door left ajar

To allow a fresh evening breeze

Clear the air of supper smells

As we cleared the table

And argued over who would wash dishes.

Kneeling on the screen in summer's heat

In adoration of the yellow bulb burning on the porch,

Those drunken June bugs gathered

Drinking in the glow from the kitchen.

written February 2011, publshed in Rejected Anthology of AIPF 2012

Monday, September 19, 2011

Austin Streets

O sing to the shrine of the street called Pine
That lost its name and found a number (fifth)

O say Amen, Amen! to the hymn of its pith;

Shout Alleluia with the chorus of remorse

For all the streets of Austin that were renamed,

And all the buildings that have been razed and erased.

And raise your voices in praise of the powers that be

That left the names of Texas waterways where they were.

You can still drive down the streets San Antonio and Neches,

Or navigate those called San Jacinto and Nueces.

Now don't get me wrong:

I would not try to brake the wheels of progress

Any more than I would try to push these rivers.

And digits are fine for the hands and feet,

But streets in a city that's been around this long

Need their stories told about the days of old

In the labels we give to the boulevards and byways.

They whisper their history if we learn to listen.

Cruise down these hilly avenues

And from the pavement over cobbles

Where horses once were hobbled

We hear the music of horns as the traffic swishes

Carrying poems of our dreams and wishes

In their wakes as roads roll like rivers of rhyme.

Stroll down the sidewalks that course under the tangle

Of branches of Live Oak and Linden, of Peach and Mesquite,

Of Mulberry and Cherry, of Cypress and Cedar.

(Their streets became feeders on to I-35)

This city that re-invents itself every decade or so

Sloughs buildings and businesses

Like snakes lose skin or people change clothes.

The next and newest is always the best.

No one wants to hear about the Russian Tea Room

With its quiet mystique, or the peace

Of a petite rose garden tucked away

Behind a biology hall on the main campus,

Now paved over for more parking spaces.

We must dig with trowel under these streets

To find the skeletal remains of the city of old,

We can make mosaics of the shards of broken glass

And chipped plates from that lost culture,

Or sprinkle the pieces in our poems.

And like words of spells and curses,

They have the power of old Magic

To heal and charm.

written May 2011, published in Preoccupied with Austin 2012