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   unpublished poetry
The Winter of Eighty-Eight
January did not open differently.
               It just continued.
                              More friends died.
Some acquaintances
in the brigade of our lord
                          and otherwise, fell
or started on the slow slide downward.
The spiral from and through this world
                        toward whatever next.
Reagan's' Homeless kept getting in the way
of Downtown Southern California Traffic.

Just say No to traffic lights.

It rained too much.
Not every day romantic deluge,
but punky drizzles when
the garden begged for leaky reservoir.

Hello. Hello.
to all the dreams that failed
                            to scatter-shoot
while passing past us toward The East.



I caught a cold.   And then the flu.
                             And then
I didn't catch myself in time
to get a six pack of inoculations
                 against the dreaded
                              red-hot blues.
And thus I met St. Valentine
behind some bungalow
in grubby moccasins
      (holes cut out for big toe comfort)
instead of in The Mall or Church
with best sneakered foot
                                put forward.

The simmer of Santana winds.
            forced jade green fronds
to cinnamon tinder sticks.
It kicked the newly dying leaves
                    from yard to yard
and pummeled them until their dust
                                       was dust.



April entered and not quietly.
So many suns passed into sunsets
it might have been a year of Aprils.
                       Slushy birthdays.
Pee spots on the leaves of elephant ears.

Only gutter rain receives mombritta shoots
and comforts sulking agapanthas.

I watched
and gave but little help
as rain drove friends to rims
where they had little hope
                                of transport back.

Such is a year that gives us Donna
                             Jessica and Tammy-Faye;
and that's to skirt some mention of dear Helga.
                          Jesus, this was only Spring.

Mary Lynn rang up
   one afternoon in May and told me
          Spencer had gone off to Nicaragua and
did I know the number of some baby-sitter
not into Heavy Metal or cross-dressing.
                                             New Age
was all right, she said, but any seance
                                  would have to be
held in the kitchen not the parlor.



Newtons mood swings came
                                                 and went.
Like time does in the middle of a laugh.

                           One day he'd decend
to scrape the bottom, then he'd travel
back up high enough
                   to grab some handfuls
                                    of green willow,
his hands as verdant/evergreen
as limbs he reached toward and grasped,
                          or so he told me.

What is sickness if the wellness
                              tastes so clean.
Pain is but remembered vapidness
                      when crick is gone.
Two-bit philosophy
will see you through, my friends,

                                  he said,
two-bit philosophy will see you through

Some mockingbirds were here one day
                  shouting foul language
                        at a daytime owl
who's only guilt was chanting
                          courting songs
to some intended mate who packed
                             her feathers
                         and some things
and fled in dark of night.     I wished
                         I could have been
of comfort
       in that owl-trying time,
as I wish I could have been of better use
                     to friends now gone.



I remember love.
It used to taste like deference.
                   It was what difference is.
Way back when I had smiles
                             good enough
                                  to change a life
I must have wasted them on life itself.

Imagine June
as not so much the center
of the year as what it really is.
Toad time. Tadpole to frog weather.
Croaks come out of crocus in a single voice.
Its not alliteration but nature being literate.
Freeway daisies riot on the freeways.
Crabgrass given inches, steals the farm.
Hobo birds, like finch and sparrow,
seed the underbrush with baby tear.
Those swallows, who did not come back,
come back now as prodigals or better.
Come see the lilies put on habits.
Don't they know Good Friday
and The Resurrections been and gone?
If June's a time of California jumping
and it is.   It is.   No wonder pale skins
itch when summer is a comin' in.



About the time I settle in to write
Edward pokes his head into the room
                   we should run and play.
So off to Westwood or the beach
     to try out software or the patience
               of the temps at the Emporium.
The two of us Dame Culture's brats
                                       on holiday.

A month of running's what July was.
                         Days of thither,
                                      well as yawn.
The air was full of Contra-dictions.
           Every compass pointed North.
                 The does gave birth to fawns.
The heart, the hart was in the highlands,
                       Now here,
                               now there,
                                       now gone.



Reagan's Homeless slouching
down the boulevard toward
                                The Beach,
that would be island separate
                          from us all
     that would define the new infinity,
that place so like Downtown Beirut
              Pacific Ocean Park has sailed
                       and with it Muscle Beach
leaving Arnold no new converts.

Capitols not lower case
define our favorite places always.

The heart malingers
             and will not let go.
It suffers sunshine well as rain.
It gathers pain and saves it,
leaves off saving rainbows
in favor of the cloudy day.
Why waste time in cataloging joy
            while enjoying it?

And that's the news this stanza.

Hail the sun burnt day that offers
             ring around the rosie and
some London bridge or other falling down,
but out of sight and hear shot.

                           Me, loves prisoner
                some other August?
It must be here say, rumor,
                                no matter what
some journal in a younger hand confirms.
I have always been as independent
               as I thought my country was.
I might have loved,
       but in the abstract.
If I fell down with lovers or was snared
                           why no scars?
These lines are only worry lines,
these middle pounds the saddle horn
                     of time not deference.
And yet in stillness of a certain kind -
when things are quite so
or not quite so, or comme ca -
there is a haunting
         born of tenderness once borne
of grief that came and went
                      that could be
                             love ache
if one would give it head.

Ah, but in the wilderness
A cat of any stripe is welcome

Copyright 1998 by Rod McKuen & Stanyan Music Group. All rights
reserved and no part may be reproduced in any form without written
permission of owners.
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