Driving Through History

Each Memorial Day I visit my father’s grave marker at sunrise. It started in the year 2000, the first anniversary of my father’s passing. My three brother’s and I met to reminisce, pray, and pay some respect to a life, without which we wouldn’t have our band of brotherhood.

This morning the drive through town resurrected a collage of memories. Places that held memorable slides of personal cohesion.

I had a Free Press route on the west side when I was in pubescent transition. There was a house on Grand Pre Avenue that tested my throwing arm each pre-dawn day. Its porch was unlit, and I got freaked out every time the shadowed enclave came into my field of vision. I could pinkie swear there was a person nestled in its corner, ice-sculpture still, waiting to snatch my body and what was left of my courageous façade. I never heaved a rubber-banded paper so hard while trotting off balance. I was like Joe Namath outside the pocket, under pressure, throwing off one foot. Those deliveries fused my definition of fear tighter to my understanding. Not to mention one morning while picking up my bundle at the convenience store a 45 pistol was waved at me and the attendant before a masked man ran out with the contents of the cash drawer.

I drove past what used to be H&G Market, my first W-2 employment. I still recall the sound of snapping open paper grocery bags. The May-day in 1980 where I stood in the parking lot after loading a lady’s checked off grocery list of things in her trunk was recalled with no effort. I stood looking up at debris circling above the rooftops like the disciples watching Jesus float through the clouds. Then my conscience asked me why I was standing there. I ran back into the store in time to feel the pressure pop my ear drums while the front windows and back wall of the store simultaneously broke free. My sister, who cashiered, and other employee’s ran for safety, but the tornado went by so fast, most of us didn’t make it to the basement before the twister continued disheveling its way to downtown Kalamazoo. A handful of lives were lost, including a lady at the laundromat next to H&G, who tried to save her dog when a wall fell on her. The silver lining of it all was eating ice cream, lots of it, until my gills were swollen shut.

Then I passed the house in which I met my wife. A brick bungalow all of our children know about. Right near the top of West Main hill it stands as a talking point each time we drive by. “That’s where we met!”

The hill itself surfaced a memory of the shenanigans of my friend Dennis (The World’s Tallest Leprechaun) and me self. Well, it was one shenanigan anyway. We decided to see what would happen if a tire were rolled down the center line. It was early morning, pre-sunrise, so there was no traffic. It had to have been doing 40mph by the time it jumped the curve near the bottom. We could’ve done worser things…worser?

Funny, when I visited my mother’s resting place on Mother’s Day this year, I drove past the last house in which my father lived. This morning as I stood over my dad’s marker I was a short distance from the last place my mother lived. Lived. They lived. Because they did, I can say I live now. My mother was in assisted living her last month or so, after she spent so many years assisting me and my nine siblings. I cannot wrap my head around such mystery. All our stories melding at points, separating at other points. Now, some stories are only held together by memory. Memorial stories. Man, I could go on…I suppose I will, just like my parents do in my memory.

Runaway Psalm

Oh God, how my heart beats me up.

Its own rod and staff comfort me not.

My face runs flat with self-control.

My figuring has no end.

My passions, frail, off balance

Lead me beside myself

Where no water is.


Then a mockingbird flew silently by,

And I heard a hummingbird remember the lyrics.

A cardinal blushed.

A raven was its own shadow.

The fog lifted my countenance

Enough to see the mystery of You.

The Thou of this I.


You suggested I lighten up

As the sun crested a weary scape.

Ah, the light by which I see



Then we laughed.

Shelf Protection

The books are listing on the shelf.

Pock marks left, where authors, dead and alive,

moved over to my coffee table.


Then there are the bookmarks

tucked in many pages like floss

reminding me there’s something,


some thought waiting to get unstuck,

dredged up between ideas

old and new and from old.


“Can one, by thinking, add any height

to his stature?”


It’s time to shelve and disheveled,

Clear the queue.

Reset the open-faced bindings.


Mind the store,

store the minds,

and stand the titles at attention.


Once again, my books and poetry

protect me, slipping silently

back into place.

If Tears Were Race Horses

If I release tears like race horses

which one will fall into the lead?


The gate opens and they’re off!

Anger gets out at the jump,

with Dissappointment a nose back.

Loneliness makes a run for third,

edged out by Rejection.

Grief settles in between

Laughter and Loss,

While Joy brings up the rear.

The track of the tears

comes alive as dirt and dust

rise in and behind the pack.

They are neck in neck,

cheek to cheek

as the backstretch looms.

It’s any horse’s race but

Joy is on the move,

but not on the outside.

Joy is moving through

the thick of it, jockeying,

bumping bellies,

smelling sweat,

listening as the hoofs

displace earth while

muzzles move air.

The movement is hidden

within at first, but down

the wire Joy overcomes

by two lengths.


Mother Mary. A Mother’s Day Reflection

Mother’s Day…

Gerald the Writer

She pondered these things in her heart.

Mothers do that quite often.

She kept all these things.

My mother did too.

An angel told Mary.

The power of the Highest will.

An overshadowing of foreshadows.

“For with God nothing will be impossible.”

All mothers are infused with possibilities.

They lay down their self dreams

and rest folded hands upon

their distended bellies.

Mary carried wonder

full term and delivered hope.

There was blood and water and child.

All mothers hold pasty skin to chest with awe.

My mother held each of us close for a moment.

A snip of the umbilical and the separation

began a journey of contemplation.

What will? What if? Life.

Mary’s path was set.

From empty womb to empty tomb

the realities of motherhood were multiplied.

The gestation in her heart left stretch marks of spirit.

Near the end Mary drank of the cup no mother…

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Rain Mates

Let’s just skip the stones

and get dirty.

Mud pies in the face.

Bear disgrace.

Fall into place.

Wallow and weep

into each other’s eyes.

The river’s a half-peck

away from your cheek.

We’re weak,

let’s cinder sneak.

We know who we are

from where we were,

and now is now.

The Oh, Honestly

parts of us wait

in the rain,

the ripples

kissing each other

with grace.

Saving Place

Like a book mark,

a fallen tree.

I heard the echo threreof

and fell too,

marking the place in which

I left off

like so many other pages

cleft in the forest.


Tell me again

why these memories gather moss,

bear termite bits,

and sit like cairns in conversations.

Let me know

How to live

after I rise above the imprint

and gather its shadow

like a jacket.


How do I lumber along this path?

Seeing forward, glancing back,

giving ground behind and before,

I set my face like flint,

grateful for shafts of light

and the affect thereof.

Another fall into grace.