Yesterday

I wrote this poem after reading about Green Day’s bass player and his birth mothers battle with heroin. He never met her until shortly before she died.

My mother died there on the floor

And we met just the day before.

Had we loved, would I have known

I had her there for all my own.

But time befalls the strongest clown

And burns their houses to the ground

Left alone, nothing more to be

Questioned the blood inside of me

That sanguine mass, the life giving force

It guides me reckless through my course

And shapes me strong and weak each day

And sends me moaning on my way

The needles prick brought her more joy

Than the newfound voice of her baby boy

Then all was lost to time and toil

To lovers claimed by my turmoil.

My life became a quest of proof

To see myself became aloof

Until the day forever more

That I saw her lying on the floor.

Cape

I long for the day of shifting sea

When the day stood clear and naked to me

Of the time when waves rolled man height high

November wind battered eastern sky

So grey and gay the day began

As the four of us coerced the sand

And the day not a bitter moment came

No sight just now of coming rain

No storm that hints at winter climes

No tollings telling bitter times

That day of smiles stands out to me

That day of love and family

Now winter holds my heart in black

A lone I sit, no turning back

It was all a waking dream I s’pose

But longing for it ever grows

That day of days four holding hands

Still snowing now, alone I stand.

Bad Tacos

I think her name was Juanita, could have been Lupe or Rosa
I didn’t really care enough to ask.
A stranger in a strange land or more of a surreal land
She was busy making tacos, of all things
Yes, tacos. Not the ones that her grandmother had taught her to make
As they chatted about granddaughter things or whatever it is polite to speak of with grandmothers
But the ones fresh from the can, the real American gut bombs
I didn’t really get a good look at her at first
She was as busy as Vishnu on a hot date, lettuce and tomato flying dexterously here and there
I had ordered the usual warmed over dog food, with a side of refried beans, if you please
The half wit at the counter stared me down for a good while, contemplating this and that
Eventually my requests popped up on Juanita’s screen in the back,
And her stubby, brown fingers operated like a surgeon
I wondered, as I stood off to the left of The Thinker behind the register,
If life for her was all that she wanted it to be,
Was it her dream to roll king sized tortillas for seven bucks an hour?
Surely not, was it my dream to be back there with her?
Here she was thousands of miles from her home and roots
Preparing food for people, the majority of which held her in contempt
She had traded her culture for a snappy uniform and a pair of plastic gloves.
That would never be me, Jackson.
This was my homeland and my birthright
I could own this damn place if I felt like it, but I didn’t
Within two minutes my surgically prepared meal was placed neatly on a plastic tray
And for the first time we met.
Juanita smiled warmly at me as she placed my food on the shiny metal counter.
For some reason I looked deeply into her eyes. those endless brown eyes.
And I could see her reasons.
All of the reasons for her travel and pain; for her whole existence.
Those brown eyes were my mirror and I looked hard into them those two seconds
Looking back was love and dignity, the kind of which I would never inherit
A dignity six thousand years old,
One passed from her mother and her mother’s mother since time began
She toiled here because this was not her life
This was not her.
The real her was safe in the knowledge that she was who she believed herself to be
Now, a stranger in a strange land, she carried home with her always.
Imagine that, at home in a bad taco joint.

Travelling

The lines on the road are the teeth of a zipper,

Each tenth of a mile rolling her from my memory.

Windshield wipers slapping and whishing, keeping time with my heartbeat.

My eyes are as bleary as the steady stream of headlights heading east.

Go west, young man.

Exhaustion from the night’s heated battle drives me to seek shelter,

Or maybe just the sights and sounds of humanity.

For many miles now no one to keep me company but James Taylor,

He can be a boring co-pilot the fourth time repeated.

I remember as a child the cross country treks,

Hours spent on watch as the drivers slept, a bored and lonely sentinel,

The endless droning of semi truck engines the only company in those wee hours.

Now I am the driver, still watching, still lonely.

Yellow ochre arrows rigid in their instructions, but who needs them?

Am I not the one in control of my destiny anymore?

My legs are like sandbags as I park and stretch,

Trying to get feeling back in my feet, and maybe a little elsewhere.

Time to put on my face to the world.

The building is square and somber, and to me, a little skewed to the right,

Large glass eyes unblinking, uncaring.

Rows of benches, wooden slats and metal, worn smooth by repetition

Stationed opposite of vending machines, standing at attention

Their contents flirting with the passersby.

I think I will stand with them, just there in the corner like I’m waiting for the bus.

A large, buxom lady is standing just there at the middle machine,

Her weight shifting back and forth in frustration

as her prize hangs tantalizingly in mid air.

Unaided by gravity, she finally puts her bulk against it, and the candy releases.

Reaching into its mouth, victorious, she turns a finds my eyes grinning at her.

Her face goes pink, caught in her lust for chocolate by a total stranger.

She eyes me gently, sheepishly smiles, turns and walks quickly out the door.

Encouraged by her smile, I feed a dollar bill into the same machine.

It whirs and spits my offering back several times before accepting,

I punch D3, the same thing that she had just claimed, trusting her taste in sweets,

Now sitting, ambivalent about my chocolate choice,

A man hustles in towing a tow headed boy.

The shorter is holding himself the way the boys are supposed to when nature calls,

Terrified of the consequences of the loss of control.

Towing turns to pushing, then to running, as need becomes emergency.

The boy is now crowing alarm.

The pair rush in to the door marked with the black figure minus the dress.

Father utters muffled curses behind the steel door, and junior begins to wail.

There may have been a slap or two.

In minutes they came out, father red faced, boy whimpering,

A dark circle marking the front of his trousers.

Get used to it kid, your whole life will be a loss of control.

The plastic bottle that I just requested thuds heavily into the bottom of the bin.

Cap opened, it hisses softly at me.

I sit now on the metal and wooden bench,

carefully placing myself in the same groove as countless others.

A young couple casually stroll in.

He powerful in his youth, she nubile and pleasing.

They are arm in arm, their proximity shouting that they are now inseparable.

He nudges and she moves, her voice rising softly with her smile.

There is hunger behind his eyes, she reciprocating it.

With a deep kiss they separate into the facility doors indicating their respective genders.

Soon returning to each other’s side, they unknowingly join me in a drink,

They taking turns, giggling madly to each other, her straddling him on the bench feet from me.

They finish, throw the empty into a wide mouthed trash can, then exit into the night.

A mixture of feelings at their antics pushes through me, then out of me, as I too rise and depart.

I will find a bed soon, a single with a small TV, I guess.

Maybe I will just drive right on through the night.

Amarillo leads to Tucumcari which leads to Barstow, then Needles.

The same route as in childhood, the same outcome at the end of the road.

I shift the shifter, hit the peddle, and I’m back to the road, and James Taylor.

The lines on the road are the teeth of a zipper, my life is opening before me.