Santa’s Lament

Cold night skies
Reindeer fly
Lasers blinding Santa’s eyes

Guide the sleigh
While children lay
Anticipating Christmas day

Home to home
The fat man moans
Dodging another unmanned drone

Leather boot
Velvet suit
Down the chimney, Christmas loot

Drawstring slack
Open sack
What they wish for, Santa lacks

Wooden toys
For little boys
No longer elicit cries of joy

And dolly’s stuffed
With cotton fluff
Tossed aside as daughters’ huff

Now Selfie Sticks
And iPhone 6
Are all they want from Old Saint Nick

“So, we’ll retool
We are not fools”
At Santa’s workshop innovation rules

And with Elfin’ magic
They built those gadgets
But all for naught it was so tragic

It was brought to light
That they held no rights
And patent lawyers came one night

Cease and desist
The lawyers’ hissed
Apple won, now Santa’s pissed

“They have such gall”
The elves did bawl
But they had Kringle by the balls

So now you see
That it’s hard to be
So benevolent to society

In a world so vast
Things change so fast
And Santa yearns for a time that’s passed.

For My Dad

This is for my Dad who made me in his own image
My Dad who has always been there for me
My Dad who has always held a job
Always came home at night
Always provided for family

This is for my Dad who made me in his own image
My Dad who raised my sister and I well
My Dad who never moved away
Never made us homeless
Never left our Mom

This is for my Dad who made me in his own image
My Dad who still lets me know that he loves me
My Dad who will still hold my hand
Still kiss me on the cheek
Still hug me tight

This is for my Dad who made me in his own image
My Dad who will live long after he’s gone
My Dad who will remain my moral compass
Will remain my inspiration
Will remain my Dad

Never Look Back

Ernie Plummer sat in the busy bus terminal awaiting the announcement of his coach boarding. The hard plastic seat was uncomfortable on his bony ass but Ernie chalked that up to his aging body rather than poor chair construction. He imagined that seat would have felt a lot more comfortable if his butt cheeks were fifty years younger, hell even twenty. Pulling the old pocket watch from his coat pocket Ernie checked the time; 2:32 PM, he had a few more minutes before they’d be boarding.

Closing the cover he turned the timepiece over in his hand. He had once enjoyed the weight of it, but just recently he had begun to feel the burden of its heft. The inner workings he’d bragged over the years had kept perfect time providing he had wound it and it had never let him down. Staring at the watch somberly, Ernie replayed that last thought in his head. It had never let him down. Or had it? He rubbed his thumb across the inscription expertly engraved in the gold. “Never look back.”

It had been on a return trip from his final tour in Viet Nam that he’d found the watch, seemingly forgotten by some traveler all those years ago. He’d been waiting for a connecting train and had a few hours to kill. Looking for a place to rest his tired body he had found the watch inside an abandoned disposable cup sitting alongside other bits of trash that someone had neglected to throw away. The watch was beautiful and looked valuable, surely to be missed by its owner but Ernie had pocketed it quickly once he saw nobody else around. Spoils of war he’d decided and had never felt a bit of guilt about it.

“Never look back,” the watch proclaimed each time he took it out to check the time or simply admire it. Never look back, he decided was a good credo to live by. Never look back at that war. Never look back at the things he’d done, the things he’d been ordered to do. What great comfort those three words allowed.

Ernie heard the crackling announcement through the P.A. system and was startled back to the present, his bus was boarding. The watch, clutched tightly in his fist was very warm to the touch and he found his palm sweaty as he dropped the timepiece back into his side pocket. Grabbing his bags, Ernie made his way toward the short line that was forming to board the idling Greyhound. Awaiting his turn among the other travelers, Ernie found his mind wandering to a painful past.

Never look back was the very thing he told himself in the autumn of 1978 when he slipped out of the house in the hours before dawn, leaving his first wife Marjorie and their infant son to fend for themselves. It was the same thing he’d silently repeat with each woman and every job and every broken friendship thereafter over the next few decades and there had been a multitude of each. For more than forty years he’d continued swallowing that credo, washing it down with whiskey at night and finding it to be the first thing on his lips each morning besides a cigarette. It had only been recently that he had begun tallying up what those three words had resulted in. Nothing. Nada. Never look back was supposed to be the battle cry of a man living by his own rules, of someone who apologized for nothing. He now realized that it was befitting a person who left nothing more in their wake but pain, sorrow and devastation. The villages he’d helped burn. Never look back. The screams from the thatched huts. Never look back. The young girl who climbed out of a back window on fire, screaming in agony until the Captain had put her mercifully down. Never look back.

He chose a seat at the back and was pleased when nobody sat beside him as he could stretch out his legs along with his thoughts. Pulling the gold watch once again from his pocket he checked its hands; 2:47 PM. Right on time, he could expect to be arriving in Florida in two days. From there, one more bus to his destination in Tampa. He closed the face of the watch for the last time and let the timepiece slip between the seat cushions. Not looking back had been the most destructive decision of his life and his determination to mend as many wrongs as he could in the few years he had left was all he’d been able to think about since he’d clawed his way out of the bottle. With the watch now gone from his life for good, Ernie reached into his other pocket and withdrew the one year chip his sponsor had presented him four nights earlier. One year sober, one day at a time.

As the bus pulled out of the terminal and onto the tarmac of the highway Ernie turned and looked out the rear window and said goodbye to his past, goodbye to regret and goodbye to self-loathing. He was unsure how long he’d been staring at that horizon falling behind him but Ernie didn’t mind, he had a lot of looking back to make up for. After getting a good long look, Ernie once again set his sights on what was ahead of him. He had a son to meet in Florida, and he had a lot to tell him.

Ode To The Bud

With pink and silky edges soft
And fragrance oh so sweet
I’m reminded as I always am
Of you, my precious treat

Standing tall in crystal vase
The center of attention
With all remarks upon the beauty
Too numerous to mention

The dew upon petal bloom
Like a tear upon warm skin
Refracting light in prism form
Exposing pain within

The green and thorny stem it seems
Like my own imperfect soul
With prideful ways and jealousies
A manly desire to control

Together Dear, we serve each other
My stem to your dazzling flower
You open up and please the world
While I hold you through the hours

And so my love I must concede
Now please Love, don’t you fuss
When we compare you to me
You’re the better part of us

Valentine’s During Wartime

My son sits across from me in the little breakfast nook where he’s eaten most meals over the years.  How long has it been since we’ve shared a cup of coffee alone together?  He is my only child and the last in our line to carry on the family name.  He ships out tomorrow.

“Your grandfather would be proud,” I say and am startled by the waver in my voice.

“Yeah,” he says and adds more cream to his cup.  I soak in this moment as I know I’ll want to revisit it often.  His hair is cropped short, though not as short as it was when he came back from boot camp.  He has my face, my eyes, though he owes his lean muscular body to the U.S. military.

“You’re the first to serve since my great grandfather,” I say.

“World War One,” he says.  The tone in his voice says he understands the significance of this information.

“That’s right.”  The coffee is fresh and hot and I’m glad we have this time before his mother wakes up.  He’s never been an early riser but today he woke ahead of me and the percolator was churning when I came into the kitchen.  To say it made me proud was an understatement.  Not because he made a point of rising early and went through the ritual of brewing the coffee, but that he understood the importance of what he was doing.  Of this moment and what it would mean to me.  Just when you think you have somebody pegged.

“Do you think Mom’s going to forgive me?” he asks.

“Ah, she’s your biggest supporter,” I say.  “You know that. She’s just not happy that she can’t keep you safe.”

“That’s been out of her control for a long time,” he says somberly and gets up to pour us a fresh cup.  It’s true, you can protect them pretty confidently for their first few years but danger lurks everywhere.  There are no guarantees.  Statistics say he’ll come home in one piece but the evening news does everything possible to shake that confidence from you.  He slides an envelope across the tabletop towards me.

“Drop that on her pillow next February,” he says.  I pick the envelope up and turn it over in my hand.   It’s red, with a couple of decorative hearts drawn in the corner and ‘Mom, Happy Valentine’s Day’ written in his own hand across the front.  It contains a poem I’m sure, as he’s written her a poem every Valentine’s Day since he was seven.  I tuck it away into the pocket of my bathrobe, very pleased that I have a purpose over the following months until the holiday.

Sitting silently as the sun begins its rise, we sip at our ceramic mugs and bask in the perfectly peaceful moment.  Just me and my boy.