Saturday, November 28, 2015

Paper Dreams

I was walking the downtown streets
swerving right and left.
“Excuse me,” was said, seeing only feet.
It was the holidays but I felt bereft

of any hope for the new year.
Standing at the corner waiting
for the crosswalk to clear
I see a man with a sign stating

that anything would help him
fight the hunger of homelessness.
People fill the street where cars had been.
I try to keep my eyes motionless.

Don’t look and you won’t see,
I told myself as I step to the curb
but he reaches for me
I turn to him perturbed.

“Why me,” I whisper to no one.
“You look lost, young man,”
He answers. I am stunned
to silence and I simply stand

while he lets go of my arm.
“Do you want to see my dreams?”
He asks me. I step back alarmed.
“No, wait.” From the pocket of his jeans

he pulls out a handful of paper pieces.
Waiting on me, I nod yes.
A smile fills his face with creases
He gives me one from the mess.

A tattered slip with smudged words.
“Write a book” I read.
“These are my dreams. Like birds
I keep them safe and clean

from the hardships of this life.”
He sees the question in my eyes,
“I had a son, daughter and wife.
Fulfilling that dream is my demise.”

His voice broke and slow tears appeared
on his weathered cheeks
I started to speak but feared
not hearing the story’s peak.

“I lived my greatest dream, a joyful family
My son, one, daughter was three
Yes, it was a fairy tale, happily
we were. But listen to me…”

The crowd flows around us.
Nobody touches me, invisible we
seem to be to the holiday bustle.
“I couldn’t keep the dream close to me.

It was Christmas 10 years ago.
I worked late so I could stay home
an extra day. Traveling in the snow
a truck ran a light. From a phone

call I learned of losing my dream.”
Silently, I stared back in time
with this man. Forever, it seemed,
before he could speak the next line.

“That New Year’s day I wrote
all the things I wanted to do in
this life on paper. I broke
seven blisters on my skin.

Now I hold them all close
so that they won’t be taken away.”
He grabs from my hand enclosed
his dream of writing someday.

“My heart can’t handle another loss.
Be careful young man with this,
tapping my chest. “The cost
of reaching a goal is not bliss.”

He turns from me and sits
with his sign and the past.
From my pocket I pull a shopping list
I decide to write something fast.

I rip the paper in two.
I hand a piece to the man
with a word he knew.
Silently, he folded it in his hand.

The second piece I hold
with a word I read aloud.
Then I let it go into the cold
wind. His eyes a storm cloud.

“Believe,” I repeated the word.
I move into the crowded lane
hoping, but knowing it absurd
that he would let go of the “Pain.”

Monday, November 9, 2015

6 a.m. Flight

I’m traveling from Grand Island to Madison
Off the Wing
 by way of Dallas
A clear sky
  the horizon wrapped in a rose colored ribbon
I can see the fields crisscrossed with roads
The land spotted with ponds and streams
Streetlights visible from small towns
 like spilled salt on a dark table cloth

By now my family is starting their morning routine
As are so many other families below our plane

I can see the day unfold
 beautiful from 20000 ft

But I start to wonder about the things I can’t see
  I can’t see the hungry child looking for something
  to eat in the bare cupboards

 I can’t see the dad sipping coffee as he makes
 his daughter’s lunch, she doesn’t like the school’s chicken

 I can’t hear the teenage son yell at his mom
 knowing it hurts her but he is so angry lately

 I can’t hear the dedicated teacher order her coffee
 the excitement of a new lesson spurring her to school early

I can’t experience the thousands of stories unfolding beneath me
as the curve of the sun rises from the horizon
  Slow and steady
  Making me squint to watch the darkness fade away on this new day

I smile as I text my family to have a wonderful day
For a second I understand the cliche
 that this life is a gift
 and through the joy and the pain
 it is my day to live

Then my phone vibrates
 “U 2 Dad”

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

To the Teenage Girl Smoking in the Doorway

I see you
Life hanging hard on your lips
Eyes red from tears or drugs
Hate radiating
  for me
  for life
  for this cool fall morning

I am walking into a local coffee shop with coworkers
I am here for a conference about higher education software

You don’t care

After ten minutes I walk out of the coffee shop
Warm designer drink in my hand
My group jaywalks across the street
  looking forward to the day

At the curb I turn to look for you
You are leaning in the doorway
Facing me
Cigarette still in your hand
I nod
 Wanting you to know I see you

You frown
Turn from me

You don’t care

I don’t blame you

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

To the Tattooed Barista

I noticed how you waited a few extra seconds
to acknowledge me waiting there
seconds can speak volumes
Then you politely ignored my order
and asked me to repeat it

Disdain shining bright behind your round rimmed fashion eyewear

I am looking sharp in black slacks and a mint green shirt with matching tie
While waiting in line I checked my iPhone

I know what your thinking
I once thought like Holden Caulfield
Not sure where I was going
Just sure I didn’t want to be like those lawyers downtown in a suit and tie

I don’t know the exact words you judged me with
but I felt it the judgment just the same

I will admit to selling out,
Selling out to my wife and six kids
Selling out to my students that I will be teaching today
(That’s why I dress professionally for them)

I will admit to selling out to my life, all 43 years so far

So, thank you for the coffee
And I was going to ask about the arm tattoo
I liked the design
But you decided in a few seconds I wasn’t worth your time.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I wrote a poem...

I wanted to write the greatest poem of all time

but what did I know of life
I am only a father and husband
a friend
a dreamer
a poet
a man standing at the center of his life

What could I share with you that would connect to your everyday life?

I wanted to write the greatest poem of all time

but what did I know of pain
I only have my past and heart
my blood
my failures
my loss
a man still hurting from his life

What could I share with you that would connect to your everyday life?

I wanted to write the greatest poem of all time

but what did I know of answers
I am only a lonely soul
a heartbeat
a breath
a moment
a man made like no other

What could I share with you that would connect to your everyday life?

I wanted to write the greatest poem of all time

but what I wrote was this poem.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Left at Home

We are always traveling roads

  that never bring us home

Through sun, snow, and sin

We try to find the destination for our heart
 a place to rest our feet
 and pillows for our heads to rest

In a panic we pat our pockets
 turn in a circle
 and check again
    but we left our hearts
on the kitchen counter

so we stop

turn around
 and hope we find our way back

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


You can still be blindsided
   on a one way street

At any moment
  someone else's mistake
   can kill you

We give trust so blindly
  to perfect strangers

Yet we make the people closest
   to us
    work to even see us smile

You have to look both ways
  in this world
   to keep from being blindsided

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sunday Morning

My 22 month old daughter gets restless in church
We walk out to the entryway
The hymns still audible
Though the father's voice is now muffled
The outer doors are glass
The sun of Sunday morning warm on our skin
She expresses joy as birds fly and land
On the church lawn
Carefree they search for food
As my daughter laughs and points
"Burds," she tells me
She looks at me to make sure I see
"Birds," I repeat back
She tries to follow one with her finger
as it takes flight
She turns to me again
Smiling she says, "burds"
But I hear the word joy

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A March Day

I feel the sun against my face
     warm and bright
The wind of winter caresses my back

Both elements vying for my attention
     future and past
     mixing with the weather

The aching shiver of past regrets
     move with the breeze
          against my arms

I grasp them
    trying to keep them warm
As the sun’s rays makes me squint into the future
    dreams so big
    it hurts to look at them
        even as I feel my face drawn to the light

Today the past and future vie for my attention

I smile
     as I notice the direction of the winter wind
It is moving me toward the sun

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Hate is a Loan Shark

Hate is a loan shark

You meet him in the darkest alleys
  Staying away from any light

No names are exchanged
   Or terms of the loan

You know the interest will be high
But only desperate measures are completed in the dark

Hate is a loan shark
You know him by the way he hides his eyes
With the brim of his hat
He doesn’t care who you are
  Only in the name of the victim
  And the payment

Before you can back out
His hand has yours
And the contract is done

   Maybe it is a post on the screen
   Or a phrase uttered at the lunch table
   Or a simple fist to the face

Doesn’t matter
All contracts are final

Hate is a loan shark
And payment is due

He lets go of your hand
And stands with his open
No matter how much of your heart
  You place on his palm
   It will never be enough

He will collect for years to come
He will be there behind you inline at Starbucks
Or greet you as you enter the store
He’ll wave as you pass him in the park
   Keeping your eyes on the stroller you are pushing

Doesn’t matter when
   He will collect
     And it will never be enough

Hate is a loan shark
   You have been warned