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