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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Day

My Mother and Grandmothers
are cooking Thanksgiving at my home today
Oh my no they aren't in the same kitchen
but their own kitchens that have expanded
beyond the walls of the place I live
The rain awakened me this morning
and the clattering of pans
in between the smells of cooking turkey
and pie oh yes pie
All the cousins aunts and uncles
everybody I ever knew in my family
and some I never met until today
arrive in this magic
as a great table begins to expand
in my living room
Why they chose my place is beyond me
and beyond the small walls of these rooms
that seem to explode with the arrival
of family and friends
Such a table has never been seen
It grows each minute
when someone remembers another
who belongs with this group
Out comes the bottles of wine
with grandchildren begging for a taste
More cousins arrive
Brothers sisters wives husbands
hundreds now chattering a roar
that outdoes the rain on a metal trailer roof
I see my children when they were little
playing with their own children
in an impossible scene of hilarity
that spawns a sandbox in another room
that expands suddenly before my eyes
as little hands steal olives
and a chorus of mothers and grandmothers
sing in multi-part harmony
their age-old song
“Now don't spoil your dinner”
that seems to have been written by Bach
and Sondheim all at once
an amazing chorus that seems to last
through many curtain calls
dripping with applause

Now from a hundred ovens
dancing turkeys browned to perfection
drop on platters for the fathers and grandfathers
going back generations
to feel important as they strop and steel
their fancy knives used only on this day
The table expands beyond all walls
in a star shaped explosion as if July 4th
just became a day for furniture to detonate
with more and more chairs filled
with friends family and the ones
who need such a party
as they've never seen before

Soon there are soldiers from every war
home to hug their moms
tears flow into barrel-sized gravy boats
Dancing down the middle of every section
the finest silverware jumps into hands
as platters float silently in front of the family
for we are all family today
doing justice for our freedoms and our gratitudes
As I walk from my bedroom
into this circus of Thanksgiving magic
someone yells for me to say grace
words I now stutter with my radio-trained voice
whose ending is the loudest amen I've ever heard
breaking windows and sending clouds away
to seize the light of a distant sun
that now surrounds each member
of this golden table
Happy Thanksgiving everyone I yell
and all at once it seems
every silver serving dish
and platter of slabs of perfectly carved turkey
show up before me
Such a day I think

Now where's the gravy
I have stuffing begging
with outstretched arms
to be drowned in thickened rapture

Barry G. Wick

Saturday, November 21, 2015

T. E. Lawrence-- Two Paintings by Augustus John

Forget the movie
forget the actors
forget the desert
forget the Arabs
played by an Englishman
and by an American
forget the handsome Egyptian
forget Omar Sharif
forget Peter O'Toole
though they probably
are the elephants
that create themselves
inside our heads
forget the oil beneath
the sand thousands of miles
away beyond the curvature
of a boiling earth engulfed
in a new world war
to see the man
an Englishman who was himself
dressed in the clothes of a nomad
the handle of his janbiya or Khanja
sticking out of the belt
his thobe and tassels
the kufeya, ghoutra and igal
if you want to blame someone
blame him for being a man
who opened the Bedu
to the 20th Century
so that now every one
has a Lamborghini or Ferrari
with a Kalashnikov
in the back seat

Here a wide-eyed crazy painter
or so how he looked
still creates the images
now long after both are gone
as if these two flat creations
could see into this future
where we experience a locked door
afraid of the neighbors
shy of the others
who shop like us at Walmart
where the greeter wears an hijab
in an Iowa city
who smiles as she checks
the receipt
for her corporate bosses
certain you might be deceitful
with unpackaged
toilet paper
and cases of bottled water

A painting sees more than its subject
It often sees the people
who many of us can't see
and don't want to

Barry G. Wick

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Henry's Dream

There comes a point
yes a time in space
when the realization
comes to pound down
the doors put up for show
It's not the game anymore
It's not being in it
Every wind has its wall
a line of trees without leaves
purpose without play
It's all gone
ideas drip into pools
on bare floors
when even the mops
can't be alerted
fingers follow the same paths
on soundless keyboards
whole tone after whole tone
white black black black white
white white white black black
no melody erupts from silence
no creation gets an ear
every action seems foolish
every attempt to fit
becomes thin milk
through a plastic sieve
the butter already churned
from each hour
better to extinguish the lanterns
than to pretend to show
there is light
settle back now
don't try to talk
a thumb finds the hard edge
on an unprocessed board
that isn't sharp
where is a good plane
a sharp plane
when one is needed
to take off just enough
to make this kingdom look good
just one more time
once more into the breach
or just close the wall
for the wind
the always blowing wind

Barry G. Wick

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Last Trail for Big John (for John Miller)

Step by step on gravel
dirt or pavement
one foot goes in front
He is lucky enough
to have one leg
Age can make a leg
heavy as a roped beef
that bawls out
grounded in the branding
His last saddle
surrounded by food
and medicine bottles
Back and forth
one grabs this or that
to leave
to save a later effort
along the way
To pass the laundry
sister folded
a towel is grabbed
to dry the dish of the day
or to drop off a dirty towel
of a forgetful nurse
This path is way beyond
the year of rowdy youth
who wasted time and energy
on a ranch or at the bar
to make fences for his body
Some paths are scratched
by a false appendage
that tears at floors
No edges of danger rugs here
Sometimes the bones
in the last knee
click like a dead battery
in an orange and white taxi
adding pain to the meter
TVs are heard outside
for ears who trace
a softer path
Spots grow on skin
with livers blamed
who claim false accusation
The trail to here
fades in dimming eyesight
This chair raises a foot
and lowers a head
until the sun sets
as the last ride
puts two ghost feet
in the stirrups
It could be Fruita
the Hart Ranch
or Blackhawk
where this cowboy
ropes an angel
that flew in front
of his saddled lightning

Barry G. Wick

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Our Friendship

 (for CR)

It began somewhere in the dark
of grade school classrooms
kid drawing projects on the walls
mother's cookies on birthdays
milk and nap-time in kindergarten
A red brick building with a flat roof
upper graveled playground
for the older kids fourth through sixth
the lower for the little kids
Miss Widebody had the little little ones
in their own
Yeah, that's cruel but I can't remember
her name right now as the past
slips away in confusion and loneliness
but she was patient and sweet
The principal was a tall rancher
who would be tall even now
making an in-town living
for payments his acres couldn't budge
My friend lived on the next street north
I lived over the hill
The folks gave me a camera
that captured faces with no names
including his
I could not forget his

His father was killed
serving in the Air Force
My father killed golf balls
on Wednesday afternoon
We played war as kids
to make a machine gun nest
that looked across my gravel driveway
out of boards covered with dirt
There were Germans out there somewhere
I was descended from Germans
My college didn't teach machine gun
He saved his own life
in Vietnam
with the real thing

Barry G. Wick

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Return

An old shame has knocked on the door
to make remembrance dance painfully
With each footstep it is silly to feel
the growing of it that is best
turned over to an erasable yesterday

Father's parents are coming to visit
They are sitting on the patio
in padded redwood chairs
waiting for the grandchildren
to greet them since they rarely cross town

The one child missing from the greeting
is having trouble finding pants to wear
because they don't properly fit
as buttons won't button and zippers won't zip
these pants too small on a growing child

Eventually the mother takes an arm
to pull him out into the summer night
in a t-shirt and underwear
Grandmother says it doesn't matter
Grandpa smiles through his gold wire glasses

The hugs aren't remembered if given
That's what should be important
No amount of erasing will wipe away
the truth of these embarrassments
It is truth that begs its writing

Such moments return with a lowered head
even when years are suppose to drop
away as a child grows to manhood
then into the aged years grass of the path
of a man is worn away beneath his feet

It is the child inside who feels a failure
The adult also lets such emotions drain
into the same pot that becomes
so overwhelming no amount of self-advising
will knock down the castle of shame

If only hugs could free ourselves in a family
that rarely hugged or held a hand
Reassurance and forgiveness at any age
wipes away all of the dark stains
the created imaginations of a fleeing child

That child is still running to the unknown
to beg for a moment of unfiltered kindness
as he cries for all the times he paused
to hold his self reflected in smaller socks
running around the home he left behind

Barry G. Wick

The Gradual Colors of Blindness

Raised in the home of an optometrist
good vision was often the topic
as the family settled for a meal
in the nook on the corner
of the house with windows
that looked east to the hill
and west to the black mountains
where the sun blazed at its setting
Father mixed the complexity
of long and strange words
with something his boys
could understand
He spoke of his day
staring at the eyes
of patients with diabetes
macular degeneration
and the gradual loss of colors
For someone who had given his life
over to the care of those who
needed his care and concise observations
pain could be easily felt
as he spoke of someone going blind

Jorge Luis Borges was not his patient
because he lived in South America
far from the west of South Dakota
Borges spoke of his descending vision
losing blacks and other colors
one or two at a time in slow progression
Those who know these conditions
have sympathy for the one going blind
Yet thinking about these changes
and the blind who have crossed
the paths of my father's sons
there must be something special
in the loss of a sense
as other senses take charge
as the memory of visions
sharpen into the razors of thought

There is no desire to be blind
however eyes no longer drawn
this way and that
some kind of peace must settle
into the minds of those blind
who render the remembered
pile of black letters
into the word pictures
of the astonished void
that is the life of most people
Just as dust settles into the cracks
of a table or between the letters
on a keyboard
words gather no dirt
with no need for a polish in the mind
if they are properly dipped
in the colors of a blind man's creation

There's Borges yes but also
Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder
Jose Feliciano and Ronnie Milsap
Moondog and Doc Watson

These colors can make the legs weak
or force a toe to tap beyond all control
Father helped those near to blindness
see the dimming of the world
knowing well that something else
could rise from the pool
of remembered visions
What is left of each life's way
by accident birth or advanced age
needs no pity or tears of sorrow
but a closer look by inner eyes
of those who still can see
to recognize the possibilities
of darkness as a gift
for a golden frame
around the blazing colors
spilling from a changing soul

Barry G. Wick