Procreation


Yes,
Your parents were in love.
Well,
At least in lust.
Believe it.
No matter how ugly and ill-suited to romance they now seem,
There is a reason you were born.
Well,
Perhaps not so much a reason
As an emotion,
Drawing them together,
Fulfilling their destiny to create a new human being,
The latest version of evolution,
You,
The dream made flesh,
You,
You snot-nosed ungrateful twerp!


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Pick A Flower


Pick a flower
Hold it in your hand
Study it closely
Do not expect anything.

Put the flower in a vase
Wait
Wait
Take it out of the vase
Look at how the petals fall.

Pick up all the petals
Put them in a small envelope
Place it in the back of a drawer.

Eighty years later
Some idle young girl
Will find the envelope
And pour the pieces,
Cracked and broken,
Into her hand.

She rubs both hands together
And turns the petals into dust.
She opens her hands
And blows the remnants over her garden,
A believer in certain unspoken things.

Her favorite rose bush has a bud,
Soon a pale pink flower.
She watches it unfold
Then cuts it from the plant
And puts it in a vase.

After the flower dies,
She takes it from the vase
And drops it into a wastebasket.

Then she remembers.
She retrieves her discarded flower,
The petals slip from her hand
Into a small envelope.

She writes “For You” in her finest hand
And puts it back into the same drawer
And wonders what color
The eyes of her first child will be.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Parting


And where is home?
You wonder,
When home and family fall apart
And you’re starting over again,
Driving down darkened streets
That lead to this new place
You hesitate to call home,
Unpacking boxes,
Wondering what kind of logic
Will help you decide
Where old possessions should go.

You cradle a music box,
The first gift.
Too expensive,
Your mother said.
On its lid a portrait
Of two rosy-cheeked children
Sharing a single umbrella,
And you remember all the rainy days
You both walked and walked,
Just to be in motion together.

How young your hearts
In a world so dull and indifferent,
Changed for a while.
The world spreads out before you now
Like a desert,
This new world that seemed so right
In the fever of your white-hot rage,
That seems so blank,
Alone.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Old Places


I go back to our old places,
Searching for you,
So young and silly,
Before the weight of the world dampened your laughter,
Before entanglements,
When consequences held little power over spontaneity.

So much of our lives were about beginnings,
About an imaginary future.

Well, here we are in that future,
So abstract then,
So fixed in place now,
This accumulation of time
Where remembrance overwhelms imagination.

Here we are,
You and I,
Still together,
Yet I go back to our old places,
Searching for you,
Searching for me.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

My Table And Chairs


If I had no table and chairs,
No house full of possessions,
Then perhaps I would go to an impoverished land
And give what help I could.

But I am bound by prosperity
And frightened by change,
Blessed and confined by the things I own,
That own me.

Whole generations of my family
Have stayed together,
Remained loyal, long-suffering and patient,
Held together by the glue of family heirlooms,
The ancient oak table and chairs,
Houses full of possessions.

Life is short and my time is running out
And I am called.
Yes, I hear the voice calling me
Out into a new world,
But my table and chairs won’t let me go.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

My Refrigerator


Nine years
After my grandparents bought a new refrigerator
My grandmother died.
Two years later
My grandfather died.
Thirty-two years now
And their refrigerator is still running,
Through all the years of my marriage,
My career,
All the places I’ve lived,
By the sea,
Now in the desert.
Once it was filled with baby food,
Then leftover pizza and soft drinks,
Now frozen low-calorie meals,
My children grown and gone.
I sit in the dark and ponder it all
While my refrigerator,
Whirring, whirring,
Goes on.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

My Fallen Friend


He came from a good family,
A loving family,
And when I knew him he was kind,
A kind and thoughtful young man.
He wanted to be an artist.

He died in prison,
Locked in a cage,
Too troubled for the outside world,
Too sensitive to survive imprisonment.

I imagine the joy of his mother,
Looking into the awakening eyes of her firstborn:
“A son, God has blessed me with a son!”

His parents had him cremated,
But months have gone by
And they cannot bring themselves to scatter his ashes.
They have not yet found the quiet place inside
Where they will learn how to say goodbye.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

My Children Come To My Deathbed


My children come to my deathbed,
Filled with momentous thoughts
And feelings,
Eager for resolution
And change.

My father is dying,
The silent mantra,
My father is dying,
My father is dying.

I want to tell them something,
Something I see so clearly now,
Something that explains so much,
Without explaining,
Just a word,
But I cannot move my lips,
No longer in control of this machine.

They each kiss my cheek
And leave the room,
Finished.

At last the word I struggle to produce
Comes forth,
Like a newborn I cry out
But my children are gone,
And the lady who is paid to sit alone
In the corner of the room
Turns the pages of her magazine
And does not hear.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Mother And Her Son


The coyotes suddenly singing
Their nightly song
As the last of the helicopters
Flies overhead,
Giving up as darkness takes over,
Giving up the search,
The mother and her son
Swept away
After weeks of torrential rain,
Swept away by the river,
So fascinating to watch
All that water,
So tragic to slip and fall.

Did the boy fall first
And the mother follow after?
No one will ever know,
Certainly not me
As I walk home in the shadow of these mountains,
In the light of the half-lit moon,
Under the sparkling stars,
Thinking how wonderful and terrible life is,
How lucky I am to be walking home
Where I will soon be safe,
Soon be warm,
While the mother and her son,
Swallowed up by the storm.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Aged Ones


We are the aged ones,
The last ones living off inheritances,
Consuming,
Consuming,
Nothing much left for the next generation,
Crumbling infrastructures,
Decaying,
Decaying.

We mutely observe the passing of an age,
Greedily outliving all expectations.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

My House


It was barely sprinkling
After several hours of light rain
Early Sunday morning
When I heard the coughing,
The retching,
And looked out my breakfast nook window
To see a young man with his car door open,
Vomiting on the street in front of my house.

My house.

How lucky I am
That I can say the words:
My house,
While aimless young men
Wander through this city,
Regurgitating at will.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Max


Max is back.
Saw him early this foggy morning
Limping down thirty-second street.

Did you forget where I live
Old skin bone street fighter?
You were fat when you left last April.
This is some kind of free you’re fixed on.

I took him home,
Woke up the wife and kids.

Max is back!


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Lost Child


Whose little babe is this
Who now slumbers on city sidewalk
Bundled in tattered sleeping bag
In back of brick and mortared building
Knocked crooked by time . . .

Whose little boy is this
Who now wakes in a garden of cigarette butts
And abandoned pages of old newspapers
On ragged cement
Where only the most desperate weeds
Dare to grow . . .

Whose mother’s son is this
Who now pulls himself up and out
Of the brief escape of sleep
And stands in icy morning air
Extending his thoughts only as far
As the ashen tip of the smoldering cigarette
He sips like a cool, sweet glass of juice . . .

All his generations reduced to this,
A life too young for such resignation,
Too old for much renewal,
Too far from home,
This lost child.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Looking Forward


“When hell freezes over!”
My dearly beloved intoned,
Responding to my request for a hot buttered cinnamon roll.

Not an unpleasant thought,
Not at all.
Free of matrimonial bonds
In the realm of human weakness,
Bundled up against the sudden change in climate,
Sipping hot chocolate
While the scent of warm cinnamon
Drifts lazily into my nostrils
From the buffet of frosted pastries.

O yes, when hell freezes over,
Now there’s something to look forward to.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Father's Day


My father was too busy
Pulling weeds from his manicured lawn,
Each root carefully extracted intact,
To notice his house burning down.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Lost


It was her favorite ring.
At least it seemed so after she lost it,
Taken off her finger and put in her shirt pocket
To keep it clean while pulling a few weeds
In her overgrown garden.

It was the ring he gave her,
A line of tiny diamonds in the oval opening
Of the brilliant gold setting,
Sparkling jewels erupting
From the entrance of a golden cave.

It was the ring he gave her
When they were entranced,
When she was so sure
The enchantment would last forever,
Now lost,
Unintentionally discarded among the detritus,
Unconsciously abandoned,
Belonging now to that place where lost things go.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Letting Go


When my son was small
We were walking through a great crowd,
In my dream,
And I felt his little fingers slip
From my hand
And he was swallowed up by the world.

Sometimes, I still take his hand
To make that connection
Between boy and man,
To know he is still safe
In this dangerous place.

But he is so much older now
And feels awkward,
Embarrassed by the act,
And because I understand
The boy is not the man,
I let go.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Time Keeper


I am the one who turns back time
This chilly gray morning
While wife and children slumber
In the hibernation of Sunday.

I sneak like a tooth fairy
From room to room,
Setting back clocks,
Slipping another hour of sleep
Silently under their pillows,
Hastening the darkening of a season
Already too dark for my timeless soul.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Interstice


Somewhere between euphoria and despair
My overweight cat,
Jumping up to my chair,
Claws anchored against gravity,
Up and then on my lap,
Pushing his head against my arm
To renew and strengthen fraternal bond,
Nudged aside to a padded armrest,
My overweight cat
Sits,
Composes himself,
Luxuriates in this place he has made
For both of us,
Somewhere between euphoria and despair.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

This Mother's Prayer


God,
Oh yes that troublesome word,
She has trouble with that word,
Visions of blind obeisance,
A fairy tale euphoria,
Ignorance,
Superstition,
A certain lack of precise intellectual focus,
Oh yes she has trouble with that word.

Yet in her most private, personal moments
Something like a prayer emerges,
If only as the last obligation
Of a mother whose children have left home,
Her children,
Out there somewhere.

And so she prays,
Trying as we all try
To bend the course of destiny
To our will.

Atheist that she is,
She will not abandon her children
To a godless world.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

I See Them


There was a rabbit
Loose in the grove.
She taught me how to enter
The silence of its fear
So it would know
My innocence.

There was an old clock
Whose tic and toc
Was heard by those
Who could only imagine me.
She taught me how to travel
Through the sound
Into their hearts.

In spring her orchard was full
Of birds and butterflies.
She pressed her warm fingers
Over my eyes and said:
See from where
All pretty things come.

Her old Siamese
Loved his pie-pan milk
Steaming on the back porch.
One winter he was gone.
I remembered how still he sat
With folded paws
And cloud-blue eyes.

Looking into heaven
He finally found his way,
She whispered,
Close your eyes
And see him.

I see them.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

I Am Dog


I’ll always be a dog,
God alone knows why,
Not cat, not horse, not snail,
I’ll never open mail,
Though I sometimes try.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

How Hard It Is


How hard it is
To repair the damage
Of an unlucky childhood,
To break the mold,
To reinvent the life
When all the anger
Still echoes.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Home Sings


Home sings
In the rattle, clang and clamor
Of kitchen song,
In the cat claw scratching
On the back porch door,
In the vacuum drone humming,
In the going,
In the coming,
In the laughter, shout and hurry,
In the fuss,
In the fury of everyday life,
Home sings
With irregular rhythms of slamming doors,
The sizzle of water in sudden streams
From faucets, showers and various machines,
Home sings
With assorted shoes on linoleum floors
Tapping out a dance of a thousand chores,
A pan in the oven bangs with the heat,
Home sings,
Phones ring,
Doors knock,
A key in the lock,
You give me a hug
And the music begins:
The refrigerator is whirring,
The cats are all purring,
Our children are playing
And my heart is saying
Listen closely
To the song life brings,
We are safe,
We are happy,
Home sings.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Hero


I do not want my son to be a hero,
Whose name will be read among the honored dead,
Who will be forever young in the picture that is hung
On his empty bedroom wall,
O dear God don’t let him fall
In battle and attack,
Please bring him safely back.

I do not want my son to be a hero.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Here To Stay


My children who've grown older
Have moved away.

Now the children they once were
Are here to stay.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Her Last Day


I keep thinking about the last day I saw her alive,
Wanting to go back and change it,
Change myself,
Be more patient,
Less inclined to bolt and run from that nursing home,
Its cold linoleum floors and distracted nurses
Too busy to pay much attention to a dying old lady.
They were all dying there.

Oh yes, I knew she was dying,
But she’d been dying for years,
Dying slow.
I didn’t realize death was so near,
A day away,
When she said:
“I’ve lived about as long as anyone has a right to live.”

A single clear sentence
Rising above an hour of erratic thoughts.

Her room was too hot and stuffy that summer afternoon,
Magnifying the sickening concoction of antiseptics,
Damp bedding,
Decaying flesh,
Every room infused.

A ceiling-high television with painfully exaggerated colors
Was worrying her about the news,
Danger right there inside her room,
Inside her mind,
The world in flames.

I ached for escape.

I listened for the end of another incoherent sentence,
Locked eyes with my wife sitting across the tiny room,
Then signaled by rolling my eyes toward heaven.

“I’ve got to get going,” I announced,
Seeing no end to her disjointed talk,
Needing refuge.

I did not return the next day,
A small vacation from the dreadful daily routine
So many months in the making.
The phone rang late,
Those unspeakable words,
Asking if I wanted to see her
Before her body was taken away.

In that dark and noiseless night
I wondered:
Had she seen me roll my eyes?
Taken it as a cue somehow?
Had I weakened her with my impatience?
Pushed her toward the inevitable?

The final few days are not the life,
I keep telling myself,
Not even the final few years.
The whole is what must be measured.
But oh dear God,
If I could just go back,
Change that one single day.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Haunting


Some call it haunting,
These visits I make
To the places I lived,
Where my life was made,
To my childhood home:
The sidewalks still here
Where I rode my bike.
I hear the voice of my grandmother
Calling me in from play
For a sandwich and a glass of milk.
That long summer day
Walking with my grandfather
And all the things he said
About the life that was coming,
Things I scarcely understood,
Things that have guided me,
Lifted me when I fell
So I could begin again
To be like him,
A decent man.

I will not reawaken childhood sorrows.
I have buried them here
After years of torment,
And questions,
And finally,
Resolution.
Yet,
There is a light breeze of melancholy
Blowing through this place,
Blowing through all the places of my life
Where joy and sorrow,
Anger and ecstasy once lived.

Some call it haunting,
These visits I make
To the places where my life took shape,
On my own in tiny rooms,
In anonymous cities:
The rooming house and it’s red-haired landlady,
Mothering the young and single men there
With morality, discipline and compassion,
Teaching us how to respect
What was once a grand hotel
Where dignified gentlemen and ladies
Gracefully ascended
The carpeted stairs of the seaside resort.
And how many lonely nights
Did I sit on the sand at ocean’s edge
Learning how to listen?

Without chronology I travel,
My haunting is outside of time,
Drawn to the passions,
The silly exclamations,
So silly and profound this human animal,
This creature that can love:
Love that girl who gave me her life.
We exchanged lives,
Awakening,
Awakening,
In passion and in play,
Keeping the outside world away.

There are sad and angry rooms
Where I will not return,
For my haunting is to be free of regret,
Except for a kind of regret that sends me back,
Back in time to where happiness began,
Where happiness had the power to overwhelm,
To overwhelm life’s myriad frustrations.
O my soul has traveled in dark haunts enough,
Finally worn out its punishments,
Deserved and undeserved,
My penance,
Paid.

Now my soul travels in light,
In melancholy radiance:
I see my young family,
Laughter in their voices,
Youth and electricity in every movement,
And the future is infinite,
Full of imagination,
Full of hope,
And the growing of my life
Becomes the growing of my family
And I am no longer a single being,
I am larger.

Some call it haunting,
These visits I make
To where my beginnings began,
But this too will end
When I begin again.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Goodbye Little House


Goodbye little house,
Wretched little place
I thought I'd never escape,
Place of rotting wood, peeling paint,
Dirt as permanent as plaster,
Where everything old gets older,
Everything in disrepair
Remains.
We never owned this little house,
We peopled it,
And our children grew
From toy-hungry babes
To disdainful young adults,
Too big for their rooms now so small.
Goodbye little house,
We leave your careless, untidy neighborhood
For a place where old habits can be refined
And old sins forgiven.
Goodbye little house,
Where all the sloppy work of becoming a family
Was done,
Where the anguish of being and becoming
Was borne.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Finger Speaks


I don’t ask the question,
Are you happy?
It seems too intrusive,
Too personal for most of my friends.
It’s a question reserved for my lover,
Used sparingly.

But of course I can tell,
Even in the e-mails of distant friends.
Joy infuses their words,
Oozes out from even the briefest missives,
Such as this morning’s message from my old friend,
An entranced grandfather,
Too encumbered to reply with more than a short explanation,
No doubt typed with a single finger:
“Baby on lap!”


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Few Things As Hard


When my little boy turned cold
And hard,
I knew the world had him
By the throat,
That it would take a long
Long time
For him to shake it loose,
If he ever could,
If he ever can.

There are few things as hard
As becoming a man.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved