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

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

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

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

Fathers And Daughters


O sweet child,
Father wants you to be happy
And will buy you many pretty things
And dust your life with confectioners’ sugar
And keep the world away
For at least another day.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Exiles


Leaving the office late last night
I passed by harshly lit co-worker cubicles,
All the carefully framed photos of smiling children,
Of loved ones,
Precisely placed,
Reassurance during the long working day,
A bond of love in our lives.

We are exiles,
Returning home for a few exhausted hours
To again be husbands and wives,
Parents and children,
Families.

Together again
For those precious few hours
That work allows.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Evolution


Feeling the hot breath of the baboon
On the back of the neck,
We overindulged in the refuge of civilization,
Denied being animal at all,
As if inseminated, incubated and initiated
In a place somehow apart from this Earth.

Now we live in a disillusioned age,
Tired of manners, morals and inhibitions,
Tired of orderly existence
In ghettos of steel, cement, glass and plastic.

The restless stirrings of things within us
That have no mind
Scare us no longer.
They lead us,
And our children hunger for raw meat,
Animal again.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Building


When my great-grandfather was young,
Growing up in a small farming town,
He was needed.
His labor was needed.
Every able-bodied citizen was needed,
And by their labors, the towns grew into cities,
And the cities became a country.

Each morning they were called,
Called to a hundred,
A thousand different employments.

Each morning I am not called.
My labor is not needed.

I imagine my great-grandfather
Choosing an occupation,
Answering the call,
Fulfilling a need,
Building a life,
A city,
A country.

He would not understand this aimless life I lead.
He would not know me.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Devolution


He was bored,
So bored with routine,
Every morning,
Brushing his teeth,
Making coffee,
Slogging off to work,
To predictable employments.

Then,
Weekend chores,
Social obligations,
So encumbered by family, friends and finance.

The half-slumbering supplicant,
Longing for escape,
His earnest entreaties
Finally heard,
Heard and granted.

Now,
As the first light warms the earth
He drags himself out from under a stone,
Eager to feel the sun against his scales,
The taste of yesterday’s grasshopper
Still lingering on the tongue.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Dear Children


Dear children,
We encourage you to try
What we never tried,
But we must caution you
About what we have done.

That is,
We would warn you about trying
What we tried in vain.

You see,
Dear children,
We want you to succeed where we failed,
But we also want you to avoid our mistakes
And be safe,
Though as the years wander by
We must confess some regret
About being a little too safe.

We want you to be successful,
But do remember what seems like success
May turn out to be failure in disguise.

So,
Go boldly ahead,
We advise,
But do be careful.
You will regret never having taken a chance,
But if you risk everything
You may be throwing your lives away.

In other words,
This is the real world
And there is absolutely nothing
Your parents can do
About it.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Something Like Love


Young women in love
Tease, taunt and tempt.

Young men in lust
Pledge, promise and plead.

But after the prize is won,
After the prize is won,
Familiarity dulls and tarnishes
As the spring of youth passes,
As the winter of aging advances.

Then one day,
That silly young girl is gone.
That amorous young boy is gone.
And the middle-aged couple they’ve become
Silently mourn.

No more spark,
No more passion,
Just the valiant quest,
To keep something like love alive.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

A Certain Freedom


I am no one in particular,
Nobody special,
Never promoted,
Lucky to have a job actually,
To earn a living.

My wife is tired of me.
My children are preoccupied.
Life does not expect too much from me,
Which allows a certain freedom.

I get up early each morning,
Alone in the dark,
Make a cup of coffee
And sit in my favorite chair
Watching the world get light.

I hear soft voices
And I am filled with joy.
How very good it is to be alive.
How very, very good it is,
Indeed.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

I Go With Them


In the early light he asks me
For protection from the world.
He prays for his family,
For his innocence,
For his tortured soul.
He moves closer to me.

He calls me father
But holds no clear image of what I am.
He wants to be a saint,
An artist,
A wealthy man.

His little boy shouts
Daddy, it’s today!
And they are gone,
Plunging into a freshly painted world of play.
I go with them.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

After She Died


She saved almost everything:
Letters and greeting cards,
Junk mail,
Old photos in forgotten boxes,
Tattered piano music with penciled notations,
Business cards,
Decades of buttons,
Shirt stays from her father’s collars,
Powder puffs,
Spoiled perfumes,
Broken jewelry,
Stopped clocks,
Obligatory souvenirs from trips abroad,
Her husband’s defunct electric shavers,
Rusty tools,
Curious parts for obsolete appliances,
(more).

Sorting through drawers, cupboards and closets,
What seemed to me an irrational hoarding
Was fraught with meaning for her,
Each object imbued with purpose,
Each object a crystallized memory,
Each object a desperate wish:
Remember me,
Remember me.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

In Our Older Years


If we’re lucky,
Nothing much will happen today,
At least not to us,
Though we may mistake safety for boredom.

If we’re lucky,
No one will call us on the phone
Or send us mail today,
Though we may mistake solitude for loneliness.

If we’re lucky,
Early some morning one of us will awaken
And find the other has died peacefully while sleeping,
Though we may mistake inevitability for tragedy.

If we’re lucky,
The other will quietly follow.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Gifts Of Christmas


1.

A gift,
For me?
Oh you shouldn’t have!

Is it really a selfless expression of your affection?
A gesture of love?
Or an obligation?

Is it genuine?

Does your gift reflect who you think I am?
Who you think I should be?
Perhaps it’s more about who you are,
Who you want me to think you are.

Is it an object of serious intention?
Designed to awaken?
To arouse?
To cause a reaction?
Or is it just for fun,
A playful reminder of the inner child?

Am I taking this too seriously?
Giving too much thought
To what is impersonal?
Is it merely generic?
A gift that says:
We are not close.

Did you wrap it yourself?
With your best paper?
Or was it the tail end of your least favorite roll,
Reserved for those who do not matter?

Have you actually touched this present,
Or did someone else purchase and wrap it for you?
Did it come by mail from a warehouse?


2.

Will those I love most
Disappoint me with thoughtlessness,
Or will I bask in the warmth of their intentions,
However artfully or clumsily conveyed?

Will my more slow-witted relatives
Prove true to my expectations?
Will the superior intelligence of others
Be clearly demonstrated
And make me feel stupid
For the lack of imagination my gifts reveal?

Will the ego of the gift-giver
Overshadow the generosity of the gift?
Or will the giver’s inferiority complex be manifest,
So sadly displayed by the soullessness of what is given?

Will the gift be of use, of value,
Or merely a cheap trifle soon discarded,
Donated to the local thrift shop?

Perhaps the most important gift of all will be absent,
The gift from the one I love most.

Or perhaps after all the wrapping is cleared away,
When the communal ceremony has ceased
And the gift-givers dispersed,
I will steal away to some private place
And press my lips to the gift I treasure above all,
It’s meaning so fervently constructed,
Without form.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Adoptee


All these photographs,
All these people
Suddenly of some relation to me,
The lost bastard child who found his way back.

Back to half sisters and brothers,
Living and dead,
Half nieces and nephews,
Living and dead,
A parent or two
And all assorted associations,
All these lives lived without my knowing,
Died without my knowing,
All these lives,
Without knowing.

I was the lost bastard child,
Born by accident,
Anonymous,
Hidden,
Yet despite the best efforts
Of those who thought they knew best,
Welcome or not,
I found my way back.

Knowing,
That was always the necessary thing,
Just knowing.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

All The King's Horses


Where are those children
Who wanted to play?
Where are their toys,
Have they put them away?

Where is my son,
Has he grown up and gone?
My little daughter,
A child of her own?

All the king’s horses
And all the king’s men
Cannot put childhood
Together again.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

At Play


You call it freedom,
Those afternoons on your dappled horse,
Kicking up dust sparkling in wet ocean air,
Cantering round and round solitary paths
Worn around your father’s estate
Where an old Mexican woman with scars on her knees
Scrubs heel marks off the Spanish tile.

Your orange and white tomcat snags a butterfly,
Yanks off a fluorescent wing
With his needle-nose teeth.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved