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

Back At Work


Did you stop by his desk and say:
It’s good to see you back at work,
Carefully avoiding any mention of his daughter
Who died.

He had to drive four and a half hours
To reach the small apartment where she lived alone,
Touching everything,
Deciding what to keep.
He gave all her furniture away.


He wanted to tell someone where he’d been,
What he’d done and how it made him feel,
But we were too busy trying to cheer him up,
Assuring him that time heals all wounds,
As if the death of his only child,
Nothing more than a temporary ailment,
This little girl he once cradled,
This young woman he sent out into the world,
Fearing what all good parents fear
But scarcely dare to think.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Bedtime


Josh who is growing older says,

“Good night Dad,”

And I say,

“Hittin’ the hay?”

And Josh who is growing older says,

“Guess so,”

And I say,

“Sweet dreams buddy,”

And Josh who is growing older says,

“See you in the morning,”

And I say,

“Not if I see you first!”

And Josh who is already quite the young man indeed says,

“Yeah, right dad.”


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Called


Fair youth’s enthusiasms
Echo distant in this quiet garden
Where I try to envision
Such thoughts as now drive my son
Out into the world,
Away from home.

I would spare him error and injury,
But cannot
Without hiding him away.
I would see through his eyes
That I could better understand,
But who can live another’s life?

That which I know is of my own universe,
And while there is much that is universal to all,
My young man now walks upon his own feet,
Called forth by his own soul,
And by the fatherless world.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Anniversary


What is the secret
Of your long and happy marriage?
They ask.

I stop and reflect for a moment,
Furtively glancing at my watch,
Counting down the minutes
Until I will again meet with her,
My rosy-breasted, eager young mistress.

I am too old for her,
But we both have found a momentary bliss
In the forbidden.

What is your secret?
They ask again.

My mind races to find a suitable reply.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Child Abuse


O the constant recitation of sonnets,
The endless Mozart sonatas,
The cavernous museums,
Art, art, art.
Art of all shapes and forms to consume,
Digest,
Regurgitate.

The long lessons,
The querulous questions,
The awful answers,
The proud and ponderous books
Piled high before me,
An Everest of learning,
Of knowing,
Of transcending.

All the advantages
Were mine,
When all I really wanted to do
Was pull the tail of the old tabby
And make him screech.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Cold Water


It’s been nearly forty years
Since my grandfather died,
A father to my troubled heart,
Though I have yet to learn all his lessons.

We would walk and talk
And he filled me full of ideas,
Ideas I was nowhere near ready to use,
Knowing, when I was ready,
He’d be gone.

One morning he taught me how to wake up,
To wash my face with cold water
The very first thing,
To wash away sleep and clear the mind.
I was young and woke up hard,
Too hard for the shock,
Especially when the weather was cold,
Too fragile.

Now, the cold water wakes and refreshes me,
Washes away sleep and clears my mind.
Now, with every drop of water upon my face,
My grandfather, with me, still.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Coming Home


Early one evening
After another long day,
I could not turn down the street where I live,
Where my life deposits itself,
Where I always do what must be done,
Work or play,
Every day.

I drove right past without hesitation,
Past the street,
Past the gray blanket of familiarity.

I took the long way around,
Pondering the pathways of my life,
Watching the sky turn dark,
The porch lights blinking on.

Having nowhere else to go,
I came home.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Courage Is Required


“Oh I reckon,
I reckon I'm a cowboy,"
I wrote in careful, deliberate script
Upon the first page of what would be
The treasured notebook of the new American Shakespeare.

The muse was speaking
And I was listening
When my older, less literary brother appeared,
Yanking the notebook from my hand,
Reading my first half stanza
And laughing.

It would be weeks before he stopped taunting:
"I reckon I'm a cowboy!"
His deeply intimidating stare
Mocking me,
Humiliating me for daring just a little transcendence.

The years have turned my attention,
More practical pursuits,
Yet the muse still faintly calls.
I take pen in hand and see my brother's face,
His mocking, disapproving eyes.

O yes,
The troubled path of the poet.
Courage is required.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Recipe


The two aging kittens grow rougher in their play,
Snap snagging thin sharp claws
On upholstered chairs,
Whizzing calamitous,
Up, down and at all impossible angles
Across the room’s vast terrain.
They launch, skid, tumble and they fly,
Throwing arms and eyes wide,
Fluttering papers,
Toppling stuff,
Skittering across the floor.

My two boys grow more contentious in their play,
Each accusing each of unfair and stupid things.
They shout and mock and pick away
What’s left of childhood’s blossoms,
Scattering them foolishly in aimless paths.

I watch cats and boys with equal awe and confusion,
Wondering what magic recipe stirs us all about,
A mix of chaos and serendipity,
Bolting us headlong into the future
From this too brief interlude of,
Dare I call it,
Bliss?


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Something Sleeps


Ordinary life,
A blessing really,
For those of us who have it.

Food,
Shelter,
Family,
Friends.

Yet,
Something sleeps in ordinariness.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Years Go By


When you are ten
A year is monumental,
Sometimes devastating,
Certainly life-altering,
Consciousness-shifting,
One-tenth of your severed-umbilical existence.

But oh how we discard the years
As we grow older,
A wasted year here,
A lost year there.

Some of us lose whole decades,
Smothered by bad luck,
Ill health,
Misguided ambitions,
Weakness,
Until in old age we look back
At the children we once were,
That long summer day
When we were truly happy
And wished for nothing.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Words Will Get Through


By the time my son
Is ready to talk,
Eager to talk,
Full of understanding,
Eyes wide open,
Stripped of all adolescence,
Measured and wise,
Experienced in the ways of the heart,
A seasoned husband and parent,
I’ll be dead,
And his son will be giving him hell,
And at the bottom of some low moment
He will at last speak to me
And he will know what I knew.

He will try to tell his son,
Try to explain the bond between all fathers and sons,
The great chain of being that binds men to one another,
And somehow,
The words will get through.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Past, Present, Future


Lust is easy to explain.
Biological,
Sociological,
Innate urges powered by repression,
By obsession.
Animal.

Yes, you awaken the stalking beast within,
But something transcends,
Filling me with your past, present, future.

I look into your eyes and see all the ages of your life,
All the ages of our lives together.

You look into my eyes and smile,
And though we’ve just met,
The past, present and future of our lives, assemble.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Wherever You Are, Wherever You Are Going


The night my grandfather died
A great gray owl
Called, called, called,
From atop an ancient tree
Across a sunburned field
Outside my open window,
Called, called, called,
As I lay awake in the warm breeze
Of that solitary summer evening.

Is that you grandfather?
One last lesson?

Wherever you are,
Wherever you are going,
Your lessons continue,
For the world about me resonates
With the kind and noble qualities
Of your being.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Last Day Of Summer


The last long summer day,
The last long summer afternoon,
The orange auburn light of the setting sun,
Hastening my play,
Delay, delay.

The air still and cool,
I am alone,
My friends called home,
Alone and still playing,
Delaying, delaying.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Still There?


When you were a baby,
When you cried and no one came,
When you cried and no one held you,
Or when someone finally came
But there was no comforting . . .

Now that you’re older
Do you hunger for affection?
Is the baby still there?
Still crying?
Can you ever let that baby go?


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

When My Children Are In Bed


When my children are in bed
And story time is through,
Sitting in my easy chair
A certain sadness comes.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Wandering Time


This time of loss,
This wandering in the desert,
This desolation.

My father never told me,
Never warned me,
Never prepared me.

Perhaps he thought this time of loss
Was a private, personal weakness.

I saw him,
Bent by the weight of it,
Barely knowing
Yet suffering,
Keeping busy,
Distracted,
Not realizing,
Not acknowledging this other rite of passage,
Coming so late in life,
This time of loss,
This wandering in the desert,
This desolation.

My father’s ghost is with me now
In this, my wandering time.
I cannot tell if he knows the way.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Waking Up In The Dark


I could never get used to waking up in the dark,
To the cold, pitch-filled sky
Pressed flat against my windows,
To the wetness of water
Shot in hard, straight lines from the shower head,
To the distress of the world,
Just outside my door.

It was no easier for my two boys
Sagging under the weight of sleep,
Unable to speak,
Or my wife
Who would smile
And speak in gentle tones
Despite years of servitude to us all.

Together,
The chaotic particles of ourselves joined,
Forming a radiant wholeness of being.
Together,
We summoned the will
To face the new day
With something like hope.

After all these years I still wake up in the dark,
Remembering the sounds,
The stirrings,
Listening for the click of a light switch.
But now the other half of my bed is empty
And my boys are gone,
Changed into men,
Swallowed up by the world,
Just outside my door.

I have nowhere to go and could sleep until noon,
But each morning I wake up in the dark
And listen for them, still.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

To My Wife


So pretty when she turns sad,
Her eyes glisten like small, black stones
Washed and worn by the sea.

Her lean, fine-boned features,
Softening slowly,
Losing their distinction
Under the strain of marriage,
The demands of little children.

Hello,
She says,
Looking for the person I used to be,
Looking just long enough to see
A similar sadness in my eyes.

We go no further,
But smile in silent, solemn agreement.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Compromised


The people I am
Contend.

The adult disciplines the child,
The child disdains the adult,
One too wild and unrestrained,
The other too boring and slow.

The lover resents the married man
So predictably encased in rote and routine behaviors.
The married man rejects the lover
So impulsively surrendering reason to emotion.

So many people I’ve been,
All contesting for dominance,
Not one even slightly satisfied with the mandatory compromise
That is this single human being.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

To My Son, Each One


Do not get stuck on death,
My son.
Though we are flowing fatefully toward it,
We are also blessed
With a thousand rebirths along the way.

Even when our bodies are only images
In forgotten photo albums,
And our lives are reduced to a few inaccurate anecdotes
Told by some kind of relative somewhere,
Trying to forge a link in the chain of being,
Even when the last of our once treasured possessions
Is reduced to dust and vapor,
You and I will persist,
Still connected,
Somehow.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Time As Yet


When you were three
I could tell you about this world,
What things were called,
What to do with a day.

I could read you a happy story
With pretty painted pictures
And watch you fall softly asleep,
Still innocent,
Still safe,
Time as yet but a gentle breeze.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Think Of Me


Years from now
When your hair begins to gray,
Think of me.

Remember the sound of our laughter,
The color of my eyes,
The warmth of my hand.

Years from now
When your cheeks are wrinkled,
Think of me.

Remember my awkward mistakes,
My overzealous pronouncements,
My prayers.

Years from now
When time has washed all the hurt away,
When you no longer understand old age,
Be young and unblemished again
And think of me.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

They Are Golden Now


I see them,
Two little boys waking for school
In toy-stuffed bedrooms,
Staring blankly through sleep
At the half-conscious morning,
Rubbing their eyes with tight little fists.

So sleepy.

They expect to see me still,
Straightening a tie,
Gulping coffee,
Complaining about the time.

So sleepy.

They have not yet remembered
I am gone.

Mother is in the shower
And the sound of her
Triggers something.
Now they recognize the wrenching feeling,
Recognize and identify their wounds.
Like hospital patients
Who dreamed themselves home,
Who could stay in the dream
No longer,
Now they are awake.

I see them,
Hear them call for me
Watch them speak in hushed voices
About where I could be
And when I’ll come back.

I rub my eyes
And struggle to emerge
Into the blank morning
From a night of difficult dreams
In this cardboard motel room.

I love them,
Always loved them,
Loved them all,
Loved too much to ever say no,
Never, ever say no.

Enslaved by meaningless demeaning work,
Smothered by demanding reprimanding family,
Bound in the chains of my own making,
They are now the chains of my own breaking.

I see them,
Shattered and broken.
They are golden, now,
As they move through the diaphanous light
Of my feverish thoughts,
As I move darkly into the day
Toward this unrelenting madness
I can no longer disobey.

They are golden, now.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Survivors


After the hardhearted words,
After they are all spoken,
The impassioned phrases
So proudly pronounced
During love’s disillusioned duel
Reverberate,
Angry echoes
In the deep, dark dungeon of despair
That never quite die out,
That seem always on the lips,
In the cold stare
Of the one you still somehow love,
Who still somehow loves you.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Snake


Snake on a parking lot curb,
Looking for water in the fourth drought year,
Stares blank-eyed at rows of stove-hot steel automobiles,
Shoots his rubber tongue out and in a few quivers
Then inch-glides his black and tan, rug-patterned self
Over the curb,
His tongue sniffing like a dog nose.

He slides into the gutter and angles toward me.

I’m safe in my car
But I can hear my dead grandmother scream
As he slips underneath my front bumper.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Stone Age


How long has it been?
Not long since the days of the cave.
Seems like only yesterday
We were bringing down bison,
That old gang of mine.

All this was savanna,
And,
Over there,
Near that big boulder,
The barbecue pit.

Ah, the feasting,
The fermented berries,
The grunting.

I took a girl
And our bodies worked well together
Making many children.
We lived a while.

On my last day
My oldest son told me
He would bring me back,
And that I would bring him back,
In turn,
For we are all fathers and mothers,
Sisters and brothers,
Since the beginning of everything,
When every stone could sing.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved