A Second Cup?


If I awoke some morning and you were dead . . .

Pardon my indelicacy my darling,
I will begin again.

If I awakened early one morning,
Tiptoeing out of the bedroom
So as not to disturb,
Knowing how you like to sleep late,
Being retired and elderly,
Like me,
Having no need for early morning hours . . .

If I put on my slippers,
Padding quietly down the hall,
Into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee . . .

If I did these things and settled into my favorite chair,
Sipping the sugary sweet yet bitter hot coffee,
Easing into an awakening that only fully comes
After a second cup . . .

If I had finished my first cup
And still heard no stirring from bed or bath . . .

If I returned to our bedroom and found you undisturbed,
If I placed my hand on your shoulder and called your name,
If you did not respond to my vigorous shaking,
If you were without breath,
If you had slipped silently away sometime during the night . . .

If I contemplated all that now lay before me,
The myriad heartsick obligations . . .

Before it all began,
Before it was all set in motion,
Before engaging with the somber day’s duties,
Would I make a second cup of coffee?
Would you?


~ 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

Birthday Cards


In the supermarket,
Looking through the greeting cards
While I wait for my wife to finish shopping,
I am touched by the sincerity
Of the birthday card messages,
Filled with words of encouragement,
Words of compassion,
Words of love.

I rarely receive one of these heartfelt cards,
Perhaps because the people in my life are too intelligent
To rely on birthday card verse and sentiment,
Too wary of birthday card clich├ęs.

Or perhaps my advanced age has at last
Stripped away all illusions,
All my once larger-than-life personas,
Leaving me an ordinary man after all,
An ordinary old man who no longer warrants
Such extravagant birthday card praise,
If I ever did.


~ 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 from 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 all my beginnings began.


~ 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