Monday, December 3, 2012

Scar Stories

Things best left unsaid:
Stones unturned
Down dark alley ways, dead ends
Such scar stories seared upon
The skin and soul
Old wounds and ways that mend and cloak
Times of raw transgressions
Hiding and healing
But not fully
These stories that could be told
As fingers trace and beg the memories of shame and pain
That still remain secreted deep
And just below the surface keep
And speak to us in sly voices
Of regrets residing still on that dusty shelf
That might well-forth
And open the wound
And so are best still left unsaid.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


I saw a galaxy in your eyes

Of laughs and hopes of dreams and sighs

Where mountains rise from ocean depths

And the Milky Way sweeps celestial breadths

Then looking down at humbled feet

I viewed this fern that so repeats

And found among my toes at play

The wonders of the everyday.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Storm

Leaves are plastered against the windows of a black Jeep
Just beginning to curl-dry at the edges
Green lips asking
For another chance
But no, it’s done…done-done
And with its brethren
They course down the drive in the run-off tsunami to
The gutter to the grate
Water working-working and moving
Driven solemnly and gaily to gravity’s grave
(So long it’s been good to know ya)
Sorting the chaos into streams of the fallen… no one will soon care about
Until next time.
And there will be a next time after the sorting-sorting
Some things stay while others are dispatched to parts unknown
And here-after.
We are surprised by the toughness of it all
Ya we took that shot
But still standing, (a few leaning)
Us tough knots
We have weathered another one
This one
Somewhat re-arranged
And maybe just a little changed.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Day After Peace

The day after peace
We walked the grounds and surveyed the
Remnants newly disassociated
Spilled blood and wine equally evaporated
The transition was fast and tinny hollow.
It had always been such a struggle
Noble but in a self-righteous way
Like the first solo on a bicycle
Look at me see what I have done
But then on the day after all there is left is the riding
This quest complete yet ringing hollow somehow
Leaving nothing gallant to strive and embrace
No shining city on the hill
Nothing left but the churning and the beginning

White Bread and Burnt Toast

I’ve had another birthday
And I find myself somewhere between white bread
And burnt toast
Still edible but maybe not palatable?
Scrape a bit over the sink
Looking for salvage…salvation
Maybe something's still there
All carbon based…
The beets from the market look on
Then quickly looks away
They had their day bright and leafy
Now wilted limp of leaf
Hoping that the flesh of the root
That stains fingertips burgundy
Might still make a meal that one could sit down to.

Monday, August 20, 2012

First Drops

Low hanging, the grey-yellow clouds still the dry churning air,
Waiting for the splat of fat drops…
Momentarily, great globs are flung earthward
Cold and icy like asteroids from somewhere above and beyond
Forming wet craters in the dust, pock-marking mud
Cars wheeling through the puddled wet pavement sing in choral harmonies,
Vapors waft into the branches above,
Leaves turning slowly on their stems, wave hello-goodbye
A cloud-curtain rises on the near horizon revealing a stub of a rainbow.
In the distance the dinner bell rings punctuated by boy’s voices and bicycles chains clanging
Sounding through the distant throaty roar of construction equipment,
Home is dog fur newly wetted, bejeweled grass clippings, slumping cardboard boxes,
And the lawn sprinkler still running.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Blood and Cement

This poem is made of concrete.
Surely who I am today is at least in part due
To the long hot dusty days
    Spent by my dad Ernie
     Back from the war
     Behind the wheel of a cement truck,
     Browned left elbow hanging out the driver’s side window.
     You’ve seen these trucks on the road and at construction sites
     Monster-looking vehicles with their spinning bellies loaded…
And also due to the years he spent running the batch plant
     A giant industrial blender for mixing a slate-colored batter of Portland cement
     With limestone gravel
     (He used to bring home ones with sea bottom fossils-I wish I still had them-)
     And cool brown sand
     All by the ton,
     Wet with icy artesian water.
Such is cement.
And there were many days spent after work
     -Side jobs- forming the walks and ways,
     Pouring the cement and raking the oozing mounds flat
     Then bull floating the eddies of wet heavy slop smooth
     Edging and troweling driveways, patios, and carports.
I was there, in sneakers with cement crusted toes
     Back then in America,
     Back in a land that was paved with man made conglomerate rock.
We were getting ahead.
I knew because
His dry cracked hands held the paychecks.
His hair was dusted a gritty theatrical grey
His bald spot protected from the sun by a straw
“Go to hell hat”
His arms and neck branded red by the high Ohio summer blaze,
Forming a negative-white
T-shirt on his skin.
He worked for us
And in his way, made a better life for me and my brothers.
So I went to college, got an education
In part so I didn’t have to labor my whole life long
(Although we did our share off and on, in the construction trades)
And when I came home on school vacations
I could always smell the sweat and concrete in his grey-stained coat
And feel his raw parched hand, desiccated by lime,
Placed gently on my shoulder…
It was a part of him, this rock and dust
And it is part of me
This mix of blood and cement,
Passed from father to son.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

This August Morning

Welcome to this morning.

The sun sparkles

Then glares its life-eye down upon us

The sound-calendars sing their songs

In percussive crescendos of layered richness

While cockcrow eyes are filled by

Flowers running naked-wild in full display

Begging water and

Giving glory in leaf and pedal.

We are wealthy and blessed.

We are welcomed to this morning.


Paul Sanderson

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Art at the Dump

Art at the Dump, When Once Is Not Enough

Nothing here is irrevocable,
Although beauty now comes
In shards and shatters,
And requires the curious eye
And the lightly strung mind to make anew.
Things thrown this away and that
Are now redeemed, the broken edges placed just so,
Just so we can find the old way and the old story
Retold once again
Reset both new
And yet still true.

Aha!  There you are
We meet again oh pickle jar
I sent you on your way it seemed
But here you are almost redeemed
And sometime soon there is no doubt
You once again will come about.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Life's a Beach

East group met yesterday for a field trip to Bluff Point in Groton, CT.  It is a beautiful spit of land bound by an estuary, beach, Long Island Sound and woodlands.  There Beth, out leader for the day, introduced us to the idea of cycles in nature.  Later we separated and found a place to "solo" sitting quietly by ourselves writing, sketching, etc. After about an hour we shared on the beach, comparing and contrasting how this activity inspired us.

Try it yourself.  Find a peaceful natural area, sit quietly and write or draw; you'll be glad you did. 

Seaside on a Boulder Bench

This place is new and will not stay
It’s changed a bit since yesterday
These rocks that formed by energy bound
Will move on soon without a sound
Then change again and be set free
Crossing space eternally.
Can you straddle the unseen line?
Where edges meet but undefined
This piece of “real” so well-conceived
Will trick the eye and so deceive.
I ponder both the there and then
I hope to know, but not sure when.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Day After (Coming of Age)

Eyeing the helium balloons with puckered skin that drift at half mast
And the black bags of garbage which have erupted onto the ground and those
Half-Empty brew bottles that are being eyed by marauding yellow-jackets
A thought occurs
-Someone left the cake out in the rain-
An unknown dog meanders through making meaning of secret scents
And within earshot the sound of a truck backing, dolefully punctuates
The morning heat driven haze
Issuing a one note requiem
The flowers have gone south and are failing to flourish
Well on their way to the compost bin
Which stinks with the traces of a midnight skunk.
The beds lays damp with twisted sheets
Pleading for a reunion, as
Unsuccessful you find only the cap
To the aspirin bottle.
The cushion to an upright chair which serves as your temporary jester’s throne
Dampens and tattoos your slouching backside
As well as your outlook on this day
But only partially;
You are pondering:
Who’s car that is parked on the grass?
There will be no posted videos…
And vaguely considering
How I can do it again,
While wondering
If it is worth it?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Bill of Goods

It’s time once again to scramble among the pieces
Picking through pot shards
Looking to connect the cracks
And shockingly discover
That some black go on white
Some straight belong with the curved
Some surprise in every pack.
There is no profit in this business
Of monkeying around
Clowning around
Hanging around.
Instead you pay.
It’s a kind of layaway…
And then one fine day you make your last payment
And snooze headed realize
This doesn’t look anything like the picture
It’s a bill of goods  
This isn’t what I ordered!
Of course it is.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Morning View

This is the view that has been so selected,
Not of the mountain or out to the sea, no…
This morning while seated in the rocking chair
The screen door frames in dark wood hues
An olive swath of rain flecked grass
And deeper still are bosomed trees cutting toward the cloud stacked-sky
Heaped in piles and drifts upon the sallow blue
That has failed so far to shake the morning haze.
And standing watch just nearby
Tall seed-headed grasses are arching low
As if to graze upon their own sweet richness,
While ladder-backed ferns shuffle and sway
Waiting impatiently for their turn,
Lingering damply in this milling crowd,
Waiting for the sun.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What We Need Is Protection

What we need is protection,
A roof without a drip
And walls that keep us leeward
Of wind that throws up sand and snow,
A canvas wall or stone and mortal,
A safeguard against the onslaught
That turns some days from kind and protecting
Into torments of the mind and flesh.

We need love.
The kind that build a safe-house
And respite,
One that offers a smile bowl
Of nurture
And words that build strong
Where we sing softly to ourselves,
Then out loud to the universe
Our sweet song,
And where we dance
The sway and shuffle
That our feet have always know.

Some must come from me
Part to give and part to stay
And some must come from you
A helpful hand that sees us through.

To Keep My Head from Flying Off

Once I was told that I have powerful neck muscles
And while I briefly wandered in my delusory grandeur,
I was gently reminded that those steel-cables of bones and sinew
Connecting my ass-self to my real-self, up there,
In my right mind, here in my western world,
Were there because they were exercised
Daily, in isometric desperation
To keep my head from flying off
Into the air,
Like some slingshot
Like a hot air balloon.
This head, cooked full of vapor and tattered dreams,
Non-sense and half sense
Mostly worthy of mild mockery,
Mostly runs that same old cassette
That plays and plays in the truck
Because breathless, I cannot depress the reject button,
Because I cannot seem to get ahead
And leave the back then or maybe when
Somewhere, softly abandoned by
The side of this bumpy road.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

How's the Weather?

I grew up in Ohio.
We didn't talk about our pains and our problems.
We talked about the weather.
Maybe sports...
Perhaps it was metaphor...but likely
it was out of fear
of showing our weaknesses,
our vulnerability.
We still were hard off the praire farm and
steel mills and blisters raising tools.
Many suffered in silence,
when it was their turn,
or so it seemed.

Perhaps the Bible helped
you know
the promise of a better life,
next time.
Or maybe a shot and beer and
happy days are here,
I am at the confluence
at the verge
of letting go of old ways and things
of those people and times
at least enough to see a new road
a new me,
But it isn't easy
as I fine my heals dug in to that soil, deep
and you know,
The rain is sure to let up,

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Another Island

I am the courier of memories carried
Over tides of time and oceans of uncertain distances,
Dispatched today by the taste of
A single blueberry,
On this a rain washed morning
Grown on the slopes of an ancient volcano
In the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
And with its sudden flash of flavor
A memory stirs loose of
Fond moments from some time ago
On another island,
This one hewn from granite by glacier and nor’easter
Hard off the coast of Maine,
Great Cranberry,
And though not easily attained
Does yield its small beauties and simple pleasures
That through the passage of time still endure:
Buckets of seastars stranded on the rocky shore
By moon swollen tides,
Great leaps of innocence from the mail boat dock
To the icy waters fresh from the cold north,
Sand dollars like small galaxies hidden amongst
The smooth dank stones rattling at the ocean’s edge,
And greater galaxies found overhead in the sweep of stars painted
On the true black of moonless nights,
Bicycles, chains clanging, ridden with fearless abandon
Down roads and lanes scented with balsam needles and salt hay,
And blueberries by the roadside
Free for the picking
One at a time or by the bucketful,
Sweet with the dawn and moist
With teardrops of fog-rendered waters,
Slowly lifting, burned away by the sun
Always abiding, written on the heart.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Bower Bird

Where there are chickens
There is always an egg hunt.
The bower bird clears the ground
And builds a nest of search-selected sticks
And brings from both near and far
Bright colored baubles
Then dreams that they will catch her eye
And waits, and hopes and fusses and worries, and waits
That he may find his mate.
The old bower bird has spread his seed in
Seasons past triumphantly
But builds again, though feathers may not shine
As bright, nor strut and step perhaps not so energized
Because this is what he needs to do…
And hopes that once again
She will appear and so approve,
When love and feather both draw near.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Of Amber Sun and Gentle Waters.

Drawn sweet from your roots
My friend,
From the dark minerals and elementals you grow
Dark in the mysteries of your
Purpose and form
Secrets that serve you and that only you understand,
Study as I may.
I watch your sway and gently touch your limbs
And probe and boldly harvest
From you the sweetness flowing and renewing,
Glorifying your crown once again,
I tap you, selfishly seeking
Your essence, which I may
Only casually comprehend,
And collect you, thinking that I am more
The child drinking deeply than the parasite depleting,
And boil away the weakness and sullied
And drive the vapors wisping to return
And skim away the unclear foam
To drink the rendered nectar
Of amber sun and gentle waters.
From such a wishing well I
Drink and drink and savor
But still want more and more.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

On the Near Horizon

A bunch of old lizards
Basking in the sun,
Searching for a warm rock
With heads cocked solar,
Covering their balding leathery pates with paper plates
Taking small doses from their brown bottles
And issuing idle threats
Writing checks on long lost accounts.
Regrettable reptiles sitting in the noon day glare
Mad and sometimes angry too, but
No longer able to bring the heat
And while the pilot lights still burns
The fuel runs low
No eight day miracles
Mostly a menorah of memories
And no heavy lifting
No, just worshiping the sun god
As most other deities have been cast out, denounced
Requiring too much cash
And offering not enough carry,
Waiting with a number in their hands
But eyes too blurred with tears
To really read,
Waiting at the back of the line
You’ll find then, just
Sitting in the sun
And cursing the wispy clouds
Forming on the near horizon.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Is there a switch
That you can toggle back and forth
Between on and off
Willfully at your control
And in the waning moments before the darkness falls
Engage that switch and ignite a light that
Prevents the likely stumble
On the uneven pathway
The same tumble I nearly took
Just yesterday
(I wonder why I carelessly let such an easy task go…
To make my way smoother
Clearer of hobbling stones
And careless debris)
I am not careless
I will hold the lamp for you
And guide your hand along the course
Need be
So why not me
As we both find ourselves
Passing this way?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


     ·         Always do the collars and cuffs first
     ·         A packet of Lipton onion soup mix makes a tasty meatloaf
·         Separate wash by colors
·         Ring twice, then hang up; we’ll call you back
·         A “Take Me Home to Mama” sign always gets you a ride.
Thank you and yes, I have managed to look decent most of the time and have eaten regularly. 
But what were your tips for love and friendship?
I know you meant to tell me, maybe for my 21st birthday?
And I’m sorry that I didn’t get your advice about
©       How to find a perfect (ok good) partner
©       How to be a good (ok decent) friend
©       And how to love myself, yes how?!
You were going to prime that pump weren’t you?
Something like

»        Do unto yourself like you would have others do to you
»        Don’t commit too soon, but commit wholeheartedly
»        Know your mistakes and learn from them
»        Be self-critical but not self-condemning
»        Be generous in forgiving yourself
I’m certain you were going to tell me…
Stuff like that would have been very useful.  Maybe more so
Than hints from Heloise.
P.S.  I never could get those creases straight, and then there was permanent press!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

In My Place

Through the door and across the sodden field
I can see a solitary tree
Springing like a bow released
-Recoiled and coiled over again-
Flagging on the passage
Of the next rain shower:
Rainfall ahead for the next ten miles.
And then without prelude or
Even a polite introduction
It falls, in a common chorus of paradiddles,
Pop-corning drops on the fabric roof,
Teasing like a big brother.
Will it ever crease, or will it mete out water
In such random measure
Just a bit now, to gently remind,
And quite a bit more later
To put me in my place,
Which seems to be
Somewhere damp
And in between
Fish and fowl?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012



When I was thirteen or so, my mother took me aside and pronounced that I should either be a minister or a teacher.  The immediate effect of this bulletin was to make my shivers wiggle!  These careers were the farthest possible choices from my adolescent imagination, not that I had given much (or really any) thought to a career at that point.  I had just barely become a teenager after all.  It’s not an appointment process I felt, it just happens, or so it seems.

Swept up in the typical flow of school, I found myself in the hallways of the local community high school, freshman year.  If anyone had taken notice of me, I hadn’t noticed.  I was just an immature kid, hoping to make it through the maze of hallways without drawing attention to myself.  Good luck with that! The game was everyone noticed everything; how you dressed, how you cut your hair, who you walked with, etc. 

Academically, math class proved to be especially challenging.  Algebra wanted something from me that I just didn’t seem to have.  What was all this about “x” anyhow?  To me it was all an unknown.  My teacher, Mr. Hutchison, was just a little hard to read at first. He was soft spoken, witty, clean cut, with a blazer and Buddy Holly glasses.  People who knew him referred to him as “Hutch” although never to his face.

He knew math was all slings and arrows to me, but he never embarrassed me in class by calling on me when he understood I was lost.  The day before tests, he invited me and others to a review session after school.  If you attended, there were likely problems practiced that would be on the exam the next day. I attended.

When I dropped out of marching band (the clarinet was my woodwind equivalent of algebra) he found a job for me holding the sideline down marker at home football games.  I was still involved.

During my senior year I quit the wrestling team in frustration, one month shy of the dreaded “participation letter.”   He took me aside and kindly asked the wisdom of my decision.  I couldn’t admit to him my embarrassment in not actually earning a letter, but he understood.  I was relieved.

Passing him in the hallway on any given day, he would give me a silent, non-judgmental nod of recognition.  I sometimes walked out of my way just to gain this affirmation.

Slowly as the days and years passed, he became “Hutch” to me.

As luck would have it, I have recently retired from a 35 year career as a teacher.  Imagine that! I tried along the way to be caring, understanding, and supportive, realizing that children need such consideration.  It’s the least that I could do, because in part it was done for me.

I guess you don’t always know a role model when you first see them.  Perhaps the cliché images of sports stars and movie idols put up road blocks. Or perhaps it’s just the fact that we don’t know who we will become, at least when we are young, and who might just be quietly guiding us along the way. 

Looking back now, it’s easier for me to see who was there for me and who had a hand in my making.  Looking back, I see those Buddy Holly glasses and sly smile.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Prickly Edge

There is a tang of saline and
It runs in the gutters of my mouth
Reminding me that I am thirsty
And although fresh water is nearby
I do not drink,
Choosing rather the prickly edge of desire
Over momentary satisfaction 
Choosing to abstain
With its yearnings and keening
Because it fills a different void
Elementally separate and distinct
That no simple sip of water can quench.

Friday, February 24, 2012


    When I finally decided to close out the house that I’d lived in for more than twenty-five years and move to a distant state, I had to determine what to do with my accumulated earthly belongings.  The task was daunting.  It boiled down to a challenging list of choices: move the object, store it, sell it, give it away, or throw it out.
    Items to be stored ultimately would go into a 10’ by 15’ storage unit; a clean dry vault composed of a concrete floor, steel walls, and a roll-up door.  To make best use of this limited space, I packed many smaller objects into boxes purchased at Home Depot.   Dutifully I wrote on the box tops the generic nature of their contents: winter clothes, family photos, pots and pans, etc.    Ultimately it became a stacking task, like a game of Tetris, fitting boxes of several shapes into tightly fitting walls of artifacts.  A narrow isle gave limited access and offered a vague promise to return and retrieve.  
     As I taped box after box shut the finality of my move began to hit home.  Storing the boxes temporarily freed me from the burden of possessions.  I was trending back to the foot loose days of my youth, where everything I owned fit into the trunk of a ’62 Chevy, with room for a couple of dogs and a hitchhiker in the back seat.  But depressingly, I began to feel that I was losing these objects, as if the cardboard cartons somehow had the power to swallow them whole and render the contents sterile.  I was losing my visual and tactile connection to them, that up to now I had always taken for granted.   I could no longer slip-on my well-worn baseball glove, chop veggies with a favorite shape knife, or hold the smooth grey rock collected  from a favorite secret shore.    It was disorienting and disconcerting.
     Articles of some monetary value I sold at a moving sale, held two weekends before my departure.  I announced to each arriving visitor, “This is a moving sale, and I’d appreciate if you’d help me by moving some of these things down the driveway and into your vehicle.”  I was generous with the pricing and offered a story, when requested, for each item.   The event had a festive tone.  The shoppers were generous with their stories in return as they picked though the relics of my times.  Many customers came back a second day, tempted to buy more (I mean who could resist a half bag of cement or a remote controlled gorilla head?) and perhaps pick up on previous conversations.
     It felt good knowing that these objects would have a second life, bringing pleasure and utility as they were repurposed.  They too were being separated from me, gone but not sterilized, gone to bear new meaning.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Questions I Would Ask

To the two Cane Toads, hopping through the greenhouse
One dark and rainy Hawaiian night:
How long do you need to exist as an unwitting invader,
Until you belong?
Are you a team, hunting the recesses of your own
Private Serengeti?
Do you get high licking your lips?

To the Dragonfly caught in a web high above, then dried
And mummified that tumbled to the floor:
Did you know the beauty of the lacework of your wings?
What is a life like, being half aquatic and half aerial?
Were you done when the web snared you, were you done living?

To the Orb weaving spider, whose web I knocked down:
Do you know that I know what that web really meant to you,
And that I am sorry?
Did you see that your fly shuttle weavings catches the morning magic hour of light
Sometimes shimmering with strands bejeweled, sometimes glowing luminescent,
Billowing in the onshore breeze?
And that I don’t like flies as much as you?

And how is it with you today, if could we chat
Toad, dragonfly and spider?
How is it with you…

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I Have Sun

   I have sun
It seeks me as the day begins
And clarifies the night within
   I have water
And there is a cool stream nearby
That runs although it now is dry
   I have food
That gives me pleasure, fire and form
And strength to weather every storm
   I have friends
Who kindly share and do inspire
Another kind of form and fire
   I have night
That offers up its dark retreat
And so for now I am complete.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Son on the Slope

I am your son on the slope
And I am here to learn
From you father Kea
Of your cold night winds
Of your strong heat held dark
And of your old ways rumbling and stretching towards
The night sky
Filled with stars burning with the ancient light
That offers little cheer but great hope.
I am your son on the slope
And gravity calls me to you
Mother sea calm and pacific
Reaching farther than I can imagine,
You measure out storm and cloud
And most wanted portions of the sun
Newborn in the darkness
Loving us all in that way,
Whale and woman
Marlin and man
Rounding the ever changing corner
Filling our hearts with one more day.

A Clear Prejuduce

It was just a moment
A flash of movement
And glancing down the waiting room sofa
Paisley and vacant
I saw the female figures, one upright and still
One seated and slumped slightly in
The wheelchair.
It was then I detected
And soon self-corrected
A slight revulsion
A clear prejudice
And in an instance more
I reprocessed rethought and
Reoriented my attitude
Perhaps for better or at least more appropriately
To one of acceptance, or condolence
Or pity…
And then finally
Dropping my reading glasses down my nose
I saw the infant, the child, the joy
And knew the story more clearly,
Yet questioned mine more completely:
Why be repulsed, by prejudice?
Why rejoice due to circumstance?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Each Moment a Truth

Here I am,
A certain curiosity,
Energy finding a way
To manifest matter
Simultaneously organizing and abandoning
What seems for the moment truth
A fleeting illusion of certainty
Of fly and leaf
Spider and star
Of human hand which can
Take a try at guiding and cajoling
The process
Perhaps it is art, or life
Or the art of life.
And then you see it and wonder
From your own vested manifestation
Or why
Or just maybe?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hawaiian Bonfire

No water could slake this fire
And Pele was pleased.
The cone of wood once green
With life
Now sun dried
Waited for release
And provoked with a match
Exploded into a vortex of flame
Heat spawning heat
Accelerating, purging
Into twisting pillars of light lapping
Into the night
Sparks and embers
Coursing skyward
Such earthly stars bound to find their ways home
Recapitulating the moment
Of our birth.