“Andes Adventure”

As we leave the city of Caracas
we pass armed soldiers on street corners
a policeman who answered a query
with the threat of arrest.
We circle the roundabout
in the commercial center
view elegant mansions
glimpse designer-draped matrons
men in suits of silk and linen.

We skirt the barrios of tin-roofed shacks
decoupaged on hillsides
with their threadbare inhabitants
and bare-naked children,
three-dimensional survivors
of flesh-packed hovels
who wait to pounce
on the incautious tourist
who neglects to guard
his wallet and his life.

Seeking adventure
on a sun-blessed day
we drive from the city
up the steep mountainside
through Colinia Tovar
with its alpine architecture
vegetable gardens
tourist shops.

On our way high into the mountains
we pass an unattended stand
with insect-infested carcasses
bereft of their skin
each a week’s worth of meals
for extended families.

We are alone
as we begin our descent
into a bottomless valley.
The road drops off
next to the pitted macadam.
A downward glance
warns of the fate
that awaits the distracted driver
whose tire leaves the tarmac.

Vegetation proliferates
while pockets of smoke
dot the landscape.
It is forest-fire time in the Andes.
We see the glow of flames
flickering in the valley below.
The road is narrow
mountainside to the left
thousand-foot drop to the right
no room to turn around.

We soldier on
until a meager indent
allows us to change direction.
The road we have traveled
is steep and the rusty Fiat
protests on its return trip.

We overtake a battered Jeep
with four men
hanging out the sides and back.
Brandishing machetes
and flashing third-finger insults
they slow to fifteen-miles an hour.

We cannot pass.
Our tortured vehicle
hiccoughs along behind.
One false move
and we drive over the precipice
if they don’t
get us first.

Classic case of fear
engulfs us as time passes
and they play on our demons.

With a final barrage
of derogatory shouts
they pull to the side
and let us pass.
Not done with us
they follow close behind
until we reach Colinia Tovar.
Then we are free.

But not from the memory
which returns
in the night
and leaves one
or both of us
bathed in perspiration
and murmuring
“We’ll never be found
We’ll never be found.”

(Written for dVerse Poetics: Travel Poetry. September 16, 2014.)

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On soft padded paws, the black cat treads
slowly infiltrating the night.
Cautiously stalking his perceived dreads
lips part, teeth flash, ready to fight.

The cat pulls back, his spine hairs alert
he pauses ’fore slithering on.
Slit eyes of gold, on guard!, they assert
feigning cool, he stifles a yawn.

He’s prey or it’s prey, he knows not which
fear propels him to take a stand.
Back arched, ears flat, the tail starts to twitch
one pounce, and I’m back from dreamland.

(Written for dVerse, Meeting The Bar: Following Through On Metaphor. September 11, 2014.)

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“To See The Light”

Funereal drapes cover backless wall niches
where panes of glass
once channeled summer light.

Faded velvet hangs loose
over shattered door frames
impeding easy entrance
or expedient exit.

A single candle sends a feeble glow
over a book on the table
centered in the belly
of the blackened room.

A boy covers his ears against the sounds
of gunfire in the alley,
human cries of pain,
the rumble of tanks
on a pitted road.

He has pencilled a quote
in the margin
of his required reading:
“If freedom of speech is taken away,
then dumb and silent we may be led,
like sheep to the slaughter.”

He whispers the words aloud
as a flash of light invades his space
and another fissure
appears in the wall.

The boy winces
then prays for the chanting protesters
who are being silenced
outside the shrouded house
and hopes
that he,
and they,
will live to see
the light of freedom.

(The “freedom of speech” quotation: George Washington.)

(Written for dVerse Poets, Poetics: Bringing Light to Darkness. September 9, 2014.)

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“Harbingers of Autumn”

The Annabelles
have turned
from white to green.
The Nikko Blues are gone.
Glowing Embers
reign in
regal purple shrouds.
Cones of white
still crown
Lime Light stems.

The fading days
of summer
dim with dying
hydrangea blooms.
Like moorings
in the harbor
freed from ships’
warm-weather lines
the gaudy plants
in autumn
tropical tiaras
and prepare
to ride the tides
of winter

(Written for dVerse Poets. Open Link Night. August 30, 2014.)

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“Hiawatha”, Translated Into Sammyspeak, by Sammy The Gat

“Song of Howyadoin'”

By the grains of Double G
By the hopped-up Big-Blue-Drink
Hung the cool pad of Nokomis
Birth Chick of the Orb, Nokomis.

“Song of Hiawatha”, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.

[I’m afraid I’d get an F for following instructions, but I’ll give myself an A for having fun.]

(Written for dVerse Poets, Poetics: Homophonic Translations. August 26, 2014.)

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“Climbing Salvation Mountain On The Balls Of My Feet”

 (Copyright: Joel Robison)
I walk the way with head held high
my feet on spheres for treads.
Self-confident, my step is sure
my fears rendered to shreds.

The dark times, though, bring fright to light
uncertainty to stride.
I slip and trip on rounded orbs
back down the path I slide.

In summary, my slogs are slow
some up, some down, some cease.
Lucky me, at the end of day
a good night’s sleep brings peace.

(Written for dVerse Poets, Poetics: Joel Robison’s Photography. August 19, 2014.)

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“I Am Aquarius”

I was born to live by the sea
not on smooth sands
of condominiums and mansions
but on the rough bluffs
of fishermen’s cottages
and clamdiggers’ shacks.

My home is high on a cliff
where the scent of inland pine
weighs heavy
on the never-ending
salt-laden wind
and the panes of glass rattle
and the side boards creak
as the torrent forces its way inside
to ruffle papers being written
and pages of books being read
and the rain assaults with slanted fury
and the sun fries
your face and shoulders
when you step outside.

My home has sand on the floor
mold on the walls
and the air carries
the must and dust
of my seagoing ancestors.

When I return I will be at peace.

(Written for dVerse Poets,  Poetics: Homecoming. August 12, 2014.)

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“Waiting for Orion”

Titan tall.
Six feet at ten
six three at twenty.

heliotrope blue.
spaghetti straight.
blond begonias.

of the Isles.

a coarse muslin
in a world
of silk.

for her

Written for dVerse Poets. Meeting the Bar: It’s a small, small world (40 words or less). August 5, 2014.

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“The Raven Croons”

The current challenge at dVerse Poetics is to write a poem which includes one or more of the following: obelix, a dragon, a crocodile, an old tractor, a bat, a spaceship, Neptune, Superman, a greek god or goddess, a chicken, a black swan, a nutcracker, a man who can’t stop clapping, a cup with orange flowers painted on it, a black cat, a dog with yellow teeth, a bluesman playing the saxophone, a violinist, Hänsel & Gretel, the ice queen, an old liquor bottle, a wheelbarrow, a needle in a haystack, a raven, a blue car, a metronome.

“The Raven Croons”

An obelisk from ancient times
Carved with dragon and crocodile
Lies flat on the back of an old tractor.

Neptune, sporting his seaweed slimes
Tells Amphitrite with a smile
“I come with obelisk, and love I swore.”

The blues man plays the saxophone
While violinist serenades
The ice queen and her deep-sea paramour.

The black cat sways to metronome
The dog with yellow teeth parades
While the raven croons “Never-nevermore”

(An extra challenge is to tell about an old man, the moon and a little bat in the pub for a game of skat. Couldn’t come up with anything for the above, so stuck this on the end for fun.

The moon over the pub is fat.
An old man’s happy playing skat
With his myopic wife, “Li’l Bat”.
All’s right with the world, so that’s that.)

(Written for dVerse Poets, August 5, 2014.)

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“Human Cargo”

The African sun burns deep into my aching back and limbs; it sears my skin, stretched taut over bones weary from gathering crops six days a week; it dries the sweat which flows from the roots of my hair to the soles of my feet. West Africa is a harsh home. When her people can no longer tolerate the unrelenting assault of the sun, the rains come. Months of deluge leave us praying for the return of its heat, its scorching bright light, and the chance again, to work on the land.

It is 1830, the year of my arrival in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. I have exhausted the monies I brought with me and am forced to work for another as a common field hand. Today, I am but one of a crew of ten free men working to fill the never-ending number of boxes which await the yield of our harvest. I have emptied my collection bag many times, and so far, escaped the wrath of the overseer.

Familiar sounds coming from the jungle roust us from the fields. We hide our pickings under low-growing bushes and steal off to flatten our bodies on the ground behind scattered thickets. The overseer drops his wary watch as he knows we’d choose crop-picking under him over the fate facing the advancing hordes.

The caravan comes into view: men, necks circled by crude wooden yokes which bind one to another, walk in single file. Their captors energize laggards with cutting flicks from flashing whips. Dispirited women and children, strung together with rope, struggle to keep up, knowing the fallen will die. I have seen, firsthand, the cruel life of plantation slave that awaits these people. It was my life in America before my owner set me free.

We hold our silence, aware that if we are seen we will be overwhelmed, captured and added to the human cargo bound for slave ships waiting in the harbor.

As the parade of the vanquished passes and fades in the distance, I remain face down in the dirt. The sun continues to burn deep, but my mind rejoices that my suffering body is free. There is no yoke around my neck; there are no shackles on my ankles.

I stand and extend my arms toward the heavens and chastise not the Lord, but thank him, as the sores on my back have been inflicted by the sun and not the whip. I may be black; I may be poor and burdened; but here in Africa, the home of my ancestors, I am a free man.

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