Larry and I have been participating in regular meditation sessions every Monday night for some time now. After the loss of our friend, Randy, in Canada, this poem evolved from one of those sessions…. The references to ponds, frogs, etc. is a result of our last visit with Randy and Michael and a walk we actually took near their house. The other two men were my father and another friend Sam who was taken from us shortly after Randy died.

Into the Woods

Four men of various ages walked into the woods

On a brilliant sunny day –

Side by side,

They walked beneath the towering maple and poplar trees,

Passing the pond ringed with cattails –

Frogs croaking,

Herons standing ever vigil for an occasional fish

Calm waters on an otherwise normal day.

Reaching the opposite edge of the woods,

An incredible white light appeared filling the horizon

And, one by one, three of the men disappeared without a sound –

Only one remaining – wondering –

Why?

As he slowly retraced his steps alone.

Why had he been left behind (never a chance to say goodbye) –

How could he go on without them by his side?

Broken-hearted, he exited the woods,

Never looking back,

The memory of that wondrous day would sustain him

Through his grief.

His three friends had found eternal peace.

Having ventured into the woods on that fateful day.

Someday

He too would venture into that same woods,

And the four men would be re-united.

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Hope you are still following this blog despite my absence for the past three weeks. We have been travelling in Mexico City, Cuernavaca, Taxco and Puerto Vallarta. While away I was able to write a couple more poems which will appear at a later date. The following poem reflects what many couples feel at some point in their relationship and I do not feel it is unique to us. I am sure many can identify with my thoughts…

Young mothers know only too well

The challenges of spending twenty-four hours a day,

Seven days a week, for extended periods,

With a newborn baby.

Yet, many bemoan the day that their child starts school.

How will he cope

Without mother’s constant presence?

Within time, they realize as the child grows older,

That they are needed less hours, less days,

And mothers occupy this new found “free time” in a variety of ways.

They have spare time to pursue other interests,

Inside and outside the home…

Late in life, past retirement,

Couples often find themselves together

24/7,

Which can ultimately strain their relationship,

Even more so if one of them or a parent becomes ill.

This time can be one source of frustration –

For even as children and adolescents need space,

So do mature adults!

Either can feel the frustration

If that space cannot be found

Within the relationship –

It does not suggest that the relationship is not working,

Or that the love or commitment has lessened,

It is simply an aspect of human nature

Which everyone needs to accept,

Without question –

Lest the relationship does die…

As  a very young child. I loved music. My father played the drums in a local trio and we always had a record player (that was before MP3’s). Records were 78 rpm, 33 1/3 rpm or 45 rpm. Actually, my grandfather had a very old player which used tin discs to produce music but no words. I competed musically as a child, sang in choirs, etc. Today, music and musical theatre are what I enjoy listening to… and thus…

The Power of Music

More powerful than the “power of love’,

In my life always

Has been the power of music;

At an early age it could make my heart soar,

And, at times sore.

Some music has the ability

To lift our spirits when we feel alone,

Even when there are no words,

Or the words are in a foreign language –

Melodious tunes which touch my soul,

My core, creating permanent recordings in my mind.

Music can carry me away and lift me up,

But there are times when it can just as easily

Drag me down into bouts of depression.

Even still, I cannot imagine life without music.

I cannot imagine how different my world would be

Without it, even as background to my daily life,

Anymore than I could imagine life without sight.

This poem resulted from the murder, late last year, of our dear friend. Like us he had once been married and had both children and grandchildren. It is also dedicated to all of the other Jeffrey Allan’s out there who finally found the courage, but did so too late in life to fully live the life so long hidden behind closed doors.

Jeffrey Allan

Jeffrey Allan grew up on a small farm,

Outside a small town,

With a father, a mother and two older sisters.

His early years were spent

Surrounded by his paternal cousins –

Some younger, some older.

This was the basis of his young life.

As he grew up and went to school,

The circle of friends widened

To include other boys and girls his age

From the nearby town.

Early on he knew he was different.

His father was heard to say,

“Jeffrey Allan needs to play sports and not piano.”

“Jeffrey Allan needs to learn to toughen up and fight back.”

“Jeffrey Allan is turning into a sissy.”

“Why is Jeffrey Allan always playing house with girls and dressing dolls?”

Jeffrey Allan had a secret;

Jeffrey Allan knew he was more different

Than the other boys as he grew older.

He didn’t like sports or outdoor activities with his father and cousins.

Jeffrey Allan came to understand that his “difference”

Was that he was gay –

He really didn’t care for girls, although he liked them.

He was attracted to other boys –

Later in life, men.

Jeffrey Allan knew that he was

Homosexual. Queer. A faggot.

But still he kept the secret –

College degree and marriage to his childhood sweetheart –

Followed by a career and children,

Living in a closet,

Fearful of a society that was homophobic

In various, sometimes menacing ways.

Jeffery Allan found the strength

Before it was too late, to come out of the closet,

Self-exiled from family and friends all those years,

Only to be found dead in a dark alley,

One dark night –

The letters F-A-G spray painted

On his naked chest; his face battered beyond recognition.

His cemetery marker reads –

R.I.P

Jeffrey Allan

Loving son, brother, husband and father

September 2012

No this has not a thing to do with being without food in the house, even after Larry had returned and we had to go and buy groceries. Rather, it has to do with those empty spaces we sometimes feel when we first awake in the morning, or think about just before we go to bed at night. More like brain food…

Empty Cupboards

Where once there were cupboards

Teeming with an abundance,

There now appear to be empty shelves,

Devoid of sustenance –

Necessities for body, mind and soul.

Our very existence depends on sustenance,

As we journey from cradle to grave –

Physical needs – food, water, exercise.

Emotional needs – loving, caring, affection, security.

Spiritual needs – faith and understanding.

Empty shelves need to be re-stocked from time to time,

Putting into play a variety of factors

Over which we may or may not have control.

While self-reliance may accomplish this,

Our emotional and spiritual need

May require assistance from others.

And just possibly, Divine Intervention.

Only then can the human cupboard be replenished.

In reality, I have no friends anymore who do not know that I am gay and married to another man. Unfortunately, there are many people out there who do not accept that to be gay is NOT a lifestyle nor a choice. Many men and women live in fear of being “outted”. This piece was inspired by recent news regarding the treatment of those of us who ARE gay…..

No Man’s Land

Those who have survived real wars,

Know only to well the significance of “No Man’s Land”.

That space between the barbed wire that separates friend from foe.

Those who have never seen battle,

Know only of what we have seen or heard

In movies, books and through television.

More recently “YouTube”.

There is another type of no man’s land –

Known to those men who remain closeted,

As a result of being born gay.

They often live their early lives

With one foot on each side of the fence,

Battling feelings and emotions,

Shielding themselves and their families,

From those in society who believe that to be gay

Is a sin! An abomination!

No one chooses to be gay (or lesbian),

Anymore than one chooses to have red hair,

Or blue eyes or a swarthy complexion.

Depending on where you live in our world,

Having red hair or blue eyes or being gay

Can make you a vulnerable target of certain elements,

Vulnerable to unwanted physical or verbal attacks,

Vulnerable to shunning by your own culture,

Your family, your friends, your colleagues at work or school.

Real men have careers, family and friends,

And make substantial contributions to society,

As do gay men!

Now is the time to tear down the barbed wire

Which continues to divide men

Of all sexual persuasions, religions and cultures,

Eliminating “No Man’s Land” once and for all!

As we grow older our senses sometimes diminish, but not to the same extent for everyone, nor every sense. It can be a time of extreme frustration. A close friend lost his sense of taste after radiation; I had two old aunts who were blind (the reason which I never knew); my mother had macular degeneration and was unable to participate in her favourite pastimes of watching TV and reading romance novels; many men of our age start to experience hearing loss; as a result of diabetes, some people develop neuropathy and lose sense of feeling in their feet, legs, or fingers and hands. This poem is about using all of our senses as long as we possibly can before it is too late….. The most important thing we can do in life is to listen!

Listening

If it is true that from time to time,

We need to “Stop and smell the roses.”

So it is also true that we need to

“Stop and listen!”

As the five senses – smell, touch, taste, hearing and seeing

Each enriches our experience of life.

Hearing is not necessarily listening.

We hear a symphony. We hear a lawnmower.

We hear the cries and laughter of children.

We hear the roar of the waves,

Crashing on a Caribbean beach.

We hear the tropical birds in the rainforest.

We quite often take our senses for granted.

Listening requires learning –

Stopping to hear what is being said,

What is being played?

What is creating the sounds?

Stopping and truly listening to your spouse,

Your child, your neighbor, strangers on the street.

Really listening takes effort at times.

The rewards – endless.

 

This particular piece was written to commemorate the birth of a child in our family. I flashed back to the birth of my first daughter and then the second, and then the births of my five grandchildren. No one prepares us to be parents! We learn on our feet through trial and error. Sometimes we have to change the way we perceive things….. accepting a new reality. In fact that new reality has always been there, waiting to be discovered.

Unchanged Reality

The longer we live our human lives,

The more we come to realize

Nothing is ever constant

Or consistent.

Change is our reality!

Just as certain as times and seasons change,

So also do people, places and things.

Experience is the key to change.

The more we experience in life,

The more likely we are to change

Or be changed by those experiences – good and bad.

Newborn babies impact a relationship

More than could ever be imagined.

In the nine months leading up to birth,

Lives are forever changed

Beyond imagination…new realities?

Career changes, relocations,

New relationships, broken relationships,

Constancy and consistency

Are fleeting.

Our ‘raison d’etre’ fades

With each sunset.

What then are we to do?

In a single word, ‘change’ –

Failure to change or accept change

Can have disastrous consequences.

Those who change willingly

Are those who come to realize,

Failure to change may well be

Their ‘cause of premature death’

In an unchanged reality.

One of those things which is often heard, is that one needs one’s space! I believe that is a universal feeling. There are times, for whatever reasons, that in our day to day lives this is a necessity and not just a need. Some may use meditation for this purpose. Others…they go shopping…LOL. My daughter calls it “Me Time”. This poem was written on one of those days….

Two Solitudes

There are times in our lives

When we live in two solitudes;

One is the solitude of our

External environment –

The other is our inner self, our ego,

Which is the more complicated.

We can turn off, tune out

Those things we choose not

To see or hear  in our surroundings.

The inner solitude can at times,

Overpower us –

Creating havoc, unseen,

Except for those closest to us.

Some see it as ‘that time of the month’,

Others chalk it up to moodiness.

Nevertheless, we are alone with these

Thoughts and feelings,

And only we can process them,

As we must,

If we are to move forward

And leave the solitude behind!

This season has found many more snowbirds arriving from the north. Although many are friends of ours for some years, new ones are appearing. For many, the question in their minds is “So what now?” having recently retired. Those of us who have been in their shoes know that like us, they will find a purpose, whether it be assisting with animal clinics, supporting children’s education programs, serving up lunch at the local church or senior’s home, joining co-ops to support needy families, teaching English to children OR taking Spanish, or acting as a go-between with all of the above, spreading the news and being a part of it (Gee, I sound like Frank Sinatra…LOL) or finding a new hobby, like photography.

This poem is dedicated to all of the recently retired who have joined our community this year! Welcome to the best years of your life…..

The Purpose-Full Life

A purpose-full life

Is the goal of every man and woman

On Earth.

Many feel it has been achieved

Through our relationships

With family and friends

And work.

What of that life

Once one reaches that time known as

Retirement – forced or otherwise?

Sustaining a purpose-full life

Can be challenging and quite often-

Frustrating,

As one wrestles with one’s worth,

Vis-à-vis ‘purpose’ on a daily basis,

Far from the routines of career,

Often removed from children and grandchildren,

Often alone.

Getting up each day can be a real challenge,

As can maintaining one’s health

In these years.

What is the solution?

It lies in creating purposes,

Long before the sun rises –

One hour at a time; one day at a time,

Fulfilling these purposes

Before ‘our’ sun sets.

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