Two Resolutions


When this life has worn you weary
And each day is a struggle
To find meaning,
Resolve to be honest,
About everything,
All day long.

Resolve to be kind,
With everyone,
All day long.

Then,
Meaning will return.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Eight Days Until Christmas


This cloud-crossed moon is nearly full,
But the streets in my village are suspiciously dark.
Apparently there are forgotten corners of this world
Even a full moon cannot illuminate.

Urgent blasts of warning from a speeding freight train
Slam into the sides of ancient stone buildings,
Making sharp retort like the firing of guns at an execution.

Eight days until Christmas and people here are uneasy,
Hair-trigger tempers,
Honking car horns,
Making odd gestures and grimaces,
Racing to complete the tasks of the season.
Possessed.
A frenzied motorist makes a desperate O-turn in the town square,
Nearly hitting a distracted pedestrian staring at her smartphone.

An elderly man carrying no packages smiles as he shuffles past me,
A fixed smile like a grimace
Showing signs of pain and disenchantment,
Trying to put a little paint on a weathered fence.
I smile in return,
Also trying to reconnect with something,
Something.

I stop near an empty intersection in a quiet part of town,
Looking up at the blur of yellow light from a second-floor office
Where someone is working late.
I would climb the steps and walk to the end of a narrow hallway,
Knock on the wood-paneled office door with the brass nameplate,
Take her into my arms and kiss her lips,
Her neck,
And feel an explosion of pure, pointless joy.

Yes, I would do all this were it a year ago.

I don’t know where she lives now,
Now that her life has changed,
Having thought it best to end all communication,
Now that she’s married to such a sensitive young man.

Eight days until Christmas
And I am alone,
Wandering shadowed streets,
Assaulted by the persistence of the ordinary,
In need of a soup kitchen for the soul.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

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

Bottomless Pit


Some things never change,
I say,
Such as your stubborn refusal to admit
That change is the one constant of the universe,
Constant change,
That is.

But love is better than hate,
You say,
Will that ever really change?

If you love evil and hate virtue,
I say,
Then someday,
If you are lucky,
You will change and learn to love the good
And hate the bad.

And so the love of goodness,
You say,
Is right and will always be so.
Surely that will never change.

And I say,
Every day,
If we are lucky,
Our understanding of what is good,
Of how to be good,
Will grow,
And growth is change.

But if change is all there is,
You say,
Is not change itself a process
That will never change?

The process of change,
I say,
Is like a fire that consumes
And alters.
Who can say
This fire will never be extinguished?

But if the fire which is constant change
Is someday extinguished,
You say,
Wouldn’t that be the end of change
Once and for all?
And without change what is left?
Constant nothingness?

Or constant somethingness,
I say.
The end of change could be the beginning
Of something quite different indeed,
Something larger,
Beyond our comprehension.

We talk like this
On and on
Into the night,
Trying to reason out the truth of our existence,
Temporarily unaware that we are growing older,
Slipping along toward death,
Moment by moment.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

This House


When this house was new
It practically took care of itself.
I thought newness was a permanent state,
Something easily maintained.

I repaired occasional wear and tear,
Restoring, preserving,
But eventually the patina of age took hold,
Irreversibly.

I reluctantly learned a degree of acceptance,
Trusting the impervious core of this house
To withstand most of the minor disfigurements.

After all,
So many other deteriorating houses still stand,
Still provide shelter,
A place for a life.

Yet the years accumulate
And that which cannot be repaired
Multiplies,
And the once indestructible sheen of youth
Has given way to an aura of infirmity,
Filling my thoughts with apprehension.

Where will I live when this house is gone?


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Who Is Asking?


What is the shape of my mind?
The shape of my spirit?
My soul?

What is my essence?
What does it look like?
Just an image in the mirror?

Who is writing these words?

Am I a collection?
A collection of pain,
Pleasure,
And everything between and beyond?
Am I a receptacle?
Am I both?
Or neither?

And by the way,
Who is asking?


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Old Cat


Asleep in the midday sun
She is curled atop a couch,
Her old chin cushioned on crossed paws.

A truck bangs its frame on a pothole
But the old Siamese does not stir,
Her tail does not twitch.

She is nearly deaf
And her occasional cries are rough and harsh,
Too loud,
Too full of distress for the routine requests they signal.
She is an old, deaf lady
Who can no longer measure the volume of her speech.

She will awaken soon and cry for food
Or cry to be shown to the litter box
In a place she forgets.
In this way she spends her last days,
Sleeping, eating, excreting
And luxuriating
In the gentle touch
Of the warm hand
That startles her from sleep.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Boundaries Of Heaven


We draw the boundaries of heaven
Around the spaces of ourselves,
Marked off by threat
And bluster,
As if heaven were a place
Unwelcome.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Mystery


When the temporal world turns against you
It’s hard to sustain faith in the eternal,
To embrace the mystery.

Some say our bodies create our minds,
That our sense of a soul,
A spirit,
Is but an illusion created by our physical existence.
But do we not struggle in this life
Between physical desire and spiritual aspiration?
Why would our minds invent such torment?

The cruelties of existence so often extinguish hope,
The fuel of imagination and inspiration
That calls us to dream,
And to bring our dreams out of the ether,
Into our everyday lives.

Sophisticates reason away spiritual inclinations,
For they are blessed with fortune and purpose.
But this too shall pass
And each of us shall be reduced,
Left for a moment,
Or an eternity,
To enter the heart of the mystery.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Books


Books on my shelves,
So meticulously bought
And placed according to thought.
The lines of their spines
Reproach me
For ignoring them so.
In false phrases of praises
My bookstore ambitions go.

What would I know
If I’d read them all
And with total recall
Could bring forth their voices?
Who would I be with such choices,
With such knowledge tamed
And insights gained?

Would I really be changed
If rearranged
By the genius of my age
And of ages before?
Would I be an amazing sage
Or just another incredible bore?


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Sole Companion


This little cat,
My sole companion now.
I had nearly a dozen once
When my children were children.
Some inside and tame,
Others too wild,
Strays who came for food,
Fearful,
Never close enough to pet.

Some people are dog people,
But for my family
It was always cats,
Arriving suddenly from mysterious circumstances,
Finding refuge where we lived,
An old rented house on a large lot
Next to an acre or more of vegetables,
A vacant barn.

Yes,
They’ll give you food,
The old cats would advise the passing stranger.

Not nearly as much space at the new house.
More neighbors,
Closer neighbors,
And coyotes,
Great horned owls.

One by one they died,
Some of old age,
Some before their time,
The last old lady sleeping, sleeping, sleeping,
Then still.

This little calico cat,
So sick in the city shelter,
I nursed her back,
Old man that I am with time, time, time.

She is my sole companion now,
Giving each hour of the day a purpose.
A window for the morning,
Watching the excitement of birds
Flapping on and off the feeder,
Then backyard inspection
Under my overprotective supervision,
Then inside for a snack
And a day of favorite places at favorite times
Until at last the evening.
No longer nocturnal she pulls her claws,
Curls into a circle and rests.
She chirps as I stroke her fur,
Fur soft as silk from my frequent reassurances
That no matter what may come,
Right now,
All is well.

This little cat,
My sole companion now,
Content to share the warmth of my bed,
The warmth of my body
Against these cold winter nights,
This little cat who contains all the cats I’ve ever known,
All the cats who’ve come,
All the cats who’ve gone.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Meaning And Pretense


I was an old young man
Singing songs of social protest,
Words I did not understand,
Words I had not lived.

I am a young old man now,
Singing songs of uncertainty,
Words I understand,
Words I have lived.

Now I understand the difference between meaning and pretense.
Now I know you’ve got to be honest,
You’ve got to tell the truth to tell the difference.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Procreation


Yes,
Your parents were in love.
Well,
At least in lust.
Believe it.
No matter how ugly and ill-suited to romance they now seem,
There is a reason you were born.
Well,
Perhaps not so much a reason
As an emotion,
Drawing them together,
Fulfilling their destiny to create a new human being,
The latest version of evolution,
You,
The dream made flesh,
You,
You snot-nosed ungrateful twerp!


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Parallel Lust


There may be an infinite number of alternate realities,
According to some theories.
For each of us,
An infinite number of individual existences,
One for each possible action,
Each possible outcome.

And so my love,
Despite your current disinterest in my affections,
You may be my ardent lover in some other life
Where I am the reluctant one,
Though I suspect my eagerness will persist
With all the beautiful yet reluctant women I know,
Each destined to become my consummated soul mate
In some of my more salacious autobiographies.

Meanwhile,
In this particular lifespan,
The unremarkable aspects of my love life,
Continue.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Blur


Something about getting older
Speeds things up,
Something we do to ourselves,
Something we want,
Something we accept,
Something we don’t realize,
Don’t think about
Until the hours take flight,
Passing by like minutes.

Hurry,
Hurry,
Everything is hurried,
Speeded up,
Combined,
Stripped down
Until whole decades pass by
Without meaning.

Blur.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

It Is The Dream That Creates Us


It is the dream that creates us,
However carnal or profane,
However blessed by human charity,
However vengeful or inane.
It is the dream that creates us
And awakens us each day,
And opens a path before us
And sends us on our way.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Tru Blue Gurus


True blue gurus
Tell me who I should be
With such certainty:
Honest, honorable and wise,
Trusting in providence,
Patient with injustice,
Content with my haphazard existence.

Yes, yes,
It is a blessing to be alive,
But endless, underpaid labor
Leaving little opportunity for imagination
Does not engender exuberance.

True blue gurus
Tell me there are no real obstacles,
That mind is the matter,
But here in the world outside my mind
Things can go terribly wrong.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Someday I Will Begin


Always another task at hand,
Superseding vague ambitions of transcendence
With immediacy,
The immediacy of earning money,
Of maintenance demanded by inanimate objects,
Then the hungry pursuit of well-deserved reward,
Focused on the more corporeal aspects of existence.

Yet,
That misty, translucent cloud of angelic eternity still hovers,
Just beyond reach,
Beckoning.

Someday,
(I try to assuage my neglected nobility)
Someday,
(I earnestly promise)
I will begin.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Bliss


You will not let yourself fall in love,
Considering the complete impracticality of the situation.
You will be self-disciplined and wise
And never know bliss,
So brief and troublesome.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Consciousness


Ninety-nine percent of all brain function
Is controlled by the subconscious,
Some scientist recently said.
Only one percent,
Awake.
Only one percent,
Consciously aware.

I suspect his findings are the product of his subconscious.
Who knows what demons linger there,
Concocting their devious formulas,
Their sinister yet consciously undetectable little pranks?
How can I hope to make much sense of it
If my perception is mostly governed by my subconscious?

I ponder this conundrum
As I walk to the library,
My head full of conjecture
As I try in vain to open the library door,
Pulling then pushing,
Exasperated,
Momentarily unaware of the bright red letters:
CLOSED


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

My First Book of Poets


Who are these people?
Who are these fearsome souls
Whose stern and somber portraits
Grace this slim compilation of poetry?
What place is this?
On what planet are humans exalted so,
Enshrined,
For a few lines of artfully arranged vocabulary?

I was too young to know much about poetry
Beyond the garden and the goose,
But just old enough to be lightning-struck
By the realization that thought,
Apart from action,
Could be so revered.

O those lofty words of those inspired souls,
So tangled and torn in my child mind,
A foreign language driving me to despair
Over my exclusion,
My denial,
My inability.

Then,
A small shaft of light shone through a window.
Then,
I kicked open a door.
Then,
I stumbled upon the words:
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
Next to this poem a faded photograph,
Sergeant Joyce Kilmer,
Wearing a steel Army helmet,
A doughboy,
“Killed in action, July 30, 1918.”

Compared to the regal majesty of Longfellow,
The bookish bespectacled gaze of Kipling,
This young man with the feminine first name,
With the shadow of death in his last name,
Looked so peaceful and calm in his uniform,
So compassionate, yet resolute.

He was 31 years old when he died
On a barren French battlefield,
A sniper’s bullet in his brain,
Famous for this poem,
“Trees,”
This poem about the limits of poetry,
About the difference between an idea and a living thing.

So many years and poets later,
He has been called too simplistic,
Too sentimental,
Yet so many years and poets later,
It is he,
He who first taught me,
The difference between a poem
And a tree.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

A Game


It takes a lot of luck,
And money,
To discover
That life is just a game.

It seems much more serious
When you’re unlucky
And broke.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Life Of The Mind


The dream remains a dream for most of us
Who gather together in darkened theaters
To experience the dream made flesh,
Who watch television late into the night
To transfuse contemplation,
Who read best-sellers to absorb meaning into memory,
Memory that overshadows,
Muffles our disappointment with the everyday.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Looking Forward


“When hell freezes over!”
My dearly beloved intoned,
Responding to my request for a hot buttered cinnamon roll.

Not an unpleasant thought,
Not at all.
Free of matrimonial bonds
In the realm of human weakness,
Bundled up against the sudden change in climate,
Sipping hot chocolate
While the scent of warm cinnamon
Drifts lazily into my nostrils
From the buffet of frosted pastries.

O yes, when hell freezes over,
Now there’s something to look forward to.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved