Winding Down


I am a wind-up clock,
A multitude of wind-up clocks,
All winding down.

In younger years
I sprang into life each new day,
Wound tight by youth and enthusiasm.

Now, I cannot wind my clocks as tightly as before,
And some have stopped and will not be restarted,
Worn out beyond repair.

Now, the momentum of time increases.
Hours and days and years are speeding up
As my clocks run slow, slow, slower.
It is an odd equation.

I am a wind-up clock,
A multitude of wind-up clocks,
All winding down
As I fall fast, fast, faster
Toward that place,
That inevitable, timeless place.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

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

Embrace


Here,
In this embrace,
I remember hating you.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Love Is Not Philosophy


1. Love Is Easy

Unlike philosophy,
Love is easy,
Actual.
You wake up each morning
And joy fills your heart
Because someone you love will say,
“I love you,”
Before the day is through,
And you will hold each other close
In a moment of eternity.


2. Love Is Hard

Unlike philosophy,
Love is hard,
Actual.
You wake up each morning
And pain fills your heart
Because someone you love has said,
“I don’t love you,”
And all day long
You will feel wounded and empty,
Hoping it won’t last forever.


3. Love Is Mysterious

Unlike philosophy,
Love is mysterious,
Ethereal.
You wake up each morning
And both joy and pain fill your heart
Because you ache to say,
“I love you,”
If only you could find someone
Before the end of another lonely day
And see the dream awaken.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Filled With Light


When I was younger
It was just me alone,
Staring into the abyss,
Waiting,
Without knowing what I was waiting for,
Falling into the deepest part of night,
So dark.

I am kinder now
And wait until sunny birdsong morning
To enter the place of no place.
Old fears still come and go
But now I face them with a warm cup of coffee
In a pleasant room,
Filled with light.


~ 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,
Its meaning so fervently constructed,
Without form.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

There Are Reasons


My young cat bit through the skin on my hand,
Playfully,
And now the weather’s turned cold.

Rain is on the way
And there are two circular puncture wounds
Where little bitty kitty bit me.

I’d better get up on the roof before the rain starts.

I have my reasons.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Very Busy


God sent an angel to speak to you
But you’ve been very busy lately,
Even on Sundays,
Hurrying off to church,
Reading and reciting,
Praising the Lord
And all that.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Clearing


Do I live too long?
I sometimes wonder
During these long, childless days,
Now that my work is done.

Bored with idle pleasures
I fill my hours with trivial chores,
Unnecessary obligations,
Trying to shift my attention
From this slow but steady disintegration.

O poor old self,
How I mourn for your loss,
How I long for your renewal,
Yet, it is a kind of relief to see you go,
All the rantings,
The mad pursuits,
Worn out at last.

The clearing.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

All This Absence


If she were angry with me,
That would be quite another thing,
But this friendly indifference,
Her cold, controlled smile,
Her appropriate words
Kept at the appropriate distance,
Her brief eye contact
Signifying nothing.

No anger,
No joy,
Not even a little curiosity.

If she were angry with me,
Then,
Something to hope for,
But all this absence . . .


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Morning


When I first woke up I thought it was going to rain,
Upside down,
Each raindrop a single, singing voice,
Assembling into a drenching choir,
A requiem of weather,
But then, I woke up a little more.

I thought I was a spy who must deliver documents,
Secret documents,
To my communist overlords
In order to maintain the lifestyle
To which I’d grown accustomed,
But then, I woke up a little more.

I thought my cats were whispering to each other,
Speaking English,
Complaining about their accommodations,
Casting furtive glances about the room
While pretending they couldn’t really speak,
But then, I woke up a little more.

I reprimanded my furniture,
Intimidated my toilet,
Put my walls on notice that containment was not an option,
But then, I woke up a little more.

All that I’ve ever done wrong spontaneously flew about my head
Like buzzing houseflies,
Each, in turn, flying close to my left ear,
Accusing me of human frailty,
Reminding me of missed opportunities,
But then, I drank a half cup of warm coffee.

One by one my demons evaporated
Like mist into steam into air on a hot summer morning,
And for another day,
Absolution,
Reprieved by the will to live
And a little caffeine.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Can We Rise?


Is it a kind of betrayal
If we rise
While others fall?

Are we entitled to happiness
While others suffer so?

Must happiness be tempered
And sorrow obeyed?

Can you compare one life
To another?
Balance one life
With another
When circumstances diverge
And intentions splinter?

If those around us are falling,
Is it a kind of betrayal
If we rise?


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Marrow


The stillness,
Spreading,
Slowing me down.

Anchored,
Observing,
Vicarious.

A passion to be young again
Stirs.
I pull myself loose.

But the process is irreversible.

The roots will grow,
Sink deeper,
Hold fast,
Until someday,
I am absorbed into the marrow.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Sharing The Light


Every time I shared my light with him,
His insincere heart extinguished the flame.
He could not keep the candle lit,
And I finally learned
I could not give him
What was not already his.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Ready To Fly


They say,
Never give up on your dreams,
They say,
You only fail if you quit trying,
They say,
Failures are the stepping stones to success,
They say,
Believe in yourself and all things are possible.

Everywhere I turn I am encouraged
By celebrities and self-help gurus,
Inspiring me to believe in my dreams,
To visualize my dreams,
To act on my dreams
And be bold in my actions,
Persistent in the face of failure,
To endure,
And most important of all,
Never, ever give up.

So once again I am here,
Standing on the edge of the roof,
Wearing the wings I have constructed
From rice paper and cotton balls,
Ready to fly.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Freedom From Want


Freedom from want means
Freedom from thinking about what you want
Cause,
After all,
You’ve already got what you wanted,
So now,
You can spend your time being so incredibly bored,
Trying to think of something else you want.

Soon,
You will go shopping.


~ 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 clichés.

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

Tribunal


What are the first words I’ll say
After I die,
When I have awakened into the afterlife,
Still possessing this eternal self that I am?

All the details of my most recent incarnation
Sharpened somehow by my passing,
Stripped of repression.

What will I say
When all things undone,
All obligations unfulfilled,
All unrealized ambitions and dreams,
All my weaknesses,
All my sins,
Present themselves for explanation why,
Why they were willfully ignored,
Buried,
Considering the generous amount of years granted.

I see myself confronted,
Standing before some kind of tribunal,
All my memories fully restored.
I gasp for breath and say,
And say . . .


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Your First Major Sin


So, there it is,
Your first sin,
Your first major sin,
A profound distinction,
For to be born is to be full of sin,
Not biblical sin,
Just everyday garden-variety sin
Born of infantile ignorance,
A kind of sin we all are born with,
Sin that is easily corrected and forgiven,
Innocent sin without intentional malice,
Part of the transition from childhood
We all are called upon to make.

So there it is,
Your first major sin,
The kind that breeds shameful regret,
That sparks a sudden sadness,
Born of the realization
That this is the end of your stainless self,
Once so defiantly pure.

Now, you can no longer be so sanctimonious.
Now, you pray earnestly for your troubled soul.
Now, you join the human race.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

This Mother's Prayer


God,
Oh yes that troublesome word,
She has trouble with that word,
Visions of blind obeisance,
A fairy tale euphoria,
Ignorance,
Superstition,
A certain lack of precise intellectual focus,
Oh yes she has trouble with that word.

Yet in her most private, personal moments
Something like a prayer emerges,
If only as the last obligation
Of a mother whose children have left home,
Her children,
Out there somewhere.

And so she prays,
Trying as we all try
To bend the course of destiny
To our will.

Atheist that she is,
She will not abandon her children
To a godless world.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Shedding


They say a leopard
Cannot change its spots,
But a snake can shed its skin,
And so if you begin
To bring your old life to an end
You may have to shed a friend,
Or two.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

A Certain Freedom


I am no one in particular,
Nobody special,
Never promoted,
Lucky to have a job actually,
To earn a living.

My wife is tired of me.
My children are preoccupied.
Life does not expect too much from me,
Which allows a certain freedom.

I get up early each morning,
Alone in the dark,
Make a cup of coffee
And sit in my favorite chair
Watching the world get light.

I hear soft voices
And I am filled with joy.
How very good it is to be alive.
How very, very good it is,
Indeed.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

My Children Come To My Deathbed


My children come to my deathbed,
Thirsty,
Drinking from the pool of my mortality,
Filling up with momentous thoughts
And feelings,
Eager for resolution
And change.

My father is dying,
The silent mantra,
My father is dying,
My father is dying.

I want to tell them something,
Something I see so clearly now,
Something that explains so much,
Without explaining,
Just a word,
But I cannot move my lips,
No longer in control of this machine.

They each kiss my cheek
And leave the room,
Finished.

At last the word I struggle to produce
Comes forth,
Like a newborn I cry out
But my children are gone,
And the lady who is paid to sit alone
In the corner of the room
Turns the pages of her magazine
And does not hear.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Cracked


Thought I’d finally found myself
When the self I thought I was
Cracked,
Shattered into a thousand jagged pieces.

Now I know why Humpty had to fall.
He had to free himself
From his own illusion.

There was no Humpty left
To be put back together again,
His pieces now scattered
Among the pieces of the world.

He was larger.
Multitudes contained him.

Shattered as I am,
I cannot put my pieces back together again.
It was only an illusion
That made them seem whole.

More than the sum of my parts
I am the sum of all parts
And the space between.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Back At Work


Did you stop by his desk and say:
It’s good to see you back at work,
Carefully avoiding any mention of his daughter
Who died.

He had to drive four and a half hours
To reach the small apartment where she lived alone,
Touching everything,
Deciding what to keep.
He gave all her furniture away.


He wanted to tell someone where he’d been,
What he’d done and how it made him feel,
But we were too busy trying to cheer him up,
Assuring him that time heals all wounds,
As if the death of his only child,
Nothing more than a temporary ailment,
This little girl he once cradled,
This young woman he sent out into the world,
Fearing what all good parents fear
But scarcely dare to think.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

He's Got The Dying Right


He never figured out how to live,
But he’s got the dying right,
Perfected over the course of years,
Slowly,
Slowly,
Making all the right wrong moves,
Winning sympathy from friends and family,
The poor victim of a cruel world,
What he could have been.

They’ve taken him in,
Given him religion
And he’s become a professional object of charity.
Poor me, he thinks.

Sleeping late,
Eating well,
Slowly,
O so slowly,
From the inside out,
He’s got the dying right.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Holding On


What can we hold onto?
When everything changes,
When everything passes,
When the years recreate who we are,
Sometimes lifting us,
Sometimes tearing us apart.

O love,
The clichéd word so easily pronounced,
The greeting card verse
Spoken without feeling,
O love,
If kept alive and breathing . . .

There is so much to love in this world.
Even when you are old and confined
You can love a memory.
Even when memories fall away
You can love an idea.
Even when cognition falters,
When fear invades,
When the dark idea of godless death threatens,
Believe!

Hold onto love,
However untranslatable it may seem.
Love will persist.
You will be saved.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Death And Love


O majestic death,
Rattling around in my bedsprings
Like an old man’s cough,
You are too easy and obvious
For poetry.

O mercurial love,
Rising in my chest
Like opening night stage fright,
You are too easy and obvious
For poetry.

Yet somehow,
After all this writing,
Death is,
Still profound,
Love is,
Still precious.


~ 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

Into The Wild


The coyotes were singing
And the wilderness in their voices
Called my spirit
Into the wild and dangerous world
Where who you are and what you want
Will not save you.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved