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

The Greatest Ever


Before the greatest ever,
There was the greatest ever.

Now, what was previously the greatest ever
Does not seem so great,
Compared to the most recent greatest ever.

Oh yes, it was great for its time,
And still so much better than most,
But the new greatest ever has opened our eyes
To a whole new world.

Yet if the most recent greatest ever
Had never been,
If it had died in the womb,
We would still have the greatest ever
And not know the difference.

So now we celebrate the greatest ever,
Unaware of what could have been,
How far short we’ve fallen.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Waiting For The Call


Moment by moment we check for messages,
As if we were all heart transplant surgeons
Waiting for the call.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Inevitable


We’re all just hanging on,
Propped up by possessions and pastimes,
A little luck here and there,
Or just plain old happenstance.

We do our best
To make it all appear so solid,
So permanent,
So impervious,
While the real world
Makes a thousand tiny tears
In the fabric of our lives
Each day.

Inevitable.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Her Last Day


I keep thinking about the last day I saw her alive,
Wanting to go back and change it,
Change myself,
Be more patient,
Less inclined to bolt and run from that nursing home,
Its cold linoleum floors and distracted nurses
Too busy to pay much attention to a dying old lady.
They were all dying there.

Oh yes, I knew she was dying,
But she’d been dying for years,
Dying slow.
I didn’t realize death was so near,
A day away,
When she said:
“I’ve lived about as long as anyone has a right to live.”

A single clear sentence
Rising above an hour of erratic thoughts.

Her room was too hot and stuffy that summer afternoon,
Magnifying the sickening concoction of antiseptics,
Damp bedding,
Decaying flesh,
Every room infused.

A ceiling-high television with painfully exaggerated colors
Was worrying her about the news,
Danger right there inside her room,
Inside her mind,
The world in flames.

I ached for escape.

I listened for the end of another incoherent sentence,
Locked eyes with my wife sitting across the tiny room,
Then signaled by rolling my eyes toward heaven.

“I’ve got to get going,” I announced,
Seeing no end to her disjointed talk,
Needing refuge.

I did not return the next day,
A small vacation from the dreadful daily routine
So many months in the making.
The phone rang late,
Those unspeakable words,
Asking if I wanted to see her
Before her body was taken away.

In that dark and noiseless night
I wondered:
Had she seen me roll my eyes?
Taken it as a cue somehow?
Had I weakened her with my impatience?
Pushed her toward the inevitable?

The final few days are not the life,
I keep telling myself,
Not even the final few years.
The whole is what must be measured.
But oh dear God,
If I could just go back,
Change that one single day.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

A Honeybee


A honeybee
Searching for a flower
Saw his reflection in a pool
And flew
Into the sparkling water
Where so many others die,
Their wings too wet to fly.

This honeybee swam hard
Hoping to reach dry land,
But soon would weaken and drown
Had I not been at hand.

I took my net and lifted free
This tiny, desperate honeybee
Who then dried his wings
And flew
Away.

What did he think,
If he thinks at all?
That the hand of God
Caught his fall?
Or perhaps an angel
Restored his flight?
If there are angels for things so slight.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

A Man, A Name


On this day,
Here on planet Earth,
Another man has taken on the name Pope,
A man,
A name.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

All The Way


We fight against the breakdown,
Trying to hold on to all we believe,
Fighting,
Fighting,
And most of us fight right up to the end,
Defending,
Defending,
And the ones who do,
Break down,
Fall so low,
So low,
It takes a long time to reassemble
The ideas,
The beliefs,
The dreams.

Some of us fall so low,
So low,
We break through the last idea,
No bottom,
Falling,
Falling,
Past falling,
All the way,
And thus are saved.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

She Loved The Night


She loved the black, delicious night,
Sunk into it like a warm bath,
Soaked it in through every pore,
Into the dark marrow
Of her solitary soul.

She loved the cool, vacant feel
Of its cavernous space,
The anonymity of its place,
As she followed it down to dawn,
The daylight coming on.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Parallel Lives


I’ve always been here
And so have you.

We’ve always been here,
Skipping through parallel lives,
Endless variations where every alternative plays out,
Even though the “I”
As in,
“Here I am,”
Perceives a singular path.

This “I” is observed,
Inhabited by the one who says:
“Here I am.”

We’ve always been here,
On the edge of memory,
For no matter how many have died,
Here we are,
Still living.

Our parallel lives are like television channels
And we are the watchers,
The observers and the participants.
I change the channel
And sometimes find myself in a life too unfamiliar.
I change the channel again,
Leave the other participant behind,
Find a more familiar episode
And continue,
In the same house,
The same things in my desk drawers.
But some of my problems are resolved,
Left behind on another channel,
Nothing more to learn.

New problems appear,
Although they are not new
To this particular history I've adopted,
Just new to this traveler
Endlessly seeking resolution.

No existence is without consequence,
I have learned.

I pick and choose,
Exchanging parallel lives,
Sometimes choosing badly,
So badly that in some lives I forget I can choose.
Do you sometimes forget too?
It took me a long time to remember,
In this particular life,
Where so many of us have forgotten how these things work,
Sleepwalking our way through the day.

Then something leaks through
And we remember,
We awaken,
Having finally learned certain things
The universe insists we learn,
No matter how many lives we leave behind.

We’ve always been here,
Skipping through parallel lives,
Endless variations where every alternative plays out,
But the watcher remains the same,
Accumulating experience,
Nothing is lost.

We are the watcher,
That which contains.
Perhaps someday we will gather all these lives together
And go home.
Perhaps we are already home.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Untarnished


When you finally get what you want,
After all the struggling years,
But it does not satisfy,
Then you begin to understand
The untarnished magic of a dream.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Bird's Egg


I’d never seen inside a bird’s nest,
Young as I was.
The miniature, sky-blue speckled eggs.
Gemstones.

I took one,
Cradled in hand
As I climbed carefully down,
Leaving three.

Beautiful as it was,
Illuminated in the sun of an early spring morning,
I could not contain my curiosity
And opened the egg,
Cracking and peeling away sticky flakes of shell
Until the gelatinous mass inside was revealed.

A featherless baby bird,
Curled in embryonic sleep,
Never to awaken,
For I had thwarted the will of nature,
I had become a careless and clumsy god,
Aborting so innocent a thing as a baby bird,
And I recoiled at what I’d done.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Someday


Someday, they’ll look back at us and laugh:

Those glasses!
The hairstyles!
That clothing!

But most of all,
They will be amazed at what we believed.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Revered Old Man Of Letters


More than a celebrity,
He was like a father,
Teaching me things my father never conceived,
Illuminating the past,
Foretelling and forewarning,
Opening my eyes to the moment that is a human life.

He became a celebrity,
Interviewed frequently,
Newspapers, magazines, television,
Events and awards,
Honorary degrees.

He lost the freedom of anonymity
And no longer spent entire days in random thought,
Not much time for self-reflection,
Not much inclination for self-criticism
Now that so many were so admiring.
He had arrived,
And no one near him would dare criticize.

He spent his days repeating,
Reflecting on what he’d already written,
Preparing speeches and presentations,
Anticipating interview questions.

Writing became an afterthought,
Squeezed into shrinking moments of time,
Resting on tried and true templates,
Formulaic.

He was still a brilliant man
But now a singer who sang his hit songs
Over and over again,
Compliant with popular demand,
And so his brilliance was etched in stone
And his new writing was old,
Repetitive,
Tired and imitative
Of who he had been
When he was not yet bound by the chains of adulation.

Years passed and he became an icon,
Reduced to a pop culture concept,
A reliable source for reporters on deadline
Who needed a celebrity quote,
For talk-show bookers
Desperate for a last-minute guest.

In his emeritus years he proclaimed the future had soured,
The younger generations such a disappointment,
Hypnotized by technology.

“All I need is a pad of paper and a pencil,”
He declared,
Drawing the boundaries of meaning around his generation,
His past,
His youth,
A time when he had embraced the emerging unknown
And put his rapture into words,
When he was still young enough to imagine
Without fear of literary obligations,
Before he became the revered old man of letters.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Now, Begin


Now,
Begin.

Now,
After long day,
Long week,
Long year,
Long life . . .
Now,
Begin.

Now,
In this interstice,
In this collision of inspiration
And exhaustion,
Out of your cage now
Tiny soul.

Emerge,
Unfold,
Stretch
And sing O tarnished voice,
Sing with all candor
And longing,
An unconscious song
Sung half-asleep while dreaming.

Now, begin.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Zero


Zero,
Ever been there?
I hear the weather’s nice
This time of year.

I was there last fall,
Just in time to see no leaves changing no colors on no trees.
So beautiful,
Like nothing I’d ever seen before.

The trip was a little rough,
And long.
Just when it seemed like Zero was in sight,
Along came something else
And my curiosity would get the better of me,
Stopping to explore one thing after another.

But finally,
After a very long day full of starts and stops,
After I was completely worn out,
After I had just about enough of everything,
There it was:
Zero.

So beautiful,
Like nothing I’d ever seen before.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

This World Is Neither


This world is neither full of joy
Nor filled with hate.

It is full of us
And who we are.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

All Day Long


A little brown bird
Sang this song:

I’ve been a little bird
All day long.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

After We Die


After we die
We should all have a day
To come back and say,
Now I know why,
Now I know why.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Advice To A New Saint


The hardest thing you will ever do
Is give wisdom to the unwilling,
For as their eyes open
The false flowers of their imaginary gardens
Will wither, crack and crumble,
And they will abandon you for what you have done,
For the certainty you have destroyed,
For they will be as strangers in a new world
And afraid,
Yet unable to return.

The hardest thing you will ever do
Is give love to the unloved,
For as their hearts open
The impenetrable armor that kept them safe
Will come loose and fall to the ground,
And they will abandon you for what you have done,
For the desires you have exposed,
For they will be as strangers in a new world
And afraid,
Yet unable to return.

The best thing you will ever do
Will be without acknowledgement or praise,
Done for its own sake,
And for those who understand,
And for those whose understanding has yet to come,
Though they may never know your true name.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

This Tree


What are your opinions about this tree?
I ask myself,
Standing before this ancient oak
Hidden deep in the forest,
Limbs so wonderfully woven for climbing,
Were I of a climbing age.

How would I rank this tree
Among others of its kind?
How can I judge it?

I cannot,
For I’m not an arborist,
Not a conservationist,
I do not inspect trees,
I simply see them and behold them,
As I would do with the rest of life,
Were I that wise.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Despite My Best Efforts


This moon,
How anxiously it shines,
How hurriedly it rises in the dusk,
How brightly if reflects the sun
Even before the sky’s purple-blue bleeds into black.

O intemperate moon,
I am in no particular hurry,
But you hasten the seasons,
Feverishly pushing and pulling the tides,
Faster, so much faster now.

It is evening again,
Despite my best efforts to forestall the day,
To postpone the end.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Absence


A broken heart is hard enough,
To discover you are unloved after all,
That all those words of love were false,
At best a mistake of the emotions,
At worst a manipulative lie.

A broken heart is hard enough,
But there is healing in seeing things clearly,
In forgiveness,
In forgetting.

A broken heart is hard enough,
The price love can demand,
But the absence is harder still
And does not end.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Called


Fair youth’s enthusiasms
Echo distant in this quiet garden
Where I try to envision
Such thoughts as now drive my son
Out into the world,
Away from home.

I would spare him error and injury,
But cannot
Without hiding him away.
I would see through his eyes
That I could better understand,
But who can live another’s life?

That which I know is of my own universe,
And while there is much that is universal to all,
My young man now walks upon his own feet,
Called forth by his own soul,
And by the fatherless world.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Artist


O what reward
For lifelong labor
To make a beautiful sound,
To see the man in the front row
Fall asleep
While you so delicately evoke
Bach’s most ethereal passages
From your cello,
The instrument of your breathing,
The whisper of your bow
Across the strings.

Respiration from the front row
Works against the composition,
Keeping time in some asynchronous meter,
Growing steadily louder,
Until,
You have lost the reverie Bach intended
And your playing becomes rote,
Labored,
While the man in the front row
Snores,
While the stone-faced woman four rows back
Unwraps a peppermint candy,
Filling the hallowed air
With the crackle of cellophane.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Bob


Bob has five days left
To vacate the building,
The shabby rented house
In which he hides.

So many things to do.
Spent seven hours yesterday
Looking for his watch.
Will look again today.
Can’t find his keys
Though he made three sets,
Put in three different places,
All disappeared, somehow.

Bob sits in a folding chair
Rubbing his bald head in his hands
Trying to remember what to do now.
A framed photograph of him in uniform
Looks handsomely down on his paper-strewn living room
From the corner of the mantelpiece.
Shoeboxes full of unopened mail
Sit on a card table.
He is afraid of bad news.
Half the pages of a yellow legal pad
Are folded over,
Filled with his complaints.
Tiny black letters.

Bob leaves his phone off the hook
And swears it’s the phone company’s fault
That no one calls.

They let him out of the hospital a week ago.
He still wears the plastic bracelet.
His skin is rubbed raw,
Stigmata from where he fought to break free
From his constraints.
He is fighting still.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Acceptable


We know that some will die
In so many different ways
Every day.

Some in war,
Some in peace,
Young and old
And in-between.

Heroes and villains
And ordinary folk,
Every day,
Some will die.

It’s not acceptable,
Never acceptable,
It’s what happens,
Without our permission.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Ad Infinitum


If only you could sort through
All the ideas in your head,
You tell yourself,
You would figure it all out
And arrive at the grand conclusion,
The answer,
The answer to all those relentless questions.

Yet every idea you explore
Gives birth to a myriad more.

Dandelion seeds in the wind.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Adoptee


All these photographs,
All these people
Suddenly of some relation to me,
The lost bastard child who found his way back.

Back to half sisters and brothers,
Living and dead,
Half nieces and nephews,
Living and dead,
A parent or two
And all assorted associations,
All these lives lived without my knowing,
Died without my knowing,
All these lives,
Without knowing.

I was the lost bastard child,
Born by accident,
Anonymous,
Hidden,
Yet despite the best efforts
Of those who thought they knew best,
Welcome or not,
I found my way back.

Knowing,
That was always the necessary thing,
Just knowing.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Absolution


Who is the fortunate soul
Who has not fallen
At one time or another
During this life?

How many of us have sinned
Without detection,
Yet repented without admonition?

How many suffer the consequences of sin
Beneath the guise of anonymity?

Who can say how long such punishment will last?

One might suppose death and its dominions
Washes away Earthly sin,
Yet even death does not erase memory.

The echoes of our imperfect lives reverberate
In histories large and small,
Yet all unruly children are in the heart of God still,
Where only honest and sustained contrition will bring absolution,
The only kind of absolution that really matters.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Words And Meanings


I could say,
What a beautiful day,
And mean it,
And yet be imprisoned
Within the idea of it,
That beautiful day,
Out there,
Outside,
Somewhere.

I could say,
I love you,
And mean it,
Like a weapon
Or a shield,
This love,
Superior,
Disarming,
Untouchable.

Without the heart,
Words and meanings
Fall apart.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Your Most Recent Revelation


When the moment comes,
Light fills the sky
And birds are everywhere in voice,
And you say:

At last,
I have found it.


It passes.

On another day,
You carefully reconstruct
The circumstances
Of your most recent revelation,
And wait.

The sky is brown,
Everywhere dogs are in voice,
A garbage truck fills the air with noise,
Laboring house by house,
Street by street.

It’s gone.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved