Courage Is Required


“Oh I reckon,
I reckon I'm a cowboy,"
I wrote in careful, deliberate script
Upon the first page of what would be
The treasured notebook of the new American Shakespeare.

The muse was speaking
And I was listening
When my older, less literary brother appeared,
Yanking the notebook from my hand,
Reading my first half stanza
And laughing.

It would be weeks before he stopped taunting:
"I reckon I'm a cowboy!"
His deeply intimidating stare
Mocking me,
Humiliating me for daring just a little transcendence.

The years have turned my attention,
More practical pursuits,
Yet the muse still faintly calls.
I take pen in hand and see my brother's face,
His mocking, disapproving eyes.

O yes,
The troubled path of the poet.
Courage is required.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

My House


It was barely sprinkling
After several hours of light rain
Early Sunday morning
When I heard the coughing,
The retching,
And looked out my breakfast nook window
To see a young man with his car door open,
Vomiting on the street in front of my house.

My house.

How lucky I am
That I can say the words:
My house,
While aimless young men
Wander through this city,
Regurgitating at will.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Incarnation


Each morning I awaken as a child,
Staring wide-eyed into the bathroom mirror.
I wash my face,
Then sip a cup of coffee,
Or two,
And I am a young man,
Full of ambition for the new day.

Midday I withdraw from battle
To refuel and recharge,
Determined to vanquish before the sun has set.

By late afternoon I am middle-aged,
Defeated and disappointed by the limitations of the day.

After dinner,
Sitting on the couch watching television,
I am an idle old man,
Too afraid of inner demons for quiet contemplation.

By midnight I drag myself off to bed,
Resigned to the grave,
To insignificant nothingness.

It is a fitful sleep that awakens me at 3 a.m.,
And in the absence of task and purpose,
I am Buddha,
Knowing reincarnation is just a few hours away.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

You


I love what is unfinished,
Unfolding,
Undecided,
Free from certainty,
Curious,
Growing,
Eagerly embracing change,
Surprised by each new day,
Listening for the voices of angels,
Ready for a miracle . . .

You.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Playground


We are the little children of God
Who decided we want to do things on our own.

So God said, “OK,”
And put us here in this playground.

We’re still learning how to play together nicely.

We’re a bit slow.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Almost Enough


O circumstance,
Enemy of dreams,
Unyielding wall
That keeps us apart.

Circumstance like science
Cannot be wished away,
Will not be denied,
Only overcome by those
Who allow desire to overcome reason,
A perilous course,
Full of grave consequence.

You and I weighed such consequences
And turned away from love’s unreasoning madness,
Wounded,
Scarred,
Yet saved from eternal sorrow by the words:
I will always love you.

It's almost enough.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

When I Am With You


There is a part of me that awakens
When I am with you.

Not that I had forgotten.
No,
I remember everything.
The blush on your cheek,
The tiny pink ribbon on your delicate white dress,
The curve of your shoulder,
Your restless sleep.

All my memories are charged with emotion,
But they are reflections of the past.

When I am with you
There is a part of me that awakens,
That memory cannot recreate.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Real Thing


True,
Incomparable love
Comes when your heart finds a home.

It may not last,
But if you’ve ever found it,
You’re one of the lucky ones.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

What Do You Really Think?


What do you really think?

No,
Not what you’ve heard,
Those predigested generalizations
Tailored to specific constituencies,
Foot soldiers amassing in the unity of certainty.

What do you think that’s genuinely yours,
Uniquely yours,
The product of your own ingredients,
Of your own mental exercise,
Unaltered by expectations of approval
Or disapproval,
Stripped of cliché,
Of second-hand observations . . .

Summon the truest voice within and tell me,
What do you really think?


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Life Lessons


We grow old and discouraged,
Worn by repetition and disenchantment,
Wondering what life is for.

We forget the answers are all there,
Waiting to be rediscovered in storybooks,
Where Peter never loses the enchantment of youth,
Where Goldilocks learns respect for the sanctity of family,
Where the diligence of a little pig saves the lives of his brothers,
Where running away teaches Dorothy there’s no place like home.

Cradled by a mother’s love
We are safe and we are forgiven.
The world is once again full of wonder
And life will never end.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Don't Take This Literally


I’ve been way too coherent lately,
Too literal.
Some of my more artistic friends
Blush
At my naive,
Prosaic,
Poetry.

I actually use the words
“Love,”
And “heart,”
Even “God,” for “Pete’s sake.”

I “dream”
And sometimes I am “sad,”
Sometimes full of “hope” and “joy.”

I apologize to my more sophisticated friends
For my unadorned simple-mindedness
And would deconstruct coherence with obfuscation
But alas,
I am “too far gone.”


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Life


They're coming,
We're going.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Maria Something


She doesn’t know why her car stopped.
I don’t know why it ran,
A thing many times discarded,
Salvaged only by her desperate situation.

From Mexico she comes,
This young, sculptured woman,
To work the rag trade
In secret sweaty buildings
Where all generations labor
Behind rows of blunt, brutish machines.

I cannot help her,
Knowing little about cars,
Less about miracles.
I lend her my phone.

“Gracias,” she says, smiling so sincerely.
Her eyes are black stars in a white-hot sky.

A breeze riffles her pleated white skirt
With hot and dusty Sunday afternoon air,
Revealing her long, leather-brown legs.

She is calling her cousin,
Waiting for him to answer,
Leaning against the warm metal skin of my car,
Pressing her carved, callused fingers
Against her feverish forehead,
Pulling her burnished brown hair away from her moist neck.

She waits for him to answer.
I wait for him not to answer.

I want to be with her
In some flickering candlelit room,
Her lips brushing against my ear as she whispers.

I want to touch the source
Of this inviolable beauty.
I want to know how she can smile
So killingly sweet,
Knowing what America would do
With such a life.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Politician


He's said so much
To so many,
He's almost convinced himself.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Sliding


I’ve let whole days slip through my fingers,
Whole years,
Decades squandered making money,
Buying stuff,
Carefully packing it all into boxes,
Unpacking it again,
Fixing things up,
Throwing things away,
Going to different places
And coming back again.

I’m sliding down hard ice,
Faster,
No meaning,
Faster,
No feeling,
Faster,
No bottom in sight.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

I Awaken


Ordinary life,
A blessing really,
For those of us who have it.
Food,
Shelter,
Family,
Friends.

Yet something sleeps in ordinariness.

That is why I love you,
For when you look through my eyes,
Into my heart,
I awaken.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

I Am Called


Your smile calls across the room,
Across time and incarnation,
Calls from the past,
From the future.

You smile and I am called,
Into the eternal now.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Cold Water


It’s been nearly forty years
Since my grandfather died,
A father to my troubled heart,
Though I have yet to learn all his lessons.

We would walk and talk
And he filled me full of ideas,
Ideas I was nowhere near ready to use,
Knowing, when I was ready,
He’d be gone.

One morning he taught me how to wake up,
To wash my face with cold water
The very first thing,
To wash away sleep and clear the mind.
I was young and woke up hard,
Too hard for the shock,
Especially when the weather was cold,
Too fragile.

Now, the cold water wakes and refreshes me,
Washes away sleep and clears my mind.
Now, with every drop of water upon my face,
My grandfather, with me, still.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Seeing


Take everything you know,
Write it down on a blank sheet of paper,
Then fold the paper and put it in an envelope.

Say out loud:
Here is all I know, all I have learned,
As you light the envelope on fire,
Watching it burn to ashes.

Now walk freely into the world and see everything,
No longer masked by certainty.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Car Wash


It’s a slow morning at the car wash
And the Mexicans are relaxed,
Making each other laugh,
Whistling,
Free from the manic afternoon rush to come.

One of them walks by,
Spinning a towel on a single finger,
Smiling at me with missing teeth,
Looking like a man who feels lucky,
Lucky to have this job in sunny Southern California.

Now he is drying my car with a towel in each hand,
Bending and stretching,
Familiar with all the secret places where water hides.
He jams his body upside down
Into an impossible back-seat angle
To wash the inside rear window.

A car horn honks and a woman sitting near me startles,
Finishes whatever she was doing with her cell phone
And walks to her car,
Walks around her car,
Inspecting,
Pointing at small spots only she can see
While the obliging car wash worker looks on,
Generously wiping his cloth where her finger points,
Smiling patiently.
She gives him her receipt and a dollar,
Not quite satisfied,
Not expecting to be quite satisfied.

The man working on my car finishes
And twirls a towel high above his head,
Like a pizza chef.
He is a virtuoso towel twirler,
A talented man who asks very little from life,
Who expects less.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Chosen One


Dear little princess,
So young,
We will fill your head with words,
With desires,
With expectations,
Until your wide-eyed wonder
Becomes the confident stare of certainty,
Until your playful innocence
Becomes an ambitious longing
For all your highness is entitled.

Yes, you are the chosen one,
Born of privilege,
The platinum spoon,
The glass slipper,
The iron gate that keeps them out,
Keeps you in.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Afterlife


The afterlife will not be unfamiliar.
It will look very much like today,
A place with mornings and evenings,
Just a few small changes,
Change continuing at its usual pace
With all the occasional upheavals,
Depending on where we are,
Who we are.

For those of us who believe in heaven,
Heaven will slowly appear.
For those who refuse contrition,
Hell will remain.

The possibility of change and growth will remain,
For all of us,
Change and growth,
Confusion and revelation.

We will share where we live with others,
With friends,
Strangers,
With those who are kind
And those who are not.
We will help or hurt them,
Or ignore them,
And they will help or hurt,
Or ignore us in turn.

We will witness the working of change upon our lives
Without certainty about the future,
For the future will be malleable.
There will be times when the old fear returns,
When we contemplate that our existences, however new,
May be extinguished.
Yet joy and hope will temper the anxiety of unknowing,
Reassurance that we need not fear eternity.

The afterlife will not be unfamiliar.
It will start tomorrow morning,
As usual.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Song


This light breeze sings
A music only plants can hear,
Moving leaves and shadows in rhythms,
Then still,
Pianissimo,
Allowing the warm counterpoint of the sun
To swell,
Then rising again,
Stronger now,
Reinterpreting a theme.

While we are oh so busy worrying,
The song of the Earth plays on.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

My Word


Last night an angel came.
I will give you one word
And you must take this word into your heart
And live this word,
Eat and drink,
Inhale and exhale this word.
Absorb this word into your blood,
Into every particle of your being.
The angel bent low and whispered into my ear:
Is!
Then dissolved into air.

O preachers with all your discourse,
Your obedience,
Your years of theological parsing,
Construction and reconstruction,
Your lessons,
Now I must put them all aside.

I have my word to work on.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Welcome To New York


Easy to feel sorry for someone with no home,
Imagine shelterless days and nights
Picking through trash discarded food,
Penetrating heart-shivering cold,
Angry voices.

I have felt sorry,
Given money,
Prayed,
Expressed righteous outrage
At indifferent tolerance.

I entertain such thoughts and feelings,
Yet in a corner of a New York City subway station
The feet of a homeless man
Were mud-stained,
Calloused, cracked, bleeding, swollen yellow-purple,
Each toenail turning black.

He was curled up like a kitten,
Lost in shivering sleep,
The winter chill coming on.

Easy to feel sorry,
To give money,
To relieve conscience with care and concern.
But who will wash this man’s feet?
Who will put salve on this man’s wounds?
Who will reassemble his life?
Who can?

I left him there.
We all walked by and left him there,
His wounded feet exposed to everyone,
Looking like Christ’s feet must have looked,
Nailed to the cross.
Actual, physical evidence,
The painful journey of an abandoned soul.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

There Are Words


There are words that lead into words,
That pull you in like the sudden spike
Of a strong drug,
Words whose meanings unfold,
Revealing layer upon layer,
Myriad thoughts,
The petals of old roses,
Shark teeth.

But each revelation is incomplete,
Relies on the understanding
Of an additional equation
Always a few pages ahead.
It is gravity in reverse,
Where conclusion precedes supposition,
A house of mirrors for the mind.

There are words that lead away from words,
That do not command,
Less than certain,
They paint a cerulean sea
And tell how the pelican folds his wings in flight
Like a collapsed umbrella
And dives into a shoal of sardines,
Shimmering,
Silver,
To satisfy his hunger.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Peace And Quiet


I had almost reached some eternal state of bliss
When my reverie was rudely interrupted
By my birth.

I need not tell you of the emotional quagmire
That is life.

I have suffered less than many.

Yet just when things began to settle down
My reverie was rudely interrupted
By my death.

Perhaps now I can finally get some peace and quiet.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Special Delivery


When I want love too much,
I remind myself not to be so selfish,
That love should be delivered
By winged messenger
With balloons.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The World


The trouble,
The consternation comes
When I try to make sense of the world.

Now which world is it I struggle to behold?

All human,
All animal,
All biological,
All cultural,
All political,
All geographical,
All cosmological,
All these worlds and millions more,
All somehow coagulated in mind and imagination,
All one world?

From my first waking hours
To my restless, fitful sleep,
I travel through myriad worlds of self,
Past, present and future worlds,
Full of memory, supposition and hypothesis,
Full of knowledge and ignorance,
Full of fear and hope,
And always,
Always,
The ever-present now,
Calling me to awaken,
Commanding immediacy,
Constantly defining and redefining this mercurial existence.

How can I ever make sense of it all,
Ever slip under a microscope
Such a fanciful idea as a world?


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Old Cat Sighed


The old cat sighed.
Suddenly realizing
Just how limited a cat’s life really is,
The old cat died.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Haunting


Some call it haunting,
These visits I make
To the places I lived,
Where my life was made,
To my childhood home:
The sidewalks still here
Where I rode my bike.
I hear the voice of my grandmother
Calling me in from play
For a sandwich and a glass of milk.
That long summer day
Walking with my grandfather
And all the things he said
About the life that was coming,
Things I scarcely understood,
Things that have guided me,
Lifted me when I fell
So I could begin again
To be like him,
A decent man.

I will not reawaken childhood sorrows.
I have buried them here
After years of torment,
And questions,
And finally,
Resolution.
Yet,
There is a light breeze of melancholy
Blowing through this place,
Blowing through all the places of my life
Where joy and sorrow,
Anger and ecstasy once lived.

Some call it haunting,
These visits I make
To the places where my life took shape,
On my own in tiny rooms,
In anonymous cities:
The rooming house and it’s red-haired landlady,
Mothering the young and single men there
With morality, discipline and compassion,
Teaching us how to respect
What was once a grand hotel
Where dignified gentlemen and ladies
Gracefully ascended
The carpeted stairs of the seaside resort.
And how many lonely nights
Did I sit on the sand at ocean’s edge
Learning how to listen?

Without chronology I travel,
My haunting is outside of time,
Drawn to the passions,
The silly exclamations,
So silly and profound this human animal,
This creature that can love:
Love that girl who gave me her life.
We exchanged lives,
Awakening,
Awakening,
In passion and in play,
Keeping the outside world away.

There are sad and angry rooms
Where I will not return,
For my haunting is to be free of regret,
Except for a kind of regret that sends me back,
Back in time to where happiness began,
Where happiness had the power to overwhelm,
To overwhelm life’s myriad frustrations.
O my soul has traveled in dark haunts enough,
Finally worn out its punishments,
Deserved and undeserved,
My penance,
Paid.

Now my soul travels in light,
In melancholy radiance:
I see my young family,
Laughter in their voices,
Youth and electricity in every movement,
And the future is infinite,
Full of imagination,
Full of hope,
And the growing of my life
Becomes the growing of my family
And I am no longer a single being,
I am larger.

Some call it haunting,
These visits I make
To where my beginnings began,
But this too will end
When I begin again.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

When?


When you start praying
When do you say:
Now I can put
All my praying away.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Father's Day


My father was too busy
Pulling weeds from his manicured lawn,
Each root carefully extracted intact,
To notice his house burning down.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved