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

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

This


The profound question:
What happens after we die?

What a surprise it would be,
If this,
Was it.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Into The Heart


When we meet,
Something awakens in her,
Something glows.
She is translucent.

Her smile comes easy and lingers.
She feels the urge to stretch and arches her back,
Tossing her long, curly black hair to one side
Of her bare, sculptured shoulders,
Flashing her dark, penetrating eyes,
Looking long and deep into mine,
Weaving her articulate fingers through the coils of her hair,
Inviting me.

She ties a blue and white scarf around her forehead
And becomes someone else,
Showing she can be beautiful in so many ways.

Her burnished olive skin filters the light
And I touch her cheek.

Something ancient and eternal now guides us
Into the heart of night.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Blinding White Light


This blinding white light
Is paralyzing.
I’ve forgotten who I am.
I don’t know what I want.
I’m filled with a wistful panging of pleasure.
I’m wracked with uncertainty.

What is right?
What is wrong?

Only in the beginning
This tempest.
Before things are settled.
Before decisions are made.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Blinded


Walking along the hillside path,
My love knows the name of almost every plant,
A gathering of white alders
On either side of this cold and clear mountain stream,
A lone black willow,
Dusted with cottony catkins,
Fallen leaves and forgotten stones
Painted with tiny white bouquets of sweet alyssum,
An elderberry embroidered
With the orange stringy stems of witch’s hair.

My love can see health and history
In every flower leaf twig and trunk
While I walk ignorantly along,
Blinded by spring.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

In This Place


This is all we know,
These caffeinated mornings
And crowded freeway commutes,
These peopled places,
Marked,
Altered.

Scheduled repose,
Manufactured entertainments,
The occasional exodus to nature
With the proper reservations,
Row 32,
Space 6.

But doesn’t it all seem a little strange sometimes,
This concoction of paradise and purgatory?
And how blurred their boundaries,
How blurred within our limitless eternal selves,
Living out this highly contrived finite physical existence.

Do you long to resolve contradictions
And in so doing,
Increase their numbers?

We believe what we want to believe
Until belief itself is finally exhausted,
A small, hard thing,
So difficult to discard.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Pain Song


Pain song singing
In a black sky.

No stars.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Vigilance


When I was young,
The flame burned brightly,
For no matter how bleak the passing days,
The future contained more years than I could imagine.

It would take many years to learn
About involuntary psychological templates,
About the reverberation of abuse,
About how deep and permanent wounds can be.

It would take many years to realize
The demons are always near,
Patient,
Waiting.

If life is about anything at all,
It is about vigilance.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

My Refrigerator


Nine years
After my grandparents bought a new refrigerator
My grandmother died.
Two years later
My grandfather died.
Thirty-two years now
And their refrigerator is still running,
Through all the years of my marriage,
My career,
All the places I’ve lived,
By the sea,
Now in the desert.
Once it was filled with baby food,
Then leftover pizza and soft drinks,
Now frozen low-calorie meals,
My children grown and gone.
I sit in the dark and ponder it all
While my refrigerator,
Whirring, whirring,
Goes on.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Craft


You’ve learned so much about the methods,
The craft of attraction,
The skillful application of color and blush,
A certain tilt of your head combined with a certain expression,
How the light catches flecks of jade in your eyes,
The cut, curl and fall of your auburn hair,
Muscular with elasticity,
Casually filtering but not completely concealing
Your expertly-timed penetrating glance,
Lingering just long enough to send the message:
“I am full of mystery.”

Oh if he knew how much time you’ve spent on your nails,
Let alone your cuticles,
Each individual eyelash,
The selection and strategic application of scent,
Your shoes,
The golden ring with the prismatic amber glass,
The balance of accessories,
A level of detail beyond his conscious awareness.

He’s more interested in the revealing cut of your clothes,
The shape and texture of your skin,
Your similarity to the lovely young women on magazine covers,
The effectiveness of his charm,
His ability to make you laugh,
The image of himself he wants you to believe,
He wants to believe,
Verification.

You’ve learned that the magic lies beneath awareness,
In the poking and the prodding of subconscious stimuli.

I watch your performance with awe and inspiration,
Experienced enough,
Old enough now to catch a flashing glimpse of the child,
Still there,
Wondering if anyone can see the uncertainty behind the mask.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

In A Coffee Shop


In a coffee shop
I stop
And sip
And watch.

A mother and her young son,
Helping him with homework.

A college girl and her laptop,
Two young men glancing,
Laughing at their imaginary scenarios,
Glancing.

A boy with earbuds inserted
Fingers a portable computer game.

An attractive woman in her forties enters,
Turning the head of a lonely man
Disinterestedly reading a newspaper
To keep from staring.

The attractive woman orders a regular coffee of the day
From the aproned young man behind the counter
With his stylishly close-cropped facial hair.
Because she is mad at her husband
She smiles at the skinny young coffee vendor
And puts a five dollar bill into his tip jar.

The mother opens a wide, brightly illustrated picture book,
“The Magic Flute,”
And tells her son about Mozart.
“Oh yeah. Mozart!” says the nine-year-old boy,
“I love that guy!”
The mother, who looks dark and Italian, smiles.
She is about twenty pounds overweight
And her light-skinned, fair-haired boy
Looks more like his father,
A happy, enthusiastic silly boy,
His arms and legs animated by the hits of the eighties
Playing in the background.

The college girl looks up from her laptop
To see if anyone is watching her,
So I try not to be noticed,
Middle-aged man that I am,
Too old to be admiring such a pretty young girl,
Not beautiful,
But pretty with the gloss of untarnished youth.
She sees the young men glancing at her
And turns her attention back to her laptop screen.
They are too young and silly.
She will know him when she sees him,
The one she is waiting for.

The lonely man, comfortable in his well-worn suit and tie,
Watches the attractive woman with the faded gold hair
Who does not need to lose weight
And imagines her whispering:
“I love you,”
But he will not speak.
He is also in his forties but still waiting,
Waiting for an invitation.

The teenage earbud boy chugs his coffee,
Picks at the acne on his chin,
Swings his backpack over one shoulder
And walks out the door.
He doesn’t want to say anything to anybody.

The dark-skinned mother says:
“This is my son who will love me forever.”

Her young son says:
“Let’s have fun all the time!”

The college girl says:
“Can you hear me O secret love? I am here.”

The lonely man is afraid to speak,
He expects disappointment.

The attractive woman says:
“My husband has fallen asleep and will not wake.
I am not ordinary.”

The two young men say:
“What a joke. People are so stupid!”

The skinny coffee vendor says:
“Why can’t I be like you? Why am I the servant?”

And I say:
“Here in this small coffee shop,
All the constellations of the universe.”

None of us say anything out loud.
One by one we finish our coffee and leave,
Pretending we are separate.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Leaving For Work


Leaving for work I see my little cat
Streaked in morning light,
White, orange and yellow,
Sitting still with paws folded
On back of an easy chair
Watching circling sea gulls
Flown inland from the storm
As what’s left of the rain
Drips curiously from the eaves.
A slight amusement.

The street scrubbed slick and clean
Refracts radiant points of light,
Myriad tiny suns
Spread across thin wet skin on black asphalt bone,
Black as bare tree trunks
Against cloud-white sky.

Most of the workers are gone from these streets,
I am late,
Most are gone
Yet I cannot help but linger
To taste this forbidden time,
Forbidden to me,
This absence of time.

On my way once more
The chilled air snaps
Little leaves falling as branches blow
The song of some little bird
In some neighboring tree
Singing quietly,
Calling me.

The sound of a passing car also calls.
It calls me as I stand
Transfixed by birdsong,
Beckoned by the world,
Called by my ambitions
And by no ambition at all.

There is so much to see here,
So much not to do,
For the mountains in this valley
Are streaked with virgin snow
Among silent solitary clouds
Frayed and twisted by wind.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Self-Serving Altruism


Let us,
The stupid inhabitants of a dying culture,
Dedicate ourselves to a new generation,
Let them stand upon our shoulders
To see what we cannot see,
So they may solve our problems,
Right our wrongs,
And not kill us
When we’re too old to take care of ourselves.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Temporality


Sometimes the body is weak
And the spirit sags
And I contemplate mortality,
Questioning again the specific location of the soul,
And the old fear returns:

What if the body is all?
What if all my spiritual perceptions are imaginary?

I am rudely interrupted.

My young calico cat Sally jumps into my lap,
Crying for something that is not food,
For the temporality of my attention.

I stroke her tongue-washed fur
And she ripples with pleasure,
Chirping with tuna-scented breath.

She pulls at my pajamas with sharp claws
And together we abandon all hypothetical considerations.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Before I Barely Knew Anything


Before I barely knew anything
I awakened each summer morning
To the cawing of crows
And thought,
How very tall these trees
In which they gather to ruffle their feathers
In the morning breeze,
How tall these trees
And how much these crows must see.

I climbed an orange tree,
So frightened by the height,
So amazed at the sight of neighboring houses
And city streets
And thought about what the crows must see
From the tops of the sycamore trees
And from higher still
As they rise into the sky,
Knowing I would never know
What they know,
Before I barely knew anything.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Bedtime


Josh who is growing older says,

“Good night Dad,”

And I say,

“Hittin’ the hay?”

And Josh who is growing older says,

“Guess so,”

And I say,

“Sweet dreams buddy,”

And Josh who is growing older says,

“See you in the morning,”

And I say,

“Not if I see you first!”

And Josh who is already quite the young man indeed says,

“Yeah, right dad.”


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Thumbs


There will never be a shortage of self-anointed critics,
Self-appointed judges of all manner of things,
Of people and events,
Large and small,
Those who educate,
Those who obfuscate,
Those with knowledge,
Those without,
Those who somehow believe it is their mission,
Their responsibility,
Their calling to point a thumb up or down.

We are blanketed with critics whose only qualification is ego,
Whose pronouncements are so soon forgotten
After scholars and historians assemble research and knowledge,
Honest intellectual inquiry,
To illuminate the past.

Do our media-created, ill-informed, knee-jerk commentators
Believe they are changing hearts and minds,
Guiding the course of a nation,
By unveiling the certain, unquestionable truth?

We are cooperative.

These pontificators give voice to our a priori conclusions,
Assuring us that even the most complex issues of our time
Can be measured by the masquerade of mass hysteria,
By the illusion of popular opinion,
That all we really need do is vote,
One way or another,
Thumbs up or thumbs down.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Becoming


Somewhere,
I suppose,
There may be that perfect person,
Or two,
Who has never sinned,
Though through the eyes of the world’s religions
Nearly everything is a sin to someone,
I suppose.

Somewhere,
I suppose,
There may be that perfect person,
Or two,
But for the rest of us,
Our life’s work is laid out before us,
Day by day,
Hour by hour,
Moment by moment,
The work of becoming.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Here, In This Place


When the darkened room is suddenly filled with light,
When the unexpected wave rises and crashes upon you,
When you cannot find the precise metaphor to describe,
To express the overwhelming emotion
Bursting from your heart and spreading to every sinew,
Awakening,
Awakening,
Awakening your body to its purpose,
Awakening your mind to the joy of existence,
To the bliss of knowing,
Knowing you are desired,
Knowing you are loved,
Then,
It’s more than individual passion,
More than momentary infatuation,
It’s a place you have discovered,
A place in the mind,
In the heart,
In the universe,
A place where angels dwell,
Where inspiration is born,
A place permanently imprinted in memory
No matter how circumstances change,
Always and forever a place you’ve inhabited,
A place you know,
A place of joy and pain,
An eternal place,
Always there,
Waiting for your return.

You and I are lucky,
Struck by the lightning flash of love,
Surrendering caution and reason
Just to spend another day,
Here,
In this place.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Beautiful


When we touch,
Illusion enfolds
Our naked bodies,
Erases our imperfections,
And within our bliss
We become
Beautiful.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

They Speak Unceasing


The spirits speak
Too much.

My head is filled with the incessant clatter
Of their most insightful observations.
I am hounded by visions
In the most startling detail.
They crowd my sleep
And spill over into the day,
Beseeching me.

I long for the life of simple stupidity,
Ignorant of the twisted motives
That lie behind the desires of the human heart.
Show me no more
O uninvited spirits who whisper secrets
So casually in my ear.

It does me no good.

This busy world has no interest
In what you reveal.
They think me a deranged fool
In need of medical attention,
And for all I really know,
You may indeed be demons.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Anniversary


What is the secret
Of your long and happy marriage?
They ask.

I stop and reflect for a moment,
Furtively glancing at my watch,
Counting down the minutes
Until I will again meet with her,
My rosy-breasted, eager young mistress.

I am too old for her,
But we both have found a momentary bliss
In the forbidden.

What is your secret?
They ask again.

My mind races to find a suitable reply.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

In The Game


Have you ever suddenly stopped,
A grocery bag half empty on the kitchen counter,
And thought your life was without purpose,
Wondering if you should commit suicide
And be done with the whole inane farce,
When the phone rings,
And you answer,
Called back into the game again.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

I Knew A Young Man


I knew a young man
Who drank warm water
Right from the faucet,
From his cupped hand.

Everything he did,
An act of defiance,
An act of strength,
His way through the world.

They sent him to the war
And he didn’t last a week.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Balzac In Paris


This pretentious, unbridled egotism,
Bridled by academic sycophancy,
Shackled by erudite nonconformity,
Eruditely enforced by the last living literati
Hanging onto the endangered species list
By his and/or her precarious pedicured pedigrees.

This turgid landscape bleeds sour
For want of a coat of arms
Worthy of such shame,
Such intrepid debasement,
Oh yes,
Here in de basement
I goo goo too,
This awful-god game,
La comédie humaine.

Some call it poetry.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Time Keeper


I am the one who turns back time
This chilly gray morning
While wife and children slumber
In the hibernation of Sunday.

I sneak like a tooth fairy
From room to room,
Setting back clocks,
Slipping another hour of sleep
Silently under their pillows,
Hastening the darkening of a season
Already too dark for my timeless soul.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Suffocated


The morning light awakens
But I cannot tell the day,
What day it is.

Then,
The mind clears a bit
And I remember who I am,
What day it is,
What I must do
And how little time I have
To assemble myself and leave for work.

This day is not unlike any other work day,
Not unlike years of repetitive practical habits
That propel me into this persona,
This predictable working life,
So unlike the life of the sleeper
Who travels by thought through time,
Backward and forward,
In and out of time,
The true nature of my soul,
Suffocated by this working world.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Upper Crust


His finely manicured fingernails,
So clean.
He never earned money with those hands,
This denizen of the upper crust,
So certain that poverty is the fault of the impoverished,
A moral judgment upon those unworthy of wealth,
While he takes credit for the accident of his birth.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Mantra


Paralyzed,
He takes one last look over the ledge,
The edge of the precipice,
Imagining the staggering, unknowable falling.
He shudders and backs away.

He retraces his steps,
Returning to a place of safety,
A place of predictability.

I am too old, he assures himself,
Shuddering again at the image of the ledge,
The smothering abyss,
The surrender.

He drives to work with a new appreciation for sameness,
For the certainty of Monday,
For the harness of employment,
While deep inside in some unfocused, dimly lit room
He sits alone on a simple wooden chair,
Reciting the mantra he fears but cannot dismiss:

Nothing lasts forever,
Nothing lasts forever,
Nothing lasts forever.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Balance


Your stricken conscience
Grieves over the suffering in this world.

Convulsed with joy,
A baby laughs.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

That Word


Each of us struggles,
Trying to find that place,
Trying to remember that feeling,
That word.

What was it?

Trying to get it back,
Confused about it,
Tricked by pretense,
Tricked by empty promises,
By such sincere insincerity.

Some of us give up.

The passing of youth’s optimism,
The weight of daily subsistence,
The dream smothered by distractions,
By disasters.

Giving up is easier
If the bliss of a happy childhood was denied,
If you never found that place,
If you never felt those emotions,
If the word escaped you.

Giving up is growing up,
You tell yourself.

But if you were lucky,
If you were a happy child,
If you were loved,
If you loved in return,
If you worked or stumbled your way into the dream,
If the dream was thrust upon you,
The dream made real,
If you watched it fall away,
If the ache of memory persists . . .

Some of us grow old in melancholy,
Remembering,
Forgetting,
Then remembering again,
That place,
That feeling,
That word.

What was it?

Oh yes,
That place,
That feeling,
That word,
Joy.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

At Last You Begin


Reaching your destination at last,
You begin,
Because conclusions do not satisfy
Anyone but everyone,
And everyone is no one at all.

So you finally arrive at the beginning,
Exhausted,
Confused,
Worn out,
Finished with ideas of all sorts and kinds,
Ready at last.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

In Disguise


I recall that old man
Who turned to me in anger,
Impatient with my immaturity.

I did not recognize he was me.

I remember that young woman
Who cradled my hand in her hands,
Grateful for my kindness.

I did not realize she was me.

Now that I think on it,
It was often me,
Returning in disguise,
Trying to provoke.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

As If


O this revolving world,
I am dizzy with all this spinning,
Cumulative now in my later years.
I feel the solar winds
Tugging at my sleeves
As we hurtle through space,
Madly erecting shopping centers
As if there were no tomorrow.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Employee


Summer flowers dance softly in the afternoon breeze,
Far from the unfeeling glare of artificial light
In which I am encased all day long,
Muted.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Inside


Inside,
I forget the meaning of birdsong,
How hard the mockingbird works
To attract a mate,
His virtuosity.

Inside,
I forget how fallen leaves move,
Swept into corners
By gusts of wind.

Inside,
I forget the sun is alive,
Every moment,
Creating and destroying.

Inside,
I forget I live on a planet
Whirling through space,
Somewhere between the beginning
And the end.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

That Destiny


In you I imagine
And hypothesize
That which belongs to destiny.

Yes,
That destiny,
The one you said is inevitable,
Unalterable.

Yes,
That destiny,
The one I said is malleable,
Uncertain.

One must force the hand of destiny,
I said,
Looking into your infinite eyes,
Afraid to declare my love,
Afraid of what destiny might do.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Guardian


She walks among us,
Taking physical form for a moment,
Watching.

But when I am particularly low,
When my light is flickering,
She comes closer,
Smiles into my eyes,
Deep,
And I am renewed.

Only later do I realize,
I have seen her again.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Answer


Alone and grieving
I search the evening sky.
The full moon rises
With a big happy face.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Something To Remember


These small children would rather run than walk,
Rather jump than step,
They would rather wave their arms and scream
Than politely speak in turn.

So newly arrived,
Reborn without pain,
Recharged with euphoria,
They are mostly unencumbered by gravity.

Something to remember
As the distractions of responsibility
Accumulate.
Something to remember
As the weight of years
Multiplies.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Another Day At The Office


The black-winged fungus of death
Would like to have a word with you
And is holding on Line 2.

Take a message,
Say I,
For the splintering semen of rebirth
Is Miss Ledger’s hand on my thigh.

Encountering my limitless nonself
I give her nothing but love,
Baby.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Fathers And Daughters


O sweet child,
Father wants you to be happy
And will buy you many pretty things
And dust your life with confectioners’ sugar
And keep the world away
For at least another day.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Infinity


A gentle pulsing breeze blows
Through the evening,
Through the windbreak of elderly eucalyptus.
For a moment,
I hear only the sound the wind makes,
The way it must have sounded here before
Cars, planes and people.

I follow the breeze back to an ancient time,
Or is it a distant future,
After all the important things people do are done?
I wonder.

It is a place my soul longs to inhabit,
A place where I can stop and listen
To the uninterrupted stirrings of the wind,
To infinity.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Trash Day


I hear the truck lumbering down my street,
Creeping around the cul-de-sac,
Transmission torquing,
Short bursts of brakes screeching.

The side loader clamps and lifts
And shakes empty the black containers,
Metal clanging,
Hydraulics hissing,
The packer compacting trash in the hopper.

The diesel engine groans toward my house
And I run outside.

I invite the garbage man in for coffee and coffee cake
And we talk about his family:
Aging parents from Slovakia
Who still call themselves Czechoslovakians.
“It is from where we were born!”
A tattooed son who will not go to college,
A daughter still young enough to play with dolls
But pretty enough to cause him worry,
A wife who works at the hospital.
“No more night shifts!”

Driving the big truck
“Is a good job now.”
Sitting sky high in the cab.
No more lifting like the old days.

He goes to church each Sunday.
The stained-glass windows are midnight blue and apple red
And fill the air with color.

I offer to warm up his coffee
While my next-door neighbor looks out his window,
Wonders what in the hell is going on.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Another Day


Because my days are almost done
I walk this late afternoon by the hillsides,
The fog-chilled air pushing against my cheeks,
The spit of moisture falling on my forehead,
The first crickets beginning,
Singing the sun down behind the ancient mountains
Newly green with spring.

A beautiful young girl with translucent blue eyes passes by
With a small puppy straining against the leash.
She smiles without hesitation and says hello.

Ah the joy,
The joy of another day.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Lotto Life


I could already be
A millionaire.

Somebody’s gotta win.

Had a funny feelin’
My ticket was a winner
When the Pakistani clerk
Said “Good luck!” and with a jerk
Slapped the change into my palm,
The change
Into my palm,
Where I have yet to find
My luck line,
Where lines are so faint and fractured
Even gypsies cannot tell.

What the hell,
Somebody’s gotta win.

I could already be
A millionaire.

Feel it in my bones.

Gonna check my lucky numbers,
Check ‘em real careful.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Another Cold Day


The weather report,
Another cold day
In the city where you live,
Without me,
And it breaks my heart
I cannot be there
To hold you,
Keep you warm.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Poet And The Ink


Did you ever stop and smell
The stink of ink
From your fountain pen
And think:
When, oh when
Will I write again?

Or did you dwell
On the smell
And think:
What the hell,
I’ll have a drink.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Cacophony


. . . of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weakness of the flesh.

~ Ecclesiastes, Chapter XII, Verse 12



How fervent,
How intricately detailed our entreaties,
How reason-filled our requests,
How impassioned our pleas.

How many books have we made,
Filled with tiny words,
Preaching,
How many?

All these tiny words
Speaking on our behalf,
Speaking to instruct us,
Explaining,
Imploring.
From the beginning of the printed word,
The beginning of the spoken word,
How many?

Now, imagine you are God,
Imagine the cacophony,
Imagine your delight
In one single, solitary, silent prayer.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Awakened


Some mornings I wake early
And sit awhile with Sally
Who sits awhile with me
Keeping warm on my blanket
Against the chill.

Sally rotates an ear:
An over-excited dog straining a leash,
The rusty squeak of an old truck’s leaf springs,
A sharp word rising from a late-for-work neighbor,
Two starlings touching down in the patio,
Wary birdy bleatings.

Sally meow-chirps in emulation,
Her only impression.

Now lifting her chin,
Sally points her ears toward the back bedroom
Where my wife rises from sleep:
Turning on water,
Clattering the soap dish,
Tapping a toothbrush on the edge of the sink,
Opening a closet door.

Sally leaps from my lap
To greet her mistress,
Leaving me here,
Awakened.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Another


After all these years of earnest self-improvement,
After all the studying,
All the prayers,
The self-examination,
The questions,
The meditation,
The false euphoria,
The despair,
If I awaken one morning
As another,
If I am new,
If my sight has been restored,
If I again see the world
Through the innocent eyes of a happy child,
But the world I have made,
The life I have lived,
All my old obligations
Beckon still,
Then?


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Animal Force


There is an animal force
That moves me toward you
But I resist,
For there is no heart in it.
It is all accident,
An accident of time,
Circumstance,
Genetics.

I admit all manner of impulse
For honesty’s sake,
And for the same reason
Withdraw consent.

Conditioning and confinement,
So much to blame
For our transgressions.
We look to all available drugs
To ease what cannot be so quickly cured.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

She Is Living Still


In an expensive restaurant,
Sitting at the shadowed bar,
The aging beauty sips a glass of wine,
Sways slightly to the prerecorded music,
And old recording of a young Tony Bennett,
“It had to be you . . .”

This is her favorite place,
Surrounded by her wealthy, aging friends,
Bathed in frivolity and alcohol-fueled laughter
About nothing in particular,
Just the pleasure of being momentarily amused.

She sees me watching her
And instinctively angles her bare left shoulder forward,
Her best feature at this delicate age,
The smooth, sun-freckled skin of her shoulders.
She rests her chin on the back of her right hand,
Pulling the wrinkled skin of her neck a little tighter,
Her worst feature, despite the surgery.

It is a practiced pose,
Coming so naturally now,
Reflexively engaged when the old passions stir,
When a younger man catches her attention.

O that sleek young girl who turned every head,
Who won the heart of more than one wealthy man,
Who considered all offers,
Negotiated the best deal available,
O that lost and lonely young girl,
Living still.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Headstones


We are tucked in safely below the turf
For our last long sleep.
From a distance,
No one would know we were there.

But in the old sections
The ancients rise above.
They are from another time,
From a different world,
Believers in the annunciation of mortality.

We lie beneath them.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Anguished Soul


Your anguished soul cries out
Because your dreams of fame and fortune
Are only dreams
And evaporate like dew at sunrise,
Just a little daylight
And the real world takes over.

But you persevere,
You work on those dreams
In all your spare moments
Until one day
You finally get a break
And the Company decides
Your Anguished Soul
Is the next big thing
And it happens:
T-shirts and coffee mugs,
The Anguished Soul Tour,
Television talk shows.

You become the voice for all those anguished souls
Who watch television late into the night
And dream of being you,
Not realizing
They already are.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Child


There is a child in me,
Surprised at what he sees,
This eternal child,
Always surprised,
Especially now,
Seeing the passage of time
Marked upon my face.

O time,
I still don’t understand,
Though I’ve changed from boy to man,
Though I will change from what I am,
The child,
Remains.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Designated Places


You and I were fallen angels when we met,
Fallen from illusions of a certain control over life,
Thrown together by the certain fate of happenstance,
Anonymous in our dark, confessional corners,
Free to be disarmingly honest.

We had little left to lose,
Certainly not vanity,
Not in our drowning gasps,
Not in the freefall of our despair.

Yet we were reprieved by our surrender
And familiarity welcomed us back,
Each to our designated places,
Rejoining the world,
No longer close.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Praying


Praying,
All this praying,
Filling empty time,
Becoming a substitute,
Becoming the center of your life.

When at last the promise appears
You turn away,
Too comfortable now
In the familiar sameness of prayer.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Questions


Why?
Why am I alive
When with every breath I take a child dies?

Am I just another ant in the ant farm?
Or am I a traveler on the road to divinity?

Am I a blade of grass reaching for the sun?
Or am I a ray of sunlight cast indiscriminately upon the world?

Perhaps I am just a man with time on his hands,
Time to think beyond bodily needs,
Time to ask questions,
Time to create questions out of madness,
Madness that comes when living itself is not enough.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Do Not Grieve


Do not grieve for me,
For I am standing at the edge of the sea,
With one foot still in this world,
The other in eternity.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Anatomy


Inside,
There is light and dark,
Without reason,
For reason follows intuition,
And intuition follows
Something I cannot name,
Something light,
Something dark,
A place in the heart
Which is not really the heart,
Which is not really a place.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Animal Again


O the noise,
The fire,
The mad multitudes,
Armed,
Dangerous.

This new society,
So sick of civilization,
Animal again.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

My Love Asks Nothing


My love asks nothing of you,
My love is its own reward,
And punishment.

If you do not love me
My love will leave you alone
And I will continue to feel great pleasure,
Great pain.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

An Apple Or An Orange


I could not decide
Whether to buy an apple
Or an orange,
And the harder I tried
The more I realized
Just how bad I feel
About you
And me.

Just pick up one or the other,
I told myself,
Or both,
What does it matter?

I walked out of the store
With nothing.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Amen


When you begin a prayer
You open a door.

Keep the door open.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

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

Angels Can Only Do So Much


Angels can only do so much,
Depending on their age, experience and motivation,
Intercession not being as easy as one might suppose.

Consider political upheavals.
Consider natural disasters.
Angels can only do so much.

And there is considerable reluctance among the winged
To capriciously alter the course of human events,
Knowing how motivational calamity can be,
What with all the problem-solving it requires,
Knowing how the evolution of the human race
Is enhanced by a few obstacles now and then.


~ 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

This Politician


The solemn occasion,
The honored dead,
The grief of a nation assembled in memoriam.

The earnest words,
The inspired speech delivered by this politician,
A showcase of compassion
Cleverly constructed by his speechwriters
To magnify his public image.

O the tortured expressions of sorrow.
Yes, he feels our pain,
Yes, he casts his humanity out upon our weary nation,
A nation so desperately in need of a leader.

This politician presents himself,
Offers himself,
This humble servant of the people,
This shepherd,
Eager to employ the suffering of a nation
To his own ends.

Those skeptics among us,
Aware of his grandiose disingenuousness,
Can not,
Will not forget how many lies he has spoken,
Winning so many earnest hearts and minds
With such sanctimonious deceit.


~ 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

Something Sleeps


Ordinary life,
A blessing really,
For those of us who have it.

Food,
Shelter,
Family,
Friends.

Yet,
Something sleeps in ordinariness.


~ 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