Can We Rise?


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

Are we entitled to happiness
While others suffer so?

Must happiness be tempered
And sorrow obeyed?

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

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


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Marrow


The stillness,
Spreading,
Slowing me down.

Anchored,
Observing,
Vicarious.

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

But the process is irreversible.

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


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Sharing The Light


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


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Ready To Fly


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

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

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


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Freedom From Want


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

Soon,
You will go shopping.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

This Mother's Prayer


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

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

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

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


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Shedding


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


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

A Certain Freedom


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

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

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

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


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

My Children Come To My Deathbed


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

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

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

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

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


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Cracked


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

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

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

He was larger.
Multitudes contained him.

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

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


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Back At Work


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

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


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


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

He's Got The Dying Right


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

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

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


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Holding On


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

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

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

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


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Death And Love


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

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

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


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Goodbye Little House


Goodbye little house,
Wretched little place
I thought I'd never escape,
Place of rotting wood, peeling paint,
Dirt as permanent as plaster,
Where everything old gets older,
Everything in disrepair
Remains.
We never owned this little house,
We peopled it,
And our children grew
From toy-hungry babes
To disdainful young adults,
Too big for their rooms now so small.
Goodbye little house,
We leave your careless, untidy neighborhood
For a place where old habits can be refined
And old sins forgiven.
Goodbye little house,
Where all the sloppy work of becoming a family
Was done,
Where the anguish of being and becoming
Was borne.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Into The Wild


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


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Are You Ready To Believe?


Are you ready to believe?
Have you finally fallen,
Fallen so low,
Humbled and humiliated,
Defeated at last by your once insatiable ego,
Fallen so low
That now you are ready,
Ready to believe?

Do not despair,
For this world is chock full of gurus,
Wise ones who will set you straight
For a nominal fee,
If you are truly ready,
Ready to believe.

Surrender your small insignificant self
And join us here in this cavernous auditorium,
Our hands in the air,
Hallelujah!
It’s kindergarten all over again.
Ashes, ashes,
We all fall down.


~ 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,
Skipping through parallel lives,
Endless variations where every alternative plays out,
Even though the “I”
As in,
“Here I am,”
Perceives a singular path.

I’ve always been here,
On the edge of memory,
For no matter how many times I have died,
Here I am,
Living still.

My parallel lives are like television programs.
I change the channel
And sometimes find myself in a life too unfamiliar.
I change the channel again
To find a more familiar episode,
Then continue.

Some of my problems are resolved,
Left behind on another channel.
Some new problems appear,
Although they are not new
To this particular history I've adopted,
Just new to this traveler.

No existence is without consequence,
I have learned.

And so I pick and choose,
Exchanging parallel lives,
Sometimes choosing badly,
So badly that in some lives I forget I can choose.
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 I remember,
I awaken.

I'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.

Perhaps someday I will gather all these lives together
And go home.
Perhaps I am already home.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved