A Small Depression


The coffee ripples into a small wave in the plastic cup
As I make a left turn onto a sun-melted asphalt road
And my right front tire dips into a small depression,
Causing the wave of coffee to crest and break,
Splashing through the tunnel-shaped opening in the plastic lid,
Falling through space from the arch of my cup-embracing fingers,
Splashing my left pant leg, five inches above the knee.

Three spots of coffee
And I curse,
Feeling the futility of yet another Monday morning
As I drive past an old lady shuffling down the sidewalk,
Moving the aluminum-tubed superstructure of her walker
One step ahead, followed by two or three half-footsteps.

Soon,
Very soon,
I will need another cup of coffee.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Sight For Sore Eyes


How insignificant we are
Among the minions of space
And time.
Yes, yes,
It’s the profound realization of our age
Among those not generally given
To profound realizations.
I hear it all the time,
Spoken with reverential awe
By some initiate
For whom a certain curtain
Has only recently
Lifted.

But what if we are the only things on two legs
That cerebrate so
In the neighborhood of this particular infinity?
The only coffee shop in sight
On that long and lonely interstellar highway?
Well, that would be something,
Wouldn’t it?
We just might be a real sight for sore eyes
After all,
The whole damn bunch of us.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

A Small Dog In France


There is a time for every whatever,
For even ignorance shall have revenge
And the stupid shall be lucky,
Confirming their faith in false gods
While criminals go unpunished
Yet still repent and so be saved.

Much of what we know shall be wrong
Though we will prosper from our illusions
And die happy,
Blissfully free from insight and revelation.

We shall be overcharged for groceries
Again and again
And our overcharges will go undetected
While lazy, good-for-nothing brothers-in-law
Live to their nineties,
Free from disability and disease,
Complaining.

Foolish teenagers shall be hypnotized
With dull employments,
Falling in love with the eternal charm of mediocrity,
Getting married and procreating astronauts.

A small dog in France will speak by accident.
Drinking from a backyard swimming pool
On a sultry summer night,
He will turn quickly to see a skinny orange cat
Slink across the fence top.
His mouth full of unswallowed water,
He will bark: “Bonjour!”
But no one will hear him except the cat,
Who,
Knowing the small fuzzy canine cannot reach him,
Will not care.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Bird, Tree and Sky


When my children were young,
Before I went to bed
I’d peek inside each room,
Watch them sleep awhile,
Watch them sinking into the sea of night,
Hear their soft, earnest breathing,
And the voice said:

See the treasure of your life.
This will pass.


I am sitting outside in the morning sun,
Estimating the days I have left.
A scrub jay comes for a peanut,
Stills a moment and looks at me,
Then grabs a peanut off the fence and flies.

She is young, sleek and quicker than an eye blink.
Her flying is more like falling,
Falling from one branch to another,
Then a few strong flaps and gravity is reversed
And she falls up, up,
To the top of a tree and squawks three times,
And the voice says:

Her life is short, yet free from regret.
You will know her children.


The warm sun feels good these late autumn days.
The tree is green, red and brown
And the sky is the color of my eyes,
And the voice says:

Bird, tree and sky,
See the treasure of your life.
This will pass.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Last Day Of Summer


The last long summer day,
The last long summer afternoon,
The orange auburn light of the setting sun,
Hastening my play,
Delay, delay.

The air still and cool,
I am alone,
My friends called home,
Alone and still playing,
Delaying, delaying.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Sheeps


The hills are alive
With the sound of sheep,
They sleep all day long
But at night they creep,
Into the houses
Of young girls and boys
And put on their clothes
And play with their toys.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Consequences


You have not said,
I love you,
And I fear you never will.

I have not said,
I love you,
And I fear I never will.

But my greatest fear
Is that we love each other
And are too afraid of consequences to speak.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Seasons Change


The long days
Filled with sunshine
Seemed eternal,
But this morning,
The rain.
It will be dark
By early afternoon.

The longing in my heart
Knows no season.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Disengagement


So many possessions,
A blur as I pass from room to room,
Accumulations,
Decades of forgotten memories,
Tombstones.

Some are gifts,
Dutifully displayed for recognition by the givers,
Some inherited,
Retained by generations,
Heavy with age.

Most are the random ephemera
Of this temporary life,
Temporarily under my custodial care,
Faded by familiarity.

Someday,
Disentangled from ownership,
I will be an old man living an unadorned life,
Having long since digested frivolity,
Ready to make that final disengagement,
Leaving all that is temporal
Behind.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Saying The Word


It’s easy not to believe,
To scoff at the personification of God,
The majestic bearded man
Who decides everything,
The prayer specific saints,
The miraculous interceding angels,
The signs and symbols.

But alone in the dark,
Surrounded by the suffering of this world
I find myself praying,
Saying the word.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Still There?


When you were a baby,
When you cried and no one came,
When you cried and no one held you,
Or when someone finally came
But there was no comforting . . .

Now that you’re older
Do you hunger for affection?
Is the baby still there?
Still crying?
Can you ever let that baby go?


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

I Am Dog


I’ll always be a dog,
God alone knows why,
Not cat, not horse, not snail,
I’ll never open mail,
Though I sometimes try.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Saved


Go ahead and pray,
Pray for things both selfish and unselfish.
If you are blessed,
Many of the things you pray for will not come.

In this way shall you be saved.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Saturday Morning


At the first light of morning
I take a handful of peanuts
And place them beneath the tree
Where the bird feeder swings
From the sudden departure of another early riser.

They are for the crows
Who wait until I am back inside
And even then
Watch me suspiciously
As I watch them
Step cautiously
Toward the peanuts.

The first crow hunches down
And does a ruffled-feather
Head-bobbing “caw caw caw caw!”
To test the safety of the place.
Then the others come,
Walking stiffly,
Taking one,
Two,
Sometimes even three peanuts in their beaks,
Flying hastily away.

The last crow takes a single peanut,
Carries it to the middle of the street
And stabs the shell open
To reach the seed within.

It’s early.
The streets are empty.
The air is filled with mist and fog
And all I hear is the sound of birds
Singing to this new day,
To one another.

The peanut comes white and full
From its shell,
And the salty taste is good.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Satisfied As I Am


Satisfied as I am
With the life I’ve lived,
Marriage and family,
Work and income,
Responsibilities and accomplishments,
Satisfied as I am,
Last night I dreamed.

I am a young artist
Living in a little house overlooking the ocean,
Lying awake in a moonlit room
Next to a dark-skinned girl who loves me,
Listening to the sound of the sea
While she moves her fingers across my shoulder blade,
Slows her breathing,
Then gently kisses my neck.

Satisfied as I am,
Last night I dreamed.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The First Time


Here,
This is the spot,
Beneath this ancient oak,
A perfect climbing tree
With low, outstretched limbs,
Welcoming.

Here,
Beneath this ancient oak
Is where you spread out your blanket
On the cool shaded grass.

A swaying patch of filtered sunlight illuminated us,
Lying so close together on the blanket’s gentle cushion,
Your name sewn in fancy script across the top
By some Chinese factory worker
Who will never know how lovely you lay
Beneath your beautiful name,
A name so beautiful to me
In the fading light of that passing summer afternoon,
When you first wanted me.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Some Small Comfort


At last I understand
How I’m killing myself,
From the inside out,
How I internalize all the stress,
All of life’s disappointments and defeats,
Rerouting them from the psyche
To various essential organs,
Making psychological despair a physical reality,
Something that shows up on a medical exam,
Something I can point to and say:
“Yes, there it is – right there.”

Ennui made flesh.

At last I understand
How I’m killing myself.
Some small comfort,
Knowing how the dying is done.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Shelter


When the moment comes,
When you are alone with time,
Time enough to step outside of time,
When you see things and people from a distance,
From outside the whirlpool,
Earth from the moon,
The universe,
All within the space of thought,
When you walk down a darkened, tree-lined street
And each home is illuminated by electronic screens
Echoing entertainment for world-weary workers,
Defining entertainment,
Then contemplation comes,
Ideas dissolving into feelings without words,
Feelings hard to share
With your busy, distracted friends,
Feelings hard to reveal
To your disinterested, self-absorbed family.

This is a good place you’ve found,
A clear place,
Shelter.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Exiles


Leaving the office late last night
I passed by harshly lit co-worker cubicles,
All the carefully framed photos of smiling children,
Of loved ones,
Precisely placed,
Reassurance during the long working day,
A bond of love in our lives.

We are exiles,
Returning home for a few exhausted hours
To again be husbands and wives,
Parents and children,
Families.

Together again
For those precious few hours
That work allows.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

I Walk


For all the foolish things I’ve done,
I walk.
For all my transgressions,
My sins,
I walk.
For the cleansing of my soul,
One stubborn stain at a time,
I walk.
Step by step on solitary paths
Without sound,
I walk.
Across busy streets,
On crowded sidewalks
Filled with noisy chatter,
I walk,
Alone,
So much undoing to be done.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Books


I do not read books,
I absorb them.

I bring them home from thrift shops,
From library book sales,
From the few remaining bookstores.
They come in the mail
From online booksellers who no longer have stores,
Who never had stores.

I carefully lift off price tags,
Dissolving and removing adhesives,
Erasing random careless markings,
Mending book jackets,
Unfolding and ironing creased pages,
Bent page corners.

I take the book in hand,
Savoring its weight and dimensions,
Marveling at the number of pages the author has filled
While struggling to maintain the interest of the reader
With every page,
Every sentence.

I look at the copyright page,
Determining popularity by number of editions.
If the book is somewhat rare or otherwise notable
I may research the title to see if it is a first printing,
If it has some monetary value.
If worthy, I will reinforce the jacket with a plastic cover.

If the book is especially notable
For some public or private reason,
I will place it in segregation with my other titles of distinction.
But if it is a common edition,
It will likely go on shelves alphabetized by author,
Or those organized by subject matter.

If the work is exuberantly praised and widely read,
A favorite of the literati,
The cognoscenti,
It will join other such highly recommended books,
Pushed to the front of the line,
Waiting to be read.

~ ~ ~

Late at night when uncertainties haunt my troubled soul
I walk past my many bookshelves,
Reading spines,
Titles and authors of books read and unread.
I am filled with characters, places and stories,
Filled with the lives of the writers,
Imbued with the infinite expanse of imagination,
And I succumb.

I pull an intriguing title from the shelf,
Slide into my most comfortable chair,
Turn on the lamp,
Wipe smudges off the lenses of my reading glasses,
Examine the art of jacket design,
The typography,
The illustrations, of some,
Feel the weight and surface texture of the paper,
Marvel at the physicality of the word made flesh,
Turn a few pages and begin.

I am filled with story,
Transported to locale,
Relocated in time,
Gifted with omniscience,
Enlarged by experiences and insights.

Here, in my tiny corner of the universe,
In these solitary hours after midnight,
Bathed in soft yellow lamplight,
My isolation has ended.
I have rejoined the human race,
Alone no more.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Third Banana


This morning I had two bananas,
Brought home from the market,
Placed in an empty bowl,
The same bowl where I always put my bananas.

Two bananas.

Then,
Just for a moment,
A vision from a parallel universe
Slipped through that cosmic boundary
That separates multiverses.

Then,
Just for a moment,
I saw another, older banana in the bowl,
Next to those two new bananas.

Three bananas.

So vivid was this inconsequential vision
That I examined the bowl more closely,
Expecting to see the third banana,
Perhaps lying sideways along the inside curve of the bowl,
Initially obscured from view,
But there were only two.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Too Far, Too Close


I am too far from spring
To wonder what summer will bring,
Too old to plan by season,
Too close to death for reason.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

I Am Leaving


I do have my cherished memories,
But too often they are tarnished with regret
For all those errors in judgment,
Youthful indiscretions,
Actual sin,
Stress-induced confusion,
Knee-jerk anger,
Petty selfishness,
Callous insensitivity,
All so momentary,
Yet haunting,
Still.

I am doing my best to ruthlessly edit,
Cutting as much angst as I can,
But it’s hard to pull out the roots intact,
They remain,
Old wounds reopen.

I am leaving,
Going to the place of forgetting,
Packing light,
For the weight of a long life
Is too much to bear,
All those unresolved thoughts,
The cacophony,
Deafening.

I am leaving.
It is enough to have lived this life,
Enough to have fallen into the bottomless pit of despair,
Enough to have been electrified with joy,
Enough to have made the journey.

I am leaving,
Day by day,
Moment by moment,
Nothing much more to say,
Nothing much more to do,
I am leaving.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Sanity


Denied and defeated in love,
Sanity slowly returns
And I am again a practical person,
Again able to agitate
Over other pressing matters of the day,
Wiser, but no longer weightless.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Saints In Waiting


If we were saints
Living the lives of abandoned insects
Under parked cars
With our antennae finely tuned
Into God’s frequency,
We would praise the glories
Of our tiny lives,
The stray fast-food crumbs,
A patch of dew-laden crabgrass.

Behold this mighty river of asphalt,
My children,
And fear not the larger beasts.
We are the chosen,
And through our selfless purity
We shall inherit this earth.

Not long now,
Our time to come.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Fanatic


We are the true believers.
We will do anything,
Anything,
For the cause.

How dedicated we are,
That we can so easily dismiss
The sanctity of a human life
To accomplish our quest.

We will show God our righteousness,
Our fearlessness,
No matter how many we have to kill.

No compromise.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Saints


The saints so often say
We must give up wanting,
Surrender desire,
Disregard comfort,
Give everything to the poor
And live a life of service
To others.

They are like so many in this world
Who choose a path,
Who fulfill a destiny,
Then declare it is the only path,
The only destiny.

Even saints suffer from certainty.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Sad


Sad enough
When you try to fly
And fall.

Sadder still
When you do not try
At all.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Sacred


What do you hold sacred?

Not in your places of worship,
Your churches,
Your temples,
Your mosques.

Not in your ceremonies,
Your practices,
Your prayers.

It is no real test
When you are harnessed with the obligations
Of pious behavior.

Show me what you hold sacred
In a crowded parking lot,
When the hunger is upon you
For a really good parking space.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Metamorphic


A rock
Is a rock
Is an idea.

Hold on just a minute!
You say,
A rock is a real tangible thing.

But right now,
I say,
You do not hold a rock in your hand,
You hold it in your mind,
The idea of a rock, that is.

And even when you hold it in your hand,
I say,
It’s the idea of a rock that gives it a name,
That suggests a use.

Yes,
You say,
Such as hurling it at me
So I will stop talking
And go away.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Where Memory Lives


Where memory lives,
Where is this place?

Neurologists can pinpoint the part of the brain
Where memory resides,
Overstuffed file folders
Fading from consciousness with time,
Changed by the imperfections of recall,
Missing chapters reconstructed
By imagination and emotional predisposition,
By storytelling,
By the human habit of constructing a logical narrative
From the random events of a life.

Living memories are different somehow,
Constantly present,
Actively contributing myriad gradations of pleasure and pain
To the unfolding events of our lives,
Content as well as context,
Engaged.

Yes, scientists know where memory is stored,
And perhaps some celestial record of human events
Contains all that we have done,
All that we have thought.
But where memory lives,
Where is this place?


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Rush Hour


O this endless sea,
This endless migration
Of caffeine-injected commuters
Across vast concrete,
Squinting against the glare
Of this newly risen sun
In this unremarkable miracle
Of another new day.

I am captive here.

We are flung through finite space
As fast as fate allows
Until
Ahead
A sea of red
And this procession gravely slows.

All are slowed:
The pursuit of success,
The descent into failure,
The approach of destiny.

All are slowed,
Then slowly stopped,
And then we crawl,
Harnessed to the yoke
Of some terrible master.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Like A Rhino


How like a rhinoceros,
My dissatisfaction,
My petulance.
A rhino in a sushi bar,
All thumbs.
A meadowlark in a turbine,
All feathers.
A guy writing this stuff down,
On paper,
Trying to fabricate meaning,
Watching the tip of his pen
Carefully outline letters, words,
Whole incomplete phrases,
Hoping some great dark muse
Will speak.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Reverence


We are taught to revere the old ways
Of our beloved ancestors,
Their ancient wisdom,
Honed over generations
Into this perfect jewel,
Hard,
Prismatic,
Eternal,
An ornament
Worn so proudly by those who know,
Our teachers,
The guardians of all knowledge,
The caretakers of the past.

Impediments.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

A Reminder


I bought a book
Full of wisdom and light.
Inside its spine,
A small, rectangular anti-theft computer chip,
Reminding me,
I live in a nation of thieves.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Rehab


Honesty,
Pure honesty,
Every waking moment.

See the past,
Change the future,
No matter what you’ve done,
No matter how long it takes,
No matter how many times you fail
And fall,
Start again,
This day,
This moment.

Honesty is the first step,
Pure honesty,
Every waking moment.

From this all blessings come.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

In Winter I Scarcely Remember


In winter I scarcely remember
The long and languid days of summer,
The delicate yellow dress
And how its straps fell
From your thin, sculptured shoulders,
How it melted away
From your golden body.

We were perfect together,
Naked,
Unashamed,
Bathed in sunlight,
Love and lust.

We had all day,
All summer,
And the days were long and languid,
Without end,
Without consequence,
So long ago,
Those summer days I scarcely remember.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Reasons


There are plenty of reasons
Why not,
But they all vanish
At the thought of your touch.

All we have in this life
Are moments,
And another moment with you
Is reason enough.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Really


You do not have to want
What the world wants,
Or be what the world wants you to be.

You can be happy without a fortune,
Content without fame.

Really.

You do not have to seek
What the world seeks,
Or give up what the world gives up.

You can be the first of a kind
And the last,
And never mind.

Really.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Reality


For a while,
It looked like it might be dark
All day,
So few actually taking the time
To believe in the sun anymore.

But familiarity breeds belief,
So the sun again appeared
And filled the sky with light.

It is a lesson to be relearned each morning,
That we must never,
Ever,
Take reality for granted,
As if it would continue on its own,
In a vacuum.

Reality depends on us all.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Real Test


Getting old is the real test,
For everything once so easy and automatic
Falls away,
And the energy to resist
Slows,
And the desire for comfort
Anesthetizes.

Look around you my young friends,
It seems so obvious now,
All the letting go,
So manifest in the old.

Never, you earnestly swear,
Imbued with that quick certainty of youth,
Never will this happen to me.

Wait, I earnestly implore,
Battered by the steady decay of years,
Wait and see.

Getting old is the real test.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Real Love Is Not Clever


Real love is not clever.

Real love is clumsy,
Awkward,
Unsynchronized,
Inappropriate,
Embarrassing,
Stumbling,
Falling,
Grasping,
Letting go,
Giving up,
Miserable,
Necessary.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Real Horror


Another atrocity
And writers all around the world
Take pen to paper,
Knowing the real horror
Resides in the mind
And must be addressed.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Homecoming


When it all falls apart
And you have nowhere left to go,
Where do you go?

You go home,
To that little house on the corner,
In that little town,
That little room with that little bed,
Still there,
As if your parents knew
You would not make it on your own,
Out there.

They kept your room ready
For your homecoming,
Coming home to where it’s all too small
For this forsaken soul you are,
A child once more.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Rapture


I could say,
You awaken something eternal in me,
The ineffable heart of God,
Resuscitated,
Pulsing through every pore,
Deafening,
Blinding,
Revelatory.

I could invent a dozen different ways
To describe how you make me feel,
How I make myself feel when I am with you.

But when we meet,
Words fall away
And all is rapture.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

My Table And Chairs


If I had no table and chairs,
No house full of possessions,
Then perhaps I would go to an impoverished land
And give what help I could.

But I am bound by prosperity
And frightened by change,
Blessed and confined by the things I own,
That own me.

Whole generations of my family
Have stayed together,
Remained loyal, long-suffering and patient,
Held together by the glue of family heirlooms,
The ancient oak table and chairs,
Houses full of possessions.

Life is short and my time is running out
And I am called.
Yes, I hear the voice calling me
Out into a new world,
But my table and chairs won’t let me go.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Question and Answer


Are the rigorous fish screaming?

No, I’m dreaming.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Question


I know there are some
Who ask if there is a soul.

Yet is it not a surprising question?
As if someone turned to you,
Stopped you on a crowded city sidewalk
And asked: Do you believe in the body?

Belief comes after the fact.

Yes, I know,
We cannot photograph the soul
Or slip a fragment of it under a microscope.

Yet the very idea of spiritless being
Causes something in me to recoil,
Something that cannot deny its own existence,
Something I call,
If I must,
The soul.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Put Words Away


Stop,
Just for a moment
And speak to me from your heart.

I’m weary of polite conversation,
Workplace banter,
Conventional wisdom.

Walk with me outside our preordained roles
And let our words unfold.
Let us whisper love’s confessions in the dark
Then, put words away.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Put A Pat


When this world feels too rough
For my lamb and honey soul,
I put a pat of butter
On my lovely cinnamon roll.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

A Manageable Ailment


I used to think my old friend despair
Was a measure of my distance
From the angels,
But lately it occurs to me,
What with things the way they are,
Angels may not feel too good themselves
These days.

Scratch the surface of this half-sane man,
See despair coursing through my arteries,
Rich, red stuff,
Spilling out from a wounded heart,
Less than poison,
A manageable ailment.

Yes, I manage it.
It flows and ebbs,
Ebbs and flows,
And at its worst
I accept it as the cost of things,
The way they are.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Prosperity


If you ever get
Everything you want
You will be a slave
To prosperity.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Propriety


At last I understand
Why I am not supposed to love you.

The passage of time,
Distance,
Acceptance,
Have brought me to my senses,
Whatever that means.

Now everything can be explained,
Understood from a psychological perspective.

Reason and logic reassert their power
To expose and embarrass my foolish heart,
My childish dream,
The passion that rages still,
Now confined within this dark prison of propriety.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Prophets


So many prophets,
How we revere them,
Study their lives,
Read their writings,
Marvel at their prognostications,
Follow their instructions,
Dismiss their detractors,
Proselytize the unenlightened,
Prepare for the promised apocalypse.

So many prophets,
Distracting us from the eternity of this moment.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

A Purple Shoelace


As I walk toward the growing darkness
Along the sunset trail,
The last of the after-hour walkers pass me by,
Returning to their parked cars
And nightly routines.

Many are deep in determined conversation,
With walking partners or cellphone voices.
Others are earbud oblivious,
Even to their over-eager dogs,
Straining at the leash.

I am alone in silence,
Bearing witness to the last auburn rays of light
Retreating from nearby hillsides,
Earlier each day now.
I hear rustling leaves whisper the coming of autumn.

And there,
One lost purple shoelace,
Tied to the chain-link fence.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Prayers


How long do prayers persist?
How often must they be repeated?
What are minutes and hours,
What is the length of a day to a prayer,
Or to God?

Does God tally prayers,
Weighing some against others?
Or is such somber accounting left to angels and saints?
Are prayers judged by earnestness?
Do they ascend by urgency?

It is worry in me that encourages prayer,
Worry and love,
Love and fear,
Knowing that in this world
Science and happenstance will not be denied.

Even if God were no more than disinterested science,
Unyielding to desires both noble and base,
I would not have my heart grow so cold
As to abandon what is so easily accomplished.

You may not believe your prayers are heard,
But if they open your ears to the longings of your heart,
If they inspire reformation and action,
If they awaken the desire to be honest in all things,
If they cast light on the path ahead,
They are not wasted.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

A Ponderous Chain


She walks with some difficulty,
A slight limp,
A bit of a hobble,
Sagging and stooping,
Suffering the burden of her enormity,
Yet still able to push the shopping cart
Packed full of unnecessary food.

Link by link
She has forged a ponderous chain.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Politics


O simple-minded hardworking soul,
Crushed by need
And greed,
I mourn for you
And I celebrate you
As I assemble these thoughts
From the refuge of my comfortable chair
In my comfortable house,
Comfortable neighborhood,
Comfortable life.

Just when you thought your hardscrabble life
Could be exploited no further,
I am here to mourn you,
To celebrate you,
To employ you as an illustration
Of my humanity,
Of my selfless dedication to your well-being,
For which I expect ample praise and admiration.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Ocean


Some of us stand at the edge of the shore,
At a safe distance,
While others come closer,
Getting their feet wet,
Racing away from any sudden surge.
Some wade in deeper,
Yet still careful to avoid strong currents.

I am reckless.
I go in deep,
Enveloped and submerged,
Helplessly swept out to sea.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Poised


Her wings,
So beautiful,
Translucent and glistening in the dewy light of dawn,
So perfect,
Unscarred,
New.

She is ready,
Yet still momentarily poised
Between perfection
And flight.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Going Home


Where did she come from?
Where was she going?
We wondered
As she wandered through our manicured neighborhood,
This disheveled woman in ragged clothes,
A torn bedroll tied to her back,
Her long stringy hair matted and dirty
Like the fur of an old cat too feeble to clean itself.

She shuffled along the sidewalk in the growing twilight,
Past a startled family getting into their shiny white car,
On their way to the new restaurant,
The wide-eyed boy and girl struck dumb
By this alien intruder.

She did not know where she was.
She often didn’t know,
But on this day something called her,
Called her toward the mountains,
The eternal mountains glowing purple in the darkening sky.
Something pulled her through this foreign place,
Past these homes with white-faced windows,
Staring,
Staring,
All staring out at her.

She was returning
And she would know when she got there,
She would know it was the right place,
The place that called her,
Called her past the houses filled with the safe yellow light,
Past the houses filled with the busy sound of happy televisions,
Past the dutiful dog walkers on unbroken sidewalks,
All the way to the underbrush near the hillside trail
Where she would find a private place,
Unroll her sleeping bag,
Watch the sky change from blue violet to black,
Read the twinkling messages of stars,
Receive the omen of the rising amber moon,
Hear the rhythmic hooting of the gatekeeper owl,
Shiver from the sharp penetration of cold and damp,
And dream,
Her eyelids falling,
And dream,
Her breathing slowing.

At last,
At last,
Home again.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Keeping Time


I drive slowly past the place,
The place where she died
Less than an hour ago,
Heard it on the radio,
And there,
Outside my windshield,
The fatal freeway scene.

Traffic is kept moving,
Just a glimpse of ripped steel and fractured glass,
Flashing lights and uniforms,
A double-rig truck knocked crooked,
And then,
Driving fast again.

I fumble with the radio
And find a good station.
I tap the middle finger of my right hand
Against the side of the steering wheel,
Keeping time.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Plotless


Someone is telling my story,
Moving my life from chapter to chapter,
But my storyteller is raw and unskilled.
He labors on and on,
Weaving the most complex and intricate details
Through the most uneventful scenes.

You will wake up early this morning
And drive to work in heavy traffic.
Yes, you will drive to work every day,
Except for the weekends.

Many of us are displeased with our storytellers.
Will our plots ever take some meaningful shape?
I wonder.
These lives are poor fiction.

He wakes up early and takes a cold shower,
Trying to shake off the fatigue
From working late every day this week
In his colorless fluorescent cubicle.
He reties his tie for the third time,
Finds his car keys,
Grabs his half-empty cup of coffee
And begins the long, difficult drive to work.
He listens to the news
And thinks about the many phone calls he must make
When he gets to the office.

It’s a puzzle to me
Why we put up with this at all.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

A Young Woman Waiting For A Bus


She sits alone at the bus stop,
This girl,
With nothing to do
But wait.

She sits alone
Then stands
And runs her left hand,
Her sculptured, articulate fingers,
Down her sunburned hair,
Taking its length
To let the undulating afternoon air
Cool the back of her warm, moist, down-covered neck.

She lets her hair go
Then strokes it again,
A soft sensation of pleasure
Ripples across her skin,
Pleasure from being the lithe, young animal she is.

She looks wistfully down the length of street
For something shaped like a bus
Among the heat-blurred vehicles
Coming toward her.
She is early and expects nothing for a while,
But still she scans the traffic,
Eager to be in motion.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Yippy


It is the time of baby birds and lizards,
Of pollination and persistent sun,
Of rebirth and renewal.

I can hear the tug of Spring
In the spirited barking of Yippy,
The dingy, bedraggled cocker spaniel next door,
Aroused now by every passing dog,
Every wandering cat,
Each exploring squirrel,
Each backyard human.

I remember last year
When Yippy was so full of Spring,
Barking throughout the night at every rustling leaf,
It seemed to Al,
Big Al, we called my neighbor,
A large man bedeviled by barking
As he revisited the ritual of the backyard barbecue.

“God damn that dog!”
I heard him flare across the fence,
Stopping short of formal complaint,
Not one to be outwardly unneighborly.

Perhaps it was all that barbecued red meat that felled Big Al,
Dropping dead at work one chilly day last winter.

Spring has returned
And though old Yippy is clearly a canine in decline,
His barking still carries loud and clear,
And somehow I sense Big Al is near,
Cursing this aged dog who still survives
While human beings drop like flies.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

A Place In Your Heart


There is a place in your heart
No one has shared,
A garden filled with a solitary beauty
Only you can see.

Your life is a waking dream,
Entranced,
Without words,
Searching,
Still hoping someone will come
Who will see what no one else has seen,
Who will know without knowing
That you are the one.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Pick A Flower


Pick a flower
Hold it in your hand
Study it closely
Do not expect anything.

Put the flower in a vase
Wait
Wait
Take it out of the vase
Look at how the petals fall.

Pick up all the petals
Put them in a small envelope
Place it in the back of a drawer.

Eighty years later
Some idle young girl
Will find the envelope
And pour the pieces,
Cracked and broken,
Into her hand.

She rubs both hands together
And turns the petals into dust.
She opens her hands
And blows the remnants over her garden,
A believer in certain unspoken things.

Her favorite rose bush has a bud,
Soon a pale pink flower.
She watches it unfold
Then cuts it from the plant
And puts it in a vase.

After the flower dies,
She takes it from the vase
And drops it into a wastebasket.

Then she remembers.
She retrieves her discarded flower,
The petals slip from her hand
Into a small envelope.

She writes “For You” in her finest hand
And puts it back into the same drawer
And wonders what color
The eyes of her first child will be.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Phone Call


You called me,
A matter of fact phone call,
A small practical matter
Which could not be misconstrued
As anything else,
Could it?

Because I was paralyzed with joy
To hear your voice
And wanted no damage to our friendship,
I could not say anything
Outside of the socially acceptable,
Even less than I might have said
If I did not love you.

After the last formality was exchanged,
The polite liturgy concluded,
I said goodbye
And waited,
But did not hear your voice.

Did we say goodbye simultaneously,
Each hearing only our own voice?
Did you hang up?
I did not hear the connection break.

I stayed on the line,
Listening,
Wondering if you were listening too,
Afraid to speak,
Afraid to hang up,
So lonely in the growing dark of the evening,
Listening for the sound of breathing.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Phantasy


O these love poems that men have wrought,
What woman is so foolish to believe?
Such extravagant, embellished images of thought
Constructed to entice and deceive.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Petty Anarchy


They are spray-painting the trees.

They have turned their inattention
To the natural world
And will not stop
Until they have made it unnatural,
Marred and scarred
With their proclamations of petty anarchy.

They would make this a world
Where nothing is sacred,
Nothing holy,
Not even the infinite grace
Of the least single tree.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Searching For Sugar


This solitary ant walks across the desert
Of my bathroom floor,
Stopping,
Then starting,
Then stopping and starting,
Over and over,
Slight course corrections,
Searching for scent.

The sugar bowl is in another country,
In the land of kitchen,
In a high cupboard,
High above the floor
Where another solitary ant,
Finding a few grains of spilled sugar,
Sensing the source is near,
Needing neither hope nor faith,
Continues.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

People Are


People are
The most dangerous things I know,
Just wind them up
And watch them go.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

I Am Older Now


It used to be fun
To see how long I could hold my breath.

My sister and I had contests
And we’d try to make each other laugh
To break our concentration,
Our determination.

Now,
It just feels like death.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Pearl


Having found a pearl of great value,
He declared:
“This is the only true pearl,”
And he worshipped it,
For it was his
And he was blinded by the sight of it.

He put it away in a safe place,
Kept it hidden,
And never returned to the great open sea
Where there are so many pearls of great value,
Still.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Paul


Early afternoon Paul
Walked out into the middle
Of a busy street.

Standing straight and tall Paul
Removed all of his clothing,
Flinging it about.

Sitting squarely down Paul
Announced to all who’d listen:
“I have seen the light!”

Free and clear Paul
Was reborn on that day,
In the middle of the street
In downtown L.A.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Passion Passes


It hurts to see hot lust
Behind steamy backseat windows
And feel the tug of pure, witless feeling.

Years of intellectual discipline
Have left me addicted to rational things,
Starved for the unspoken language of the young.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Parting


And where is home?
You wonder,
When home and family fall apart
And you’re starting over again,
Driving down darkened streets
That lead to this new place
You hesitate to call home,
Unpacking boxes,
Wondering what kind of logic
Will help you decide
Where old possessions should go.

You cradle a music box,
The first gift.
Too expensive,
Your mother said.
On its lid a portrait
Of two rosy-cheeked children
Sharing a single umbrella,
And you remember all the rainy days
You both walked and walked,
Just to be in motion together.

How young your hearts
In a world so dull and indifferent,
Changed for a while.
The world spreads out before you now
Like a desert,
This new world that seemed so right
In the fever of your white-hot rage,
That seems so blank,
Alone.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Truth Has Jagged Edges


The truth,
Oh yes, even the truth is mutable,
But tonight will be dark,
For the Earth does revolve around the sun
Despite centuries of disbelief.

Truth is hard.
Self-deception is easy,
Comfortable,
Convenient.

Self-deception is logical.

The truth has jagged edges.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Overwhelmed


Overwhelmed by love,
I have nothing left to say,
For when our bodies join,
Pretensions slip away.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Over My Dead Body


If you happen to stumble over my dead body
Someday,
Do not grieve,
Unless it’s mayhem,
And yet you may then
Envy
The way I have taken
My leave.

For if you happen to stumble over my dead body
Someday,
Know I preferred death that way,
Like the swatting of a fly,
In the blink of an eye.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved