Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Wicker Will Weave


The Wicker Will Weave
If you ask how I'm doing... not very well;
just getting by, as far as I can or will tell;
Going down for the count, on a count of one,
on account of, you're done; I had barely begun.
I am merely a glass of water, you an artesian well;
Choice was mine, circle the drain, or break your spell.
Gaze at a different mountain, climb a different cloud,
Hang up a different veil, lift a different shroud.
Don't bother with details, burden of proof is on me;
Dispelling rumors, debunking myths; I hold that key.
I never listened when she implied I give up my boyish ways,
Now swept away; recalling what she decreed our end of days...
when she said...
“I wonder what lengths you might go, to keep me close,
when I begin to drift away, as I will inevitably will do.
Dropping my guard along the way, you got closer than most.
Did it ever occur to you, I was just passing through?
Somewhere in the process, you relaxed, dropped defenses.
Does this implied epiphany really catch you off guard?
Either way, don't beat yourself up for taking chances.
When silence settles, does it matter who had the last word?”
I readily admit, when that hammer fell, I was ill equipped;
It was a hard pill to swallow when I saw how far I'd slipped;
Time wasted like excess sap on the side of a maple tree,
Waters that were tried and true and tread, swept from me.
Find me now, sitting on a park bench, in search of clues;
Past the stage of mourning, no ready breath left to accuse.
Outsourcing emotion is a bad habit, one hard to kick;
Surely it is possible to teach an old dog one new trick.
Why get back up on that pony, with no finish line in sight?
Because I did not give up or give in without a fair fight?
She sure seemed happy, for one caught in throws of divorce,
When she laid down her law to me, in her matter of course...
as she said...
“Relationships tiered, on multiple levels, assembled in stages;
When the clock says closing time, one degree of separation;
Hold on to a renegade mood with all your might, read gauges;
My eyes reflect no measure of shared guilt or explanation.
Take at face value, merely my way of offering fair warning;
Reference material, should you go back and look for clues.
It is your choice, should you choose a lifetime of mourning.
It is my choice to break the ties that bind, as I now choose.
So here I dwell, in search of some alternative solution.
And, I really do believe in the healing power of absolution.
And, I know she spoke the truth, saying I have a choice.
When all is said and heard, the answers come from my voice.
When the lights go down and truth comes out, as I perceive;
My toe dipping in the water, too close to the edge to leave;
As postcards from a vacation conjure solace, grant reprieve,
The only voice I hear now is mine, and I am geared to receive.
For all said and done, I'd still meet her halfway, I believe,
I will always keep her in my heart and wear it on my sleeve.
But until such amend, I will no longer be found to bereave;
The curtain will come to call, and the wicker will weave.
Michael Todd (2014)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Are You Dying?


Are You Dying?

Call it a thoughtful moment, one perhaps long overdue;
I saw her out and about, and spoke in turn, as if on cue,
"If you don't mind me saying, you are looking nice tonight."
She stopped dead in her tracks, asked if she'd heard me right?

I suppose a compliment coming from me seemed out of place,
and this was not the first time I'd noticed her pretty face.
Granted, for an instant I felt empowered; I cast a smile,
I was expecting one in return. She said, "Not your style."

Normally, I would back up. I just asked what she was implying.
She ruined the entire mood, asking me, "Hey, are you dying?
Seriously, if something is wrong, tell me. I need to hear.
As much as you annoy me, I don't want to see you disappear."

I shook my head from side to side, and quietly walked away.
For all intents and purposes, it should have ended that day,
but I could not get those words she said, out of my head;
I was in the best health of my life, no thoughts of being dead.

For years, I had prided myself on being cynical, as intended;
while it is considered part of my charm, some get offended,
but really, all they need do is chill, and consider the source.
I was comfortable in my sarcastic skin, for better or worse.

It took her little time to share her viewpoint, so slanted;
soon, our small circle of friends feared I would be planted.
Phone calls and text, social media remarks, coming my way,
mostly beating around the bush, wondering how I felt today?

"What's the matter," "Have you seen a doctor?" "How do you feel?"
Honest to goodness, this couldn't be happening, but it was real.
No matter at the efforts I expended, I was not able to deflect.
I treated each one with kid gloves, showing nothing but respect.

My smart ass persona fell by the wayside, as if put in reverse.
Wouldn't you know, that only served to make the situation terse.
Now each was witnessing my "transformation" in person, firsthand,
at how conciliatory I had become, though this was not planned.

Eventually, the sad tidings brought about a negative effect.
I began to ponder the eventual outcome of my real health neglect.
It was a good thing I had insurance, and a decent pharmacy deal;
two visits to a doctor, a sniffle and a physical; spin the wheel.

I stopped taking calls and messages, setting my sites to "away,"
putting my social life on hold, going straight home at end of day,
opting to sit in the dark and dwell, or cast a mirror a glance;
became a bonafide germaphobe, not about to take a chance.

With no one available, I turned to the mirror to plead my case.
"On the verge of pushing up daisies, can you see it on my face?
Am I about to check out in the near future? Look into my eyes!
Tell me what I need to know, and be straight; tell me no lies."

We worked it out, that glass and me. I'd fallen prey to a ruse,
and it was up to me to turn it all around; I just had to choose.
Determined to get my feet on, not under, solid ground, but how,
was yet to be determined. I needed a believable way to disavow.

I put my master plan together, one that was cunning and bold.
She stepped forward with a revelation that put my move on hold.
She said, "If anyone should sense sarcasm, it was you the most.
That line about you dying was a joke, about giving up the ghost."

This startling revelation she brought, left me dead in my stance.
Was she conciliatory, ridding herself of guilt perhaps by chance,
or was she cleverly spinning my dial, to yet another station,
to leave me further bewildered, toward a deeper resignation?

We eventually worked it out, that girl, the mirror and me.
I found an acceptable attitudinal ground, for all to see.
I still see the girl on weekends, when our schedules allow,
so all things considered, at least I'm not dead to her now.

Michael Todd (2017)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Swimming With the Sharks (for Lainey)


Swimming With the Sharks (for Lainey)

Swimming with the sharks, what an adventure,
when time comes to finally run a race;
a brief respite for those without a cure;
apples not oranges, footing not sure,
a time to redefine goal of first place.

A lesson in charades, for those static,
gladly given up. They know from the start,
all are not measured by the same yardstick;
will make sure today is less traumatic;
swimming with the sharks, worthy counterpart.

A moment to compete, not hide away,
on top of the world, season to define;
to enter in the game, come out and play;
daring to move, keeping the wolves at bay,
ground beneath, showing way to finish line.

When swimming with the sharks, choose to swim deep,
disregarding conventional rule sets.
There are arenas which welcome black sheep,
where the losers rejoice and victors weep.
Provided, this is a good as it gets.

Michael Todd (2017)

Disclaimer: The prompt for this poem was given to me by Lainey. I asked her for an idea. She responded with "swimming with the sharks." Not long after, I saw a video of several instances where people who were physically or mentally challenged, were taking part in athletic endeavors.

There was one where a basketball player got a rebound, and went the length of the court, and on the third try, hit a shot. Players from both teams gave him time and space. When that shot went in, players from both teams celebrated, along with the crowd. It was a magical moment in time.

There were several other defining moments in the video, but the one that got to me was when a player scored a goal in a soccer game, and immediately ran across the field, removed his team jersey, and gave it to a fan, confined to a wheel chair. I had great respect for that player. I have great respect for all of the individuals I saw in the video. I have tremendous respect for those who are impeded and cannot compete on an apples to apples level, but still give it their best.

And as for those who encourage them, I have no proper words to describe, other than to say, to me, they are the finest people, and worthy of acclaim, but odds are good, they don't want or need that.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Friend of My Father (for David McLansky)


Friend of My Father (for David McLansky)

A friend of my Father, is a friend of mine.
Stealth in the shadows, until time to shine,
They would put me in the spotlight, all to see,
Allowing me to join in their camaraderie;
Now past and gone, let this be their shrine.

A friend of my Mother, someone I hold dear;
When I see them now, it is as if she is here.
Envision patchwork quilt, each holds a square,
Catalogued, documented, recall time to share,
Some memories faded, while others shine clear.

A friend of my children will always be welcome.
Even with offspring scattered, not under thumb,
Speaking freely from my side shown, of agnation,
They are free to find solace about this station;
Let them always consider this as a second home.

A friend of my friend, such is David McLansky.
I am grateful, Lainey introduced him to me,
Providing me with a show of strength mentor;
Tried and true, with a wicked sense of humor.
I share this, gratitude from a humble devotee.

Michael Todd (2016)

To read the works of David McLansky, visit his poetry page...

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Aoife O'Donovan Fiddle Camp


Aoife O'Donovan Fiddle Camp

Welcome to the 2016 event of the Minnesota music season;
El Rancho Manana was booked, but not Duluth. The reason
for all the excitement, not seen before here or since is,
Annual Aoife O'Donovan Fiddle Camp is about to commence.

Friday night was set aside for a staged contest for locals,
A talent contest of sorts, to showcase pickers with vocals.
Several bands shone like new money, but still did not win.
The St. Louis County crowd stuffed the ballots once again.

Bertram Haversham and the Bayfront Ramblers took the vote;
with no consolation for second place, that's all she wrote.
For their efforts, the boys will take the stage, authorized
to perform a tune alongside Aoife. Won't she be surprised?

She arrived Friday night, no one knew she was in proximity,
their rented tour bus affording her a measure of anonymity.
Her entourage, Steve, Anthony, and Carl, driver of the bus,
step out, wearing tee shirts proclaiming, "She's With Us."

Saturday morning workshops start promptly at nine, or ten.
Anthony's tutorial on playing mandola is the first to begin.
At another tent, Steve instructs students on Celtic Drums,
Aoife nods in approval, silently rendering Gaelic hums...

At high noon, she takes the stage, fielding random queries.
No question is repeated, until well into the third series,
She explains, moonshine does not come from a crooked still.
Aoife fills in anecdotes of her ride on the music treadmill.

This is the first festival season that she has done solos,
so cannot defer quiz models designed for Thile or Jarosz,
but she is a master of spinning toward her own expertise.
When it comes to song suggestions, "Try a few of these..."

So as to not interrupt, notes are placed at edge of stage.
"Why don't you play a Martin? When did you quit The Rage?"
"Do you know Rabbit in a Log?" (Seems someone is dyslexic.)
"How do you play your guitar so clean without using a pick?"

The game of twenty-plus questions is scattered yet seamless;
most she knows the answers, the rest she hazards a guess.
Shy and unassuming, this girl to the patrons, comes alive,
closing, to their mutual chagrin, "See you back at five!"

After the session, the group leisurely strolls the grounds,
Stopping along the way to sample foods, on their rounds.
The line was long at the Luke's Lutefisk on a Stick stand.
Too bad they ran out of lemonade. This was not well planned.

Five o'clock, the air is filled with an eerie mournful sound
of lawn chairs taking weight, those not sitting on the ground.
Bertram is introduced to Aoife, they step to a microphone;
as soon as his banjo rings, she wishes she was onstage alone.

It seems, "Hot Corn, Cold Corn" was the only song both knew.
Fare you well, Uncle Bert, see you never, when this is through.
As bad as he sang, even to point of misinterpreting a verse,
The Bayfront Ramblers, by any comparison, were even worse.

As the contest winners exited to applause, did a sound linger?
Aoife turned to see Bertram, tuning his banjo, near the singer.
"What key is your next one, little lady?" his question her way.
"If you don't leave, I will kick your shins. You cannot stay."

Ever the consummate professional, she regained her composure,
and navigated through her set. It was truly a magical hour;
her compositions, Irish tunes, sampling Joni and Emmylou,
with an encore sing along of "Oh Mama" and she was through.

At dusk we find Aoife and merry band, walking along the groves,
as parking lot pickers, strength in numbers, gather in droves.
Surrounded by amateur aficionados here in the Land of Prince,
there was one familiar out of tune banjo. That made her wince.

She was approached by a man with a camera, about next year.
Dave, along with committee members, Lia and Deanna, made clear,
come next season, the festival would have a new theme in play.
When revealed, polka was in the offing, Aoife turned away.

She found herself eye to eye with a stranger. In his zeal,
he sounded the news, "She is here. Aoife O'Donovan is here."
As her band mates and bus driver watched in mock disbelief,
Aoife turned and scribbled her name, then gave him relief.

"Yes, I met her, and asked for an autograph. She gave me two.
It is only right that I keep one, and give the other to you."
The mentally challenged fellow meant no harm, and as such,
prized possession in his hand warranted, "Thank you so much!"

That night, she mused, there is a song here, to be found,
and write she did, on the way to Boston, in that Greyhound.
She envisioned Mystic River, fourteen hundred miles to arrive,
thinking, "Hope we don't get lowed bridged on Storrow Drive."

A wake up call from the desk, all is not as it might seem.
Here in Hollywood, California, Aoife awoke from her dream.
At his final Prairie Home Companion, Garrison's reprieve,
She says to Keillor, "I've a story, even you won't believe."

Michael Todd (2016)

Disclaimer: Aoife O'Donovan is a favorite singer of mine. I saw a video of her, and in it, Sarah Jarosz mentioned the song she was about to perform was one she learned from Aoife, early in her career, at a workshop. Aoife responded with something along the lines of "Y'all come to fiddle camp." Well, she probably did not say "Y'all" but you know I tend to embellish. Anyway, that is where I got the idea for this poem. As for the rest, it just all fell into place. 

Aoife was onstage with Garrison Keillor, for his final Prairie Home Companion appearance, in July. That part is real. Also real, is her website, which can be found here...

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Petition (Sonnet for Heather)


Petition (Sonnet for Heather)

How can it be, on the surface perceive,
easy to forgive a perfect stranger,
and so hard to forgive a friend? Reprieve
therein lies, estranged; in truth a danger.

Heavy is a heart, predisposed to grieve.
Elusive bonds, chronicled, and as such,
resigned to resort to wear heart on sleeve,
missing motions, glances she once could clutch.

Bury the stillness of a starless eve,
recalling a place in time, he wasn't here;
afford measure of solace, side bereave;
gone, seldom forgotten; dim what was clear.

Extent of waiver, granted final, pure,
relies on her buying in, steadfast, sure.

Michael Todd (2016)

Sonnet written for Heather Brager.

Acrostic written to Heather M. Brager.

You can find Heather at her site, Touching The Art ...

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Hill to Die On


Hill to Die On

Rodney sat behind the wheel of his souped up Chevrolet.
Becky leaned in to give him a kiss on the cheek for luck.
"You can take him, Hot Rod," all he needed her to say;
For a second, he ignored the revving engine of the truck,

The one poised beside him, the one he was about to race,
The one who had never lost on this makeshift drag strip,
A rural two lane on the outskirts of town, this place;
Soon "mark set go," steering wheel clenched in his grip.

Speed shifting was a thing Rodney did well, call it skill.
As they approached the finish line, up above, on a grade,
Rodney glanced, saw the truck slacking, time for the kill;
He shifted down into overdrive, seeing his opponent fade.

In an instant, clear as glass, he heard a still small voice,
"Is this the hill you want to die on" was what it relayed.
Losing his concentration, or call it nerve, then by choice,
His foot disengaged the accelerator, his speed delayed.

The truck sped by in a flash, then swerved into his lane,
A successful move avoided a head-on with a blinded raccoon.
Thanks to Rodney, neither driver, or critter, was slain,
No one but that driver saw, but never said, by light of moon.

Seeing his life flash before his eyes, brought sense of relief;
Hearing the cheers of the crowd. that was soon pushed aside.
Hot Rod's shot at teenage glory, as well as Becky's belief,
Vanished in that night; and overlooked, he might have died.

When production comes to town, the locals tend to not stray,
Rodney found good factory work, drawing a machinist wage.
A wildcat strike emptied the factory; Rodney was on his way
To join in with the dissenters, most caught up in a rage.

This all came about by a slacker, being justly taken to task.
Rather than face the music, he chose to disrupt and incite.
He misled his cohorts, seeking to hide behind a union's mask.
In time word spread throughout the plant. It was time to fight.

Taking time to stall his lathe, made Rodney last in the chain.
Soon he found his way to a bay door, above the parking lot.
Something came over him, looking down on this sea of disdain;
A feeling once known, but over time set aside to be forgot.

"Is this the hill you wish to die on, choice yours to make?"
This was all it took to give him pause, and choose to halt.
As violence erupted before him, he did not make that mistake.
Even though he knew some coworkers would condemn his fault.

The police were called to the the plant, security force's aid.
Mob rule succumbed to clubs and steel cuffs on random wrists.
The union failed to sanction the protest when truth was said.
The voice of reason, on this occasion, beat the rule of fists.

Rodney lost some friends that night from a word to the wise.
Deep down, he knew, true friends don't put you in harm's way.
With new positions to train, Rodney was a choice to supervise;
His just reward for maintaining his cool, and not going astray.

For a night shift worker, a family diner is a favored haunt.
Often, Rodney would treat himself, rather than pack a lunch.
A meat and three, with dessert and all the coffee you want;
For a late night fellow, the want of coffee packs a punch.

This was a typical evening, sounds of ironstone and silverware
Tempered the sounds of voices, passing time, enjoying a meal.
The bandits came unnoticed, until one said, "Hands in the air!"
Within seconds, the room went silent, at this scene surreal.

As one man rushed the counter, the other guarded the entrance.
Demands were made to open the register, with a pistol to show.
Rodney had his own, concealed, waiting for his proper chance;
Seeing nervous eyes guard the door, his nerve began to grow.

Sitting calmly at his table, while slowly reaching behind,
That same still voice, he recognized, came to calm his hand.
"Is this the hill you choose to die on? You may soon find,
Innocent lives might well be lost in a fatal foolish stand."

Rodney snapped back to reality, placed his hands on the table,
By this time, pick pocketing was now part of the robber's plan.
He piled as much loot on an empty table cloth as he was able;
When he frisked Rodney, feeling his gun, he turned and ran.

Once out the door, the villains never made it to their ride.
Police had gotten word of the robbery from a passing stranger.
No shots were fired. When "Hands up" arose, the men complied.
Relief came to all, especially Rodney, at passing of danger.

Some men go through life, known as average, if that, at best.
To the average man on the street, no deeds to be revered.
Their comings and goings never noted, or granted manifest.
To some, but not all, a life between shade and shadow feared.

Not all are destined to lead a parade or to win a vaunted race.
Rare is one who leads a revolt and stands above to persevere.
Few ever feel the warm effects of a hero's welcoming embrace.
Valor is its own reward, though seemingly never made clear.

Is the destiny of all accomplishments, great or small, to fade?
Or, are all worthy endeavors subject to a level of acclaim?
Many such exploits go unnoticed along life's passing parade,
But as such, are recorded, for all of those who this way came.

In this scene, we find Rodney, resting in a state of recline.
Lately, it has become a struggle for him to get up and walk.
He is surrounded by friends and generations of his bloodline.
With closed eyes, he tries to hear all said, as they talk...

"Taught me to ride a bicycle, wouldn't hear of training wheels."
"To the lake, would not stop until I caught the biggest fish."
"Showed me how to swing a bat so I'd know how a home run feels."
"Christmas Day at his house was always my best holiday wish."

Such reverence in reminiscing, brings a smile to Rodney's heart,
Interrupted by a still small voice, he's known before them all.
"Is this the hill you want to die on? If so, time to start."
Quietly without fanfare, he sees the gate, his final call...

Michael Todd (2016)