Monthly Archives: March 2016

One Shoe

Single Black Oxford

Today at the gym

I saw

A single shoe

Sitting high on the

Lost and found shelf

In the men’s locker room,

And I thought

Who wears one shoe?

Obviously, people with one leg

Or someone with a broken leg.

I hadn’t seen anyone like that

But I don’t live at the gym,

So I asked the young woman

At the front counter and

She said, No, no one like that

Comes here, and she turned

To check someone in,

Someone with two legs

And two shoes.

I thought more about the shoe.

It was a nice black oxford

Obviously quite expensive

But now abandoned.

I would think the loss of a shoe

Would be obvious

And will watch the shelf

To see if it disappears

Claimed by its one-legged

Or injured owner

Or by someone who threw a shoe

And didn’t notice.

Or maybe it was taken up

Into the Paradise of Shoes

Where shoes of all sorts

Lounge about in a perfect climate

And don’t have to endure the

Indignity of foul-smelling feet

Thrust into them

Against their will.

And this thought

Made me smile.

 

Dan Verner

March 31, 2016

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As Wise as Serpents and as Gentle as Doves

Red Haired Woman

Matthew 10:16: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

I don’t know if you’ve ever known anyone who contradicted him or herself. I found someone who did last week and it was an instructive experience. I had gone up town to do some shopping and parked at the “old” post office in Manassas.

I did my shopping and came back to my car to find a small, somewhat elderly woman (it was hard to tell her age) with red hair that stuck out in all directions, examining the front of my wagon. When she saw me, she turned and said, “Is this yours?” gesturing at the front bumper.

“Yes, it is,” I replied, wondering if she had backed into me or something like that. It would be hard to tell since my car has more than a few dents.

“What does this mean?” she hissed in a manner generally reserved for wicked witches. But she didn’t look like a witch, except for her face and hair, and, come to think of it, she was wearing slightly ripped black clothes that draped off her so that she looked like a small black pine tree with a red star on top. She pointed to my license plate, which reads “WINGS-AM,” and stands for On Wings of the Morning, my first novel.

I explained this to her and then she asked, “Are you a writer?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Did you write this book?” she said in an accusatorial tone, pointing to the license again.

“I did.”

“What’s it about?”

I gave her my elevator speech and concluded by asking, “Would you like to see a copy?”

She nodded, somewhat eagerly, I thought, and I gave her one of the books. She held it close to her face, sniffed it a time or two and then handed it back to me.

“I can’t buy it. I don’t have any money.”

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled.

“Well, thank you anyway.” She handed me the book and turned to leave. Then she did what I call a Colombo turn. In every episode of that show, Colombo starts to walk off from the suspect but stops, turns back to them and says, “There’s just one thing I don’t understand…” Then he reveals a clue that nails the suspect.

Reddi Whip (for so I named her because of her red hair and abrupt manner) came close to me, looked me in the face and in a conspiratorial whisper, said, “You have to be careful talking to strangers. You never know who they are or what they could do.”

I backed up a step, wondering what she would do and who she was. But she just gave me a curt nod, turned, and wove her way to the post office. They’ll know what to do with her, I thought.

As I drove home, I thought about the lady and how she warned me against the very thing she had done. I wasn’t sure of the significance of the encounter at first, but after some thought, I decided that Jesus gave the same advice in Matthew, without sporting red hair and witches’ apparel. He said, “Be wise as serpents and as gentle as doves,” and that advice is still sound today. In New Testament times, serpents were regarded as the wisest of animals, much as a fox is said to be sly or crafty in popular belief. The gentleness of a dove requires no explanation, so Jesus is saying, in so many words, “Be peaceful, forgive, don’t get angry no matter how much you are provoked, but at the same time, don’t be stupid. Keep your wits about you, learn how the world works, and figure out the best way to bring my good news to everyone, even those who are serpents. And I will help you.”

We can and should use this two-thousand-year-old advice. We would all be better for it.

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The Cats Are Having an Easter Egg Hunt

Cat and Easter Eggs

You expect me to pick up these things with my paws? Are you crazy?

The cats are having an Easter egg hunt,

And, as usual, they’re not happy about it.

They don’t have fingers after all—

They have paws

Which you would know

If you were paying attention

Which you’re not,

So listen up!

Have you ever tried to pick up

An egg without fingers?

It’s frustrating and

Darn near impossible,

So the cats call on their people

To help them

But the humans are not interested—

They don’t like eggs and they’d

Rather eat steak and sleep most of the day.

The cats are sorry they ever picked out

Their human from the human store

And wonder if they can take them back.

Anyhow, the cats still have the problem of

Hiding the eggs

Which they finally do by

Kicking them with their hind legs

But they’re too strong

And the egg shells shatter

And the cats are left with a big mess to

Clean up.

They don’t like eggs either

So they leave the shells and yolks and whites

Where they are

For the birds to scavenge.

But then they have an idea

They do like birds, so

They lie in wait,

Hiding themselves like the eggs

They couldn’t hide before

And when the birds show up,

They pounce!

But they’re fat and slow

From not going to the cat gym

Although it is a benefit of their jobs

At Catco Inc. and, sitting on their recliners

Watching Born Free and The Lion King

Over and over again. They don’t catch

Any birds at all so they slump home,

Climb on the couch and watch

The Incredible Journey on

The Cat Family Network

And think if they ever had to

Travel thousands of miles

To get back home

They wouldn’t do it.

They’d just start all over again

In an ideal town with hard-working humans

And, best of all, no Easter egg hunts.

 

Dan Verner

March 25, 2016

 

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Ossuary

Baby Wren

Cleaning up the yard

After a lukewarm winter,

I took down the birdhouse

I bought at Target and

Painted a hopeful red

In a tribute to the spunk

Of my nephew Josh

Who, while assembling

A birdhouse in Sunday School

Dutifully sanded, nailed and painted it

A bright red and then

Wrote on the roof,

“I hate birds.”

When asked why

He had done this,

He replied, “Because I do.”

And he did and had for a long time.

No one had asked him his opinion

On birds before, so I suppose, so

It was just waiting to come out

All those years.

He was true to his beliefs,

And so I painted these words

On the roof of my birdhouse:

Josh’s Place, and thought it a

Fitting tribute.

I took off the roof to

Clean out last year’s nest

Where three baby wrens

Stretched their necks for food.

When they had grown enough

They flew away. That’s the way of birds

And other creatures. They were gone,

Or so I thought.

As I took out the dry grass and

Small twig remnant of what had

Been the birds’ home,

I saw in a corner what looked like

Small thin white stones.

I stroked one, and its consistency

Told me that it wasn’t

A stone, but the bones of one of

The fledglings who had not

Flown off into this world.

I put the bones back in their corner

And thought of burials

Over the ages, of pyramids

And cave tombs with rocks to seal

The entrance, of peat bog burials

And cremation on the Ganges

And burial at sea and grand mausoleums

Of ashes rocketed into space

And the remains of three cats

Buried in the flower bed

In our back yard right below

The limb where the bird house hung.

And so, taking the shovel I was using

To break up the soil, I placed

The tiny remains in a toothpick box

And buried them at the end of

My shasta patch, saying a silent

Prayer for all living things as I

Tamped the earth down.

Future generations of wrens

Will fly above their brother’s head

With wings made of feathers

While he flies somewhere beyond the

Horizon with wings of

Fire.

 

Dan Verner

March 25, 2016

 

 

 

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In the Chorale

Chorale On Stage

Standing here among these singers,

Friends, neighbors, believers,

We only hear those around us

Two altos to the right

And on our left, another tenor and a single bass.

We cannot hear the notes and music

From our vantage on the top row

But must trust our eyes more than ears

To follow the director’s quick bird-like motions

Paired with swan smooth gliding of palm and arm,

And we must trust our companion singers

And peerless orchestra

Gathered in from daily life

To create with us from common breath and

Daily living this music, this sound, this

Magic bigger than any and all of us,

Sung for an audience invisible beyond

The bright hot lights.

We would not know they are there

Sitting in inky darkness,

Silent until their own fluttering hands

Betray them, and we think,

There are living, breathing people out there

And they like us, they really

Like us.

And so, this is our letter,

A love letter really,

To those around us,

To those ranged in rows

Before us,

Taking in conductor, orchestra,

And largely anonymous

Faces in the darkened house.

We sing this music and these words

For you and for ourselves

For those present, those gone on

And those yet to come.

This is our love letter to you and to

The great ephemeral universe:

We love all of you.

 

Dan Verner

March 21, 2016

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In the Car Shop

Car Shop Waiting Room

I shift uncomfortably in one of the worn vinyl covered chairs

In the waiting room of the car shop

Waiting for my Mazda’s emissions inspection.

As I open my laptop I overhear conversations

From the manager, from the receptionist

From customers who come and go, and

I feel like Walt Whitman wandering the

Broad avenues of Manhattan

Where the world came to him

And engendered his verse.

I hear “I smelled something burning,”

And “The pads are shot and you need

To have the rotors turned,”

And, “You’re all set and ready to go.”

The customers are men and women,

White, black, Asian, Indian, Korean, Hindu,

African and still others, and I think

Here I sit and

The world has come to me

And I don’t have to wander avenues

To hear it, to see it, to wonder

How so much does come to us

If only we know what to do with it.

Here in this microcosm of this car shop

On a windy and chill March afternoon

We are seeking a better life, an improvement,

A certain healing, a sense of wholeness,

An Epiphany,

A vision,

An engine powered Nirvana.

 

Dan Verner

March 21, 2016

 

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Present Tense

Past Present Future

Lately I do not seem to be a verb

Like Buckminster Fuller,

And that is because

I seem to be a tense,

Present tense,

To be exact,

Which is to say

That I exist in the present

(Which we all do)

But the distant past

Is a hazy landscape

And the middle ground

Dimly seen,

While short term

Is a

Total blank.

The future is the future

And of course

Does not exist

And I don’t either in that

Distant land

Because

The present is all I have

For the present.

For the present.

 

Dan Verner

March 18, 2016

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