THE WHY

Last night the family gathered here
our children and their own
was struck how quickly in the span
of COVID they have grown

The kids are looking older now
grandchildren talking fast
these ears strain hard to hear the things
they run to me and ask

Each one with their unique M.O.
and personality
all different yet in ways the same
in traits of family

I want to love them listening
in these the wintered years
and share with them some lessons learned
through painful times and tears

May their wanton minds not be
mere vessels to be filled
but a thought rekindled fire
to seek God’s truth and will

What are the most important things
we have in this short life
there’s much I want to say to them
though now so little time

From where we come
and why we’re here
what now as death draws near
these answers breathe in purposed lives
and help us to be clear

The two most crucial dates in time
as Mark Twain has described
are certainly the day we’re born
and day that we know why

I’m grateful for the scripture verse
God knit me in the womb
and then revealed the why for me
at Jesus empty tomb

A poem by Greg Nelson
© 2020 by Poppie’s Hallel (BMI. Admin. by Amplified Administration)

WINDBLOWN DREAMS

I remember blissful days
and luxuries of youth
the first time I could drive alone
a mustang on my hood

the freedom of that outstretched arm
and fingers of my hand
weaving up and down the wave
of windblown dreams and plans

I drove along a hillside road
with trees on either side
standing tall
their branches raised
in bare limb blackened light

A thought flashed by my carefree mind
how hopeful buds would bring
the beauty patience has designed
as March turns into spring

I was so fearless early on
with family and career
but now the slow of weathered legs
are mine in yearly years

So back to this as if before
with only children’s needs
no hope of driving my old car
in wait of heaven’s dreams

A poem by Greg Nelson
© 2020 by Poppie’s Hallel (BMI. Admin. by Amplified Administration)

PLANNING AHEAD

Okay, so yesterday I went to pick up some food, you know like curbside pick up. It had been a long day, so Pam and I wanted to get something easy and light. She asked me what I wanted and I told her. Then she called and placed our order, but we couldn’t pay for it over the phone. No problem. I’ll just pay when I get there.

As I was leaving to go pick it up, Pam said, “Don’t forget the credit card”. As if I was going to forget something that important. Well anyway, I arrived at the restaurant and parked in the curbside service parking spot. A sweet girl came out and I rolled down my window (wearing my mask), she greeted me and gave me the total. I handed her my credit card and off she went.

When I got home, the first thing Pam asked me was if I got the credit card back after I paid. As if I would forget the credit card. Well it doesn’t happen that often, but I did forget that one little detail this time. I told Pam, “let’s just say in theory it was the credit card I happened to forget.” Pam said, “there isn’t any theory about it, you forgot the credit card again didn’t you?“ I told her that, in a manner of speaking, I probably did. Boy was I glad I got that all ironed out.

So I sat down in my chair to think things over. She came over to me and quietly asked if I forgot anything else. (whenever Pam asks me something quietly, it does not portend any good thing happening) I thought for a minute. I didn’t forget to turn the car off, I didn’t forget to shut the door to the garage, she didn’t ask me to go get anything else so I told her I think I was pretty sure I didn’t forget anything else. Again in a quiet voice she said, “Oh, good for you, Greg. Where’s the food?”The food?

It was at that very moment I thought it would be a real good idea to go back and get the credit card….that way the food would surely be ready by then….you know it’s always good to give them a lot of time. I’m just thoughtful like that. And it’s clearly evident …..I’m a real stickler for planning ahead.

WHO’S THERE

In Act 1 Scene 1 of Hamlet, guarding Elsinore castle from a lookout platform, Bernardo opens the play with those words. “Who’s there?” Renaissance poet, William Shakespeare gives very little direction on how this line and or any of the following lines are to be acted out.

Similarly, in the Baroque era, which is associated with the life dates of Bach, there is little notation as to dynamics or specific direction in many of his scores. Self expression was the convention of this period , and employed improvisation around a theme, more akin to jazz than symphony orchestra. Art in theatre, music, visual art or dance this individual expression is a response to, or reflection of, the sun total of what we experience in life.

It’s true that art often imitates life, but art is much kinder. It has no temper or vendetta, it does not dismiss and has no need for power or control. It allows you to make an observation, to feel…and gives you as much time as you wish to express those feelings. Art is patient, does not interrupt and doesn’t demand that you believe what it conveys. It simply…is.

I believe there is an inspirational power in art, but judging from the uneasiness of today, I lament we are ignoring some of its most positive offerings…and further, not considering the voice of One whose perfection we can only imitate.

ON MY WAY

Just the other day I heard someone say, “well they’re just old and in the way.” I tried to imagine how someone could reach into their bag of meanness and say something as unkind as that.

We don’t stop living as we get older, we just find new outlets for our gifts. My eyes are extremely poor and I have tremors in my left hand. I can no longer see the music or play with intonation that my ears will allow. So I have retired my best musical friend of almost 60 years…my cello. And now a new chapter.

I may be old but far from “in the way”, and I have found a wonderful outlet. Poetry. I’ve written many songs in my lifetime, and lyric and poetry have similarities but are not exactly the same.

I realize that I’m just a journeyman and haven’t paid the price that many fine poets have for years. It’s like taking music theory all over again…except in poetry. In order to perform at a high level in basketball, baseball or any sport, you have to have a strong command of the fundamentals. Learning the rules before you break them.

For now I feel a little uneasy, but hope that as I strive hard and get the rudiments down, good craft will work confidence and other good creative sensibilities in me. It’s good to be a little uncomfortable..it keeps you on your game. For me, the process is the payoff.

I listen to as much classic poetry as I can, and that’s overwhelming all by itself. I’m very fortunate to have high school friends who are beautiful poets I really admire and from whom I can learn so much….and there is so much to learn.

I’m not pretending I’m not getting older, but in my spirit, I feel young again. I never consider myself “in the way”….just “on my way”. I don’t get into comparisons, because that only ends in misery. I just do what I do, the very best I can…and that brings me great joy!!!

I keep coming back to Pablo Casals, the great Cuban cellist who when asked why he still practiced at 90, was quoted saying, “I believe I am making daily progress.”

Me too.

DIGGER AND CHIP

Two chipmunks scampered
cross the grass
and stopped to raise their head
they seemed to say
we have to run
then like two felons fled

I saw them almost every day
running for their lives
but there was no one chasing them
who sought for their demise

Digger lived for tunneling
and he could dig for hours
burrowing new entrances
and exits for his house

Each day were mounds of evidence he’d been quite hard at work
cuz dusk and dawn
are busy shifts
for chipmunks and for squirrels

Now Chip’s a full blown omnivore
not picky what he eats
finds the food for his next meal
and packs it in his cheek

Mushrooms, berries, nuts and such
and if he can some grains
but sometimes eats dead baby mice
or dines on robin’s eggs

His body holds no fat at all
he stores up all he can
to make it through the freezing months
until the worst has passed

The two of them a merry pair
were all about their work
ole Chip was always planning meals
while Digger worked the dirt

But sad one day they ran into
Chef Weasel and his snake
said he “we’re having morning brunch
and you’re the main entree”

And just like that ole Chip and Dig
became chipmunk pâté
the snake and weasel gorged themselves
and vultures cleaned their plates

So that’s the tale of Chip and Dig
with moral oh so true
don’t let a weasel plan a meal
that might include you too

THE TRAGEDY OF INNOCENCE

There was no beauty
living there
just idling trains
and Nazi terror
death’s immigrant
cadaverous frames
who found their rest
in massive graves

A cutting wind
bleak bitter cold
no warmth to find
no hope to hold
just fantasies
of transit dreams
in huddled sleep
their lone relief

Near frozen hands
some gangrene feet
they begged their God
for food to eat
the putrid smoke
and stench of death
a blend of hate
and pestilence

And now we say
oh that was then
yet teeming ghosts
move on again
in semi trucks
with children bands
that traffickers
sell off like trash

a mothers son
who is her world
a father’s heart
his little girl
it’s raging on
but hard to see
this vile abuse
in secrecy

So are their lives
less valuable
when we ignore
these vulnerable
whose souls have lost
one sacredness
this gift from God
their innocence

A poem by Greg Nelson
© 2020 by Poppie’s Hallel (BMI. Admin. by Amplified Administration)

TO PAM

fond muse of this my lovely bride
as Cupid’s earnest arrows fly
there’s beauty on her face that shines
wave hair soft frame those dulcet eyes

at night feel breathing on my neck
her silken cheek so gently pressed
all snuggled up beside me lay
we fall asleep and dreams are made

oh sure we squabble and we spar
quick to prove how right we are
but when our rattling swords are done
we’re still two crazy birds in love

we have to hold through best and worse
though poor or rich all in due course
and too in health or deathly sick
our promised bond through thick and thin

this is the scene it is our life
I treasure you my valentine
resplendent as the day we met
my up and down with no regret

PORCUPINES

so do we know each other well
I’m not so sure
I cannot tell
we have our lives
and things of note
for some we write on
facebook posts

but who we are
and what we seem
is what we want the world to see
for sure a spin
an airbrushed life
that we all guard
like porcupines

now ego mediates within
the super ego
and the id
that feeds an endless need in us
for want of more significance

the cryptic mind a paradox
a cache of
cruelty and love
So baffling and bizarre as well
this mortal port
of heav’n and hell

and there sequestered
in our souls
lay remnants of a moral code
a feelings fog of good and bad
that we ourselves don’t fully grasp

yet we’re the kings in our own court
we pardon all our crimes of course
though clemency can’t silence shame
that only God can full erase

well feelings over time reshape
and culture shifts from age to age
so now for me this Truth remains
there’s only One who does not change

A poem by Greg Nelson
© 2020 by Poppie’s Hallel (BMI. Admin. by Amplified Administration)

OF PEACEFUL CONVERSATION

This is really weird, but the other night Pam and I had almost the exact same dream but with a different cast of characters . The essence of the dream was being in the middle of a group of our friends, feeling like outsiders, trying to belong…but ultimately, feeling alone.

It brought me back to thoughts of Bismarck, North Dakota and a famous cultural shrine, a drive in called the Big Boy on the east side of town. Since 1954, it made its mark on Main Street as a great place to eat and a fun meeting place.

Their pizza burger flying style
was the epicurean centerpiece of teenage fine cuisine, and the drink of choice was a Hot n’ Tot made with cinnamon and coke. Also on the menu were specialty shakes and malts like the Calypso, Brown Cow and the familiar standbys as well.

There was a car line that usually stretched along Main Street, crossing a a railroad track that took you thru a drive thru lane to a little speaker box where you placed your order. Another favorite menu item for me was a foot-long hotdog with pickles, onions, mustard and ketsup. A lot of kids liked ordering gravy so they could dip their fries in it. After you pulled up to the pick-up window to pay and get your food, you drove on to the big parking lot in back.

With evening came a moonlit stage
and a blended scent of English Leather, Aqua Net, the exhaust from cars, the deep fryer and grill fans of the kitchen and the smoke from a Winston or an occasional Swisher Sweet.

There usually were couples on a date, a carload full of screaming girls, or guys suffering the effects of full blown testosterone awkwardly saying the wrong things to impress, while others sat on the hood of their cars spooning their cherry marshmallow snows, talking and laughing til the lights in the parking lot were turned off.

We had a sense of safety there with few cares and a fledgling freedom to drive a car and stay out late. In the parking lot we knew most everyone. In some obscure way, we were becoming then the people we’ve become…with some grand moments in life along with chapters we wish had never been written. Nevertheless, life continues on.

I have to admit I was so immature that I always felt like a participant who didn’t belong in the circus I was in the middle of. So with that dream, Pam and I realized this feeling has been resident in us both, most of our lives. But I guess, everyone has a little catch in their psyche in some respect. It’s just one of those human things.

Was it the place or people that our smiles and memories share…. or beauty of the sentiment that came from just being there. Is that the Pavlovian potion that keeps us returning to the scene of the times?

We were comrades facing the future, our fears and the unknown, but it was okay, because we were in it together. We had peaceful conversations for the most part. I miss that in the conversation today. Of course I can’t live in the past, but there sure are times I wish I could.

I’m feeling like an Alpine burger just now.