Editor’s note: This week’s Poetry Corner features the work of Robert McDowell, the author/editor/co-author/translator of 10 books, most recently “Poetry as Spiritual Practice: Reading, Writing, and Using Poetry in Your Daily Rituals,” “Aspirations,” and “Intentions” (Free Press/Simon & Schuster). He was co-founder and director of Story Line Press for 22 years, worked at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, taught at many universities, high schools, and conferences, and is a UC Santa Cruz graduate. To learn more about him, visit robertmcdowell.net or threeintentions.com.
Where I’m Going
I’m going home to the green hills
Among elephants and buffalo,
To the Victory Parade up 5th Avenue,
To air conditioned rooms on summer’s
Cruelest day, to the magic hour
On a county road, one light on in a farmhouse,
To the L.A. Coliseum in 1961,
To the crowd on the day
The president speaks the Gettysburg Address,
To watching so much iniquity and suffering acted out
While I sit by, pushing a pen. I’m going
Home to wind scattering ashes,
To hummingbirds at a feeder
That never goes dry, to trees in full leaf,
To the meditating goddess on the porch,
To father and mother early together,
To the school moment when Promise receives its “F”,
To the corral, to boots and saddles
And riding the lone prairie,
To the library of floor-to-ceiling books,
To the fleshing machine and the paint brush,
To the run for office, to turning in my badge,
To eating much and eating little,
To saying no to war and missing war,
To spiritual anchors and spiritual driftwood.
I’m going home to the railroad and the bar’s
Last call, to the company of pets long gone,
To the wide river and muddy lake,
To the hootenanny, to friends
I outgrew, and friends who left me.
I’m going home to family always running away
And to you, far off at sunset, as you drink from the parting glass.
Raccoon and Possum
Raccoon and Possum crept into a house,
Ate the children, and went to sleep in their beds.
In the morning they dressed in the dead kids’ clothes
And took their places on the school bus.
At recess Raccoon said, tonight we’ll eat mother.
On the way home Possum said,
Tomorrow we’ll eat father. Maybe
We’ll drive the car. We’ll watch TV
Until our eyes fall out, till we’re sick of it.
We’ll move out of the house, Raccoon
Said, and live under it if we want to.
When we get hungry, what then? Possum asked.
They stared into each other’s eyes.
When God ran out of money he came to me.
“I’m shit out of luck,” He said.
That makes two of us, but now I guess
I’m out of God, too.
“Imagine,” He went on,
“I who made the heavens, the rising
and receding waters, and the passing gasses;
I who made life out of nothing, and you
out of burbling slime…”
Watch it, I said,
that’s mom and dad you’re talking about.
He wasn’t listening. He bulled ahead.
“…I who cleansed the world with war—
those were good times! I laughed and laughed,
and when I laugh, believe Me, I’m a party
unto Myself. I made the sun a smart-mouth;
the moon was ice in My scotch. Those I favored,
where are they now that I need a little help?”
You can’t blame them, I said. You know how it is.
You show up at a party with a cheap bottle of wine
or a 4-pack of Snapple, and suddenly you’re not so popular.
It isn’t every day that God drops in to bend your ear
with His whining.
“I’m hungry,” He said.
“Got some nachos?”
You’re the chef, go to it.
Now that He’s broke He has to get over
His annoying sense of privilege.
“You know I could kill you if I want,” He said.
Isn’t that what you’ve been doing?
“If it is, I’m slipping!”
I reminded Him that I, too, was busted. My money
transfigured into liquid and flowed right on out of here—
as He should before I did something we’d both regret.
“Nobody talks to God like that and gets away with it!”
Great big God tears rolled down his hoary cheeks.
It was sickening. Stop it! I said. Be a god!
I remember running into his house on Ocean View,
Full of myself as usual, chattering on and on
About all of the important things I’d done that day.
George sat in a red wingback chair and listened,
Never interrupting, like a man serenely waiting out a storm.
When I ran out of things to brag about he said,
“Today I planted a single row of beans.”
I felt so warm and foolish as he smiled.
I felt calmer, centered, good!
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