Sidewalks – A Bouquet of Poems from America
Ray Whitaker, an eminent poet from Colorado, USA has shared his poems
Ray has been writing both prose and poetry since he was seventeen. What Ray is writing now is very different from what he wrote those so many years ago. All writers and poets are writing out of “the Self” however there are directions that the self speaks into, that change. Now Ray’s writing is to put foremost in his work, just who he is writing for. He intends on writing for the everyday man and woman. He firmly believes that poems need to reach into the everyday person’s pictures in their minds, and engage with those. This is where he aims to make a difference in his creative writing. He’s fulfilled when he sees that his work is provoking thought in his readers.
Ray has read around the state of North Carolina [USA] and Colorado [USA], and has been a member or the North Carolina Poetry Society, the Winston-Salem Writers, and The North Carolina Writer’s Network. He has thrice been a ‘Writer-in-Residence” at the North Carolina Center for the Arts and Humanities, at Weymouth, in Southern Pines, NC. He is the father of two daughters, and lives in Colorado Springs, USA.
He has three books published by Newness Twoness Books: “ACKNOWLEDGMENT: Poems from the Nam,” 2 volume set, and “FOR THE LOST AND LOVED”. A chapbook, “THE SCUPPERNONG WORKS” is published September 2022. He has one other book he is presently seeking publication for: ‘WHITE DOG SPEAKING.”
Due to the pandemic, most of Ray’s public appearances are mostly via electronic medium. Some of his work has been published in online American, Irish, English, Belgium, and Bali Literary Journals.
[Previously found in The Scuppernong Works, a Chapbook published 09/22]
A sandaled footsteps by, along with its mirrored opposite
The woman’s well-muscled legs above reminding of some roman, or Greek statue
Placed on the busy entrance to the baths of Antioch
Inviting the many hot citizens in, smelling of their labor’s sweat.
The sandals keep going out of view
Afternoon sun shines glinting off of windows into trees
These are not the plane trees of Antioch
They are oaks and maples on Elm Street, right downtown.
Mothers herding children on the sidewalk in downtown Greensboro
Did it just like that, centuries ago
Little tykes were hurried past centurions
With swords hanging off belts under breastplate armor
Kept together near Mom’s skirts in the market square
And away from the slaves standing, downcast
About to be sold, the merchant turns one man around
Slapping the rump enticing watching women with manmuscle.
Truth beckons wistfully in the statue on the corner
A perfect body under the old emperor’s head
A city sculptor is removing the head, replacing it
With the new emperor’s stone head
As if to destroy the old emperor, by removing his head
Would erase the memory of him.
Little windy gusts move the leaves on the summer maples
A corner sax player sings gently into the gentle woodwind curves
An old Tommy Dorsey melody wafts notes
Heard as curving and bending, settling gently into pink eardrums
By the passing smiling city dwellers glad to be off work
Out to choose the favorite restaurant for tonight.
The city is a summer evening with a flock of cranes looking about
Each walking the shore catching the occasional minnow or frog
One picks at breast feathers
Wishing she were a pink flamingo
A few running steps, she is
As airborne as the notes in the Dorsey solo.
Music softens lines and allows colors to flow.
Arms waving by the wife, not in agreement
On the corner near the street musician
Her husband kicks the dust with his sandal in expressed dismay
As blue as the cloudy evening sky
Walking a few tentative steps towards the bistro
Turning his back towards the red and orange words his wife is saying
She fingers the dagger hidden in the folds of her dress
Just like a free-woman wife in Antioch would those long years ago.
Purple meanings are only found in the sincerity we speak.
Dusts of time cling to the laces of our sandals
As ages have passed, few things really change.
We search for community as crowds walk by.
Antioch: one of the largest cities of the Roman Empire on the coast of present day Turkey.
Tommy Dorsey: A jazz big band leader, trombonist, and composer in the 1930-1940’s. Notably, one of the world’s best jazz trombonists.
NOTHING AS NIMBLE, AND NOT AS QUICK
The winter shines thru
Fourteen degrees on the thermometer
Snow unmelted, and soiled
With the detritus of Life so full.
There are several months to go
The cold will persist at least three more months here
Only the best music played
Will enhance the getting thru it
Now starting to deplete the stockpiling of winter stores
Perhaps Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare For The Common Man”
Will be the churning locomotive to beat the cold.
Pick from the twenty two covers of it, and turn the stereo up.
The common man is cold this morning, tho
And there are provisions needed to carry on
Just as The Fanfare is inspiration to millions
Its notes and instrumentation resonate across our minds.
I look out the window, over the snow-bent boughs
There is beauty in the cold just clear of the door
Hearing again the brass tonality here in the warmth
Those of the theme’s first fourteen notes…
Another sort of beauty knowing there is more to be with
And aware there is much more to do.
Our dogs are lying feet-outstretched towards the hearth
The warmth is flowing from the orange crackling fire
This the evening’s endowment
After the infusion of this day’s past busyness.
Observing again another tomorrow will come
Where there is more to be with,
Agile to that there is much more to do.
Definition, exposition, repetition, repetition…
Here is the ooze of personality.
The costal tides roll in
Crabs move in their holes
Saying: “Oh shit, the water is coming back”
Twice a day, every day, as if it had never happened before.
Coast-water tides washes, tho
Bringing flotsam in, that is eaten by something
That smacks its lips, saying “mm-mmm, good!”
While flushing out to sea, the coast’s muck becomes
That which some other creature eats with gusto.
Toughness survives. We humans are so very complex
The incidents we sustain are so influential
And we are lucky that some things do eventually resolve for us.
We humans choose to walk in the tidal mud flats
Those of love and betrayal and all the reedy places in amidst
Our toes love feeling the gush between them.
It is the walking through Life when things are not so dusty.
IN A GROVE BY THE SALMON RIVER
Somewhere on this river,
What is left today
Is a sacred spot with water energy!
The Shoshone lived on this river
Long before Lewis
Or Clark, or even eighteen oh five.
I stand here now, in this silent grove
Tall pine trees standing watch as the river rushes by
Likely as it did those many years before.
I see things that are not there, wisps in the glen
Grey mist drifting, a feeling of the past
Gurgling over the rapids, flowing by.
A wisp of mist swirls, turning into an old man
A Native American he speaks to me
In a language I do not understand
Holding my hands open, shrugging shoulders to show
That I cannot comprehend.
The old Shoshone man walks up to me
Looks directly in my eyes
Looking back unflinchingly. I see
There is a depth there in his eyes
I wonder: did he hide his affection
Or win, or lose, something
In his life (not so very different than mine)
Our eye communication ends with
His speaking accented English this time
“You are standing on my son’s grave.”
I move to the left a pace or two,
“Now, you are standing on my daughter’s. This
Entire grove is burial ground for my people.”
“See that tall Ponderosa Pine tree by the river?
That’s where my body lies.
I don’t need it anymore.” Again, looking in my eyes
“There down my the riverbank
Is a good place to sit and talk!
You won’t be walking on my family there.”
The going over to where the river roared by
Seeing the faces behind his face
There were at lease thirty faces there
Each one a bit smaller than the preceding
Until they faded away.
“My people don‘t hide their love “
“Your people are like wheels turning round and round.”
“Sometimes going nowhere,
Fewer times, getting where you have the desire to go.”
I looked at this man from so long ago
Offered him a smoke from my pipe.
He said, “Just blow it thru me”
Laughing at the folly, smiling
I asked this man about the failings
Of his people.
His response: “Men don’t understand Women in the tribe”
We honor them, and we try to find a way.”
In this, I realized that we were very much alike.
He arose, another of those long looks
We were eye to eye again
A moment that seemed long
However likely only lasted seconds.
Turning, my new friend walked
Into the river and was gone.
Reflecting on this strange occurrence
Did the old Shoshone have to
Shake it up
Perhaps even make it up
To really have a closeness
With the women of his time.
Certainly in my times, now
There is a secret world everyone has inside.
>>The Salmon River is located in the state of Idaho, USA, and flows rapidly thru 2.3 million acres of wilderness there.
>>The Shoshone Native Americans are an ancient Tribe of Native Americans that lived in what is now the American upper western states.