In A Coffee Shop


In a coffee shop
I stop
And sip
And watch.

A mother and her young son,
Helping him with homework.

A college girl and her laptop,
Two young men glancing,
Laughing at their imaginary scenarios,
Glancing.

A boy with earbuds inserted
Fingers a portable computer game.

An attractive woman in her forties enters,
Turning the head of a lonely man
Disinterestedly reading a newspaper
To keep from staring.

The attractive woman orders a regular coffee of the day
From the aproned young man behind the counter
With his stylishly close-cropped facial hair.
Because she is mad at her husband
She smiles at the skinny young coffee vendor
And puts a five dollar bill into his tip jar.

The mother opens a wide, brightly illustrated picture book,
“The Magic Flute,”
And tells her son about Mozart.
“Oh yeah. Mozart!” says the nine-year-old boy,
“I love that guy!”
The mother, who looks dark and Italian, smiles.
She is about twenty pounds overweight
And her light-skinned, fair-haired boy
Looks more like his father,
A happy, enthusiastic silly boy,
His arms and legs animated by the hits of the eighties
Playing in the background.

The college girl looks up from her laptop
To see if anyone is watching her,
So I try not to be noticed,
Middle-aged man that I am,
Too old to be admiring such a pretty young girl,
Not beautiful,
But pretty with the gloss of untarnished youth.
She sees the young men glancing at her
And turns her attention back to her laptop screen.
They are too young and silly.
She will know him when she sees him,
The one she is waiting for.

The lonely man, comfortable in his well-worn suit and tie,
Watches the attractive woman with the faded gold hair
Who does not need to lose weight
And imagines her whispering:
“I love you,”
But he will not speak.
He is also in his forties but still waiting,
Waiting for an invitation.

The teenage earbud boy chugs his coffee,
Picks at the acne on his chin,
Swings his backpack over one shoulder
And walks out the door.
He doesn’t want to say anything to anybody.

The dark-skinned mother says:
“This is my son who will love me forever.”

Her young son says:
“Let’s have fun all the time!”

The college girl says:
“Can you hear me O secret love? I am here.”

The lonely man is afraid to speak,
He expects disappointment.

The attractive woman says:
“My husband has fallen asleep and will not wake.
I am not ordinary.”

The two young men say:
“What a joke. People are so stupid!”

The skinny coffee vendor says:
“Why can’t I be like you? Why am I the servant?”

And I say:
“Here in this small coffee shop,
All the constellations of the universe.”

None of us say anything out loud.
One by one we finish our coffee and leave,
Pretending we are separate.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Leaving For Work


Leaving for work I see my little cat
Streaked in morning light,
White, orange and yellow,
Sitting still with paws folded
On back of an easy chair
Watching circling sea gulls
Flown inland from the storm
As what’s left of the rain
Drips curiously from the eaves.
A slight amusement.

The street scrubbed slick and clean
Refracts radiant points of light,
Myriad tiny suns
Spread across thin wet skin on black asphalt bone,
Black as bare tree trunks
Against cloud-white sky.

Most of the workers are gone from these streets,
I am late,
Most are gone
Yet I cannot help but linger
To taste this forbidden time,
Forbidden to me,
This absence of time.

On my way once more
The chilled air snaps
Little leaves falling as branches blow
The song of some little bird
In some neighboring tree
Singing quietly,
Calling me.

The sound of a passing car also calls.
It calls me as I stand
Transfixed by birdsong,
Beckoned by the world,
Called by my ambitions
And by no ambition at all.

There is so much to see here,
So much not to do,
For the mountains in this valley
Are streaked with virgin snow
Among silent solitary clouds
Frayed and twisted by wind.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Self-Serving Altruism


Let us,
The stupid inhabitants of a dying culture,
Dedicate ourselves to a new generation,
Let them stand upon our shoulders
To see what we cannot see,
So they may solve our problems,
Right our wrongs,
And not kill us
When we’re too old to take care of ourselves.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Temporality


Sometimes the body is weak
And the spirit sags
And I contemplate mortality,
Questioning again the specific location of the soul,
And the old fear returns:

What if the body is all?
What if all my spiritual perceptions are imaginary?

I am rudely interrupted.

My young calico cat Sally jumps into my lap,
Crying for something that is not food,
For the temporality of my attention.

I stroke her tongue-washed fur
And she ripples with pleasure,
Chirping with tuna-scented breath.

She pulls at my pajamas with sharp claws
And together we abandon all hypothetical considerations.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Before I Barely Knew Anything


Before I barely knew anything
I awakened each summer morning
To the cawing of crows
And thought,
How very tall these trees
In which they gather to ruffle their feathers
In the morning breeze,
How tall these trees
And how much these crows must see.

I climbed an orange tree,
So frightened by the height,
So amazed at the sight of neighboring houses
And city streets
And thought about what the crows must see
From the tops of the sycamore trees
And from higher still
As they rise into the sky,
Knowing I would never know
What they know,
Before I barely knew anything.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Bedtime


Josh who is growing older says,

“Good night Dad,”

And I say,

“Hittin’ the hay?”

And Josh who is growing older says,

“Guess so,”

And I say,

“Sweet dreams buddy,”

And Josh who is growing older says,

“See you in the morning,”

And I say,

“Not if I see you first!”

And Josh who is already quite the young man indeed says,

“Yeah, right dad.”


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Thumbs


There will never be a shortage of self-anointed critics,
Self-appointed judges of all manner of things,
Of people and events,
Large and small,
Those who educate,
Those who obfuscate,
Those with knowledge,
Those without,
Those who somehow believe it is their mission,
Their responsibility,
Their calling to point a thumb up or down.

We are blanketed with critics whose only qualification is ego,
Whose pronouncements are so soon forgotten
After scholars and historians assemble research and knowledge,
Honest intellectual inquiry,
To illuminate the past.

Do our media-created, ill-informed, knee-jerk commentators
Believe they are changing hearts and minds,
Guiding the course of a nation,
By unveiling the certain, unquestionable truth?

We are cooperative.

These pontificators give voice to our a priori conclusions,
Assuring us that even the most complex issues of our time
Can be measured by the masquerade of mass hysteria,
By the illusion of popular opinion,
That all we really need do is vote,
One way or another,
Thumbs up or thumbs down.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Becoming


Somewhere,
I suppose,
There may be that perfect person,
Or two,
Who has never sinned,
Though through the eyes of the world’s religions
Nearly everything is a sin to someone,
I suppose.

Somewhere,
I suppose,
There may be that perfect person,
Or two,
But for the rest of us,
Our life’s work is laid out before us,
Day by day,
Hour by hour,
Moment by moment,
The work of becoming.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Here, In This Place


When the darkened room is suddenly filled with light,
When the unexpected wave rises and crashes upon you,
When you cannot find the precise metaphor to describe,
To express the overwhelming emotion
Bursting from your heart and spreading to every sinew,
Awakening,
Awakening,
Awakening your body to its purpose,
Awakening your mind to the joy of existence,
To the bliss of knowing,
Knowing you are desired,
Knowing you are loved,
Then,
It’s more than individual passion,
More than momentary infatuation,
It’s a place you have discovered,
A place in the mind,
In the heart,
In the universe,
A place where angels dwell,
Where inspiration is born,
A place permanently imprinted in memory
No matter how circumstances change,
Always and forever a place you’ve inhabited,
A place you know,
A place of joy and pain,
An eternal place,
Always there,
Waiting for your return.

You and I are lucky,
Struck by the lightning flash of love,
Surrendering caution and reason
Just to spend another day,
Here,
In this place.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Beautiful


When we touch,
Illusion enfolds
Our naked bodies,
Erases our imperfections,
And within our bliss
We become
Beautiful.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

They Speak Unceasing


The spirits speak
Too much.

My head is filled with the incessant clatter
Of their most insightful observations.
I am hounded by visions
In the most startling detail.
They crowd my sleep
And spill over into the day,
Beseeching me.

I long for the life of simple stupidity,
Ignorant of the twisted motives
That lie behind the desires of the human heart.
Show me no more
O uninvited spirits who whisper secrets
So casually in my ear.

It does me no good.

This busy world has no interest
In what you reveal.
They think me a deranged fool
In need of medical attention,
And for all I really know,
You may indeed be demons.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Anniversary


What is the secret
Of your long and happy marriage?
They ask.

I stop and reflect for a moment,
Furtively glancing at my watch,
Counting down the minutes
Until I will again meet with her,
My rosy-breasted, eager young mistress.

I am too old for her,
But we both have found a momentary bliss
In the forbidden.

What is your secret?
They ask again.

My mind races to find a suitable reply.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

In The Game


Have you ever suddenly stopped,
A grocery bag half empty on the kitchen counter,
And thought your life was without purpose,
Wondering if you should commit suicide
And be done with the whole inane farce,
When the phone rings,
And you answer,
Called back into the game again.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

I Knew A Young Man


I knew a young man
Who drank warm water
Right from the faucet,
From his cupped hand.

Everything he did,
An act of defiance,
An act of strength,
His way through the world.

They sent him to the war
And he didn’t last a week.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Balzac In Paris


This pretentious, unbridled egotism,
Bridled by academic sycophancy,
Shackled by erudite nonconformity,
Eruditely enforced by the last living literati
Hanging onto the endangered species list
By his and/or her precarious pedicured pedigrees.

This turgid landscape bleeds sour
For want of a coat of arms
Worthy of such shame,
Such intrepid debasement,
Oh yes,
Here in de basement
I goo goo too,
This awful-god game,
La com├ędie humaine.

Some call it poetry.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Time Keeper


I am the one who turns back time
This chilly gray morning
While wife and children slumber
In the hibernation of Sunday.

I sneak like a tooth fairy
From room to room,
Setting back clocks,
Slipping another hour of sleep
Silently under their pillows,
Hastening the darkening of a season
Already too dark for my timeless soul.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Sublimation


The morning light awakens
But I cannot tell the day,
What day it is.

Then,
The mind clears a bit
And I remember who I am,
What day it is,
What I must do
And how little time I have
To assemble myself and leave for work.

This day is not unlike any other work day,
Not unlike years of repetitive practical habits
That propel me into this persona,
This predictable working life,
So unlike the life of the sleeper
Who travels by thought through time,
Backward and forward,
In and out of time,
The true nature of my soul,
Sublimated by this working world.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Upper Crust


His finely manicured fingernails,
So clean.
He never earned money with those hands,
This denizen of the upper crust,
So certain that poverty is the fault of the impoverished,
A moral judgment upon those unworthy of wealth,
While he takes credit for the accident of his birth.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Mantra


Paralyzed,
He takes one last look over the ledge,
The edge of the precipice,
Imagining the staggering, unknowable falling.
He shudders and backs away.

He retraces his steps,
Returning to a place of safety,
A place of predictability.

I am too old, he assures himself,
Shuddering again at the image of the ledge,
The smothering abyss,
The surrender.

He drives to work with a new appreciation for sameness,
For the certainty of Monday,
For the harness of employment,
While deep inside in some unfocused, dimly lit room
He sits alone on a simple wooden chair,
Reciting the mantra he fears but cannot dismiss:

Nothing lasts forever,
Nothing lasts forever,
Nothing lasts forever.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Balance


Your stricken conscience
Grieves over the suffering in this world.

Convulsed with joy,
A baby laughs.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

That Word


Each of us struggles,
Trying to find that place,
Trying to remember that feeling,
That word.

What was it?

Trying to get it back,
Confused about it,
Tricked by pretense,
Tricked by empty promises,
By such sincere insincerity.

Some of us give up.

The passing of youth’s optimism,
The weight of daily subsistence,
The dream smothered by distractions,
By disasters.

Giving up is easier
If the bliss of a happy childhood was denied,
If you never found that place,
If you never felt those emotions,
If the word escaped you.

Giving up is growing up,
You tell yourself.

But if you were lucky,
If you were a happy child,
If you were loved,
If you loved in return,
If you worked or stumbled your way into the dream,
If the dream was thrust upon you,
The dream made real,
If you watched it fall away,
If the ache of memory persists . . .

Some of us grow old in melancholy,
Remembering,
Forgetting,
Then remembering again,
That place,
That feeling,
That word.

What was it?

Oh yes,
That place,
That feeling,
That word,
Joy.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

At Last You Begin


Reaching your destination at last,
You begin,
Because conclusions do not satisfy
Anyone but everyone,
And everyone is no one at all.

So you finally arrive at the beginning,
Exhausted,
Confused,
Worn out,
Finished with ideas of all sorts and kinds,
Ready at last.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

In Disguise


I recall that old man
Who turned to me in anger,
Impatient with my immaturity.

I did not recognize he was me.

I remember that young woman
Who cradled my hand in her hands,
Grateful for my kindness.

I did not realize she was me.

Now that I think on it,
It was often me,
Returning in disguise,
Trying to provoke.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

As If


O this revolving world,
I am dizzy with all this spinning,
Cumulative now in my later years.
I feel the solar winds
Tugging at my sleeves
As we hurtle through space,
Madly erecting shopping centers
As if there were no tomorrow.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Employee


Summer flowers dance softly in the afternoon breeze,
Far from the unfeeling glare of artificial light
In which I am encased all day long,
Muted.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Inside


Inside,
I forget the meaning of birdsong,
How hard the mockingbird works
To attract a mate,
His virtuosity.

Inside,
I forget how fallen leaves move,
Swept into corners
By gusts of wind.

Inside,
I forget the sun is alive,
Every moment,
Creating and destroying.

Inside,
I forget I live on a planet
Whirling through space,
Somewhere between the beginning
And the end.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

That Destiny


In you I imagine
And hypothesize
That which belongs to destiny.

Yes,
That destiny,
The one you said is inevitable,
Unalterable.

Yes,
That destiny,
The one I said is malleable,
Uncertain.

One must force the hand of destiny,
I said,
Looking into your infinite eyes,
Afraid to declare my love,
Afraid of what destiny might do.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Guardian


She walks among us,
Taking physical form for a moment,
Watching.

But when I am particularly low,
When my light is flickering,
She comes closer,
Smiles into my eyes,
Deep,
And I am renewed.

Only later do I realize,
I have seen her again.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Answer


Alone and grieving
I search the evening sky.
The full moon rises
With a big happy face.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Something To Remember


These small children would rather run than walk,
Rather jump than step,
They would rather wave their arms and scream
Than politely speak in turn.

So newly arrived,
Reborn without pain,
Recharged with euphoria,
They are mostly unencumbered by gravity.

Something to remember
As the distractions of responsibility
Accumulate.
Something to remember
As the weight of years
Multiplies.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Another Day At The Office


The black-winged fungus of death
Would like to have a word with you
And is holding on Line 2.

Take a message,
Say I,
For the splintering semen of rebirth
Is Miss Ledger’s hand on my thigh.

Encountering my limitless nonself
I give her nothing but love,
Baby.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved