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In Memory of Zaz (Cassandra)
Friday, 5 February 2010
Stone Soldiers
Topic: Poems for Zaz

Stone Soldiers


shot through the black dream

of goodness and light

sky scattered teardrops

in the hollow-eyed night

we picked up the saving

in a cold falling down

through the broken-iced secret

they just watched us drown


we were stone soldiers

and masters of fate

here to help a loving

come so little, come so late


it just broke all our pieces

down onto the ground

like a trail of edgy tears

on the sad way out of town

still they died their hands clenching

little pearls of despair

finally run out of ways

to make the care they should care


and we were stone soldiers

masters of love

just like a Jesus-child

wings like a dove


just shut out the lights for now

go ‘round and lock the door

those kids that used to come here

won’t be back for more

we keep closer counsel now

in each other’s eye

we are the thing we want to see

where angels cannot die


but we were stone soldiers

and masters of night

born to tangle tiny dreams

in giant streams of light


back then, we were stone soldiers

and masters of the grave

holding back the dying light

with someone left to save


and now, we’re stone soldiers

spun around our own new stars

unmade for each other

beyond any battle scars


stone soldiers

angel babies


tommy for Zaz

Posted by art/besidecoldwater at 12:39 PM EST
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Friday, 29 January 2010
Topic: Poems for Zaz

you're a little star
cutting through a dead black night
pouring out your light and life
in every corner of my heart

you're a whisper
so softly in the stones themselves
hinting at the buried dream
just aching for a touch from you

you're a raindrop
falling on the parched ground
thirsting there for tenderness
cooling on my dry cracked lips

you are beauty
shining like a prison break
filling up the cold barred room
with something to believe at last

you're the woman for my man
I don't need to understand
the world

you're a melody
playing in a schoolyard
dancing children everywhere
can't help but sing along

you're a nightbird
wisping through the streetlights
up above my midnight dreams
teasing me to fly away

you're a teardrop
running down my sad cheek
welling from inside of me
dying to pour out on me

you're a warm fire
lying there beside me
drawing me to hold you close
against my winter night

you're the beating of my heart
I know we can never part
we are

you're the last word
in everything I ever wrote
the poem of a dream come true
singing always in my head for you

you're the first breath
drawn in every shining world
filling up the sighs of hope
with passion for a dream of peace

you're the love that must go on
and the dream that's never gone
for me

you're a nightbird

tommy for Zaz

Posted by art/besidecoldwater at 12:18 PM EST
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Thursday, 21 January 2010
Angel Of Death
Topic: Poems for Zaz

Angel Of Death


when the sky cracks to black

          from a glass-beaded blue

and shakes down the stars

          like a hot falling dew

and tears are like diamonds

          all over the ground

and mouths that are crying

          just swallow the sound


when I can no longer stand

I’ll reach out for your little hand

cross over that great black divide

to walk once again by your side

I give you my very last breath

you are my angel of death


when sickness and sadness

          lay down on the floor

as fingers of light reach in

          under the door

fallen down in the shadows

          washed away in the pain

love lies bleeding out

          like the last of the rain


when I can no longer write

I’ll weep out our song in the night

at your feet lay my emptiness down

shadows of echoes torn from their sound

I give you my very last breath

you are my angel of death


a man steps where he steps

          before and after the falls

he hears what he hears

          no matter who calls

he sees what he sees

          through every last tear

and he loves who he loves

          without any fear


it’s been such a long lonely while

since I’ve seen that sweet loving smile

put your lips to my lips tonight

lift me up into your loving light

take the love in my very last breath

my beautiful angel of death


tommy for Zaz

Posted by art/besidecoldwater at 12:46 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 21 January 2010 12:54 PM EST
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Monday, 11 January 2010
Disappearing (This Is Our Song)
Topic: Poems for Zaz

Disappearing (This Is Our Song)


The hardest part is how the pieces fall away

and memories struggle only partly made

and little holes appear where real used to be

as toward our loving we must fade


It doesn't matter that we look across a void

toward the only arms we want to know

This place can't hold me long, I'm lifting to your light

and like a shooting star I'm gonna go


I know I'm disappearing with you

I know it won't be that long

'til the only thing left here

is this song


I used to think the tears would wash me away

Now I lift my eyes in hope for them to start

and you reach right through me like an angel in my veins

I can feel you beating in my heart


I know I'm disappearing with you

I know it won't be that long

'til the only thing left here

is this song


It doesn't matter that we cross a universe

We are the home we're bound to know

This place can't hold me now, I'm lifting toward our light

a shooting star I'm bound to go


I know I love you forever

I know our dream is that strong

and morning bells are ringing

and morning birds are singing

everywhere we are...

this is our song


tommy for Zaz

Posted by art/besidecoldwater at 12:29 PM EST
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Wednesday, 30 December 2009
I Went To See The Gypsy (excerpt)
Topic: "Unconventional" the book
In the spring of 1976 my two girls and my young wife and I went up to Wisconsin Dells on a day trip. It was early spring and many of the attractions were not yet fully open for the season. We found a few, like the riverboat ride, and lost canyon, and took the kids on them. It was fun just to be out and about in the Dells with so few people around. We got a little lunch for the kids early at McDonald's, and stopped in later in the afternoon at a local bar for a beer for me and sodas for the kids. We went all around town locating attractions for future visits. Late in the day we passed a place advertising ice cream and palm reading. On a lark we decided to stop there, and get Mary Jo and the kids some ice cream, while I went in to see what it would cost to have my palms read.
It turned out that the place was owned and run by genuine eastern European Gypsies. There were pictures on the walls of their family and ancestors, and the four or five family members we met were all quite conversational about their heritage, and quite friendly. When I was a boy in Marion Ohio in the fifties, Gypsies would arrive in town on a Saturday in a parade of black Cadillacs. Some local storeowners would actually close their stores until the Gypsies left town. They were still considered then to be thieves and confidence people, who trained their children to steal. My Grandmother was fascinated with their culture though, and told me then that such reports of infamy were highly exaggerated fear and prejudice.
In any case I approached them with skeptical humor. We went in and I asked how much it would cost to have my palms read, and get my fortune told. They informed me it was ten dollars, five for each. Mary Jo and the kids set about picking out flavors of ice cream while conversing with an older couple who turned out to be the owners. A beautiful young Gypsy woman came and took me to a back room and sat me down at a table. I gave her the ten dollars. She took both my hands in her hands looking at them intently, and began the ususal patois about life lines and heart lines and their explanations. She asked my age, and how many kids, and how long married, how many siblings, and so forth. She said nothing to me out of the ordinary, and after about ten minutes I thanked her and started to get up and leave.
She held my hands fast and breifly restrained me by squeezing harder and said, "A dark haired woman loves you very much, oh very much!" I said, "Oh you mean my wife. I know that." Mary Jo was a beautiful young mother at the time, five foot three, about a hundred and fifteen pounds, with long dark hair. Taking her anywhere in those days was a challenge to my manhood, as men were always ogling her and hitting on her. The Gypsy firmly replied, "No not your wife." She caught my interest for a second and I said, "My Mom and my Grandmother and my Aunt Maryanna have dark hair, and all of them love me very much." She said more emphatically, "No, no, no, not family members, someone from the past in your future. You will know her, though you don't think you can. Not your wife at all. This woman loves you very much, and you love her. I can see that!" I said, "I'm not like that, I love my wife." The Gypsy looked at me and said, "It is what I see." I said, "Well thank you, but I don't think you see it right." I left the room and collected Mary Jo and the kids, said a cordial goodbye to the Gypsies, chuckling politely and thinking the palm reading woman was a fraud. It was just a lark to me. As I left the woman said behind me, "I am sure. You will see." The old man behind the ice cream counter met my eyes intently for a few seconds, and I turned and walked out the door behind the kids.

Posted by art/besidecoldwater at 2:29 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 30 December 2009 2:34 PM EST
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Tuesday, 22 December 2009
Schoolgirls Walking (excerpt)
Topic: "Unconventional" the book

Shortly after the birth of my first child, my oldest daughter, my young wife and I entered into a photographic plan to have pictures taken twice a year of our daughter as she grew up. I believe it was called "Family Record Plan". A free photo album and discounted photography came with the plan for ten years. The closest photographer we could find associated with the plan, as we lived in Waukesha Wisconsin at the time, was Breitlow in Wauwatosa Wisconsin on Harwood Ave. So it was that in February or March of 1971 I had occasion to be driving through Wauwatosa on my way to pick up proofs of recent photographs of my oldest daughter. I worked second shift as a transformer assembler at the old R.T.E. plant in Waukesha at the time, so my errand running was always accomplished in the daytime.


I had a brand new car at the time, in fact the only car I ever ordered from the factory. All my other cars were purchased used, or bought new off the lot. It was a special order color, a 1965 color called "misty turquiose", though the car was a 1970 SS Nova. It had every available option of aluminum and chrome bright trim offered from the factory at that time. I had replaced the factory rally wheels with Cragar five spoked "Mag" wheels with blue Chevrolet bow tie center caps, and new Goodyear Polyglass wide oval tires 60 series. I had the car pinstriped in black with chrome hood-pins installed. The suspension was lifted in the back with coil over shocks to accomodate the biggest tire I could fit in the wheel well. I was used to the car being noticed and enjoyed it. It was after all the muscle car era, and I was young and dumb.


As I rumbled my way through the streets of Wauwatosa, while stopped at a light I noticed two dark haired schoolgirls crossing the street on the other side of the street I was on. I caught them looking at the car, so I gunned the motor a little at the light. I was smoking a cigarette, and had the window rolled down and the radio on. As I pulled out of the light and passed the girls, I looked directly at them. The girl closest to me turned to look at me, and our eyes locked together in a way that felt almost timeless. We stared at each other, and intently studied each other's faces until I rolled by. After I passed, I looked in the mirror and saw the girl turn to the other girl and say something close to her ear, almost leaning her head on her shoulder, which caused the other girl to react with a little handclasp and a giggle. I went about my errand, but the girl's face stuck in my mind for weeks, and I even awakened one morning, months later, dreaming of her; startled by it with a splitting headache from trying to remember who she was. After Zaz and I had been together as adults for a while I saw the picture of her at sixteen, and realized that the girl that day had been my Zaz. 

Posted by art/besidecoldwater at 2:11 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 30 December 2009 2:35 PM EST
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Monday, 21 December 2009
Thank You Boy (excerpt)
Topic: "Unconventional" the book
When I was ten tears old, a week or so before Easter, my Father took me to downtown Milwaukee to a little basemant tailor shop to get the pants of the new corduroy suit he had gotten me for Easter fitted and tailored. Afterwards we went around town a bit on various errands; stopping at what was then the New Central YMCA on Wisconsin Ave. and two or three other stops. I don't remember the purposes of the stops, but my Father was involved with religious drama, YMCA fund raising, and the Greater Milwaukee Council Of Churches at the time. He had even involved me as a child performer in a few fund raising skits for the YMCA. On the way back he decided to run over to a little grocery store for something, I don't recall what, but we made our way there in a roundabout fashion, as I recall walking through town part of the way, after leaving the car parked in front of another errand site.
As we were walking along, and I'm not even sure what street or alley we were on, I noticed two boys a little older than me playing catch with a baseball out on the sidewalk. All of a sudden a little girl in a beautiful white dress ran scrambling out onto the sidewalk, situating herself between the two boys, and jumping at the ball as they tossed it back and forth. The boys began to yell at her, "Cut it out. It's a hard ball. You'll get hurt." Finally one boy said, "You'd better watch out. We're going to throw it real hard." They began throwing the ball harder and harder to each other, and closer and closer to the little girl. She became frightened and ducked into a fetal position on the sidewalk whimpering, "Stop it. I'm scared." By then I had proceeded close enough to them to intervene. I ran in between the two yelling, "Cut it out!" The boys were bigger then me, but my Father was just behind me; and I guess the instincts learned from having two little sisters of my own caused me to feel protective of the little girl.
Just as I bent over and began to kneel down to assist the little girl, I felt the ball hit me in the lower back and skip up over my shoulders. It should have hurt as the momentum of the impact threw the ball up over the head of the other boy, and out into the street. I don't recall any pain, just a thump and a brushing feeling across my back that made me aware I had been hit by the ball. I kneeled down and assisted the little girl to her feet and said, "Don't be afraid. They won't bother you now. My Dad will chase them away." She looked up at me, rubbing the tears off her cheeks, put one little hand on each side of my face, and looking right into my eyes said, "Oh thank you. Thank you boy!" Then she ran off through the yard and disappeared behind a house. I didn't know it at the time, and wouldn't realize it until after we were together as adults, but that little girl was my Zaz. She was around four and a half years old. My family had just moved to Greenfield Wisconsin from Minneapolis Minnesota the year before. I didn't know anybody from Milwaukee, except for adult associates of my Father. 

Posted by art/besidecoldwater at 10:19 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 30 December 2009 2:31 PM EST
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Saturday, 19 December 2009
Birds and Bees (excerpt)
Topic: "Unconventional" the book
In July of 1955 I lived in Marion Ohio. I was five years old, to turn six in September that year. I was very young, but I remember several incidences during that summer. My Uncle Tom was fifteen to turn sixteen that year, and used to visit fairly regularly. I remember he had a firecracker cannon that you dropped a lit firecracker into, and if you stuffed paper quickly in afterwards, it would shoot out shreds of paper after it went off. He also had a little motor scooter that he took me for rides on occasionally. He was very fifties, very James Dean, and impressed me quite a bit as a little boy with all the dangerous things he did as a teen. At five going on six I was eager to impress any older boy with my daring do as well. I had a friend down the block named Paul, who was two years older than me, who took to me because of my knowledge of basball cards, interest in airplanes, and pirate sword fighting with wooden swords Uncle Tom made for us. Most of the neighborhood boys were impressed with Uncle Tom. I think he made my first rubber band gun as well.
As that summer went along, Paul and I got to be good friends. I defended myself, and my sister, a few times in boyish skirmishes, and rock throwing fights across the street; even taking a good wound to the nose once and surviving. The object was to stand there and not chicken out, a painful object I would discover, but well worth the gain in neighborhood status. I had a pretty good reputation as a scrapper by the end of that summer, highly enhanced by my Uncle Tom I'm sure, but a reputation none the less. One day Paul happened to see me flinch when a bee began to buzz about my head. He started to tease me about being afraid of bees, so of course when he suggested that we catch bees in glass jars, I had to prove that I wasn't afraid. We began to regularly catch bees and release them at other kids to scare them. We noticed immediately that the other kids were impressed not only that we caught bees, but that out mothers gave us permission to do it with glass jars as well. It was quite a power trip for a couple of silly boys.
One afternoon we were at the schoolyard with the big swings catching bees and chasing kids around. I remember it was after the fourth of July, but before my sister's birthday on the thirtieth. Paul got into an argument about Mickey Mantle with some other older boy and I drifted off toward the swings waiting to see what would come of it. I noticed an older dark-haired girl lazily swinging on the swing, in what looked like a Catholic School uniform. I thought she might be an older sister of one of the kids I was teasing, so I looked at her a bit warily. I'd gotten thumped enough by my Aunt Maryanna who was around thirteen, so I knew enough to respect an older girl's power. She looked up at me curiously and said, "What are you doing boy?" I thought it was odd at the time to address me as just plain boy, but I never knew the signifigance until later in life. I plunged ahead and replied, "Catching bees." She asked, "Why?" I decided not to answer that right away, and took the offensive brandishing my jar, "Want to see these two?" She replied, "Sure." I handed her the jar and she looked them over at different angles for a bit and then said, "You have to let them go you know. They'll die in the jar." I said, "They're just bees." She said, "Don't you know the flowers need bees?" I just said, "I never kill them. I always let them go." Aunt Maryanna had told me the same thing. Then the girl just unscrewed the jar lid and shook the bees free saying, "All right then."
I was impressed now. I asked, "Are you Catholic?" She ignored the question and began to swing slowly humming a song I didn't know. The she asked, "Is that your brother over there?" I said, "No, I only have a sister and she's at home with my Mom." And then I added, "But my Mom is having another baby soon." She stopped swinging and looked at me smiling and said, "That's your brother. Your Mom's new baby." I looked at her for a minute, and then for no reason just took her at her word. I think she sensed that I had done so and then said, "I think of being a Nun sometimes. They marry Jesus, and get a wedding ring and everything. You have to be very good though." Even I knew about Nuns so I just said, "They can't have babies though. They're married to God." She scolded me and said, "I'm not a dumb bunny you know." She giggled and started swinging and said, "Do you know this song?" And then she began to sing, "Let me tell you about the birds and the bees, and the flowers and the trees, and the moon up above, and a thing called love." I said, "No I never heard it before." She said, "You will." Then she looked at me peacefully and said, "I have to go home now boy. Tomorrow is my birthday." I said, "Happy Brithday then. Watch out for bees." She feigned a frown, and said again, "I'm not a dumb bunny you know." She ran up over the hill behind the swings, and I never saw her again in Ohio.
The day before my birthday, September 29, in the early evening I was playing outside in the backyard. I was imagining my swing set a great sailing ship under my command. There was a storm coming in, but I was determined to stay out there in the growing wind and play pirate. My Mom kept calling me to come in and I kept puting her off. She said, "Tommy you get in here if the lightening gets any closer." I said, "In a minute Mom. It's OK." Inevitably the storm began to grow, the sky darkening as the winds picked up. Suddenly there was a great clap of thunder, and a huge lightening bolt cut through the air. It startled me and I took off for the back door of the house. Halfway across the yard I stepped on a bee in my bare feet and got stung on the right foot. It started to rain. I hopped and jumped and managed to get to the backdoor, tears in my eyes, and reached out for the doorhandle and got stung again on the right hand by a yellowjacket perched on the door handle. The next day I had a sore swollen right hand and foot. I remembered the girl on the swing on my own birthday in 1955, and on the day my brother was born in October that year. 
I know now that somehow the girl was Zaz. I think she was trying to let me know she was coming into the world the day before she arrived. The last few years I have equated the bee stings with the unexpected death of my brother, and the tragic death of her Billy. The song she was singing turned out to be the Jewel Aiken hit song from 1965. The first time I heard the song on the radio I thought it was a silly old song from back in the fifties. I told my friends that liked it, that it was stupid to compare a song like that to Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone". I was so serious in the sixties. I think I was so precocious as a child, because I was so terrified of my Father. It was a defense mechanism to stay on my toes and be smart around him. That the girl, Zaz, was ten years old simply indicates how mature of a five year old I was at times. She knew I was smart, and she made sure to show me how smart she was, and not to get too big for my britches.

Posted by art/besidecoldwater at 1:28 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 22 December 2009 1:36 PM EST
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Thursday, 17 December 2009
I Could Not Smell Your Hair
Topic: Poems for Zaz

The pain that you suffer

     in the time you have lost

returns like a story

     on the winds where you tossed

and whispers so sweetly

     in your mouth full of sighs

and drains you so empty

     of the tears in your eyes


Tomorrow is a shadow on a road that is not there

Today never happened

because I could not smell your hair


So write it up and down

     cut a cross upon my chest

and make a bed of thorns

     to lay my shattered heart to rest

Tie my soul to heaven's gatepost

     a tattered banner in the stars

to keen of love just taken

     beyond healing, beyond scars


Tomorrow is a shadow in a night I cannot bear

and yesterday can't make me

because I cannot smell your hair


My time is washed behind me

     and in front there is no light

I stand in my same footsteps

     where you left me on that night


I'm just a hollow echo of the song we used to share

and our angels all stopped singing

when I could not smell your hair


so burn my corpse a daybreak

send the smoke to heaven's air

all the angels started dying

when I could not smell your hair


tommy for Zaz

Posted by art/besidecoldwater at 1:28 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 18 December 2009 11:24 AM EST
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The Long Sweet Fall (Tears for Zaz)
Topic: Poems for Zaz

I can't remember if it was snowing

or if the night was even cold

All I could see were your beautiful eyes

and that soldier sadness in your face


You looked straight at me

and I looked straight at you

like coming home for the very last time

There was nothing for us here we needed to find -

just each other


And it all went into that long sweet fall

in that half-light of love that should have always been

Sighs here in this shadow of heaven

filling up the last of the night


And then they lined up all around us

and just ran us straight into the ground

Angry for losing their senses

Hurt with that thing that they could not feel


And then the stars hung their heads

and the broken moon dropped tears

all over our holy ground

until nothing could hold back the flood


And it all went into that long sweet fall

and their half-opened eyes couldn't take the light

as they ducked into the shadows of heaven

just beyond our sorrow burning there so bright


And my Zaz and I went into that long sweet fall

Laying back into the arms of forever

Carried up over all the shadows of heaven

to rest where worlds spin so softly in unbroken skies


Now every step I take is just a long sweet fall

like the tears running down my cheeks

I know the midnight is lifting in heaven

as we rise to make a morning for our love again


I swear I heard your little feet run across the kitchen floor

but the dog still sits alone looking at the door

I swear I smelled you on the pillow, felt you move next to me

but it's just the curtains sailing up on a midnight breeze


tommy for Zaz always


Posted by art/besidecoldwater at 1:10 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 18 December 2009 11:23 AM EST
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