TOM MCMILLIAN. When I’m writing poetry, I relish when my Muse visits me. I love the dance and the places, people, and emotions my writing reveal.
During the last five years as the Morris Arts board president, I’ve helped thousands of children nurture their artist souls. I’m ready to dig in and burnish my own.
The sweetest goodbyes are
When 3-day house guests leave
Unwanted pounds are not replaced
And hangovers go walk-about
I still miss college life
No one had as much fun as me
Wondered if there was life after college
Decided there wasn’t
Been making the best of it ever since
Give me starry nights
Story telling around campfires
I relish when Odysseus and Beowulf join us
Sadness comes only when the fire dims
And we continue the telling in our dreams
On Sundays, I miss Mom’s dinners
Family friends, maiden aunts and sisters
Entering into epic debates
Ruthlessly taking sides for the joy of it
Everything ended peaceably with
Warm homemade brownies and
Brigham’s chocolate chip ice-cream
My sister Mary Noël could talk
On long car trips or when stranded in airports
A call to her would make time disappear
I long to have another call with her
I’ve learned to live each day
It could be my last, or yours
Live like the soldier, shipping out to war the next day
Leave nothing unsaid
Leave nothing undone
Life is too fragile for coy
Too fleeting for hedging.
2018: What’s going to happen to me in the future?
2038: It keeps on changing. Sometimes you’re here and other times you’re not.
2018: What can you tell me for sure?
2038: Here’s one definite thing, you slept in this morning. Once you’ve done something it’s
over, immutable. Now, tomorrow morning has many possibilities, each one creates its own
2018: Can you give me something I can act on? Please?
2038: Looking at all your futures, you have more joy when you cherish hope. The timelines
when you let grief overtake you, you get consumed by fear.
2018: Check, yes to joy and optimism! But, I’ve made mistakes and done some stupid stuff.
How should I feel about that?
2038: It’s in the past. Like I said, immutable. What you need to focus on is not churning grief
but learning from your mistakes. This way, you grow in wisdom and do less stupid stuff. By the
way, dwelling on grief is one of those “stupid things”.
2018: How about this, do I become more adept at the playing the ukulele?
2038: In the futures, when you practice every day and take weekly lessons, you become really good. It’s a fountain of joy that you partake of your whole life. You never regret a minute that you spent playing your uke!
2018: Please, anything else you can share that brings me joy in the future?
2038: Since you asked so nicely… If you agree to do a favor for someone, put it at the top of
your ‘Get To’ List. Plus, handwrite and send more letters, it matters. Keep dogs in your life. At the tippy top of your list put Joanne. True love is Heaven on earth.
2018: Whoa, is there a Heaven?
2038: Don’t know. Do your best to make others happy is a good first step.
2018: Any last pieces of advice?
2038: Don’t buy that motorcycle and floss more.
A VISIT TO A FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
THIS WEEKLY RITUAL
AN EARNED RESPITE
A COMMUNION OF HANDS
SMART, THOUGHTFUL, AND AT TIMES
MY BODY THANKS YOU
This young Tom
Before fame called him
From his Missouri hedges
He was revered in college
Not for his poetry or pool play
But for his raucous drinking songs
Long covertly cherished by his Digamma brothers
After travel from Cambridge to Oxford
He became desolate
When the primrose
Torch of fame
Curtesy is always a good choice
Elegance a close second
It’s my code
The way I thrive
Curtesy the beacon
Helps me deviate from disaster
Veers me into safe harbors
My mother, a dockworker’s daughter
Only drank her tea out of china
She taught me elegance
That’s the name on my yacht
Where living well is the best revenge
In the gales of life
I trim my sails
By the grace of my code
I know when to
With aged sore body
Motion is lotion
More movement is mandatory
So why not,
Say hello to the hula during housework
Make coffee with the cha-cha
Waltz while the wash is whirling
Dig the dervish and dry dishes
Tease out the tango instead of TV
How about, go to the gym
Enjoy an endorphin elixir
Forego the flex in the reflection
Perform a pirouette instead
Tap your foot, hummm
Heck, belt out a showtune
Channel your inner Elvis
Gyrate your hips
When did it start?
Maybe as a whim or a way to heal a rift
I don’t remember
During sporadic visits
I’d asked Gertrude for her blessing
She never refused
She gave her blessing with serious intent
I would bow my head, close my eyes
My godmother would reach up and with her thumb
Make the sign of the cross on my forehead
She was a maiden aunt
Loved her family, books and garden
Taught high school for 50 years
Went to church daily
Enjoyed the occasional novena
She lived a full life, 101 years
Even at the end
When dementia came to stay
She remembered the motions
This sharing of grace
I miss her
I wonder why I don’t ask as many questions anymore?
Where did my curiosity go?
When did I become blasé to mysteries?
Why did I stop having fun asking questions like these questions?
What happed to the dinosaurs?
Did Atlantis really exist?
What about the Anasazi, where did they go?
Did the early Celts have copper mines in Vermont?
Did the Vikings make wine from Martha Vineyard grapes?
Have extra-terrestrials visited Earth and influenced our development?
Is déjà vu, a glimpse into our past lives?
Do I think, I’m so smart that I know all the answers?
Or even worse, do I think that science answers everything and there is no magic left in my world?
Earth or Sky
Which window is better? How can I decide? Sitting in my 40-year-old Harvard chair or laying on our new king size Tempur-Pedic bed?
From my crimson cushioned chair, I hear the chorus of Crooked Creek’s churning water, a steady avalanche of murmuring. I’ve seen furtive foxes, hurtling horned stags, and a skimming great blue heron, whose wings leave dimples in eddies and vortexes in bare branches.
Above our brand-new bed, we’ve removed the ceiling and opened the roof to a twosome of skylights. At night, I’ve been nudged by columns of moonlight. With the waning moon, been rewarded with a visit from Arcturus I’ve surveyed soft snow building up above my head and the drumbeat of hail. I’ve even seen Aurora’s wakening accented by far-flung flying eagles.
Earth or sky. Day or night. One embellishes and makes rare the other.
I only have two-real memories of my father
This Missouri man, before the Navy,
the closest he ever came to seagulls
was sexin’ chicken eggs
With pure chutzpah he became a pilot
One of the first to land heavy jet bombers
on aircraft carriers
While he was asleep on the couch
I jumped on him
Then whirled into laughter filled air
A dimmer memory, he’s in his car
On his way back to sea
People tell be that after the news
I did not speak coherently for years
Sister Carmella, one Christmas Eve
Gave me a wonderful present
Her memory of my Dad
At the convent,
At a scheduled time
My father’s jet formation
Would be over head
All the nuns ran out
Into the cloistered garden
They waved their white work aprons
Against their black habits
My Dad waved back with jet wings wagging
My Dad waved back with jet wings wagging
At sunset, contrails shimmer then disperse
Two memories are all I have.
You have no power here.
Begone, before somebody drops a house on you too!
Glinda the good witch of the North
I’ve had no such luck
No house has ever fallen on my witch
How can I break the curse?
I don’t want to be a yoyo
I’m sick of around the world
Walking the dog
I’m stuck on this roller coaster
Queasy of all the ups and downs
I’ve walked down this same street
Again, and again
I still fall in the same hole
It’s past due for ruby slippers and a different street.
It’s a surprise
Don’t chase it
Slow your breath
Let it find you
In the darkening night
Look for the sacred pool
An ice-covered pond
Dare to move forward
Take languid strides
When the ice breaks
Take no notice
Slip into the other world
Let the magic take you
The only sound
For 20 years, I hiked
The corporate straight and narrow
Thinking myself the maverick
But still singing the company song
A stalwart soldier
Overcoming each obstacle
Using all my energies and talents
To bring about my master’s vision
I weathered many mergers
Until I didn’t
Cast out into the land of Nod
Once a proud samurai, now ronin
I had lost the semblance of security
Long time colleagues and funding to do big things
I wondered who I was
Where to share my passion
Slowly I began again
This time my own master
Learning that falling on my face
Can still be movement forward
Making the best of it
Blooming where I’m planted
Winter’s broken branch
Caught safely in lower limbs
O’ Nimrod, revered throughout time
The great grandson of Noah
Acclaimed in the Bible
“The Mighty Hunter of the Lord”
You were the leader
Erecting the Tower of Babel
Building an incursion into Heaven
Even God feared your abilities
God’s answer was
Creating multiple languages from one
Turning clarity into babel
Yet your fame
Outlived God’s righteous wrath
Your descendants revered other hunters
Using your name
Battleships were named after you
My favorite the HMS Nimrod
Shelled Cape Cod
During the War of 1812
Publishing Houses, Presses, and Poetry Journals
By adopting your name
God’s memory is long
And She is not known
To forgive easily
For millennia, not able to sully
Your memory with cannons, battles, or ink
She finally devised a plan
Creating a rabbit and an inept hunter
To bring you down
Bugs Bunny, the wascawwy wabeit
Would be hunted by inept Elmer Fudd
Bugs Bunny threw all the might of his fame
In saddling Elmer with the moniker
“Poor little nimrod”
For generations of children
Nimrod, the renown hunter
Was now perceived to be a klutz
O’ Nimrod, I still praise your name