Archive for October, 2008

29
Oct
08

Orion Outside My Door

Orion Outside My Door
By Darren King [copyright 2008]

Walking out my front door
the other morning
I felt the sting of cold air –
it’s come early this year,
and noticing it was also dark
looked up out of habit
as I do each October
for Orion’s return –
his intimidating stance,
his drawn sword,
ready to strike,
but does not strike,
his infamous
belt of three stars.
Here I am
just north of forty
having always lived
in houses facing south.
His presence is as comforting
as it is unnerving
as only something so
powerful can be.
And I haven’t decided
after all these years
if he’s friend or foe.
On some mornings
he appears to be
looming over my house.
On others, he hovers,
protectively,
like the bearer of bad news
who has come to comfort,
which plays with my darker side.
What ominous event comes this autumn
that I need protecting?
What is it this winter brings
that I need heaven’s sentry?

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28
Oct
08

The Space Between

The Space Between

“And the mystery itself is the doorway to all understanding.”
-First Verse, The Tao Te Ching

By Darren King [copyright 2008]

This is the place
where things are
neither black or white.
Not so much grey really
but silver –
metallic reflects hope
like pixie dust,
there is still room
for magic and miracles,
for possibilities.
This is the place
of holy ground,
where we seek
no answers and
welcome the question.
This is the place
where we dwell
into the mystery –
between the secular
and the august,
between the heart
and the intellect,
between belief
and unbelief.

23
Oct
08

15th Anniversary (or, why we still hold hands)

15th Anniversary (or, why we still hold hands)
By Darren King [copyright 2008]

Because we know how dangerous
this world can be,
how fragile.
Because we know the power
of words –
how they can hurt,
destroy,
undo,
how they can heal,
mend,
all that we have done
to garrison this union.

Lord knows
I can piss you off
like nobody’s business.
But here we are,
fifteen years later,
after dating
nine and a half weeks
and a nine-month engagement,
just north of forty,
with two children,
one who looks like you,
one who looks like me,
living, as you say, the kit
the corporate job,
the house,
the minivan,
the Saturday soccer games.

But after the children have grown
I want to raise a barn with you
and fill it with your paintings.
And in the other half
my instruments
and you will paint
and I will write music
because time really
doesn’t change who we are,
like that Saturday morning
when the boys were little
and we were rollerblading
in the basement
with your U2 blaring
out of my circa 1987 stereo.
Or like the first night
we met,
a blind date,
when we talked about religion
and politics and relationships,
about being real,
and knowing when something
significant is happening
while it is happening.

17
Oct
08

Veteran in a New Field

Veteran in a New Field
By Darren King [copyright 2008]

I’m not sure exactly
how these things happen.
I started out on this path
waking early for years –
a burst of creative expression
in written word,
a whole body of work produced.
But then there is the other work too –
that puts the food on the table,
that pays the bills.
This work takes precedent
as it should
over the negotiations
of sentences and syllables.
But it as if I threw my hands into the air
and became less willing to brave
the loneliness of empty thoughts.

No wonder then, I take to poets
who were farmers, or who grew up on farms.
Farming and writing –
both require a lot of heavy lifting
and waking early and lonely hours
when there is no one to help,
no one but you
to get what needs to be done, done.
Lord knows you’re not in it for the pay
and you wonder if anyone even notices,
if anyone even cares.
And then you hit a drought,
or a stone and the wheels fall off,
all seems lost,
you can’t get it back together
you can’t get it back in the groove
you were in when everything
seemed so easy.
Hope becomes a thread
from which you hang yourself
grasping for any straw,
any straw that will see you through the day,
any straw that says things will turn up.

But then the thought comes to you
that maybe the drought is
part of the process –
to slow you down
to reprioritize your day
to get your bearings straight
to remember who you are
and speak the plain language
of the land you know
but have forgotten –
to plow ahead and be brave enough
to dig a little deeper and flush out
what was already there,
what has always been there.

12
Oct
08

Billy, Chad and Tikki Tikki Tembo

Billy, Chad and Tikki Tikki Tembo
By Darren King [copyright 2008]

When my son’s friend peddled his bicycle out of
our neighborhood for what would be his last time
and his life forever separated from our’s,
first by distance and eventually by time,
I thought of you, Billy, and your last day in our First Grade class.

Life provides a list of sorrows and sadnesses
seemingly connected and thirty-odd years later,
I remember now, your moving away.
You displayed and dispensed
justice and had a sense of yourself

you needn’t prove to the other children.
You were a leader worthy to follow and so
I gladly played my role as your right-hand man
on the playground and in the halls of school.
I shadowed you that day in class

and was certain someone would notice
and then point out to embarrass –
the lump I could only feel in my throat.
At recess, with you and another boy
as captains, we were divided into two teams

and played one last game of kickball,
everyone else acting as if nothing
would change later that day
when the dismissal bell rang. Your empty desk
the next morning came as a surprise to me.

I don’t know why. Perhaps it was your nametag
the three-by-five index card, still taped to your desk
which wasn’t your desk anymore. And Mrs. Clancy,
with whom I was hopelessly in love, reading to us and I,
cross-legged at her feet, sat mesmerized by her story

of the Chinese boy and his family who lived in the
wonderful ink-and-wash drawings with fanciful swirls
and the bricked well, the old man sleeping, always by a tree
and the boy, always the boy, in water up to his eyes,
waiting to be noticed, waiting to be rescued.

08
Oct
08

A Testament to Freedom

A Testament to Freedom by Darren King [copyright 2008]

For Pfc. Joseph Sturgis, Jamestown NY

I sat next to him on a flight
from Atlanta to Detroit
and closed my book somewhere
over the Tennessee Valley –
he wasn’t ever going to stop talking.
He was going home
on a seventeen-day leave of absence
after basic training,
then onto a twelve-month
stint in Korea.
He was going home to tell his father
how sorry he was,
for the trouble he had caused,
the worry.
He was going home to tell his father
he had become a man
and was someone to be proud of.

08
Oct
08

Coming Home

Coming Home
By Darren King [copyright 2008]

Traveling for business is odd. At least when you do it as frequently as I do. It’s necessary. But it’s odd. The drama that comes with airports and shuttles. Rental cars and hotels. Sometimes I feel like Steve Martin in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”. Take a flight, add in a lay-over, a whacky flight attendant and an irate passenger, throw in some bad weather and you’ve got the makings of a screenplay.

But traveling for me is necessary. There just are some things you can’t do over the Internet. You can not replace the value of time spent with someone face-to-face. Yet, while I am traveling, building relationships elsewhere, the relationships back home are on-hold in the same physical sense. I can communicate with my wife and children by cellphone and emails. But it’s not the same as actually being home. I don’t kid myself about these things. When I’m away – I’m away. And after a few days days, being in a hotel room without your family? It gets old. Fast. And because I travel so frequently, when I do I enter into a whole other life. A very different life. Alone and with a whole different set of habits and routines that kick in as soon as I hit the airport.

I always fool myself into thinking I’m going to catch up on sleep. This is usually a sign that I’ve started the trip already sleep-deprived. However, as soon as I get to my hotel room it’s a different story. I unpack my clothes. I set out my toiletries and find a plug to charge my cellphone. I pull back the bedding, unpack my laptop and sit cross-legged on the bed while flipping channels on the television. I read. I write. I catch up on emails. The news. I prepare for the next day’s set of meetings. I call business contacts who have left messages at two phones. I call my family to say good night. I stay up too late. I have the whole routine down. Like other habits, it’s all very easy. After a few days of this, I’m ready for home.

This week I was back in the great state of North Carolina. One of my frequent trips to Durham. Making the time away a little more bearable, I stay across from Papas Grille right in Durham. The friendly couple who own and run the restaurant also own and run the coffee house next door. She makes my morning coffee. He makes my dinner.

“Hello Darren!”, she says, when she sees me on the first morning of my first full day.

“Can you turn my light on dear?”, she says.

Six-foot, three, she is asking me to reach up and pull the little chain for the light at the front of the cafe’, like I’m the Abominable Snowman in Rudolph, putting the star on the Christmas tree. “And he doesn’t even need a step ladder!” She stands behind the espresso machine watching me; a large, skim, hazelnut, latte’ already in the works.

“How long are you staying this time?”

“Four days,” I say, “through Thursday evening.”

“Oh good. Then I will see you for dinner?”

“Yes,”.

“Good,” she says. “We will make you something very special.”

So this is how my week away from home went. And will go. I rise early. I stay up late. I work. I hear a lot of funny conversations. I miss my family. But I see her each morning when she has already started my coffee and asks me to pull the little chain for her light. And I will see them at night when he makes my dinner. And when things slow down, we’ll watch CNN on the flatscreen in the corner of the bar. We’ll talk about politics, the stock markets. We’ll talk about her grown sons and my young boys and compare the weather here in Durham to home, in Greece and Michigan.




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