Saturday, September 6, 2014


     (for Miller on his Thirteenth Birthday)

 Raven on my Shoulder
                      Raven on my Shoulder

Born of Frank, Sr.,
and Our Lady of Perpetual Longing
the fifth or seventh of eleven -

     who can remember?

Frank was brought up
     by a free floating family
          to float free.

An independent thinker.

Frank Sr.,
an odds maker
angle player
sporting life
as honest as anyone outside the law
taught him the higher maths of
     Eight ball
     The ponies
And lives captured in a dream

Taught him the benefits of
     Fi-delity and Loyalty

And the utility of a pocketful of hand-shakes.

His favorite uncle
a man of the cloth
taught him how to
     Play the piano
     Shoot nine holes and various handguns
     And communicate with the higher powers.

Uncle Sugar
might have shown him
how to snap a jab
and throw a flurry,
but ain't nobody saying.

Perpetual Longing walked him along the path of
     Reading books
     Recognizing love
     Keeping his own council
     And the equality of the great and small.

When he was a baby,
his auntie, Ma Raven, poked him in the ear
and left a message

Said to listen for her rough song
and when he was ready
she'd tell him some things

In time she did -

She told him the world was divided
between the agreed upon and the enchanted

mirrors, reflections
and surface things
could trap you twixt the two

and you had to get into something
     before you could get out of it.

Ma Raven told him to aovid rats
     she hated rats
the two and four-legged varieties
both recognized by their moving jaws and skittish behavior
distracting you with shiny things
while they eat you alive.

Most important, she said, don't be afraid.

Before he left home
Frank understood
you could pay a price for things
     that weren't for sale
And there was nothing
     you could steal
     that would do you any good.

He learned that life
     was a tightrope walk
with a bounce and sway
     that sent messages
          through his feet
               into his heart
                    and finally his head

He learned his body
always got the message first
     and the territory between
          what his heart felt
          and his head thought
          was a minefield littered
               with limbs, lives, and intentions -
                    good and otherwise.

Every animal Frank ever met
     taught him to nap anytime
          and eat when he could.

Wind taught him
     to expect the unexpected

And stars that there's no time
     like the present.

At times Frank thought life was just one goddamn lesson after another
     and with all these lessons he'd never get a day of nothing at all.

Frank got days of nothing at all - he didn't enjoy them all that much.

By the time Frank hit the road
he was prepared
for glorious contingencies
stray teachers
and all the visible-and-in
an enchanted vaudeville could offer.

Frank was happy to be
     Foot loose & Fancy free.

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