Building


When my great-grandfather was young,
Growing up in a small farming town,
He was needed.
His labor was needed.
Every able-bodied citizen was needed,
And by their labors, the towns grew into cities,
And the cities became a country.

Each morning they were called,
Called to a hundred,
A thousand different employments.

Each morning I am not called.
My labor is not needed.

I imagine my great-grandfather
Choosing an occupation,
Answering the call,
Fulfilling a need,
Building a life,
A city,
A country.

He would not understand this aimless life I lead.
He would not know me.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Exiles


Leaving the office late last night
I passed by harshly lit co-worker cubicles,
All the carefully framed photos of smiling children,
Of loved ones,
Precisely placed,
Reassurance during the long working day,
A bond of love in our lives.

We are exiles,
Returning home for a few exhausted hours
To again be husbands and wives,
Parents and children,
Families.

Together again
For those precious few hours
That work allows.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Failure And Success


What seems so clearly to be failure
Will turn out to be only part of what happened.
What seems so clearly to be success
Will turn out to be only part of what happened.
The story of your life is so much more complex
Than the simple words:
Failure,
Success.

Leave this shorthand to the obituary writers
Who are compelled to sum up a life
In cold, calculating column inches.

Do not dwell on failure.
Do not dwell on success.
Live in the heart of each moment
And behold the terrible majesty of it all.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Searching For Sugar


This solitary ant walks across the desert
Of my bathroom floor,
Stopping,
Then starting,
Then stopping and starting,
Over and over,
Slight course corrections,
Searching for scent.

The sugar bowl is in another country,
In the land of kitchen,
In a high cupboard,
High above the floor
Where another solitary ant,
Finding a few grains of spilled sugar,
Sensing the source is near,
Needing neither hope nor faith,
Continues.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Suffocated


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,
Suffocated by this working world.


~ 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

Unemployment


The clock strikes one,
My lunch is done,
I lost my job,
I load my gun.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Working World


A little bird flew down
From her nest
Into the old car.

Joseph terribly sad sleeping
In the midday sun,
While the work of the world
Went on all around.

Even the little bird,
Pecking sandwich crumbs
From the dashboard of the open convertible,
Doing little bird work.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Work Of No Work


How this busy world conspires
Against the simple act
Of sitting quietly in a chair
With pen and paper in hand,
Writing down a thought or two,
Or not writing at all,
Doing the work of no work
All poets must do.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Trash Day


I hear the truck lumbering down my street,
Creeping around the cul-de-sac,
Transmission torquing,
Short bursts of brakes screeching.

The side loader clamps and lifts
And shakes empty the black containers,
Metal clanging,
Hydraulics hissing,
The packer compacting trash in the hopper.

The diesel engine groans toward my house
And I run outside.

I invite the garbage man in for coffee and coffee cake
And we talk about his family:
Aging parents from Slovakia
Who still call themselves Czechoslovakians.
“It is from where we were born!”
A tattooed son who will not go to college,
A daughter still young enough to play with dolls
But pretty enough to cause him worry,
A wife who works at the hospital.
“No more night shifts!”

Driving the big truck
“Is a good job now.”
Sitting sky high in the cab.
No more lifting like the old days.

He goes to church each Sunday.
The stained-glass windows are midnight blue and apple red
And fill the air with color.

I offer to warm up his coffee
While my next-door neighbor looks out his window,
Wonders what in the hell is going on.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Suburban Twilight


Suburban twilight,
Punctuated by porch lights
Welcoming weary workers home.

“Hello darling,”
She says,
“I missed you,”
Her bare shoulders
Framed by the thin straps,
Too loose,
Of her tiny, translucent dress.

This never happened to me.

A bunch of soccer ball boys,
Too young to go on a date,
Stand together in a jagged circle
On a grass-dirt field
While their parents lie to each other
About nothing in particular,
Waiting for the game to begin.

Back on the boulevard
Commuters swim upstream,
Fighting their way back
To the suburban spawning grounds
For a few hours of fun
Before it all shuts down in sleep,
And regret.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Time


There was a day
When the balance between young and old
Shifted,
And what was strong
Began to weaken.

The day passed without notice
Until many years later
When I realized what happened.

Now,
All my ambitions,
All my aspirations,
Reduced to this single phrase:
“While there is still time.”


~ 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

Car Wash


It’s a slow morning at the car wash
And the Mexicans are relaxed,
Making each other laugh,
Whistling,
Free from the manic afternoon rush to come.

One of them walks by,
Spinning a towel on a single finger,
Smiling at me with missing teeth,
Looking like a man who feels lucky,
Lucky to have this job in sunny Southern California.

Now he is drying my car with a towel in each hand,
Bending and stretching,
Familiar with all the secret places where water hides.
He jams his body upside down
Into an impossible back-seat angle
To wash the inside rear window.

A car horn honks and a woman sitting near me startles,
Finishes whatever she was doing with her cell phone
And walks to her car,
Walks around her car,
Inspecting,
Pointing at small spots only she can see
While the obliging car wash worker looks on,
Generously wiping his cloth where her finger points,
Smiling patiently.
She gives him her receipt and a dollar,
Not quite satisfied,
Not expecting to be quite satisfied.

The man working on my car finishes
And twirls a towel high above his head,
Like a pizza chef.
He is a virtuoso towel twirler,
A talented man who asks very little from life,
Who expects less.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

So Busy


My love is talking on the phone,
So busy,
Too busy to hear love’s examination of the heart,
So much to do.

Of course you love me,
Quote unquote,
Make love,
Quote unquote.

So much to do,
So busy,
Who am I?
Who are you?


~ 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

Really


You do not have to want
What the world wants,
Or be what the world wants you to be.

You can be happy without a fortune,
Content without fame.

Really.

You do not have to seek
What the world seeks,
Or give up what the world gives up.

You can be the first of a kind
And the last,
And never mind.

Really.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Poet And The Ink


Did you ever stop and smell
The stink of ink
From your fountain pen
And think:
When, oh when
Will I write again?

Or did you dwell
On the smell
And think:
What the hell,
I’ll have a drink.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Plotless


Someone is telling my story,
Moving my life from chapter to chapter,
But my storyteller is raw and unskilled.
He labors on and on,
Weaving the most complex and intricate details
Through the most uneventful scenes.

You will wake up early this morning
And drive to work in heavy traffic.
Yes, you will drive to work every day,
Except for the weekends.

Many of us are displeased with our storytellers.
Will our plots ever take some meaningful shape?
I wonder.
These lives are poor fiction.

He wakes up early and takes a cold shower,
Trying to shake off the fatigue
From working late every day this week
In his colorless fluorescent cubicle.
He reties his tie for the third time,
Finds his car keys,
Grabs his half-empty cup of coffee
And begins the long, difficult drive to work.
He listens to the news
And thinks about the many phone calls he must make
When he gets to the office.

It’s a puzzle to me
Why we put up with this at all.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved