Past Fiddle Creek

       RC Monson / Humor
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multilayered shadows of pastel foliage

Lakeshore is a painstaking exploration
of the depths of her own imagination
churning up bouquets of subconscious clues

She sets up her easel in rush-hour traffic
to capture freedom and independence
of sleek lightning-fast steel boxes

Her self portrait in the hall of mirrors
is the day-to-day reiteration of brush-stroke
fingerprints known as Noelle’s pastels

Yes, they light up a room all right!
Noelle’s pastels challenge brilliance
to accurately reflect refractions of light
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My Heart Is a Child
I may be
aging steadily,
my beard
turning gray,
my hair
falling out,
my face
accumulating wrinkles
like autumn leaves
in the yard,
but my heart
is still innocent;
it knows nothing
of my life;
it knows nothing
except the same
odd cycle of emotions
it’s been going through
for forty-odd years.

I may love
and I may lose.
Maybe I’ll succeed
or fail in business.
I can be
calm or anxious,
happy or sad,
timid or bold,
mad or glad
or totally elated,
but my heart
remains conscious
of only one beat…
one beat…
one beat at a time.

My heart
doesn’t know
how old it is;
it has no concept
of time.
It reaches out
to you by reflex,
reaching out
for something
beautiful and vital,
reaching out
with the chubby arms
and dimpled hands
of a toddler,
taking those first
tentative steps
toward the comfort
of your loving
embrace.
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Passion’s Circus
The strangest feelings are yet to come
as we retreat in sheer panic
the first time a lion tamer cracks his whip.
A seemingly harmless fantasy shows its fangs,
and I try to snuff out burgeoning passions
with a fire extinguisher…
but instead proceed to spook the zebras
into a furious and bewildered frenzy.
A troupe of midget clowns speak fluent body language,
their sight gags like quixotic parables
alluding to lovable laughs and laughable loves.
Blinded by converging spotlight beams,
creative impulses tightrope a treacherous expanse
between enlightenment and destruction
with no safety net spanning
the sharply foreshortened depths.
A rabbit in my hat tricks me into thinking it’s a dove
emerging from a satin handkerchief
or an ace up my sleeve inexplicably transformed
into an oriental puzzle made of bamboo and string.
I expect her to appear
with the knife thrower or fire eater,
and I’m surprised to see her spinning through the air,
from trapeze to trapeze,
heightening suspense with every breathtaking backflip.
My love is an innocent wonderment
practicing the subtle art of suspending
countless desires on a balancing beam,
striving to assimilate the physical and spiritual,
like soulful Tibetan acrobats
celebrating the metaphysical gymnastics
of living and loving.
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Long Division
Dear Georgia O’Keeffe,
I suppose things weren’t
much different in your day.
Back when the 20s roared
like gigantic flowers
bulging with jazz licks
and cat’s meow.
Fame was the name
of the game then,
just as it is now.

Whistler viewed it
as the subtle art of making enemies,
like some elaborate
new form of long division.

Georgia, I’ve had a taste
and it gave me a strong sense
of an artificial structure
made of fear and alienation.
Tell me, is that what drove
you away from Manhattan’s
garish glitz and glamour?

Was something other
than the stock market crashing
when you bolted off to Taos?
Georgia, you brought fame
to New Mexico and left
your husband to attend
his extensive collection
of pictures of you.

What sort of new math
were you two working out?
What radical new formulas?
You blazed new frontiers,
Georgia, you experimented
with the give and take,
all alone with oil and canvas
on a vast desert landscape.

How did you last so long?
Ninety-nine years
is a very long time,
especially when so many
are spent alone.

Georgia, it would appear
that you dealt with your fame
by hiding out at Abiquiu,
making famous paintings
of bleached animal skulls.

You chose to leave
Alfred and New York
and the 219 Gallery behind,
only to become
a world-renowned recluse
self assigned to a solitary outpost
at the pinnacle of artistic acclaim.

Georgia, was it
a worthwhile trade-off?
Was it worth the effort?
The loss and sacrifice?
If you had it to do over
would you still
be working things out
in long division
and nonlinear numbers?

Would the Gaea
principle still apply?
Or would you stay
with Stieglitz in New York
and practice chaos theory
on the ever increasing ranks
of ex-friends and enemies
gathering among your admirers?

Fame is the name of the game,
Georgia, you know as well
as anyone the equation.
But, tell me, how’s the balance
over a long lifetime?

I’ve been having doubts
about the quid pro quo
of giving something heartfelt
and beautiful in exchange
for something so harsh and mean.
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Past Fiddle Creek
On cassette, a tape that’s been played too many times.
It should be her turn to drive but he’s not giving up the wheel.
Fringed in icy lace, a river streams beside the highway.
Clouds cast shadows that scurry across the canyon wall.
For twenty minutes she’s been watching the water
change from blue to green as they descend the mountainside.
Between them, they haven’t uttered ten words in four hours.
In the distance a column of dust rises like chimney smoke
and a column of cars lines up behind the roadworker’s stop sign.
The face of the canyon is a manmade avalanche,
the product of dynamite and crouching Catepillar conspiracies.
The voice of the mountain shrieks like a train wreck, echoing.
Bouncing down the hillside, boulders leap across the road
into the river, SMACK SMACK CRACK CRACK
CLACK CLACK SPLOOSH.
Tons of skidding gravel mimic a chorus of grinding teeth.
He’s thinking, We all take our hard knocks in this life;
some people let it make them bitter…and others don’t.
A pair of frontend loaders SCRAAAAPE debris off the road.
At water’s edge, chunks of ice sparkle crown jewels
and they finally get on past Fiddle Creek and Devil’s Elbow.
The 45th Parallel creates an imaginary comfort zone
halfway between the North Pole and the Equator.
Sunlight glares brilliant reflections of mirrored meadows.
After the melt, white flags of surrender dapple
the rolling hills of afternoon coming to an end.
She notices: The pines have shed all but little mittens of snow.
He’s looking forward to Wyoming, where the sky is so pale
and icy peaks are so pale that all borderlines vanish.
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