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After the Music

by Steve Gaines

July 3, 1954

On my 18th Birthday
A Memorial to an Ill-Spent Youth

It was so long ago
and I seldom bring it back these days
surprised to look at that age of adventure
from this distant couch
unable to recapture that careless attitude…
reluctant to admit the inability I suppose…
but here goes anyway

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Cast in July

by Steve Gaines

once more July!
and the oven of my birth
forty-seven years ago
repeated
the ghost of every Summer in between
suspended on the walls of my mind
inside my head
a cast off clutter of soft memories

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Unnatural Selection

[Author’s Note: This poem appears in my play, The Weeping Water Cafe.]

I was kneeling, pulling dandelions
when I heard it.
There, under the mock black cherry tree
a young rabbit flat on its back
limp,
a broken toothpick spine.
The wail
describes an
underside ripped clean of fur
oozing red
exposing a pink
diaphragm.

Across the lawn
calm,
nodding,
the cat.

My hands
are city clean.
I consider nursing
or twisting the head.

Quieter now.
I name it Gregory.
His life stains my palms.
The eye closes.
An ear droops.
Last gasps
dribble
from my bleeding fists
and seep into patio cracks.

I open the garbage can,
place Gregory inside the
Gillette Dairy Ice Milk carton
and replace the aluminum lid
that doesn’t begin to muffle
the heartbeat in my fingertips.

Songs of My Sorrows

by Steve Gaines

I am chased through time
by the failures and promises of my past
I do not regret so much
as I wonder about them
to be satisfied with the results of my life
is not a matter of final judgment
results can be counted only once I stop moving…
or breathing
death…
of whatever sort…
is the result of having lived…
in whatever life
so to think about “mending my ways”
or simply learning from the errors of the past
are nonsequiturs
errors can become successes
after time rubs them smooth

Continue reading → Songs of My Sorrows

Lament

by Steve Gaines

yet another lament

in me
hidden behind a soft spreading waistline
lies an aging man alone

he is limping quietly along
such a well-worn path
in his creaks and cracks
he is the only one ever
to suddenly come smack up against middle age

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Knowing A Man

Author’s Note: Knowing A Man was written in the Summer of 1960 while I was a graduate student at Iowa University. This poem was inspired by an old Columbia University professor of mine who had stopped in Iowa City to see me on his way to visit his father in Mexico City. When I asked him why he was visiting his father, he replied, “My father is very old, and I never knew his dreams.”

You only know a man when you know his dreams.
His troubles tell you only how he lives.
To discover that which is instead of that which seems,
Don’t ask of his pain,
Ask of his dreams.