Thursday, March 12, 2009

"For John - On the Occasion of the Fortieth Year"


Remember when we were high school boys,
And barely just sixteen,
With lives to live forever,
And horizons too far away to be seen?

We knew that soon we would be grown-up,
And have jobs, and wives, and responsibility,
And we knew we would stand on solid ground,
And we would stand there on our own two feet.

But meanwhile, we enjoyed our teens,
We drove our cars “Hollywood Style” ‘til they would almost stall,
We learned to use triangles and t-squares,
And we ran like halfbacks through KHS’s crowded halls.

Yes, we thought we would grow older,
And become the men we hoped someday we would be,
But we didn’t see the lurking darkness,
That would take you away, for all eternity.

John, your memory always either fills my mind,
Or it sleeps quietly below the surface.
I never know when you will appear,
But you do, all the time, almost as if on purpose.

Sometimes it’s during a grandchild’s birthday,
And often during the holidays with my family,
Or sometimes when I walk through a field,
Or sit comfortable and warm, beneath a shady tree.

I think of you at class reunions,
And when I have a hamburger down at Zip’s,
And always when I drive by your grave,
Up on Olympia and Tenth.

Though severely injured, my life continued on,
But in its ebbs and flows,
I never forget you, John, dying that night,
Forty years ago.

March 12, 2009

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Old Shipyard

The old shipyard is not what it was,
The first thing you see is that the men are gone,
then you notice the ships that are in dock don't have gun turrets, or canons.
They were mothballed years ago.

Those men, many young, my father was eighteen,
were protected from the draft,
their services too important for the effort called "war."
It was their hands that laid the steel beams,
the skin,
the guns,
the canons,
the electrical and plumbing,
and the final pat when the job was done,
with hands weary of hard yet determined work.

Today we lift our eyes to the heavens,
and thank those who served in the armed forces, in peace time and war,
who fought and planned and preserved our freedoms,
to those who have passed on.

But we don't seem to have room in our day to thank
those who worked at home,
supporting the war effort, like
ship builders,
tank builders,
ammunition builders,
aircraft builders.

People lives were changed by the circumstances of the war,
who went to work for the war effort,
people who hadn't even been born yet,
and people who's sons, fathers, brothers fought across the seas
to protect our way of life.

In the old shipyard today there's a new building,
it houses a memorial to all the
Rosie the Riveters
who worked in the aircraft plants.
My mother was one of them.
She tossed rivets on the wings of DC-6's
in Oklahoma City.

She knew the value of her work,
and she imagined each and every airplane off
the assembly line
were aircraft one of her four brothers
who were overseas would, in some way,

My father worked in the shipyard,
he built new warships and
repaired those old battle weary behemouths
lucky enough to find safe waters
in San Francisco Bay.

He worked there as an eighteen year old,
who was the head of household for his
mother, one brother and sister.

When he was twenty-two he called my mother and
invited her to join him in marriage
in California.

I was born two years later.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

On the Far Side of the Planets

On the far side of the planets,
Where none of us can see,
Out beyond the stars, black holes, and galaxies,
Is a place I long to be.

For when I get there,
The first that I will do,
Is look beyond the welcome committee,
And search the crowd for you.

Others I love will be there,
My grandparents, and my Dad,
And I can not wait to see them -
But it is you, John, and only you,
Who can finally,
Kill this sad.

JR Bumgarner
July 2006

Monday, March 06, 2006


I lost a friend in '69,
He was riding in my car,
When the road-trip took an ugly turn,
In an early morning hour.

I fell asleep behind the wheel,
And the car kept rolling along,
Then it tumbled out of control,
And my good friend, John, was gone.

JR Bumgarner
March 6, 2006

Where is Death?

"Where is death?" you ask,
My warm and precious friend,
She travels down the backroads,
Bringing precious life to its final end.

She travels on the telephone lines,
And along the ground and sea,
Snipping life along her path,
There is nowhere we can flee.

The Mustang galloped onward,
Along the valley floor,
And when the pony tripped and stumbled,
Death removed one more.

He did not see her peering,
Through the darkened glass,
And when she reached to take him,
I wish he'd kicked her ass.

JR Bumgarner
March 6, 2006

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Black Sky Sparkled


The long night stretched behind them,
Just a mile away from home,
While four lonely cowboys rode in back,
And Simon sang a song.

A gravelly corner roared out loud,
The horse let out a sigh,
And the road spit yellow dashes,
As they rode into the night.

The mustang tripped and stumbled,
And he was jolted from his sleep.
Then the black sky sparkled brightly,
When he crawled out of the heap.

For the one who rode the shotgun,
The one who could not mend,
The sun that night set swiftly,
And it never rose again.

JR Bumgarner
March 5, 2006


The bird's wing is broken,
And it struggles to re-gain flight.
Stuck in a corner, lined with brick,
His chances of flying again are nil.

She's a large, middle-aged woman,
And she thinks of becoming a nurse.
She has four kids at home, and
A tired husband who is leaving.

With no employable skills,
She's gone back to college.
In my sessions she sits,
Red hair frazzled,
Colored pens stuck in pockets on her back pack,
Notes strung out on her desk.

Her questions bely her secret,
She doesn't understand molecular biology.
The pace is killing her dreams,
We covered two chapters in three hours.
And like the bird with the broken wing,
She struggles to re-gain her life.

Only the bird is childless.

JR Bumgarner
March 4, 2006

Winter Doesn't Always Spring Eternal

The little male bird returned first,
that cold spring morning on the beach,
with a piece of colored paper in his beak.
Before nightfall the colored paper,
along with hundreds of twigs,
and other colorful objects,
hopefully would be tightly woven,
into an architecturally perfected nest.

Tomorrow his lady would arrive,
She would be expecting nothing less.

In years past,
as soon as she landed,
she would inspect the nest,
and if it met her approval,
she would signal him,
and they would prance on the beach,
and dance on the tops of clouds.

Later they would snuggle in the nest,
and keep each other warm during the cool spring nights.

She would lay her eggs,
and incubate them until her babies hatched,
while he foraged for food,
and brought it back to their wide,
and hungry mouths.

At daybreak she arrives and finds him hauling twigs,
he's been working all night,
and the nest isn't finished.
She notices a broken leg hanging loose beside his good one.
The nest is messy,

Her heart is broken.

but overjoyed to see her,
he tries to hide his pain,
and he feels his heart weigh heavy,
while waiting for her signal of approval.

The pain will keep him from prancing on the beach,
or reaching the tops of the clouds.

Mystically programmed for mate perfection,
for the sake of her children,
she stays a while,
then her biological clock tugs her,
pulls her,
screams at her,

and she flies away.

Like the female bird watches her mate,
I watch someone I love struggle,
It isn’t a broken leg,
or arm,
or other physical affliction,
He doesn’t do drugs, or alcohol, or cigarettes;
but he takes medication,
in industrial-strength dosages.
Dosages that hopefully calm his mind,
so he can think,
and plan,
and conduct regular daily affairs.

He sleeps sometimes for more than 14 hours,
while those same,
mystical forces that push the little bird,
work on him too.

He wants a companion,
someone to share life with,
someone to build a nest with,
and prance of the beach,
and fly on the clouds with.

He chats online with women,
who sometimes go to movies,
and get pizza with him,
but soon,
they see his imperfection;

they fly away.

The little nest rolls empty across the sand,
and on a distant fence pole,
standing brave on one good leg,
with the wind whipping his feathers about,
the little male bird watches the empty nest
blow across the sand,
then with a sad and heavy heart,
he turns away,
and leaps into the wind.

JR Bumgarner
March 2005

The Winter Wren

The woods are quiet.

Gentle breezes, searching through foliage, soften the forest.

Limbs sway gently in the breeze, and
stretch toward the warmth and light of the sun,
while raptors soar overhead,
riding heated updrafts from the forest below.

The song of a winter wren breaks the serenity.
The wren, oblivious to such wooded tranquility,
embellishes the forest ambience with its melodies.

Later, clouds form and a gentle drizzle falls
bringing cool wisps of air,
Clouds collect, thicken and lag heavy with added moisture.
Rain falls hard.

Wrens and raptors find cover.

The clouds, releasing their contents,
lighten, rise and move on.

The sun reappears.
The forest warms.
Air currents rise again.
Raptors reappear in the sky.

The wren finds a spot of sunlight on a moist limb.
Its melody breaks the serenity of the forest and, again
the woods are quiet.

JR Bumgarner

This poem was published at Black Hills Audobon Society web site.