Category Archives: Poetry

Game Day

I am here not
because I want to be.

I am here because
I look perfect
for the part
I really don’t
want to play in life.

And so my acquiescence
to uninformed expectations
places me now
on this 30-yard line
awaiting another kickoff,
facing yet another crisis,
when I will sprint downfield
in a display of regulated ferocity
while secretly hoping to avoid,
first, the steamrolling blockers,
then, the pounding ball carrier,
while appearing totally prepared,
confident,
forthright,
but wanting only
to survive,
to gain the sideline safely,
to avoid the coaches
and, more importantly,
the cheerleaders,
all suffering their own
inherent forms
of delusion.

Don Cadwallader

Getting Ready

Outside
in the schoolyard
I hear the bell
that ends
the half-hour lunch
but westward
winds seem to
shape the stones
in bright sunlight.

Two sparrows
flip a yogurt lid
back and forth
while, above,
a shiny black crow
mocks them with a
grating voice.
He raises and lowers
his head,
twitching his eyes
first left, then right.

For a moment
I stop to be with them,
dropping myself
on the bench,
sharing in their
coincidental world
of give and take

while inside
by now
my students
are alone
without me.

They are surely
fidgeting with their pencils,
looking at the clock,
feeling like
endless toilers
without a plan,
without a purpose
without me.

But I am still busy
outside
getting ready.

Don Cadwallader

Night Game

For the first three innings
he called the game
wrong.

The outside balls he called
strikes, the upper letters too
he called good,

and the parents heckled
from the aluminum seats.

At the end of the third
he trudged to the backstop,
swigged his water bottle
and mumbled

+++“They gotta learn to swing
+++at the hittable balls —
+++or else this game could go
+++all night.”

In the bottom of the fourth
he blew a call at first.
Amid howls of protest,
he trudged to the backstop,
leaned back, silently stared
at his plastic pitch counter

+++while I contemplated
+++the outfield
+++beyond the lights where,
+++in the dark beyond the fence,
+++some bearded stranger,
+++road a tractor mower,
+++lazily finishing his
+++day job.

The rest of the game
he called
a strike a strike,
and a ball a ball,

and after the final call,
and the lights shut down,
I passed him on the way,
tapped him on his
chest protector
and said, “Good game,
Blue.”

Don Cadwallader

Escape from L.A.

We left
the San Fernando
Valley at midnight,
my 10-year-old,
1951 soy-bean
black Mercury
fat with eight-
track tapes and
cigarettes.
We downshifted
to struggle up
the winding 5
towards Palmdale,
and finally,
when we arrived
at the full distance
where city lights
no longer dampened
darkness,
we slowed right
onto a nameless
low-desert road
where, with headlights
off, all around
the night revealed
itself alone.
Along the far horizons
the hazy, worldly glow:
the distant City of the
Angels, or was it really
a lone Exxon station
impressing itself
through the foggy mask
that, in our minds,
turned all light
into imagined places
from where we made
some brave escape,
fooled by eternity,
courageous, yet afraid
for ourselves
to be called home?

Don Cadwallader

Just a Little Cowboy

I love the land
where cattle dwell,
where dirt
is ground
and burned
to dust.

The air
is warm
and thick
and muffles up
the sage
that tricks
the nose
in gentle
waves.

The egrets
tick their heads
and follow fast
the horse’s hoofs,
while I ride
on leather hide
and turn
my back
to look at you
and chew on
stems of grass.

Don Cadwallader

Pursued

I saw the poem
in the rearview mirror.

It flashed
in the nighttime light,
at first as a white wall,
but, then, pursued
as a Ford Econoline van,
flashing out of one dark alleyway,
shifting from left to right,
crossing the streets
then disappearing

with nothing left
but me blinking,
gripping the wheel,
knuckles white,
and grasping.

Don Cadwallader

Potential Truths

Concerning the parts
of this world
that are
innocent,

I’ve tried to know them
where I have found them,

but only
in the world
of nature where,
in God’s lurking places,
potential truths
are concealed
by outward lies.

Yes, I have been
led astray
by those lies
high up in the trees:

caterpillars
cutting leaves
that fall
into a spider’s
webbed cocoon.

Don Cadwallader

Yesterday’s Poem

As I struggle to be free
from the cries
of yesterday’s poem,
the sirens in the distance
cut through the sounds
where I stand.

And now
the next poem is born
in what is heard,
it’s sounds
separated
and chorded
in their working.

Then,
pushing and pulling,
I remember
notes tempered
by invention,
then, singing them
in tune,
I give them a slap,
and turn them over
to you.

Don Cadwallader

After Reading Ezekiel 33, the Astrologer Writes to His Father

Santa Barbara, California
December 1970

Dear Father,
It’s midnight,
and I’ve been
walking alone
in a winter’s drizzle.
I can barely see the stars,
though I know their language
still speaks wonders.
Do they not mark
the eternal turning
of time?
Do they not tell
the stories and tales
of every lonely traveler?

Yet I must confess, Father,
when charting their endless turning,
I have never really known
how the center of the sun
burns as the heart of truth,
and today — well,
today, I tremble….

For today, Father,
I must ask you this:
Who has the right to prophesy
from the innocence
of a man’s beginnings
without tearing down the shield
that covers the mystery
of his ways?

They who embrace my tales
leave coins in the basket
and then walk away.
Did I not take silver to play
the Watchman in their lives?
Then, did I sound the warning right
before I broke the yoke
between them and me?
Was I but a dissonant horn
that never warned a soul
of a coming sword
upon their house?

So now, My Father,
I must close
the logbook of transits
and confounding signs
and unhinged degrees,
for, in the end, I have drawn
knots of divergent circles,
and I tremble.

I will return
to my home
where the sun arises
to begin again —
where I once opened
the nighttime windows
to listen for
the clean, clear sounds
of coyotes howling
at the ever-mysterious
moon
and the
bewildering stars.

Don Cadwallader