“Space Oddity” Blues

“Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do.” -Major Tom (David Bowie)

Return with me to Nineteen-Sixty-Nine
when universal dreams were fresh and new.
The race was on; all bets were off on who
would lead the way across the finish line
as Russia surged ahead in the design
of Sputnik, spurring U.S. efforts through
the decade stepping up to mount a crew—
one man’s small step, a leap for all mankind.*

With science and humanity positioned
in love from Ground Control to Major Tom
and David Bowie looking like a geek,**
how hopefully the waiting world envisioned
a brighter color in the days to come
beyond this evanescent moody streak.

2023 Mary Boren
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*Was Neil Armstrong Misquoted? (What he actually said was, “for a man”.)

**Vintage footage of David Bowie looking like a geek ...

Family Labor of Love

With hammer, saw, and simple plans,
our daddy brought the skillful hands
to build a cabin in her pride
plus all the furniture inside.

Our mama had a role to fill
in hauling lumber up the hill
as she and Uncle Buddy rode
on back to anchor down the load.

Once, perched atop the pickup bed
while Daddy drove full-speed ahead,
the lumber slid and so did they
for downhill surfing all the way.

With many hands, all work is light.
When time arrived to clear the site
of lumber scraps and small debris,
they all pitched in; not so with me.

For Daddy said that none of us
must help unwillingly, and thus
I once invoked the right to shirk
my contribution to the work.

But seated on a log I squirmed
as, soon thereafter, conscience burned.
I heaved a sigh and pursed my lips,
then joined the crew to pick up chips.

1995 Mary Boren
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Through Native Eyes

I’d like to spend a morning in the boots
of Jedediah Smith out pioneering
before the carpetbaggers in cahoots
with industry showed up for profiteering.

I’d stand atop the continental peak
and whisper not a clue that it divided
a nation burgeoning with ripe mystique.
I’d plant a “Keep Out” sign before it’s blighted.

But how could I usurp another first
to scale a virgin summit as she crested
above a crystal lake and quench the thirst
for worth where never other eyes had rested.

The value of the vista they’d behold
transcends the weight of Rocky Mountain gold.

2022 Mary Boren
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For those who think America’s history began with the arrival of white settlers. “After 75 years of obscurity following his death, Smith was rediscovered as the American whose explorations led to the use of the 20-mile (32 km)-wide South Pass as the dominant point of crossing the Continental Divide for pioneers on the Oregon Trail.”

Preacher’s Pay

The year was Nineteen-Fifty-Three.
No matter how they fought it,
the serfs were at the mercy of
a revenuer’s audit.

With pinch-nose glasses, black bow tie,
and humorless demeanor,
he sorted through two shoeboxfuls
of records:  Lean Years/Leaner
“Aha! Looks like I’ve gotcha now!
the tax man squealed (excited).
“I don’t see any income claimed
for weddings.  Where’d ya hide it?”

The preacher said, “Let me explain.
I’ve made it a tradition,
when payment’s offered by the groom,
to hold my hand out, fishin’
as if I’m gonna keep it — then
as speedy as a rocket
I hand it over to the bride.
It never hits my pocket.”

“Tradition, humph — the bottom line:
You earned it, preacher.  Pay the fine.”

~ ~ ~

It was a new millennium.
A couple celebrated
their golden anniversary.
A trip was due; they made it.

Rejoicing in the fellowship,
like beans with macaroni,
they thanked the man who’d joined the two
in holy matrimony.
The erstwhile groom, a preacher too,
proposed a toast.  (He’d planned it
for fifty years.)  “Now listen up,”
he winked. “you’ll understand it.”

“I offered money once,” he said,
“for services well rendered —
ten dollars, half of what we had.
You turned around and tendered
it back to her.” (The woman’s eyes
were misty.) “We still owe it
with compound interest due, so here’s
a hundred bucks.  Don’t blow it.”

A proud tradition needn’t stop.
You’ve earned it, preacher.  Reap your crop.

2003 Mary Boren
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Based on a true story involving my dad, who is shown in the photo with a different couple. More, including his own poetry, at Hal Upchurch Chronicles

Miranda’s Midnight Walk

In a split-level duplex on Denver’s west side
where the gold dust and booze overflowed
from the previous century, someone appeared
at a newlywed couple’s abode.

“Did you see what just happened?” The unison chant
broke the silence as, bolting awake
with adrenalin pumping, they sat up at once
and described an identical take
on the bold basement visitor’s last fading flash
that remains an indelible clip
in this vividly witnessed and oft-replayed  film
even fifty years after the trip:

At the headboard, a rustle of taffeta stirs
in the mystical opening scene
as an elegant lady comes slowly in view
from the rear as she glides in between
man and wife unaware that we sleep on the grave
of society superimposed
on a future dimension with tenuous thread,
its connection as yet undisclosed.

Like Miss Kitty, complete with a bustle and hat,
she is dressed to the nines for the day
in a matching plaid number befitting her role
as a fashion plate walking away.

Then she ever-so-gracefully raises her skirt,
stepping down from the foot of the bed,
still not floating but moving with purpose and poise
through the wall of the closet ahead.

2021 Mary Boren
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From Versailles to Valdosta

When potentates arrived at Louie’s gate
they frequently
were treated decently
from carriage to the crux of the estate
through spacious links to be
connected to the presence on the throne
that blanketed the monarchy alone.

But only those whose social pedigree
was highest shelf
according to their wealth
were met with individual esprit
and ushered by the king himself
through each palatial post from in to out
at every station on the winding route.

A remnant of the ritual remains,
a quiddity
that, like a whispered plea,
still echoes from the rural Georgia plains
with matchless hospitality
in gracious deference to who you are:
“Allow me to escort you to your car.”

2020 Mary Boren
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Bringing In the Sheep

As I’m heating my lunch in a timed microwave
and browsing the web on a laptop computer,
I think of the effort my grandmother gave
and wonder how modern-day living would suit her.

She would keep the fires burning preparing three meals —
no electric appliances, no running water —
while my grandfather labored all day in the fields,
yet together they planted five sons and a daughter.

Raising children on faith in a sharecropper’s home,
they instilled in each seedling the value of prayer.
There was no need for TV or light bulb or phone,
for the family’s singing would fill the night air.

It has often been said life was simpler back then.
I suspect our ancestors might challenge that view,
but I’m sure they’d be willing to do it again
just to see what became of the crop their love grew.

Visit Hal Upchurch Chronicles to read about the life and times of the children of Frank & Winnie.


Mary Boren, 1995
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Remedial Retreat


If I could spend a weekend with the me
who used to be, I wouldn’t waste a minute
dispensing admonitions bound to be
unheard instead of boldly bathing in it.

I’d load me, bag and baggage, in the car
blindfolded, like a hostage—scared, unwilling
to see the wonder in the way we are
and take a trip abundantly fulfilling.

Awaking to the pungent pull of pines
with mind immersed in joyous morning glitters,
I’d hold my hand to swing between the vines
and join the chorus of the woodland critters.

Alert to every scent and sound, aware
of all within our common jurisdiction,
no leaf is left unfluttered nor a hair
unsplit in separating fact from fiction.

Now guided by example, having flown
the strictures of illusion that have driven
my younger self within, I’d say, “You’re known
and loved.  Unleash the laughter! Life’s for livin’!””



2014 Mary Boren
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