Richard Gartee     Award Winning Novelist
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Arbor Encore

Collected Poems Volume 5

  • by Richard Gartee
  • Publisher: Lake & Emerald
  • Paperback: 94 pp
  • Genre: Poetry
  • ISBN:  978-1-7363957-5-2
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“Richard’s insightful offerings in these poems... give us much to savor indeed.” —Fred Wolven, editor Ann Arbor Review

Arbor Encore is a collection of 47 poems by Richard Gartee, which had their first publication in the renowned international poetry journal, Ann Arbor Review. Written and published over the course of five decades, during which the author became a regular Ann Arbor Review contributor.

Beginning with a scene of students tobogganing down the hills of Ann Arbor’s Arboretum after-hours, the volume alternates longer narrative poems of memories or imaginative scenarios with short, pithy, poems of sometimes cosmic observations. The topics range from fairy flights, to tea in Goa, India, children playing with dandelions, spousal discord, the nature of men and women, time, fame, and much more. All expressed in a variety of styles, rhythms, and voices.

About Ann Arbor Review

Ann Arbor Review: International Journal of Poetry (AAR) was founded in 1967 and has earned a stellar reputation. In 2013 it shifted from print media to an online magazine or “ezine.”. You may also wish to visit the official Ann Arbor Review ezine site where you can read works by many additional fine poets.


Video of Author Reading from Arbor Encore


Arboretum Daze


The good citizens of A-squared,

lie quietly tucked in their dreams,

while we race down the snowy hills

of the arboretum

on cardboard toboggans

made from discarded boxes

scavenged from the loading dock

of an appliance store.


Drunk on Meister Brau

bought for fifty-cents a quart

and laughing our asses off

we climb back up the hill

and do it again, and again

until the dawn paints the snow

with pink and orange tinges.


As we abandon our cardboard

and drift home, our shoes crunching

the freshly fallen layer of snow

workers on the morning shift

follow a snowplow down Washtenaw Avenue.


Stripping off our icy socks and frozen pants

we bury our toes under cheap quilts

bought at St. Vincent de Paul’s or Salvation Army

and soon snore away last night’s folly.


Waking, having missed our morning classes,

we head to the student union.

Over hot coffee and donuts

try to remember where we put our assignments

and decide if we should go to our afternoon class

or back to bed.

January Moon


In a blue sky

on a cold January day,

the afternoon moon hangs

gauzy as a Florentine cookie,

its bottom edge ragged

as though nibbled on

by winter starved squirrels.


The trail of a jet cuts the sky,

as if propelling the jet toward

the January moon.

But its plume is not the thrust,

only vapor left behind,

momentary marks where

the plane once was.

And soon enough

they too will fade.


I remember, before solstice,

when winter lost the light

like a candle on a leaf

set afloat on icy water,

drifting until the cold

trapped it in skim ice

and a northern wind

snuffed the flame.


Gray light filled the ensuing days

until skies grew so cold

that clouds could no longer form

to hide the January moon.

Time Koan

Without the heavens

there are no stars.

Without stars,

without sun,

without moon,

what time is it?


He sits still,

perfectly at rest,

while everything else

is in motion

Bosons and leptons

and quarks move,

but He does not

move in mysterious ways,

or in any way

Eternally conscious stillness

watching the big bang unfold.

Soda Fountain Days

One hand slapping time

on the green Formica countertop

to Ricky Nelson on the juke box

–Well, hello Mary Lou…

the other hand absently spinning

an empty stool, round and round.

Ricky fades, gears whir, platters change

–You can’t sit down…

A poodle skirt brushes against his hand, “I can’t?”

His eyes jerk up,

the brunette with a shoulder-length page boy

from geometry.

Oh, God, was he subconsciously singing aloud?

Fire races up his cheeks.

He yanks his hand off the stool

which continues to whirl.

She halts it with her bare knee.

He notices the knee,

stocking stopping just below it,

hemline hovering just above it

In one fluid movement,

she drops her books on the counter,

sweeps her forearm under her skirt, and sits.

He studiously focuses on the gray pate

of tightly permed curls reflected

in the mirrored wall behind the counter,

on the woman bent deep in the frost rimmed freezer

scooping hard packed ice cream into fluted glass dishes

and chrome milk shake cups

while cold vapor escapes around her short arms.

His blushing visage is in the reflection, too,

and next to that, a girl wearing

a pink Orlon sweater, a size too small.

Or intentionally bought like that?

Either way doesn’t matter; it’s the same effect.

The old lady turns from the freezer case

and asks what she wants

“Vanilla Coke.”

“Large or small?”

…a quick glance his way, “Large, please.”

She gives her best cheerleader smile.

The waitress doesn’t care, it’s been twenty years

since she’d been the girl on the stool.

Her motions are routine,

shovel ice in the Coke glass,

pump the syrup plunger with her palm,

put the glass under the chrome spigot,

pull on its black Bakelite handle.

Soda water rushes out in a noisy torrent, washing

the thick syrup off the ice cubes in brown eddies.

From under the counter materializes a bottle of vanilla,

a couple of shakes, a few drops fall,

then a quick stir with a long silver spoon.

She sets the glass on a paper lace doily

and lays a straw next to it, “15 cents.”

Carbonation bubbles effervesce above the rim.

The girl fiddles with the gold clasp on her change purse.

He swivels a quarter turn in her direction and eyes the Coke

wishing for all the world he knew the magic to change it

into a malt with two straws.

Purty Yellow Daisies

Mother abhorred dandelions.

A verdant croquet-court lawn

was her dream,

speckles of yellow-headed weeds

her dread.

> Her health wasn’t good,

but on summer days when

she felt up to it,

she’d be out in the yard

with a hoe or a spade

digging up dandelions.

If the kids were around,

she’d make them help.

Kids held the opposite opinion

regarding dandelions,

considering them to be

a resource of endless pleasure.

A kid could rub a blossom

under his sister’s chin,

and turn her skin yellow.

Hollow dandelion stems,

easily slipped,

one end into the other,

to make bracelets and

long green necklaces.

Stems split lengthwise,

formed tight curls.

Best of all, came the days

when dandelions turned


Delightful to blow on,

watching a hundred seeds

take flight

like white-winged fairies.

The hardware store sold

a special garden tool

called a dandelion puller.

It had a long handle like a hoe

with a fork-shaped end

that slipped under the base

of the plant and pulled it up

by the roots.

It’s hard know what became

of that dandelion puller.

It never kept up with the

proliferation of seeds.

One year, when her cause

was clearly lost, and

her yard polka-dotted yellow,

a door-to-door salesman rang.

Thinking to ingratiate himself to

the lady of the house with a compliment,

he said, “My, your yard is just filled

with purty yellow daisies.”

As much as Mother abhorred dandelions,

in that moment

she detested that salesman more.

Without a word of explanation,

she slammed the door in his face.

He left the porch and walked

across the lawn to the next house.

Along the way, he stooped down,

picked a pretty yellow blossom,

and wondered what he’d said wrong.

To Wish Again Upon A Star

We arrive at our first kiss

with scars that weigh against

our longings.

Lovers past, some forgotten,

raised welts on our hearts

leaving invisible marks.

Memories of past failures

pale in the bright spark

that leaps the gap

as lips approach,

before they touch.

Electric anticipation

cauterizes bygone wounds.

Hope becomes all.

Reason, logic, are swept absent

as pulse hastens

and blood surges.

New love hovers

a breath away,

the air between us


A shooting star

suspended in space

waits to fall.

Spring Into Summer

Despite the proclamations

on Game of Thrones

Winter is not coming,

it has flown

on the wings of robins

flying north

hitchhiking on the flutter

of monarch butterflies

leaving Mexico.

The patter of gentle April rains

sprinkles the assurance

of silken milkweed parachutes

presently only just sprouted

but promised to summer solstice

all the same.

And when that sunny season

delivers on spring’s pact

I shall walk the lawns

of my childhood,

pluck the hoary dandelions,

and blow their seeds into the wind

to land where they will

and sleep until another spring.

Ever New Morning

Wake up in the fuchsia light

of morning without anything

from the previous day

hanging over.

Wake up without

a preconceived way

today should unfold.

Wake up with appreciation

of the unfolding experiences

that appear as your eyes open.

Wake up and live fully

what the day will be

then sleep without anticipation

the next new morning.

Stay Seated

The sun does not leave

its seat in heaven

yet daylight comes in morning

and departs at night

The river does not flow

inland from the ocean

but empties into the sea

The world moves

the mind creates thoughts

consciousness does not

have to go to them

to notice them float by

like bubbles on a passing stream

Tea in Goa

I order coffee

and the boy brings a silver pot.

“May I pour?” he says.

Something weak and pale

streams from the spout.

I add milk

& the color wanes to moonlight.

I sip.

It’s tea.

He returns and I tell him,

“I ordered coffee.”

“You want powder?” he replies.

“No. Thanks. I’ll drink the tea.”

I return to my room and change for the pool.

When I come out a cyclone of bees

swirls out from the base of a tree and upward.

I sidestep them and go looking for the lobby

but find the library instead.

I peruse their books and choose a likely candidate.

When I return the bees are gone.

At the pool

a cat the color of yellow Portuguese houses

saunters by

perambulating his domain.

He apparently is the proprietor.

The pool is languid.

I rest my head on the edge

& let my feet float weightless.

My mainspring unwinds

and time stops.

A man with a British accent

sits at a table in the shade.

It’s just the two of us until

a pretty French mother brings her young son.

She has refined cheeks and a petite nose.

The boy is naked, but the French don’t mind.

She smiles at me with azure eyes

 and even white teeth.

Lounging on a deck chair

I read,

glancing at her occasionally.

The afternoon light

reflecting off ripples

in the pool water produces

an aurora borealis effect

on the trees overhead.

Two women come, then two more.

Four men follow.

Suddenly the pool is no longer our own.

No more aurora borealis.

No more French fantasy.

A jumble of foreign syllables

spin around me

but I can’t sort out the country of origin.

One of the women says “Hello,”

but that is the extent of her English.

She looks Israeli.

One of the men has a soccer ball.

The eight newcomers form a circle in the water

men on one half, women on the other.

Tossing the ball,

chasing each other,

finding excuses to duck the guys,

or nudge the girls,

like an adult version of spin-the-bottle.

Soon the separation between opposite sexes

dissolves like suntan lotion in chlorine water.

In no time they are paired off

and repair from the pool, like

they’d known each other a lifetime.

Ahh the magic of Goa.

The waiter brings drinks to the men

and a silver pot with cup and saucer to the Israeli woman.

It makes me think of coffee,

yet I feel certain it is tea,

though we lack the lingua franca to discuss it,

her and I.

A crow lands on her table and

begins sipping her milk.

I point this out to her,

but she doesn’t understand me.

Finally her girlfriend notices

and they laugh.

The tabby returns

sips water from the pool edge

eyeing the strangers.

He doesn’t mind.

He’s seen all this before

and neither approves nor disapproves,

but simply wanders on his intended way.

Strolling to my room,

the gods have strewn

flowers at my feet.

Delicate white blossoms

with pale yellow centers

have fallen over the pathway.

Their mild, milky color

reminds me of morning tea in Goa.

Bananas for Baba

The old man in an Indian dhoti

dodders the dusty Madurai street

leaning on a walking stick

nearly as tall as he is.

As we approach

he lurches toward me

pointing to his mouth

saying “buh, buh.”

I shake my head no

and keep walking.

Another day I almost trip

as he stabs his gnarled staff

into the tan sand at my feet

to hold himself erect.

Where it strikes the earth

clouds of dust spring up

and hover around my ankles.

Again, he begs, “buh, buh.”

One morning, I think of him

and bring a banana from breakfast.

I walk up behind him

and say, “Baba,”

(respected elder).

He turns.

I offer the banana.

He seizes it.

Next day I take him another banana

but can’t find him.

I think, Well, I’ve missed him.

Then, at the last minute he is

before me.

“ Baba,” I call to him,

hand him the banana,

and decide,

in the future I shall

always bring a banana.

A day comes that he isn’t there.

Has something happened?

Did the old man collapse somewhere

never to cross my path again?

Should I give his banana

to some other worthy soul

who hungers in the morning light?

What could I do?

I save his banana.

Three days I carry that banana.

Its skin too dark

for me to take home

and put back in the fruit bowl.

I recall a Zen story

called Eating The Blame,

and wonder if I’m going to have to

eat the banana myself.

Then, I spy Baba

standing in the road.

His eyes lock mine.

I shout and run to him,

black banana in hand.

It is soft and warm,

almost banana pudding inside its peel.

A large bus hurls toward us

honking furiously,

missing us by millimeters,

miring us in clouds of dust.

I lay the black wonder in his palm

and hurry off without

looking back to see

what he thought of it.

Found Naked Lunch

Enlighten me

with your brilliant mind.

Carry on alone

singing softly.

Pretend to be a body

healthy with brains.

Health in absentia.

AAR Issue XXI – 2018

On a Shady Lane

On a shady lane, a little boy

picks dandelions, and

leaves them in sweaty bouquets

at the other end of the culvert

for the neighbor girl

who is contagious

and can't come near him

or so their mothers say

His heart wants to tear from

his chest and rush toward her

but they stand

separated by thirty feet of gravel

while the blossoms wither

and their stems curl

Old Order

Reading aloud about convent life

she left decades earlier,

a former nun stands at the podium.

Gray hair cascades over her shoulders

like an old style habit.

Her clothing, black and white,

serves as a subconscious remainder

of clothes she’d worn fifteen years or longer.

She asks our permission to read more.

Given the nod, she continues

with descriptive passages about

women’s voices ringing in the sacred space

of a marble choir loft,

and concludes with: “women are givers of life,

arms encircling a well reflecting stars and moon,

 symbols of the universe.”

Fingering The Jam

Anna Marie and Nancy fingering the jam

dancing over the frets between G and D.

Brushing a curl from her eye Anna Marie sings, while

Nancy, bending the strings, sets the stage afire

triple timing every measure

fingers flying so fast notes are dropping on the floor.

The bass player’s driving.

The drummer’s breaking sticks.

Swiveling her volume knob down,

Nancy lets the guitar fall off

so we can hear Anna Marie,

who grabs the microphone

flicks her tongue across her lips,

opens her mouth, and lets rip.

The crowd jumps to its feet.

She grins at Nancy, and Nancy grins back.

Two goddesses of rock & roll,

brown-eyed as Van Morrison’s girl

in the stadium lights

with their amplifiers jacked.

Last Dance of the Year

The band,

play list exhausted,

are starting to repeat themselves,

but they can’t quit now,

it’s only minutes ’til midnight.

So they sing a song of Mary Jane;

not exactly Auld Lang Syne,

but they never knew what those lyrics

meant anyway.

On this night the girls,

in their tightest dresses,

made their boyfriends make an effort;

“Put on a nice shirt, dear.”

One more song as everyone holds on.

Then seconds to count

10, 9, 8...

and the old one’s gone.

Lovers, strangers,

and estranged lovers


The planet commences another

waltz around the sun.