Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Outside the Cafe

What were you thinking
That afternoon
Outside the cafe?
Your eyes
Did not betray your thoughts.

Your smile
Was pleasant
But reserved.

You shook my hand
And I thought how odd
Knowing soon the formality
Would evaporate
Like dew upon a morning petal.

Your voice
Was well-modulated
A business voice
Offering simple truths
Pretending interest.

You sat opposite me
Across a Formica table top
Leaning into your chair back
As far from me as possible.

Before the leaves dropped
So would all pretense.
Before the snow flew
So would all reserve.
Before the spring grass grew
So would love.

But what were you thinking
That afternoon
Outside the café?

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Company of Fear

Her body trembled
In my embrace
The enormity of her fate
Becoming formidable.

She was frightened.

I would have been as well
Except that
In this hour
She needed
Unshaken flesh
To contain hers.

It would be my turn
To shake.

The sun traveled
The wall
Behind her
Until its naked glare
To evening shade.

Her head
Buried in my chest
Finally moved
Her eyes
Finding mine.

It will be okay
I said
By my insincerity.

She said
It will not.

She kissed my cheek

But thank you
She said.
I know you wish it so
But it will never be okay.

The next morning
She drove me to the airport
The depth and breadth
Of her emergency
Yet before her.

I never saw her again
But every time I see the sun
Transiting my wall
I remember the silence
Of those hours.

Like fading light
She has gone beyond time
And I am left
With the memory
Of her shaking
And the company
Of her fear.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Earth

From above
The earth makes sense
In perfect geometry
Sliced by rivers, tracks and roads.

At eye level
Rows of grain blend
In confusions
Of random application
By plows and seeders.

Occasional clusters
Of brush and trees
Mark where once stood
Farm houses and ramshackle
Barns and sheds.

From above the earth
Is girded in mist
A modest skirt
Of virginal apparel
Lovely and engaging.

At eye level the earth
Is fragranced
With all manner of growing things
And animal scratch.

I love the earth
In every presentation.
I am charmed
With its gritty reality
As much as by its romance.

From the windshields
Of Chevrolet or Cessna
Whether by the golden strand
Of its distant horizon
Or ebony highways

The earth is marvelous
In eye level joys
Its tractor and trailer days
Or prop wash at three thousand feet.
The earth is my home.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Saw Grass*

The saw grass whispers
Her name.

The wide
Treacherous terrain
Along the Powder River
Deceives the eye.

It seems level
Causing the mind to assume
It a level plain.

But there are deep
Sudden fractures
In the land
Deep enough to hide
Many dog soldiers
With Spencer rifles
Decorated with brass studs
In walnut stocks.

They hold their lances down
As they work to encircle our troop.

Before the stars wink
In the purple azure sky
Our scalps will hang
From their lodge poles.

I am afraid to die
In this wild
Crazy land
Where nothing is
As it seems to be.

Where the saw grass whispers
Her name.

* My mind seems fixed on this theme, as shown in this poem, and the one to follow. I often do not write what want. I typically express what seems to have worked its way within.

Lost Patrol

Like a great glaring eye
The sun is directly above.
My mount and I
Cast no shadow
But that immediately below.

Both near and distant cap rocks
Comprise the entire geography.
It is wild and terrible
But familiar
To the extreme.

Schooner clouds
Sail the chambray skies
Silently drifting
Like remembrances
Of lost patrols.

My chestnut mount is weary
But courageous.
Her muscles work
Under my thighs
Like faithful machines
Grinding relentlessly.

Behind me a corporal
Grips the staff
Of our banner.
There being little breeze
The colors droop listlessly.

I keep the company
From exposing itself
Against the sky
Holding to the contour
Of the land.

Enough water remains
For one day
All remaining sources
Being long expired.

Our blue tunics
Are the dusty color
Of the land.
No man speaks
The only sound
Being the regular plodding
Of our mount’s hooves.

I am far
Too far from Baltimore
And the embrace of my
Lovely Lenore.

Why does a man
Sign his name
To wear a plumed hat
And brass and nickel sword?
What is the exchange rate
On service vs. the comforts
Of home and hearth?

And what must it feel like
To die
Under a sky as unkind as this?

And how does one take the arrow
To his breast
And die a man
Whom only Lenore
And poets remember?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Courage by the Pint*

It went down smooth
But burned my throat
Then splattered my belly sore
Like the bursting of many suns
And, Lor’, I wanted more!

The dark brown bottle
Still held a splash
(Maybe nine or ten!)
So I drank some more
And I drank down more again.

By bottle’s end
I was feelin’ fine
And I loved this wicked brew
So I went back where I got it
And stole another, maybe two.

Call it liquid brains
Courage in a bottle
Call it romance by the pint.
It may look shabby by day
But it’s poetry by night!

Sure, it makes me wobble.
My speech will even slur.
I pr'bly will puke up my shoes
But that’s the way of real good likker
What some say is just payin' dues.

It goes down awful hard
But always comes out smooth.
I'm ten feet tall and bullet proof!
And I'll show you just how mighty I am
When I go flying off my roof!

* Nope. Not autobiographical.

Flash Fire*

Placing the small white pill
Under my tongue
I begged God
To let it work quickly.

Burning pain radiated
All along the edges
Of my body.

Like a blaze
It was fast eating its way
To my interior
Roasting every cell it seized.

It felt like a dying.

I clenched my fists
Not just in resolution
But as though I could
By effort of the will
Squeeze the torment
From me.

The fire raged in defiance.
The fire found its voice:
I hate you.
I will kill you.
I will kill you now.

The searing burn
Erupted in
Flash fire.

I begged God for relief
As I chased the first pill
With a second.
With a third.

And I waited.

Minutes later
The fire won.

But I no longer cared.

I was far away
On the moon’s craggy
Talcum-dusted orb.

I saw my body
From a great distance
And pitied my writhing flesh.

But I was not there.

*Any reader who has suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury will understand perfectly. Can I get a witness?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


What you do not say
Is much louder
Than what you do say.

Your words fall
Like scrap metal
In a bin.

When you speak
I listen to the words
Between your words
To the sounds
You form in the words
You choose.

When you speak
I take great time
To reflect
Because I do not want to
Respond to what you said
But what you meant to say.

I do not want to
Answer your complaint
But the pain
Behind your complaint.

My silence
Is not silence.

My silence is response.

Monday, September 29, 2014

More Deeply

Come dusk
A man leans
On a fence rail
And considers the day.

Was the day's work done well?
What could have been done better?
What more needs done?
How much will it cost?
When should it be complete?

As the sun sinks
Into the horizon
A man is shrouded
In the deepening dark.

He thinks more deeply.

How has my body worn?
Is there energy remaining?
Is all I’ve done worth all I’ve given?
Has my life had significance?

In the deepest darkness
A man disturbs his mind
In an effort to probe
More deeply.

Am I loving well?
Have I given my best?
Will I leave something to lighten
The way for those following?

Just before the morning birds sing
A man hears an answer
That is higher than language
And interpreted only in his spirit.

The answer comes as mystery:
More deeply.

Give more deeply.
Hear more deeply.
Work more deeply.
Live more deeply.
Love more deeply.
Rest more deeply.

More deeply.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Closely listen
You will hear the drums
Death is moving
It this way comes.

The crashing cannon
The rifle fire
It is too much
It is far too dire.

Unloose the warrior
Bridle the horse
Give answer to
The wicked one’s force.

Rain down hell
Let it fall wide
Let not one escape
Let not one abide.

Pursue! Pursue!
Let wicked blood flow.
Sound the trumpet!
Let vengeance roll.

* I wrote earlier of my repulsion with war. It is, in every regard, the very last recourse following the failure of reasonable dialogue. But there can be no dialogue with godless creatures like ISIS or Al Queda. When reason fails, the ambassador of bullets must follow. Just hours earlier another westerner lost his life at their evil blade. This poem (it does not merit such a peaceable designation) may have been written concerning the Napoleonic incursions, or Hitler's carving up of the European continent. But the horror of war remains with us. "Wars and rumors of wars" will come before the end, Jesus said. Even so, Lord Jesus, come!