Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Giving Thanks

I raise my cup to Heaven
And my heart to the throne.

I raise my thoughts to the skies
And my ears to song.

I raise my hopes to the impossible
And my efforts to the task.

I raise body to renewal
And my soul to faith.

I raise my mind to the infinite
And my spirit to the eternal.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Fiddle Dee Dee

She sat across the table
And said nary a word
Though she’d protested loudly
That her voice be heard.

Her lawyer shuffled papers
And adjusted his soiled tie
As he peered over greasy glasses
Thinking he had bigger fish to fry.

I sat there by myself.
I could not afford representation.
I prayed hard and wished harder
For just a little bit of salvation.

The lawyer asked how much I made;
The gross amount bi-weekly.
I crunched some numbers in my brain
Shrinking into my seat, so meekly.

I explained I had a part time job
And it took everything I earned
Just to keep flesh on my bones
As I prepared to get burned.

“Perfect!” Exclaimed her lawyer.
"That’s all we need to know.
Just put all your income in the mail
And we’re all set to go!”

“But…but,” I said so boldly
“There’ll be nothing left for me!”
I gulped hard as the lawyer said
“We don’t give a freaking Fiddle Dee Dee.”

I now tell you all my story
In the hopes it will forewarn you
When you’re in a stupor over another
Be careful what you do.

Never make any money
And never ever buy a thing
Or you’ll pay thousands times more in spousal support
Than you ever spent on a ring!

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Chicago Winter's Eve*

At the crown of the world
On the twenty seventh floor
The city spreads below
Sharply defined
By amber street lamps
And diamond and ruby
Lights on taxis, cars and busses.

In the thickening snowfall
Even the lights blur
And soften their intensity.

This high
All traffic noise is mute
And the city seems at peace
Though this is clearly illusory.

The lake stretches into darkness
Toward Michigan’s distant shore.
Far out are marker lights
Of buoys and ships.
Three hundred feet below
White surf breaks
Upon Chicago’s frosty beaches.

Gazing back
In the dark window
Coffee mug to my lips
My gloomy image reflects
Thoughts loosely defined
In the murk and snowfall.

When I arrive home
I will shovel my walk
And clear my drive.

Oh, that I could do the same
With this freezing clutter
Piling my brain
On this hoary winter’s eve.

It is not as much
The cold outside
As the freeze inside
That chills the heart
And stills the mind.

* I tend toward melancholy. Don't mind me. My hope for all ya'll (smile) is that the happy spirit of the holidays engulf and enrich you in every good thing! I'll come around...always do. But I'm like an old snow blower. Prime my motor, give me a yank or two, and I'll sputter then come to life. Sixty one years in Chicago might make anyone a slow-starter!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


The river will soon speak
In fire and blood.

Until it does
It sleeps.

On the far bank
Men shelter.

Rifles, like branches
Jut in frigid air.

Bayonets, like thorns
Thirst for blood.

We wait for dark
To cross.

When night falls
Men will die.

Snow mantles the earth
Evergreens drape in its freeze.

Beyond the far shore
A shattered steeple pierces the gloom.

War has two seasons:
Dying and waiting to die.

We will lay down covering fire

They will answer
Bullet for bullet.

We will kill them.
They will kill us.

A body floats face down between the banks
Its uniform uncertain.

But I know who he is.
He is all of us.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Her eyes stunned me.
I was without words.
They had never failed me before
But they failed me that day.

I learned some truths.

All true communication
Begins in the eyes.

All true communication
Is rooted in communion.

You may not have both
But you must have one.

If either one
Or both fail
Communication will be difficult
But possible.

If both are intact
Conversation is not required.

Without saying a word
She taught me those truths.
And though we have not had contact
For many years
We still have communion.

I can shut my eyes
And vividly see again
The fire in hers.
I can still see
Every single fleck
In her iris’s
Can still see more deeply
Than her biology
And into the core
Of whom she was.

That being true
What did it matter
The things said by
Our lips?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cathy Died

Cathy’s desk was moved
To the back of the room
And draped in purple bunting.

The teacher made a short
Terse announcement:
Cathy died.

The sweet
Little round-faced girl
With freckles
Who always smiled
Always had nice things to say.

Cathy died.

There were no panels
Of counselors
To help us grieve.
It was simple and direct.
It was the first
Among my many encounters
With Death.

Cathy died.

Now open your math books.

I was eight years old.
More than half a century later
I still see Cathy’s desk
Buried in bunting
At the rear of the room.

Eight year olds do not die.
Unless they do.

Cathy died.

And somewhere
In my little child brain
We all died a little bit
Between the Pledge of Allegiance
And Arithmetic.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Apricot Moons

I listen to my pony’s breathing
Feel her hooves against the cold river rocks
Her muscles working
As we cross the shallow stream.

Blowing steam from her nostrils
It rises and dissipates
In the chill autumn air.

I mindlessly slide a hand
Along her silky mane
Telling her she’s a good mount
Assuring her we both will find rest soon.

I’ve a little jerky in my pouch
A little coffee
And far too many thoughts
Too much to dwell upon
Along the banks
Of so placid a water as this.

In a few minutes
I will picket my pony
In the tall grass along the bank.

I will tuck into a likely place
My back against a big rock
Brew my coffee
Chew some jerky
Heat some beans
And watch the evening stars play.

A man alone is a dangerous thing.

It’s a dodgy matter
Being alone with memories
That challenge even the most sturdy soul.

She is somewhere behind me.
Somewhere beyond my left shoulder
Just under that rising apricot moon.

I still hear her breathing, too.
Feel her muscles working
My hands in her long hair
As I tell her all will be well soon
Tell her she is a good woman
That all I need do is cross
One more river
And very soon we can rest
And settle into a new life
In the tall grass
In the rich prairie
Along a slow river.

But that was a long time ago
And many miles distant.

Damn these thoughts
Damn this jerky
And damn those distant stars.

A man ought not stop
Ought not think.
A man is better moving
Until he cease looking over his shoulder
At apricot moons.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Her Arms

She loves snows
Relishes winter
With the enthusiasm
Of a child
Huddled within sweaters
Scarves and mittens.

Hot chocolate is
To her
As wine
To the sophisticate.

She lights candles
At Christmas
Promising there would always be
One lit for me
Every holiday season.

It is right
She so love winter.

Her love is frozen in time
Like December ice
Like tinsel on trees
Like nativity stars.

My mind runs to her
When I see
Children sledding
Snowball fights
And twilight walks
Down bright holiday streets.

This year
I will open my coat
To the chill
Embracing winter
As though it were
Her arms
Pulling at me
Laughing in my ear.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Nothing But Honor*

His battle ribbons
Upon his lapel
I stepped away
From the casket
Came to attention
And in the soft light
Saluted my father.

Honor answering honor.

Lying before me
Was the body
The casing
Of the man
Who gave me
A name
Who provided
A model
Upon which to construct
A life.

The tri-folded colors
He served
Rested near his head.

I held my salute
Long moments
Returning my hand
To my side.

Would I tell him
I loved him.

Would I thank him
For his love.

But my first debt
Was one of honor.

I saw my father
Saw him
Saw him
Kiss my mother
Saw him
But I never
Saw him
He had to have been.
But he never let me
See him


That which lay before me
Was the vehicle
That transported my father
Across eight decades.
It was scarred
And thin.
But it accomplished its purpose.


When I left him
In that military sod
I took away nothing
But memory
And left nothing
But honor.

* My Veteran's Day tribute to my father, Cpl. H.L. Woods, Co. C, 1st Army, 2nd Armored Division ("Hell on Wheels"), serving from North Africa, the Normandy Landing, and on through France, Belgium and Germany.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Personal to Nic E....

Thank you for your comment on Erosion. I would be pleased for you to try to put some music to it. I'll be interested to see what develops! And, thank you for reading my poetry by e-mail.
~ James