Category Archives: Poems

my place

Whitman said the moth and fish eggs are in their place
and I, too, am in mine–this earth, with all
God’s earthly things
Why should I not be? Why should no-place be
better than the place God placed me?
And if it was, how could I belong there?
I, being made of soil?
Am I not a son of Adam?

The seas and rivers are here! Doing their ordained work
as the creatures who live near or in them
They course and flow in their endless changing currents
moving and shaping the lands and beaches
slowly from here to there like
furniture in a colossal room
A home for numberless fish and mammals
crustaceans and birds:
the egret and lonely albatross
The mayim are terrestrial, corporeal, performing
their earthly function heavily
tugged by lunar sways and the forces
of heat and cold, light and dark
As they should be! I would have it no other way!

There are waters below and waters above
mayim and shamayim
Trading in a constant airy cycle their waters;
the mayim dissipate and become shamayim
Floating clouds, crowns to mountains thrust up
and crumbling in their time of ages and eons
home to eagles who fish the rivers
and bighorn sheep who live on the grasses
at home in their heavens
They turn and give themselves back to the mayim
pouring themselves onto the ground to
search for the ocean
That is their place! This is their vocation!

I heard a fool once, a know-nothing,
a man who didn’t read books
His whole system was predicated on
escaping all of this for some Platonic
disembodied existence
his heaven was always somewhere else
which is why he didn’t care about God’s will on earth
And on the Easter celebration of the risen body of the Lord
after eating the bread and wine,
all he could think to say was “I wanna go.”
Well, he can go, sooner than later. But I wanna stay.

When I die, bury me in it or
burn me up and scatter me to it
And if I have to leave,
I want to come back and put my feet in the waters
and breathe in the winds
I want to climb the mountains into the clouds
and walk barefoot
through the grasslands
I want to watch the kingfisher dive
and see the salmon leap over the rocks
Because this is my place
and I belong here!

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exposed

Jeremiah spoke his piece and
ended up in the stocks.
Lamenting God’s trickery, the
man just couldn’t help himself.

He was exposed; and that’s
what made it matter.

Mrs. Parks had no friends
on that city bus; the back of her head
bore those glares with lonely resolve.
St. Teresa loved the poorest orphans and
bore their poverty in her own body.

These had no security blanket, no
promise of tomorrow’s resolution. But
their suffering was hope for someone else.
They were just out there…exposed.
And that’s the point.

Mahatma wove his own clothes at
his own risk, calling his siblings to follow him.
Medgar applied to study law; he made it
through Normandy Beach to
die of a Mississippi bullet.

They looked hate and greed in the eyes,
empty handed because

there is no life of truth
safely hidden away,
only out in the open where
it can be heard and hated.

It’s got to be exposed
for everyone to see,
like a light on a hill
in the night.

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life in the crucible

the broken pieces, all
scraps and shards,
thrown together and
set in the furnace which
burns otherworldly white
in brilliant patches
behind the red black shadows
of the coals

the light rages with
a tangible intensity
and I stare into it expecting
to find Daniel’s friends
walking around within it

but my life is in this crucible
and I am the molten steel,
fragments and bits come together
glowing orange and blasting fire
as that which does not belong
disappears in smoke

soon I’ll be poured out
cast, hopefully, into something useful
cooled and fired and cooled again
until I am ready to race against
time’s rusty onslaught

whatever I become, whether nails or hammer,
this metal longs to build or cultivate
and not to kill, tear down, or destroy

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My anger

My anger has been the prophets’ gift
and their quintessential curse.
It has raged in my heart like wildfire from
my earliest days, bequeathed upon me by genetics
and beaten into my soul by the hands and words of
cruelty and misfortune. It has been stoked to inferno
by injustices and hypocrisies, fanned until
perdition looked on with envy.

There has never been a time I haven’t felt
its searing heat in my heart, which is its bellows.
Its every beat has kept it aired and stirred,
moving me…moving me to seek…to learn…to grow…
to find its source and know my unknowing and
shed my heat’s light on the dark arrogant ignorance of my world.

My anger has had me growling and barking like a
flame-eyed demon dog at the Pharisee,
always certain in his righteous sins, and kept me
pissing fire on the smug Sadducee, confident
he’s outsmarted the ancient holy truths,

and on all the kings and princes of their
tiny stupid kingdoms, always seeking to make them bigger,
I breathe my fire there, too.

They have always hated my burns and
tried to dowse me, only to find their buckets were filled
with napalm and not water. And many cannot see

that this anger has taught me to love
and inspired me to learn peace
and made me long for justice until
I have shouted at the thinly veiled gates of hell
with such ferocity that I thought I might burn down
the abode of the dead itself, my throat hoarse and
parched from the dry, spark-flecked, roasting words
that I cannot hold inside for Jeremiah’s malediction.

They do not know that it is peace’s price to keep,
that the fool’s claim “your words do violence” are
the coward’s justification for complacency to evil.
They do not understand that when one puts down the sword,
words are what is left and that peacefulness
has nothing to do with niceness and everything to do with
the barest honesty.

Their idea of love is cruelty. And their passion is passivity.
And they sit by while their brother is killed, friends with his murderer,
telling themselves that their cowardice is forgiveness
so they might benefit from the murder themselves,
forgetting that forgiveness merits confession and repentance.
It is because they are apathetic to the flame and
their heart has never truly burned like mine.

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to be at peace

live simply
want no excess
enjoy creation
find beauty
appreciate difference
laugh thoughtfully
love learning
create something
work diligently
rest patiently
use your hands
be in place
share freely
trust carefully
read thoroughly
breathe deeply
study complexity
admit fault, but only when true
experience the other
try new things
show kindness to animals and
tenderness to plants
love neighbor and self
tell the truth and
speak no lie

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Gunmerica

I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the second amendment of Gunmerica
and to the gun public for which it stands.
Gun nation under guns, open carrying,
with guns and killing for all.

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Ol’ Brian Smith

fer’ Brian

ol’ Brian Smith
been rasslin’ with
the messy lives
of kin and kith

and startin’ out
there were some doubt
what his path in life
‘d be about

he’d up and down
about the town
and by the time
he’d been around

fer’ nearly 30 years ‘r more
he’d been held high and shown the door

he worked real hard
to be on guard
and hoped he didn’t
look too scarred

though not ashamed
his gentle frame
‘d bear the pain
like pourin’ rain

ol’ Brian never stopped to cry
and simpler folk might wonder why
’cause life’s a bitch
and then you die, but

Brian always counted on somethin’ better
believed in it right down to the letter
said you could be down and you could be up
but the good Lord never got to pass the cup
and what’s good for the goose is good for the gander
and even if you don’t understand ‘er
Good Book’s got some tough words to live
like lovin’ and carin’ and bleedin’ to give
and weren’t never nothin’ ol’ Brian ‘d shirk
came right down to it, he’d do the work
an’ he took all that pain an’ took all that trouble
an’ made it a point to learn how to love double

he found a sweet wife’n
they made up a life
that’d give ’em a reason
to survive all the strife

which wasn’t a promise that thing’s ‘d be clearer
‘n fact even tougher’s the way it was, nearer
but all of them days’d brought their due
an’ ol’ Brian Smith as a person was new
so, they shared their lives with a couple a kids
which, as anyone knows, ‘ll flip yer lids

but those new challenges didn’t matter
though they spent some days with the ol’ mad hatter

now, I heard people say his personality’s strong
but the man has a sense of what’s right and what’s wrong
oh, to bring it ’round, I suppose it’s true
there’s people had it worse than me or you,
an’ Brian’s story may be one in a bunch
but, as for me, I’d bet my lunch
that no matter where y’are or who yer’ with
you never met better ‘n ol’ Brian Smith


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