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“The Winter Bites My Bones” 

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Hi, and Welcome to My Poetry Blog,  


If you are an interested reader, or are a poet yourself, whether you have very little knowledge of poetry or quite a lot already, this website is mainly intended for you. The bulk of this site contains an anthology of my work from 1981-2013, but it also contains a few contributed surprises. Topics range from light, fun poems to the darker, more contemporary poems (the heart of the website) reminiscent of the two Charles’: Bukowski & Baudelaire.   It’s still young and growing, so check back often for new material.

You’ll see this blog enjoys a vast viewership (in excess of 41,000 readers) and contains up-to-date comments, but the web page itself is permanent.  Guest contributors are welcome to take advantage of this wide pool of readers. Please indicate if you’d just like to share, or if you are also looking for constructive criticism.  To have your work featured on this site,  email me your prose and/or poems to dennis.l.mchale@gmail.com.

Your comments and critiques are not only welcome, they are essential to the continued growth and development of my writing, and that of my guest contributors.  If you prefer reading articles that  range from contemplative to general musings, please see my weblog, Insights and Observations: Critical Meditations @ http://insightsandobservations.wordpress.com/

Thank you for visiting.  Happy reading and writing!

Dennis McHale


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Til Death Do We Part…Or Until Today

September 25, 2004 - Our Wedding in Mendocino

September 25, 2004 – Our Wedding in Mendocino

Well, we didn’t quit make it to death.

It certainly feels like death.  Same darkness. Same eternal silence. Same gathering of mourners offering condolences on our loss. Same tears both from self-pity and genuine sorrow. The only thing missing is a stirring eulogy, although I imagine that’s what I am writing now.

The photos above mark the happiest day of my life.  These words spilled out now before you mark the saddest.

I remember our wedding day as though it happened this afternoon. We were married at the Heritage House on the cliffs of Mendocino overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The day started out foggy and overcast, cold and wet.  Kerri and I were certain it was going to be that way all day and made our mental adjustments to allow for a less than perfect wedding day, but fifteen minutes before the ceremony began, by the  time everyone had gathered and the music filled the afternoon air, the sun burst through a bank of clouds and the fog burned off, leaving a rainbow arching against the horizon.  A flock of pelicans flew over the dais where I stood anxiously awaiting my beautiful bride.

My best man whispered, “pelicans are a symbol of eternal love.”  I smiled.

Well, here I stand, 9 years later, and the fog has rolled back in.  The sun is nowhere to be found, and I am almost certain those pelicans are dead by now, as is my marriage.

I don’t ever want to go through such joy, followed by such loss, again. I don’t keep these pictures as a way to torture and punish myself for all the beauty and wonder that is leaving my life.  I keep them as a reminder that at least once in this wretched journey called life, I knew unfathomable  love and joy.  When people see this broken shell of a man in future days, they will be hard pressed to believe that once I knew happiness and beauty in my life. These photos are all I will have to prove that we once existed.

I have had my fill and am quite content to end my days in the certain knowledge that I was once loved by the best.  She can have the house, the dog, the friends…. I have have custody of the memories…and that will have to suffice.

Now where is death, and why has it not done its part?

I am waiting.

How Do I Say Goodbye?


How do you say goodbye to your sweetest hello?

When the woman you wake up to every morning, serving as an affirmation that all is well in your world, no longer shares your bed..or your life?

How do you maintain your balance when the center of your equilibrium in a world already spinning on a shaky spindle, says, “I love you, but I want a divorce?”

How do you formulate words with any meaning when the one person who truly understands you no longer wants to hear the sound of your voice?

You don’t.

You simply get up, put one foot in front of the other, and hope, with every fiber of your being that today, you will survive, you will move forward.  Whether you believe it or not.  Hope that you don’t stumble and fall into a crumbling heap.  Hope that your sense of purpose and direction will one day return.

The next 24 hours will be crucial.  We have been living together for the past 3 weeks, ever since she decided it was best that we don’t.  We have been loving and supportive and oh, so much in denial.  We thought that through maturity and feigned patience that we could forestall the inevitable…the crushing and the shredding of our 18 years together, without too much drama, without too much pain.  But as I stand here, packing my bags, whispering tender goodbyes to our dog, the pain and the anguish are mercilessly pounding at the door.  They demand an audience.

It is too late to correct our course…things have been put into irreversible motion.  The families have been gathered and informed. Friends have been brought up to speed.  Luggage has been bought and sadly packed. Her Facebook status has been updated, even before I leave the house. It was so fucking important that the world knows she would soon be rid of me.

I bought a used car to facilitate my exit.  It, like me, is creaky and worn and dangerously close to its final days here on this earth.  We deserve one another.  As I drive off, quickly glancing once more at a lifetime of love and memories fading in the rear view mirror, me and my broken down car will try to nurse our way down the highways of life.  We may not make it very far, but we won’t be here anymore.

How do I say goodbye?  “See you later” seems altogether absurd and insufficient.  “I love you…take care of yourself” sounds seditious and false.  “Be well”…perhaps, but I know she won’t be.  Not for awhile.  And a tight hug would only mock our separation.  I’m afraid I’d embarrass the both of us by not letting go.

No, the best I can come up with is to quietly slip away while she is otherwise distracted posting updates of my departure with her faceless friends on Facebook.  The non-people of cyberspace who seem to bring her more joy and comfort than an actual husband.  Unlike me, she can pour out her heart to these faceless creatures who offer her false comfort and advice.  They share memes to bolster her decision to quit this marriage, as though they are writing her name on some imaginary wall of support that disappears when she powers down for the night.  I “unlike” you all.  You inglorious bastards.

How do I let go, one last time?

By simply…letting go.  And not looking in that rear view mirror.

A Prayer for Her


Last night, as I lay quietly weeping next to my sleeping wife, I prayed with all my heart.

In four short days, we will be separating for good, a prelude to the divorce she requested just before Christmas.  Looking at her through my tears, I could tell she was exhausted.  The past few weeks have taken such a toll on her.  We still love one another and have both been trying so desperately to make our inevitable parting a process of love and respect and peace.  But that does nothing to stop the inevitable pain of letting go.  As she has for our entire relationship, her primary concern has been for me.  Doing whatever she can to make this in any way less traumatic, easier to endure.

She has always been selfless, up until she finally gathered all the vestiges of her courage to finally set herself free.  I desperately want her to be happy and fulfilled, even if that means letting her go.  But I prayed, nonetheless.  I prayed like a condemned man facing the final seconds of life knowing that in a few short moments the executioner will do what he must do, and it will all be over.  I prayed like Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane, asking his Father to spare him from “drinking this cup.”   I prayed for everything cowards pray for when the consequences of their actions stare them squarely in the face and demand accountability.  I prayed for a way out.

And then I realized…this is exactly why I’ve lost her.  In that tender moment of the night, watching her toss and turn in a fitful sleep, I had failed her once more.  I failed to pray for what’s best for her.  I failed to pray for her happiness and security.  I failed to pray for her future.  I failed to match her selfless act for selfless act.  I failed, once more, to love her with all of my heart.  Too consumed with my  loss and pain, I failed to consider hers.

This is undoubtedly why I should not be allowed to pray. Or to love. My prayers fall on silent ears because they are offered in false pretense.  I haven’t evolved enough as a person, let alone a man, to put the needs of those I love most ahead of my own.  I have no faith anyway, so why I continue to dabble in the mysteries of prayer, I don’t know.  But with or without faith, I am going to give it one more try.

This time, my prayers are for her.  For her happiness. To ease her suffering and pain.  For the joy she so richly deserves.  To be surrounded by people who are stronger and more present than I ever was.  And more truly loving.  For the strength to grow from this, to risk again, to find her true meaning.

To let me go without second-guessing.

Perhaps, if just this once, I pray for her needs before my own, then tonight she will sleep more comfortably.  And I can cherish the few remaining days I have with her…for her sake.

These Final Hours


The doomsday clock to our marriage is ticking.

I can hear it echoing nightly.heart.  The sands are virtually pouring through the hourglass in these are last days together.  After 9 years of marriage, there are literally hours left before we go our separate ways, and with each passing second, another piece of me withers beneath the weight of this nightmare.

Each breath I take seems labored and futile.  As I write this, I am glancing up from the keyboard every few moments watching her fix her lunch, a cup of tea…going about a normal routine as though divorce was just another item to be marked off of her daily checklist of things to get done.  “Do you want a cup of coffee, sweetheart?” she asks.  Are you kidding me?  What I want is my wife…my life…my sanity returned to us.  I can’t eat or drink or think.  I can barely function.  Can’t she see me dissembling right before her eyes.

She’s keeping our dog. My heart.  I get custody of the memories.

Goodbye Beneath the Redwoods

If you searched the term “divorce” and ended up here reading my post, chances are you are searching, as am I, for some meaning in this painful process that will lend some comfort, some understanding. I am no expert in this subject. In fact, I am myself just now entering into the unknown turbulent emotional waters of facing the loss of my marriage; the rejection of what I had falsely and carelessly assumed to be an everlasting love. But of this I am certain – there is no comfort to be found.

When my wife finally uttered those fateful words, “I want a divorce”, I was strangely numb and accepting. At first. I understood  the intensity of the frustration, pain, and sorrow she must be feeling to come to the conclusion that she needed to save herself. It took guts and strength, or so I told myself. Hell, I wouldn’t want to be married to me either! I had failed on so many levels and, obviously, made the fatal assumption that I would have time to turn it around. This, despite her repeated warnings over the years that she was not “a bottomless well.” I’ve spent the past week reflecting on how many missed opportunities I had to save our marriage, and only succeeded in uncovering a bitter truth.

I really fucked up.

But why, then, am I so angry? I’ve done a great job of pushing that particular emotion deep down. I kept telling myself that this was my fault. My failing. The pain and the fear that arises when another human being ultimately rejects you … my consequence for my actions (or lack thereof.) But at 3:06 a.m., I awoke suddenly to a new realization. What could be more abusive or more of a betrayal to a marriage than seeking it’s dissolution? To quit. She kept telling me that I destroyed it…but here she is, walking out center stage dressed as an executioner, ax in hand. Giving up. She, not I, is destroying the marriage.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming her. I am just pointing out the obvious. And it brings no comfort. And before I get blasted for feeling sorry for myself…that isn’t it. I know I could have saved this marriage. I know I could have dug deeper and spared her from ever having to make this call. This was all my failing, and I will have to live with it.

If this had been a short relationship that didn’t work out, perhaps I’d feel differently. But it’s been eighteen years. Eighteen years of dreaming together, building together, and yes, overcoming the setbacks, hurts, and disappointments together. Love is not the convenience of celebrating triumphs and victories alone. It is the steel that is forged in the furnace of overcome hardships, shared pain, and forgiveness. Did I dip at her well once too often? Undoubtedly. But this would have been so much easier if she had simply said from the beginning, “For better or for worse? I’m not down for that.”

I don’t know what I am hoping to find in putting these thoughts to words and sharing them online. I know it won’t bring comfort or understanding. And I am not going to magically rationalize my way out of this divorce. It’s going to happen. But in order to demonstrate the love I still have for her, I need to be supportive of her right to destroy this marriage if that is what she needs to do to live more fully in the future. I have to be the “man” she thought I was so many years ago…and find the strength to let her go.

I refuse to make this any harder than it has to be. Perhaps I am finally learning to give her the love she needed all along…through simply letting go.
Last night, we sat beneath the redwoods before a roaring fire, trying to comfort one another. We failed completely. We are still friends, and hope on some level that the memory of our better selves outshines the memories of our failings. I wrote her this poem…although I will never share it with her. I refuse to cause her any more pain than she (and I) are going through having come to this final crossroad. But I had to write it. I hope someone understands. I sure don’t.


The redwoods swayed in a post-romantic way.
their crowns in the planets, toes tucked below soft earth
under carpets of wet needles beneath our feet
- that’s how we said our soft goodbyes.

Our love smoked in the fireplace and I could see
the flames flickering in your dampened eyes, but I looked
away, too much the coward to own your pain.
You said it was the smoke, one final lie to comfort me.

We spoke in the soft, cordial tones of defeat as the
air hung heavy and silent between us.
Neither of us could hear the babbling brook stretched
beneath the fading stars as the waters carried the
last vestiges of hope downstream.

I will save my tears, the wrenching of my heart
for the long, dark nights ahead. Tonight, my love,
my forever lost love, let us wrest some warmth
from the dying embers of this fire; gather one last
bouquet of memories to set us on our separate ways.Image

My Book Now Available on Amazon.com: The Winter Bites My Bones: New and Collected Poems, 1980-2013



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Originally posted on The Winter Bites My Bones:



Well, it’s finally here.  For those of you who have been following my work, my first book is now available on Amazon via this link:  Thank you for your patronage and I look forward to writing for you for years to come.  ~ Dennis

View original

A Failed Marriage


I left bruises on her heart,
not memories, but empty spaces.
There is no fossilized evidence
love ever existed.
Her contempt folds in stages
like a Japanese silk fan,
while the flowers of our youth
drop their tired and wilted petals.
For better or for worse was a lie
easily uttered when I held more promise,
but as the years, and my failings, took their toll
it was easy to toss me aside like bitter fruit.