The Lantern


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Do you see that lantern on the mantle?
Its light has shined on three generations of this family.

My grandfather learned to read under the tutelage of its glow.
He wrote love letters to my grandmother in verse reflecting
The warmth gathered from its flickering beam.

My mother found her way home through lost woods
To the waiting arms of my Dad,
And on the night I was conceived, it lent its sexuality.

Bright and slightly hesitant, still burn brightly
The night I was born, weaving moonbeams
Linking silver threads through the tapestry of our lives;
Illuminating my path through the years,

It has lit my tears and calmed my fears;
Beneath its flame we all found ways to heal
To bind up old wounds; to celebrate new beginnings,
While keeping vigil as loved ones passed away

One day I’ll pass it down to my children
Now crawling on the ground
And in its light they’ll learn to see within themselves,
Beyond themselves

I take it down and light it it’s blackened wick
Whenever I am consumed by darkness;
It watches over me and comforts me;

It reminds me that there are so many ways
To become illuminated

 

Self-Reflection


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I am the ripe green apple,
plucked from Eden’s garden
Contemptuously bitten,
no hope for God’s pardon.
I am Achilles heel
that hobbles my stride;
Odysseus’ curse,
my insufferable pride..
That lock of hair
claiming Sampson’s life,
And the brother of Able,
I’m Cain with a knife!
I am the snakes coiled
in Medusa’s dark mane -
Like a lance to the boil,
my mercy is strained.
I’m the brew in the cauldron
of deep-forested witches -
The ugliness that comes
from Frankenstein’s stitches.
I am alone and afraid,
but too stubborn to change;
Hopeless and lost
and most certain deranged!
I’m broken, defeated,
and reeking of sin,
The lowest of cowards,
the most evil of men.
A life, ever wasted
on cheap wine and women,
My descent into Death
is just now beginning.
This ghost will remain
as my specter of shame -
I’d rather be dead
than live more of the same ~

 

My Slow Descent


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Pressed beneath the broken rhythms of solitude
Stumbling drunk within intoxicated wavy parallels
Of self-derision and unbridled rage against lost time
A shattered vessel of my mother’s dreams
Absent when the arch of forgiveness bends mercifully
Over purpose-broken and diminished men
My unwinding days a gentle push toward the grave
With nothing left to secure my grasp
Pulled asunder by the wrath of fallen angels
When the shadows of my sins, like a burial shroud
Wraps me tightly, a corpse descending
Into the darkened void of eternal sleep.
This, then is my slow descent; tossed upon a funeral pyre
Engulfed within damnation’s perpetual flame
Condemned for lack of conviction as the cold winds
Of judgment kick up and scatter my weightless ashes

 

The Lantern


Image

Do you see that lantern on the mantle?
Its light has shined on three generations of this family.

My grandfather learned to read under the tutelage of its glow.
He wrote love letters to my grandmother in verse reflecting
The warmth gathered from its flickering beam.

My mother found her way home through lost woods
To the waiting arms of my Dad,
And on the night I was conceived, it lent its sexuality.

Bright and slightly hesitant, still burn brightly
The night I was born, weaving moonbeams
Linking silver threads through the tapestry of our lives;
Illuminating my path through the years,

It has lit my tears and calmed my fears;
Beneath its flame we all found ways to heal
To bind up old wounds; to celebrate new beginnings,
While keeping vigil as loved ones passed away

One day I’ll pass it down to my children
Now crawling on the ground
And in its light they’ll learn to see within themselves,
Beyond themselves

I take it down and light it it’s blackened wick
Whenever I am consumed by darkness;
It watches over me and comforts me;

It reminds me that there are so many ways
To become illuminated

 

A Midnight Violation


I preface this poem with an apology should it provoke any memories in my dear readers of similar abuse. It is never my intention to cause pain.  On the contrary, I offer my love and compassion, and yes, my hope for healing by bringing into the light secrets that grow and fester in the dark. I dedicate this to my younger sisters, who I love and cherish dearly, for the countless midnights stolen from their innocence. And to all victims of this senseless abuse. There is love and hope beyond the pain ~ Dennis

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Bathed in an ethereal light
this child has no skin in the game
yet her trust holds demands
she cannot bear.

The creak of her bedroom door
snatches the sleep from her eyes
and in the darkness, horror descends;
her pillow, once soft and warm,
betrays her and once under, now over,
muffles her surprise.

Beneath his weight, she dissipates -
her cries muffled in the night.
Her fright smothers – she gasps for air
and he’s still there, grinding her
fragile hips into dust.

God looks on, and in His fashion
does nothing to intervene;
a celestial voyeur.

Stuffed animals bolt to the floor
one after the other, and with them
descends lost innocence;
her face laced in spittle, and she’s so little.

He rolls over, spent and condemned
as blackness descends to fill her.
Nothing is as it seems, but not a dream.
Tears wash away the vision of
this violation.

He rises as she plummets;
this child painted with the smell of
cigarettes and cheap liquor.

Morning filters through frosted panes
but she finds no warmth in the rising sun.
They’ll be no accounting for this sin
and no childhood left within this shattered
shell of a child. A darkness, deeper than sleep,
envelopes her lost innocence, as the
morning’s breeze carries the cry of angels.

The Winter Bites My Bones


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The winter bites my bones -
standing all alone amongst the howling winds!
I count my sins and shiver, shiver, shiver …
icy cold reflections freeze me to the spot.
No longer will I find warmth in my denials,
Numb and quaking, I huddle amongst the fallen leaves
and like them, slowly decay and fade away.
The winter bites my bones -
chewing my frozen flesh with teeth of sharp icicles.
Darkness descends and I am numbingly consumed
though the frozen ground will not receive me.
Shallow breathes hang before me, vaporous and still,
muscles aching from too much holding on.
As the winter bites my bones!

 

The Following Two Poems Just Published by Indiana University’s Literary and Arts Journal


I am extremely honored that two of my poems, “Graveyard” and “Corner Bar” have been published in the spring edition of “From the Well House” – Indiana University’s Literary and Arts Journal. Please visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/fromthewellhouse  I am reposting the two poems here in honor of my “Followers” who push me to keep writing with their support and encouragement.  These two poems are for you! ~ Thank you….Dennis McHale

GRAVEYARD

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I always found the
taste of Heaven stale,
like coffee three days old.

I prefer to spend my nights
in graveyards with ghosts,
in the company of stone angels
and cemetery cats
whispering my secrets to the dead.

The setting sun casts
dying fingers of soft orange light
through rusting iron gates,
lobbing sharp, offensive shadows
across these cold granite faces.

Above, an unkindness of ravens
caw an unspeakable truth.
Of late, I have been known
to sing with them.

My darkness is a sanctuary,
my voice a broken prayer.
My hope deeply planted
in this field of shattered bones
awaiting a resurrection
that shall never come.

Here among the sleeping dead
I have lain down many times,
and in the stillness of the night
have heard my death composed.

CORNER BAR

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It always felt familiar and safe;
not like home, but filled with that same tragic scent
of failure, futility, and confusion.
In this darkened chapel, night after night,
we feigned brotherhood, but watched our backs.
We found religion in tall tales
and twisted notes floating softly from the jukebox.
The enormity of the lies exchanged was staggering,
yet not once was truth demanded.

Here, we worshiped and blessed ourselves
at the mahogany and brass altar of amber absolution,
our sins washed in a flood of cheap whiskey and stale beer.
Our bottles filled the night with dead words and hungry ashtrays
and all these incessant “maybes”
while shameless calls for “another!” filled the tepid air.

We licked the back of our teeth
and bought rounds for the prostitute sitting there all alone,
hunched over to entice our drunken libidos.
We adored her, this faded Madonna,
with her chipped teeth and sagging breasts,
reeking of a stale alcohol and tragic perfume.
Where once there had been beauty and life
some bastard had beaten it out of her;
taking everything that made a woman good and reduced her to this.
Our prayers were answered
in the way this whore swallowed you whole
in the back room’s secret confessional
where you keep her words tightly knit
in the dark corners of your heart.

This was the flip-side of our saintly home-lives;
our souls consumed in the repetition of it all.
We whispered our hallelujahs as the clock struck two;
last call and a slow retreat into the shameless shadows of wretched existence,
as God soundly closed the doors behind us.

Beneath These Stairs


Imagehttp://alastairsphotofiction.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/photo-fiction-sunday-june-16th-2013/

photo by Alastair

These are the back alleys
where destitute meets despair
and this is my journey.
The stairs call me from the bowels
of my misfortunes, beckoning me
onward and up…I shall not go.
At the top of these stairs
humanity stirs, and I am long
since far removed…my face
cannot bear the light, my fate
lies in the shadows of this alley.

I fell from these stairs years ago,
awash in drink and drug…I found
my refuge in this shaded vale
beneath the mortal blow,
below the pain and affliction
stirring far above.
My world is diminished,
as am I,
though the day will come when
when my tired bones ascend,
when my body fades upon these
cold stone steps.
Then, and only then,
shall my soul ascend,
Then, and only then.
shall I find my peace.

i never had a plan for you


3

you push and pull, like wolves at the door,
and all i hear is this discordant humming.
you play only the black keys, the sharp keys,
and your music screams of pain.
but isn’t that the choice?

we’ve come a long and lonely way
to owe ourselves to wolves
each howl a dying little light of the soul
i don’t remember, did we take this road together?
did you see our wings fold together?

you have a wanderlust growing in your soul
and live where ashes take the form of houses
all around the grounds we see a flashlight metronome,
that skips to sleep in leaps, lock and key, or latchkey…
a house you tricked empty because
you knew they would take it back, piece by piece.

who do we let it in? do we have a choice?
you said you don’t even like to be seen
in the parking lot, beneath the moon
and the drinking of the glass…
whatever the hell that means

i’m sorry again for everything i’ve been
and all the things i wasn’t
i’d sink to your city streets if i wasn’t buried in your hands
there is nothing out there; i do not hear what you hear
regardless of everything, i came to know you as a relic
you are ashes falling between my burnt fingers

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Crucified Beneath Her Touch


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In my darkest hour,
rolled up into a ball upon the divan
reading Plath and Poe,
fantasizing about the silent sweetness of death;
writing angry, diminished verse raging against
all things holy and full of light…
then, only then was I full of purpose and certainty.

From the falling of the sun until the break of dawn,
pouring ice-less cups of bourbon to free my tongue,
burning with each gulp as I exorcised my demons
on the back of half-torn slips of
empty bank statements and creditor threat letters.

My loving Kate stood sentinel outside the door,
occasionally sneaking in a tepid bowl of broth
or a grilled cheese sandwich;
she both hated me beyond all measure
and attended to my waking needs with a love that
stung me to my bitter core.
She stayed because she could see in me
what I could not, as I lay crucified beneath
her touch. I stayed with her so that someone
would be around to answer the angry phone.

In the daylight, awash in the cool grey light of morning,
I tucked away in the roll-topped desk
all evidence of my madness.
Beneath a shower of scalding water,
I made vain attempts to wash away my sins
of the previous night.
I stuffed my walking corpse into
a starched white linen shirt,
draped with a burgundy tie,
and stepped into my fresh-pressed suit
(dear, Kate!) I kissed her dry lips goodbye.

Each day, I drive into the city,
interviewing for jobs I would never accept,
stopping by Tommy’s Irish Pub for a shot of Johnny,
and napping the afternoon away on a
faded green park bench outside the county courthouse.
At 5pm I headed home to flee the light once more.

Dinner would rest un-touched
as I passed straight through toward oblivion.
Kate would be at her spinning class
as I dropped the suit and all pretense,
pulled on a pair of faded jeans,
and slowly drifted into my melancholy.
Each day, I would rummage through her dresser,
lightly tracing my fingers over her satin underthings,
remembering when.

I’d pull another freshly  bought bottle
of amber courage from the kitchen pantry
(dear, sweet Kate) and poured
myself another night.

 

Eulogy of Despair


A fog of defeat envelopes my feet;
I am hobbled by my own false steps.
Aimlessly I’ve wandered, a life mostly squandered
Upon roads I have paved in regret.
Awash in addiction, my life’s predilection
Was always toward numbing the pain –
A failure to cope with the absence of hope
Now leaves me with nothing to gain.
With each labored breath, I contemplate death
And the comfort that darkness portends
All meaning eludes me, my sins now preclude me
From offering empty amends.
These words that I write do most bitterly bite -
A eulogy composed in my shame;
My anger now melts for the hand I was dealt;
I have only myself left to blame.
The hour descends that foreshadows my end
All my woes now be tucked into bed
Please, do not deny her this final desire -
The earth reaches up for her dead.

Awakening


I have lived on the cusp
of knowing, and still my days
are filled with
incertitude,
Laughter rings my home
where generations have
gathered,
Flesh and bone betray
and to this day
I cannot make out the faces
that call me brother!
My father fell from grace
the day I was born and
stumbling, perfumed by
the scent of failure
and sweet vermouth,
he made his exit.
I never knew him.
My legs stretch long
before my faltered steps
but they cannot carry me
far enough away.
My dreams are salted and
weathered; my hope reserved
for the scattering of
copper pennies upon foreign
streets.
My only wish is to sleep
through this overture of
nothingness until cool
waters redeem my parched
awakening.

A Midnight Violation


Bathed in an ethereal light
this child has no skin in the game
yet her trust holds demands
she cannot bear.

The creak of her bedroom door
snatches the sleep from her eyes
and in the darkness, horror descends;
her pillow, once soft and warm,
betrays her and once under, now over,
muffles her surprise.

Beneath his weight, she dissipates -
her cries muffled in the night.
Her fright smothers  – she gasps for air
and he’s still there, grinding her
fragile hips into dust.

God looks on, and in His fashion
does nothing to intervene;
a celestial voyeur.

Stuffed animals bolt to the floor
one after the other, and with them
descends lost innocence;
her face laced in spittle, and she’s so little.                               

He rolls over, spent and condemned
as blackness descends to fill her.
Nothing is as it seems, but not a dream.
Tears wash away the vision of
this violation.

He rises as she plummets;
this child painted with the smell of
cigarettes and cheap liquor.
Morning filters through frosted panes
but she finds no warmth in the rising sun.

They’ll be no accounting for this sin
and no childhood left within this shattered
shell of a child.  A darkness, deeper than sleep,
envelopes her lost innocence, as the
morning’s breeze carries the cry of angels.

Contrasting Lights


You have always stood beneath a dazzling
array of bright colors.
Brilliant, and brave, and blinding.
Your light provided bright reflections
and lit the stage upon which you danced;
careless, joyful, and exuberant.

It was a separate light that bathed me,
not quite so radiant and full of shadows.
It has never illuminated my way
nor has it warmed me in its beam.
It was what it seemed: an insignificant
blue glow, dim and misleading.

In your light, you were found. In mine,
everything was lost.

Descent into Light


 

 

 

 

 

 

The windows of my existence
slam shut with profound resistance;
no light reflects my life’s regrets
dark thoughts are my subsistence.

I’ve lived a life most shattered,
redemption lay in tatters –
I close my eyes and realize
nothing really mattered.

My path was paved with sharp-edged stones;
each step cut deeply to the bone -
My blood revealed a fate long sealed,
No pleas were heard or crimes atoned.

Acceptance as the midnight falls,
my time has come, the hour calls-
Into the haze, beat down and dazed,
in darkness beats a heart, then stalls.

The final beat, a deeper cut,
the vein of life has no rebut;
spilling forth with little worth
the contents of my tortured gut

Beneath the lily and graven stone
The soul has fled, I’m all alone.
Now in the tomb I find some room;
My darkest fears are overthrown

The window opens, new hope descends
Now lifted up, my doubts rescind;
escape the grave, all pain is bathed
Into perfect light I walk again.