Goodbye Beneath the Redwoods

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The redwoods swayed softly;
their crowns in the planets,
toes tucked below soft earth
under carpets of wet needles
beneath our feet. 

This is how we said our soft goodbyes.

Our love, our forever love,
lay smoldering in the fire.
I could see the flames flickering
in her dampened eyes. 

I looked away, ashamed and afraid;
too much the coward to own her pain. 

She said it was the smoke –
one final lie to comfort me.

We speak in the soft, cordial tones of defeat
the air hanging heavy and silent between us.
Neither of us could hear the babbling brook
gently washing away the last remnants of hope. 

I will hold back my tears,
and the wrenching of my heart,
for the long, dark lonely nights ahead.  

Tonight, my love, my forever lost love,
let us wrest some comfort and warmth
from the dying embers of this bitter fire. 

Beneath these redwoods gently swaying
gather one last bouquet of memories
to set us on our separate ways.

Behind Green Eyes: A Child of the Ozarks


Ozark Girl

Photo Credit: Jeff Jones, Photographer
(image of his daughter, Valerie)

Skin softly bleached like the Southern twilight
freckle-kissed face ‘neath the Ozark ‘s skylight
fire-red locks and curls tossed by stormy winds
Pa’s softly-pressed dimple upon her boyish chin

     Green eyes revealing her faded innocence
     a determined gaze, a child’s jaded reverence
     for a young life lived beneath the savage blows
     of poverty’s yoke, though no one knows
     for this girl who bravely looks right through you
     wears a forthright courage, honest and true

She rides a bitter storm that’s never-ending
twelve tender years in fields deep-bending
with calloused hands plucking earth’s creations
like her kinfolk have done for generations

     Laughing like a banshee, she dances in the rain
     holding back her tears as she swallows her pain
     A motherless child born to a colorless world 
     still she sings of a future, of hope yet unfurled
     she sings of the woods, and the trails, and the streams
     of infinite hope and impossible dreams

She could never be pressed to surrender this hour
‘neath the soft Ozark moonbeams that fill her with power
to endure what she must, though she’s only a child
under dark gathering clouds she stands there beguiled
filled with wonder and light behind a soft-freckled face
she presents to the world the persona of grace

Opposite Sides of the Same Pain


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A Sunni mother silently watches:
overhead, a gathering of scavenging ravens
paints the dusky sky above
the broken bodies of her three children.
Bewilderment mixed with horror and beauty,
accented by the pebbles beneath her feet,
polished smooth by a flood of tears.
An acrid wind swirls
with scattered hope and broken dreams;
confetti raining on freshly scorched earth.
Another womb is rent in unbearable grief
at the loss of its precious fruit.

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In that very moment, across the sea,
a Haitian waif reflects:
A flock of seagulls angrily position
above the ghetto garbage heap
next to a crumbling shanty
where her newborn triplets scream with hunger.
Bewilderment mixed
with horror and beauty,
the waste beneath her feet glistens
with the flood of her tears.
The stench of rotting wind swirls
with scattered hope and broken dreams;
flies rising up from quaked earth.
Another womb is rent in unbearable grief
at the bounty of its damnable fruit.

 

Crucified Beneath Her Touch


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

Mindlessly pouring ice-less cups of bourbon to free my tongue,
exorcising my demons on the back of torn bank statements;
scratching out never-to-be-read poems pulled from the bottom of empty bottles.

My loving Kate stood sentinel outside the mahogany door, matronly and superior,
occasionally sneaking in a bowl of tepid broth, or a grilled cheese sandwich;
she both loathed me beyond all measure and attended to my waking needs
with a love that pierced my frozen heart and stung me to the bitter core.

Awash in the dappled grey light of morning, reeking of whiskey and fear
I stood shakily, tucking away all evidence of my madness in the roll-topped desk..
Beneath a shower of scalding water, I made attempts to wash away the night’s sins.
Stuffing my walking corpse into a crisp linen shirt, draped with a burgundy tie,
I stepped into a fresh-pressed suit (dear, Kate!) and stumbled downstairs.

With the coldness of a ghost, I kissed her lonely dry lips goodbye.

Each day, I would drive into the city, interviewing for jobs I would never accept.
Stopping by Tommy’s Irish Pub for a shot of Johnny and a 2 p.m. round of lies -
later napping on a faded green park bench outside the old courthouse.

Dinner laid out would rest un-touched as I passed straight through toward oblivion.
Kate would be at her spinning class, pedaling broken dreams through salted-tears.
Rummaging her dresser, lightly tracing my fingers over her satin underthings,
remembering when, then forgetting why.

I shed the suit and all pretense, pulled on a pair of faded jeans…and wept.

Mandela’s Legacy to Us All


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Sacrifice. Discipline. Forgiveness

Whatever the indignities
and misfortunes life throws at you;
No matter the depth or the breadth
of your personal pain and suffering,
these three virtues will anoint
and lift your very soul.

You have within you an enormous capacity
to endure, to turn the other cheek,
to rise above the relentless,
crushing tides of injustice and hatred.

Sacrifice. Discipline. Forgiveness.

When you are tempted to surrender;
to see yourself as a hapless victim
crushed beneath the yoke of life’s
inexorable thumb upon the scales of fairness,
in that moment, you will remember
that somewhere, someone
is bleeding more profusely,
hungering more painfully,
dying more senselessly.

Sacrifice. Discipline. Forgiveness.

Our capacity to ignore
our own anguish
and to ease the suffering of others
confirms our angelic humanity,
and releases us from
the bondage of helplessness.

Sacrifice. Discipline. Forgiveness.

For Better or Worse


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For better or for worse, I am a dark writer.

 It isn’t something I wanted to be as I grew up…it is more something that had to be done to give my inner grief a voice so that the pain and suffering did not consume me. The events of my life have consumed me like maggots feasting on the carcass of a dead child. Have you ever wondered why the best of Irish writers are so dark and depressing? It is because they were consumed and compelled by lives lived in abject poverty, disease and general disrepair and despair. Bram Stoker, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Frank McCourt, …all suffered from severe moral disintegration, from morbid ideations brought about by the unrelenting ugliness that this so called “good life” thrust upon them.  

 The French poéts maudits;  François Villon, Baudelaire and Rimbaud?  These were simple men forced to live  their lives outside or against society, awash in the abuse of drugs and alcohol, insanity, crime, and violence. They all died pitiful, painful deaths. Or how about the Americans?  Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Bukowski…each caught up in what life does best…grinding their souls to dust in the absence of any lasting hope until the merciful fist of death grabbed each by the ankle and pulled them under.

 You may think I’m just cynical and indulgent…but I tell you, for every ray of sunshine you can conjure, I can show you ten bolts of lightning that rip and destroy.  I am glad others have happiness….but I myself was pushed through this veil of insidious despair without my consent, and I’ve learned to navigate life in the absence of hope.  And yes, I find some comfort there.  It’s what I know.

 People are always saying, “try and look on the bright side,” and to them I say, “ Look around you, for fuck’s sake!”  There is an ocean of pain, agony, and suffering washing over the majority of the earth’s population…and you think platitudes  and sweet rejoinders make a difference when the crows peck the eyes from a dead child who has starved in the Sudan? Or when 20 beautiful innocent children in Sandy Hook have their precious lives snuffed out, or when entire populations are being systematically wiped off the face of the earth for political expediency?  Get real.  Take off your rose-colored specs and take a deep look around you!  Evil flourishes upon a people’s unwillingness to see.  They are blinded by their blazing sunshine and forced optimism.

 Yes, we live in the same world, but I see the shadows where you see the light. I don’t write this kind of crap because I have something to say…I write it because something which must be said has me to write it. My apologies for the rant…but I get so ill in my gut when people say, “there, there…the world is a beautiful place. Just try harder to be happy.”

 The world is obscene and delusional. And it hurts.

The Seasons of Life


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In the youngest years, there is fear and pain.

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In the middle years, there is ecstasy, laughter,
hope, promise. happiness, delight, pleasure, bliss,
confidence, optimism, courage, faith, joy, desire,
hopefulness, buoyancy, brightness, anticipation,
choice, sex, cheerfulness, and contentment.

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In the older years, there is fear and pain.