THE BEAUTY WITHIN 


Beauty, I’m told
comes from within
From the depth of the heart, 
not from the skin
From fierce independence 
softened by grace
From the splendor of hope, 
not just the face

I didn’t see this coming, 
yet I accept it as true
I was seeking my equal 
the day I found you
When I look in your eyes, 
my heart is inspired
And I think to myself, 
“She is filled with such fire!”

I was captured by beauty, 
but I’m held by respect
For what makes you strong 
makes you perfect
I’d gift you my heart 
and my soul, if you please
If you walk by my side, 
not to follow or lead

Perhaps one day 
we’ll share deep love and desire
Built not upon beauty, 
but these strengths I admire

THE ARTIST AND THE ROCK by Dennis McHale, 2017


(Painted Rock by Christine Onward©. Used by permission)

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This poem is dedicated to Christine Onward, for her love and support of artists everywhere who she honors in exhibiting their incredible works of “colour” online.

“I am a Rock! and yield to none!”
The swelling words of a tiny smooth stone,
“Neither time nor season can alter me;
I am abiding, while the ages flee.
The pelting hail and the drizzling rain
Have tried to soften me, long, in vain;
And the tender dew has sought to melt,
Or touch my heart; but it was not felt.
There’s none that can tell about my birth,
For I’m as old as the spinning earth.
Generations of man arise, and pass
Out of the world, like the blades of grass;
And many a foot on me has trod,
That’s gone from sight, and under the sod!
I am a Rock! but who art thou,
Painting beneath the restless bough?”

The painter was shocked at this rude salute,
And lay for a moment abashed and mute;
She never before had been so near to here
A rock that spoke, this mundane sphere;
And she felt for a time at a loss to know
How to answer a thing so coarse and low.
But to give reproof of a nobler sort
Than the angry look, or the keen retort,
At length she said, in a gentle tone,
“Since it has happened that you were thrown
Into this river that’s become your home
From beneath this tree, as a child I grew,
Now listening to a stone, so hard and new.”

And so it shall be, this Rock that speaks to me,
I will cover it with paint, and then we’ll see,
And quickly adorn with the stroke of my brush
It’s time, it’s season, it’s storm, it’s touch,
Not the gentle dew, nor the grinding heel
Shall ever subdue, or make it feel
Abandoned, unloved, unwanted, alone
For I’ll paint this rock and take it home.
But soon, from this Rock, she sunk away
From the comfortless spot where the pebbles lay.

But it was not long before the soil broke
The artist sat once more ‘neath mighty oak!
And, as she painted and painted; the colors spread,
The Rock looked up, and wondering said,
“Modest artist!  Please, I shall never to tell
If you covered me in paint, this granite shell;
See the pride of the river has swallowed me.
Won’t you pick me up? Won’t you set me free?
Am I to meekly sink in the darksome earth,
Never to attain my potential, my worth!
And oh! how many more will tread on me,
While you sit and paint beneath this beautiful tree?
Your artistic vision towering towards the sky,
Can transform such a Rock as worthless as I!
Useless you release me, for centuries here,
I’ll be sitting in this riverbed from year to year.

But never, from this, shall a complaining word
From the painted Rock again be heard,
For the artist transformed it, without and within,
Gave it new purpose, and love again.
The Rock its vow she could never forget,
It lies brilliantly painted in painted silence yet.

HOMECOMING by D.L.McHale©


The royal robes of winter’s night
tightly bind me in its blue-black grip
The shadow of majestic purple mountains
kneel upon the fields of frozen graves
ancient tombstones, like granite faces
hemming the barren valley floors

An amber moon spills its bitter glow
through naked branches like brittle
fingers clutching a button-less cloak
Icy winds whip swirls of fog across
lifeless lakes, and on broken wings
doves fall from a voiceless sky

In a distant village, old ladies warble lullabies
to their dying husbands; soft verse cutting
like jagged blades through thick cherry smoke
bleeding from pipes clenched in broken teeth.
The children, with bellies as round as their joyless
eyes feed upon fermented peaches and dance
on knitted bones, playing hide but please, don’t seek
for we are tired, for we are weak

I have walked a lifetime to return 
to this is, my kingdom, stretching as far as the blind
eye can see. Built upon the shifting sands of hope lost
This, both kingdom and the shoveled grave
My head crowned in a spray of dying stars;
my spirit drowned in muted prayer;
my hobbled feet cut upon jagged stones.

This is my destiny, my hell, my home.

BEFORE by D.L.McHale


Before the ashes, Vulcan’s vengeful fire.
Before the sex, a deep and burning desire
Before the storm, a dark and restless quiet;
Before the morning, a deep and somber night.

Before the hunt, the frightened fleeing fox,
Before the race, coiled tightly in starter’s blocks.
Before the cut, such soft unblemished skin;
Before the blade, sparks fly, the  whetstone spins.

Before new love, the queasy, nauseous start;
Before the kiss, a young and hopeful heart.
Before rejection, all things possible, bright, and new;
Before enlightenment, faith in what we say and do.

Before Sun’s rays, dark clouds enshroud the planet
Before the sculptor, beauty locked in blocks of granite.
Before the fall, transcendence true and boldly rising;
Before the gasp, in silent awe, a sweet surprising.

Before the rose arises first the lowly bloom –
Before the family, a dark and empty room.
Before old age comes the child full of life!
Before victory, the pain of loss and bitter strife.

Before the Universe, a bright and solitary star
Before the nearness, a cold and distant far
Before the night, a day of brilliant cerulean blue
Before the “Us,”  a prayer for joining “Me” to “You”

ONE LAST DANCE by D.L.McHale


Lovers and Dancers

In Spring she danced with her true love
Each step in softness, lights descending
From the silver rays of moon above
Terpsichore's guidance never-ending.
Summer found her slightly winded
Though to her lover’s hand she held
And while this dance more quickly ended,
Within his arms all fears were quelled.
Upon a chilled wind Fall did follow
Fatigued, she cried, “No more to dance!”
He prayed to her beloved, Apollo,
“What price secures another chance?”
In Winter’s snow she found her rest
His tears upon her funeral pyre;
Now holding close within his chest
One final dance, his heart’s desire.

IT IS THE SEASON by D.L.McHale


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“God talks in the trees.”
— Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas

It is the season of sleeping late 
while dreaming of red-orange trees 
shuddering in the evening breeze. 
These are the short days
when the thirst for warmth suborns desire 
and Eros kisses summer love goodnight.

It is the season of crimson sunsets 
pouring slowly, like thick molasses, 
over church steeples and frozen riverbeds. 
When snow-pregnant clouds float lazily 
across flower-less meadows
and lovers seek shelter beneath heavy quilts.

It is the season of naked trees, 
with branches like fingers extending 
toward the setting sun, tracing delicate arches 
across the rose autumn sky.
Those days when the blackbird flies southward
into the night beneath crystal constellations.

It is the season of surrender, 
when burdens, like the yellowing leaves, 
fall silently to the frozen earth
and tired bones warm themselves before tended fires.
It is the season of dying in the palm of God’s hand;
comforted in the knowledge of spring’s resurrection.

THE HOLINESS OF SUFFERING by D.L.McHale


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I am not yet dead.

Do not call this a miracle or raise your hands in praise. 
First, you should know how long I prayed, and how I came to know the silence of the Lord.

He does not arrive in a ball of light blinding on the road to Damascus. He comes in silence.

Lie there night after night and you will come to know the things I speak of.

My God speaks in the tongue of suffering.

I have survived, but do not call that brave.

I rattled this body from the inside out. There are those who dared get close to me who can testify. I could not find its latch.  I would have escaped it if I could. 

I say this to you because I know, you too have suffered — a body can be rummaged through like a medicine cabinet.

The flesh can be unfurled. Stitched, unbound, mended and stitched again.

Nothing is lost; nothing can be unmade.

But do not underestimate how hard it is to die and do not think death will save you.The dead have forgotten suffering.

Remember what I tell you here.

Remember how hard I held on. Remember the long nights I prayed.

Remember: whole days and nights I wandered outside myself. My body opened to wind and latched like a door against it.

There was pain in the opening and pain in the parts that healed.

Remember what I said of prayer: to house the soul in a body is a way of it.

Sometimes we suffer for one another. I am sorry for those who have suffered for me. But mostly, I am grateful.

If you like, we can call it holy.

SNOQUALMIE FALLS by D.L.McHale


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Salish Lodge, Snoqualmie Falls, WA

The ground beneath my feet rumbles.
Softly at first, and then with each step
increasing in its timbre.

The air is damp and mossy with a gray light
filtering through the canopy of spruce and pine.
Wet thunder rises; my ears are muted
by the intensity of a river plummeting
over slick rock lips;
a roiling, massive death spiral.

Half the volume swan dives elegantly
hundreds of feet into a pounding foaming white pool,
while my pounding heart matches the outpouring,
beat for beat.
The other hangs mistily in the frigid air,
gently nourishing the brown-green algae with its spit.

I cannot help but marvel at the sheer anger of it all,
wondering how many open-mouthed bass
thrust forth into open space, gargoyle-eyed as
the river disappears beneath them,
recognize this as the end of their swim?

Death, anger, power…and yet
so serenely beautiful

Rage on, Snoqualmie,
before the winter’s freeze deprives you
of your liquid dance!

 

A BRIEF RFLECTION ON WHY I WRITE by D.L.McHale


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I’m not the best at writing. I’ll never be famous or widely read. But I’m okay with that. I spent years receiving no or sparse encouragement for my writing efforts. But still I wrote. Yet outside affirmation was never what I needed. What I needed all along was to listen with conviction to the compulsive inner voice that said, “write!”

Writing has alwas given me a sense of spiritual relief, a deep fulfillment of comfort and confidence. It reminds me that everything negative that happens in life has a sense of beauty in it; sometimes you just have to be patient and be willing to open your mind to it.

Of course, I also write to learn better techniques and improve upon my current style. .The more I write, the easier it is to find personal strengths and deliver the verse the way I want it to be interpreted.

As I said, I acknowledge that my writing is at best mediocre. But that is not the point.  The point is that I continue to write.

EMBRACING CRITIQUE by D.L. McHale


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One of my closest friends confessed to me today that she was strongly contemplating giving up her blog because one of her readers keeps disparaging every written entry as “amateurish” and “meaningless.”  I told her she should be thankful that she had at least one devoted fan who felt so compelled by her writing that he simply had to take the time to respond to everything she writes. You can’t buy that kind of loyalty.

Sometimes you just have to shout into the void to know you still have a voice, and that the echo that ricochets back is someone else’s acknowledgment that you’re not alone.

JUGGLING LIFE by D.L.McHale


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Consider for a moment that we are all jugglers. It is, afterall, what life demands of us; constant juggling – of time, relationships, our attention, responsibilities. We feel ourselves continually caught up in the demanding task of keeping many things up in the air simultaneously, smoothly rotating, round and round.

Suppose then, in our quest to be the best juggler possible, we see that we are juggling three balls: one rubber, one wooden, and one crystal.

In the course of our juggling, we slip and drop one ball. Let’s say it’s the rubber ball. What happens to it? No real damage done, right? It bounces. It comes back to you. This rubber ball might represent your education, your job, your contributions to the community in which you live. It is the decisions you make everyday that defines not the depth, but the breadth of living. In the course of your life you may drop this ball several times…you may change jobs, you advance, you are laid off, you make new friends, old ones slip away, you go back to school…it is constantly moving in new directions.

Do not overly concern yourself when this rubber ball slips and falls to the ground; it will retain its resiliency, bounce back, and everything will be fine.

Suppose now you lose your focus for a second, perhaps a day or two. You drop the wooden ball. What becomes of it? Well, it’s a bit noisier, true, but in all likelihood it will become scratched, perhaps chipped. In time, after a few falls, it may even take on a new shine, a new patina.

This wooden ball represents your health and your spirituality. It changes…constantly. It evolves.  It will not look the same today as it will tomorrow. That is its nature. Be mindful of keeping this one aloft, but do not distress if from time to time it slips your grasp. It, too, is resilient and in the long run, it endures.

But what then of the third ball? The crystal ball? What happens if you take your eye from it for a moment and it hits the floor? What becomes of it?

It shatters! It will not return to you for it is utterly destroyed.

This crystal ball represents your close, intimate relationships. Your husband, your wife. Your Mother and Father and sisters and brothers. It represents your children and their children, et. cetera, et. cetera. It represents family and all close and cherished relationships. It represents the giving and the receiving of love.

If you drop this ball, no amount of effort will repair it. It is lost forever. For this reason alone, you must be acutely and forever focused on keeping this ball in the air at all costs.

As you juggle life, keep this lesson in mind, and keep your priorities likewise aligned. Allow for mistakes in life (the rubber and the wooden balls), but never accept your life as the mistake (the crystal ball!)

LIVING FOR TODAY: NECESSARY CHOICES by D.L.McHale


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Three Roads: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. Which One Shall I Choose?

The reason most people find themselves stuck in a rut is because they insist on seeing tomorrow as an extension of today, and today as an extension of yesterday. This has been the most difficult, and necessary, lesson of the past year and a half of my life. My ignorance in adhering to this faulty belief invited me to# voluntarily step into mental leg irons that have no key. It has hobbled me in everything I have striven to achieve, for it is a false assumption and a dangerous one at that.

Yesterday is a story that has already been told. The book is closed. The lessons, oh dear God, hopefully, learned. No amount of regret can change the ending of a story that is now complete. How can I ever hope to begin a new chapter if I continue to dwell upon an ending that cannot be altered? My past has served its only purpose, which was to instruct and to deliver me to today. My only regret, my biggest regret, is that the lesson came at such a cost to another.

Today is all that truly matters. Today, I write the story, big or small, dull or incredible…the words are all there – and it is up to me to arrange them as I see fit. I am the protagonist. Only I can determine whether I turn left or right, whether I move forward, stand still or retreat backward. I have come to the realization that to stand still or move backward is to settle for a weak plot. Only in moving can the inspiring stories be written… and written well.

And of my tomorrow? It is nothing more than a blank piece of paper not yet ready for mwhatforwardy pen. If I live with one foot planted in today and the other in tomorrow, all I will have managed to do is straddle the fence of possibility. To be stuck on that fence is to surrender half of the possibilities of today. I have chosen to get off of the fence and plant both feet firmly on the path of “ Now.” The fallacy of tomorrow is the falsehood that I need to “plan for.” Plan for what? All the things I missed today?

This worldview is not clever or unique. I did not come up with it. Smarter minds than mine have been advocating this for eons. I am just serving as the echo of their wisdom. If I choose to live fully at this moment which is today, I have no choice but to surrender yesterday to the sweetness of memory, and tomorrow to the providence of faith.

Beginning now, I choose to immerse myself in the wonder and infinite possibility that is today. I do so with the humility to comes from the sacrifices of others who helped me find my way.

SUICIDE SISTERS by D.L.McHale


My Suicide Sisters!

Would that I could deeply reach
beneath the dark-moist earth
pulling upward closely to my breast
fistfuls of your white-bleached bones –
to feel the jagged edges pressed
against my selfish living flesh;
to smell the late hours of your suffering,
to taste your tortured final verse
upon my dusty tongue.

Oh, my Suicide Sisters!
You each found in Death’s cold embrace
the peace and warmth Life long denied.

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Virginia…did you pack stones enough
to carry you as wetly deep as needed
to sleep through the ages?
Have the midnight screams,
the anguished dreams
settled softly with you on the murky riverbed?

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Sylvia…your babies lay warmly sleeping
drawing their first breaths where you surrendered your last..as then you entered eternal night –
did you fight against the dying light,
or was your savagely betrayed soul
carried softly heavenward
upon the rising cloud of your final breath.

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Anne, surrendered child of the asylum
dancing in sync to the symphony of the insane, voiceless visionary virgin,
depression’s whore
revving the engine, inhaling “no more!”
The world kissed your haunting cheek,
chewing your words with callous spit
Dear Anne, whose words burn brightly still
have you fled this mortal coil and all its ills?

My sweet, courageous Suicide Sisters!

Did the screaming stop, the incessant hum,
as your mortal clocks
struck the hour of “none”?
I did not need your fevered poems
to navigate my way back home…
for here upon your graves I rest
hearing your echoes within my chest!

Where then is my courage?

Are you not even now pulling me to you?
Have I no further verse to write
to guide me over into the comforting silence of our shared eternal night?
The bitter truth that is mine to drink
is not that I write, but that I think!

Your tortured lives are my dying treasure
For what is death but absent pleasure?

DREAMS by D.L.McHale


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the world spins on a tilted shaky spindle
and we hold on tightly with our hopes and dreams
(there is no space for anything but dreaming!)
we defy gravity with our capacity to love and cherish
we are gods treading boldly on a blue-green marble
beneath a sea of stars tossed upon a blue-black canvas
the universe painted in brilliant colors in random rotation
stoking the fires of our imagination with worlds beyond our reach
the non-dreamers toil in despair, and soon to dust return
while we float through infinity and blow kisses to the sun
dream, dream, dream…close your eyes and open your mind
(there is no space for anything but dreaming!)

Happy Birthday to T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)


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T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)

Happy Birthday to one of my greatest inspirations: T.S. Eliot (he is the reason I write as D.L. McHale)

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is perhaps one of the most introspective and transforming pieces of modern poetry ever written. It resonates, for me, on a substratum of my inner being, to which I rarely penetrate; for my life has been mostly a constant evasion of myself. My losses stack up accordingly.

In honor of his birthday, and his priceless contributions to both modern literature and to my own creative metal, “let us go then, you and I” to:

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse 
A persona che mai tornasse al monda, 
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse. 
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo 
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero, 
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo

Let us go then, you and I, 
When the evening is spread out against the sky 
Like a patient etherized upon a table;  
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,  The muttering retreats  Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels  And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells: 
 
Streets that follow like a tedious argument  Of insidious intent  
To lead you to an overwhelming question . . . 

Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”  Let us go and make our visit.     

In the room the women come and go Talking of Michelangelo.   
 
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes, 
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,  
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,  
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,  
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap, 
And seeing that it was a soft October night,  
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.     

And indeed there will be time For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,  Rubbing its back upon the windowpanes;  There will be time, there will be time  To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;  

There will be time to murder and create,  
And time for all the works and days of hands  
That lift and drop a question on your plate; 

Time for you and time for me,  And time yet for a hundred indecisions,  And for a hundred visions and revisions,  Before the taking of a toast and tea.    

In the room the women come and go Talking of Michelangelo.    

And indeed there will be time 
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”  
Time to turn back and descend the stair,  
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair– 

(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)  

My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,  My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin– 
 
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)  

Do I dare  Disturb the universe?  In a minute there is time  For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.   

For I have know them all already, known them all–Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, I have measured out my life with coffee spoons; 

I know the voices dying with a dying fall 
Beneath the music from a farther room.   

So how should I presume?      

And I have known the eyes already, known them all– 
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,  
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,  When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,  
Then how should I begin 
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?

And how should I presume?     

And I have known the arms already, known them all– 
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare 
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)  Is it perfume from a dress  That makes me so digress? Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.   

And should I then presume?   
And how should I begin?  . . . . . .      

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets.And watched the smoke that rises from the pipesof lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? . . .   

I should have been a pair of ragged claws Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.  . . . . . .    

And the afternoons, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!   Smoothed by long
fingers,  Asleep . . . tired . . . or it malingers,  
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me. 

Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,  Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis? 

But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,  Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter, 

I am no prophet–and here’s no great matter;  
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker, And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, 

 And, in short, I was afraid.     

And would it have been worth it, after all, 
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,  
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me, 

Would it have been worth while, 
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,  
To have squeezed the universe into a ball 
To roll it towards some overwhelming question,  

To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead, Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”– 

If one, setting a pillow by her head,   
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;    That is not it, at all.”     

And would it have been worth it, after all, Would it have been worth while, 
After the sunsets and the dooryards and sprinkled streets,  After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor–  

And this, and so much more?–  

It is impossible to say just what I mean!  
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:  

Would it have been worth while 
If one, setting a pillow or throwing off a shawl,  And turning toward the window, should say: 

   “That is not it at all,    That is not what I meant at all.”. . . . . .     

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be; Am an attendant lord, one that will do  
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,  
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,  
Deferential, glad to be of use,  Politic, cautious, and meticulous;  Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;  

At times, indeed, almost ridiculous–  Almost, at times, the Fool.        

I grow old . . . I grow old . . .I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.  Shall I part my hair behind? 

Do I dare to eat a peach?  

I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.  

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.    I do not think that they will sing to me.    

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves  Combing the white hair of the waves blown back. When the wind blows the water white and black.  
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea  
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown.
Till human voices wake us, and we drown

               MY HUMBLE ANALYSIS:

Meet Prufrock. (Hi, Prufrock!). He wants you to come take a walk with him through the winding, dirty streets of a big, foggy city that looks a lot like London. He’s going to show you all the best sights, including the “one-night cheap hotels” and “sawdust restaurants.” What a gentleman, he is! Also, he has a huge, life-altering question to ask you. He’ll get to that later, though.

Cut to a bunch of women entering and leaving a room. The women are talking about the famous Renaissance painter Michelangelo. I don’t know why they’re talking about Michelangelo, and I  never learn. Welcome to Prufrock’s world, where no one does anything interesting. 

Did we mention that it’s foggy. Like really, really foggy. The fog has a delightful yellow color, and it acts a lot like a cat.

Yawn. What a day. i’ve accomplished so much already with Prufrock. There’s still a lot of stuff he still wants to get done before “toast and tea.” People to see, decisions to make, life-altering questions to ask. But not yet…There’s still plenty of time for all that later.

Where did the women go? Oh, yes, they’re still talking about Michelangelo.

Yup. Pleeeen-ty of time for Prufrock to do all that really important stuff. Except that he doesn’t know if he should. He’s kind of nervous. You see, he was about to tell someone something really important, but then he didn’t. Too nervous. Oops! At least he’s a sharp-looking guy. Well, his clothes are sharp-looking. The rest of him is kind of not-so-sharp-looking. People say he’s bald and has thin arms.

But he still has pleeen-ty of time. And he’s accomplished so much already! For example, he has drank a lot of coffee, and he’s lived through a lot of mornings and afternoons. Those are pretty big accomplishments, right? Plus, he’s known a lot of women. Or at least he’s looked at their hairy arms, and that’s almost as good.

Prufrock says something about how he wishes he were a crab. Oh, Prufrock! Always the joker. Wait, you were serious? That’s kind of sad, my friend. Don’t you have important things to do?

Oops! It looks like he didn’t do that really important thing he meant to do. He was going to tell someone something life-altering, but he was afraid of being rejected. So he didn’t. Oh well.

Meanwhile, Prufrock keeps getting older. He doesn’t worry about that really important thing anymore. Instead, he worries about other important things, such as whether to roll his pant-legs or eat a peach.

Ah yes…the peach!  This is no ordinary question about fruit. This is perhaps the raciest line ever written…given the time in which it was written.  Again, ” Do I dare to eat the peach?”  Im not going to spell this out for you.  I think you now know to what the “peach” refers.

It turns out that Prufrock really likes the ocean. He says he has heard mermaids singing – but they won’t sing to him. Boy, you sure do talk a lot about yourself, Prufrock.

Finally, he brings us back into the conversation. He talks about how we lived at the bottom of the sea with him (geez, we don’t remember that one!). It turns out we were asleep in the ocean, but all of a sudden, we get woken up by “human voices.” Unfortunately, as soon as we wake up, we drown in the salty ocean. Boy, what a day. We thought we were talking a walk, and now we’re dead.

And we die…we drown. And in that moment we understand, finally, the message of his love song….

Does any of it really matter…life, love, indulgences, hope, fear? For we age, and in aging become, not someone, but something to laugh and point at. And then we die.

Makes you think, eh?

FREE OPEN INVITATION TO SUBMIT: International Mail Art Project – Life in the XIX Century (hosted by Roberta Savolini)


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To All My Friends and Followers of “THE WINTER BITES MY BONES”

Artists from all over the world are invited to participate in this International Mail Art Project organised by the Faenza’s Watercolourists Association.

Everyone is welcome to participate, all ages and skill levels. An exhibition of the received works will have place in Faenza, Italy, during the first days of November 2015 for the yearly St. Rocco fair of the city .

All the works will be exhibited online in a special album posted in the event too and later there will be also pictures taken at the exhibition.

Theme: “Life in the XIX century” (years 1800/1899)
Size: Postcard (10 x 15 cm) 
Technique: Free (watercolour, painting, drawing, collage and so on)

Rules: No jury, no fees, no return of the works, only original works, no copies. It is up to the artist to send in envelope or not, only 1 piece for each artist.

Deadline: Works must arrive by the 15th of October 2015.
Please clearly indicate name, address and email address on the back of the card.
Send your card to:

Associazione Acquerellisti Faentini
c/o Silvano Drei
Via Portisano 46
48018 Faenza (RA)
Italy

Thank you!

Album with the received works:
https://www.facebook.com/roberta.savolini/media_set?set=a.10153250359764359.1073741941.542694358&type=3

FAIRY TALES by D. L. McHale


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I wrote this poem 25 years ago. It was the beginning of my insanity! (photo credit: H. L. Cross)

Rainbows are illusions –
There are no pots of gold,
And unicorns have never grazed
In emerald fields of old.

No knight in shining armor
Has ever rode a day
To save a damsel in distress
And carry her away.

Merlin the magician
Was a phony and a fraud –
King Arthur but a fiction tale
That causes one to nod.

Wizards are a special breed
Of fantasy it seems,
And magic castles little more
Than figments of our dreams.

And what of dragons long extolled;
Flying lizards breathing fire?
I do believe the product of
Some pathological liar.

There dwell no trolls beneath the bridge
To thwart it’s passage way –
Belief in goblins, ghouls, and ghosts
Has long since passed away.

Wicked witches have never flown
On gnarled brooms of straw,
And gypsies with their crystal balls
Is truth stretched much too far.

And yet, of all these fairy tales,
The hardest to believe?
This silly notion we call “Love”…
What utter fantasy!

WHERE IS OUR STORY by D.L.McHale


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Death in Syria and Libya, financial collapse in Greece, fires in California, ISIS atrocities in Chattanooga, famine in the Sudan, murder by cop everywhere!

The list is endless.

Where are the uplifting stories?

Where are the tales of human heroism
that lift us beyond our everyday blues ,
the stories that reveal the true range
of human experience?

Are we shackled prisoners of a media
obsessed with the belief that the only thing that sells is grief and despair?

To overcome evil, we must be vigilant
about the abuses we humans bestow upon one another, stalwart against the evil forces of our inner demons.

We cannot stick our head in a bucket of wilted flowers and hope that things get better.

We need inspiration.

We need stories of triumph and victory.

We need to imagine and create.

Our imagination is a book of inspiration;
On its pages are found the stories of shared love,creativity, hope, and universal promise.

Ours is the story of lives imperceptibly bound, threads weaving a rich and colorful tapestry of humankind, of hope.

Where can we find hope?

It is found in our children, our future,
a new generation moving out into
and experiencing their worlds.

It is found in the creative outpouring of strangers ever reminding us that the true nature of humanity is to seek higher ground and to share with one another the voice of our inner genius.

It is found in the artists, the dancers, the poets and writers…the storytellers, the musicians, the singer’s, the community activists, the revolutionaries, the preachers, the atheletes, the lovers, and the loved.

It is found in the spiritual and collective vision of each of us.

The stories that diminish us will one day
be supplanted by those that lift us up!

Ours is a story of the capacity to love,
to overcome, to perservere.

DYSTHYMIA (Chronic Depression) by D.L.McHale


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It does not speak English, Spanish, French, or Italian, or any intelligible utterance known to this world.

It is a darkness devoid of spoken words;
a tongue savagely ripped from the mouth of the village idiot.

There are no pressed pages in braille
to sensate dull fingertips, to tap out the iniquity and the pain.

No painting of fingered words in the still air whispering into deafened ears.

It is the molten ashes of Vesuvius, cascading behind clenched eyelids; a scorching of the inner self. It is the babbling madness of Babylon chanting chattering confusion.

It is the silent scream that pierces the morning sky, the shrieking wind that rips the sparrow’s wings from its tender breast.

It is the desperate gasp for air from collapsed lungs, the tortured artery that bleeds the brain.

Beneath the ocean’s swell, the riptide that pulls one asunder to the blue-black abyss,  a dark star consuming itself, devouring light into the shadows of its belly.

A twisted comfort in the unfeeling, a slap in the face of the unsmiling.  Distant and cold eyes – unfocused, unseeing.

A banquet of burning bone and marrow before demons dancing to noteless music.

I CHOOSE LOVE


(Music video by Shawn Galloway)
(Poem by D. L. McHale)

to suffer is to love
to love is to suffer…

I have known life
I have known love

I choose love

I have known hate
I have known love

I choose love

I have known loss
I have known love

I choose love

I have known death
I have known love

I choose love

to suffer is to love
to love is to suffer…

only through love
can I hope to endure
life, hate, loss and death
each comes to me in their seasons
each comes to me in full abundance
and when the merciless winds
of suffering settles the dust

…there is love

to suffer is to love
to love is to suffer…

does not the agony of birth
seal both mother and child
in eternal embrace?

…there is love

Do not the ministrations
of passing Samaritans
heal the savage wounds of
abandoment, hunger and hate?

…there is love

Did not the sacrifice and the blood
of the Lamb upon the cross
wash away the sins of man?

…there is love

the sweet release of death
fully sanctifies the meaning of life
as loving family and faithful friends
gather together to shelter …in love

to suffer is to love
to love is to suffer…

neither are mine to refuse

I can not. I must not…I will not!
I can not. I must not…I will not!

for I have chosen love

The Receding Tides of Love by D. L. McHale


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It is easy to say goodbye – to meet again is hard.
Love gone like rose petals fallen on flowing waters.

My thoughts of are like flowing waters, meandering toward the open sea on a hopeless journey.

In time, washed away over a burnt and fading orange horizon.

My hope, too!

The north wind blows! Oh, how it blows, mercilessly cutting with icy fingers into the quick of me…

Here on the ocean it’s endlessly cold!

My home is at the bend of a crumbling, salt-soaked pier. I watch a lone white sail at heavens’ end – like a waking dream, quickly gone – who can I ask where?

Darkness descends upon the endless sea.

We had often walked upon warmer, infinite sands, pressing our bare heels into the foaming wetness.

Your footprints were swept away too quickly…swallowed by the receding tides of love.

This cold empty beach was never what I wished; these scattered empty shells speak of inevitable ends.

The beauty of the ocean’s edge declines more year by year, memories pulled into the deep forgotten blue with each retreating wave.

As the sun goes down,  chilling lunar winds descend, whipping the sands, stinging my face.

With beauty comes inevitable pain!

To hear seagulls cry, or see pelicans on the fly makes me sorrow even more.

Oh, how I lack the courage for this day!

Wrapping solitude around me like vaporous veil, I turn for home – or what I once call home:

an empty room, a quiet room,
an empty bed, a quiet bed
my refuge from the darkness
my refuge from the light

In deep deception, imagining I’ve found a place that suits me..
I have made my home amidst this mighty shore, yet I can no longer bear the crashing of the ocean swells.

Outside my window, all the butterflies are white – a pair flitter over the dying garden’s light.

These damn reflections – they damage my heart!

Two tears trace two lines down my face, falling upon the ocean’s beaten coast.

Separated from the loving and the unloving: I have not often thought of her, but neither can I forget. We would not recognize each other even if we met again.

My face is covered with sand, my temples glazed with ocean foam.

In deepest darkness of night, a sudden dream returns me to her arms; we look at each other without a word, a thousand recriminations flow.

I know that this must have some deeper meaning. It must!

My muse lifts me from my sickly slumber, and smiling, asks me to write a poem, as though verse might somehow soothe this savage state!

I try to write the pain away, but there are no words.

Tonight, the ocean’s wind enters through the window. Torn gauze curtain starts to flutter and fly.

I turn slowly in my bed, looking up at the bright moon and send my prayers a thousand miles into light.

ABSTRACTIONS by D.L. McHale


abstractions

Her sexual abstraction takes even the most depraved of men by surprise.

She boasts of her conquests
     in morning’s breaking light
     as she brings her legs
     back together

How often she surprises even herself.

This is not a woman really known for her purity! Still, if you know the woman just from her sexual exploits, go immediately to the back of the class.

If you are foolishly tempted to label
     her, she’ll simply switch gears

An entire life of mythic proportions;
her world feels stage managed,
yet she deserves credit
as stage manager.

She likes to demurely deny
     that she even likes sex

As props go, men simply come cheap.  She revels in their adoration, devoting herself in putting them through their paces.

She has a love-hate relationship with her own myth, but both the love and the hate feeds her savage seduction.

When an image of herself becomes
      predictable, she throws it away and
      starts over

Before long she’ll present
abstractions as true love,
far from free offerings
of softness of flesh.

Uninvited overtures will snap shut all sexual overtones, presenting the cold indifference of virginal chastity.

She boasts that “nothing like me has
     ever come into this world before”

She seductively presents as a woman shaping and reflecting the male gaze, posing nude with her hair drawn tightly back from her classic bone structure.

When she tires of their perversities,
she silently re-emerges clothed,
with her hair down
and a soft pressed smile beneath –
pale eyes downward cast.

She’ ll move slow and with purpose
from empty room to empty room –
her dress hanging loose and full,
denying her sultry curves; as chaste
as a newly ripened peach.

Abstraction as revelation,
     shifting effortlessly
     from sultry siren
     to matronly madonna.

She is a mixture of soft pastels
and vibrant splashes of watercolors, with whiplash-inducing impulsiveness.

When she loves, her colors
     have sudden explosive intensity.

    When she hates, she progressively
    tightens and redefines herself.

The lack of any real separation
between reality and abstraction
is not to be carelessly measured
between sunrises and sunsets;
It is found in labored, tortured breaths
drawn between clenched teeth.

“Anything but flatness,”  she prays
as the darkness of night envelopes her
and carries her in its downward spiral.

By that time, it has become all but empty of feeling. The show opens with a dull if surprisingly contemporary picture of clouds,

After so many years
     of living in the eternal,
     Of loving in the abyss
     she has adopted a view
     from above the clouds.

Abstractions, her long and lonely hours
down to the bones and the wilted flowers.

Angels and Demons: An Affirmation of One Woman’s Life by D.L. McHale


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There is much power and beauty in her world, yet her soul is divided into two houses:

I.
One is sparce and darkly decadent, surrounded by high windowless walls; there is very little color to break the monotony, and its gate is usually locked.

This house is full of decaying art – the crudely painted memories left by people who felt their life had been changed by divine intervention, offering eternal love for her with promises that were falsely laid.

II.
The other house is rich in colour, its thick outside walls washed in strong blues and reds.
In this house, the gate is flung wide open, and on the patio outside there are clay pots and plates all decorated in a kaleidoscope of vibrant, living colours.

Inside is a tiny virginal bed with a mirror above it reflecting back the inconsistent themes of her life.

III.
She wears her silken hair in ebony rivulets cascading in loose waterfalls down her gently curving back; she takes great pride in the delicate scar across her upper lip, a reminder of the evil that dwells in the angry guts of jealous men.

Her clothing echoes her hair – she dresses in embroidered shirts and wide floor-length flowing skirts, swirling in the warm summer winds of her womanhood.

All of this colour and dynamism reflect her conflicted character; the turbulent and contradictory life she lives.  Her own story is both tragic and uplifting; the essence of her more provocative, daring and strange spirit.

Indeed, in some ways the dichotomy of her life are chapters in a long autobiography, paralleled and matched by her inner angels and demons.

This internal schism is refracted through the broken shards of a glass imagination, a constant yearning to fill the void within her. And in that complex yearning, another looming presence which was impossible to escape.

IV.
Her secret love, her one true love, is a huge man who looks even more enormous beside her diminutive body. He is a constant (but not faithful) companion.  She both loves and loathes him, in constant and equal measure.

The relationship between the two is fraught with conflict and anger. So it might be strange to see the two lace cloths embroidered with their names lying across the pillows of her bed.

There is in her life a curious blend of love, betrayal, hope, and long-suffering sentimentality coupled with a harsh frankness about herself – a combination that seduces many people – not only him.

V.
Each night, she gently and quietly untangles herself from his sleeping embrace and makes her way by moonlight to her gray, colorless house with the locked gate.

She indulges in intense relationships with faceless women and men, offering her backside to conventional morality. But in the cool grey light of morning, she folds herself once more into the warmth and safety of his arms.

This constant terrible pain is a permanent feature of her life, yet it does not restrain her. In some ways it makes her wilder and more uninhibited. For much of what compels her life is about pain, and the terrible fragility of her body compared with the resolution of her mind.

Each day she deals most explicitly with the paradox of excruciating joy and exquisite pain.

VI.
Her alter egos are attached by fragile vessels which are not easily cut – hence the bloodstained scissors resting on her white dress. The lush landscape of her dreams seem inaccessible because of the thorny brambles around her neck.

While she might appear, with her beautiful traditional dresses and her tiny broken body, like the ‘perfect doll’ that all men and certain women desire, she is nonetheless fulfilled in her own right, and pursues sexual fulfilment and monogamous peace with equal fervor.

A ribbon around a bombshell.

She is inexplicably wrapped in endless  layers of the full spectrum of human experience and the unbidden possibilities in human understanding.

She senses affirmation in the enormous potentiality of both houses and the unique power of being a woman once freed from constraint.

She is fighting a revolution within herself.

VII.
Hers is a life of two-way narratives. Of unimaginable passions and failed restraint. An existence made all the worse by sadness, distress and a brutal sense of betrayal. Made all the better by the wanton surrender to the possibilities and potential of a woman’s body.

This is the permanent consequence of her life. Yet the often violent and disturbing intersection of her two houses within her soul provide ironic affirmations of life; there is beauty in both, not only in the qualities of conventionality, but in the power and strength of the life itself.

She is full of curses and imprecations interwoven with lyrical images and fragments of poetry. Her dualism defies fatalism with their colours, their endlessly surprising meetings of image and meaning, their powerful assertions of her womanhood.

VIII.
She is both madonna and whore, and she is perfect in her imperfection.
Full of hurt and pain and yet equally bursting with life, defiance, and rebellion.
She is an ever-evolving act of defiance, a challenge, a continuing affirmation of life itself.

I AM BECOME


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Spat from the angered mouth of heaven
falling, spiraling, through the mystic ages
thrust without grace into the mortal coil
within my Mother’s sacred womb
and spat once more again into Life

I am become.

On broken knees with a broken voice
whispering hallowed hallelujahs
I am now become
this incredible expression of motion;
motion within volume,
volume within silent prayers

I am become.

Crimson rivers of blood wash
my bleached bones, cleansed and holy,
creating my presentational self –
a life defined in patterns of sentience
expressed through transcendent forms
of human feelings, of human failings,
of growth and attenuation,
of flowing and stowing,
of conflict and resolution,
speed, arrest, terrific excitement,
calm.

I am become.

In suffering forged and forgotten
shackled in the biting chains
of free will and isolation;
the celestial curse of the living flesh
now belies my subtle activation

In Death I am but sweetly spent
and spat once more
into the bowels of Earth
my soul surpassing the expression
of human feeling, of human frailty
transcending the mortal sphere
the push of life itself
it’s relentless assertion of tension
not only in myself, nor in all mankind
but rather in the cosmos
dissolving and so evolving eternal
once more spat into the Heavens

I am become.

MY REFLECTIONS ON CECIL AND OUR CULPABILITY IN THE CONTINUING TRAGEDY OF FAILED ANIMAL STEWARDSHIP


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by Dennis McHale

The slaying of Cecil has galvanized thousands of individuals who have in dismay and agony expressed their collective outrage for this incomprehensible tragedy. The murderer (a word I chose carefully to express my own dismay) is now in hiding, fearful of retribution against his physical self, no doubt in fear for his life. The mob is assembling, the pitchforks are gathered, the torches lit.

I can not, and will not deny them their anger, nor will I offer any defense for the dentist who perpetrated this senseless and cruel crime against nature…but neither will I deny that he is not the only villain in this blood-fest.  We are all culpable in the slaying of this majestic lion, for when was the last time any of us demanded an end to this business of savagely hunting down and killing the world’s precious and endangered species for sport and for profit?

When was the last time we raised our voices, as we do today, to cry out for protection for the lions and rhinos and elephants and whales and seals, and indeed, all defenseless creatures charged by nature and by God to our care?  Ask yourself, as you hunt down the perpetrator of Cecil’s demise, what have you yourself actually done to prevent such craven and barbaric acts…not only against animals, but against ourselves?

It takes more than flooding social media with tear-soaked tweets and emotion charged re-posts. It takes sacrifice and commitment. It takes money and it takes action. Words are a cheap substitute, and even this, what I write, falls woefully short of what Cecil needed most in the awful hours as he slowly bled with an arrow sticking out of his majestic body. As he endured the hunt in his final hours.

Diane Fossey gave her life defending lowland gorillas. Jane Goodall devoted her entire earthly existence to the protection, understanding, and preservation of chimpanzees and other primates. And what do we do? We content ourselves with casting the first stone. We hunt for one depraved man who feeds his lust for massacre upon our very apathy and inaction. We text our outrage and then just as quickly check our “likes” on Facebook.

Shame on this man for his near psychopathic yearning for destroying Cecil.  And shame on us for not beforehand putting in place protection against such acts of depravity in the first place.

LOVE ONE ANOTHER


Photography courtesy of Chirone, 2015
Photography courtesy of Chirone, 2015

by Dennis McHale

Our unheard voices,
silenced in the crumpled lies
daily and soundly trumpeted
by the world of false authorities!
Cities crumble beneath
the weight of their own conceit
and concrete concealments
and governments, but wisps
of foul winds blowing in the deserts
of corruption and covetousness greed.

Are we to submit our precious few years
and the infinite possibilities of life
to a blind obedience to this pile of dust?
We will not! We cannot!
We must live for love, or else we die,
and love requires freedom from all
false restraints, be they societal or
or subjective – it must be unfettered
and at liberty to express the authenticity
of human experience.

We should with deep and soulful
glee pledge our allegiances
to the elegance of nature
and the exquisiteness of tender acts
of mercy and unrestrained love.
Let us, therefore, express unbridled
compassion toward our neighbor.
than mindlessly march, day by day
into the dark void of hate and self-pretenses?

With love and patience, we shall prevail.
.
Let us council with the philosophies of the
woodland creatures before that of immoral
false prophets, and beneath the wings of
of the soaring eagle let us find our truths.
Where injustice reigns, we will struggle
with all our might to unshackle the chains
that bind us to fabricated obedience, and
band together beneath the social hammer
that crushes our capacity to love.

We are made of clay, but not to be lightly
molded into conformed shapes fired in the
blazing ovens of social orthodoxy – but
rather let us emerge as the shining gods
of glory and infinite adoration and peace and love
we were, from Eden, meant to be!