BEHOLD, MY LIGHT by DLMcHale


 

I wrote this poem a few years ago the night I visited the haunted
lighthouse in St. Augustine and then I lost it….until tonight!

Behold, my light so brightly burning
Guiding wayward sailors home.
Covered in breaking waves now churning
Battered ‘neath the angry foam

Awake, my Captain; tend my fire
The ships are blind upon the sea
Night has come so dark and dire
Bring them safely home to me

Push back your fear and never fail me
Do not tarry, nor think twice
No time for prayers on bended knee
The sea demands her sacrifice

Many a keeper survived the commotion
Tending my flame with ardent care
Many more forever lost to the ocean
Swept from my winding, icy stair

I am the hope of every seamen,
Warning of the rock and shoal,
And you, my Captain, tend my beacon
With all your heart and weary soul.

 

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!

 

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.

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.

ABSTRACTIONS by D.L. McHale


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"Abstractions" pen and ink on rag paper: by Dennis McHale© 2015

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,

My Life’s Palette


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It all began
with the glowing green meadows;
cool, dew-moistened blades of grass
softly pressed into the shape
of a young boy’s naked feet running 
frivolous and joyous
in the backyards of my innocence.

     In time, the azure-blue skies
     puffed with the carefree brilliant white cotton-candy clouds
     of my adolescence fed my wandering dreams,
     lifting me to new heights,
     pressing me tenderly against the heavens.

In my teen years, the skies grew heated
beneath the raging, orange-flecked storms
battering the massive walls of my pubescent limitations.
I fought bravely against the darkening forces shaping me,
but was laid low with the sizzling strike of a silver bolt of lightning,
my body then forged in the ruby red-hot fires of puberty.

     As a young man, there came a day with you in it;
     a dazzling star as yellow-bright and full of light –
     your beauty washed over me, igniting my purpose, 
     I was blinded by the intensity and the nearness of you, 
     awakening within me the amazing brilliant white glow 
     of desire, love, and hope.

Eventually, the blue-black sheet of night
was pulled over me; the skies darkened a midnight onyx
leaving me lying in the cool-grey mist of the shadow of Death.
The lights dimmed as did my voice,
as the murky fingers of Death reached toward me.

     I was immediately lifted up into a new beginning;
     the soothing winds of forever washing over
     the palette of my life
     as once more my heels were dipped
     into the forgiving green blades of grasses
     of eternity’s meadow.

Best In Morning


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I love you best in morning…

In that quiet hour
before the sun fully rises
and the shadows of the night
linger possessively;
as I lie motionless
beside you
watching
the seductive blush
of a new dawn
filtering slowly through
the frosted windowpane,
caressing you in those last
moments of sleep
with warm fingers of light.

It is in that
special time,
that magic time of morning
as I, too, caress you
with my eyes
and with my thoughts
that I love you
best

The Ocean’s Song


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                                     Painting by Ivan Aivazovsky

I.
Sitting on the bay, watching the ships go by;
Where they are headed, I don’t know, yet
My soul yearns to be likewise swept away
With the outgoing tide, the undulating waves.
Beneath blustery clouds let the extended bellies
Of white sails carry me across new horizons.
Beneath the crested waves, the mermaids sing
Siren chants of, “Come with me. Come with me!”
The baritone bellow of a ship’s horn
Blasts out, “Come with me, Come with me!”

II.
Icy winds caress my weathered face,
Each wizened line etched like a nautical map
Directing me toward tomorrow’s fortunes.
The salted air fills my aching lungs with a
Hope I have not known since childhood.
In my shoreline reverie, I am carried across
Blue-green oceans kissing distant coastlines.
“Turn, screws, turn,” let the waters churn
Beneath your tired and weathered hull
But do not leave me dry standing here.

III.
I yearn to drink the white foam of stormy seas
Beneath a blanket of heavenly constellations.
I do not care today for tomorrow’s sorrows
So long as I can castaway in the iron belly
Of a eastward steaming long boat.
I am now lost in the maelstrom of indifference
Upon these sandy shores, and my eyes
Are filled with the tears of a sailor’s regret
For having missed the outward tides.
“Carry me out. Carry me out!” and let the
Fish one day dine upon my happy bones.

 

My Pagoda


pagoda

 

In my next incarnation,
I will dwell in a house
with a roof that curls like a smile.
Nestled in a flush of empurpled trees
and luminous clouds –
paths winding up
the velvety-green mountains
and ninety-nine steps
upward to my teak-carved door.

Shivering, I will rise in the morning,
blow on my hands like coals,
and squat to make tea in the teapot.
Slowly, the aromatic leaves will fill my heart
like a cup, the tea swirling,
knowing more than I know.

In the room’s far corner,
an altar, a few flowers, incense.
Buddha smiling.

My visitors will carry bright offerings
But how little will be necessary!
Like a beggar’s bowl,
each day will be full and empty

 

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Them Logs


logs

The logs that was put in that barn
are up there until this day, an’ it turns out,
they were made by my Gran’pa
an’ were a part of his home a mile up this here creek
where he lived an’ where my kinfolk are resting.
Those logs are older than my Ma.
She was borned in that house after they moved there,
an’ she was borned ‘round 1891.

Yep, them logs has been there some.

An’ the house was there an’ them logs,
an’ twice since we’ve taken over the land,
since they all be gone an’ sweetly passed away,
someone has approached me to buy them logs.
An’ the first one offered me eighty dollars for the logs.
An’ Lord knows, we needs the money
‘cept I can’t sell them. They’s history in em.

They are still sound ‘cept where they’re layin’ on the ground.
The ones that were axed an’ are in the earth,
look as perfect as the day they were put there!
An’ it was only last week that my kinfolk that live up there
said some man ask him to talk to me could he buy them.
An’ they had been there that long.
But I reckon I won’t sell them,
cause they has my Gran’pa’s sweat in them.
At least eighty-five years since I’ve been here.
An’ my Pa–there’s his axe marks
where he made them, on them very same logs.

Mountain Hogs


mountain hogs

Why, they would sleep, them hogs,
would stay right back in them mountains
and under cliffs and brambles and things.
But these old timers, my grandpa and my uncles,
would be whoopn’ and shoutin’ to the hills,
calling his hogs, to go to the barn, and buddy,
they’d come out of them mountains a flyin’!
He’d feed them corn, and just as soon as they et
right back in them mountains they’d go.
And they got learnt to that, they did,
and about feeding time every evenin’
they’d come out all by themselves.

But in the summertime you’d never see one.
They’d stay right where they could get plenty
of mast and roots and stuff to eat.
They’d stay right in them hills, them hogs would,
growing fat n’ orn’ry like!
And there’s bunch of wild hogs here,
and my mother, she’d sent me to school
and I’d run into a bunch of these old timers
going a wild hog huntin’ they were.
They’d have three or four old dogs tied up,
with plow lines, big long ropes,
and I’d go hog huntin’ with them ‘stead of school.

I’d follow and they’d head right to these tree stands
at the top of the hill and that’s where you’d find em.
I’d seen their teeth sticking out this far right side of there
and the dogs would run one down,
run him ‘til he got tired and he’d be fighting them dogs!
And them old timers would walk up
and they’d use an old caliber called 25.
And shot a shell about half-finger long.
They’d take him right between the eyes
and kill it.

Drag it out, two or three of them would,
right down the mountainside, and git it to the creek
and they’d come to the house all puff’d up on ‘shine,
get their mule n’ sled, and they would load him up
and haul him to down yonder to the house.
After a spell when they’d be all licker’d up
and sangin’ and hollerin’ and carryin’ on
they’d hang em by his feet upside down
‘bout shoulder high on a sour maple,
and they’d bleed him.

We’d be dancin’ and sangin’ and hollerin’
and eatin’ like kings come Sunday.

Before the Chestnut Blight (Part I)


chestnuts

 

Old people had them a sayin’,
that when the chestnuts bloomed,
they were so tall they stood straight
up above them other trees,
‘n they’d say ‘the snow is in the Mountain.’

Well, we had chestnut trees,
before the blight come in.
When my daddy cleared the ground,
you know to farm –
it was covered with chestnut trees.
He’d sifted out about an acre of chestnut trees,
for our pikcin’ up use.

‘N when they would get ready ‘n start falling.
We would get our sacks ‘n buckets ‘n stuff,
‘n the men would get up in the trees with big poles
‘n they’d thrash them out ‘n we’d pick em up

But, when they fall, usually the burrs open on the tree,
‘n they fall as they come down.
You don’t ever touch that burr,
you get those needles in your fingers, that’s bad.
You stay away from that.
You just pick the chestnuts up. They’re on the ground.
Now ‘n then you find a burr open with the chestnuts in it
‘n you can take your foot, if you got shoes on,
‘n step on them, ‘n they’ll come out.
After it frosts, they’re easy.

Anyways, we’d get them in them sacks
‘n take them to the chicken house, ‘n hang them in thar,
the empty house, it had been a chicken house,
but we had et the chickens, ‘n it were empty.

You hardly ever, at that time,
a chestnut with a worm in it.

 

Appalachian Woods


cabin

Our lives can best be understood
in all the things we craft from wood
The dogwood laid our cabin floor
hung knotted pine our shanty door

Six bowls we carved from fallen maple
a burnt mahogany sets our table
A dozen spoons and forks by hand
hewn perfect fit for every man

And woman, too, with pocket-knives
whittle tokens of our humble lives
Soft wicker thatched this rocking chair
and spruce the toys sprawled everywhere

In wooden homes that we have built
we hang on pegs our history quilts
Each patch a memory lovingly stitched
our purses poor, our lives quite rich

Our beds and wardrobes never falter
we hand-carved those from summer alder
Our coffins, too, of stout mesquite
for when our journey is complete

In wood we find our heart’s desire
or pain if come the wayward fire
And even so, most grievous sin
not to build from wood again

So now you better understand
how we live upon this land
Within the forest, and it in us
in God we hope, in wood we trust

The Poppies of Castelluccio


Poppies
©Photo Courtesy of  Hardik Gohil*

in Castelluccio,
where Heaven’s angels tread
through fields of autumn
sweetly dressed in red.
kissed by Italian winds,
inflamed poppies dance
swaying gently
where wild stallions prance!
oh, Umbria,
where the saints have dined
in the meadows flowing
‘neath the Apennines,
such beauty lifts
the tired souls of men,
setting mortal feet
where only God has been!
in Winter’s grasp
each velvet petal weeps
for these fields of poppies
should never sleep!

*This poem is dedicated to the photojournalism of Writer and Photographer, Hardik Gohil.  You may view additional samples of his work at http://mang0pe0ple.wordpress.com

A Dark and Distant Star


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My sleep is bathed in fearful sweat;
each night a pitched battle between
all that I’ve loved and all that I’ve lost.

My dreams betray me.
Treasonous vignettes spinning through the night
like mismatched pieces of a puzzle:
no matter how desperately I press one vision into another,
it will not lock, and the picture remains incoherent.

When morning breaks, I arise once more
into the cool, grey fog  of isolation.
Cold and shivering,
uncertain, and empty.

Unfocused, confused,
eyes pasted shut with broken sleep
and a mouth of stale cotton.

Each day is spent in a stumbling stupor
of regret and indecision.
Like a bird on broken wings,
my thoughts fall aimlessly before me.
I am tired and disillusioned.
I am conscious but cannot see.

I exist in darkness descending
and tomorrow’s light is a dark and distant star.

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.

 

Eternal Love


girl of color

She whispered softly in my ear

Such tender words to ease my pain

Soothing verse to calm my fear

She was gone when morning broke

The essence of her love remains

That even in my darkest hour

The echoes of her song sustains

And fills me with a lasting power

I will not love again

Not love again

Not love

Love

Where has she gone, my life unwinds

If I must die, then give me death

For dying unites and gently binds

My heart to hers, to beat eternal

And fill us with a lasting breath

Once more within my arms I hold

The height of love, its width, its depth

Spanning dreams that now unfold

I once more love again

More love again

More love

Love

The Impossible Manifesto


The Impossible Manifesto

Impossible-Manfiesto-Cover_175x280.shkl_

Do Something Impossible. This is a MUST read for anyone who has ever battled the infuriation of limitations.

The Impossible Manifesto is a challenge to push your limits, live a life worth writing about and do the impossible. More than anything though, it’s a challenge to stop waiting around for life to happen and do something. Anything

The Putricity of the Florida Keys


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Time crawls in the Florida Keys;
minutes drip like thick molasses.
The ocean is devoid of waves
and the beaches are two feet wide.
An endless wind rattles the palms
from which graying coconuts drop and rot.
The smell of brackish swamps assaults the nose
with odors reminiscent of death and decay.

The elderly crawl slowly upon the roadways
like hermit crabs scuttling aimless and angry.
It is a horrid little place where the bars
far outnumber the churches and the overpowering
stench of cheap liquor clogs the air, lightly infused
with the strewn garbage filling darkened back allies.

Key West is little more than a vacuum
sucking money from the billfolds of sweaty
unsmiling tourists, offering nothing of value in return.
Biting gnats choke the air andleave your arms and faces
puss-filled and swollen.

Restaurants there defile the sacrifice of the
local fish by deep-frying everything
and serving it with a side of warm and wilted slaw.

Hemingway’s house is like-wise defiled;
bricked in and gated, overrun by smelly six-toed cats.
The Keys are nothing more than a dribble of piss
lightly shaken from the dangling penis that is Florida.

Fight, My Brothers


american-soldiers-in-iraq

Fight, my brothers, boys to men
And if you fall, to God ascend
Swear your oath on bended knee
Take up your march to victory

Do not fear to be laid low
Each hero has his story told
Arise my brothers, on lifted tide
Right this wrong – or else we die

For every decent thing within
Come we upon whose lives depend
Into the fray we march and send
The boldest and the best of them

Though weary, faint, and sore afraid
Through cold of morning, heat of day
We cannot take another way
Our path is clear, we’ve naught to say

Cross mountains high and valleys low
In starlight bathed and moonbeams glow
With every bone and sinew bowed
For every oath and debt we owe

Into the night and far beyond
Cross fiery fields, o’er foggy ponds
Our path is clear, so brothers bond
Take up your arms and carry on

Our time has come to march this road
For each of us must bear this load
To sacrifice what’s been bestowed
To ante up a measure owed

To live and die with equal grace
We must unite and hold this place
Conscious damned, I’ll plead my case
Prepare your foe to lay to waste

A new and evil day emerges
Full of hate and dreadful scourges
Sing loud and full your deathly dirges
Be stout of heart, your song, it purges

Ignore your fears, a devil’s charm
And when in doubt a haughty song
Lift up your eyes and carry on
Steadfast into the setting sun

Fight my brothers, with heads held high
Anything less and we all die
In battle pitch our freedom lies
We have no time to sympathize

With shoulders broad take up your arms
The threat before shall be disarmed
Quick-step into the fog of harm
So those we love may carry on

And do not wince or flee this place
A coward’s doubt is his disgrace
Be true to your brothers, stay this place
For yours is not to throw this race

Be brave. be sure and quick in pace
March beyond this arduous space
Laid low by arrows, bow and mace
Each death revealed upon your face

Though rivers tinged with blood may flow
Onward brothers, onward go
What lies ahead you cannot know
In brotherhood entrust your soul

And when the battle’s spent and won
We’ll lay to rest our bravest sons
Let their honor be widely known
For not all of them will make it home

 

My Pagoda


pagoda

In my next incarnation,
I will dwell in a house
with a roof that curls like a smile.
Nestled in a flush of empurpled trees
and luminous clouds –
paths winding up
the velvety-green mountains
and ninety-nine steps
upward to my teak-carved door.

Shivering, I will rise in the morning,
blow on my hands like coals,
and squat to make tea in the teapot.
Slowly, the aromatic leaves will fill my heart
like a cup, the tea swirling,
knowing more than I know.

In the room’s far corner,
an altar, a few flowers, incense.
Buddha smiling.

My visitors will carry bright offerings
But how little will be necessary!
Like a beggar’s bowl,
each day will be full and empty

Awakening Our Memories


SirMaxHotAirBalloon2

We shall sail through the air a thousand country miles –
watch the falcons pirouette in the summer sky;
lunch upon bitter green apples and fermented mangoes
and nap beneath the cool luminous clouds;
quench our thirst with melodious wine
and toss stones down upon frozen lakes.

We shall immortalize poets against the echoing granite walls of time.
In bare feet we will land and dance in verdant green meadows
that carpet a bottomless valley;
trace our fingertips along the gnarled grooves
of a dying oak and bid it farewell.

We will bathe in babbling brooks that giggle at
our nakedness and dry ourselves in the wispy autumn winds.
Upon mountaintops, we shall squeeze sunsets between
our forefinger and thumb and slowly open them again to
the shimmering glow of a new moon.

We shall sleep beneath a canopy of universes and compose
our dreams against shimmering stars;
build wet sandcastles fit for kings on foreign shores
and feed them to the ravenous surf.

Beneath cascading waterfalls we’ll write tumbling
verse, while angelfish nibble at our dropped metaphors.
In the Mascarene Islands, we will fly kites built from
forest reeds and raffia palms until they are swallowed
by drifting winter clouds.

The return to a new day awaits us, and a thousand more
miles beneath our balloon before this life is drawn complete.
Awakening a memory, we close our eyes
and the colors of life’s possibilities explode beneath our lids.

Our Youngest Patriots


A boy watches men dig graves for future casualties of Syria's civil conflict, at Sheikh Saeed cemetery in Azaz city

The price of freedom comes not cheap;

it’s why the village women weep.

Sweet daughters and our native sons

lie dead beneath setting sun.

They gave their lives that we might live;

no greater gift could children give.

Old age will never call their names,

nor will they play their childhood games

For Allah has gathered to His chest

these angels here we lay to rest.

The Ocean’s Song


I.
Sitting on the bay, watching the ships go by;
Where they are headed, I don’t know, yet
My soul yearns to be likewise swept away
With the outgoing tide upon undulating waves.
Beneath blustery clouds let the extended bellies
Of white sails carry me across new horizons.
Beneath the crested waves, the mermaids sing
Siren chants of, “Come with me. Come with me!”
The baritone bellow of a ship’s horn
Blasts out, “Come with me, Come with me!”
II.
Icy winds caress my weathered face,
Each wizened line etched like a nautical map
Directing me toward tomorrow’s fortunes.
The salted air fills my aching lungs with a
Hope I have not known since childhood.
In my shoreline reverie, I am carried across
Blue-green oceans kissing distant coastlines.
“Turn, screws, turn,” let the waters churn
Beneath your tired and weathered hull
But do not leave me dry standing here.
III.
I yearn to drink the white foam of stormy seas
Beneath a blanket of heavenly constellations.
I do not care today for tomorrow’s sorrows
So long as I can castaway in the iron belly
Of a eastward steaming long boat.
I am now lost in the maelstrom of indifference
Upon these sandy shores, and my eyes
Are filled with the tears of a sailor’s regret
For having missed the outward tides.
“Carry me out. Carry me out!” and let the
Fish one day dine upon my happy bones.

Beyond the Blackened Veil


The long days, the forgotten nights
have left me scarred and depleted;
I’d consumed my fill of sour cabbage and
cheap whiskey and slept on damp piles
of rotting leaves, wrapping myself in
regret and self pity.

There were, of course,
lucid moments when the wind would
caress my cheek softly, like the touch of
an angel, and in those moments, I made
vows not meant for keeping.

My coat, now threadbare and reeking
of last night’s vomit and rain, has been my home;
I dwell deep within its folds, seeking
some comfort there and finding none,
toss it to young mulatto boy, who will be
dead before winter finishes lashing his
heroin scabbed flesh.

But listen, my friend, I have known joy and love,
and those in copious measure, when I was young
and foolish enough to believe that even the
wilted rose retained her charm. I have lain with
princesses and chambermaids with equal
passion, the rusty moon of autumn casting
night shadows upon our secrets.

I once handed out ten dollar bills because
the roll in my pocket was so big it chaffed my thigh.
Now, the cold jingling of pennies and a nickel
mark the cadence of my stumbling gait.

In my youth, and folly, I read Yeats and Eliot
and took solace in their pretty tomes; they
hung bejeweled words around my neck and filled
my boyish mind with infinite possibilities. They
lied, of course, but still I welcomed the deceit
and even scribbled a few haughty poems on
love and other falsehoods myself.

Don’t misunderstand…I do not rail against the
imbalance of life. Some ride the festooned
dragon across velvet skies, while others bathe
in the shit and piss of their miserable existence;
and certainly we will all go down together beneath
the broken sod.

Today, I just look for a patch of yellow grass
upon which to lie down, close my blood stained
eyes, to catch my final breath and let this
bitterness go. I have no fight left for this life

 

(Sketch by Josef Rocha)