The Lantern


Image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Lantern


Image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Father’s Day


Image

He pillaged the title the day I was born
and like most thieves, he took for granted that which he stole.
Being a “father” meant no more to him than taking the trash out
the only difference being, he preferred to bring the trash in.
Each night, drunk and puffed full of false bravado, he would
return home from the bar twenty minutes after closing
with some strange woman who was half his age
who still managed to look twice as old as he was.
They all smoked and smelled of cheap perfume and beer,
and as he pushed by my mother with
with a violence that seemed to rattle her bones,
he would look at me, a frightened five year old
with no understanding of what this all meant,
and flip me the finger.

Every day was “father’s day”..
his to do with as he willed.
They took their sins into
my mother’s bedroom and slammed the door behind them.
I feared my father, but hated my mother
for not taking us out of this broken house and into
the world where somewhere, someone could love us.
That’s all I wanted…love. What I got was limitless contempt
for complicating their lives.
She just sat in the living room before the television, defeated
and sipping her gin, counting the years down until she might
find the courage to cut her wrists,
leaving us to…him.

Irises


Irises by Vincent van Gogh
Irises by Vincent van Gogh

I watch from my folding chair,
the low autumn sun measuring out
the remains of the day.
She, genuflecting in the garden,
places four purple seedlings
into the dark damp earth,
pushing each with a jab of her fingers
and a prayer to bloom their beginning –
(those same fingers that used to softly
trace the curvature of the small of my back
when we made love)
purple irises close to the ground
She says they are insanely beautiful
and I say, “Did you know van Gogh painted
Irises from an insane asylum in Saint-Remy,
locked in the grip of unimaginable pain and suffering?”
She looks at me…looks through me,
as a small tear appears in the corner of her eye.
She knows.
She knows her garden better than she knows me,
but she knows that once these flowers root,
I am leaving her.
Turning back above these flowers,
my sweet-faced wife tilts a rusted watering can,
wanting more leaves, more flowers,
more life!  as water pours from the spout.
Five tongue-shaped petals fall ever so slowly
onto the black earth before she bends
and picks up each severed petal
and puts them oh so carefully in her pocket.

IF JUST ONCE MORE by D.L. McHale


 

A heart divided cannot beat for long
An unsung note cannot be called a song
The dancer spins a lonely pirouette
Who dances only with her silhouette

The un-prayed prayer on deaf ears fall
Despite the soul’s relentless call
This crowded world is such an empty place
When from heaven, too, angels fall from grace

The flames of love that burn so bright
Without lips to kiss becomes a dying light
The promise of love that is unreturned
Is the loneliest truth for man to learn

The sun may rise, but each day descends
Like a long, dark night that will never end
The longest path for he who walks alone
Are the shuffled steps toward an empty home

In winter’s grip, luscious gardens shorn
Though the wilted rose still bears its thorns
Yet all these sorrows I would dare embrace
If just once more I could see your face

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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

A Failed Seduction


seduction_of_innocence_700w

in the cool black-velvety jacket of midnight
she threads her hair with purple lilacs
her lips licked lightly, eyes half-closed
arching breasts filled with urgent breath
dancing under the moon with wild abandon
no care for which way the wind blows
or where the water flows
each step held lightly
pressed upon dew-soaked blades
of summer’s green grass
she sings a broken verse
whispers each refrain, to bury her meaning
while cool rivulets of passion’s sweat
run like melted snow down
from her brow to her rapturous breasts
rivulets dropping like rain on the
broken down-beat wings of angels
dripping to the parched palm of earth
gathering into puddles of sweet supplication
echoes of forbidden memories
perfume the nighttime air
places and spaces filled
with the frivolities of youth
she comes to me on bended knees
reaching for my turned up face
in the ticking of this hour
no time in my disgrace
I push away her yearning

Crucified Beneath Her Touch


Image

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.

 

Pirate, the Island Dog


Byron

Pirate is everyone’s, yet he is no one’s. Vacationers arrive, discover him, and dote on him for two weeks, then disappear. He is their holiday project – a story they’ll tell over dinner at home. On those soft, warm-winded Caribbean nights, some allow him in, to sleep at the foot of their beds, to guard their front door. In passing, some even toy with the idea of a rescue. Could we? Should we? Shots? Papers? Questions asked with the exuberance of the relaxed and the happy, but as the time to leave draws near, reality encroaches, the idea stalls.

There is an eternal sadness in Pirate’s eyes that comes from continual loss. People come and offer love, then go away, leaving him vainly searching for those he has loved so loyally in return. Yet his heart is enormous, and mixed in with his grief is boundless hope that the next one will be the one. He sits beneath the warm sun when the ships come in, panting in anticipation of the people off-boarding into his life. He lives in the moment, and the moment is glorious when the kids swarm to him, petting, cooing, and hugging. In that moment, he finally belongs…if only for a moment.

Every couple of weeks, Pirate sadly watches his loved ones depart, on the same ship that delivered them into his heart in the first place. A new band always takes their place, and he is robbed of his grieving as he prepares for the newcomers. This island dog waits, knowing it will take only one; one, to give him a name that won’t change, one, to call it out in the dark should he wander too far. One to call to him and him alone: Come home!

Snippets


Snippets of stolen conversations that we weave together,
as we wind our way through the crowded boardwalk;
tattered threads woven in a story quilt warming us with
unfinished possibilities.
“And then she laughed so hard her spit hit my face,”
floats lazily by on air scented with ocean spray and
tilapia fillets drying in the summer sun.
Must have been hilarious and we can imagine his astonishment and
hurt as he wipes his face. Our smiles widen.
“But I gave him twenty dollars and he simply disappeared,”
offered by the descending clipping of heels upon the faded wooden planks.
What an inexpensive grift that must have been!
Did he take the twenty straight to the bar,
or perhaps he died that very night before he could return her call?
A thousand alternate endings.
“The doctor gave me six months, and that was a year ago!” Small
victory if he only missed it by a few months here or there.
Sadness descends, but we keep on walking, our ears fishing for a more
uplifting contribution.
“…it’s either me or her…but not both!” and we look at each other knowingly
…a snippet stolen from our own story just two weeks earlier.
I am suddenly deaf and no longer amused,
and our hands release
as the cold waves crash into the supportive pilings.