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THE LIFE AND DEATH OF MY CREATIVITY by D.L.McHale


It is said that one of the prerequisites of creativity is to have had experienced childhood trauma. Read the works of any great Irish writer (Frank McCourt, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce) and you will clearly see that youthful pain and suffering fueled much of their creative genius.   And while I do not claim to be remotely on par with these incredible storytellers, to read any of my writing is to know that  childhood trauma played a significant role in the determination of my creative voice.

To be honest, my youth unfolded like the discarded first  draft of a story that could have been so much better. There simply weren’t enough stretches of peace or joy in it to attend to the edits necessary to have made it bearable.  It isn’t that I am filled with regret for all of the things that might have been.  It’s more that I am blanketed in a sadness for the sheer waste of it all.

Intuitively, I know that my broken juvenile years  can’t be the full measure of why I write the way I write.  Something deeper, more sinister, is afoot. Something bigger and more malevolent presses my pen to the paper.

For me, the value of nothing out of nothing comes something. The nothing started even earlier than the moment when I began to write.  I have no doubt that what little creativity I possess is the function of some neurological quirk; that I have just enough of psychosis or depression to fuel an interesting poem here, an article there. That creativity (if that’s even the word for it)  is not, in any circumstance, the product of “talent” or creative muse, but rather arises more as a testament to a damaged mind that perceives the events of life from a slightly more skewed or twisted perspective.

Perhaps it was the combination of the two: an injured adolescence and a form of brain damage.  When I was four years old, I fell down the stairwell of the two story duplex my family lived in while my father was stationed in the Navy.  I was rushed to the hospital because the fall had resulted in a crushing blow to the frontal temporal region of my skull.  Surely, my brain was impacted, if not forever altered because of this accident.  Combine that blow with the endless physical and sexual trauma that rejoined the family the day my father retired from service, and then, perhaps  I can begin to put my finger upon my “creativity.”

Ask yourself…what can be more creative than scrambling daily throughout your entire childhood to find a place to survive.  Out of necessity, the damaged mind constructs a false reality in which to take shelter. It is this false reality that takes form in the expressive arts.

I may never know what truly fuels my creative process.  The sands of time that fill the hourglass of my life have nearly run out.  While I am by no means an old man, I am, nonetheless, a tired man and my time upon this tortured plane of existence called “life” can now be measured in moments rather than years. I will leave behind me no great works of art, no lasting legacy of poetic genius.  Even the memory of me will fade before the ink is dry on my final written word.

Mine has been a lonely walk: solitude whispers a silent story. And as we all know, life and living require interaction. But I was born alone, have lived alone, and will undoubtedly die…alone.  And that doesn’t require creativity.

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EMPOWERING YOURSELF TO CHANGE THE WORLD


“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” 
~ Margaret Mead

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Each and every day precious orchids wither in the garden of life, and die. They never have the chance to fully bloom. These orchids are the men, women, children, soldiers, police, and innocent civilians whose lives are cut down by senseless acts of crime, violence, war, and terrorism.

We awaken daily to see promising lives and futures swallowed whole behind cowardly and senseless acts of terror and we, the survivors, caretakers of the garden, begin to struggle behind the unanswerable:

“Why?”

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Each and every day nations grieve after having once more stared into the bloody, gaping maw of death and destruction visited upon their cities: Munich, Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Benghazi, Misrata, Ferguson, New York, Dallas, Baton Rouge, Baghdad, Basra, Nice, Paris, Grozny, Mumbai; the list seems frightfully endless.

Man’s incredible thirst for the blood of his fellow man seems, at times, unquenchable.

Each and every day we see nations rally around the families of the dead and maimed, embracing their brothers and sisters with mournful tears and desolate prayers that fall from their trembling lips upon blood soaked sand.  We witness unimaginable suffering in cities and communities everywhere and find ourselves caught up in what seems like and endless loop of rebuilding and healing.

Those of us who are unscathed physically (though mentally savaged) begin our struggle for an understanding that never comes. We seek answers to enormous questions that can’t even be framed. And tragically, we begin to doubt ourselves. We doubt our ability to navigate the futility and despair felt in connection with these continuing acts of horror. In our collective grief and sense of powerlessness, we quite naturally turn to our God, by whatever name we call Him, and tearfully cry out for mercy.

Prayer

I realize I often turn my own readers off when chastening them not to look too earnestly for God’s mercy in times like these.  It isn’t that I don’t believe in God. I most certainly and devotedly do.  I just don’t think He’s as merciful as we lead ourselves to believe.  I believe God expects us to be the channels of that mercy.  We look to Heaven for answers, yet fail to look within ourselves.

Mercy
We keep searching for God’s mercy whilst withholding our own.

More often than not, we sit by almost catatonic after each horrifying act feeling helpless against the enormity of it all.  And yet, the question inevitably arises:

“What can I, just one person, do to make a difference?”

I’ve asked myself that very question every time a new tragedy unfolds. And for too long, I sat there, likewise, feeling powerless and defeated.  Yes, I also prayed for strength, understanding, and mercy.  But like so many others, I felt my prayers fell on silent ears. They were seemingly unanswered, or worse, I feared, unanswerable.

It was a restless night a few years ago, as I was writing an article on first responders to the Boston Marathon bombing, with utter clarity and intensity, I was compelled by what can only be described as a stream of consciousness – a phrase that kept repeating itself in my brain, much like a song you can’t get out of your head.  And so, I wrote it down on a scrap of paper. It was like that lost piece of a puzzle that perfectly fell into place. I came to the amazing realization that this was the answer to my prayers.

Pouring like clear, fresh water from my pen, I wrote it down:

We are closest to God when we extend compassion;
we are furthest from Him when we withhold it.

Compassion

I had to ask myself the hard question: what was I doing to extend compassion?  What was my role in the solution in the face of so much pain and suffering? Then it finally dawned on me.  I could write.  That was my gift.  My blog reaches over 170,000 people. If I could write something that could comfort, inspire, or motivate just one of those readers, I could make a difference. It isn’t much, and I’m not the best writer, but it is one thing. I finally came to the realization that even the smallest spark can yield the greatest fire!

I began searching on the internet for examples of what others have done to make a meaningful difference.  As I was debating whether to offer up examples of iconic individuals such as Jesus, Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela, etc., I came across an incredible discovery that was too perfect and too awesome not to share with you.

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Her name is Milana Aleksandrovna Vayntrub, an Uzbek American actress, comedian, writer, and producer who is best known for playing the wholesome character Lily Adams in a series of AT&T television commercials. But more importantly and relevant to this discussion, Milana is also the co-founder of CantDoNothing.org  (#cantdonothing) an incredibly successful online organization that has offered thousands a pathway to “individual” empowerment. Her message is simple: doing something, no matter how small and inconsequential it feels in the moment, for it is better to do that small something than to not do anything at all.

Milana is tireless in her efforts to show us that individuals can make a profound difference. Through her own work with Syrian and Turkish refugees arriving by the boatloads into Greece, she clearly demonstrates that feelings of powerlessness that leads to inaction is a false construct created by generations of war-mongers and power-hungry bureaucracies as they attempt to marginalize the power of individuals, of social activism.  The power of one individual helping another, Milana shows, can affect an incredible sea change of good that can and will alter the lives of thousands over time.
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Doing “something” produces ever expanding ripples whose reach extends far beyond one individual act of charity and compassion.  Doing even the smallest thing, Milana demonstrates, can ultimately change the world.

I confess, I have been generally suspect when it comes to feel-good solutions to complex human problems involving suffering and pain. But the more I dug into it, the more I found endless examples where one individual has done something which can, in time, alter the course of our human experience.  You may never hear about these people. These are not well-to-do celebrities or Ivy League business moguls (although many of those do wonderful things) but rather they are your neighbors, the man or woman or adolescent next door, the lady mechanic fixing your car, your child’s teacher, a college student with a bold idea. They are often hidden in the shadows of our everyday lives, but their lights shine brilliantly within their obscurity and their power is undeniable:

Jorge Munozhttp://moralheroes.org/jorge-munoz# Jorge Munoz’s humble efforts and his heroic commitment to feed his needy neighbors equally inspires those who need help and those who can help.

Aki_rahttp://www.cambodianselfhelpdemining.org/  A former Khmer Rouge conscripted child soldier who works as museum curator in  Cambodia, Aki Ra has devoted his life to removing landmines in Cambodia and to caring for young landmine victims. Aki Ra states that since 1992 he has personally removed and destroyed as many as 50,000 landmines.

The Choshttps://www.onedayswages.org/ Self-described as an ”average family” from Seattle, WA, Eugene and Minhee Cho state upfront, “We would never ask anyone to do what we would not do ourselves.”  They founded #OneDaysWages to show others how to combat global poverty by creating their own personal campaign to alleviate extreme global poverty.

Kathyhttps://theliftgarage.org/  Kathy Heying founded Lift Garage, a 501c3 nonprofit aimed to move people out of poverty homelessness by providing low-cost car repair, free pre-purchase car inspections, and honest advice that supports our community on the road to more secure lives.

150417133321-edwin-sabuhoro-poaching-headshot-super-169https://vimeo.com/154614207  He is literally turning gorilla poachers into protectors. , Edwin Sabuhoro came up with an idea to help gorilla poachers make a living — a plan that didn’t include killing wildlife. “I thought of an idea of turning poachers to farmers,” says Sabuhoro, who took all of his savings — $2,000 — and divided it to poachers to rent land, buy seeds and start farming.

There are hundreds of heroic examples like these, enough that I can almost guarantee you will find one that provides an avenue for “your talent, your gift.” For me to feel a broken, aching heart for the victims of a terrorist attack across the globe, yet remain blind to the suffering and pain of those closest to me while doing nothing is a cheap, selfish emotion.  I assure you, I am better than that.  So are you.

What I learned by researching what others were doing to make a difference, I finally understood that In my own life, the line between “grace” and “disgrace” is simply the difference between “doing something” versus “doing nothing.”

I put together this small list of suggestions that might help provide you, as it does me, a pathway toward identifying how you can make a difference:

9 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO CHANGE THE WORLD

  1. Hold onto the faith that what you can do, and are willing to do, matters. Nothing matters more. You are not solely responsible for the solution. Bite off only as much as you can chew and trust that it will be enough to directly and indirectly feed a multitude of others.
  2. When you do pray, pray for purpose. I promise you, the answers will come.  They may not come in a way you were hoping, but they will come in a way that you need.  And you may not see that your prayer was answered until you look back one day and see how all the answers fell into perfect place.
  3. If you don’t do so already, make time to meditate. Oftentimes, we are so deafened by the noise of our own hectic lives and the demands pressed upon us that we drown out the quiet whisper within ourselves that reveals our inner compass, our hidden strengths, and our unique gifts.
  4. Recognize that the person most in need of comfort and support may well, at times, be you. Allow others to do for you what you cannot in this moment for yourself. In accepting love and care from another, you allow other individuals to fully actualize their humanity.
  5. Empower yourself to change the world. Each of us, individually and magnificently, can do something by simply reaching out and offering the gift of comfort, assistance, and love for that one person who cries out in need.
  6. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness involves our paying attention “on purpose” and in “this moment.” Marathons are more easily won if the runner can simply focus on putting one foot in front of the other repeatedly, and in equal measure. They are generally lost when all the runner can see is the 26 miles stretching ahead.
  7. Accept the reality that you are not powerless. You are infinitely powerful. The answers you so desperately seek are within you. But do not confuse power with purpose. Power is simply the fuel necessary to propel your purpose.
  8. Look to those closest to you in need. Discern what your “gift” is and extend it to others. Resist any temptation toward personal recognition or reward. Empowered individuals are in the business of sowing, not reaping.
  9. Believe that what you do not only matters, it is essential. It may seem like a small gesture to you, but you just might inspire another who then inspires another who then inspires another.

This last point is a beautiful example of the Butterfly Effect; the concept developed by Edward Lorenz in 1960 suggesting small causes can have extremely large effects over time. The butterfly effect simply states that small events can lead to big changes.

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The phrase was started by the Lorenz’s hypothesis that the flap of a butterfly’s wings could influence a hurricane half way across the world.

For the purpose of this post, I have borrowed from Lorenz’s  butterfly effect to demonstrate that even the smallest gesture by a single individual, say a gesture of compassion, mercy, or love, extended to just one other person in need, could ultimately reshape the world into a more compassionate, merciful, and loving place.

Consider this: every instance of great change in the world began with a single person. One person. And it all begins with self-empowerment. It begins with believing that what you think, or what you do, can shape the events in not only your life, but the lives of others.

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Keep in mind that in empowering yourself, there is no fixed end point. Self-actualization and empowerment is thus not a location or a stage of development, but rather a state of being, an awareness of who one really is in relation to others. A realization that in this relation to others, you can be the catalyst for significant and far-reaching change. An acceptance that your single gesture of compassion, mercy, and love can, theoretically, set into motion a ripple of correlated events that could one day prevent war and terrorism.

We are not angels, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do angelic things.

And why shouldn’t that someone, somewhere, somehow, be you?

 

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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.

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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”

Hasty

To Angel(a)


I can feel your pain, like the falling rain

it washes over me leaving me damp and cold and shivering –
but the thought of you warms me like a cup of hot chocolate
and I know it’s going to be okay.

I see through the glaring light of your smiles, and while
you try to hide what you feel inside, I know, in that knowing
that only love can reveal.  I want to gather your tears
in the well of my understanding, and pour them 
upon the fire of your fears.

I don’t have much to offer, just my heart and my love
but love won’t pay this rent, when you are spent
within the crucible of self-doubt.  How can I reach you
and teach you what I know…that you are perfection;
I don’t want to heal you, just reveal to you the beauty
that is you.

You don’t have to let me in, but you, my friend
will always be in me, like a broken sparrow whose wings
will heal, and I know you will fly again.

THE DYING PETALS OF THE POET’S FLOWER by D.L.McHale


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Past the tick-tick-tocking of the midnight hour,
Wrapped in sweat-stained cotton sheets,
Robbed of sleep and feeling sour
Like a muffled drum sounding nothing beats –
In the dying petals of the poet’s flower.

This syrup sleep removes the pain,
While dreams remain beyond my reach.
A whiskey slumber subdues the brain
While my toss-n-turn reveals a breach,
As time grinds on just the same.

I rise to write the poet’s dribble
And gorge upon liters of stale red wine.
Behold, my words, a bastard’s scribble!
Writ upon the passage of borrowed time.
Each tick, each tock, from my life is nibbled

I cannot rest while my muse is clanging
Inside my head a poor man’s verse,
Nor can I stop the incessant banging
As my thirst for libations meets an empty purse!
These words are ripe for a morning hanging.

Upon the tick-tick-tocking of the morning hour,
Sweet sleep descends upon my brow.
Within my bed I hide and cower;
An ink-less pen is a horseless plough –
In the dying petals of the poet’s flower.

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.

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.

Upon Awakening,…Vanishing Dreams


“Wisdom” by Derek del Barrio
Photo Courtesy of Derek del Barrio, 2015

I awoke to a kiss, a whispered taste
softly pressed upon my face,

and in that moment, my soul,  it wished
to know once more that soulful kiss!

Yet it was a vapor of a waking dream.
Nothing more; not what it seemed.

These wretched ghosts that find delight
in morning’s light, dancing and playing

betraying with the dust of sorrowed dreams
promises broken, and vows false spoken!

Violently shaken in the sudden waking
arms no more to hold me tight
through winter nights…I am awake. I am awake.

Where, gentle caress of morning rain?
that eases my pain; The merciful patter

that shatters my hold on false dreamt love
each drop above my window pane, slowly
washing in rivulets the memories set
under granite stone..I lie alone. I lie alone.

Enduring ink upon the page, how do I gauge
What’s real? What’s myst? What’s relevant?

Unlock the night, Release my dreams
silence the screams, and write for me
an ending poem, whereby I lie here not alone.

How sweet the dream that never ends?
Where love ascends and kisses dealt

are truly felt in dark of night.

الله اكبر (Allahu Akbar) – For the Children of Libya Lost in the Shadow of War


The Children of Libya Lost in the Shadow of War
Kids in the Libyan Wars, 17 Feb, 2011 – 2015  Artwork by Mohammad Bin Lamin

Allahu Akbar! you shout to the weeping sky
While the children play and the children die.
Do you not see in this young one’s face
Allah’s eternal love and benevolent grace?
This very God you seek to appease
Weeps for the child who cries and bleeds!

Behold! Our children’s lost innocence
That your savage war now steals away
Without the slightest reverence or sympathy
For the joy to be found in child’s play.
Yet, still you kill and do not hesitate
To drop your bombs and spread your hate!

As you draw your swords to kill and slaughter
Our innocent sons, our precious daughters
You cry “Allahu Akbar!” Yes, God is great!
Yet with each heart pierced, you seal your fate;
For Allah is the love of the mother and child
Allah is found in their dreams and their smiles.

Allahu Akbar! you shout to the weeping skies
As you seek Allah’s blessings for your pitiful lies
You’ll not find your victory in our children’s blood
Nor the mercy and forgiveness of Allah above.
You kill Christians and Muslims and Hindu and Sikh
As we bury our loved ones and the Prophet weeps!

Our nation’s rivers now flow colored with red
Awash with the blood of our innocent dead
The laughter of our children falls eerily silent
As your war wages on increasingly violent
Allahu Akbar! Yes, God is great!
But pray as you will, it’s much too late.

You can’t win a victory through the ghost of a child;
You can’t claim God’s blessing through acts so vile!
Your prayers, Allahu Akbar! now dissolve in the air
For His justice and wrath you cannot bear.

dying sun

The Dying Sun


In the bitter waves of loss,
Thrashed and tossed about,
By the sullen winds of life that blow,
From the desolate shores of doubt,
Where the anchors of love once cast
In search of eternal purchase
Now dragging useless in sorrow’s gale.
I am quietly holding fast, holding alone
To the things that cannot fail.

Why?

That’s what I seek (although my heart knows full well)
The truth is, I may never be able to know for sure why.
But I do know that there is no single
“Should have done” or “could have done”
Or “did” or “didn’t do”
That would have changed that why.
All that love could do was left undone.
This shipwreck, my castaway life,
This endless frothing of cold, death-capped waves
Was due to my taking my eyes off the horizon
Where our dreams were setting with the dying sun.

Letting Go


It is human nature to become too attached to things or people.  Learn how to let go with grace.
It is human nature to become too attached to things or people.
Learn how to let go with grace.

Letting go of regrets is not some passive undertaking. 

Regret is a weight that anchors us in the past,
rendering the future as unobtainable.

Letting go takes courage and lots of sweat.
It takes a willingness to allow pain to run its course.
We are forever changed by the failures of yesterday.
Who we are today barely resembles who we were yesterday.

The heartaches and the pervasive sense of loss
can either pull us down into the morass of self-pity,
or it can catapult us from the depths of relentless sorrow
to the heights of new joy.

It all depends on upon a readiness to face the sun
as it rises upon a new day.
Upon how hungry we are to feed the possibility
that something more, something better
awaits us in the infinite possibilities of tomorrow.

Memories are like a cracked mirror;
they can only serve to offer us
a distorted reflection of our true selves.
Memories seduce us with useless thoughts and images
of what was, of what might have been.
But memories are a poor substitute
for imagination and hope.
If we are ever to break free from the shackles of our past,
we must first wean ourselves from our addiction to memories.
Our addictive behavior is the root of all suffering.

But much like the heroin addict
who struggles and writhes in agonizing pain
as he kicks his deadly habit,
we, too, must find  within ourselves
the strength and courage
to kick our dependence on self-recrimination
and useless reflection.

The soul is a restless being;
it is constantly expanding
and demanding room to grow
and to breathe.
Let’s be honest –
the air has been sucked from yesterday,
and when we exist with our hearts and our feet
planted in the past,
we deny our souls the essential life force
needed  to carry us further
toward our fullest potential.

In the very moment that we let go,
we invite a rapture that can feed and satisfy the soul.

Be brave. Face the emptiness.
Wrap yourself in self-love.

Breathe again.

Live once more.

light through trees

Love Fulfilled Beneath a Dying Light


When the sun sets, when its dying rays
filters through my bedroom window
I get the full brunt of this powerful star.
It is beautiful and blinding.
I feel its warming fingers softly caressing
my cheek; it dries the last traces of my tears.

Today, as the sun came into its latitude
to be shining directly on me,
I closed my eyes beneath its warmth
remembering brighter days.
Was this the same sun that kissed us
on our first walks upon the beach?
Was this the same sun that cast
its light on our wedding day?

Many people have expressed their love
to both of us throughout this process,
and many people have let us know
that it may be God’s will this, or God’s will that.
And it may well be.
But I know one thing.
We were both born of this organic, living universe.
Star matter is within us. We are forever connected
beneath the arch of its healing light.

I have never felt more in the presence of the supernatural
than today, with this mighty being shining on us,
me here, in my thoughts, you, there, wherever you are.
I can almost see the last breaths of our togetherness
in the stardust that once showered the idea of “us”
being pulled back towards that Sun.
It is as if the Sun had decided to choose this moment,
to envelop the two of us in divergent beams of light,
and take us back, separately, back to the stars.

In a way, it is beautiful.
This Sun, our Sun, reminds me
to live more fully, more appreciatively, and more happily.
I won’t think of a marriage that has died.
I’ll think of those moments we had to dance in its light.
With much love and sadness.

foggyredwood1

Goodbye Beneath the Redwoods


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

This is how we said our soft goodbyes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behind Green Eyes: A Child of the Ozarks


Ozark Girl

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

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

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

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

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

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

The World Remembers Delaney Ann Brown


 DELANEY “LANEY” ANN BROWN

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We have all been following the courageous battle of Laney and her family this past month, and are deeply saddened to learn that this precious young child was called home to heaven this Christmas Day, 2013.

“December 25, 2013– on this chilled and grief-filled date, the gates of Heaven were flung wide open
as God embraced Delaney Ann Brown and welcomed her home again.”

The sun arose this winter day –
Across the world the children played.
Homes echoing with carefree glee,
As Christmas day was meant to be.
Each parent dreams of such a vision –
‘Til life injects its cruel revision.

Yet, like a child’s lost innocence,
Cherished and held in reverence –
In just one moment swept away
No sympathy for child’s play.
Into her life a darkness came;
Into our own, an infinite pain.

Our hearts now filled with an empty space –
of sweet Laney and her joy-filled face!
Malevolence came and stole her future,
A wound too big for mending sutures.
We heard the sounds of angels cry –
The day we watched this child die.

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We swallow hard; prayed harder still –
Our heartbeats faltered against our will.
The deafening blast of pure insanity
We’ve lost the best of our humanity!
A nation mourns with silent tongues
The senseless death of she so young.

The doctors did their very best –
Nurses offered up their loving breast
To shield from cancer’s savage blow –
To buy this young one time to grow.
But she slipped away, lest we forget…
Upon her memory, no sun will set.

Sweet Laney lost and taken away
Beneath the sun of Christmas day.
We are lost within an anguished grief,
As even celestial angels weep.

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Impeccant cherub laid to rest;
God took from us our very best.
The loss we feel is real and deep,
The pain forever ours to keep.
No answers to the question, “Why?”
Our babies were not meant to die.

So, brush away our tortured tears;
this truth is too demanding,
and whisper in our silent ears
some prayer of understanding.
Laney’s star now shines above,
Eternal bright and beaming love.

Opposite Sides of the Same Pain


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

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

 

Crucified Beneath Her Touch


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Better or Worse


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

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

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

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

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

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

 The world is obscene and delusional. And it hurts.

We Write What We Know


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I had lived one life with my face turned from the sun,
breathing icy winds and my father’s sin.
He is gone now but his fingerprints
remain a stain upon my broken bones.
My sister traded his midnight hugs for an opium exit;
her ashes instead of his lashes.

I took my refuge in dark shadows and withered.

I told…once.
Was rewarded with a year sabbatical in a red brick asylum,
bought and paid for with my mother’s silence.
She collected her ransom daily/offered up her womb’s fruit
to feed him like grapes to Caesar’s gaping maw.
She furnished her home with lost innocence
and found comfort in our cries.

She is buried now and I am robbed of my mourning.

Unearth me when tomorrow comes.
Set my broken feet upon polished stones;
let ascending steps carry me home.
My screams no longer echo from the mountaintops

My dreams no longer tether my pain.
I am not healed, but I feel, and my words
anoint my open wounds.

The Seasons of Life


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In the youngest years, there is fear and pain.

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

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In the older years, there is fear and pain.

Poets and Prostitutes


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He was a lover of street prostitutes;
not the sable-wrapped uptown girls
bathed in Chanel No.5 and punishing Daddy
by selling their tight-toned wares retail,
but rather those wholesale working-class girls
perfumed by the sweat of their labors;
standing beneath broken streetlights at 2 a.m.,
in cheap, colorful makeup and Wal-Mart lingerie,
with asses bubbling back and semi-flaccid breasts;
those colorful painted whores of the night.

In his youth, he had been scorched by the beautiful
and he would never again have the fevered yearning
of lying with flesh more pliant and comely.

Street-walkers fed his pathos and filled his inner void.
They would let him kiss them on the mouth,
and wouldn’t complain when he couldn’t get hard
because of too much beer and whiskey.

They’d always wait patiently, filing their nails,
chewing open-mouthed wads of gum –
but most of all, they would never, ever
fill the silence with meaning-less chatter.

If he couldn’t function, they didn’t condemn him,
but would play with themselves upon request
so at least the failing of the hour felt sexy.

Most of all, they didn’t lie!

They wouldn’t tell him what a great lover he was
or offer up false platitudes on his endowment;
They used their real names and would share their coke
for an extra twenty-five, and he would pour them full shots.

Sometimes, he would write beautiful sonnets for them
and they would genuinely be moved to tears.

If the sex was lousy, they took it in stride and didn’t bitch.
They didn’t conspicuously spit into folded Kleenex
or stuff their mouths with wads of spearmint gum
after he had come, just to lose the taste of him.
Rather, they swallowed because they, too, didn’t care
if they got one more filthy, fucking disease.

They were like him; defeated and empty,
just grateful not to be judged and discarded
like yesterday’s rotten fruit.

Lights


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

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

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

 

The Trinity and Me


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First they took my father,
then consumed my mother –
Without the slightest hesitance
They came and took another

My sister left in tender years
They left me naught but pouring tears
We’re promised today and not the other
So they came again and claimed my brother

I prayed they’d come for me one day
But here I stand with feet of clay
And this belies my ardent fear
They’ll not return for many years
Leaving me with nothing more
Than dreams of how it was before

How cruel and painful can they get
My day will come, but not just yet
And so I stand here all alone
With a wounded heart and an empty home

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
They’ve chained me to their whipping post
The Trinity it’s plain to see
Is all for One and none for me

A Midnight Violation


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fallen Angel


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He writes for a fallen angel
but the rhymes don’t appear,
not in words, but in stilted

verse, in outpourings of
watered down love. She spreads
her wings and hunts the night.

What the poet will not write is,
You hunger for your father’s love;
It never was, but may you find
through the spilling of my ink
Some noble affection upon
which to rest.

But I cannot touch your pain.

He drinks a toast
to the memory of her beauty.
No one wants her faded

charms this night. She stands
beneath a waning moon

with a single tear, a cigarette
from her too red un-kissed lips.
The cars no longer slow

down to guess her meaning.
She traces a vein
to where the needles brought

peace a million times.

I hear your poem, she whispers,
thank you
but I must be home to
where the razor whispers.

Cowardly Run


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 “Contemplation” by Unknown Artist

Footsteps echo across silent floors
Lightly I stumble against bolted doors
I can no longer see for the daylight blinds
Thoughts become jumbled; confused is the mind
Beneath my eyelids, a white pain sears
Unleashing regrets, a torrent of fears
So many years wasted and so few to live
I lie down exhausted, no strength to forgive
My bed sheets are covered in sweat and regret
My slumber eludes me, a payment for debts
I toss and I turn and shiver with cold
The reckoning comes for we who grow old
I wait for an ending, too slow to come
My life has been naught but a cowardly run
My reason is slipping; my hope is diminished
The sun is now setting, my long days are finished
Chandelier stars slowly appear
Darkness descends, as time disappears
Moment by moment, and breath by breath
Slowly appears the sweet face of Death

Beneath These Stairs


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

photo by Alastair

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

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

Where I Live


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How temperamental is the man in me
who misses you but will not call this because
I find the thought of romance more alluring
than actually opening myself to you?
I drink to burn the voices in my belly
that mock my tenuous hold on sanity.
I buy my smokes one at a time because
I have no vision of or faith in tomorrow
and I make my living scratching the underbelly of
this wretched world;
This desolate city, crumbling beneath the
broken wings of blackbirds…it is my home.
It is where I live. My pen scrapes past
its veneer of civility and sheds light upon
the ugly, the lost, the torn asunder. My people.
I take my walks at night under many clouds
all dressed in muted black.
I am callous with the hipsters and the tweakers
camped by the muddy rivers, and the hookers
and the pimps and the holy man and the
goddamned garish fluidity of this headache world.
I live in a city of fifty thousand accumulated flesh tombs
or more pretending about the news and the weather
with their minds drifting always back to the same
goddamned thing. How pathetic to be so far away
in space but not in time?
How desperate is the faith convinced by two arguments;
Both to be and not to be?
When I stumble, I lean against the wall or the lamppost
reading a page of Plath or passage of Hemingway
and all I can think is how courageous their exits were.
I yearn for their knowledge of the final crossing.
I read words, not novels, because words
are better spit than woven.
I refuse my fate gazing at my expiration date
and pouring another drink, I turn off the radio and
sit silently in the dark chambers of my thoughts.
I remember you, but me? I do not.

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.