Poem: Invisible

road 2


Don’t believe what you see.
The snow is gone,
replaced by ice and freezing rain,
and twice and dangerous.

About this poem

Better the enemy you see, than the one you don’t.

Oh yeah, and it could be about ice and snow too.

The picture was taken in front of my house a few minutes ago. The road looks fine, but you could ice skate on it. In fact, I had to cancel church this morning because of the ice.


Poem: Music That Is Not Your Own


Music That Is Not Your Own

Bring out the chisel.
Hold the hammer high.
My windows, long bricked up,
an act of protection and fear,
need to be broken through.
I need sunlight.
I need air.
I need to walk in the grass.
I need visitors.

So swing the hammer.
cut away the mortar and stone.
Leave the rubble. I will climb over it.
I no longer care if the lawn is pristine.
Let the neighbors see.
Let them talk.
Let them see my pale awkward face
as it emerges into the day.

Swing the hammer.
Find a rhythm. Work
until your arm grows sore,
and I will work with you.
It is time
to end this prison you created,
to let the sun and fear wash over you
and hear for the first time
music that is not your own.

About this poem

The picture was taken at Fort Devon, Massachusetts.

I am an introvert, at times perhaps, a bit too much so.

My life right now is an adventure.

From all that, this poem.


Poem: A Displaced Season


A Displaced Season

The snow melts.
First melt of the season.
The ground perfectly preserved,
a fall painting,
bright colors,
marred with dirt
and the first dark marks of decay.

If the weather stays warm,
the colors will fade fast in the sun.
All will become brown.

So you stand. You savor.
This moment.
This color. This interruption of winter.
This reminder of life
after death.
This reminder of your own resurrection,
late in life,
unexpected as a February thaw.

You breathe in the air.
Strangely springlike.
A day.
A displaced season
of joy.

About this poem. 

We had a crazy warm day yesterday here in Southwest Vermont. Seventy-two degrees. Snow melted. I am seeing the ground for the first time in months.

It’s a temporary thing. More bad weather is on the horizon. Still, it was a beautiful thing to drive to town yesterday. The colors of the fields were mostly browns and flattened greens, and yet they drew the eye as surely as a Van Gogh.

I am 62, in an unexpected place of joy in my life. Not perfect. Still marked with struggles and my long list of imperfections. But joy none the less.

Both, things to savor for every moment they exist.


Poem: Are You Happy, she asks

15 BW

Are You Happy she asks

“Are you happy?” she asks.
A tendril of dark hair drapes across her face
and her green eyes are clear.
Her shoulders peek out from the covers.

“I am.” I say. “But it is not that simple.”
Few things are, you have learned,
despite a life spent simplifying.
It is a battle for the moment, this thing called happiness,

A battle against traumas long past
and the chemical stew gone mad inside your head,
a watercolor wash of indigo and fog designed
to color all you see.

It is a battle fought inside the mind, invisible to onlookers,
A war fought for focus, for the ability to see deep into the night
and see light. A fight to claim each moment as it is,
to quell the voices in your head that have only one color,

and replace it with a palette of primary colors,
A battle over who chooses the colors, who chooses
the lens you see through; who chooses
whether you can see the moment in all its glory, or not; W\who chooses

the music you listen to, who chooses
what to do with the wild beauty around you, who chooses
even the taste of the coffee you sip early in the morning; who chooses
how you will live the next moment, and no more.

Distance scares you. That is the truth.
So much can happen. Much of it has.
And while you have survived the accidents
and wars that have fallen in your lap, you still feel the scars.

“You looks sad.” she says.  And she is right.
Indigo blue colors my world.
A sad clarinet in the night plays background music.
I could lose myself in their seductive whispers.

But I do not. Or at least rarely do. I take the drum
and pat out a rhumba beat.
I dance as I toss splotches of yellow at the canvas.
I brush aside the tendril of dark hair,

and savor the firm warmness of her presence.
These things are real. They are here, in this moment.
And they are alive, even when the moment passes
and we begin our day.

“Are you happy?” she says.
I smile as the tendril falls back down between her eyes.
I feel her lips as I kiss her gently. They taste of salt air and morning.
It is complicated. It is simple. It is, I realize, true.


About this poem.

Being in love and fighting depression is a complicated stew. When someone enters your life that simplifies the recipe, it is a miracle.

Dancing at the diner,


Poem: Death in Plain Sight


Death in Plain Sight. 

Late in the day and shadows fall behind the gravestones.
dark ghosts, victims all, of another age and another war.

It is well cared for. The dead are respected here.
Their sacrifices respected even as their names fade from memory.

You have spent your afternoon here. Praying for the dead.
Praying for the ones dying this moment, with no one to remember them,

their hearts crushed before their bodies die, found at the last moment,
or a bit after, too late for resurrection in this life,

everyone shaking heads in wonderment at the mystery
of their death in plain sight.

About this poem. 

The picture was taken at Fort Devon.


Poem: Kitchen Open Late



Kitchen Open Late

I have a thing for walking city streets at night,
late, after most things are closed
and the trash has been set on the street.

It is a bit less than safe, I know,
and have never quite been certain if that was part of the charm,
or if I am a bit foolish.

There is a grittiness to it, a film noir feel,
full of dark corners and alleyways
and men smoking in doorways.

Steam rises from the sidewalk grates,
more evident than in daylight, more dramatic,
like the earth itself is breathing heavy.

Somehow, perhaps because I don’t appear rich enough,
I have never been mugged. Likewise, I have never
encountered the femme fatale.

There are stories in the dark corners,
in the late-night diners.
Night people keep to themselves.

I am one of them. I nurse my stories
over runny eggs benedict and slightly burnt hash browns.
I sip day old coffee.  I disappear.

But not my stories.
Those I write in my red-backed notebook,
with my blue pen.

I have written enough over the years,
that I have replaced my pen a dozen times.
The ink runs dry. My stories never do.

When I am done, I walk the streets again.
I stop at an old steel drum full of flaming garbage
and warm my hands a while.

There are four of us there. No words are exchanged.
as I wonder. My quiet life is too full of past,
short on plans, short on future beyond this moment.

What other tales are lost? What stories and poems and paens,
dirges and funeral songs, jigs and masterpieces
of life and loss rise to the sky like sparks.

Where do those stories go when we die? and does it matter?
I finger my red-backed notebook deep in my pocket,
and imagine it burning, sparks and stories rising to the night

like a burnt offering.

But I cannot do it. I cannot offer it to the night.
I am too afraid of disappearing,
and even if no one reads my deep truths today,

They may find my stack of red-backed notebooks,
my decades of secret truths, and maybe, just maybe,
I will matter.

I walk away. The darkness calls.
The late-night diner calls. There are stories to write
and the morning will come all too soon.

About this poem

When I travel to NYC for work, I like to stay into the night and walk the streets.

Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks is one of my favorite paintings.

I really do use red-backed notebooks. I am rarely far from one.

In other words, there’s a lot of truth in this poem.



Poem: Not Much


Not Much

This morning I had to scrap the poem I worked on
for an hour or so at the diner.
It was a wonderfully nasty thing, full of frustration and hate,
a rant,
a scream of pain and mourning and more pain
at governments and systems that have lost their humanity,
lost their sense, even the common variety,
that live in the war zone of either or,
willing to let the casualties mount,
and mount and mount.

I had to let it go, that hour of work, no matter
that the words were true
and the emotion behind them truer.
It was a thing of hate, brilliantly vile,
cutting as a razor on tender wrists,
my worst nature, harnessed to my best words.

Were I a howling sort of poet,
it would have been my masterpiece.

But to what purpose?
to rile up a few thousand readers,
some for, some against, all wondering
at my madness, cheers and curses flying
back and forth, back and forth,
a one-day war zone,
for the next headline
before it disappears.

I will use simpler words.
There are hungry people.
I will feed one, or a few.
It is not much, but I can do it.

There are hurting people,
scarred by trauma not of their own making,
abuse or tragedy or pain or the scourge of being ignored,
or drugs or loss or (Oh how the list goes on.)
I will listen to them. The ignored.
It is not much, But I can do it.

There are people who love,
the initials, L. G. B. T. Q. – a distorted alphabet
that ignores that these are people.
Real people. Real hearts.
Not scum. Not vile. No less strange in God’s world
than my cotton-polyester socks.
I cannot change the minds of haters,
but I can honor their love.
it is not much. But I can do it.

Here is the truth of it.
The battle is always bloody.
Hate and the desire push aside the casualties
of the inconvenient and broken is blustery business,
loud and mean and violent,
but in the end, that hate falls apart.
It cannot hold.

And when it falls apart,
all that is left is the thing so hated by the angry.

Love does the rebuilding.
Love binds us together with sustainable bonds.
Love heals.
Love grows.
Love recognizes value, lifts up, protects.
Love is not linked to position or power or politics.
It is where even the angry fall when their wounds spill over,
when their own world shatters into dust,
when their own hate devours them and all they treasure.
It is all that is left when the battles end.
No matter who wins,
Love survives.

So say what you will.
I am not made for this world.
I know this.
I have no power. No position. I can’t even write a good rant
and put it out there with the rest of the noise.
But I will not be swallowed by the noise.
I will love.
It is not much. But I can do it.

About this poem. 

This one doesn’t need much interpretation. A couple of things.

The reference to polyester and cotton socks will be missed by most people. There is a section of the biblical book of Leviticus. Some are things you would expect: Murder, thievery, etc.  Some are things you would not expect: like mixing two types of cloth in our clothing or eating shrimp. Also in that list are “men who lay with men.”, one of the verses anti-gay people use to declare gays an abomination. I often wonder if those same people every wear two kinds of cloth when they get dressed in the morning, or eat shrimp or take part of any of the other abominations listed there. I wonder how to pick and choose from the list as to which are OK and which are not. I’ve never really figured that part out for myself, so I am not condemning. But I do find myself wondering what drives the choices we make, what general principle directs those choices.

Mine is that all people are to be loved. It’s simple. It’s small. But I can do it. It’s easy to keep track of.

The picture is called “Altar”. I painted it a few years ago and it currently lives in a pastor’s office in Virginia.

Off my soapbox.