Poem: Repeat as Needed


Repeat as Needed

A simple solution.
Hot water.
A small glass with ice and an amber liquid.
Just one.
Just enough.
Perhaps a bit of slow jazz on the radio.

Let the broken things dissolve.
Let the sins of the day, the falling short,
The hurrying is done. The damage is done.
It is time to heal, and healing comes slow.

Let the water, steaming and crystal clean,
cleanse deeper than skin,
cleanse the deeper wounds, the unseen blood of the day.

Hot water.
So simple.
So strong.
Repeat as needed.

About this poem

Some people are shower people. Some are bath people. I am a bath person.

It has nothing to do with getting clean.



Poem: Rest



There is no rest.
The steel is strong, forged in fire,
made hard and ready, and yet
each turn of the wheel wears away
invisible slivers. Steel dust accumulates,
adds to the grind,

for there is no rest.
No time to rest.
To clean away the dangerous debris.
It becomes steel against steel,
self against self,
the most implacable foe.
an inevitable and slow suicide
without rest.

There is no rest.

About this poem

We all need rest. Few of us take it, preferring somehow to deal more with consequences than maintenance.


Poem: Tiny Funerals


Tiny Funerals

Each second echoes through the room.
The slow swing of a pendulum.
The audible click of each wooden gear.

The history in this room is palpable,
a thing not of furniture and time,
but souls and errors long passed,

The clock is old, two hundred years and more,
Look inside and you can see the repairs,
generations of them, patches and plugs delicately balanced,

a strange determination to measure to measure
not past or future, but the moment before us,
each click of the clock a passing,

a tiny funeral
of what could have been,
and what might be yet.

About this poem

This is one of those poems that started to be about one thing, and changed its mind.

I am nearly two years into my second marriage. Coming to it late in life, it’s a miracle to me, and every moment matters in a way it did not when I was young. The rejoicing in that is beyond anything I could have imagined.


Poem: A Choice of Weapons

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A Choice of Weapons

And when it is dark, you turn your eyes
to the small things.
A snail clinging to life, waiting or the next dew.
A cat purring and warm on your lap.
The next cup of coffee. And the next.

You change how you see, a soul
in need of peace the stormy horizon denies you.
And so you focus on the small, always beautiful,
too often missed, gifts.

The green of her eyes.
The smell of wood smoke in the distance.
The warm grain of antique wood on your desk.
Old shoes that fit invisibly on your feet.

Tiny things. A place to focus your broken spirit.
Reminders. Shields against the demons.
Powerful things, but only when wielded like a delicate sword
against the blackness that threatens you.

A single tree silhouetted against the sunset.
The smokey taste of bacon.
Photographs of your children.
The smiles of strangers. An army arrayed.
As powerful or as weak as you choose.

About this poem

When I first entered therapy, in the darkest of dark places, my therapist proscribed scripture, and the constant, conscious focus on the small, good things in my life. What a difference those small things have made. The power of noticing is beyond anything we understand.


Poem: Before the World Begins


Before the World Begins

Early in the morning.
Your arm drapes over her.
You feel her breath, steady, slow.
You feel her skin, warm and impossibly soft.

She stirs. The light slowly filtering in.
Soon it will be time to wake, to begin the day.
But not yet. It is still the intimate time
of peace and trust and safety,

before the world begins.

Poem: A World Without Locks

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A World Without Locks

The barn contrasts red against the snow.
A hand-painted sign is painted next to the door:
Cheddar Cheese. Milk.

Walk inside and there is an old refrigerator and a box.
Take your cheese. Pay your money.
No one is watching.

A decade and more the barn has stood.
Cheddar Cheese. Mild. Trust.
And no locks.

Somehow, it works. The doors remain open.

Down the road, the church stands.
A white clapboard building that has survived
time, fires and the constant change of denominations.

On the altar are a brass cross and two scarred plates.
Sunlight filters through the stained glass windows,
red and blue, unbroken and beautiful.

You can walk down the street and pray.
Or, just come inside and get warm on a frigid day.
The doors are never locked, All are welcome.

Somehow it works. The doors remain open.

A neighbor calls. There is a need.
Without hesitation you promise them a trip to the store
before the next storm.

There are groceries to buy. Bags of them
for this old couple whose life is back and forth to hospitals.
Don’t worry if we are not there. The door is never locked

Somehow it works.

It is a strange place you live in.
There is no shortage of pain and tragedy.
Poverty blankets the valley like snow.

And yet, somehow, doors remain open.
Do not ask me how.
Do not ask me why.

All I know is that they let me in,
a stranger from the South,
and I was made warm in this place without locks.

Somehow it works.

About this poem. 

I like where I live.

The picture is from a farm not far from my house. There are farms like it all around, selling fresh milk, meat, eggs, cheese, all on the honor system. Half my neighbors never lock their doors. And the little church down the road is always open. It’s a wonderfully strange place to live. Not perfect, but wonderful.


Poem: Cold in the Quarry

cold in the quarry

Cold in the Quarry

It is cold in the quarry,
a violent cold, harsh and painful on the lungs.
Too long in this weather, and you will slowly die.

You have come close.
Laying in the dark night full of stars,
unable to move, paralyzed

by your pain, by your fear,
by the winter voices that cut away your clothes
and left you to fight the cold naked.

You have come close.
Felt the warmth slowly leave your flesh
not eager to die, but willing,

There is a beautiful peace in the stillness, and
in that moment you have to decide,
you must decide, or let your soul fly.

And so, you move. Your bones ache;
your body protests. Surrender is simpler.
It is less work. There is less pain involved.

And now you are here again. In the cold.
But today your core is warm, and you are certain
there is a place below that waits for you,

full of warmth, and eager
to hear your tales of survival and joy,
of battles won, lost and won again.

About this poem.

Lately, I have been reminded of my darkest times. I do not flee from those memories, but neither do I spend much time on them. When they arrive, I see them as reminders of the journey of the last decade and a half. And rejoice. Every turn in the road, the endpoint could have been very different.

The picture was taken at the quarry across from my house.