Poem: Stronger than Vows


Stronger than Vows

She stands at the edge of the water.
Her dark hair blows in the wind.
The ceremonies are done and
now she is more than the woman you love.

She is your wife.

How is it that beauty grows
when nothing has changed except a day
and the exchange of vows?
How is it that you feel less alone,
part of something larger than two souls?

It is enough to renew your belief in God.

Birds sing above the beach. Seagulls.
Not music, but music, counterpoint
to the rhythm of the waves.

You take her hand as the tide rises.
Let it come.
Together we are stronger than we deserve,
walking together on the beach.

This is what you remember,
more than music and ritual,
company or canapes, white dresses
and grey vests. All that is captured in pictures
and memories. The stuff of anniversaries
and smiles. You treasure them

almost, but not quite as much as this moment,
she and I on the beach, just us
and the wild blue horizon.

About this poem. 

I am married less than a year now. Unexpected and unsearched for, she brings joy into my life I never expected again. At times, it brings me to tears. The good kind.

The picture was taken on our honeymoon.


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: 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.



Poem: Luminosity 



When I was a child I dreamed of attics and cathedrals in the night.
cobwebs lit by a vague moonlight.
A haunting trumpet calls you to the altar,
to a rusted worn trunk in a distant corner.

Enchanted, enslaved by the wavering music,
I was drawn to those dark corners,
hair raised, fear palpable, a soul torn
between disquiet and desire.

I would wake, shaking, sure I had escaped
with my life.

The dream would not let me go.
that certainty of being the prey of something ancient,
the prey, yet still drawn as if survival would bring treasures untold.
All in the dark.

After you came, the dreams continued, these pastiches from childhood,
with one difference: Luminosity,
a golden candelabra, a certainty of light
surrounding you like a shield.

Still, I wake before opening the last trunk, before reaching to the altar.
I wake, but without the dread, that moment when I am certain
the dark spirits of the night are about to make me their own.
I wake now,

the treasure just out of reach,
your warmth next to me, soft and true,
the dream continued,
the treasure found.

About this poem.

I really did have that dream as a child, over and over.


Poem: A Broken Man’s Love Poem


A Broken Man’s Love Poem

And there I was,
nearly undone,
the inside chipped away,
the weaknesses unseen
even by those who lived there, secure
in the belief that I was immortal,
that bits and pieces could be pulled away forever
without effect.

And there I was,
unaware myself just how close I was
to becoming ruins,
the work so long done coming
undone in almost invisible increments,
waiting, dreading, sure of the final wind.

And there you were,
more aware of my foundations that even I could be,
your gentle hand strong,
your touch, healing,
your words God-breathed, an unexpected,
grace-filled inspiration,
no less than a miracle
in this old man’s life.

About this poem

A love poem. Years into my relationship with the woman I love, I am still astonished and grateful for her presence in my life.

For word nerds who perhaps are not steeped in faith words, inspiration comes from a base word meaning “God Breathed”. Grace means the “unmerited favor of God.”.