Sunday, April 2, 2017

Let's go down

  There was recently a death in my wife’s family. It was no-one I knew. He was close to her father, however, who now lives with us. When something like this happens, my wife will want to visit one of the Catholic churches in town, presumably to pray for the soul of the departed.

Let's go down

Let’s go down to the masonry
that holds the high-arched doors
and in to the pews beyond them
to offer our inmost prayers.

Let’s go down to the marble font
and cross our heads with the water
as we remember with all our thoughts
one who is no longer with us.

Let’s go down to the heart of the nave
where ancients circle the altar
and bow our heads in the solemn light
that eases the restive soul.

Let’s go down to the effigies
that peer from their quiet coves
and light the vigils with incense sticks
for one who has gone before.

Let’s go down to the redbrick church,
the one where spirits dream,
and kneel at the creaky old wooden pews
to pray for the recent dead.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017


  This was meant to be my son’s 2nd birthday poem for last year, but I had so much difficulty with figuring out how to approach it that I ended up abandoning the effort while I still had time to write something else, which led me to compose “Lines to My Son” instead. Even after a year of visiting and revisiting this poem, recording notes, and writing and scrapping lines, I still found it difficult to figure out how to approach putting it together right up to the last word. There are two things I wanted to tie into it: One, a series of first-time events leading up to my son’s first word; and, two, his fascination with all sources of light right from the first time he opened his eyes.


The first time I saw you
is when you first came to light.
You breached red shadows
and struggled for breath,
managing only a strangled
wheeze—your first breath
constricted by thick meconium.

Your eyes were squeezed shut
as nurses vacuumed tar from
your bronchia, clearing the way
for air to brush past tiny round
leaves deep within your chest.
Then for the first time you cried,
a sound that rattled, lightly shaken
from your inmost branches.

Wrapped in sterile rags, you
were handed to me, and for
the first time I held you, peering
down into your face. I saw there
in your pure pink features, light
radiating from some place beyond
time, reason, comprehension,
piercing through to the deepest,
darkest caverns of my being.

Unsure how best to safely set
you down, I passed you back
to the nurse, who placed you,
tightly wrapped, in a sturdy
wooden bassinet. Exhausted,
you drifted off to dream new
shades of light for the first time
outside the womb, eyes still closed.

When your eyes did open, I was
there, waiting for that first look
into your uncolored gaze. You
took slow sips of the world, orbs
rolling around the nursery until
finally they settled on the wide
amber light that warmed your blood.

After a few days, once your mother
recovered enough, we took you home
and saw to your needs. Meanwhile,
you dedicated the bulk of your efforts
to the arcane arts of movement,
struggling against gravity until at long
last you rolled for the first time
from your belly to face the light.

Before long, you began to discover
deep in your solidifying soul
a hidden power, a resonating
determination to pull yourself up
from prone toward all those many
lights that drew your eyes. You
began with the smallest motion, yet
for you still an effort rivaling colossal
feats of Olympian might. Then
after weeks of training and strain,
for the first time you sat up
                              all on your own.

You looked surprised at first, not
quite believing your success,
then slowly you looked up, face
gleaming a smile of pure triumph,
a hue that soon returned to radiant
resolve as you set your mind
to the enormous task of learning
                                       to stand.

Months passed. You mastered
the craft of rolling, crawling and
laughter until one day I looked
and for the first time saw you fully
upright at the edge of your playpen,
eyes vibrant with concentration,
knees wobbling. With one hand
you steadied new-found balance.
The other reached up toward
light that fell from the floor lamp.

Perhaps on finding your feet
you began to realize a sense
of potential, for your first few steps
soon followed, shaky, arms
outstretched, fingers feeling out
the way. Often you would let go
and for a moment stand free,
wavering like an aspen before
collapsing back to your bottom,
eyes cast up toward visions of light.

Time phased and shifted behind
my sleepless eyes, then suddenly,
in the middle of the living room,
through epic endeavor you rose
to your feet and took three small,
trembling steps across the floor,
hands grasping at only the air. As
you returned to hands and knees,
you lifted your head to study three
bright bulbs suspended beneath
the blur of ceiling fan blades.

Slowly, your steps grew stronger,
more steady. You pushed a walker
this way and that, reveling in your
newfound powers of ambulation.
It was around this time we realized
your amorphic syllables had begun
to take on the first hues of language,
for every time you entered a room
you would point to the fixture
centered in the ceiling and exclaim,

Which a few weeks later we finally
discerned to be your first real word,

  My hope was to elicit a sense of wonder and amazement from the reader similar to what I experienced as I witnessed these first-time events myself without once having to use an, “I felt blah blah blah,” expository statement toward this end. I don’t feel confident about the outcome, however. For me, all poems are a work in progress, so there is every likeliness that I’ll one day come back and try to improve upon it.

  There is still some time to spare before his 3rd birthday, so this may or may not end up being this year’s birthday poem. I’m hoping I’ll find the time and inspiration to write something else instead, but we’ll see.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

At the edge of language

  The poet—the serious poet—spends considerable time walking the hinterlands of language, exploring that boundary between the obvious and the unintelligible. What the poet brings back from the edge may allow readers the unusual experience of ascribing as much, or even more meaning into the words than were ever actually inscribed. To say more would defeat the point of the poem itself.

At the edge of language

Sometimes I catch a glimpse of her
here, where uncertainty swirls into
     mystery, magic, meditation.

What few trees still stand are dead,
black, misshapen skeletons reaching
out through thick mists. This one
might have been an elm once, or
maybe an oak.
                    There is no way to know.

Boots sink into long dead leaves
and grass, submerged to the ankle
in brown, half decomposed meaning.
Every step is a matter of deepest

Something slithers by, almost…
almost catching the eye, a thing
that feeds on detritus left when words,
thoughts, histories fade from memory—
all shapeless within its long, lean gut.

As I carefully lift one foot from a suction
that seeks to make me one with all
things forgotten and lean the other
into a slow, pungent belch, I’ll catch
a glimpse of her, moving in the mist,
part gleam, part shadow, part
understanding. I can almost make out
legs shifting beneath a gown, possibly
a face, and then she’s gone.
                                               I’ll pause
as my weight settles to a fading hiss,
and after a moment call out. There is
never an answer.

                            Still, I come seeking.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

the hermit

  One who aspires toward greatness will eventually find himself alone, peering down on the valleys from which he began. Very few will ever seek after him, and if he has even an ounce of sense, he’ll dash the hopes of those who do and send them back down to the valleys below. The imagery here is taken from stories of poets in ancient China leaving public life for a very simple one, alone on a mountain. Friends and acquaintances would occasionally make the hike to visit them, bringing tea, and a few supplies. These hermits often continued their creative pursuits there on the mountain, needing little more than ink, brush and parchment.

the hermit

i have lived here for years now, here
in this alpine vale, high at the head
of a deep ravine that forks and branches like
lightning, scoring a third the southern face.

at this altitude one must face the sun
or a simple hut will bear no comfort
against the cold. one must gather wood
for the night when pines shade the noon.

in those days i left smoke-filled valleys
for vistas that every day catch my breath.
my feet have spun trails like a spider’s
web, spiraling out through the trees.

my hut, a lean-to really, is but the most
meager of commodities. a hundred yards
this way a hole collects my dung. before
long it will be a hundred yards that way.

every few months a face appears, bobbing
amid the trees as an old acquaintance
seeks me out for conversation and tea.
they no longer ask when i will return.

they bring ink and parchment and take
with them what thoughts have occurred
as i dug up roots, picked wild grains and
berries, chopped wood, or simmered stew.

they tell me these thoughts have found
a following. once in a while a new face
bumbles into camp, seeking the elusive
spring that slaked some thirst within them.

i offer what little i have, and they ask about
the old poet who lives on the mountain.
gently i suggest they may have lost
their way and in the morning point to a path.

i tell them it leads back to the world below,
describing landmarks and hinting at failure.
for too many pilgrims would leave me starved
and dying come winter. they only ever come

with palms stretched open—empty. a red
squirrel barks warily, a brown jay swoops
and caws, and i turn back to meditations
that ultimately yield a small fire that warms

my bones and licks inky shadows dry
on a piece of parchment while i nod off
to the sound of wind or rain—or to the all
pervasive silence of falling snow.

  In many ways, this forms a half-decent metaphor for the reclusive being I’ve become myself, one who still seeks to continue his work as a poet.

Thursday, October 6, 2016


  The imagery here is drawn from an undated journal entry, which is itself likely drawn from a dream. In recently reading it over, I thought that it could be turned into a poem, and so I gave it a whirl:


She emerged slowly, like sun
through mist, and walked toward me.
Her eyes were the color of ice
from deep in an ancient glacier.
Her hair fell in waves around slightly
freckled collarbones like late summer
grasslands rolling in the wind.
raised arms and placed slender
fingers over my shoulders, tilting
bright brows forward as she looked
me in the eyes. Like an aspen leaf
on the gentlest breeze, I trembled,
entranced, overcome. Why would
something so beautiful, so perfect,
emerge from the fog of my life
to find me?
                    There was no time
in the fog, only moments, uncertainty.

In the moment she emerged and lay
cool hands to my skin, insight.

            “Who are you?” I asked. She
only cupped one hand behind my neck,
the other behind my head, and pulled,
gently, until my right cheek took pause
in the curve of her neck.
                                        Here I could feel
her pulse against my jaw, my lips. It felt
like stories, hints of long ago carried on
the bright blood of time to now. It moved
with the cadence of what could be, what
has been.

My blood, so long subdued by the ever
present mist, stirred. She pulled back,
slowly, and with the faintest smile
glowing from her cheeks like the moon,
turned away, taking my right hand.

“Now that you have found me,” she
finally spoke, voice like a still, slow
stream easing over rocks and pebbles,
sliding among grasses and alders, “I will
always be near.”

I took my eyes from her flowing figure,
from the curled sunrise of her hair,
and saw, for the first time ever, shapes
take form in the mist.

                         It was beginning to thin.

  I’ve had dreams like this throughout my life as far back as I can remember. The mood and feeling of the dreams were always similar, though the face and form of the woman would change. It has occurred to me that she could represent my anima, that feminine aspect of a man’s psyche discussed in Jungian psychology. The title could just as well be “Sophia,” as this is the term used for Jung’s final phase of anima development, and I feel the figure in this dream could represent a degree of integration with Sophia, a process that has been ongoing for many years.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


  Stars and consciousness have so many parallels to my mind. Both form from an accretion of nearby matter. In the case of consciousness, it’s psychospiritual matter. Both condense to a state of hydrostatic equilibrium. In the case of consciousness, this more or less takes the form of the Jungian psyche. Both generate a sort of radiation and light. In the case of consciousness, this takes the form of awareness and understanding. There are more parallels, but they become more difficult and abstract to explore. Suffice it to say, I see the sun in the eyes of my child, a star growing ever brighter and more radiant.


I see in your gaze

                                the Sun,

            tremendous light cast
from the ancient spark of being.
Your face is the uneclipsable
corona of life, and it burns away
            the heaviest fog.

Your laugh falls from the skies
an all pervasive warmth that
raises the downcast petal. She,
no matter how fatigued, stirs
            and lifts smiling eyes.

      Even your tears flare bright,
cries erupting long wide arcs
of plasma deep into darkness,
ultimately to rain down meaning
      on the harshest,
            most distant climes.

when you call on the sacred name,
voice lapping like small waves
on distant, star-lit shores,
in that moment, when your thin
lips part and form with violin vowels,
“Mama,” I see in your face, full
with the scents of autumn,

                                the Moon.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Lines to My Son

  My goal was to have this written for my son’s second birthday. But, although I began working on this poem with six weeks to spare, it is now about six weeks late. This mostly is due to my still learning how to manage and maximize my creative time and energy as a first time parent. Well, first the poem, then a few thoughts:

Lines to My Son

There is a stillness in your eyes
that not a lifetime could disguise,
never mind the mere two years
we’ve shared of laughter, play and tears.

My child, when you cast your smile,
I am compelled to gaze a while
on all the features of your face,
each contour radiant with grace.

I know that sometimes you will cry,
that pain and grief will make you sigh,
but in the end, I hope your share
of peace will far outweigh despair.

I hope that as you grow, a sense
of purpose—meaning—will condense
within your soul until a spring
of inspiration purls and sings.

I know that you will face arrays
of challenges throughout your days,
and sometimes with a heavy heart,
you’ll want to fold and fall apart.

But, son, I hope you’ll come to see
that what is gained too easily
is rarely valued at its worth
and offers only fleeting mirth.

I hope you’ll learn to meet with poise
each obstacle that life deploys
and overcome it with that grace
I see forever in your face.

I know one day that love may lunge
from shadows at your heart and plunge
its ancient kris between your bones
and leave you wretched, wracked with moans.

But if this end should come to pass,
I hope in time you’ll rise at last
and realize deep within your soul
that love is nurtured—not controlled.

I know that fear, with silent tread,
may one day stalk your thoughts till dread
swells acid-like within your chest
and melts all courage from your breast.

If that lean creature ever learns
your scent, I hope that you’ll discern
the way to throw it off your trail,
ensuring all its efforts fail.

I hope you’ll come to see that fear
pursues those thoughts within the sphere
of all the worst of what could be
until it mauls reality.

I hope you’ll learn to contemplate
your blessings and appreciate
the least of things that come your way,
the smallest moments of your day.

I know that sometimes loneliness
may chill you with her gelid kiss
until you crave for any fire
to burn away your dread desire.

But, son, I hope you’ll make your peace
with solitude and grant her lease
within your wide expanse of self
where she reveals one’s inner wealth.

For solitude and loneliness
are only sisters in the sense
that each reflects an attribute
of isolation, but in truth

the two are not at all the same;
one sister lights and keeps the flame
of contemplation, but her kin
instills an anguish deep within.

I know that loss will find your door,
and though you ask, entreat, implore,
he’ll barge into your private place
and carve a lasting, empty space.

I hope, despite the swells of grief
that crash across that jagged reef
of raw emotion deep inside,
you’ll find a way to bear the tide

and build a lighthouse on that shoal
whose spinning beacon may console
with brighter moments from before
you lost the ones that you adore.

I hope that you will find the strength
to mourn your losses, then at length
stand tall, gaze deep into the night,
and let acceptance fill your sight.

I hope with vibrant health you’ll live
till all your hairs turn gray and give
you such a sagely countenance
you’re loved by all with reverence.

  I don’t go into writing a poem like this thinking, “This is going to be written in iambic tetrameters using an aabb end-line scheme.” For me, the pattern emerges on its own, usually in mind as I explore the opening lines and stanzas before writing anything down. Once a pattern emerges, if it emerges at all, I usually stay with it. By the end of the fourth stanza, I decided that variations on rhyme suit the end-line scheme just fine, but that I would also still attempt to use rhyme whenever possible.

  There are five great difficulties explored in this poem, five challenges that I myself have faced and endured throughout the years, mostly stemming from internal issues—perhaps psychological in nature. These are giving up, feeling betrayed, anxiety, loneliness, and loss. There’s more to the poem than this, but as it has occurred to me that some my overwhelming difficulties with these personal challenges may be genetic in nature, it felt important to me to try to use this piece to pass on some of what I’ve learned about them in the hope that he will one day read and gain insight should he find himself facing similar struggles.

  I have no way of knowing if I’ll live long enough to offer him such insights as those I’ve tried to express here by the time he has need of them, and so this poem. Even if I do, it may be that by the time he’s dealing with some of these struggles himself, he’d be more open to taking my thoughts into consideration from this form anyway, written when he was still a toddler.

  My father was gone by the time I was 10. I have no idea what insights he may have had for me. I have no real indication that he even thought of what kind of person I might be as an adolescent or as an adult. As my son grows up, I would like him to know that I thought of him—that I thought of him as a teen, as a young man, as an adult in the middle of life, as an old man nearing the end—that I held hope in my heart every single day that he would have a good life and enjoy the bulk of his days clear to the end. It would have meant something to me if my father had such foresight. I hope this may mean something to him.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Year of Paradox

  In a strange sort of way, it's like coming full circle—but back to what? I don't know. 35 Julys ago, my father committed suicide. He was 45. Today I turn 45, and I find myself in an incredibly pensive state of mind. It's not that I fear I'll end up like him. I have a small child of my own now. I know better. It's more like for the next year, every day will be a reminder. Every single day. Here I am, alive. Here I am, living my father's final year—well, part of it. He didn't make it all that far into his 45th year.

  I don't know. I'm in a state of melancholy right now. Not a state of depression, just melancholy, reflectiveness, bewilderment. Yes, he was abusive, and absolutely terrifying. Yes, he was controlling and incapable of recognizing that a child has only just arrived in life and doesn't yet know anything. Yes, he didn't teach and explain, but punished and terrorized. Yes, he came home only after the bars closed and woke us from our sleep and yelled, screamed, dragged us around the house and punched holes in walls. Yes, he had terrible, terrible flaws. But, he was my dad and he also showed love, tenderness and compassion. Did he think I wouldn't care? Was he trying to hurt me? I don't know. I really don't know. And I know I'll never know. Never.

  But what I do know is this. For me, this is a year of paradox, like going back in time or into an alternate reality and meeting myself, my dad, or someone that looks like him or me, and stepping into an entire year of life that is not my own, not his, not anyone's. Just a crushing and unsolvable paradox.

Year of Paradox

Now begins another year,
    and not just any other year.
  This year begins the paradox
      of all the years that came to now.

Death began this very year
    when years had barely taken root
  in crackled soils of years to come,
      now finally tapping that year of death.

Life burgeons branches into years,
    each year sprouting foliage
  that casts upon the years below
      a shadow reaching for years of life.

New years wax within the mind,
    years of rocky, raw potential,
  but even these are bound to years
      spent fearing years of nothing new.

Old years fade from memory, but
    not the year you formed a noose
  and strangled out all years to be,
      haunting through the years of old.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Painter

  I have known Heinz since the early 2000s. We met on a poetry site and discovered we had some common interests. Though we have known one another for close to 15 years, I only recently discovered that in 1982, he lost his third child to a tragic accident. If I had learned this before having a child of my own, this may not have hit home. But as a father with a toddler of his own now, I felt tremendous, wrenching empathy for him and his story. It's a horror every parent hopes to circumvent, period.

  Realizing that no parent ever "gets over" the loss of a child, no matter how much time passes, I offered to write a memorial poem for his son, Benjamin, and he graciously accepted:

The Painter

for Heinz & Maureen Scheuenstuhl
in memory of Benjamin Patrick Scheuenstuhl
April 1, 1981 — September 7, 1982

I think you would have been a painter, son,
for though you only dreamed through nineteen moons,
you filled my days with color—every one—
and though a lifetime later I still mourn,
the vibrancy of all you were remains
refracted on the canvas of my soul,
reflected in the artwork of my mien.
Your strokes of laughter still adorn the holds
of memory with pigments bright and bold.
The accent of your curiosity
still decorates my thoughts, and still consoles
a grief that burns with black ferocity.
Your masterpiece, with all its wrenching hues
of joy remains enshrined within my heart.

  This was an incredible challenge to write. In fact, I had written it near to completion three times before I decided to scrap the idea and try another angle entirely. In the end, I finally decided on this metaphor, explored in the form of a Spenserian sonnet (easily my favorite sonnet form out of those I've explored).

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Beautiful Things

  I started a Spenserian sonnet over a month ago—or is it two? But I can't figure out how I want to proceed for the moment, so I'm going to manifest a few smaller ideas in the meantime.

Beautiful Things

Beautiful things go bloom
    in the night. Concussive
        shockwaves fan out to
    shake my bones and rattle
my humours with spasms.

Beautiful living things bloom,
    blasting silent explosions
        into my flesh as ashes
    of new beginning settle
in my convulsing lungs.

Grasses bang tiny blooms
    on the valley floor, as do
        conifers high on rocky hills.
    Everywhere perennials bolt
and burst blooms of every kind.

Cherry trees explode fireworks,
    ten thousand little blooms
        shifting beneath the moon,
    but these only fill the chambers
of my heart with quiet joy.

  Why all the explosions? Some metaphors connecting with allergies and asthma.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Suicide Note

  This is inspired by the barbaric tradition that exists in some cultures of marrying off young girls into what is basically a life of servitude and sexual slavery. I've focused on Afghanistan for the purpose of this poem, one of the worst countries in the world to be born a woman, according to several sources.

  Research into this practice has revealed that girls are married off as young as 5 in Afghanistan, but this poem assumes the voice of a girl who would have been married off between the ages of 11 and 13. Since it can be assumed that an Afghani girl, denied any access to education, will not be able to write such a note as this, imagine instead that she gained access to a recording device and left these final thoughts for her husband:

Suicide Note


My Dear Beloved,

When you find this,
                                I will be gone.

                Your brothers will have
        dragged me from our home
    by the hair and cracked open
my skull with jagged grey stones.

                                I will be dead.

I know you will not miss my presence,
            my face, my touch, my words.
    You never saw me
                    as more than just fertile ground,
                a place only to sow your rage.
        So many times you broke
that soft ground, driving in your plow
    again and again till blood welled up
                                    from the furrow.
            Even when life took root,
        you continued to drive in your plow,
                turning gentle red shoots
                                    back to oblivion.

    I am there now,
                                with my unborn.

                And into that oblivion
        I will have also taken your seed
                            and your plow.

        you will have taken tea
from my hands, just as always. Except
    this time laced with crushed dreams
            from your father’s private stash.
                        As you slept,
                I will have tied off your malice
with the tenderness of a lover,
            then with one sudden flick
                of my slender, scarred wrist
    I will have spilled all your seed
        and unhinged the plow forever,
                            leaving only the ass.


My Dear Beloved,

I was but a child
                            when you took me
        from my home, my family.
    The smile of innocence still lit
            like a lantern my small face.
                Dreams of self determination
                        still shone like a beacon
                    through my pearl grey eyes.

    Now years have passed
            in the confines of our union,
        wishing on stars through the open
                window when summer nights
cooled the oppressive heat of day.
    It has been so long here, hidden
            away behind these dusty, dull
        tapestries, that I hardly remember
                                    the feel of sun.

    I am sure I must be a woman now,
                    or nearly so.
        But is a slave even human,
                        never mind a woman?

Somehow the entirety of my existence
                    had become payment
        for a debt older than the elders,
                debt my family owes even now,
    debt still owed by nephews yet to be.

    When I overheard your first wife
            complain that you were to wed
                        yet another child,
years of black despair turned
        to blinding white purpose.
                I would protect that child
                    from your relentless hunger,
                                    whatever the price.


My Dear Beloved,

If I succeed in my final act,
        that poor child will be saved,
                                    at least from you.
            What reason would you have
                                for a fresh new field
                without seed to sow
                        or plow to till?

                            Perhaps now
            in the truest spirit of matrimony
                    we will share in all things.
        For you will know my pain.

    You will wear like a flame
        the withered rose of my shame.
                You will bear my despair
            through to your last breath
                    as demurely you peer
from the palpable shadows
                            of my isolation.

    My hopelessness will chew
        through your stomach
                and every time you catch
the eyes of a brother turning away
            my terror will gnaw
                    at your weakening bones.

        You will hold my grief high
    like a torch in the night
            and my sorrow will whittle
away at your flesh until your cheeks
                sink in to reveal the full
                    extent of my trauma.

            Yes, my dear husband, you
will wave the banner of my defeat
    over your head, each day filled
        to bursting with my endless
                dread. And no matter how
            hard and long you scream
    to the stars, Allah will never
                    bring peace to my rage.

  I hope for an end to this barbarism, and I hope that all who suffer and endure this horror will be freed from their bondage and some day know peace.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Old Pain

  My sister has commented in the past that I seem to be most drawn to reading and appreciating poetry that deals in some way with the subject of death. Perhaps. Some of my favorite, influencing poems are “Sunshine,” by Robert Service, “The Legend of the Organ Builder,” by Julia Dorr, “The Last Man,” by Thomas Campbell, and “Derelict,” by Young E. Allison. Each of these centers solidly around the subject of death in its own way. “Sunshine” follows the final thoughts and feelings of a man whose wife has died as he himself succumbs to the same ailment that took her. “The Legend of Organ Builder” tells the story of a young man who wins fame by building a legendary organ that plays of its own accord wherein he arrogantly abandons his bride believing she betrayed him and later, when he realizes his mistake, returns home from abroad just in time to attend her funeral—during which he himself dies. “The Last Man” sets your mental vision on the remains of a dead Earth where the last living human speaks to the setting sun, knowing full well that he himself is soon to follow. “Derelict” leads you across the deck and through the holds of a derelict ship where all hands have perished during a mutiny, ostensibly triggered during a bout of drunken revelry.

  So maybe it is no wonder that I find myself drawn to the subject as a poet.

The Old Pain

There are too many anniversaries
that haunt the days and years as they go by
and all too many treasured memories
that stir within the old pain to a sigh.

This is the day we met, the maple leaves
that flourish by the driveway, then as now,
were sunset red and swaying in the breeze,
dancing down to dress the walk below.

We paused amid the fumes of regular,
eyes locking for a moment like a spell
was cast between the rooftops of our cars,
enchanting us into a mutual thrall.

By time this maple tree had filled its crown
with lush green cover, we assembled all
our friends and family, and made a vow
to watch as one its colors fade and swell.

The months that followed blurred to a montage,
of salient years, each moment lived in full—
then all at once the sheen of that mirage
dissolved to barren sheets of salt and soil.

The call came in the evening as the sun
sent slanting shades of light across the play
of leaves that only barely had begun
to bob out infant hands in tremulous sway.

Your splintered bones lay tubed to life support—
I just assumed long hours kept you late.
It never once occurred to me your heart
beat faintly in the latexed hands of fate.

I raced to reach your side, to touch your hand,
to seek some indication from the staff
that you would be okay, your golden band
would not become a pendant cenotaph.

But then the surgeons came who strove to hold
your spirit tethered to your heedless form.
They bade me sit—my limbs grew weak and cold
as they explained your limbs were merely warm.

The lightning storm of self behind your brows
had lost its charge—the person that you were
no longer lived within the clay, and now
the clay was all that lived, and nothing more.

For months I hovered near and watched your eyes,
your cheeks, your hands, your every subtle curve,
for any sign that you were still inside,
alive in some mysterious reserve.

But there was nothing, just the rise and fall
of ribs responding to the steady drone
of air pumped through a plastic tube to fill
your lungs that would not function on their own.

Your bones were mended, lacerations healed.
The nurses kept the pressure sores at bay.
For all of this, your soul could not be hailed
back from the stars into that quiet clay.

Insurance coverage tapped and savings gone,
there was no choice except to make the call.
The doctors came—with somber denouement
you were declared as unrecoverable.

I held your hand in both of mine. Machines
were gently disconnected. Line graphs
that danced desultory rhythms on the screens
lost all expression to an air of grief.

To think it happened only blocks from here,
close enough I might have heard the sound
of metal smashing, sirens speeding near
to lift your shattered body from the ground.

To think that as the surgeons cracked your chest
and opened up your skull to free the blood,
I watched the evening news, reclined at rest,
and snacked on crackers in a tranquil mood.

It’s fitting, then—I guess—these maple leaves
turn red as gore around the time we met,
a keen reminder that our vivid lives
lay at the mercy of an unguessed fate.

This is the day we met, a day of cheer—
or so it was a million years ago.
Your ashes dream throughout the tireless years
above the hearth—a ghostly afterglow.

  Maybe I use poetry to in some way explore and seek understanding into the concept of death. Maybe the inevitable has so occupied my thoughts since I was still a toddler that it only comes naturally to me now. Maybe it is the one thing we all share, no matter what. Even if there might be some immortal among us, walking through the ages observing our histories, he too must eventually die as the sun expands and incinerates the upper mantle from of our world. Death is something every living thing has in common. It is a bond we all share. So, then, is tragedy, loss, and finding some way to live and move on.