You reached out to the wind and said, "Touché."
You cupped air in your hands like artist's clay
and called the bridge a living thing that day.
As if you still were standing in the sun,
as if the wind were rising and not done
mussing up your hair held in a bun—
as if it were the same, touch me today,
cup me in your hands as if to say
you want to hold what blows away.
I am enjoying
that plays my hair
lifts my feet in
the flashing redbird pair
that fly by day
branch by branch
nervous tails twitching
in the light air
dancing their own dance
then settling in
nests at days end
that makes me feel
in the gentle wind
I too possess wings.
I know why the Caged Bird Sings,
I also know why people say jealous hearted things.
I know why life tends to get rougher
When you are trying to reach your goals,
I know why people smile in your face but behind your back
they can be so bold.
I know why 'All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes,'
I know why sometimes when you don't win something you really don't lose.
I know why all hell breaks loose when you are about to reach your potential,
Because of you I definitely know why the sword is not mightier than the pencil!
I know why you were a Phenomenal Woman,
Because you kept those poignant and insightful slices of life comin'!
I know why Teena Marie spoke your name in her mega hit 'Square Biz',
I know why you said 'when someone shows you who they are to believe them':
the first time, because it is what it is.
I know why I cuddled up to your books in my favorite chair back in the day as a shorty,
I know why I continued to seek out your books at the age of forty.
I know why two Presidents were enamored by you as a writer and a poet,
I knew why, you knew why and the world knows it!
I know why I love your writing so very much,
It's because you put your heart and soul into every single touch.
I know why thousands 'gathered together in your name,'
I know why you valued honesty more than fame.
I know why you will be greatly missed,
Lord, you know I know why, that is why I wrote this.
When doing something that's felonious
be sure to keep it parsimonious.
My wife became an entity
who'd grown beyond necessity.
Met with reasoned proposition
she ate and watched her television.
Though logic never seemed to faze her
I slit her throat with Occam's Razor.
Need help in ending matrimony?
Apply the rule of parsimony.
the November night sky
we could taste
the ocean somewhere
off the darkness
we crossed over
rows of houses
rectangles of light
laid out in military order
like a checkerboard
lower we flew
in the old DC-3
in our ears
felt like bursting
thirty or so young soldiers
leaving snowy Colorado behind
anticipating warm California
and Monterey Bay
somewhere ahead lay another war
but we believed as foolish humans do
that what we were coming to
was better than
what we had left behind
sometimes Autumn leaves sooner than expected
and Winter's pain returns
but there is only so much exhaustion before the snow
and sleep needs to be longer than just hibernation
but once we know the tired is enough
we are ready to lie down amongst
When I was only nine
my life went from being fine
to no longer being mine
For that was the year
my worst fear
When the loving Dad
I once had
He was murdered
My mom still alive
said to the oldest of five
we must continue to survive
I remember that day
there was nothing I could do
or anything I could say
as I watched my childhood
can hold back
her skyward dreams
she wakens the poet's window
with her brilliant smile
Knowing the passionate poet
will take pictures of her radiant face
with his sparkling eyes
and post them on Facebook
of the sky
She traded her yellow sweater
for a yellow dress,
feeling free and loose,
flying above the galaxy,
dancing in a treeless meadow
under razzle-dazzle starlight,
charmed by a romantic diplomat.
the movement of the planet came
a degree or two,
sliding into less than summer,
sending wind across the meadow
under a gray cloud-wrapped blanket,
so she retrieved the yellow sweater.
a spell's been cast. We sit without moving
as Notre Dame rises from the west bank. Sunset
brushes the pocked and pitted stone in dusty rose,
the antique hue sifted upon the nearby Seine.
My husband and I sip Champagne from fluted
crystal. We sip slowly, pleasure bubbling
in our mouths as time turns amber—houseboats
and the Baueau Mouche like soft strobes bobbing
in river wakes. We are alone. Braided. Neither
here nor there. Awareness hangs on a hinge
as my love refills the glasses, and our thoughts
ribbon among owls' distant cries, voices muted
by water, footsteps retreating on cobblestone. We are
enfolded by ebony and quiet. A breeze touches
my cheek. Only Our Lady's stones are solid,
substantial, casting gold into the night sky
clear and weightless as sleep.
silently romantic are the tunes
of the mid-aged Fall
capturing the hearts of all,
shooting up the balls
of the colored fading dreams,
playing lyres of the sunny beams
and enchanting the misty dreams
of the autumn nights,
chased by animals of prey,
those that do not bite,
lazily depicting the soon-future,
in the yellow color of the sun,
in the misty vapor of the fun-
joke by joke, and pun by pun…
someone walks, and someone runs,
someone frauds, another – suffers,
the mean riders make the lives so tougher,
and so uniformed in the hue of blue…
oh my neighbor took a shot for th' flu,
and I didn't, as I eat the garlic, white,
and, you know, all hate me, and I write,
having an illusion that I might
get from 2014-fall the might
that could be the very right
for the long and sleepy nights
with the gliding, flying kites
of the visions of tomorrow
that the darkness can just borrow
from the universal space
at the pace
of the grace
of the knitting lace
and of waves
from the tears of the rain.
Yards, cluttered with bits
and pieces of generations...
a gutted sports coupe, topless. Mice
families now enjoy the leather upholstery.
a gaping washer, piles of broken Mason
jars, empty of their bright fruit.
heaps of car parts and lamps, a once-handsome
dresser where a girl prepared for prom night.
soggy books, their stories unreadable, raggy pieces
of Uncle Fred's t-shirts, alongside his crackled boots.
rusty axes, a rake with toothless smile, a sofa where
soft comfort welcomed, now sprouts rusty springs.
Remnants of once useful life, trash, leave a sorry, sad
taste that lingers long after you pass the unburied corpses.
(Previously used in her limited edition chapbook,
HOLD THAT MOMENT, 2008, out of print)
The slightest bit of empty must be filled
I notice the sexy woman at the bar
And I'm not afraid of her red dress
Or her seductive smile
I'm ready to be consumed
In one breath
And spit out whole
When she's done with me
I just don't want to be alone tonight
Alone with these torrential thoughts
These helicopter memories
And sniper dreams
The lifeblood pouring on the sand
Being washed out to sea
The jungle heat and cigarettes
And whiskey trades for ammo
I don't care anymore
To think of green uniforms
Splattered with red
Dog tags and tattered flags
On top of comrade graves
A long ride home with a bullet wound
And what is home anymore?
The blood red gore of her dress angers me
I have seen too much red
The blood pools around my feet
I light a smoke, nod, and walk away
a surge of images
like Shakespearean ghosts:
grains of sand, snowflakes, coral,
unrivaled, unmatched, distinct.
In the waters
amoeba, snail, hydra, eel,
that will not happen
A calf is born without compare.
Chickens, ducks, mice, apes,
populate the earth but once,
foraging for grain and seeds
and then they're gone.
I think of Mohammed, Moses,
and the one they called Jesus,
or any miracle child
with eyes, limbs, flesh and bone,
a convergence of tissue
unlike any other
that ever was or will be.
I cannot step into the same river twice,
and two smiles are never the same.
A loving embrace is fragile and fleeting,
each ghost a gift to treasure
before it slips away.
1: The Scents of Howard
Upon exiting the Purple Line in Howard,
I am bombarded by a deathly perfume,
that emulates from an ancient creature,
which is no less pleasant than a skunk,
is it to mask a feeling of guilt and shame?
Then I step on to the bus stop at Howard,
where a pretty woman sucks on a
nicotine lozenge. These smells infect my
nostrils as another man lights up a paper
rolled of torturous tobacco, tormenting
the timid transportation troopers.
As I board the bus, people who were born
speaking English seem to lack basic
communication skills, while foreign
born riders speak better English and are
more polite. A mean mom gets on and
yells at her child, and tells her child
to stop making noise, but the child
is not being noisy, it's this loud
mother that I hear echoing through
the whole entire bus, like the wrath
of a thousand poor parent passengers.
3: Sights (Pink is the new Orange)
On the bus a woman in a pink jacket
gets on, and two men walk by in matching
pink striped shirts. Are they brothers?
Lovers? And what do the stripes symbolize?
Then we go farther on the bus
and a man walks by with his daughter in a
pink jacket, her hair done up in two identical
Then we get to another bus stop and
a woman with a pink jacket gets on. Then a
Philippino man in with a pink jacket and a
cane gets on. Then a woman gets on with
a pink pocketbook.
As I walk through the parking lot to
my church, I think about this poem that
I'm going to write. I look up, and a
Hispanic woman is standing by the
door of her car, looking at me in
fear. What is she thinking? That I'll
rob her in broad daylight? Oh, and by
the way, once again, she is wearing a
I guess the only place I could
see more pink in Chicago is on the
pink line, but on the train they have
the brown line, the purple line, the
red line, the green line, and so on.
Howard Street is like suburbia
compared to some hoods in Chicago.
One friend said, "I never go down
to Howard street because it's always
swarming with cops."
I usually don't go because I've
heard its always swarming with rats.
Under the tunnels of many restaurants,
rats eat crumbs that man has disposed
into the ecosystem. But rats don't
bother me that much. I can deal with
that better than skunk-scented perfume.
The only poetic alliteration
that is prevalent in Chicago is the four B's,
Bulls, Blackhawks, the Bears, and the Blues.
We feel bad when our sports teams lose
games, but they get paid either way.
There are those who have the blues
for legitimate reasons. So before you judge
those around you as weird, which I suppose
I've actually done in this poem, try to picture
what people see in you as you get on the train.
One day, you may be the oddest oddball of all.
Or you could move to Portland, where they
have to try to maintain their weird image.
But we've got them beat. We're known for
deep dish pizza. And deep Lake Michigan,
where people drifted to the bottom with cement
on their feet. But this is where the poem ends.
Otherwise, I might be in deep trouble!
I waited until autumn
to see the trees turn,
waited for cold nights,
for frost in the burm
when green oaks turn gold,
then bronze, then to brown,
red grows the sumac,
bright as a crown
on the floor of the forest, on
the brow of a hill, drawing
eyes to her wisp of fire
burning bright as desire
(Published in The Oak)
dance thru the pines of my youth
the victory garden I tended as a child
now but a precious memory
and I am amazed
the woman I thought my adversary
when she became my father's second wife
and hardly ever had a word of praise for me
or validated my feelings but
was quick to criticize many of my efforts
whether cutting cukes for salad
from my victory garden or
insisting my deceased Mother's
photo did not belong on the mantel
or thought I was unkind to her children
from a former marriage
who were adopted by my father when they married
and now I learn
she has kept the promise she made to my father
that when she too passed away
she would leave this family cottage to me
and I am humbled
Pain is a four letter word.
We teach not to say four letter words.
But this one we scream, tell everybody, seek for help,
Use any possible remedy we hear.
Pain you cannot describe.
Doctor cannot see it.
I cannot see it.
You cannot touch it.
You cannot hear it.
You cannot smell it.
You cannot taste it.
Pain is not the tumor or lump I see it.
There is no lab result for pain.
Doctor rate the pain 1 to 10
But if my pain is 100 then where his scale will go?
May be like Giraffe's neck.
Pain is subjective.
Some pain for you might be lot more.
Same pain for other may be ok.
You might need lot more drugs.
I might have learned to live with pain.
Drug companies making lot of money by so called our pain.
If we don't have pain, then they will be out of business,
And that is their pain.
Pain can be nonverbal.
Face is the face of the pain.
Hand is the face of the pain.
Body is the face of the pain.
Behavior is the face of the pain.
Whatever it is.
To some extent pain is good.
It shows where the problem is.
It is indicator of much diagnosis
And pain is there.
Since life is there, pain is there.
Because of pain humans are attached to each other.
They talk to, listen to and help each other.
Pain is the sign of humanity.
Please help each other.
The door opened and I was floored
By a brilliant and blinding light;
At that moment my heart soared,
Enamored by the exquisite sight:
Wearing a silky, golden gown--
She looked so young and pristine;
And upon her head a gem-filled crown--
She's a princess, a queen!
"Farouk!? What are you doing here?"
"I missed you Ola, my love.
Lonely in Hell, I needed you near--
You were all I was thinking of."
"Farouk, are you out of your mind?
It's forbidden for you to stay."
"Let our hearts, let our souls bind--
Let's be together and run away."
"Farouk, then why did we divorce?
You left me in the first place;
Betraying me with no remorse--
'Tis the reason you fell from grace."
My time was up and my luck ran out--
They surrounded the estate;
Thousands of sentries all about:
"Farouk, it's back to Hell's gate."
They grabbed me and dragged me off--
I couldn't break free from their grasp;
I couldn't scream, breathe or cough--
All I could do was gasp.
Transfixed, our eyes met,
She was weeping and blue;
With strength above all her fret,
She cried, "Farouk...I love you!"
Then suddenly, the heavens shook,
With lightning and booming thunder;
Causing all to revere and look
At the sky splitting asunder.
"Release him," commanded a voice,
Deafening all who solemnly heard,
Leaving the sentries with no choice
But to obey The Spoken Word:
"Farouk and Ola get down from here,
You are both free to leave;
For I've witnessed a love that knows no fear,
So rejoice and do not grieve."
We hugged and kissed (it's about time!)--
A cathartic-lovers embrace;
For eons we were apart--a crime!
The whole scene seemed out of place.
Then a misty cloud surrounded her:
An aura of myriad lights
Flashing and dashing in a blur
Like millions of dancing sprites.
Her transformation was complete,
She was adorned with dove-like things:
Cute, ethereal and petite--
Stunning, diaphanous wings!
Everyone watched our spirits fly
(Heading towards purgatory)
Across the crimson sky,
Together, for eternity.
Saints, sentries and seraphs stood serene
By the strangest sight they've ever seen;
For neither Heaven nor Hell could part the love
Of an ugly bat and a beautiful dove.
Of all ancient civilizations in North America,
human hands have built no greater earthwork
than the Monks Mound near East St. Louis, Illinois.
Vince Barrows, World Pyramids
Before our flashlight circles arced across
white patent-leather shoes disturbing dust of terraced steps,
before our steep Easter Sunday climb with flowered hats tilting,
tulle petticoats lifting pastel skirts toward a summit sunrise,
before us, there were the boys
sinewy, raven-haired boys, native to this broad land,
first light of morning at their backs,
following in gentle footfall of soft hide boots—
the fathers, the older brothers, their own spare shoulders
all hefting heavy gifts of rare blue soil, or white gypsum,
or eastern mountain clays in sunset reds and orange,
two billion pounds of hauled earth to rise in hallowed
rainbow layers on a distant alluvial plain.
And after them, we girls
pony-tailed and tanned, spread our checkered tablecloths
for picnics on the mound,
or shivered in our wet wool coats and winter boots,
tugging steel-blade sleds half up the slickened lower slopes,
squealing back to level land.
Because a thousand years before us
there were those boys—
wide-eyed boys who poured into the sacred center
of an ancient civilization their baskets of prized soil,
raising by holy handfuls America's great pyramid,
we girls grew up
loving a high hill in the midst of our flat city.
(Published in NFSPS Encore Prize Poems 2013)
The season comes
when dullness coats all things,
drips on reality
and stains imaginings.
It isn't wrinkles on the skin,
but something far below;
it is a stiffness in the bone,
a sluggishness of mind,
a winter chill inside the soul,
a sadness, measured, like the wind,
in gusts of pain, and memory.
"While you have the light, believe in the light,
that you may become sons of light."
The painter arrived at my house to renew
its faded ceilings and walls.
He asked me for my choice of colors
And I said, "White. Paint it all white.
Cover the marks, stains and scratches
and fill the small holes."
Eyeing each room, the painter asked,
"Do you want flat or semi-gloss?"
"I don't know," I said. "What's the difference?"
"Well," he answered,
"flat paint covers better all imperfections
and soaks the light.
Semi-gloss cleans easier
and reflects the light."
"Please coat the kitchen with semi-gloss
And the rest of the house with flat," I said.
On Friday I went to confession.
As I closed my eyes to reflect,
The strangest thought occurred to me:
I am in God's house.
Do I choose flat or semi-gloss to restore my soul?
The Painter of my inner house is before me.
Then the answer came to me:
God's love is encompassing,
unconditional, and mysterious.
He wants me to choose
both flat and semi-gloss
to absorb and reflect His light.
I loved to imagine the Virgin Mary sitting on
The edge of my bed beside me looking upon
My eyes deeply as I heard music while the melodeon plays
Brought me peace in tender songs of Christmas praise
Mother Mary a powerfully compassionate sweet teacher
A miraculous spiritual healer a Heavenly kind creature
Mary will always be eager to help any one no matter what
Your religious affiliation that you had been taught
Mother Mary is especially concerned for children here and above
Also for parents and any one who needs her Motherly love
You can call upon Mary any time to ask for help every whereof
Mary will be standing beside you to be a spiritual guide
Up to the path to Heaven's Christmas gently falling snow
Mother Mary pulled me close to her heart as I know
Mary hummed a lovely Christmas lullaby in a sweet way
Away In A Manger as I became invisible in my doorway
My imagination of my mind that's inside Mother Mary
I float there in an endless sea of rest was kind of merry
Mary smiles at me and assures me from all my anxieties
Thus distracts me in this World of many human casualties
Let Mary this Christmas be your healer of your innocent child
Mary takes you back as a child like she did me sleeping so mild
I just want things to be beautiful in my special life here on Earth
See from my mind just how lovely the image of Mary can be
Only one thing I really should say that positively set me free
Really have a blessed Mary Christmas to you and to all a good day
Dedicated to the little white Squirrel in my back yard I should say
I look for him in the house–
the bedroom where our bed
was never long enough for his legs
so that the sheet could not
be tucked in at the bottom,
the closet where his uniform
still hangs with the odor of authority.
I look for him in the cellar–
where all the pipes and switches
are neatly labeled
but still a mystery to me,
where battered old helmets
speak of his courage
midst collapsed roofs
and burning debris.
I look for him in the garage–
where I see the old car he loved
only slightly less than me,
the bucket with chamois and sponges
that kept it shining,
the rows of license plates
nailed to a stud, starting with 1953
the year of his first car, a Mercury
he called "Purple Lady",
the aluminum lawn chair with a broken strap
where he sat and polished hubcaps.
It was there I curled up
and said goodbye.
I walk along the black asphalt path head down.
Not deep in thought. Not unhappy.
But entertained by the newly fallen leaves.
A paint chip array of yellows and golds.
A flash of red.
A cluster here, a scattering, a windfall.
Then an expanse of pristine black.
Like movements of a symphony:
Busy, busy, hurry, soar.
Then a single note sounds, one leaf.
I also pause.
We watched the pine warbler
We watched the repetitions of shadows through days
We watched sunsets
We gathered fossils
We gathered shells
We gathered feathers
We made spinach and potato pie
We made morels in cream sauce
We made love
We listened to owls
We listened to each other breathe
We listened to pileated woodpeckers
We listened to the Grateful Dead
We had children
We had no money
We stayed at home
We canned tomatoes
We froze sweet corn
We picked dewberries
We gathered hickory nuts
We had it made
(Previously published in Free Verse
and the chapbook Pilgrimage)
i February 1814
On the frozen river, boatmen build
tents out of sails propped up by oars
that are useless this winter,
turn them into pubs where Londoners
get drunk on spiced beer, wormwood wine
or gin consumed with gingerbread.
A girl begs her father to buy her
a rolling hoop. Her brother bargains
for a cup and ball before skidding
after a loose ball. He joins his buddies
in the game, all laughing as they land
in one great huddle on the ice.
Two women walk to Mr. Warner's booth,
watch the heavy printer spit out notices
ordering Jack Frost to leave the river.
They lay coins on the counter, sure
they'll treasure this souvenir.
A woman with a basket on her head
hawks hot apples from London Bridge
to Blackfriars while other vendors offer
biscuits, coffee, tea and hot chocolate.
Hungry people gather around a fire
on the river where an ox is roasted,
warm themselves as they purchase
slices of tender, succulent meat.
The ice is so thick a zoo keeper
sells children rides on an elephant
on the Thames, at this, the last
of London's Frost Fairs.
ii February 2014
Uniformed soldiers pile sand bags
on the bank of the Thames, reach through windows
to remove children from flooded homes,
help stranded residents into boats.
The pub garden in Chiswick is submerged
and empty of revelers. Men and women
find their willies are too short
when the water is knee deep. Men remove
shoes, roll up trousers as they navigate
inundated streets and sidewalks between
Putney Bridge and Teddington Weir.
Where the water is only inches, children dip
their hands in and splatter friends, stomp
and splash, oblivious to the laments
of adults who lost photo albums, antiques, and art.
Red Cross workers reach out to those whose homes
have been ravaged by the unfrozen river.
(First published in Rockford Review)
At the valley
In Rhodes, Greece
Nature's love affair
Flying gorgeously everywhere
Beyond anybody's reach
Fluttering here and there
Once the caterpillars
Magically turned into animated fairies
Gently hugging the trees
With their soft and fragile wings
Their inexplicable performance
Has fully mesmerized
Thousands of travelers
Enjoying the splendors
Of this world
And to be one of them
I am so gratified
On a winter evening
we assemble to share
our love of life.
We share our pain,
and dawdle over
glory of life—
which shapes and nurtures
our souls and defines
The story of a deer
wounded, pleading for help,
and mercifully executed
serves as a metaphor
for the on-going tragedies
that life sometimes leaves—
as if it is a lottery
with randomly chosen
winners and losers.
We talk of cemeteries,
burials and executions,
yet revel in rebirth.
Close the doors.
You've already paid your dues.
Light the candles. Breathe
the Lily of the Valley, the lilacs
in the vase. Reach for a pen.
Take a couple sheets of
parchment paper. Stretch.
Do Chi Gong. It seems obvious,
but sit down. Close your eyes.
Reach into the abyss. Tap into
the divinity, the Oversoul,
the Muse of the Mind. Let
your thoughts spill onto paper.
Let's pretend you are the newest star.
Rescue your mind from a ditch.
Be aware a certain absurdity attends
outside the door. Awaken.
You are the healing waters.
Close the door, but don't close
your mind. Come find your
own blue sky.
(Previously published in
Prairie Light Review)
This air is thin
but You are in it,
in my lungs
in my blood
in my being
in my house.
In this picture
on the wall
of a red tulip
You are cupped
within the flower
within the picture
within the frame
within my eyes
behind my eyes.
You read through my reading,
feel through my feeling,
flow through my flowing,
beat through the beating
of my heart which You own.
In the silence
I hear nothing
if I but listen.
Nothing needs to be heard,
and the You in nothing
especially needs to be heard.
You in me
and I in You
for the now.
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