May thru August
Poem List: 2016 May thru August
Beyond the Coffin Print this poem only
You are standing there looking down at me.
I am chained there
I cannot let go
I am not ready to go.
but you do not know
in the fog of woe
if I want that lid to close.
I want to reach my fingers over the edge
to keep that lid from closing.
I still have a remnant of life
in that old body
and I want it.
you fashioned and clasped those chain links to hold me there.
By your doubts you are bound
in that box above the ground
Your bout with those doubts
rob the plump plumb of your sleep
drape darkness over your light.
You won’t give up your stubborn belief
that you, yes you, can cheat fate…
if you just try hard enough.
Your faith is fresh my son.
Fall into it.
Loosen the tentacles
grasping events and their endings
Free the ferments of life.
Do not confuse control with creation
let loose your irrepressible urge to create
for letting go of the details
does not derail
Yes, your old daddy knows that now
I no longer need to pound it into you.
I beg you my bright son:
Yield me to ground
to light and the sound
of heaven’s winds.
Let your real living Father
take hold of you,
grasp your soul
cherish it and hold it in his hands
hold you close to his bosom.
I beg that new Light
to hold you tight
give you sight
protect your night
from the darkness of doubt
and the guile of guilt.
For you are no longer mine
You have chosen
to be brother of the Son
your sole soul
Author's Note: I hesitated to put the first draft of this piece on the website because it did not seem to be a poem as much as stream-of-consciousness. I actually don't remember writing this as I post this revision now (6-23-18). The original must have come from a dream, for I often dream of Dad and sometimes he is in the coffin and is still alive. So I revised it using my father's voice. Hopefully the images will give you some flavor of what he was like at various periods of his life. Notice the tile on the floor on the color picture. He built our den and laid all of that tile.
Molasses Print this poem only
Unlike Paul on the road to Damascus
my conversion moved like molasses.
But the hound of heaven kept pursuing
his slow moving son prone to gluing
and sticking to his flaws and inept ways
with every excuse for endless delays.
That hound eventually caught me
in the songs that tearfully brought me
to my knees in helpless surrender
to prayer and his merciful splendor.
Unlike Paul on the road to Damascus
my conversion moved like molasses.
But there were hunters following that hound
who kept up till their prey was found
and stood by me gently listening,
my voice quaking my eyes glistening.
Full of my doubts and questions
they heard me and made suggestions
led me to some uncommon men
who described the road where they’d been.
Unlike Paul on the road to Damascus
my conversion moved like molasses.
The hound of heaven no longer bays
but speaks in sermons and songs of praise
he catches me in traffic on the road
and even in moments of overload.
He saves me from my darkness each day,
his Word shows me the way
and other brothers teach me to fight
out of that dark and into the light.
Now, like Paul, my Savior I’ve found
and my pace quickens to catch that Hound.
Author’s Note: A small group I belong to was discussing how the Christian life is one of being continually conformed to be Christlike. One of the guys said that starting from birth, God gradually works on the things in our life that need to be corrected and when those get done, he moves on the next thing we need to work on (things that need to go or things that need to be added), and so on and so forth. In his case, my friend said, this is slow as molasses since it seems all the issues and things he should have worked out a decade or more ago keep holding him down. I related to his comments and decided spiritual life as molasses would be a good metaphor and topic for a poem. I came up with the first two lines and was going to make it a two line poem, but then I got to thinking about how that process has worked out over my life and in the past year in particular.
The Hound of Heaven refers to Francis Thompson's poem by that name. Below are the first few lines, the ones that inspire me the most:
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
See also the Wikipedia article on the poem
Remaking Romance Print this poem only
If I could I’d explain the way you grab my heart
how your big brown eyes crawl into mine,
travel across my badlands and boundaries
into the tropics of my imagination.
If I could I’d tell the world the freshness
of our old love, how we’re remaking
and reforming the meaning of romance,
but words cannot capture this creature.
If I could I’d paint the contours
of God’s work in us for all to see
but there’s no pigment or brush
no blush or hue to show his breath in us.
If I could I’d sing or play some bars
that throbbed and crooned those years
quickened the pulse, spurred the spirit
of the sacred, and deepened our intimacy.
But there is no recapturing this glorious past
no recall good enough to measure
the breadth and depth thereof
there’s only the daily decision to love.
Young Print this poem only
I thought they were over
days of running free in hills
tidings as fresh as clover
songs that give me chills.
I thought they were past -
moments of sheer wonder
a hundred things to ask
ideas that crack like thunder.
Being so excited to learn
I feel that tingly air in my chest,
and I’ve got faith and hope that burn.
Good Lord, I thought none of these were left.
But now I hear the strains of songs
inspired and sung with joy
about forgiveness of wrongs
God’s mercy and love - Oh boy!
My bones are creaky and old
but let me say that these days
I am feeling confident and bold
my rugged old soul is ablaze.
Thank you God for so many years
for excusing the fire from my tongue
for unrestrained laughter and tears
for again making this soul young.
A story in those eyes Print this poem only
At the bar I drank a few cold beers
and saw him in the mirror on the wall
I caught his gaze and raised my mug with cheers
he forced a smile that had no cheer at all
I wondered if he’d also been through hell
I knew myself the times that I’d been bleak
and saw a story in those eyes to tell,
so I turned to him -- and he began to speak.
. . . . .
In nineteen ninety-two he went to war
a war he fought by day and lost at night
on streets of gold he buzzed from eight to four
he worked and won a fortune to excite.
But when the sun went down the fortune flew
it went to every tavern in the town
it drained away with every mug of brew.
The gains he made by day - by night came down.
In January of that fateful year
the woman he loved left him lost
she died a death that drained his every tear
and every hope for love was lost:
every hope for baseball with a boy
for rooms that echoed screams of little girls
for Sundays out to church to sing with joy
for trips in summers all round the world.
He said he wondered if he’d even live
and how he missed her softness and her touch
he wept and said how much she had to give
and how he hated liquor for his crutch.
We talked for hours into early morn
I listened closely to the pain he shed
and to the grief and sadness that he’d borne.
I recognized the crooked path he tread.
And finally the bartend said to leave.
We packed our woes and left that sotted place.
We called a group that promised a reprieve,
we swore to try this gathering space
and meet on Wednesday night the thirty first.
We found St. Ann’s a room where others told
the stories of their weakness and their thirst
and learned to help each other be whole.
Sunset, Sunrise Print this poem only
The sun is trying to set on Dallas
but two days later it won’t settle nicely
its coral-amber swath is wild,
clouds swirl raw and confused
a brooding purple looming sorrow.
From a distance the cityscape
silhouettes its jagged dark towers
and sadness haunts this homecoming,
thoughts of the dead and wounded
weigh on me and push out in tears.
For years there at Main and Lamar
I heard the angst and strong voices
of those who knew the darkness
of our racial past and stretched to recast
themselves to save that village.
I saw bright and plucky leaders
who stood and held fast to the fight
to collect the people and remake a city
fit for the children who could lead us
to respect, to listen, to speak kindness.
Those once stormy youth and their elders
nurtured families who began to live in hope
and became new determined leaders
and followers who would not give up
on this city, our city - unfinished, still growing.
Author’s Note: On my way back from east Texas on I-20 Saturday evening, having heard and seen the news Thursday night July 7, in the distance I could see the striking sunset and the silhouette of the Dallas skyline. I taught at El Centro College for 35 years stood on that very corner countless times. I knew African American and Hispanic students and their parents, some of whom were leaders and served their community with love and dedication. I am inspired by people like Chief Brown, city councilman Adam McGough who took my place at El Centro, and the young people in that march. The Dallas Morning News July 10, 2016 front page editorial was the finest and most sensitive writing I’ve ever read in that paper and I congratulate the editors and Michael Hogue the staff artist of that amazing illustration.
Choir Print this poem only
Sometimes you think yourself leafy brown
with odor of musk and watery ground.
You think yourself a toddler compared
to poets writing stars and clouds in air.
You do not hear your voice as one
of sweetest tone in surging run
a tenor in a high and brighter space
joined with orange of alto and blue of bass.
You are a voice not a choir
it’s not a solo you require
but a body - all organs working
neither slumbering nor shirking.
So, just breathe in and breathe out
forsake control give up your doubt
believe, believe in mercy and let go
trust the well, the depths - just grow.
Making My Way Back Print this poem only
Why do I leave the clover meadow
cool and humming with life,
abandon the lucid brook
vibrant with freshness
teeming with rebirth?
Fanfare and foibles
cast me out, out, and away -
with this good and that
singing familiar lines,
past melodies and moods
with their fix.
I am numb with bluster
streams of noisy luster
clothed in lies
oh so very pretty -
This flourishing obsession
tries its best
to rob the soul
but it whimpers
its trembling blight
loses its gains
in the cleansing rains
in the gentle power
of the Light.
Now I am making my way back
making my way back
to where I belong
to the faithful and the strong
to a place I believe
to a field singing with green
to a river of hope
tributaries of love
where I am refreshed
where I am
Romans 8: 5-65 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
Shining Moment Print this poem only
Oh, that shining moment
head emerging from the water
breaking forth into the Light
as from my mother’s womb
this time the span of a life
beneath those ripples
and I an old man
bathed in grace
rising, dripping joy.
Remembering that moment
a year ago
tears now drip
from these old eyes
my sight blurred by them
blurred by Spirit
who has not let go of me
still he holds on
grasping my heart
Is he a carpenter
or a stubborn sculptor,
his firm hands
Author's Note: Written for the 1st anniversary of my baptism, my first rebirthday, which was August 30, 2015.
Distance (Sonnet) Print this poem only
This distance between us occupied
minutes and hours multiplied
by walking and running thoughts,
divining the cost of careless loss
roving and darting with such might
not even a rest in dreams of night.
Then a trouble or something tragic
pauses me, and a moment of magic
makes all that distance naught.
I fly to you my love in thought
bound again by strings unclear
I yearn and ache to have you near.
But again the world cries out to me
and again I am gone - in its roiling sea.
Inspired by Shakespeare’s Sonnet # 44
By William Shakespeare
If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
Injurious distance should not stop my way;
For then despite of space I would be brought,
From limits far remote where thou dost stay.
No matter then although my foot did stand
Upon the farthest earth removed from thee;
For nimble thought can jump both sea and land
As soon as think the place where he would be.
But ah! thought kills me that I am not thought,
To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
But that so much of earth and water wrought
I must attend time's leisure with my moan,
Receiving nought by elements so slow
But heavy tears, badges of either's woe.
Brandi in the Light
Print this poem only
We are here to celebrate grandly
a young woman by the name of Brandi
we watched the baby become a child
then a teenager with a beguiling smile.
Yes, she became a beautiful lassie
but sometimes a little sassy.
She took to the water like a duck
learned to turn bad breaks into luck
she made a home of the clear blue pool
and with vigor she dove into school
by her love of family and knowledge impelled
with resolve she made her mark and excelled.
So, Brandi, dear Brandi a little wisdom to take
on your path into the future you’ll make…
Now new challenges you’ve never conceived
will test the gifts you’ve freely received
and it will be up to you to decide
whether to ride the common tide
or to show your gratitude and grit
and create something new - to commit.
You will know failure and you’ll feel pain
you’ll wonder if you can take the strain.
Be courageous and go deep within
and trust God to embrace you when
everyone one and all else seem to fail
know that you and He can prevail.
Some day some time make a gratitude list
and when you think you cannot persist
your goals are foggy and your mood is blue
dig out that list and read one or two
and make your way out of that night
find love and gentleness and Light.
To Brandi from Uncle Glenn
Written June 3, 2016