Leaves in the Autumn Winds

Orange and red and yellow leaves are waiting

In the treetops--trembling, hesitating,

Anxious for the signals of the season--

The fog at sunrise, chilly breeze, and

Shortened hours of sunlight--to permit them

To let go of their graying, brittle limbs

And spin and twist and float and spin again

Until they're left behind the autumn winds.

(The Advocate, PKA Publications, Feb/March 1992)


Aren't I?
Aren't I too young to be concerned with such

A thing as death?  Why should it bother me

That darkness comes to each and every life--

That every heart must stop, that every lung

Must draw in and blow out its final breath?

The fact that one day even I, myself,

Will close my eyes and never see again

This world--the skies, the trees, the grass, the seas,

The faces of my loved ones on this earth.

Should this arouse such fear in one so young?

Now twenty-one, should I live out my life

Awaiting Death's firm hand to grip my mouth

And close my nose and never let me breathe?

Must every heartbeat trigger in my mind

The thought that one day it will beat no more--

The thought that someday, someone will drain out

The final drops of blood which once had coursed

Throughout my veins?  The thought of being placed--

No, sealed--within a cold, cramped casket and

Then dropped beneath the surface of the ground

And buried there--should this cause me concern?
I've got some sixty years still left ... 

(The Advocate, PKA Publications, Feb/March 1992)


The Smear of Yellow

I wish I would have had the nerve to take

The bag of leaves he set out by the street

And pour them on his yard, now groomed and neat.

I wish I would have made off with his rake

The morning that the leaves began to fall.

He must have seen the color that was saved 

In that one tree, with all the rest depraved--

A world of gray, a patch of gold so small.

But I am likewise guilty of this vice,

This need to force a form on nature's way--

Of thinking and re-thinking what to say

And writing every line not once but twice.

I'm sure that I have gathered up and tossed 

More than one bag of colorful discourse

Because I was determined to enforce

My structuring.  What delight has been lost?

Perhaps next time, before the gift is gone,

He'll prize the smear of yellow on the lawn. 

(Byline, February 1993)


Left Behind

There have been nights when noises just outside--

A swirl of leaves, a gate left swinging wide

Then swinging shut as if to let the ghosts

Of air pass through that serve as nighttime hosts

And orchestrate the sounds that fill my head--

Have lured me from my sleep and from my bed.

I've slipped into my jeans and shirt and shoes

And walked along the lamplit avenues

When all the town was dark.  Down by the track

I've waited, listening for the click and clack

Of coal-filled cars to creep along the rails--

I've waited but my waiting always fails

To coax the train along.  I've seen the moon

Peek down on me when all the sky was strewn

With shifting clouds.  I've heard my whistling sound

Against the empty buildings and rebound

To fool me into thinking that there might

Be someone else seduced by such a night.
But when I stop and listen, all I hear

Are echoes of my steps that disappear

And leave me wondering if I should have stayed

At home and hoped for sleep--or even prayed

For sleep--instead of wandering out to find

The loneliness the daylight left behind. 

(Anathema Review, December 1993)


Let the Green at Least Pretend

Start the raging waters flow

Twist the trees with moaning wind, 

Let the far-off thunder creep.


Brown the summer grasses slow,

Let the green at least pretend 

That their foliage will keep.


Hide the world in heavy snow,

Make the rigid branches bend

Under white piled inches deep.


Find me in my marbled row,

Tell me when I should ascend

From this long, long silent sleep.

(The Lyric, Winter 1999, 79:1)

John at the Cross

With strangers, John stood at the cross

Bringing down our saving loss

Ashamed the other sheep had fled

And left the ravaged shepherd dead.

(Adoration, Summer 2000)


Wondering Why You're Late

The birds can't know that you are gone,

But with the year's first snow

They'll look for seed a day or two--

And then, I think, they'll know.


They'll line the limbs and fence and wire

And chirp your name and wait

Like voices in a beggar's choir,

Wondering why you're late.

(Reflections: A Journal of Poetry and Art, Fall 2000)


The Song I Heard

The song I heard

From a morning bird

Meant more to me

Than any word.


Its trilling there

In the tree, yet bare,

Set springtime free

In warbling prayer. 

(The Lyric, Spring 2001, 81:2)


Jesus at Gethsemane

Grief and horror took him to his knees.

"Take this cup--but, no, do as you please."

Then with a kiss, they caught him weeping

While Peter, James and John were sleeping.

(Adoration, Winter 2001, 2:1)


Unhatched and Broken

I was the only one who could explain

What happened to her nest when all the rain

And wind and thunder blew in with the night.

I was the one who found the speckled white

Lying in the grass, unhatched ad broken,

Downed as if some vengeful god had spoken

To the storm saying “Rain and flash and blow

Until they fall!”  I knew it wasn’t so.

I knew that it was chance she built her nest

In that one tree, instead of all the rest—

Chance that she placed it up so near the top—

And chance that limb gave way to let them drop.

But what was that for me that April dawn

When she returned to find her nest was gone,

And all her eggs?  I was the only one

To tell her what the thunderstorm had done—

But I could only stay inside all day

Until her desperate calling flew away. 

(The Lyric, Summer 2003, 83:3)


He watched the crowd of thousands pushing in

Along the gates and gathering on the grounds

From the railing of the porch.  His ears seared

At the chants and prayers below as they neared,

Cramming the steps and corners.  All the sounds,

All the tumult and excitement had been

Brought about by his own doing--and now

His eyes grew wild with worry for the fate

Of the man whom he'd captured with his kiss.


What have I done, he whispered with his fist

Drawn tight against his chest until the wait,

The tension, had brought sweat upon his brow,

Forcing him, aimless, down in the mass.

His hands, thrust in his garment, felt the purse

Which held the thirty pieces he had earned

In giving them their prisoner--felt it burn

Against his side.  With his fears growing worse, 

He stopped a messenger from rushing past:


"What happened to the man from Galilee?

What was the council's word?" 

                                                       "They gave him death,

He will be hanged this morning."


                                                         His heart raced

As he pled to the crowd which he now faced,

Explaining hoarsely, trying to catch his breath,

How this fuss over Jesus should not be--

How this all was out of hand.  But his pleas

Grew silent as the faces turned away,

Laughing at his ramblings. 


                                                  This is not right,

He told himself, his knuckles gripping white

On one another, almost as if to pray--

Pushing his way toward the Court of Priests.
Their tongues grew still, seeing the man they'd paid

Standing, again, before them. 

                                                       "I was wrong

In bringing this innocent man to you--" 


There's nothing more," one said, "for you to do.

You've got your pay."

                                     "This man does not belong

On the cross you've made!"

                                                On the cross I've made,

He thought, throwing the coins across the floor,

Turning to flee and clutching at his breast.


Against the crowd, he fought to reach the gate

And struggled down the path as if some weight

Were dragging on his shoulder, knees and chest

Until he could not drag it anymore.


His steps had brought him to a lonely tree--

A fig--where he removed the leather strap

And fixed it to a branch and made a knot

And dropped himself:  a prisoner somehow caught 

By someone's larger plan in his own trap,

His own life traded for the traitor's fee. Ancient Anc

(Ancient Paths Literary Magazine, Easter Issue 2003)

Statue--Bonaventure Cemetery

You will never know how hard I tried

To crown you with this wreath before you died.

I grabbed what blooms and buds the yard supplied

And started weaving (some I left untied!)

The moment that I heard that you were ill.


They must have thought me mad--I was wild-eyed

And gasping breath from there to here--full stride--

And sobbing all the while, undignified!

Only to find the doctor by your side

Telling me you weren't and never will.


How many times I hinted or implied

But never said it out--and I do still!

(The Lyric, Winter 2023, 103:1)


I’ll get some slats to mend the walls.

I’ll fix the roof to where—at least—

It only leaks when hard rain falls.

I’ll bar the door to man or beast.


I’ll put a table where the sun

Or moon can give me light to see

The words I’ve written—few, or none—

Or read the books I’ve brought with me.


I’ll have a cot where I can sleep.

I’ll fix a corner made for prayer—

A print of Christ shepherding sheep

Nailed up beside a wooden chair.


Some nights I’ll lie out in the grass.

I’ll shrink to dust beneath the sky.

The geese will tell me—when they pass—

When it’s close to time to die.

(Behind the Rain: Oklahoma Poetry Anthology, Vol. 4. Podcast. 4/2023)

Springtime Vows

It cannot last--it all must melt away,

This softened world of white just cannot stay.

The powdered bulk that bends the budding boughs

Must soon drop off to keep with springtime vows.


The sharp and angled corners, so defined,

As late as yesterday have given way

To easy, rolling, deep and cotton-lined

Illusions--only hints are found today.


Enjoy it for the time, it will not last--

This white that hides the world will fade off fast.

Soon all the dulled and friendly shapes will melt

To leave but hard, distinctive edges felt.

(The Advocate, PKA Publications, Feb/March 1992)


Lifelong Glance

This might be read some fifty years from now--

This one and all the rest that I have kept

As pictures of the times I've laughed and wept

And marveled at the world and wondered how

This life, this living, ever came to be,

And why the seasons have to change, and why

All living things--all living thingsmust die

And when and how this death will come to me.

You, you who hold this page--I write to you,

Not knowing who you are ... My child?  My wife?

My friend?  Or just another fleeting life

Somehow led here, with nothing more to do

Than scan these lines--it is to you I write

This end of March in Nineteen ninety-three

That you might understand, that you might see

This passion that has kept me up at night

And snatched me from my sleep before the dawn, 

Mumbling in the darkness, searching for rhymes,

Reading half-completed works fifteen times

For meter's sake, through half-completed yawns.

Too many souls are thrust onto this earth

To sleep and wake and bathe and work and eat

And curse the winter's cold and damn the heat

And leave as ignorant as at their birth--

Too many, but not all.  There are those who

Can see the simplest things, but from a slant--

See miracles in things that others can't

By taking time to take another view.

Those are the ones who stop to take down notes

When a crust of frost on a windowpane

Is melted down by an early spring rain

Which takes away leaves like brown, battered boats.

Those are the ones who love to be awake

When all the town is sleeping and the clouds

Are draped across the stars like thin-spun shrouds

When the moon peeks down through a closing break.

These pages that you thumb through, let them show

My gratitude for having this one chance

To take a passing glimpse, a lifelong glance,

At a world that so few will ever know,

And may you come to know some part of me

This last of March in Nineteen ninety-three.

(Byline, June 1993)


Verses in the Fog and Cold

She had her feet spread wide apart to brace

Herself along the water's edge.  The breeze

Made ripples on the lake and stripped the trees

Of leaf and leaf at such a steady pace

She wondered if it might be the last day

To witness any color off the ground.

Across the way, the barking of a hound

And a voice, fog-damp, telling it to stay

Assured her that she was not all alone

As the year came to its end.  When I am dead, 

Come back here--come and try to skip a stone

Or feed the ducks or reach some mistletoe

And whisper to me when no one's around.

Read from your poems.  Let me hear the sound

Of every rhyme.  Say all the ones you know

By heart--the ones you studied night to night

To, as you put it, help your mind retain

some of its nimbleness.  Come in the rain.

Come when the earth is naked to the light

That lends a hint of God before the dawn.

Come anytime.  And please do one thing more:

Before you leave from standing on this shore,

Please tell me that you've missed me since I've gone.

This was the world without him, where she stood--

The world which she had feared for all that time

Yet in the fog, the cold, she planned her rhyme

And spoke her verse--she'd promised him she would. 

(Byline, April 1994)

Growing Old

All the harvest, picked and sold,

Year is ending--growing old.

Summer field is cut and rolled,

Fall's last leaves have lost their hold.


Geese are passing, now and then--

V-formation, south again.

Where they're going, where they've been

God must know, I guess--and when.


Firewood stacked and hearth prepared,

Kindling to the match and aired.

Time to think on how I've fared,

Growing old, getting scared.  
(Reflections: A Journal of Poetry and Art, Fall 2000)




Against the window bears the cold

And black of night as we retire

To sit and watch the brilliant fire

Become a glow as it grows old.


The embers may require a stir

From time to time to give them spark

Enough to check the outer dark

And warm them as they earlier were.


And when spent ashes fill the grate,

When cold air creeps upon us, slow,

We'll pull each other close and know

But that the hour has gotten late. 

(The Lyric, Fall 2001, 81:4


Finally the Ease

Dark, save for the candle that she had lit

And placed on the dresser in the corner

Across from where she moved the chair to sit

And stare into the storm, as a mourner

Waiting for the death to come.  With arm crossed

She watched as lightning flashes, frame by frame,

Revealed the writhing treetops as they tossed

And swirled, and as the rain, with slanted aim,

Hissed against her window.  Far-off, at last, 

The rumblings rolled, and finally the ease

That stills a room with the dying past

And brings the living--silent--to their knees.

With one soft breath she put away the light

And sat awhile to look out at the night.

(The Lyric, Winter 2003, 83:1)


Ours isn’t like the great spring thaws they see

In mountain places, where the snows may last

For weeks or months.  No—just a few days past

Our snow began collecting sparingly

Along the curb and, light, across the lawn

And just enough to make the sidewalk slick.

By mid-day bigger flakes began to stick

And evening found our grass completely gone--

Eight inches deep, our yardstick poked to prove

When morning came.  So, that was our big snow,

The most of which we kept two days or so--

Our big snow, which the thaw will now remove.

Already our thick rooftop layer has thinned,

Lining up a row of icy fingers

Down the eaves.  On each, a melt-drop lingers

As long as it can manage at the end

Until its own load forces it to fall,

Dripping with an almost rainlike thud

Against the crusted snow, now mixed with mud

And bits of fallen ice along the wall.

Branches have tossed most of their frozen weight

Freeing themselves to reach up toward the sun,

The way that you or I, then, might have done

To warm ourselves—our hands at any rate--

Had we been out and covered, thus, with ice:

The thaw for all outdoors must be so nice. 

(The Edge City Review, March 2004, 19:6:3)


On a Late Walk Through Woods

Man and dog and darkening trail

And thrash of leaves and sway of tree

And pause of step ... and flick of tail ...

And no one there but him and me.

(The Lyric, Summer 2004, 84:3)


One Hand on the Gate

That moment--Oh! That instant

When life and death combine,

That last brief breath, but remnant,

Where is and was define.


What secrets in that second--split--

When last the heart has thrust!

Time stays though the clock has quit.

We pray.  We doubt.  We trust.


Oh! To stand where you have stood,

With one hand on the gate,

To leave all this behind for good

And know! --not speculate. 

(The Lyric, Fall 2022, 102:4)

Old Car

So many times, no map, no plan,

The open road would call

And I would set off with my man—

Air thick with aerosol

That held that other girl’s hair still

Against the reckless wind—

To shred the backroads, dressed to kill

And rowdy to offend.


For years we ran the countryside

Then something strange took place:

That other girl grew out—and wide—

And he shut down my pace

To nothing but a cautious crawl—

So slow, each time we went,

I feared that I would gasp and stall

And die of discontent.


Then one last time Not yet! Not yet!

My pedal pressed the floor—

That other girl stretched out in sweat,

Her feet pressed to my door.

We screeched through lights and spit out dust

And jumped a curb to stop.

With grunts and groans she gasped and cussed—

Lord!  It’s about to drop!


So many times, no tires, no gas,

I’ve fantasized that feel

Of grinding gravel to harass—

His hands gripped to my wheel!

Years, years have gone—the baby grown—

That other girl has died:

He comes out seldom, skin and bone,

And looks—then goes inside.

(Behind the Rain: Oklahoma Poetry Anthology, Vol. 3. Podcast. 1/2023)


Before they ever came to blows

Their rumbled growls and screaming rose

The way that talk and taunting grows

With fighters in the ring.


Antlers gouged at grass to sling

As two bull elk were circling,

Each wondering who would start the thing--

And then the rivals clashed!


Head to head the great beasts crashed,

Racks interlocked and tugged and thrashed

In show of manhood--unabashed--

To win the estrus cow!


No victor would the fray allow:

She wasn't watching anyhow.

(The Lyric, Winter 2023, 103:1)

Winter Birds

Feathered tremblings, peck and scratch.

Were that I could light a match

And get you near and keep you warm

Until this bitter, blowing storm

Runs its course--or better yet

Were that I could somehow let

All of you--each tiny thing

Shielded by exhausted wing--

Come inside and make a choir

Chirp by chirp beside my fire.

(The Lyric, Winter 2023, 103:1)