Spoils of War


The red-brown casualties drip
like blood from the oaken warriors,
who’ve yet to surrender their arms
like the maples and birches did
after the first assault of autumn winds
upon their more colorful breastworks.
The oaks know their shadow-making primacy
grows shorter with each successive march of
a hunchbacked sun from east to west.
It’s my job to collect the dead,
strip the field of their once pliant bodies,
attempting to clear nature’s land
for its winter christening, when she’ll
don a gown of white while the sun
lies in entombed, awaiting resurrection
and the redemption of spring.
Mine is a thankless task that nature
probably fails to appreciate,
which is why she casts more of her
spoils of war behind my back,
ambushing my capitulation to
time and temperature, wind-burned skin,
blistered hands and creaking joints.

Another Poem-a-Day catch-up piece for November 2015. This was one a FAST free write. (Seven minutes?)


The Warm Breeze of Last Words

There was a time when
I would speed to the music of youth,
running hellbent with the taste
of blood and steel in my throat,
making way for my hawk-like cry
as I swooped on the wind
down the crest of boyhood
to set upon the prey of maturity.
My heart still pounds to the beat
of the predator, the tongue
still tastes the salt and metal,
the once-smooth face feels the wind,
and the voice longs to shout
in its primacy over all below.

But I am the one down here,
the quarry of memories of
a life barely lived, battles never
joined, let alone won.
I’m the thin-feathered target
of talons felt steel-sharp,
pulsing the cooler blood
for the great executioner
who’s coming to free that last
warm breeze from my throat.
Will it carry words of love
or of defiance? Know this:
You’ll not have to bend close
to hear them.

Catching up with this free write in my November poem-a-day quest after two days of this life barely lived rolling boulders across the path of the roaring artist who never was.

The Harmony of Heartbeats

I wonder about the harmony
of the heartbeats that
no one will ever hear.
I wonder about the echo
silence makes in this room,
because it rings like this
every night.
Pillows muffle the goodnight
whispers, smothering them
before they can be born,
turning them into muffled breaths,
dying winds carrying nothing
but lonely thoughts upon these
feathers that never flew,
never soared in a dream where
I’m the happy one.
Maybe it’s because I squeezed
too tightly. But it’s only
my eyes I ever squeeze,
needlessly shutting them in
this room vacant of light
and the harmony of heartbeats.

Once again, it’s another stab at making it through a Poem-a-Day month with 30 poems written by December 1. Got one shot off yesterday. Here’s today’s 100-word free-write in anticipation of something a little brighter tomorrow. Guess that’s what makes this month’s goal worth the effort. I never know what’ll be on the page until it’s there.

It Feels Like Victory


There were just a few things
I wanted to say, but never
had the nerve.
The expected explosions and all.
Now, with my obsessions filling
the rearview mirror,
and stalled as I am
here at the top of the horizon,
I just have to ask.
How many times have you
experienced that slamming door?
How many times was it in front of
or behind you? Do you keep a score?
Not that this is a game
someone wins if one number
exceeds t’other.
It’s just that I’ve had
more in my face and with this last
it feels like

Here’s a free-write poem I dashed off in response to that same prompt from Angela Goff (see below) from which my mini-story That Face in the Dark was written. Turns out it’s one of my old 100-worders. No idea from where it came. Just glad it did.

That Face in the Dark


I saw that face on the news and knew what it was about before I even heard the story.

Seeing the Padre doing a perp walk made my heart jump, my guts twist, my face burn, my eyes tear. Someone’d dropped the dime and this time there was no one in a black suit with a pink beanie running cover for him.

Some kid had the guts to tell the cops about how the Padre had coaxed him upstairs, downstairs or to some dark motel room. Never mattered to the Padre; he was bulletproof. I guess not anymore. Heat got too much for the Bish to give him the no-look pass, flipping him to some new parish, some new boys.

Wish it’d been me, but I couldn’t even confess it. My sin. Couldn’t tell any of them. I’d always imagine that face in the dark on the other side.

My friend Jo-Anne Teal suggested I visit writer Angela Goff’s website to see if I would participate in her weekly VisDare flash fiction prompt. This was the last for 2015, so I said I would. Angela provided the photo above and the word Omitted as what I had to work with to produce a story of no more than 150 words. I chose a subject that has resonated in my work since Day One. I wonder how many guys have never said a word, never believed someone would believe them, thought it was their sin, their fault, their weakness as men. I can’t imagine the torment some have felt, but I try.