The trees stand naked
each small twig exposed.
The woods are open
for all to see, an x-ray
of its bones.
There are deer running,
jumping over logs; a sight one
never sees when the trees
January thaw clears the snow
leaving the ground open
with its dead wood and vines,
imperfections one might see
that clothing covers over.
There is beauty in its bareness
with all its scars, trees fallen by wind
or split with lightning bolts, hollowed
by the rot of time; homes
for small animals who burrow there.
Enjoy it for it doesn't last.
Winter brings a cover of snow again
and Spring brings the clothing back
covering up that beauty of yearly wear.
Today, I talked to a friend who battles voices
Who published a story about a three-headed dog.
Then I got on the train to go to Linden.
Heard college girls talk about living in
Haunted houses, where doors slammed
Shut and there were hand prints on the ceiling.
Waited at Linden for my friend to pick me up,
And a disgruntled man screamed at his wife
On the cell phone, "WHERE ARE YOU?"
So loud a shiver went down my spine.
Went to Highland Park for more madness,
And got back on the train at Linden at 12:30 A.M.
On the Purple Line to South Boulevard
A man said, "Well, now that you're all here,
I'll tell you about my vision.
I had a vision about two ghouls,
Who were by a river, by two trees.
In front of them, were a row of
Circular blades, chainsaws criss-crossing..."
But then, I had to get off the train.
What a crazy place is where I live!
If New York or L.A. is three times as crazy,
I'm ready for Wichita, Kansas, or Des Moines, Iowa.
Or somewhere! [Just kidding!]
But what would I write about? Cows?
March Madness Part Two; Sightings of the Storyteller
In a previous poem, March Madness
(Written in March, of course,)
I told the true story of a man on
The el train who was speaking out
Loud to the train, telling stories of
His visions of Armageddon and a
Bunch of ghouls with circular saws.
Well, today, Bastille day, I encountered
The man again on the train. He was
Telling the exact same story, word for word!
He even proclaimed that he could
Tell his story in Aramaic or Norwegian,
Although I'm not sure I believe
He's multilingual. A girl smiled
At me as if to silently laugh
At this man's bizarre tale that he
Insists on announcing to the whole train.
However, maybe I'm too insensitive.
Mental illness is a big problem in this town.
And maybe I'm not judging his story to be credible.
How do I know that before I die, I won't
Encounter the ghouls, too? Reality
Is too harsh without fearing the dark side, too.
I will remain in the light.
collects people and suitcases
gathers bravery of parting lips
the cargo of courage
returning for a funeral or
to save us from intimacy
smoke trails like an old dog
blind prayer fumes
the ashram of air
the engine a living mantra
breathes over and over
even tickets tire of waiting
board this train
in the distant near whistle
that can't remember where
ghosts sit beside you
iron on iron wheels jolt past
coal broken factories
trestles at dawn
remnants of moon
prism the stars
sun or snow
stops in every village
still as bone
not the express but the local
five hundred miles
don't look back
in your own bed
(First published in EDGZ)
Light from within
Lifeblood of mortals
Mankind's blessed wind
Strength for our dharma
Gifted from far
Enabling each moment
Lighting aura's bright star
Life's sacred vigor
Each day's needed fuel
Eventually burns out
Rebirth now will rule
I believe that always
there will be helping hands;
that it's possible to be a gentle man.
I believe mothers forever
will sacrifice; to save a child,
willingly pay any price.
I believe youth confidently
trust hope, want to press on
toward future happiness.
I believe life is a journey
along paths, across events, where past
leads to future through present sense.
I believe in God, in goodness, in me;
in the importance of the moment
and the reality of eternity.
(First published in Lutheran Digest,
also in The Shepherd)
Unlike a magician,
real magic I weave.
It's not a trick,
nothing up my sleeve.
no sleight of hand.
No vaudeville act,
or stunt preplanned.
No mumbo jumbo,
no hocus pocus.
No smoke and mirrors,
to make eyes lose focus.
no attempt to deceive.
No optical illusion,
or make believe.
Real magic exists,
it's not hard to find.
Just close your eyes,
and open your mind.
Her boundless energy's starting to wane,
wear and tear of life affecting her frame.
Though children are grown, it's just us two,
their worries still hers, it's a mother's view.
Days start early, more often end late.
Doing for others foremost, care of self will wait.
Facing a reality downside slopes can be greasier.
Often commenting, "In age, isn't life supposed to get easier?"
Redoubling my efforts to help, using words full of praise.
Hoping something I've said, deflated spirits might raise.
Selflessly telling me, there's more I must do,
"take better care of yourself; I couldn't live without you"
Dark beauties, you were born
of Adam's clay, Abraham's muscular soul,
free then, with shining ivory teeth,
flashing dark eyes, strong as a thousand tigers.
I've heard your ancient songs,
soft, languorous, coming from the mouth of the winds--
yet, complexion and color have changed
through the crumpled tunics of time.
Your stolen lives wear tattered threads
for the hundred evils heaped upon you;
banjos and cymbals will never drown out
the bamboo misery of weeping
under an indifferent white moon.
My heart leans towards you
like the first tulip in this new season of sun.
I could write a lovelorn letter to heaven,
but it takes one thousand years to become a saint---
O, forget the silent heavens
I would help you dig out the sharp points of hatred.
Come into my garden
let your roots and mine entwine
to feel the warm hands of summer:
I feel at home with your beauty amid the buds of lily blossoms,
baskets of coral flowers,
yet, I will be that madwoman beating thunderous, crashing Djembes,
wailing and hollering--------
all this crescendic noise in your names.
I am only a poet, writing poems that hide in piles of clouds,
still as I write I know,
your misery runs deeper than words.
Everyone is dead.
Slumped against steering wheels,
on the floors of kitchens and bedrooms,
face down in swimming pools.
Bodies litter the malls,
the halls of prestigious universities,
they're in hospitals and sports bars,
at desks in corporate offices.
In the center of the oval office
lies the body of our president,
maggots crawl out
from beneath her eyelids.
The rats beneath the streets
lift their heads and twitch their noses.
Vultures fly off trees
into waves of decay.
Remnants of humanity crumble,
are buried, eroded and grown over.
We are dust and fossils; we are history.
The planet is lush and productive.
Out in an unnamed ocean
a new breed of dolphin is born,
its flippers more like modified claws.
One day, it will use them to grasp the shoreline.
(From his chapbook Selected Poems 2004-2007)
...weep with those who weep.
The house that was
Ain't here no mo'—
Swept it down
To the ground flo'
After the storm
Ripped it apart.
The city that was
Ain't no mo'—
It's buried in water
Forty feet deep
In muddy ground
With my soul n' heart.
Ain't here no mo'—
All are floatin'
In bad water
And me and Mama
Feel the pain
Blowin' in hard
With salty rain
By this she-devil
All that was
Is buried now
Even our cow,
Even the cat,
Even the dog,
Even the back alley rat.
Not much matters now.
All them gone. Nothin' left.
It ain't no mo'.
It ain't no mo'.
Our life, our dreams,
Our loved ones gone—
Drowned in water
To the bare bone.
All gone, all done.
We less than po'.
We ain't no mo'.
(First published in The Greek Star)
I climbed into the Belly of A Great Oak Tree and cried "My Lord in Heaven what's gone wrong with me!?" A huge bolt of lightnin' split that tree in two and standin' there was God who knew just what to do. He said, "Son, you've been down a road many often travel and it's time you paused a while just to let yourself unravel. Take some time to smell the flowers, hear the birds, There Ain't No Fee!" Like a Judge with His gavel He done set me free! Then He pieced that Oak together, left me on my knees. Over yon' a flash of lightnin'...Thousand One, Two, Three. Did I hear a clap of thunder or another fallen tree?
Did I hear a clap of thunder or another fallen tree?
What is the distance in time
to conclude that you're
different from me?
And regardless of how you behave
will you always (because of a quirk)
be related to me?
How do you compensate
for the hours drained away
while you discover I'm gone?
Precisely what break
In the frame of my day
Told you I'm dead?
What maximum law applies
deeply enough to suggest
that you're really alive?
Where do we go
To clarify things and determine
Which of us lives and who's dead?
A little kid, confused and spoiled,
Trapped between life and what not.
In the beginning: loved, smart, happy.
Later: hated, dumb, bitter.
What will become of me?
I ask for all eternity: "Must I fear?"
I ask for all eternity: "Is the end drawing near?"
I came into this cruel world as a someone—
Will I leave as a no one?
A young man searching for reality—
Is this a dream or destiny?
If I am dreaming, please wake me.
If not, show me to my fate.
What is becoming of me?
I ask for all eternity: "Must I go on?"
I ask for all eternity: "Will I go on?"
I came into this cruel world as a winner—
Must I leave a loser?
An old man torn between Heaven and Hell.
No one to turn to, all is not well.
Am I mortal, depressed and down?
Am I immortal or the Devil's clown?
What has become of me?
I ask for all eternity: "Will I die?"
I ask for all eternity: "Why?"
I came into this cruel world as the good and innocent.
In the end,
Banished for all eternity as the guilty and malevolent.
(Originally titled All Eternity, this is the first
poem I ever wrote. Written in 1989, at age 14.)
Two thousand years ago
a boy walked among us
with so much light in His eyes
that every thing He looked upon
became more colorful.
Everyone He touched
felt suddenly more alive
joyous and lighthearted.
The very air
that surrounded this child
had a music within it
that could be heard by anyone
who listened for it.
The sound of His voice brought peace to your heart.
had a quiet way
of filling you with contentment
like cold water when you are thirsty.
When he left the room
to go out and play in the sunshine
in the dust
with all the other laughing children
for some unknown reason
a taint of sorrow
would fall within the shadows
that He left behind.
Everyone who ever met this boy
all the days of their lives.
And still today
everyone who reaches out for His Glory
is granted an audience on earth
as it is in Heaven.
May you meet Him today in the light of your heart.
So many Moons ago I was possessed by a young girl
Not a day goes by I don't think of this adopted Pearl,
We had so many things in common like Peas in a Pod
She carried no feelings for me only in a friendly nod,
Her long black Hair that matched her Glasses Frames
Encased her lovely brown Eyes reflecting my new aims,
Wearing a white Blouse that bowed in the back there
Adorning Blue Jeans which caught and held my stare,
As the High School years went by we became Pen Pals
And gave me all the strength I needed for all my Morals,
I would sure get excited when ever we would go to visit
Each other between so many miles was to me so exquisite,
Some times I would fantasize that we would get married
As I would keep her Picture close to me that I carried,
Now I wonder how she is doing and I hope she is fine
Because I'll always love her and I will send the Sun shine,
We had many moments of company that she did enjoy
I just wanted to make her happy as a young teenage boy,
She's married now and has her own family over the years
I can not see her any more which brings about my tears,
Victory inspired my Catholic Faith like no one ever before
She is always with me every day like a lovely lake shore,
We parted as friends with our arms around each other then
I will never see Victory unless we meet in another life again,
Perhaps some day if she's surfing through the e-mail pages
She may find this love poem I wrote for her in my senior ages,
Victory Lynn Stader
If I don't speak, you won't know
where I am from, or maybe no place.
Hidden away in proper garbs,
I may be from Ulan Bator or Varanashi.
When I take the short walk from
my office to the car, cloaked
in layers, scarved and capped
I may be from a frigid place,
not necessarily Midwest, USA.
When I roam the streets of Lhasa,
with cameras stowed away,
I am a Tibetan from a previous
incarnation hiding behind Buddha.
Don't get me wrong. There is a place
called my home with a street address,
but I prefer to live in no place,
maybe just inside a post office box.
Softly, sadly moonlight streams
On a dark, dark woods of dreams
To subtly show
A flickering glow
Like candles held by ghosts that come and go.
Near the woods a wrought-iron gate
And a graveyard meditate
On their parts in mankind's fate.
The night grows cold and numb,
The hours count their weary sum,
I wait and wait and still you never come.
How spring should try to break the rule
The day is warm, no it shall be cool
So each day sets to lift the sun
higher higher till it is done
till the returning cold handed night
drapes over the sun and takes the light
and return again in deep degree
cold and dark and so frost we'll see
in mornings there upon the lawn
in the shade where sun's not shown
white and felted with a frozen dew
not today will spring break through
Your young life was snuffed out by a neighborhood vandal
Loved ones left behind to prepare and handle
Because of some deranged mentality
As hip hoppers pour liquor out for the brothers who ain't here
They rarely toast to the good accomplishments of their living peers
Grandma's, sisters, aunts and mothers are left behind to steer
Babies in the right direction after a preacher reads
Final remarks and reflections
In the interim as a symbolic gesture loved ones
Leave makeshift memorials
Which serve as death tutorials
Black faces tattooed across trees
Neighborhoods tattered with ease...
Balloons and bottles are offered as symbols
As they line summer sidewalks
Passersby stop and gawk
Some folks sigh and some chalk
It up to a ne'er do well's number finally coming up
But no one really has the right to judge another man's cup
Because we all have a date with the grim reaper
So please don't judge just pray to the Keeper
When you see the makeshift memorials
Which serve as death tutorials
Lining the summer sidewalks...
Li Po, who was seldom seen sober in public, once mounted the pavilion
on the shore of Yellow River in Wuhan, China. As he was about to write
a poem on the wall for the occasion, he saw a poem written by Cui Hao, a
contemporary poet. He was so intimidated by the superb poem,
it's said, that he laid down his pen with a sigh.
I don't believe he laid down his pen
just to show his humility
there must be more
like, leaving space
for some ambitious future poets
to scribble on
Things look different
in August light
through forest green
canopies soon distilled
to red, orange and gold,
absent cricket trills
and rocking chair reveries
melting into late dark heat,
while rain pings
on leaky gutters
far from uncertain nights,
when winter's brittle silence
converges with the history
of our lives.
The yard seems cleaner
After the early morning shower.
I open my bedroom window
To greet the sweet fragrance
Of the lush lavender lilacs.
Oh-so-familiar the scent
Floats in through the screen.
The defiant yellow dandelions
Are sprinkled amongst the fairway-like
Green of the lawn in nice contrast.
The morning coffee seems more robust than normal
And I like it.
Lily of the Valley line each side of the driveway
As I walk a few steps and breathe deeply.
The white bell blossoms
Bob up and down
From the soft morning breeze
As if to offer a good morning greeting.
I nod back as if to acknowledge and agree.
The four blue robin's eggs
Have hatched into chatty chicks,
Eager for their mother to return with breakfast.
I return to my cup of coffee
And pause momentarily,
A warm smile adorns my face.
My spirit soars.
Spring has once again returned to Downers Grove,
And all is well.
I think I'll have a second cup of coffee.
I thought I was done.
The last metric in my blood
At rest. But then -
I went for a walk
And bought books of poems
Fairer than my own.
Night flirted with the trees
As I walked home in reverie
Reflecting on the Muse's sly descent.
Distance is a thin complexity –
Without writing, you keep in touch.
At my desk again,
Words like snow obeyed their destiny
Until I came upon the lost little syllable "us."
Such linguistic economy
Defied my prolificacy.
Neither Keats nor Yeats
Nor Dickinson could help.
But then I thought of you
And what you'd say
And wrote "Great Stuff."
So where are my feet going, Lord?
And what are my steps heading toward?
It's not enough to just believe:
I know I somehow have to weave
You in the pattern of my life,
This thingful journey always rife
With breakdowns, backtalk, sidetracks, more,
And vendors hawking at my door.
There's good and bad and yes and no
So deftly mixed the lines don't show.
It's not so hard to find Your way
Through white or black-- but oh, the gray!
Uncertainties mark east and west;
My wrong turn missed the right fork blessed
With footprints that have gone ahead
To mark a trail through swamping dread.
So guide me, Lord, my sense is blurred,
Distracted by each doubt incurred.
Please set me straight and let me see
Your dusty sandals leading me.
Immaculate by our Creator deemed,
I caught hold of
tail time wiggled!
made loud calls
so can be heard!
Searched and held
deep breath beneath
"return with light
wait not dearest"
With bits of moon
and dust of stars
holes and dents!
hay to the edges
and round with glee
pieces of mighty sky
showering on the patio
I raked galaxies
Piled in heaps
feelings of content.
Thoughts with joy
judging idiots few
of black and white
sounds and silence
mystic shades of
late evening bright
I called in for Tea
The poets unknown
Artists walked in
with 'Tea tray paintings'
joined uneasy knees
cracking, at the gates
mom land editors
found no entry!
Yes and wows
And nodding nays
Left pouting doors!
Brought back smiling Sun!
In this April Sunday
there is pure spirit
scenting all the air
like a sweet candle.
Spirit runs through me
like light through a prism
and splashes all my glands
with a rainbow of loving.
Spending spirit is a joy
and a joke, for no end
is there to it--
as well spend the sea.
When my brain tunes into
spirit's primordial hum,
there are no surroundings
but the starlit cosmos.
I sing into the center of being
whose bud bursts open
and flowers into a fragrant chant
for April eyes and ears.
Amen says all, sings all
that ever will be sung--
begins and sustains and ends
our euphonious zodiac.
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