Free Verse

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Op-eds and Obituaries

​He chased an apparition
around The Circus Maximus
of his mind.  It was a shapeshifter,
a lost love, a Rolls-Royce,
it was whatever he believed
happiness might have been
at the moment.

He chased it for decades,
for a lifetime, for all he was worth,
until he finally ran it down
and tackled the damned thing.

It turned out to be nothing more
than a threadbare flannel shirt
and faded blue jeans stuffed
with yellowed newspaper,
all op-eds and obituaries.

“Well, I don’t think that’s fair at all,” he said,
and then he died. *

*This poem first appeared in Scarlet Leaf Review, October 2017.

Haiku Inspired by an Old Photo

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I took this picture on a disposable Kodak way back when I didn’t have a cell phone.  The photo was hidden away in an old shoe box until I rediscovered it while searching for something else that’s totally unrelated.  After reflecting for awhile, I thought of this poem.

 

beneath rustling grass

memories of wind and sky

spark in hollow skulls

Yankee Devil

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Easter is around the corner, and I’m going to disappoint some people again this year by electing not to attend church on Sunday.  With the exception of some weddings and funerals, I haven’t been to church since 1998.  I got my reasons.  Mostly, it’s because of the politics that somehow got mixed up in it.

I still believe there is a spiritual component to our reality – a force that compels life into existence.  I believe we should all have reverence for that life.  I believe in things like humility, compassion, and charity.  My values are very  much in line with those of the Judeo-Christian traditions.

Some people tell me I’m going to Hell because I don’t worship God in a formal, ritualized sense.  Obviously, I don’t see it that way.  If I did, I’d be picking up my good suit from the dry cleaner right now.  Though I don’t formally worship, I do observe and acknowledge God’s work quite often.

The more I look to Science for answers, the more I realize it’s God who made the things our Science tries to understand.  Consider this: The Moon is 400 times smaller than the Sun, but the Sun is 400 times further away from the Earth than the Earth is from the Moon.  This is why we get to experience the “perfect’’ solar eclipse.  If the numbers were only slightly different, the Moon would obscure only some portion of the Sun, or it would simply turn the sky black by blocking 100% of the light.  As it turns out, the Moon precisely blots out the body of the Sun during a total eclipse, and we are then able to observe the coronal halo that surrounds our mother star.  Some people try to chalk that up as a coincidence.  I see it for what it is.  It’s a gift from our Creator.

And that’s just one of many mind boggling scenarios you’ll come across if you research cosmology for any length of time.  It’s no wonder the likes of Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein became more spiritually attuned as the result of their scientific work.

I better reel this post in a little bit so I can get back on course, which of course, is to explore some aspect of the creative writing process.  So, here’s a poem I wrote about the last time I attended a regular church service.  It was published in Scarlet Leaf Review Online, October 2017.  Comments, questions, and criticisms are always welcome.

Keep writing, keep revising, and be kind.

-Hawk

 

The Yankee Devil Goes to Church

I’m in the deep South during the dog days,
and the Sun has not been up long, but the heat

is already like a weight pressing last night’s whiskey
out of my pores.

I step into the shadow cast by the cross on top of the steeple,
a swath of darkness cut into the searing light.

I’m an outsider here, resented for something Sherman did
more than a hundred years before I was born.

Old politics, old money, old hate, and I wonder why
I ever came to this place.

Then I see her – tall and tan, wearing a summer dress
that whispers of the sensuality beneath.

She takes my hand and leads me to the cruel oak pews,
to the brittle pages filled with beautiful words

I want to believe, but never could,
and never will.

 

 

 

 

Mixing Politics and Poetry

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Today’s post features a kind of cautionary poem that draws much of its substance from a particular episode in Roman History.  The subject matter deals with the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 A.D, but the lessons therein provide some commentary about the state of global politics today.

Leading up to the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, excessive taxation and brutal disciplinary measures mandated by Roman authorities in the Germanic territories spurred barbarian tribes to revolt.  The uprising resulted in the massacre of three entire Roman legions – a staggering blow to what was then the most powerful army on Earth.

It’s hard not to see the parallels between ancient Rome and the global superpowers of today.  I guess I wrote this poem as a reaction to the incendiary rhetoric and cavalier attitudes that pervade much of our modern foreign policy. The stakes are much higher in the 21st century.  I didn’t crunch the numbers, but I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more destructive power in one nuclear submarine than there was in all the Roman legions and all the barbarian hordes combined.  This poem is really a plea for rational thought in an increasingly irrational world.  Anyway, here it is.

Questions, comments, and criticisms are always welcome.  And as always, keep writing, keep revising, and be kind.

-Hawk

 

When Varus Lost Three Legions, 9 A.D.

Far from the precise geometry

and carefully measured

customs of Rome,

Publius Quinctilius Varus

led his three legions

into the tangled

Teutoburg Forest.

 

Marching columns, four abreast,

struggled over the terrain,

stretching into one thin line –

a many miles long serpent

crawling half-blind

toward its own

oblivion.

 

The barbarian hordes

came out of the hills,

out of the trees,

out of the darkness itself.

Axes and hammers,

animal screams,

thoughts of home leaking

from cleaved and

bludgeoned men

into the gurgling mud.

 

We have come so far

since that late summer in 9 A.D.

Now, a few blunders

in diplomacy will

scorch continents

and boil oceans.

We can stir enough

dust with our madness

to blot out the Sun.

Those ancient Emperors

would be so damned

jealous.