OH, HELL

You say that I am an apostate,
hell bent, hell bound, soon to meet
the hell hound awaiting my arrival.

You have condemned me for thoughts
that deviate from your own, you
are the guardians of the Word, you say,

although whose words you guard is ever
harder and harder to discern, certainly
not those of He who died for saying them.

You say heaven is reserved to you
and those who merit being your apostles
and those who fail must be condemned.

Yet Cerberus understands well,
and you will be surprised when he
greets you at the hell gates of your heaven.

HAVOC

They took up shovels,
pickaxes, bare fingers
to pry up the seedlings,
the saplings just taking
root and the seeds
just planted still watered
by the sweat and tears
of those who lovingly
tilled the brittle soil.

They offered nothing
in return, barren ground
where only anger grew,
fertilized by fear, by
by greed, by blindness.

Will we sit by and watch
as promises wither under
an ever stronger, more
glaring sun, as hopes are
blown away by arid winds,
or will we again return
to the soil, start over,
our faith now perennial.

MAP STORE

The bride walks down the aisle
trailing a veil of tears
rolling in the dust
of too many centuries,
encrusting the virgin.

Albert Einstein
purchases a map of Taos.

Bookkeeper hunches
over ledger sheets
tallying night winds across
the frozen pond, log
wedged in the ice.

Douglas Macarthur
purchases a map of Hue.

Monitors blare news
from other worlds, flickering
across cups of half empty
coffee and cigarette butts
and muscatel dreams.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
purchase a map of Sarajevo.

First published in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. XXX, No. 1 & 2, 2006

HOLY ERROR

If you truly believe that God created
every creature individually, it is all
His intelligent design, then why the apple
in the Garden, and why both crocs
and alligators, wouldn’t one have
been sufficient, and why, just why
have mosquitoes at all, ever?

I won’t bother asking why God gave
us free will, since you say He will
punish us if we use it other than
as He directed, and you know the
directons better than anyone.

For that matter, why termites
and fire ants, alternative purposes
seem wholly lacking, and above all,
and beyond all logic and even
beyond omniscience, what in the name
of God was He thinking when
He created the politician?

DROWNING

Stop and breathe, deeply,
don’t look at the smog,
at the particles hanging
in your air like a curtain.

Don’t pause to consider
what you are inhaling, don’t
picture your alveoli clogged
with what you can now see.

You are drowning slowly in
a sea of air, so imagine yourself
a fish struggling in the water
of a sea you have laid waste to.

ON ARRIVING

They arrive after a long flight
from tyranny, from oppression
from the nightmare of endless
fear, from hunger, from faith
denied, from the bottomless
depths of poverty, scarred
memories etched in their souls,
hoping for an ending as much
as wishing for a new beginning.
They have been here, a new
generation, raised on the stories,
versed in the painful history,
still residual anger born
of love for those who fled,
without the pain of experience,
who can forget when it is
others who now wish only
to arrive to the freedom they
have known since childhood

First appeared in Circumference, Issue 5, June 2022
https://poetryatpi.wordpress.com/

CROWING

Imagine, for just a moment,
you have become a crow.
You know that you will be
detested by most eventually,
your voice despised by all
who are forced to hear it.
And while you can fly, you
know you won’t be more
welcome regardless of where
you choose to land.

If you cannot imagine this,
then imagine you have
become a politician,
for that will, for you, prove
to be much the same
as crowhood, the biggest
difference being your new
need to grovel before all,
because the loss of that job
would be an unbearable state.

R.I.P.

We are planning the funeral
for Roe today, eulogies
fully ready, for we are certain
the death was slow and painful
and now all we can do is mourn.

Some we know will not attend,
Brown out of fear, knowing
the eventual consequences
of this loss, Miranda because
he is already marked, hounded
by those in power, an easy mark.

Sullivan may be there, happy
that he can go after them again
if they even speak his name
innocently or by mistake.

It will be a sad moment, one
we have dreaded of late, one
we thought would never come
and we will mourn our dear friend
Stare Decisis*, stabbed in the back
by those who vowed to defend him.

N.B. As you may know or have guessed, I am a happily retired attorney, who was taught that stare decisis should be sacrosanct. Brown is the landmark school segregation case, Miranda the much eroded protection for those under police custody, and Sullivan the case on defamation establishing a higher standard that plaintiffs must meet if they are public figures. It remains a hallmark of First Amendment law regarding freedom of the press.

Stare decisis is the doctrine that courts will adhere to precedent in making their decisions. Stare decisis means “to stand by things decided” in Latin.  

LAMBERT FIELD

The gravestones, in random shapes line the hill
the morning chill
creeps between them and onto the runway
until washed away
by the spring sun slowly pushing upward
as the jet noise washes the hill unheard

He passed away quietly in his bed
ending his dread
of the cancer slowly engulfing him
his vision dimmed
by the morphine that pulsed through his veins.
He paused to remember the first spring rains.

She selected the plot on the hillside
she would confide
to friends, so that he might see the valley
at long last free,
to see the flowers bloom in early spring,
the land that was his home and he its king.

One summer the caskets were carried out
while the devout
cursed the sacrilege of the master plan
of the madman
who decided that the airport must sit
on the hill, his valley forever split.

The jets rush over the cemetery
February
snows blown across the gravestones in their wake
as one snowflake
melts slowly on the ground, a falling tear
which, unheard, marks another passing year.

First Appeared in Candelabrum Poetry Magazine (UK), April 2002.

THE RITE

It is coming, a little
over a week now and it
will arrive, always too soon,
never ready despite knowing
its precise arrival day and time.

We will be ready, but
only after a scramble, for that
is how it must be, how
it has always been.

And again this year we
will be thankful, as all claim
on this day, but why do so many
forget the giving part of things,
giving to those without,
to those within who lack,
to those who only want
to come within to escape
a without we dare not imagine
for the nightmares and terror
we would suddenly have to feel.