Saturday, November 8, 2014

Releasing the Ghosts, 2014

My latest book, now available at

Hard copy ca. $3.00 + S&H
Ebook FREE

*All poems/prose on this website are copyrighted to Kerry Brennan.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Welcome, and a Guide to the Site

Hi, nice to see you here :)

As you will see, I am mainly a "narrative poet" -- a storyteller -- not surprising as my favourite poet of all time is Homer, author of the Iliad and Odyssey, the two epic narratives that stand at the head of Western Literature. Nor is it at all odd that I composed an epic poem about cats, called The Feliniad.

So be prepared to read quite a few "story poems" below ;)

[Prose Too: I am including odd bits of prose here, in the folder that contains my Children's Poems.]

*Helpful Hint/Guide to the Site:

In the "January 2013 Posts," you will find all of my poems arranged chronologically and in collections. 
So "click on" January 2013 in order to see the entire collection of poems. 

Thank you for visiting!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Books: Chronology and Comments

As four early books were later revised for publication at, this post is intended to help readers navigate through the chronological folders presented at this site.

1) I first published Inspired by Sappho back in 2003 (a very limited edition); these 50 poems are currently part of Across the Void, published at in 2009. At this site the Sappho collection has its own folder.

2) My second limited edition book had the inspirational title of One Hundred Poems (2004). This volume, in a revised edition under the same name, can now be found at (published there in 2009); all the poems from this book should be in the 2004 folder.

3) In 2005, I published another limited edition called Against the Grain. This volume had two parts: the first presented 1-50 of my Evening with Emily (Dickinson) poems (on which see below), while the second part held another 50 poems. When I decided to reissue this volume at, in 2009, without the Emily Dickinson-inspired poems, I put together my own poems from part two of the 2005 volume plus 50 poems from Hearts of Crystal (see below). These poems were composed between 2004-2006.

4) In 2006 I published yet another limited edition of new poems: Hearts of Crystal. This book had three sections: section 1 held 33 new poems; section 2 contained the final 50 poems of the Evening with Emily project; and section 3 offered 30 poems by Megan Schmidt. There was never a version of this book. 

5) My next limited edition book was Forever Reaching Out, 2007. It held 75 of my poems and 25 by L. Fenger. In 2010, Forever Reaching Out was revised for, and contained the same 75 poems of the earlier release, revised, plus 20 poems for children (my Children's Poems have their own folder here). The poems of this volume are mainly to be found in the 2007-2008 folder, although about a dozen poems were written earlier, and can be found in the 2005-2006 folder just to make things more entertaining. :)

6) In 2008 I moved my poems to for general distribution.  The first so published was A Thousand Suns (2008), and contained 80 new poems from the period between 2006-2008.

7) In 2009 I revised all the Evening with Emily poems and put all 100 of them into a book called Evenings with Emily. This volume is not available at, but all the Emily poems do have their own folder here.

8) For 2009, I also published at a volume of poems entitled Across the Void; this book had all 50 of the Inspired By Sappho poems (revised), plus 50 new poems. Almost all the new poems in this book date to 2009-2010.

9) I spent 2010 revising Forever Reaching Out, drinking decaf cappuccinos, and going to Antarctica to play among the penguins. I figured I needed some rest after 2009, but I also wrote a lot of poems.

10) By 2011, I was revived enough to publish, via, my next book, Shades of Indigo. Poems in that volume date mainly from 2010 to 2011, but also include a few from 2009. This book also presented The Antarctic Collection (with its own folder here), a ongoing work-in-progress. My trip to Antarctica in 2010 had a tremendous impact on me, and continues to inform my poetry.

11) The year 2012 saw me publish On Being Pluto, a collection of 77 poems that date to the 2010-2012 period. I wish that Pluto was still a planet, the solar system can be so cruel.

12) In 2013 I sent forth Under Northern Stars and contemplated retiring as a poet. And thinking I really had been Emily Dickinson in a prior life.

13) In late 2014 I published my latest work, entitled Releasing the Ghosts. I'm now taking a break to see if I change my mind about retirement, or about ghosts. 

To locate my books at, just search for "Kerry Brennan." Almost all are available for downloading, FREE. And the "hard copies" are priced by lulu -- I make no profit from these books (just in case the income tax folks are reading this).

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Poems: 2015 -

Hidden Scars

Some poems come forth in public mode,
unafraid to meet the reader’s eyes,
newborns eager to embrace the light,
to find acceptance on a page,
but others come from darkness deep,
in private do they choose to dwell,
no spying eyes will read their pain
nor be made uneasy by their rage.

The scars of childhood have not healed,
but lay hidden under passing years,
till in sudden resurrection
they seize my soul and rise again;
no force of will can keep them mute
and so I choose to wall them in,
to prevent their wild emergence
from tarnishing my poet’s pen.

I place the chosen poems before you
in hope that they will touch your heart,
these offspring of a gentler Muse
may meet your gaze unflinchingly,
and if perchance you take this gift,
see some merit in my public words,
those hidden scars may cease to scream,
silenced by your grace convincingly.

July 2015

Last winter was abysmal,
now summer is just dismal,
the clouds refuse to leave,
no sun do we perceive,
the skies have turned to gray,
the rains have come to stay,
the fields are saturated,
the farmers are frustrated,
instead of merry summer,
July turned out a bummer,
my sunscreen lies unused,
my patience is abused,
August may be better,
says the voice of weather,
but forecasts can be wrong,
and have been all along,
the hot days they predicted,
Nature contradicted,
I trust them not at all—
in grief this poem I scrawl.

In the Name of God, 1: Rivers of Blood

Rivers of blood,
bodies broken,
students and teachers,
so many condemned
by two words spoken;
families bury
sons and daughters,
dreams aborted,
the future fades
with sudden slaughter.

Forces of hatred
loose in the land,
their mindless evil
pollutes the ground
on which they stand;
no cause requires
innocents die,
barbarians roam,
and every excuse
is just a lie.

Cowards and bullies,
emboldened by guns,
despite their delusions
are not the anointed,
not chosen ones,
for no merciful God
accepts their claim,
or grants them permission
to do what they do
in His holy name.

In the Name of God, 2: Children of War


Flowers open to the sun,
to bloom for but one day,
showing off their colours
in a glorious array.

They enter our homes
on sixty-inch screens,
gone are their parents,
and lost are their dreams,
bombs fall among them
with ruin in their wake,
no place to seek shelter
when every house quakes;

no food for their bodies,
no balm for their wounds,
by wars of religion
their lives are all doomed;
but what God has decreed
that rivers run red,
that children lay slaughtered
and not safe in bed—

all blessings destroyed
by prophets aflame,
the world torn apart
in an unending game,
while we, far away,
lay eyes on our screens,
then change the channel
to escape from their screams.


Flowers close as dusk takes hold,
nevermore to see the light,
their time on earth expended—
but, Lord, how they shined so bright.

New Year’s Morning

Frost crystals
sparkling in sunshine,
soon to disappear,
dark clouds advancing.

Walking together,
feet crush snow,
no words spoken —
a quiet adoration.

Love in winter
fears no silence,
exists omniscient,
transfigured by time.

I the pilgrim,
you the priest,
anointed and exalted
at love’s altar.

No earthly fear,
no desecration—
this sacred power
defeats all tempests.


Residential Schools Trilogy

1. Before

Great Spirits smiled, and guided them
through hunting grounds of teeming game,
where bison drank at rivers free
until the ice of winter came;
at night the Elders told their tales
as lambent fires pierced the dark,
to teach the children of the tribe
the meaning of each track and mark.
Each dawn those children rose from sleep
to roam the forests or the plains,
to hunt and gather from the earth,
to feed the blood within their veins;
nomads of the northern clime,
clans the Great Creator blessed,
the first to cross a continent,
all free to wander, then to rest.
Even winter in its violence
could never make their spirits fall —
these children of abundant lands,
until the white men took it all.

2. Then

Round up all the children,
God commands us to remove them,
take them south and far away,
from their parents’ savage sway,
make them live in unknown lands
subject to remorseless hands,
extract them from their nations,
they require education.

Take them while they’re very young
so they forget their native tongue,
starve them into righteousness
in your quest to see them blessed;
don’t hesitate to use them,
take the girls, abuse them,
satisfy your private needs —
penetrate until it bleeds.

Let the boys learn to obey,
they must live the Christian way,
lash them hard if they refuse,
save them with enlightened views;
and if some die, then so it be,
punished for their savagery,
no need to mourn their passing —
Christ’s blessing you’re amassing.

We do the work decreed by God
as we strike them with the rod —
and who will know or disagree
when we lead them to divinity?
In Jesus’ name we claim them,
in Jesus’ name we maim them,
blessed be our sacred mission
to make of them an exhibition.

3. Now

You see them on the streets,
ghosts of the past,
voices muted,
eyes like hollow glass,
and you walk away so fast.

Apologies were given
with dollar bills that cannot heal
their homelessness,
their hopelessness,
the sense of loss they feel.

Violated and abused,
unable to forget,
hearing still incessant screams,
haunted by recurrent dreams
as if in concrete set.

Nomads of the urban streets,
no return to ancestral lands,
the feathers and the fur
become a distant blur,
now alien to their hands.

The schools have all been closed,
confessions have been made,
but nothing can outweigh
the wounds we seen reflected

Solitary Soul

A solitary soul
within the human herd,
with voices all around
she hardly said a word,
preferred the quiet brook
at play within the woods,
the sounds of all the birds
she fully understood,
the stars she gazed upon
forever brought her peace,
and swiftly moving clouds
would make all sorrows cease.

Judged aloof by others
of extroverted guise,
she learned to bear the pain
of disapproving eyes;
yet those who knew her well
saw love within her heart,
strong enough to fashion ties
no storm could blow apart,
able to withstand the years
passing by at rapid pace—
for a solitary soul
brings its own abiding grace.

The Child Within

Like a mirrored lake in summer,
soothing to our human eyes,
yet capable of turbulence
when deprived of its disguise,
her stillness is deceptive,
a cloak to put on every day,
to hide what she keeps secret,
and keep the memories away.

Should she appear ethereal,
her heart unscarred by misery,
look deep below her velvet cloak
to find the child she used to be—
ever fearful of the storms
bound to rage both day and night,
cowering behind closed doors,
seeking safety out of sight.

The angry words, the sudden blows,
the sound of smashing glass,
knowing even worse to come
before the storm would finally pass;
time heals all wounds, some like to say,
but she has learned to disagree—
beneath the tranquil face she shows
a frightened child will ever grieve. 

The Feeling S.A.D. Blues

I woke up this morning
snug in my bed,
bright dreams of sunshine
still in my head,

looked out the window
and was not amused,
fell back down into
the seasonal affective blues.

But I’m not leaving
on that midday plane to Cancun,
so I’ll just stay in my world,
but get out of this room;

I’ll dig out the driveway,
rev up the fire,
wear three warm layers
from Canadian Tire,

I’ll get me a book
set down in the South,
pretend I’m in Georgia,
with grits in my mouth,

then write down a poem
to bewail winter’s hold—
but I just dropped the pen,
Lord, my fingers are cold!

The Lost Years

She remembers the accident
as if she were an onlooker
watching it happen, detached:
a young girl balancing on a chair,
a summer day, on a porch,
legs straddled over the chair
tipped backwards, waving
to her grandmother on the street;
then the fall -- the chair sliding,
a head slamming into a wall,
and she awakes, recalling nothing.
as if her past had never existed,
her mind erased like a slate board
when the lesson has ended.

Now, seated in a crowded hall,
she hears laughter bursting out
as other women tell tales
of their childhood adventures,
while she sits in silence,
desperately trying to capture
chaotic images that come and go,
but create no narrative;
cruel irony, to know the teenaged years,
with their endless bullying and violence,
but forget the kinder years before,
as if her grandmother's recollections
were tales from an unknown book
she would never get to read. 

The Verdict 

The verdict comes in
and shatters my heart --
the poems I released
are judged of no art,
they lack today's Muse
and belong to a time
when sonnets were governed
by metre and rhyme,
when poets sang stories
in the dark of the night,
tales to illumine
mankind's destined plight --
irrelevant now,
these children I bear,
the modern Muse dictates
less narrative fare.
Condemned for reflecting
a style antiquated,
my pen moves more slowly,
its throne abdicated,
poems yet to be born
in the face of such violence
will live in small cells,
be sentenced to silence. 

The Winter Voyage

Hold my hand, beloved,
the keeper of my light,
lead me to a haven
immune to grief and fright,
where lovers are at peace
despite the raging winds,
where worries fade away
as a newborn year begins.
The darkness of December
has set my soul adrift,
but with your gentle touch
my sorrows start to lift —
I feel the waxing sun
upon my sea-scarred face,
our voyage to resume,
an act of godly grace.
So hold my hand, beloved,
our course is not yet done,
time enough to ride the waves,
two hearts entwined as one.

Time’s Arrow

A new year begins
just as it began:
in the dark of night,
under a curtained moon,
Time’s arrow sets its seal
on a year of yesterdays,
hours never to be altered,
now the stuff of history.

In this transient moment
I induce the future:
whatever I do now,
whatever I say now,
will create the stage
I must walk upon,
will determine the role
I will have to play.

Imagine Oedipus at Delphi—
desperate to escape his fate
but posing the wrong question,
ensuring his destruction;
I too stand at crossroads,
knowing where I wish to go
but uncertain of the path,
hesitant to take a step.

Time’s arrow speeds on,
even my hesitation matters,
each passing moment
generating a destiny,
perhaps within the hour,
on in the day to come—
whenever my Time ends,
and I become history.

Valentine’s Day (2015)

On Valentine’s Day
they would make their stand,
with hate in their hearts
and guns in their hands,
go shoot up the mall,
show no one pity,
make their names known
throughout the city;
they would rather be dead
and known everywhere
than living in shadows
where nobody cared,
where losers like them—
crazed malcontents—
could never be part
of historic events.
But someone found out
and called in the cops,
who quickly deployed
to make violence stop;
no one was murdered,
no one was maimed,
thanks to one person
no one ever named.
The city stands tall,
bloodshed at bay,
no terror transpired
on Valentine’s Day.

Vampire Love 

You make me bleed,
then drink my blood,
this selfish need
is not called love;
love's a prize
that must be shared,
your love's a guise
that brings despair.

You feed off me
as though a leech,
the depths of me
you cannot reach;
this toxic lust
I cast away,
no more to trust
your vampire sway.

Now I demand
a love sublime,
and take my stand
against your kind;
you never will know
the union of two,
wherever you go,
it's all about you.


Please sing the story of my life
as if it were an odyssey,
an adventure with two heroes
fate decreed would come to me;
the first a woman aged by strife
but oracular her mind,
a Pythia incarnate
knowing that I wandered blind,
afraid that I would find no way
to banish all the ghosts within,
like Scylla and Charybdis
yearning wildly for my skin;
but too soon was she taken,
and from her path did I stray,
forever changing directions,
once again to lose my way.
A second hero then appeared,
engaged in his own odyssey,
leaving prairie lands behind
in search of his true destiny,
to mute the western Siren song
by landing on an eastern shore,
to find a pleasing anchorage
so he would have to roam no more;
I was to him Penelope,
waiting for a loving heart,
beset by men of treachery—
with skill he made them all depart,
and so we joined our errant lives
in mutual devotion,
to stand as one before all foes
and cease our endless motion.
So now my book of life will close
with his most steadfast tending,
my soul released from suffering,
salvaged by a happy ending.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Poems: 2013 - 2014

1. A Chance of Showers (A Maritime Canadian Ode, of Sorts)

Forecasts always seem the same
when summer finally arrives:
there may be sun, there may be rain,
but definitely cloudy skies,
for clouds are cousins of the sea,
and summer visits are the norm,
like a family reunion
with cousins taking many forms—
perhaps cumulus or stratus,
or thunderheads that love to crash,
we gladly entertain them all
in the long awaited summer bash.
“Cloudy with a chance of showers,”
that mantra of the nightly news,
assures us that the sky is fine,
unfolding in its many hues;
so we lift a glass to summer,
bask in sun or soak in showers,
aware that clouds are overhead
each summer day, and at all hours.

2. A Letter from Saskatchewan

Words and questions flowing

from a deeply thoughtful pen,
from a mind inspired to reflect
upon the poems I yearly send;

she knows these are my children,
each one born in labour hard,
and says that they are cherished,
that I am worthy as a bard.

She seeks my inspiration,
from what font my songs come forth,
in hope the river of my soul
might reveal its mystic source;

but as I read again her note,
each line crafted lovingly,
I see her own Muse come to life:
this message is her poem for me;

how I treasure every phrase,
how mindfully each word is said --
this letter so more beautiful
than any I have ever read.

3. After the Applause

The stage lies empty, the curtain stored,
no more treading these well worn boards,
the actors stand in abject sorrow,
no audience to please tomorrow;
they bid farewell to the joy they knew,
the pleasure felt as each night flew
in reciting lines of bygone authors—
now the accolades belong to others.

For the world is tired of the plays of old

as the souls of men turn hard and cold,
and see no point in verse that rhymes,
or in watching primal truths unfold;
with the past irrelevant to modern tastes,
no need for Shakespeare or for Yeats,
in the age of easy delectation
what lofty treasures are laid waste.

Those who are actors, now obsolete,

shuffle away with hesitant feet,
to go to where old actors come to hide
with antique writers by their side;
in a world so tired of the plays of old,
with the souls of men grown hard and cold,
the actors keep the truths long tendered,
even when applause has ended.

4. Anchored

I walk amid the ships at berth,
the tall ships resting from the sea,
the warships back from foreign ports,
and wish that one might carry me—
a final journey through the waves,
released from trials of the land,
to feel salt spray upon my face
and let the ocean kiss my hand,
as if a suitor came to call,
enticing me to take the helm,
how eagerly I could accept
to end my life in ocean’s realm.
But one earthly anchor holds me
too fast upon the rooted ground:
with gentle hand it holds me tight,
its face a whisper without sound;
to sail away into the depths
and bid farewell this landward sphere—
impossible that I deny
the love that keeps me anchored here.

5. August Dream*

I sat alone beside her tombstone,
keeping watch in hope she might arise,
as if the body recently interred below
was able to appear before my eyes.

All around the graveyard, 
dressed in black the mourners stood,
shedding the tears left when life has gone,
but still I sat beside her tombstone
praying she would come to me by dawn —
a vigil kept, a promise had been made,
whispered as that final breath came slowly,
a power stronger than the fabled might of death
pulling off the veil that she might know me.

Stars aflame in heaven 
came to share their light till morning,
beacons the darkness to defy,
and then her form, a loving ghost,
approached to comfort me,
to tell me death is a lie:

flesh is ashes,
souls will survive,
no earthly grave exists
for spirits once alive —
immortality the greatest gift of all,
and her presence in my life —
no power able to forestall.

When I awoke I had been dreaming,
and yet her message did remain —
despite the sorrow of a death that came too soon
the wound in my heart lost its pain.

* My grandmother was born in August and died (too soon, from cancer) in August; this dream did occur.

6. Blown Away: for Moore, Oklahoma (May 2013)

Sirens on shattered streets,
dust and debris,
remnants of lives forever changed
in forty minutes of Hell;
cries of sorrow,
cries of rage,
those in mourning
find no solace
for the children lost,
the most innocent victims.

They look to God in anguish,
ask for a reason
where there is none,
nature irrational,
beyond our understanding,
and so they search the wreckage,
hoping to find survivors,
looking for miracles—
no more can be done
when all is blown away.

7. Boston: 2013

Bombs in bags
left to kill,
shrapnel flies,
time stands still;
blood runs fast,
some will die,
others, maimed,
ask God why—
all so random,
all so cruel,
madmen roam,
by hatred fuelled.

A scene replayed
so many places,
settings change,
as do the faces,
but blood is blood
wherever shed,
we bury and grieve
the innocent dead,
fallen like flowers,
battered and torn,
never to rise up,
never reborn.

8. Boxcars from Hell

Freight trains arrived
with boxcars filled,
those locked within
left everything behind,
a final departure never willed,
convicted of sin,
death warrants signed,
the end of their kind.
To commit no crime
except to be,
innocents sentenced to Hell,
shipped in boxcars
like worthless scree;
judged dregs of mankind,
by the millions they fell—
with God’s eye averted,
bereft and deserted,
they entered their cells.
A flame was growing
throughout the land,
destined to burn
deep scars on the earth,
the embers glowing
as brutal hands
for vengeance yearned:
it came in gases,
fire and ashes,
dogs and gunshots,
soon they lived no more;
lost and forgotten,
deemed misbegotten,
the furnaces roared.

9. Broken

She dreamt the forest called her,
that cathedral of her soul,
whose priest gave absolution
to relieve her sorrows’ toll;
she saw the ancient altar
created by the fallen pine,
she bowed her head in worship
to invoke a force divine.
Then came the crack of lightning
that split apart the tallest tree,
as thunder rolled within her heart—
what she sought was not to be;
in panic she rose up from bed,
the woodland god had spoken,
and like the tall but fallen pine,
no mending for a heart still broken.

10. Butterfly Soul: In Memoriam: M.R. 

I watched her die,
cocooned in tubes,
seemingly unaware,
a remnant of herself --
how strong she had been,
a refugee in flight,
leaving all behind
to arrive in a new world,
a journey that created me,
the restless wanderer
born of her blood,
nurtured by her love.
The cancer came quickly,
but brought long suffering,
weeks in a hospital bed
as her life force ebbed;
I prayed for a merciful end
but they tortured her,
"heroic measures"
to lengthen her agony.
The last night,
hours before she escaped,
we were together,
alone in her room,
and she bid me farewell
by clutching my hand,
a gentle pressure
that proved her aware,
telling me it was her time
to soar released from
cruel bonds of the earth,
to set free her butterfly soul.

11. Children of Medea 

Come, my lovely children, 
born of sad imagination,
fledglings never to fly,
destined to early oblivion;
in anger, you torment me,
the oracle of your demise,
though I forbid your freedom
to spare you human pain.
How can I explain to you
the darkness of existence,
you who have yet to see
the brightness of the sun?
Dare I tell you of the sage
who proclaimed never being born
was best of all for humankind,
true gift from the gods,
and that life can only promise
lonely, treacherous crossroads?
Come, my lovely children,
I offer you the greatest peace,
protection from the wrath
that waits outside the womb.

12. Cleo

“Planting tender shoots
along a rushing stream,
everybody has a dream” ~ ESaliers

Cleo, the tender shoot

imagined in a song,
the bright child of spring
born in dark December,
the dream made reality
by the power of love,
by the willingness to suffer
that new life begin.

Blessed be this miracle,

let her life be a beacon
for those living in shadows
created by hatred,
let this child bear witness
that love conquers hate,
that the rushing stream of life
excludes no human being.

13. Connected

Streets alive with a confluence of people
streaming like tributaries to one great river —
a city, flowing with energy and promise, 
a place of dreams and excitement,
but, head cast down to their hands,
oblivious to everything around them,
modern zombies walk into traffic,
where even the honking of horns
cannot penetrate the cacophony
brought by speakers in their ears;
eyes mesmerized by glowing screens,
awaiting the latest messages,
voices that speak aloud into the air
to some invisible companion
while life turns and twists around them,
an unacknowledged presence.
Day and night converge,
gathered into a cybersphere
released from ties of time and place —
a virtual reality superseding
the ebb and flow of daily existence —
where words are replaced by symbols
and love becomes an emoticon;
in this endless and untethered world,
no one is ever alone, but part of a web
spun by distant electron spiders,
every step to be documented,
every thought read and recorded —
minions enslaved to unseen masters,
each connected in abject isolation. 

14. Elegy for Summer

Summer yields to northern winds,
the cold kiss of autumn
chilling the land,
stripping each stand
of trees within the forest.

Majestic maples watch as leaves

transform from green to red,
then fall to the ground,
by gravity bound
to carpet the earth below.

Tuneful birds flee to the south

to sing on warmer shores,
silence in their place,
a bleak and lonely space
where once their voices soared.

Land-bound children of the woods

retreat to dens and burrows,
life is suspended,
summer light ended
as darkness spreads its cowl.

I am left to sing an elegy

for a season rescinded too soon,
the northern gusts
bring no joy to us
as summer dreams die young.

15. Faces of Hatred

A cult of hatred
has reared its head,
ignorance rules,
compassion is dead;
fear the Unknown,
refuse them admission,
shout down their rights,
fueled by suspicion;
how soon you forget
when you were excluded,
now you shut doors
with judgment deluded.

Pretend they rejoice
in a world all their own,
nothing more needed,
just leave them alone,
then claim oppression
upon your own kind,
though you are oppressors
with venomous minds;
the time will soon come
when they will be free
and equal to others—
as you claim to be. 

16. Farewell Song 

The blue rose in winter
has now said goodbye,
so brilliant her beauty
as she gazed at the sky;
I never could be
the sister she wanted,
too many the ghosts,
too much am I haunted.

Fears overwhelmed me
as she entered my heart,
her great expectations
were doomed from the start;
yet everything ends,
and I have no regrets:
to be touched by a rose --
one never forgets. 

17. For R.W.: In Gratitude

A clown besieged by demons
brought us laughter,
brought us tears,
behind the manic mask,
a man assailed by fears;
torment hid in private
as a clown decrees,
as a clown requires,
that he might play his role
until his spirit tires,
then, in one final act,
without a mask,
without a script,
his spirit flew away
without a farewell quip;
God bless your weary soul
with no reproach,
no infamy,
grateful for the gift you gave
a world in need of glee.

18. Gratitude

When death calls my name
will you be there,
to hold my hand
and say a prayer?

Will you remember
the joys we have known,
look back in pride
on a love fully grown?

All flesh must decay
in the fullness of time,
but the spirit lives on
in heart and in mind;

so bid me farewell
when I sleep forever,
grateful for living
this lifetime together. 

19. Heading West, April 2014

The prairie ground lies frozen
despite the warming sun,
the winds still blowing cold
with spring not yet begun;
but still I long to leave
this cloud-enshrouded city
where rain descends as ice,
where April shows no pity.
To gaze upon the open sky
and count the stars at night,
a remedy for restless souls
oppressed by winter’s spite;
laughter in the homestead
welcomes pilgrims from afar,
an annual reunion
that weather cannot mar,
for even if the cold endures —
snow crystals in the air —
what warmth resides within
the kindred spirits waiting there. 

20. Hurricane Arthur, 2014

The gales of July come uninvited, 
pounding on doors and windows,
pummeling trees, and rousing waves,
leaving a landscape blighted;
how they rejoice in showing their force
like bullies with no conscience,
unconcerned with consequences,
set on their own angry course.
Obscuring the summer’s evening glow,
they bring back memories of months
when winter winds blew rampant
and the sun did rarely show;
perhaps these gales will soon abate,
to leave behind a legacy
wrought by summer’s darker side –
but until then we only wait,
penned in houses on the land,
sad prisoners of nature’s wrath,
convicted of fouling the earth,
condemned by our own hands.

21. Hurricane of Snow (February 2013)

Beyond my window Chaos reigns
as Boreas breathes life into snow --
winds rage in violent confrontation,
angry fists discharging brutal blows;
snow swirls and clings to every tree,
imprisons homes with towering drifts,
roads disappear in clouds of white,
and still the winds blow strong and swift.

The storms of winter ever worsen,
just as summer comes to scorch the land,
the climate once thought everlasting
yields to unknown forces now at hand,
as I watch this hurricane of snow,
no release from tempests can I find,
for blame lies not upon the winds,
but on the avarice of humankind. 

22. Ice Armageddon

Ice falling at Christmas
cloaking the land,
a curtain descending,
doomsday at hand,
fierce winds from the Arctic
escape their pens
to let loose their fury
over the glens;
then snow joins the battle
both day and night,
an onslaught unbidden
turns the world white.
Imprisoned in houses
lightless and cold,
we rage against Nature
bitter and bold,
and huddle together
fearing to sleep,
to pray for release from
earth frozen deep.

23. In Solitude

To be a river flowing
into the distant sea,
hidden by the forest
in deep obscurity,
to be a snow-capped mountain,
my peak within the clouds,
no human eyes to despoil
the shelter of my shrouds—
I long for isolation,
set free from human din,
to spend each day in peace
and ponder thoughts within,
to perceive by mind alone
a world no one has viewed,
to honour God’s creations
in blessed solitude.

24. Islands

I am drawn to islands
by some magnetic power,
a pull, once generated,
growing stronger by the hour;
each one enchants my mind,
for islands are like me—
they take delight proclaiming
their insularity.

To be embraced by ocean,
content within its realm,
akin to ancient sailing ships
with stalwart hands upon the helm,
to be set free from bondage
imposed by far off lands—
how I long to breathe salt air
and walk upon exotic strands.

Each island speaks in language
my ears rejoice to hear,
singing songs of freedom
to relieve my heart of fear—
for no matter where I wander
in search of wave-bound isles,
my journey ends in ecstasy,
my soul once more beguiled.

25. Lac-M├ęgantic, 2013

Friday night in a small town bar,
sipping on a jug of beer,
music playing on the radio
loud enough that no one hears
the screeching sound of metal
tearing loose from failing brakes,
the rumbling of the tanker cars
writhing like demented snakes,
until the rails are twisted
and the cars begin to fall,
each one another domino
drawing near to kill them all;
Friday night in a small town bar
when the fatal blast resounds,
obliterating every life
that voracious flames surround,
and when the daylight comes again
the town lies split and shattered,
and anger comes to mourning lips —
it was only oil that mattered.

26. Linguistic-Cuffs

The second aorist participle

(masculine singular)
sneered at the first perfect infinitive
(of neither sex),
while plurals duelled
and the future died,
unsung, by a dusty lexicon.
Enveloped by the past,
the present lurched along
on conjugated knees,
pursued by active and passive,
who, forgetting all rules
in their flight from the middle,
recognized not even
the future perfect.
The voiceless mute had a clever thought
to eliminate the nil,
but overwhelmed
by groaning grammarians,
he sank down breathlessly
into a silent corner,
and declined in peace. 

27. Man of the West

Growing up was hard
in the Realm of Cold—
to watch as crops planted
fell victim to hail and wind,
a year’s work wiped out
as if Nature bore a grudge
against tillers of the land.

But leaving too was hard,
for the Realm of Cold knew beauty—
the sky an umbrella of blue by day,
a canvas of stars by night,
a blanket of snow on ground
travelled by deer and moose,
the boreal forest in spring.

Moving east, to the sea,
with its cloud-masked sky
and never ending rain—
an act of faith and courage,
the will to grasp the unknown,
and as his hand reached out
it touched my heart with love. 

28. Missing and Murdered 1: Condemned by Colour: In Memoriam: Tina Fontaine

Her corpse lay in the river
far from her ancestral lands,
brutal marks upon her flesh
bearing witness to the blows
that marked her final moments.

They took her to the city

of the missing and the dead,
proclaimed an intervention,
to save her from the cutting,
from reckless self-destruction.

Adrift with no family,

a fawn among the lions
prowling the city’s pathways,
she was sacrificed to hate,
no self-destruction needed.

Just one of many women

to be missing, then found dead,
condemned only by their race,
judged a worthless piece of crap,
killed at fifteen years of age.

29. Missing and Murdered 2: For Tina and All Her Sisters

“Look at that babe
walking the street,
a squaw far from home —
let’s give her a treat.”

They’re dead and they’re missing

while their predators thrive,
it gets called a miracle
when one’s found alive;
there’s a war going on,
one never declared,
and eyes are averted
to pretend nothing’s there,
governments mumble
but prefer not to act,
the families still praying
their girls will come back.
No crisis, we’re told,
though thousands are gone,
it all just a game,
a political con,
and women still die
night after night,
the fact that they’re natives
just can’t make it right,
but justice stays slow
to take heed of the slaughter,
of someone’s sweet sister,
of someone’s young daughter.
No wonder their anger,
along with their fear:
is nobody listening?
does nobody care?

“Let’s beat up that babe,

make her real pissed —
none of her kind
will ever be missed.”

30. Modern Mantra

The sign above the diner counter
boldly proclaimed that “it’s all good”
as a scarred and pallid wanderer
sat down on the stool beside me;
he looked at that sign with a sigh,
then turned to ask if I believed
this ubiquitous modern mantra,
if I dismissed all things evil
as just ephemeral nightmares
unrelated to human reality.

I then spoke of all those homeless
as winter storms approached the land,
and of despondent cancer patients,
of those paralyzed and maimed,
and of children gunned down at school,
those lost in the mist of mental illness,
unable even to recall their names,
strangers now to all who loved them,
and of those hated for their creed,
or condemned by their skin pigment.

He listened to my words and nodded,
replying in a quiet, broken voice:
“as long as pain abides with us,
as long as children starve to death,
as long as bombs explode in battle,
and as long as rights are violated
by narrow-minded prejudice,
repudiate this modern mantra,
for existence cannot be all good
when I have shed my blood in vain."

31. Niobe and Medea

Gather, sweet children of my pen,
holding each other by hand,
for the time of choosing now begins
when some must fall and others stand.
I cannot play Niobe’s role
and praise you all as Heaven-born,
such hubris will offend the gods,
releasing arrows like a storm.
Nor will I become Medea,
to threaten innocents with death --
pure infants yet to know the world
or feel the warmth of summer’s breath.
Instead the chosen few must go
in humble guise to speak for me,
while those not chosen stay behind,
to live in shadows, weak but free,
perhaps to have another chance
to venture forth and find embrace,
for fickle is the pen I hold,
as fickle as the human race.

32. Northern Stars

The northern stars are glistening,
no clouds obscure their lambent glow,
so far away, and yet so near
they light the path to lead me home;
like beacons by an angry sea,
safeguarded on their rocky shore,
they set my compass heading north
that I might wander lost no more,
no longer chasing empty dreams,
that drew me with their siren song
to places under southern stars,
to lands where I did not belong;
but now I rest within the lands
adorned with winter’s coat of white,
there to find myself at peace
as you hold me close tonight.

33. November Rains

Clouds settle in for a long stay,
unwelcome guests, heralds of winter,
like curtains they block the light
still emanating from the sun.

The birds take heed and migrate south,
abandoning trees stripped naked,
this year’s leaves a carpet on the ground
soon to be dispersed by northern winds.

Crystal lakes, now burdened with ice,
resign themselves to nature’s will —
only the harbour opens its arms
to safeguard ships from arctic blasts.

Upon the seaside boardwalks,
people move in haste to shelter,
hapless umbrellas inverted,
the sting of winter in their step.

November rains, brutal and barren,
bring no new life to wind-swept lands,
intransigent and unconcerned,
mighty mammoths raging at mankind.

34. Oblivious

Oblivious tourists stand in a circle,
watching eggs cook in volcanic steam,
eyes down, unaware of the blast
erupting in glory behind them,
chatting about herring and bread,
leaning on a man-made table
laden with food and drink.
I pass them by in utter disbelief
to pay homage to Strokkur,
to watch as this God-made giant
bursts upward, exulting in freedom
from the deep chambers below,
briefly released from the earth.
How powerfully you rise, Strokkur,
oblivious to tourists and their eggs,
striving to touch the heavens
and doomed always to fall short;
the tourists, satiated, finally look up,
glance at your towering white cloud
and snap a quick photograph
before racing to the restaurant
for more bread and eggs and herring;
but I will rest here to stay with you,
to bear witness to what God has wrought
on a small island born of fire and ash,
set astride a rent in the ocean
where constant lava creates new land
beyond the ken of oblivious tourists.

35. One True Thing

What I speak
he alone comprehends,
what I see
he alone perceives —
no others exist
to speak to,
to see for,
only fading apparitions.

He bids me ignore
the unremitting silence,
my invisibility,
he whispers encouragement
when I sense defeat,
he listens, he sees
and he understands —
I need nothing more.

When my gravestone
speaks to passersby,
it will sing a love
without silences,
without boundaries,
without conditions —
this the gift he gives to me,
the one true thing I know. 

36. Ottawa: October 22, 2014 (In Memoriam: Cpl. Nathan Cirillo)

A fine October day in the capitol,
enjoying the autumn sunshine,
tourists visiting from afar
and people simply going to their jobs
take the time to pause,
to photograph the War Memorial
where, in formal Argyll dress,
two honour guards keep their posts
by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,
symbol of a nation’s gratitude.
Cameras click with enthusiasm—
how handsome they look, these men
holding rifles with no bullets,
how proud they are to be there,
to guard and honour the fallen.
But hidden from their sight,
a madman raises his rifle, fully loaded,
shoots one in the back, then flees;
the soldier falls, mortally wounded,
as passersby rush to give him aid,
to keep the young man alive,
no thought given to the gunman
who may still lurk among the shadows;
the stricken guard is dying before their eyes
and a valiant woman whispers to him,
tells him that he is brave and beloved.
The assassin will fall in ten minutes,
but the soldier will not rise again,
his name to be added to the roll call
of those who died in selfless service;
in shock and anger, a nation mourns,
never to forget this fine October day. 

37. Our Lady of Lost Causes

In a grotto by the sea,
her stone effigy stands
with arms reaching out,
her head bowed down
as if in submission,
for she understands
the unforgiving might
of angry waves.

She hears sailors pray,

call upon her by name,
beg her intervention
to escape death at sea,
to return to their families
by grace of the Virgin,
her purity their only hope,
for the mother of Christ
must love them too.

Their words flood into her,

even as the waters
consign their ship to death,
lost along with their lives,
and the Lady of Lost Causes
sheds tears at their fate,
just as she shed tears
when her own Son went down. 

38. Peru 1: Cusco

A city sheltered by mountains
high enough to caress the clouds,
guarded by a megalithic fortress
constructed centuries ago,
in hope that its massive presence
would keep all foes at bay,
but then the Europeans came,
greedy men with dreams of gold,
and the Incan realm succumbed
to their weapons and their plagues;
but the Inca people never left
their majestic city in the clouds:
still they walk the streets of Cusco,
still they speak the ancient tongue.

Inca women in brightly woven garments

stand in groups within the sacred square,
once home to vast palaces and shrines,
and watch tourists from distant lands,
strangers who come to photograph
what they call a lost civilization,
but these Inca women of the sacred square
remain proud of their ancestral heritage,
a pride stolen from their brethren of the North,
native peoples with no impenetrable forts,
no cities in the clouds, no wealth of gold,
forced by Europeans to abandon traditions,
to witness their culture denigrated—
I celebrate one, but weep for the other.

39. Peru 2: Machu Picchu 

We sat among the ruins,
beneath the reach of clouds
upon the mountain tops,
tall peaks that stood immune,
untouched by human hands,
no sanctity defiled,
each crag still keeps its watch
upon these hidden lands;
where once a city grew,
assembled stone by stone,
exists a lifeless shell
that constant winds blow through.
To ponder destiny,
to mourn what has been lost,
as daylight disappeared
I drew you close to me,
then beheld a flower
imprisoned by the stones,
determined to survive
despite the passing hours,
fighting for existence,
its right to simply be,
a fragile bloom of hope
the mountains cannot quench,
and knew our love immune
to forces from without,
strong enough to blossom,
alive amid the ruins. 

40. Readers Beware

Please do not read these poems unless
you love the bards of distant times,
whose stories were told in verse
governed by meter and rhyme,
who entertained their audience
with parables and fables,
setting their odes to music,
telling of knights and round tables.

You may be disappointed

with the ancient Muse I follow,
who disciplines her devotees
to emulate Apollo—
truncated lines are not approved,
nor phrases hanging in the air
out of context, out of tune,
images that go nowhere.

But if you like the narrative,

the well-told tales that explicate
the how and why of humankind,
the passions come to us innate,
please linger for a while in hope
that something here will touch your heart,
but if I fail my ancient Muse,
I take no rage should you depart.

41. Releasing the Ghosts

To exorcise the soul
of memories deep inside,
haunting me like ghosts
that smile and then deride,
I cannot find the priest.

In search of liberation
from demons of the past,
I sit a supplicant,
unable to stand fast
against relentless beasts.

To lift the veil of fear
that peace may infiltrate—
no candle set alight
endures this heavy weight,
its flame too soon deceased.

And so I grasp a pen,
a weapon to excise
the scars of long ago,
in hope it will suffice
to give the ghosts release.

42. Reluctant Summer (2013)

It waits in darkened wings,
a hesitant player on the stage,
fearful for a reputation
garnered in another age,
when, acclaimed across the land,
it steadfastly maintained
the promise of salvation
after months of chilling rain.
But now it fears that clouds
eclipse the sun it used to bring,
clouds that linger far too long
to make a mockery of spring,
and dare to challenge summer
to regain the glamour of the past —
the audience is getting restless,
their excitement cannot last,
a third-rate act upon the boards
will be met with only jeers,
it is summer that they wish to see,
but still it tarries, paralyzed by fears. 

43. Sandy Hook (12-14-2012) 

This morning they dreamed,

pretended to be brides,
or maybe superheroes,
or even butterflies --
daydreams were bright
as the flag was raised.
This afternoon they lay
in widening pools of blood,
their bodies shattered,
lying near the heroes
who tried to shield them,
and the flag was lowered.
The nation in mourning,
the families broken,
lives forever in ruins,
even strangers wept;
the flag will rise again,
the murdered sleep forever.

44. Selene

Her light comes from another,

merely being borrowed,
blazing stars surround her,
look down on her with sorrow --
battered by the solar wind,
disfigured by debris
from errant asteroids
rejoicing to be free.
Captive to a planet
that seeks to dominate,
to claim her dusty soil
as if decreed by fate,
her face in bravery
takes on a ravaged form --
the Moon endures assault,
and weathers every storm.

45. Six Million Stones: for Alicia Jurman

Wildflowers in the meadows,
forests blessed with regal trees,
but beauty is deceptive here,
a cloak to hide atrocities;
she remembers rifles firing,
the screams of those about to die,
somewhere in these sylvan scenes
shattered bodies nameless lie;
in death their tongues are silent,
but she escaped the slaughter—
haunted by her family’s fate,
the sole surviving daughter.

I stand in places where she hid,
a starving, homeless refugee,
a soul no different from my own,
yearning only to be free;
but freedom came at such a cost—
too much death to contemplate—
and so I kneel upon the ground,
foul carnage to commemorate,
and gather stones to witness
lives brought to a monstrous end—
if only I had stones enough
to honour every one of them.

46. Snowbird: In Memoriam, Gene MacLellan

The snowbird settled on a tree

within the forest’s dark embrace,
retreating from the predators
whose claws left scars upon his face;
to sing of flowers born in spring,
of rainbow colours on the ground --
the music of the happiness
that once from him did gaily sound.
The one he loved no longer lived
and never would she sing again,
he must escape his ruthless foes
and to another place ascend,
and so he sang a low lament,
then launched himself unto the sky --
I saw his feathers turn to flames,
I heard one last despondent cry.

47. Sounds of the Night

In the blackness of night
a lone coyote howls,
brash music of the wild
sung to the hidden moon;
a raccoon percussionist
batters garbage bins,
the cadence of curiosity
in search of sustenance.

Shutters drum upon the walls,
driven by winds from the south,
heralds of the coming storm
expected on this murky night;
distant thunder starts to roar,
lightning about to blast
through maternal clouds,
crackling children of the air.

Trees already bend and creak,
waves crash upon the shore
in oceanic dissonance
as rain revels on the roof;
amid this nocturnal cacophony,
one sound removes all fear —
the sound of your heart beating
as I rest in the lee of your arms.

48. Stand Your Ground

A kid in a hoodie out at night,
something about him doesn't look right,
so he calls the cops to point this out,
a crime underway, he has no doubt;
and though he’s ordered not to pursue,
to let this kid walk he cannot do,
he follows him till the young man stops,
and still no sign of responding cops;

the kid turns around and asks him why,
tells him to leave, or get a black eye,
then a fist fight erupts like a flame —
two strangers joined in a deadly game —
but one has a gun, not just his hands,
and he is resolved to make a stand,
a bullet tears through the young man’s flesh,
sentencing him to eternal rest,

and his only crime was to defend,
to make his stand against angry men —
only they knew how it all went down:
one left to speak, one mute in the ground;
how easy to say he felt threatened,
even when the kid showed no weapon,
so sweet life before him extended
despite the life he had just ended.

49. Supernova

You blazed into my life
like a newly born sun,
igniting the darkness
where my life had begun,
and with each passing year
the more lustrous I grew --
a moon lit by the flames
burning brighter in you.
I let go of my fear
at the sight of your face,
no more to feel lonely
in the vastness of space,
and the passion we share
when these years are over
will flare through the cosmos --
our love’s supernova. 

50. Tall Ship Down

The breakers are raging
and the tide is high,
a moon like a beacon
drifts low in the sky,
a torch meant for sailors
at war with the waves,
to lead them to harbours,
not watery graves.

But greed is a Siren
astride ragged rocks,
more profit at sea
than lying at docks,
and so they sail on,
these tempters of fate,
unwilling to linger
till storms clouds abate.

But out in the ocean
a hurricane blows,
with each passing hour
it violently grows,
and too soon the ship
to its fury will bend,
caught in a whirlwind
and not seen again.

For when the dawn breaks
and the waves settle down,
no trace of the galleon
will ever be found —
so sailors take heed,
and be not in thrall
to wager your lives
when hurricanes call. 

51. The Age of Extremes

Six months in,
gales from the north
refusing to yield,
like an aging boxer
well past his prime,
hanging onto ropes;
fistfuls of ice and snow,
swirling around the city,
and within their grasp
we huddle in our homes,
invoking the force of spring
to end this brutal fight.

The sun sits higher now

upon the frozen land,
yet spring still tarries,
hesitates to warm the soil —
as if it knew a secret
too heinous to reveal —
perhaps the gales of summer
bring us equal grief,
a curse of heat and hunger,
of hurricanes that seethe
as we huddle in our homes,
awaiting northern winds.

52. The Age of Reduction

Watching the glaciers recede,
once massive tongues of ice
reduced to fragile slivers
as seasons grow warmer;
gazing at an emaciated corpse,
once a mighty polar bear,
now reduced to skin and bones
as hunting grounds cease to exist.

Listening to a deafening roar
as fire storms ravage the land,
trees reduced to dust and ashes,
lost the totems of past ages;
lamenting the flow of dying rivers
that once poured into pristine seas,
reducing the water that nourishes
and makes all life possible.

Fleeing storms of increasing fury,
savage destruction in their wake,
the winds are blowing wilder,
reducing all before them to waste,
creating the Age of Reduction
by demanding too much of nature,
the greed of human beings —
the sickness destroying the Earth. 

53. The Black Dog

He is a creature of many forms,
but comes to me as a black dog,
a mutt of undetermined breed,
stubbornly refusing to be leashed
and ever nipping at my heels,
a small beast with powerful jaws.

No one else can see this demon,

can know his essential darkness,
can feel his breath upon their backs;
like a hunter he waits to spring at me,
to take me down when least expected,
then howl in ecstasy when I fall.

I dare not announce his presence,

he must remain my silent companion
lest I be disparaged as mad,
mocked by those more fortunate,
who live free from this monster
I so long to defeat and exterminate.

54. The Book

Yesterday I set it free,
my spirit felt it leave,
as if it took my burdens
upon a healing breeze;
I know not where it wanders
or who will touch its face,
but I hope this part of me
will bear its fate with grace.

No longer could I keep it
locked within a fearful heart,
each page had won its freedom
as I promised from the start,
and though I feel at peace,
I must resume my quest:
new poems are waiting for me,
and I dare not stop to rest. 

55. The Bounty: R.I.P.

A hurricane cut the ocean,
a monster never seen before,
creation of the spiteful gods
who feel no love for those on shore;
with every hour it stronger grew,
wild winds and waves attacked the coast,
the crew aboard one sailing ship
tried to save what they loved most --
a gallant vessel they called home,
its name a legend on the sea,
to leave her tied up at the dock
would turn her planks to wood debris.

So they took her from the harbor
in hope to sail around the beast,
to ride the fury of the swells
until their rage had been released;
but when the light of morning came,
the ship was swallowed by the waves,
lost forever down below
in a place reserved for sailors’ graves;
the ocean gods exact a toll
on all who dare insult their might,
and so the Bounty met her end,
to rest a wreck in endless night.

56. The Brilliant Dream

In my dream you whispered
of secrets held inside,
a sudden revelation,
a truth I never spied —
how your heart had always been
on fire for me alone,
a single-minded passion
whose depth I had not known,
just as the sea might wear
a surface calm and mild,
while in the deeps below
are currents raging wild —
I had just seen the surface
but not yet grasped the deeps,
and so in dreams you whispered,
hidden in the realm of sleep;
my reverie soon ended
as the sun began to gleam,
and I awoke enlightened —
love was such a brilliant dream.

57. The Broken Song

Clouds have cloaked the sky,
colours absent from the land,
lost upon the shore I stand
remembering the joy of yesterday;
now a broken song
lies shattered in the realm beyond,
with souls I cannot dwell among
until the end of time will come my way —
never to forget
all the things you said to me,
when days were long and both our hearts
lay drifting on a sunlit sea,
not to realize the paths we have to take,
the choices that we make.
Clouds still cloak the sky,
no blazing stars to offer light,
alone within my sudden fright,
to ponder all the things I never knew —
living without you
in a grief that never ends,
tears to mark the pain love sends
are left to flow like markings of a pen;
for I no more hold you
the way I used to do,
and when I think of how I cry
to this cloud enshrouded sky
I recognize the weakness of my song —
unable to break through,
reaching out to you,
in a place where words are shadows and not strong.
From this cloudy sky
mist comes down to hide your face,
erasing you from every place
where once we sang our love in soft embrace;
like a ghost that comes to haunt,
your image fades into the gloom,
I walk into a shuttered room
as if I sit alone within your tomb —
will I ever know
if you can hear this melody,
and if your love survives for me,
or if it disappears like mist
before the newborn sun tomorrow sees,
as if we never kissed.

58. The Butterfly Conservatory

I strolled amid the butterflies
enchanted by their grace
as they glided all around me
on wings as fine as Irish lace;
some flew by all dressed in white,
while others showed a reddish hue,
followed in procession by
those with wings of azure blue.
So many different species,
with homes in different lands --
I thought a global paradise
had suddenly appeared at hand:
so peacefully they spent their lives
wandering from plant to plant,
demurely dining, one by one,
on nectar that was never scant;
all the clamour of the day
was silenced by this magic sight,
and my soul took restoration
from butterflies in flight.

59. The Empty Forest (Summer, 2013)

The forest stands
in unnatural stillness,
deep silence enveloping
the trees within,
last summer’s heat
a suffocating blanket,
no branch bore
the awaited cones.
Then came winter,
blasts of cold,
drifts of snow
but no nourishment;
the chattering squirrels,
the piping chipmunks —
all fell victim,
dying of starvation,
where they roamed
a woodland desert —
now my soul
is starving too.

60. The Forest Child

The fading sun brings calm,
no waves ruffle the bay,
no winds shake the trees
within the cloistered forest;
the choir of birds falls silent,
small creatures disappear
into nests and hidden burrows,
and she walks in solitude.

Dusk brings her peace here,
in this cathedral of trees
where joyful hymns are sung
at each breaking of the day —
but, until then, she revels
in a transcendent stillness,
with a sacred vow of silence
that must be kept.

There is too much clamour
in the profane world outside,
her senses ever assaulted,
she seeks tranquil refuge,
and little do they know —
those outside this realm —
of the sylvan sanctuary
and its nocturnal power.

But the forest child knows,
pays homage in gratitude
for her soul’s regeneration
among the reverent trees,
for the healing of all wounds
and the exile of all fears —
placing a cross of birch
upon a red spruce altar.

61. The Frontier 

Where the known 
yields to the unknown,
the abiding mystery of frontiers:
what has been deemed reality
no longer exists, 
supplanted by fears.
The human soul 
covets certainty,
prisoner in a rigid cage,
afraid of what lies ahead,
in abject slavery
born of yesterday.
At the frontier, she wavers —
what awaits beyond 
may be sublime,
or may be nothing at all,
an endless void to endure
for the rest of time;
but to remain enslaved to the past,
to forfeit everything 
she might come to be,
condemns the soul
to paltry ignorance —
she must gamble with eternity.
Timorous feet move forward
into the vast unknown,
deep enough
to reach a kindred heart,
with faith imploring her
to place all trust in love.

62. The Glass Heart

Venetian glass in hand,
treasure of a distant past
in the semblance of a heart
in fiery furnace cast,
then sent abroad to wander,
its maker long deceased,
in search of perfect passion, 
that its beauty be released—
for crystal hearts have powers
denied to other treasures:
to reveal the joy of love,
its majesty and pleasures;
a priceless work of labour
to symbolize their bond,
impervious to evil eyes,
mighty as a wizard’s wand,
till fate defeats its magic,
and then its power ceases—
so she cast it at death’s wall,
and left it in a thousand pieces.

63. The Greek Chorus

On every night
she would slip into bed
while voices of poems
called out in her head;
like a Greek chorus,
they sang all in tune—
what harmony led
to every night’s ruin.

They admonished her flaws,
lamented her sorrows,
and rarely gave hope
of a kinder tomorrow;
to sleep—no escape 
from their endless murmur,
for even in dreams
like flames they would burn her.

In despair of each night,
she prayed much for silence,
for a brief respite from
their poetic violence;
but the singing continued,
and what fate they nursed—
a continuous haunting,
the bard’s ancient curse.

64. The Longest Night

Thick clouds descend like curtains,
outside, the winds explode,
hurling ice against the window
where I stand, looking out,
hoping for even a glimpse of stars,
any sign of light, in vain.

From the darkness enveloping me
comes forth a writhing serpent,
child of nature’s bleakest season,
an unwanted sibling, usurper of my life,
attacking me behind the curtains,
invisible to all eyes but mine.

Linked forever in a natal dance,
one of us must perish to set the other free —
and as this longest night extends
the beast becomes insistent,
knows his victory must come
before dawn returns with points of light.

And so I must not sleep tonight,
only awake can I hold him back
from taking his place on my stage,
from trapping me behind the curtains —
to survive I must rewrite the script,
making this the longest day of all.

65. The Lost

So many are her treasures,
her life itself a gift,
an unsought benediction
that passes far too swift;

when precious days are spent
with those she loves nearby,
how fortunate she seems
to sullen prying eyes;

but bitter days descend
when darkness rules her mind,
days she tries to hide away
from the gaze of humankind,

to mourn alone in solitude
the losses she endures,
to nurse within the illness
for which there are no cures;

so do not think her blessed
beyond all measuring —
to regain what has been lost
she would forfeit everything.

66. The Omen

A forest veiled in silence,
a hush before the storm
as swelling clouds obscure 
the feeble midnight moon,
till an unexpected howl,
primeval, born of pain,
attacks her as she sleeps,
awakes her far too soon.

This nocturnal presence,
this creature of the forest,
its adversity unknown,
wails aloud at unseen stars,
and she listens in the dark,
afraid to venture forth
to ease its suffering,
or gaze upon its scars.

Its cry seems so familiar,
yet she cannot guess its name,
nor even where it wanders,
perhaps too far from home,
but she comprehends the night,
the demons that it brings,
and knows in hours to come
such screams will be her own. 

67. The Pirate

The pirate was but twenty-one,
though ten of them at sea,
escaping from an orphanage,
his parentage a mystery;
the barque he steered was thirty-five,
and many a ship it had captured,
its coffers filled with precious gold
which held his heart enraptured;
he now sought out the richest ship
that sailed upon the water,
a schooner called the “Golden Heart,”
its captain known as Neptune’s daughter,
a maid well skilled in sailing
through all the wildest waves,
not one to flee a pirate ship
but send it to an ocean grave;
for twenty years she carried gold
and not one doubloon was lost,
yet the young man sought her out,
to take her ship at any cost.
One dawn they joined in battle,
the cannons boomed without a pause,
two wooden beasts to fight till death,
to maim each other with their claws;
Lord Neptune cried as he beheld
the carnage spreading through his realm,
he knew he had to make a choice—
which captain to retain the helm;
young raiders were a growing plague
that threatened his own sovereignty,
and so he chose the maiden fierce
to celebrate the victory,
although his eyes were shedding tears
when the battle had been won,
his daughter had restored the peace,
but dead was now his earthly son.

68. The Pythia’s Escape

Pleas, prayers, promises —
desperate voices deafening her
like thunder overhead,
a storm imposed by Apollo;
priestess and prophet,
secluded in a sacred shrine,
all-knowing, all-caring —
so men considered her.

Their endless cries for help
a weight too heavy,
a burden never sought,
darkness, fumes and trances;
too much expected,
as if she herself were divine,
but human hearts are frail
even under god’s command.

Withered, devoid of hope,
the life force sucked dry
despite the tears men shed,
a waning leaf in Autumn,
her final words implored
the silencing of questions,
and Dionysus of the Winter
made madness her escape.

For Dionysus at Delphi, see:

69. The Rider on the Cobequid Pass

Some truckers say they saw him
as they drove the Cobequid Pass,
a silhouetted figure
astride a steed that ran so fast
that even mighty engines,
used to haul the biggest loads,
fell back and could not pass him
on that narrow highway road;
then up ahead they saw a crash—
cars and trucks engulfed in fire,
drivers screaming for release,
their voices now a tragic choir.
But amidst the flaming wreckage,
enclosed by smoke before their eyes,
the rider’s mount came into view,
rearing up in ghostly guise
like a demon come to kill,
a specter from an angry realm,
sent by some malefic force
these innocents to overwhelm—
but then the blaze just disappeared
as if it never were alight,
and suddenly a peaceful calm
fell upon this frenzied night;
truckers swear the rider turned,
declared the flames consigned to hell,
that he rode the pass a saviour,
that his name was Gabriel;
now many doubt that this is true,
and of truckers’ tales make light,
but still I live and testify—
for I survived the crash that night.

70. The Sacred Transformation

Shells into marble,
resin into amber,
sand into pearls --
the marvel of change:
even the highest peaks
eroded into dust,
even the widest rivers
erased into ocean;
even blazing suns
fading into darkness,
as will the universe itself
given time enough.

Time the destroyer,
and time the healer --
everything transformed
by the passage of time;
impermanence reigns,
and so hope is born --
hope that what is now
will change tomorrow,
that a heart in shards
can become whole again
in the sacred transformation
of hope into love.


71. The Storyteller: A Trilogy for Jodi Picoult

1. The Book

I closed her book last night,
in tears I found no sleep,
my hidden wounds exposed—
her pen had plunged too deep;
well-crafted words enticed
despite the tale they told,
my mind had been forewarned,
yet still in fear my soul.

Some stories must be read,
the ugly truth revealed,
I knew the price to pay
for wounds that never healed,
and as I tossed in bed,
to read brought no regret—
these deeds must be remembered,
barbaric to forget. 

2. Minka’s Dream

There were flowers in the fields
as the summer breeze blew by,
nothing seemed impossible
under such a brilliant sky;

but soon grey clouds had gathered,
the horizon turned to black,
she walked alone in darkness,
and there was no turning back.

She saw the angry faces,
heard the shattering of glass,
and then came voices crying
from chambers filled with gas;

she was burning back to dust
in a Hell beyond all dreams,
where all that had been decent
came apart at broken seams;

and when the night was over,
her tormenting dream at bay,
she rose from sleep in horror,
to survive for one more day. 

3. The Survivor

She had empty eyes,
eyes that saw too much death
and had no tears left to cry,
eyes old with darkness.

She had silent ears,
ears that heard their pain,
their pleas for mercy,
but God never spoke.

She tasted only dust,
the ashes of the dead
as she spoke their names,
to remember.

She had numbers on her wrist,
carved upon tortured flesh,
scars never to heal,
never again.


72. The Tenth Muse: Homage to Sappho

Plato marvelled at your poems,
proclaiming you a living muse,
but men of very different times
were all so eager to accuse:
your poems to other women
would somehow harm the soul,
what danger to depict a love
that must not be extolled.

Your poems consigned to flames,

your words reduced to ashes,
even Lesbos came to feel
the torment of their lashes;
what hypocrites these censors
who loved their boys each night,
for what was fine for them to do,
for women was not right.

I pray that just one manuscript

lies hidden in a vault,
one day soon to come to light,
escaping their assault,
and we will know the beauty
of the love that you revered,
and only find an elegance
with nothing to be feared.

73. The Wall

Memories locked behind a wall,
memories blocked beyond recall.

A jumbled choir of voices
erupts within her head,
another dream of shadows
trying to break through;

the wall keeps them out,
those ancient memories,
those years erased
and forever out of view.

This wall she constructed
to shut out the pain,
no entrance, no exit,
the past sequestered —

one memory alone
survives to sustain her,
transcending the past
where agony rested:

a woman of valour,
survivor of hatred
and source of the love
that allowed her to grow;

beyond that presence,
do not seek out her past —
the child she used to be
no one else can know.

Memories locked behind a wall,
memories blocked beyond recall.

74. The Waltz of the Winds

The gentle winds of yesterday
brought forth a breeze sublime,
caressed the waves beneath them,
waltzed nimbly on the spruce and pine;
today the winds, in combat,
buffet every branch and cone,
the land is swathed in darkness,
the sea is white with churning foam.

Boreas sends the coldest blows,

while Notus counters from the south,
opposites that swirl around,
whirling at the harbour’s mouth;
Eurus of the rising sun,
Zephyrus of the western manse
complete the frenzy of the winds –
a Bacchic rout, a Maenad dance.

We who walk upon the earth

in terror listen to their howl,
cacophony of raging gales,
the ragged beat of winds grown foul,
and pray the storm will run its course,
to put an end to wild assaults,
restore the peace of yesterday
when winds were swaying in a waltz.

75. The Warrior

He dares to confront
the darkness in me,
brandishing a flame
to blaze against my night,
as if a warrior
inured to battle.

Yet beneath his armor

priestly vestments lie,
and he defeats my fears
by offering his heart,
reaching out to me
in adoration.

He is contradiction,

warrior and priest --
a man who understands
the power of love
to heal the jagged wounds
inflicted by life.

While this sacred knight

remains by my side,
I am unafraid,
but take him from me
and I shall be lost,
devoured by demons. 

76. Thursday Afternoon 

We sat and talked all afternoon,
dear Amalia and I,
of things that brought us pleasure.
and of things that made us cry,
like being always left behind
when other children went to play,
outsiders in our childhoods,
and outsiders still today;

how each retreated into art,

found solace in creation,
our paintings and our poetry --
to God a sweet libation,
to offer from our spirits
in return for loving Grace,
for guidance in our passage
through this mortal time and space;

so much we had in common,

two survivors of a tribe
rarely ever welcomed in,
once condemned to genocide,
but still we each found joy enough
to make the ancient hate depart,
for in the end what matters
is the love within our human hearts.

77. Till Death

She lives it in her dreams,
the scenario of fear,
every time the one she loves
is no longer lying near;

she prays each night that God
prolong his time on earth,
for without him by her side
existence has no worth—

a skiff without an anchor
adrift on raging waves,
her broken hull would founder,
descend to Neptune’s graves;

she needs his gentle touch,
his whisper in the dark,
to keep her soul alive
with love’s enduring spark,

but mortal is mankind
and in time we all depart,
she begs to leave together,
to avert a shattered heart.

78. Troubadours (Rochester 2013)

The northern wind descended,
then snow began to fall,
the streets were left abandoned
for a hallowed music hall,
where slaves had once sought shelter
in response to freedom’s call.

But on this wintry evening,
two voices soared in song,
and pilgrims seeking haven
did gladly sing along,
defying winter’s onslaught
in a joyful, eager throng.

United in their pleasure
at hearing beauty sound,
they gave their hearts to singers
whose music did astound,
and offered thanks to God
for the blessing they had found.

The troubadours played on
against the chill of night,
sang their tales of love and life,
and filled the hall with mystic light,
to offer hope of freedom
with no need to seek out flight.

For injustice still remained
in a land built on a dream,
the troubadours were fighting
for the rights of human beings,
and those who listened to their songs
understood what “equal” means.

But other roads were calling
and the singers had to go,
but they left behind a truth
that only pilgrims know --
that love provides the might
to defeat ill winds that blow.

79. Typhoon Haiyan:  November 2013

A monster born in angry seas,
more powerful as each day passed,
found islands lying straight ahead
and leveled cities with its blasts —
a wall of water hit the shores,
raging winds that knew no limit,
and when the day came to an end,
gone her town and all within it.
Thousands of her neighbours dead,
with rubble blocking every street,
in shock she walked amid the ruins
with bodies lying at her feet;
no words could keep her from lamenting
the lives the beast had ripped apart,
the day that Haiyan left her there,
shedding tears, a shattered heart.

80. Vultures 

I watch them circle in the air,
eager to consume the dead,
as if a cloud of darkest hue
were gathering around my head,
oblivious to suffering,
felons of the basest kind,
expecting others die for them
while they wheel and while they wind.
But how are they no different
from human beings on the ground,
who watch as others march to death
and will not even make a sound,
but gather what is left behind
and pick out treasures from debris,
obey the words of evil men
and still believe that they are free?
Yet mourning doves within the trees
are gentle singers come to call,
to offer solace for those left
after vultures come to maul;
these tender harbingers of hope --
these birds that sing to heal the soul --
let me turn my eyes towards them,
let peace become the noblest goal.

81. Wanderlust

The harbour soon will welcome
ships arriving from afar,
as winter yields reluctantly
to spring’s sweet kiss;
she feels familiar yearnings
released within by April’s touch—
to step upon a sailing ship
in reborn bliss.

Wanderlust her destiny,
to go where she has never been
and gaze upon exotic sights
with eager eyes,
and though she loves her homeland
with its grandeur all around,
warm breezes sing how swiftly
her season flies.

Another journey beckons,
her farewells have all been made,
though many cannot comprehend
this urgent need;
but to dismiss the siren call,
turn her back upon the world,
fated then her soul to mourn,
her heart to bleed.

82. Winter Love: A Song for J. and P.

The seasons of our lives
like rivers swiftly flow,
the seasons of our love
as not as keen to go:

in spring our love soars high,
from newness taking wing,
we give no thought to time,
the trials it might bring;

in summer’s heat of passion
the world is ours to rule,
no need to think of endings,
summer love is not so cruel;

in autumn love grows gentler,
an ease infused within,
we have built a fortress strong
against the coming wind;

in winter love is grateful
for every year together,
well knowing that our flesh
cannot endure forever --

time will come to part us,
our union doomed to end,
for youth lies far behind us,
and death does soon descend;

yet rapture will not fade,
nor surrender to defeat --
for winter love is patient,
and winter love is sweet.

83. Winter Song of a Maritimer

Dawn breaks,
there is fog in the air,
soon freezing rains come,
with ice pellets there,
heat disappearing
like smiles from the sun.
Freezing still,
as I cut up more wood,
trees long before me —
how tall they had stood —
now in my fireplace
combusted for good.
Next the snow — 
it will start to fall,
the snow that clouds my future,
wind, it will blow 
my breath away, too far away.
So I know,
I must pack my bags—
I want St. Lucia!

84. Wonder

Son of the boreal forest
in a cottage by the sea,
a stranger in a distant place
as far from home as he could be,
to fall in love with tidal shores,
to watch the sails embrace the wind --
a sense of wonder still remains
how life can turn upon a whim;
the lives we plan are rarely spent
just as we had imagined,
the years go by and chance parades
in an age-old human pageant.
I see him smile as I approach
with that boyish prairie grin --
a sense of wonder strikes my soul,
that I was granted life with him.

85. Yom Kippur, 2013

Light the candle,
sit in silent contemplation,
remembering the prayer,
Yit'gadal v'yit'kadash sh'mei raba.

But this candle of the soul
burns each day within me,
a flame to bear witness
she is never forgotten.

One candle seen,
the other invisible,
yet they are the same—
memorials to love.

Once I felt so much anger,
a life ended too soon,
her suffering unjust,
and I raged at God.

Time has changed me,
I have felt her spirit,
known she was with me
in light and in darkness.

And now I give thanks
for the gift of her life—
on the day of atonement
I ask God’s forgiveness.