Monday, June 27, 2011

Remembered again, for the first time

The lilt of uilleann pipes
fills my soul
while memories of
green fields never seen,
gentle rains never felt,
and cobblestone streets never walked,
haunt my heart.

27 June 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Step on

Step by step, we march toward peace,
step by step, the march goes on.
No one steps every step;
each one steps but some.
We may not reach the journey's end,
but without our steps,
however few, however small,
no one ever will.
Step on.
Step on.

Act by act, justice is done,
act by act, justice does grow.
No one takes every act;
each one takes but some.
We may not see full justice done,
but without our acts,
however few, however small,
no one ever will.
Act on.
Act on.

Note by note, we play our part,
note by note, the song goes on.
No one plays every note;
each one plays but some.
We may not hear the last coda,
but without our notes,
however many, however few,
no one ever will.
Play on.
Play on.

27 June 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Timing 1.0

I've got to work on my timing.

While cruising through the basement after a successful hunting and gathering outing to the local grocery store, I discovered to my deep dismay that I had missed a huge apartment sale.

And only a few weeks ago, I failed to add to my ginormous flea collection when I missed a sale.

Of course buying a huge apartment would, in all likelihood, only result in my creation of a huge(er) than usual mess (mess inevitably expanding to fill the available space). That would not be good. And, should I think things through, remembering that would lead me to put down the huge apartment and walk away. But it would be nice to have the chance to ponder the possibility.

I need to increase my monitoring of the basement signs.

See you along the Trail.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Peacemaking, justice seeking movie clips

A friend posed the question, knowing that I watch more than my share of movies.

"Can you think of any film clips where a character makes the decision to be a peacemaker - or to do the just thing in a situation of conflict or injustice.?"

Given the context of the question and the person asking the question, the clip needs to be rooted in nonviolence - at least as far as possible.

Honesty compels me to confess that the nonviolent lens eliminates many of my favorite movies and scenes. (The scene in The Wild Bunch where Bishop, Engstrom, and the Gorch brothers decide to go back for Angel, wouldn't work.)

But I gave it a go. Here are the first two that came to mind:

The Grapes of Wrath: Tom Joad leaves and tells his mother that he will be with her and the family wherever people work for justice.

Hotel Rwanda: Paul Rusesabagina and his staff find rooms for all those who make it to the hotel; Rusesabagina encourages the people at the hotel to call people abroad; the final line: "There's always room."

After that movies came to mind - scenes tumbled together; clips piling up. Among them: Norma Rae, Amazing Grace, The Vernon Johns Story, Amazing Grace, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Coach Carter, Edge of America, Field of Dreams, Milk, Cry Freedom, Gandhi, Made in Dagenham, Malcolm X, Real Women Have Curves, The Milagro Bean Field War, Gandhi. I would have to watch these anew to identify particular scenes.

Recognizing my limits, I ask:

What film clips show a character deciding to seek peace or do justice in a situation of conflict or injustice?

What films would you watch again to find clips that show a character deciding to seek peace or do justice in a situation of conflict or injustice?

I look forward to your responses.

See you along the Trail.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I wish
that we had met
under different circumstances.

Of course it is
the circumstances we face
that shape us, mold us, make us who we are.

Under different circumstances
we would be different people,
and maybe the different you
would not want to know the different me;
maybe the different me
would not want to know the different you.

Or maybe we would.

Since we will never know,
perhaps we would do better
to enjoy what is
than to wish for what we do not know
and will never be.

22 June 2011
Shire on the Hudson 

A prayer for Sudan

I usually keep my work and personal blogs separate.

But the situation in Sudan weighs on me. So I offer a prayer - a prayer I wrote for a call to prayer issued by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):

Come Holy Spirit, come to the people of Sudan.
Come Holy Spirit, break the hold of violence.
Come Holy Spirit, draw the people together.
Come Holy Spirit, lead the people in paths of peace.
Come Holy Spirit, guide the people to establish justice.
Come Holy Spirit, come to the people of Sudan.
By God’s grace, may it be so. Amen.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Of Americans ugly and otherwise

It always wonders me - wonders me deeply - when I hear people use the term Ugly American. I know that it has come to refer to people from the United States who travel abroad, who refuse to build relationships with the people in the area where they are living, who refuse to learn about the people and culture and history and country, who judge everything by the standards of the United States, who are culturally insensitive, who are certain they know what is best for the people even without listening to the people, who insert and implement solutions based in United States and developed world values and standards, who are often loud, and who are generally obnoxious.

But still, the term Ugly American grates on me - not because the reality to which it points rings false - I have known people like that. I have been that person. Often. Far too often.

My problem relates to the term's origin.

As I understand it, the term Ugly American  comes from a novel by William Lederer and Eugene Burdick. Published in 1958 (and first read by me at an unknown time) and set in Southeast Asia, The Ugly American contrasts U.S. approaches to opposing Communist influence.

Most of the folks from the United States in the novel fit the contemporary usage of the term Ugly American. Loud, boorish, certain they have all the answers, unwilling to learn from the people, relying on U.S. technology, their work benefits U.S. contractors and companies and the elites of the country. They build no relationships with the people and accomplish little.

A smaller group proves somewhat more effective because they meet and relate to the people. They listen to the people and try to implement projects and programs based on what they learn. They make use of technology appropriate to the situation and the needs and assets of the people. The members of the first group distrust them immensely and limit their effectiveness.

Then there is the title character. Homer Atkins is ugly. That is made clear. His appearance is ugly. In particular, his hands are described as ugly. His rough clothes and unrefined manners contrast with the pressed clothes and polished mien of the diplomats.

Atkins is an engineer. He spends his time with the people. He learns from the people - both in terms of what they need and in terms of what they suggest as solutions. He is the one who reveals and practices cultural sensitivity and proficiency. His efforts, rooted in the people, benefit the people.

I realize that I swim upstream against years of linguistic usage. But the way we have twisted the meaning - losing the context from whence it came - sometimes seems and feels like an example of the very phenomenon the term seeks to describe.

So whenever I hear Ugly American used with its contemporary meaning, I cringe. I recognize the reality to which Ugly American as we use it today points - in myself and in so many others, and I grieve and cringe again. Then I remember all the women and men who live in real life as Homer Atkins did in fiction, and I give thanks.

Some day I will tell you about Madame Defarge. 

See you along the Trail.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Clipping the wings of those who feast on violence

Create a human sculpture that shows what violence is.

That was our assignment. The Nonviolent Peaceforce was leading a introductory training event to their theory and practice for a number of representatives of nongovernmental organizations in the United Nations community.

They divided the participants into two groups and gave each group five minutes to imagine and design a human sculpture showing what violence is. The instructions noted that we should be able to hold the positions in the sculpture for three minutes so the other group could ponder what we had created.

Our group caucused and planned quickly and decided to go with the theme of the utter devastation that violence wreaks - taking a brutal, deadly toll on all who are involved.

Roles were assigned - several people were to be dead with various twists: two died locked in an embrace of death; others died with their "weapons" (fingers made into a pistol) still firmly held and pointed at each other.

One tableau of two involved a person in the act of finishing off someone who was not yet dead.

One person knelt in prayer - grieving the dead - invoking intervention.

And the final person assumed a position of flight - as a carrion bird poised about the carnage -
representing those who feast on the violence that consumes others.

For some reason, it took my group about point two seconds to cast me as the carrion bird.

We created the sculpture and our colleagues in the other group were asked to observe us, study us, and determine what was happening.

The first observation centered on my "menacing grin." From that point they did a pretty good job of analyzing our "art." They did think I was a drone plane - but they got most everything else pretty close to right.

The trainers then invited the other group to make three changes in our statue that would transform the situation.

Their first step was to have me put down my arms - "clipping my wings." They then moved to the section where one of our members was engaged in violence against another and separated them. Finally, they removed the "guns" from the situation.

We then talked together. That's when I pointed out that I was not a drone - but a carrion bird (c'mon, have you ever seen a drone with a grin of any sort let alone a menacing one?). Upon learning that, one of the other group members said, "So we clipped the wings of those who feast on violence." And there was a moment of silence as those words sunk in.

Therein lies essential peacemaking work: figuring out who feasts on - who profits from - violence. Armament makers? Arms traders? Transnationals? Those who obtain the resources in the conflict area? No doubt it is different people and groups in different situations. But always there is someone - there are someones. Who are they? How can we restrict or cut off their profits, and thereby diminish violence. Those are questions I will continue to ponder.

See you along the Trail.


I made a joke.
A tired, stale joke.

Slowly, reluctantly
almost in spite of yourself,
you laughed.

And life seemed good.

17 June 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Watch, pray and weep

We watch,
we pray,
we weep.

As blood flows,
society implodes,
agony unfolds,
and the pile of corpses grows.

We watch,
we pray,
we weep.

We call the international community
to move
to intervene.

We watch,
we pray,
we weep.

We give to humanitarian causes
who raise the alarm
and count the bodies.

We watch,
we pray,
we weep.

It is not enough
never is it enough,
but it is all we have,

So though our
heart breaks,
our spirits recoil,
our stomachs retch,
we turn not away.

We watch,
and weep.

16 June 2011
Shire on the Hudson
As reports of violence in Sudan mount

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Centennial Worship - Upcoming Concert

Here's the post by my friend Bob Brashear, pastor of West-Park Presbyterian Church, on Sunday's worship service.

Here's a real easy way to buy tickets for the June 19 Bridge to Restoration Concert. It's the one I am attending - I will be looking for you.

And here's information about the other concerts in the series - I look forward to your reviews.

See you at the concert!

See you along the Trail.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Not alone

Not alone, we stand together,
for alone one could not stand.
Not alone, we stand together,
soul to soul and hand in hand.
Not alone,  we stand together,
aching hearts, but spirits strong.
Not alone, we stand together,
watching, waiting, working,
when others turn away;
seeing, hearing, feeling,
what others would avoid.
Not alone, we stand together,
facing suffering, sharing pain,
seeking justice, pursuing peace.
Not alone, we stand together,
surely wounded,
sorely wounded,
still we stand.
Not alone, we stand together,
armed with faith
and armed with laughter,
hope and weeping,
dreams and love.
Not alone we stand together,
for alone we could not stand.

26 July 2001
Colorado National Monument, Fruita, CO and Orem, UT
with thanks to Diana Cheifetz

Circles are eternal

West-Park Presbyterian Church (86th and Amsterdam) celebrated its 100th birthday today - on Pentecost.

A group from Medina Presbyterian Church in Ohio is visiting New York this week. They have a number of activities scheduled, including a visit to the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, work at Jan Hus Presbyterian Church, Covenant House, and Old Bergen Church.

They requested suggestions for places to worship today - I provided several from the amazing diversity that is the Presbytery of New York City - among them West-Park.

I arrived at West-Park around 10:30. I was talking with Andre Solomon-Glover (he's doing a concert next Sunday - do you have your tickets yet?) when a group came in.

"Excuse me," I said to Andre.

Walking up the aisle, I said, "I'll bet you folks are from Cleveland. Well, actually I bet you folks are from Medina."

Smiles and laughter followed as did a wonderful worship service - celebrating the congregation - celebrating Pentecost - celebrating the different gifts that God gives to each of us - a diversity that may challenge us at times, but certainly blesses us and enriches us.

Pastor Bob Brashear reminded the congregation of its rich history - all the people who had been through the building, whose spirits remain present nurturing the congregation into the future. He reminded us of the congregation's multi-faceted witness to social justice in the name of Jesus in the past - a witness that continues in the present - a witness that will continue into the future.

The lectionary reading from Numbers told of Eldad and Medad. Bob told us that this story teaches that all of us - with all of our gifts - are needed for ministry. We cannot engage in ministry alone - we need each other. It brought to mind a poem (of sorts) from almost ten years ago - not my best, but not my worst.

We gathered around the communion table in a circle with the reminder that circles are eternal - and that those people with whom we go into a circle remain with us always - so now, in that mystery we know as the Communion of Saints, we who gathered for worship today, from New York and Medina and points between and beyond, are a part of the West-Park Presbyterian family and story - and West-Park is forever a part of us.

Thanks be to God!

See you along the Trail.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Trust your gizzard

Checked out Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole tonight. I am in something of a Geoffrey Rush phase.

It's an intriguing movie made in Australia and featuring a whole slew of ANZACs. Entertaining story - well done animation - great to hear the voices and figure out who they are.

But the emphasis on the gizzard is a bit too much - it appears interchangeable with grit (True Gizzard) and heart (Bravegizzard) and I can even hear Alec Guinness in the background: "May the gizzard be with you."

See you (and your gizzard) along the Trail.

The things that keep me up nights

This picture is from Geneva.
Ever since I took it I have been wondering, losing sleep to wonder:
Who changes the red handkerchief when it gets dirty?

See you along the Trail.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The next wave

Without warning,
memories bubble to the surface,
absent faces loom before me,
grief crashes remorselessly into my heart,
rips at my spirit,
reopens unhealed wounds,
provides painful reminders:
words regretted as they passed my lips,
unsaid words forever rued,
deeds neglected,
love denied.
Shortcomings, missteps,
failures, and betrayals
wash through my memory,
flood my mind.
Tears flow freely
as I slowly,
rebuild my defenses
until the next wave,
until the next wave.

10 June 2011
Shire on the Hudson

June 19th: Bridge to Restoration Concert

In New York? What are you doing on the evening of Sunday, June 19?

Check out the "Bridge to Restoration" concert at West-Park Presbyterian Church (165 West 86th Street New York, NY 10024). I have my tickets and hope to see you!

The “Bridge to Restoration” presents Andre Solomon-Glover. Andre’s career has spanned the genres of classical, art song, jazz, and musical theater, most notably starring in Showboat on Broadway and internationally. Joining with Andre will be eclectic musical artist Dana Hanchard, Erasmia Voukelatos, Ashley Horne, Greg Beyer and Jed Distler. The evening’s program will express the underlying connection in different genres even as The Centre seeks to live out the connections between different peoples, cultures and disciplines. The host for the evening is the Interfaith Assembly on Housing and Homelessness. The Assembly is the only organization of its kind in the city working for both the transformation of individual homeless people and of society.

Andre Solomon Glover sings regularly at West-Park services on Sunday mornings at 11:00 am.
Dana Hanchard founded The Music For The City program following 9/11, bringing musical artists into residence at inner-city schools to share their gifts.
Erasmia Voukelatos was founder and artistic director of the critically acclaimed West-Park Chamber Society.
West-Park was one of the three original founders of the Interfaith Assembly on Housing and Homelessness in 1976, and Rev. Brashear continues to serve as board chair. 
Date: Sunday June 19th, 2011 from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Tickets: tickets can be purchased for $25 each from Brown Paper Tickets here!

See you at the concert! See you along the Trail!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The best?

After tonight's meeting of the Council on Witness to Society and the World, DeLaina Gumbs and I went out to dinner. We had some plans, but as we approached the place we had originally selected, we noticed a Five Guys Burger and Fries.

"Do you want to go to Five Guys?"

"I have heard they make good burgers. But I have never been to one."

"So do you want to go?"

"Sure why not."

We ordered. Talked. Got our food. Started eating.

"So is it a good burger?" DeLaina had opted for another entree. I alone tried the burger.

"It's a good burger."

"The best burger you have ever had?" she asked. One sign proclaimed that; friends had told both of us that.

"The best burger I have ever had?" I reflected. "I don't think so."

"Where was the best burger you ever had?"

"Well . . . here's how I answer that question. Memory can be a funny thing. We often romanticize experiences from the past - including food. First experiences - early experiences take on a glow and aura over the years that sometimes they don't deserve."

"OK. That makes sense."

"So realizing that I may be remembering things as better than they were . . . I would say that the best burgers I ever had were in college. There was this bar. Every week or so, a group of us would go there. We would call the trips '2-buck-nights.'"


"Well you have to remember that this was long ago." I proceeded to demonstrate how long ago by stumbling over the number of years, finally realizing that it had been about 35 years ago or so.

"And what I remember is that for 2 bucks, you could get 2 beers and 2 burgers."

"Really? That seems pretty cheap."

"That's what I remember. And there has been a lot of inflation in 35 years or so. Of course I could be wrong. But whatever the price was, those burgers are the best I remember having."

"What made them so good?"

"I am not sure. I suspect that it had as much to do with the people - the friends, the owner, the bartender - as it did with whatever the taste might have been. At any rate, those will always be the burgers I identify as my favorite."

Five Guys makes a good burger, but memory still burns strong.

See you along the Trail.


"The ball is really bouncing around out there."

That seems a rather obvious observation to make about a basketball game.

If it was bowling or billiards, bouncing balls might seem worth a comment. There should not be much, if any, bouncing in billiards or in bowling.

But basketball? Seems like bouncing is pretty much in order.

Or maybe that's just me.

See you along the Trail.

Children laughed and smiled

In a place,
a place like too many others,
where poverty stalks the streets,
grinding the people in its deadly embrace,
children laughed and smiled at me today.
Guguletu Township
Cape Town, South Africa

Monday, June 6, 2011


“Jump,” he said.
His khakis neatly pressed,
the white man held the copper coin
just above the outstretched fingers
of the small black child
whose ragged jeans flapped in the breeze
as he vainly sought
to reach the treasure.

“Jump,” they say.
Suffocating in affluence,
they hold up meager morsels –
paltry offerings, contingent upon their whims –
to sisters and brothers in need,
forcing them into games they do not understand
to obtain the pittance
which may allow them to survive.

“Jump,” we say.
The rich, the powerful, the strong:
unwilling to challenge the status quo
seeking not justice
which recognizes relatedness
and brings enlivening co-equality
but offering only the charity
which demeans, denies, degrades.

8 September – 10 September, 2001

 Pinetown, South Africa and Louisville


When simple kindness
and common decency
become worthy of praise,
it is good to ask:
How deeply
do wounds cut?
How sharply
are lines drawn?
How tightly
are doors closed?
How scarred
are human souls
How broken
are human hearts?
How violated
are human spirits?
How strong
are hatred and fear?

7 September – 10 September, 2001

 Pinetown/Durban, South Africa; Louisville

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Somewhere west of Albuquerque

Somewhere west of Albuquerque,
one star hangs defiantly
above the far horizon;
the sky turns
forty shades of blue.
A coyote mournfully howls
as I surrender to night's embrace
and gentle dreams of you.

Summer 2001
West of Albuquerque


Behind gray green mountains
burns a brilliant golden pool;
light sabers stab the sky
then fade to wisps of brown
as day ends.

Summer 2001
West of Albuquerque

When you can be found - Ascension Sunday

I preached today at St. James Presbyterian Church in Harlem.

It was my second time.

In March, I remembered with joy and humility that St. James Presbyterian is where the Rev. Dr. Lenton Gunn served faithfully and well for many years. I had the privilege of working with Lenton on the Presbyterian Hunger Program's Advisory Committee. It was an honor to be in the pulpit where he had stood.

Today I returned.

Again I preached - and I led the service welcoming a member into the congregation by reaffirmation of faith. It was a moment of joy. I had forgotten how great a blessing that aspect of ministry is.

Very early in the service, came the prayer of adoration (I did not write the prayer although I truly wish I had). The prayer included the sentence: We gaze at the sky looking for you, when you can be found in the laughing play of children; we wonder where you have gone, while you are all around us in our sisters and brothers.

I prayed those words with the congregation and realized immediately that they summed up what much of what I wanted to say about the Ascension.

Almost at the same moment, I remembered a song by John McCutcheon - Picture of Jesus - that reminds us we see Jesus in everyone we meet (a theme echoed by many others through the years including Leo Tolstoy in the short story Where Love Is, God Is.)

I scrapped the first two pages I had written and rewrote on the fly. I started with the lines from the prayer. Then I retold a version of Picture of Jesus.

I noted that the Ascension tells us what not to do: we are not to look for Jesus in some indefinite future; not to look for him in heaven; not to focus our attention away from this world and the places we live (I mentioned the corner of W. 141st and St. Nicholas in Harlem and I also mentioned Argentina, France, and Italy - the places where some of those visiting St. James this morning live).

I also noted what the Ascension is. It is an invitation to see Jesus we encounter every day in all the places we find ourselves. It is a call to discipleship - to follow Jesus - to live as Jesus lived - to love as Jesus loves - to be his witnesses to the end of the world. It is a promise that we will receive the Holy Spirit who will gift us and accompany us in our living. It is the proclamation of God's amazing grace and unshakeable love for each of us - for me. And that amazing grace and unshakeable love allow us to accept the gift of the Holy Spirit and live into the adventure of discipleship with all its challenges and perils as well as its wonders and blessings. Thanks be to God!

For the record, it seems like there is something going on with St. James Presbyterian Church, hills, and me. In March, the gospel lesson was the Transfiguration. Today the lesson from Acts was the Ascension. Both of those events take place on hills (mountains).

Also, when walking up Amsterdam from La Salle (where the Shire on the Hudson is located) to W. 141st (where St. James is located) there is something of a hill to climb. This seems a tad odd, since La Salle is located in Morningside Heights. But there you have it.

Of course as one of the members of St. James pointed out, the way back home goes downhill. And as another member told me, the walk on St. Nicholas is pretty level. And as a third member said, "If you came back more often, you would get used to the walk!"

See you along the Trail!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

That words do not come too late

Spent the day writing a sermon. Tomorrow I preach at St. James Presbyterian Church. I am looking forward to that.

The day also brought a cleaning surge here at the Shire on the Hudson. Things had been getting pretty grungy. Now they are just kind of grungy. One step at a time. The laundry did get done. That's always a good thing.

A number of movies have been viewed over the past few days. Some oldies that I have seen before - Batman: The Dark Knight (Heath Ledger is amazing - and then there are Christian Bale and Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine and Gary Oldman and the list goes on); The Bourne Identity, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

The most interesting new one was Get Low with Robert Duvall. He turns in a strong performance and the cast supports him well.

The story, supposedly based on truth, is fascinating. Duvall's character, Felix Bush lives as a hermit. And he decides he wants to hold his funeral - before he dies - while he is able to attend.

I found myself recalling one of my favorite scenes from Waking Ned Devine. Jackie O'Shea is speaking at the funeral for Ned Devine - and when the lottery man arrives, Jackie quickly changes the focus because the town has told him that Ned is still alive. Michael O'Sullivan is masquerading as Ned so they can cash in Ned's winning lottery ticket.

Jackie pauses for a moment and then says, "Michael O'Sullivan was my great friend. But I don't ever remember telling him that. The words that are spoken at a funeral are spoken too late for the man who is dead. What a wonderful thing it would be to visit your own funeral."

In Get Low, Felix Bush decides he wants to do just that (as he did in real life, apparently). Of course there are some twists and turns to get there. But get there they do. And the truth is told - painful, heartbreaking, hard truth - truth from the past - truth that has shaped, distorted, truncated Felix's life and the lives of many others. And it seems that forgiveness and some measure of reconciliation occurs.

Felix's tale in Get Low took my thinking in two directions. 

Direction One.
I don't want to attend my own memorial service. At least that's what I think at the moment. I also don't want that memorial service to happen any time soon. And I realize that memorial services are for the living not for the one who has died. But I do have an idea what I would like to see happen at that service - years and years from now.

That idea comes from Waking Ned Devine. The memorial service should be a time of celebration and giving thanks. And after the service, all of my family and all of my friends should gather for a party - a mighty party - a party with music and food and drink - a party with stories told and memories shared - a party filled with tears and laughter - a party that lasts through the night. Then, in the morning, the still quiet darkness of the morning, all who are able should fill their glass and make their way to the highest point that is nearby and their they should toast me as the sun rises.

Direction Two.
I need to be sure that my family and friends know what they mean to me. I need to make sure that my words do not come too late. May it be so.

See you along the Trail.

Children of the colonized

No water runs,
no electricity flows
to the shacks
made of
cardboard, wood,
tarpaper, tin,
and whatever other material
lies at hand,
within which,
midst hunger and pain,
violence and want
on what was once
their ancestors’ land,
the children of the colonized

9 September 2001

Isla de Sal, Cape Verde Islands


It is time,
time to begin,
time to begin again,
time to begin again - again.

4 June 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Thursday, June 2, 2011

US 191

Garlanded with piƱon and juniper
ancient dragons silently sleep
along the road from Monument Valley to Moab
ignoring all who pass,
remembering days long gone,
for the awakening.

Moab, Utah

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tears remain

Be careful.
Keep safe.
Don’t get into trouble.
If trouble comes looking for you . . .

So they told him -
those who loved him,
who heard his first cries,
who held him at his birth,
those who would protect him
from a world in which children
die too soon
so often
that no tears remain to shed for them.

Be careful.
Keep safe.
Don’t get into trouble.
If trouble comes looking for you . . .

He heard their words
and learned them well.
When gunshots
tore the silence
of the street where he played,
he ran.
For cover he ran;
for safety he ran;
for his very life he ran.

Following the sidewalk;
cutting through the grass;
leaping up the steps, he ran -
his heart racing
faster than his feet.

Sprinting across the porch;
throwing open the door;
stumbling through the doorstep, he ran -
entering what should have been the safety
of his own home.

Filled with fear
and their words, he ran still -
his fingers touched the bannister
as he began to mount the stairs
that led to his room.

Suddenly the wall beside him exploded -
a chunk of hot lead
ripping through vinyl siding,
spraying drywall,
violating his body,
tearing life from him.

Be careful.
Keep safe.
Don’t get into trouble.
If trouble comes looking for you . . .

So they told him -
those who loved him,
who heard his final gasps,
who held him as his lifeblood pooled around him
those who tried, but could not protect him
from a world in which children
die too soon
so often
yet still tears remain to shed for them. 

15 August 2001

Cleveland Heights, Ohio