Category Archives: Poetry
Beneath the Massive Oak Tree
Unaware that royal blood courses beneath her wrinkled and
Blackened skin from long hours in brutal humidity,
Her back permanently aching, day after day,
Bent over, fingers raw; bag after bag weighed,
Slave after slave whipped; now, exhausted,
She lies in the dust beneath the oak weary and broken.
She is an old, old woman of forty-one –
The daughter of slaves who were the children of
Slaves who were the children of
Princes and princesses.
He looked like just another field hand
Walking slowly down the lane – most
Likely hired out by a neighbor to make up
For the sickness going around. His clothes
Tattered, old hat shading his face, he walked
With a stooped dignity that broadcast the
Fact that they had never broken him.
Fat, tobacco-chewing overseer spat
Disdainfully and cursed as he read
The newcomer’s paperwork, before walking to the Big House.
There was a commotion within, shouts, and cries –
Master and his lawyer, Misses trailing behind beneath
Her parasol and bonnet. Confusion, upheaval, she was
Curious, but too fatigued to do more than lift her head
From the dusty shade of the massive oak.
The Oak knew the displaced and slaughtered
Indigenous people who were one with this land for
Ten-thousands of years before it was stolen. He survived
The slashing and burning, ploughing and planting by
Invaders who worked stolen land with stolen souls.
The old oak was the first to hear, the first to lift his
Arms in praise to the Almighty. Though the pale-skinned
People remained in shocked denial, the papers were
Clear, legal, and in order. The entire plantation,
Long since fallen into bankruptcy, now belonged
To the scruffy looking field hand. As a first order of
Business, even while the master’s carriages were
Clopping off in the distance to the wails of the entitled,
He called together all the slaves, and gave them
Papers of manumission.
Afterward, he walked toward her, a gentle smile on his face,
A kindness in his eyes such as she had never before seen.
He sat down next to her in the dust and spoke of the
Beauty of the morning’s sunrise. She remained silent,
Still afraid. What did these changes mean for her?
Where would she go? Her husband had been beaten to
Death, his body burned on a stake for trying to escape.
Her children sold down the river; gone. She was alone and
Too weary to care anymore. What did he want?
Does it matter?
He divided the plantation into 40-acre farms
And gave one section to each family, along with
Mules and ploughs, horses and chickens.
What had been a cotton plantation would soon
Become a farming village. The Big House became a
Home for elders no longer able to care for themselves;
The new owner lived as one with the former slaves.
Around campfires, they sang and danced; at
Christmastide, they feasted and gave gifts; at
Easter, they shouted their hallelujahs.
A great war ripped apart the land. Many a mansion
Burned to the ground. Slavery ended, only to be
Replaced by draconian laws, convict leasing,
Hooded riders and lynching trees. The field hand
Kept a watchful eye from the watchtower,
Ever keeping the evil at bay with a presence that
Radiated both power and peace. He had no guns,
No canon, yet there was a force that glowed
Outward from him, as if, with a word, he
Could thresh mountains.
Still she sat, wearied and broken, in the dust
Beneath the massive oak, happy for her neighbors,
But worn out like an old mule, barely able to lift
Her head. Day after day, he visited, bringing
Fresh bread, sweet wine, meat and cheese.
Day after day, he spoke of trees and birds and
Clouds and far off seas. He told her tales of
Her ancestral homeland, of great herds of wildebeest, and
Flowing grasslands. How or when he had been there,
She could not imagine.
Several weeks past until, during one of their visits
Under the old oak, he took her hands, looked into
Her eyes and asked her to be his wife. She wept as
She fell into his arms and felt his strength lift her out
Of the dust and carry her back to her shack.
Seamstresses, musicians, tradesmen came by daily,
Jewelry was made, dresses embroidered, flowers arranged,
But it wasn’t until the wedding itself that it hit her –
She was marrying a King.
She was about to become a Queen.
And the Old Oak lifted his arms in praise to the Almighty.
They Laughed at the Old Cat Boat
A steady 10 knot breeze from the southwest
Makes it an ideal day to sail.
Across the lagoon, out into the bay, and
To the ocean beyond, sails dot the seascape.
Large and small. New and old. Fiberglass and wood.
Sloops, ketches, yawls, schooners – even a cutter –
On the horizon spinnakers billow like bridal bouquets.
Out among them, a leaky old wooden tub, its
Dirty yellow cotton sail struggling to pull it along,
Reefing points waving to those on shore. A
Grizzled old salt at the helm. A lad bailing the bilge.
Most were fairly far out when the wind
Shifted to the nor’-east and began to blow.
Black clouds churning up seemingly out of nowhere,
Winds gusting to thirty knots.
The largest of yachts,
With their foul-weather-gear-bedecked
Professional crews, adjust quickly –
Storm s’ils set, they plough their way in sprays of
Salt towards the harbor.
Not so the smaller craft, whose spinnakers
And genoas blew out into shreds like old rags,
Hulls took on water, and boats
By the score swamped or sank, leaving
Frightened bobbing bodies buoyed by life jackets.
Seemingly unaffected, the old wooden cat boat
With its yellowing main sailed on, heading
Out to sea on close haul, wave after wave
Welcomed over her transom like old friends.
She has seen many a storm worse than this.
She is one with the sky, the currents, eddies,
The waves, and the wind.
Oddly, the skippers of these boats were in
Many ways like the very boats they captained.
For some, goodness comes naturally, the
Fruit of sound genes, balanced hormones,
Refined upbringing, and careful education.
They have the means to fit out the latest
Crafts with the latest gear. Some even have the
Means to hire the pros. They scoff at the sinking
And swamped; shrug at the news of the drowned.
Their etiquette is refined; their behavior cultured,
Their interactions polite. They find it quite natural to
Avoid the tawdry seediness of the sinful.
For others, burdened with poor role models,
Neurochemical imbalances, improper nutrition;
Harnessed with addictions and perversions, goodness is a
Sisyphean task. All they can afford are
Small crafts unfit for high seas.
They try and fail only to fail again.
They keep tripping to sloughs of iniquity.
This is not the first storm to swamp them.
They are the least, the poor in spirit, the sinful ones that
The Anointed One comes to rescue.
One would expect Him to come in a rescue
Helicopter, or a Coast Guard cutter, a
Muscular young man whose dress blues
Are the background for medals.
But, alas, No. A grizzled old salt,
He comes in a storm-tossed
Leaky old cat boat, and one by one,
With the help of a young lad,
Plucks survivors out of chaos.
1 April 2023
Bitter cold horizontal rain
stung our faces while gale winds
shredded the sails, rendering us
helpless, smashed against the
rocky shoal, gasping for air on a strange
beach only to be imprisoned by Circe
herself in spells of undulating force-fields.
What she did to the others, I have
no way of knowing, but
after some hours of interrogation,
she used her enchantments to turn
me into a sea creature with gills and
flotation bladders sufficient to dive into the
She twirled her fingers and I spun like a top
round and round – flung into the ocean from which
Curious with my still human brain,
I dove, down, down, down
through kelp beds, past submerged fumaroles,
and curious serranids and sperm whales into
utter darkness and immense pressure,
only to discover a light, like a headlamp
lighting the way. Strangely, it came from within,
as if by a search light mounted on my fish-head.
Down, down, down, past creatures too strange to
describe – translucent, luminous, wheels in swarms.
Ahead, a tunnel opening onto the bottom of the ocean
from which belched hot gases tinted with green.
Still curious, I approached, and to my surprise, felt no
pain, only warmth. And so, I swam in, down; able, somehow,
to breath the gasses like air. Further down into vapors of
unknowing, through chasms of fire into a realm that was
pure ethereal music. Light blue mists swirled, creatures, some
with three heads, others half human, half beast – mythic
creatures from the old stories – here, alive, singing – they
seemed to smile with gentle eyes.
It was an easy swim; always with the current through
Rainbows of Flowers draped with Ribbons of Mercy.
Creatures so bright no eye could look directly at them,
soaring on wings above and below as the tunnel opened
wider, still wider, expanding into infinite space.
But not empty space. Space filled with creatures, plants,
Songs, Music, Dance, Blooms, a cacophony of vibrate Beauty.
My fish-body shape-shifted on its own as the golden shore approached.
Human again, now clothed in white robes woven of sunlight,
I came to the center of all universes and knelt before an
still stained with
And, there, I knew at last, I am loved.
LRT 7 March 2023
Although they had sailed the seas and
Traversed the mountains, forded the
Rivers and streams, navigated the
Chernozem wetlands, and crossed
Vast deserts where nothing had
Stopped them – not blizzard,
Rockslide, derecho, avalanche or
Blistering sun – they came to a halt,
Unable to proceed. Dead stop.
In front of them an inferno blazed with
Exploding pines, fire tornados thousands of
Feet high, lava and coals spewing,
Rocks melting like wax, heat so intense
One could not come within miles.
From within a deep voice bade them
Enter and not be afraid, but fear
Welded them in place. They could not
Move and seemed afraid to breathe.
A being of light ten stories tall wielding
A flaming sword lifted them in its
Gigantic hand and carried them to the
Edge of the firestorm, gently whispering
“Fear not, fear not, for here only
Dross can burn.” And, in very fact, as they,
Holding hands and trembling, walked into
The conflagration, they felt no pain, only a
Warm glow that caressed them like a
Mother’s breast, and a strange feeling of
Safety and wholeness swept into them.
As they walked deeper into the fires, they
Had a sensation of becoming lighter,
Freer, and more peaceful. The flames
Sang and music filled the air. Now
Wingéd creatures flew with birds,
Horses pranced, and monkeys swung; then
People from every tribe joined them in
Song and dance, all light; trees, still on fire but
Not consumed spoke old wisdom, lovers
Embraced midair; at last, they emerged on the
Other side into a flowered meadow beneath
Towering peaks that framed a
Tender divine one who
Walks on soft moccasins without
Even rustling the pine needles
Gently alert, listening like the
Deer, attuned to the subtlest
Scent, Ursula-like, attentive to
Each movement with eagle-eyes,
Who walks on wind and drifts in
Swirling eddies amongst microcosms
Whispering, whispering, now
Crashing, invading, breeching,
Smashing into lives, disrupting
Neatly packaged theologies,
Overturning tables of tradition.
Seismic shaking, erupting,
Disconcerting, suddenly there is
Life! Joy! Creativity – allegro,
Now vivace with cosmic explosions,
Pillars of creation, the light, fast
Tempo of spheres singing in
Joyous harmony, colors radiant,
Paramours in Chagall glass
God crashes in with dazzling
Delightful, glorious destruction.
The fire that roasted our fish, and
The coals that warmed our feet,
The glow by which we read the poems,
Flamed forth into the refining fire of