In search of story


May 28.23: Coping, but barely

When War shatters bodies

and pain attends,

the cloth of life

forever rends.

Those who live

don’t want to know

how scythe of War

dealt final blow.

War Death comes also


fanged and poisonous,

cloaked, unseen.

Many there are,

alive in name,

dead by horrors,

never the same.

War breeds Death

of more than one kind:

not just the body,

but spirit,



Maybe the deadliest

weapon of choice:

words — bloodless shrapnel —

the conscience-less voice.

Or maybe the words

lying fallow, unsaid,

lead to as many

mangled and dead.

How are we humans

to be made again whole

when War amputates

our reason, our soul?


It’s Memorial Day weekend in America, dear reader, a time to remember those who have died in service to the ideals of this country, ideals a bit wobbly at the moment. In no way do I trivialize the deaths of men and women whose bodies litter our history and whose families forever bear the pain of death by war, but I can’t help thinking this Memorial Day of all those whose minds and souls died but whose bodies still breathed. POWs, MIAs, and those who returned with invisible gangrene. We are butchering each other still, and this Memorial Day seems sadly weighted with futility.

The dedication pictured above is from the book “Family Separation and Reunion: Families of Prisoners of War and Servicemen Missing in Action,” a compilation of essays by medical professionals involved in establishing care after Viet Nam. One of those was written by our intrepid photographer, S.W. Berg, CAPT, MC, USN (Ret).

It seems to me that this dedication is appropriate for all the families who ache because of war death.



May 18.23: Thursday Doors Writing Challenge #2

Curtains at the window,

a very homey touch;

a meadow on the roof,

homey not so much.

What kind of place is this,

snuggled ‘mongst the weeds,

apparently content

with no housekeeping needs?

Laundry starched by eons,

like herald on rampart,

keeps watch on ancient clothespins —

how rare this garden art!

The door seems not quite closed,

but I cannot rightly tell

if it says So glad to see you,

come in and set a spell.

Or does that faded sag,

arthritic hinge and eave

say that it’s too tired

and I should take my leave?

The crumbles of the sidewalk,

the filmy window panes,

all decrepitude and torpor,

yet somehow it remains

in company of garden,

neglected, ragged growth,

rallying around it

with bud and blossom both.

In reverence do I stand,

imagining its past,

when suddenly my reverence

turns to flabbergast:

this weatherbeaten elder

in my sudden clear-eyed vision

winkingly looks back

at my own mature condition.



Submitted to Dan Antion’s

Annual Thursday Doors Writing Challenge

with thanks to Dan for hosting

and with thanks to Susan Rushton for the intriguing door.




May 2.23: Coping, but barely

“At the end of the day”

you hear people say;

it’s kind of a trend

to invoke the day’s end.

Clichés are so born,

and now I am torn:

how else can I write

of incoming night?

The end of the day

is about shadow play,

puffs pink and white

in slanted late light,

their tippy-toe stretch

to yawn and to catch

that pearly soft ray

at the end of the day.


April 17.23: Coping, but barely

I’m old.

I sag.

I forget.

I miss thinking

that I know what’s going on.

But I have a lilac in my house.

I fear the lies

and the liars,

the bullets,


But I have a lilac in my house.

I feel the weight of memories,

of words

spoken and unspoken,

of being human,

of mail from funeral homes.

But I have a lilac in my house.

I know the distance

between my grandchildren and me,

the chasm of time,

each day



But I have a lilac in my house.

I remember other lilacs

clutched with bowed tulips,

wrapped in wet kleenex and foil,

bounced with us on the school bus,

their tattered remnants

proudly presented to Sister

for the May altar.

Imperfect days, to be sure,

but days with a lifetime ahead,

not behind.

Much to treasure,

much to trash

from those days.

Still the lilac blooms in my house.

If I go very close,

and breathe it in,

I change somehow.

So brief that air

yet so forever.




April 11.23: Coping, but barely

A dog and her stick,

most mysterious meld

of inertia and focus

I ever beheld.

With nary a muscle,

a leg or a wing,

the stick’s going nowhere —

it’s just a dead thing.

The dog, disbelieving

in inanimation,

is taking no chance

on stick ambulation.

Convinced that the stick

is just playing possum,

the dog bides her time

with readiness awesome.

This stand-off, I’m sure,

has lesson for me,

and I begin to suspect

what that lesson could be:

today isn’t yesterday.

You just never know

when the stick will escape

and you’ll look like a schmo.




April 2.23: Coping, but barely


The poet trudges,

burdened, bent,

back and forth,


With words that are useless,

that have only weight,

he paces a sameness

in blindered grim gait.

Metaphors, similes,

a crisp interjection,

mere clamorous tonnage,

trash and abjection.

The longer he carries

that lexicon load

the more likely he is

to slowly implode.

The vulture, despair,

the scavenging bird,

starts to descend,

but then comes the word!

The exact, the precise,

in meaning and sound,

arises from somewhere

in mind’s underground!

The foot-weary poet

with jubilant pen

turns face to the wind

to do it again.


And so do we begin National Poetry Month, dear reader, my annual head-scratching of what makes a poem or a poet.

I do not believe that rhyme makes a poem. I try to work in rhyme for two reasons: 1) it narrows my choice of words, a good discipline for a yackety daughter of Eire, and 2) it gives me the giggles, a good tonic.

But poetry does not depend on rhyme; it depends on something else. I can’t define it.

As happens so often, Bill, our intrepid photographer, has captured an image with wonderful layers of meaning. Thanks again, Bill!