Fresh poetry, inspired by travel and transitions

Some Fresh Poetry! – Let me take you on a bit of a roller coaster

This is a compilation of poetry written during my final few months in the Peace Corps, and during travels following my close of service (recently edited and compiled). These poems were products of personal reflection as I started and continued the transition away from my life in Tanzania, and were inspired by my travels through/to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Paris. It has been a journey.


All About Perspective
(January 31, 2018)

“Blessed are the cracked
for they shall let in the light.”
And shine we shall
through our reversed chasms
into the world of raised eyebrows
and pretenders.
Nothing quite like a lone tree
that can still stand tall
in the midst of monotony.
We know it.
We’re all just symbolically crazy,
like Mr. Rochester’s wife
locked in her attic upstairs.
So no reason to raise the alarm
because I say I saw the clouds eat the moon
-they would’ve kissed it
but then the wind blew.

Yet still
you put up the chained link and barbed wire to boot.
But know that whatever way you cage us,
we can always imagine ourselves out,
watching you through the windows
of our own attics.
And be warned
that a flicker becomes flame
and flame becomes fire
and fire: conflagration.
Then maybe one day
you, too, will see the moon
nearly kissed by the clouds,
and the moonlight will be your own,
shining out through reversed chasms.


Awaiting Perfection
(February 27, 2018)

Perfection is the fitting
of a delicate seashell’s gentle curve
into the palm of one’s hand.

Why am I here
staring at the sea
warming the charming chill
of calcium carbonate?
The exoskeleton of some mollusk
-what’s left of its body
washed ashore
I chose this one
to cradle
to stay with me
to bring comfort.

But why am I here
staring at the sea
letting the wind tangle my hair
the salt tingle,
burn inside my nostrils?
The crashing waves whitewash all fences of sound
letting the sight of unbroken horizon
then take my heart.

I’m okay with it gone.
I am here to let it wash away
when the waters pass through me.
I am here to let go.

It’ll find its way back to some shore:
a seashell
-what’s left of my body
awaiting a warmed palm,
a curved cradle;
awaiting the gentle touch
of the one who chooses me;
patiently awaiting perfection.


The Fate of the Innocent / In the Name of Hatred
(Inspired by the Children’s Room at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre)
(June 26, 2018)

Futures destroyed,
H_____ loved to swim
he was killed at 9 years old
hacked into pieces
by machete.
A_____ loved hide and seek
she was killed at 7 years old
tortured to death with a hot iron
while her Mother watched.
T_____ wanted to be a doctor
he was killed at 10 years old
burned alive
inside a church.
R_____ was Daddy’s girl
she was killed at 5 years old
stabbed through the eyes and head
with sharpened sticks.
E_____ liked to smile
and had deep dimples
he was killed at 4 months
drowned in boiling water.
D_____ cried a lot
she was killed at 11 months
smashed repeatedly
against a wall.
Their final moments
filled with an indescribable fear,
spent watching their Fathers
in pain
Then their own
futures destroyed,
The fate of the Innocent,
of thousands:
to be left in a ditch
or thrown into the river,
a pile of skin and bones
and blood.


(Inspired by the mass graves and the introductory video at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre)
(June 26, 2018)

You stand alone
in solitude
in strength
as the rain falls
on your shoulders
your bent head.
Tears fall with the rain.
Dressed in black
you stand alone
over the thick slab of concrete
that is the definitive roof
of the house of your Mother
your Father
your Sisters
Tears fall with the rain.
You stand crying
over the thick slab of concrete
that is the roof
of the house of thousands more,
the house of the dead.
Cracked bones,
bullet hole-broken skulls,
the crushed humanity
of the innocent
resides beneath.
Tears fall with the rain.

You stand alone
in solitude
in strength
as the rain falls
on your upturned face.
The skies cry with you,
tears soak your skin
flow over your face
saturate your black dress,
puddle at your feet.
Tears drip from the trees
run in rivulets all around you
your grief joined by that of the sky
the earth
the country,
grief mixed together
to saturate the spirit,
mixed up above
like the broken bones below,
connecting a nation
bringing together a people
one people
in death
in life
in hatred
in forgiveness.
Tears fall with the rain.
But those tears are understood
by thousands
an understanding like no other.
You stand alone
in solitude
in strength
but you are not alone
others stand with you
-those lost but never forgotten
-those who have lost
but will never forget.
Tears fall with the rain
but you live
you love
with strength
you forgive.


Coral Caves
(May 14, 2018)

I feel the chill in the breeze
watching tides come and go
come and go, day after day after
day after –
the sand sinks with each step
and the wind is constant.
The sun
comes and goes
comes and goes, day
after –
like the white caps, rising
only to be swallowed
by uncertain waters.

Somewhere there are some steps
inside some cave
cut into the coral
leading up, up, up
and out.
People go there to pray.
It is quiet
safe from wind and sun
and rain
and if one dares to stumble
up up up
blindly into darkness
there may be
some kind of escape.


(May 18, 2018)

Longing for the nameless
can’t quite pin down WHAT
not a certain smell on the air
not a certain slant of light
not even the sky beyond the stars
More so the nameless feeling

because truth is beautiful
but so are lies
and some people willingly wear
willingly stand
in the path of a tornado
willingly bury
beneath the leaves of last year

because guilt can convince us
of all our evils
suffering exists
and all the religions
even the occult
point the blame back on us
so we sin and we sin and we
and we’re all just a jumbled collage
of memory and dream
fear and desire
and pain
playing the game
of sunlight and shadow
wondering what we did
for God to make life so sad

so let us sin
and sin and sin
searching for that feeling
searching for that longing
for the nameless


Kicking, then Still
(May 26, 2018)

A fly on its back
turning in circles
aiming at resurrection
but only one wing buzzes
against the wooden table
painted a dull teal
the light reflects bent legs
then still
then still.

A deep, grinding voice
imperialistic accent
overwhelms the eardrums
old white man
arm around
young black woman
he laughs at his own jokes
as she sips her wine
the third glass
and tries not to draw
away as he draws

then still
in circles
then still
in glossy dull teal paint
death bed

A warm body
nudges against stiff leg
warm brown eyes
of a warm brown dog
looking lovingly
into frozen face.

then still
imperialistic voice
at the periphery

warm brown eyes
caring not that we eat
on a dull teal deathbed
caring not that man
may always dominate
Only caring that two eyes
meet two eyes
and in that connection
all else can fade away.


Music Man
(July 1, 2018)

My black shoes are covered in white dust,
but they still carry me along
the pocked pavement
down the cement stairs
blackened gum rubbed smooth
no longer sticky
drawing my eyes
like a connect-the-dots game
that creates some strange form
of abstract art.
In a world lit by the artificial,
I descend,
crazed, confused,
in need of some sense.

Whoosh of the train
my hair blown against its part
then with a squeal of brakes
doors slam open
people file off
people file on
doors close
momentum suddenly building
my toes press the floor
trying to grip it through my shoes.

The air smells like stale grass and plastic.

I stare at my reflection
in the black window.

Then a tap –
A beat
a voice
the strum of a guitar.

A black man with white hair
in ripped, ruined pants
and a blue pinstriped suit coat
stomps the floor with shoeless feet
and sings
barely pronouncing the words
with all his soul.
Tapping out a beat in between chords
on the wood
of his small, worn guitar,
eyes squeezed shut,
he doesn’t see all the other eyes
riveted on him:
a soul laid bare
a soul sharing all its joy
its sadness
its ripe emotion.
Veins pop from his temples,
the tendons of his neck:
He feels it.
And so do we.

A woman comes to stand beside me
to be closer to the wonder.
We share a smile
even sing along,
closing our eyes as well.

Then with a lurch and a squeal
the doors slam open:
my stop.
Before I can think
I step over the threshold
on autopilot
and the doors slam closed –
the music cut –
only the city-sort-of-silence remains.

My mind far away
dust-covered feet take me
step by step to the sortie
up up up, and out
into the night alight with the artificial
stepping from dot of gum
to dot of gum

The breeze blows,
splitting my hair with the perfect part,
drawing it back from my face,
off my neck,
a chill down my spine
gives me breath.
I awake in the night.


Kesho, Tomorrow
(February 22, 2018)

search for balance
but scales tip
by day
by night
until you float in darkness
on still lake waters
in a world between the stars –
revolving reflections
of all those days
all those nights.

Yet still gravity remains
to ground you
in the sky
of yesterday
of today
of tomorrow
-when the scales will tip
and the Yin
the Yang
will embrace one another
for the sake of some balance.


Dinner in Paris
(July 3, 2018)

The accordion pumps out its notes
and a man effortlessly lets
melodies flow from his loose lips,
striped shirt and red neck tie
giving the look of a boy
to a man
who simply sings
of a life not yet lived,
of a longing long ago realized,
long ago accepted
as life-long.

Red wine flows
as a clarinet joins the mix
now more upbeat
and the driving force of a bass
plucking the deep melody
of a pulse felt in the chest
to the core.

And so goes the rhythm
of the night.
We tap our feet,
nod our heads,
close our eyes
and imagine the music
taking form
rising and falling
flowing as water
in color,
in black and white,
red as the wine
driving us on
driving us away
driving us home.


To Remember, To Forget
(May 25, 2018)

A slender, silver boat,
rudderless, without sail or paddle,
without a captain
floats downstream
on the slow but devoted current
of a gray, forested river –
to find and to lose,
to remember and to forget.

Beauty lies in memory,
memory that cannot be trusted
as it mingles with dreams
many long years of dreams
of the half-remembered, seeming-facts
of your life
of lives not your own
present yet remote:
leaves falling on the wind
golden, for a moment only,
but singular.

Beauty lies in both finding
and forgetting:
the wake of the silver boat,
strong lines
manipulating reflections
on the water,
then melding into them
becoming them,

Beauty lies in the losing:
we hold on, we cling,
but everything is a drop of dew
fallen from boat’s bow
into a world of water,
ripples lost
ripples forgotten
ripples found
ripples remembered.

A slender, silver boat,
rudderless, without sail or paddle,
without a captain
floats downstream
on the slow but devoted current:
a ghost
the ghost of tomorrow, found;
the ghost of today, remembered;
the ghost of yesterday, lost;
the beauty of the forgotten
that may rise again
as a mingled dream
of a life not your own
that you once lived.


A Wonder
(June 8, 2018)

is what it is
when your narrow torso
carved from obsidian
studded with rough-cut diamonds
fills my vision
and I see you shine from within,
the lack of polish: your beauty,
hidden mysteries coating your being.

A Wonder
is what it is
when I write prayers,
-words woven from dewy grass-
that I might one day
run my fingers upon your hills
within your valleys,
but I turn from your look
afraid to listen
to the waterfalls
that originate from the sun.

A Wonder
is what it is
when you breathe the sweet air
held by yellow flowers,
and I do too,
but it’s just a meaningless coincidence
as I neglect to open my arms
when the time comes to warm us both.
You walk away
and I stand
trying to see the beauty
in the rising moon
in the haunting calls of the loons.

A Wonder
will be what it will be
when finally the sun rises
with no mist or fog or clouds
and fills a blue sky,
when the sun lets loose
its waterfalls
taking us into the next morning
and a blue sky again
will fill with our exhaled breath.

Sweetness in the air,
a Wonder
will be what it will be.


A Look in the Mirror
(February 18, 2018)

You are a tulip at dusk.
Dark form in solitude
slender curves
details hidden
by approaching darkness
details awaiting discovery
by those who dare.
You’ll stand proud
in an hour
exposed to naked moonlight
because that light is cold
and must be embraced.
But to be embraceable:

not you.

You stand in solitude
and we search
and we stare
well aware
that your secrets are what make you
but come morning
scars will be hidden with the stars
and your petals will stretch
in the warmth of the sun
and you will smile
and laugh
and forget the past
taking day by day
as a beautiful flower.


(July 2, 2018)

Veins across the window:
flowing rain
spreading in the wind.
Clouds stretch up
patches of blue sky in between
providing the possibility
for rainbows
and we drive on,
roads rolling away beneath us,
but no one’s counting,
dipping in to
and out of storms,
fields alight
then in shadow,
alight again.

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