These Vaunted Halls

The history

of the world

decays within

these vaunted halls.

 

Bones of men

whose legacies

have long passed into dust,

now scattered,

or drifted into drains

to swirl and sink

amid the sewage

 

These vaunted halls

of vainglorious scholars

and savage soldiers,

 

This labyrinthine lair

of painted women

and holy mothers,

running children

and feral dogs

 

This ornate gauntlet of

open secrets and

private trysts,

 

This once- proud venue,

where learned men

hammered out their thoughts and beliefs,

vociferous in their ferocity,

gesticulating like tribal dancers

 

This enviable marketplace,

with its bright colors, shady deals,

and the rush of winning a well-wrought

haggling session,

 

Is now the place I skulk,

and stalk, and catch the rats

that bite me in my sleep,

and take the bodies and coin

of unwary travelers.

 

My kingdom,

a silenced ruin of

damp and crumbling marble,

dim sunlight,

and solitude.

 

These vaunted halls

will return to their glory,

stone by stone, page by page,

man by man.

 

But for now,

I feast.

 

 

 

When There’s No One Left to Cry

In the empty room,

she sits alone.

The snow pats at the window,

and the wind bumps against its panes,

but she ignores pristine whiteness.

There were snowballs, sleds and snow angels, long ago.

 

In the park she sits amidst

singing birds, solo saxophones,

and new blossoms full of hope

and virgin fragrance, budding with the

hum of the earth in their stems,

but she ignores the music.

There were picnics, finding robin’s eggs and holding hands, long ago.

 

Along the rainy path she walks in the evening,

when people are home, drinking coffee

and kisses from lips, warm and safe and dry.

The broken umbrella hides her face, and the

rhythm of the raindrops beats to the

racing of her heart.

She ignores the water.

There was jumping in puddles, closing her eyes to listen,

and sticking out her tongue to taste the water, long ago.

 

Standing at the bridge, alone in the misty twilight,

she stares at the red leaves clustering on the riverbank,

as if the tree bled its branches bare.

Vibrant with their true color, she ignores the fallen foliage.

There were bonfires under the stars, the admiring of

deep colors, holding them up to the gold and crimson fire

to see through gold and crimson filters,

and sipping hot chocolate, long ago.

 

And now there’s

no one left to cry,

to cry with,

to cry for,

to cry to.

And so,

she cries

for them all.

All My Everything

There’s reason to go on, they say.

Just take it slow and day by day.

But see, I know I’ve lost my way.

And no, my friend, it’s not okay.

Good intentions, noble hearts.

No avail, my life’s in parts.

Some are missing, some are old.

Tarnished is the burnished gold.

With a rueful smile I see

There’s no getting back to me.

So with what remains, I’ll go,

Hat in hand, a so-and-so.

What’s that, friend?

You’ll say a prayer?

Does my heart good

that you care.

Thank you for that.

Leaving now.

God don’t answer

why or how.

Still, I won’t say no.

You pray.

Say it as I

walk away.

Love you too friend,

don’t you cry.

Don’t think I’ll be back

to try

starting over,

learning new.

Time is short,

and days are few.

Gonna watch the sun go set.

Come with me, and pray, and let us

share that moment,

knowing why .

And when the sun sets.

So will I.

 

You Are Most Welcome Here

Approach in reverence,

my friend.

You are most welcome here.

The fires will light your way

to me

and calm your doubt and fear.

Long years have we been waiting for

your soul

to bring its light.

And patience is its own reward.

Now welcome

to the night.

For when the doors are opened

friend,

there will be no return.

And hidden from

celestial sight

you’ll burn

and burn

and

burn.

 

Do the Bones of Men Remember?

Do the

bones of men

remember days

of brave and

daring deeds?

Do they long for

love and battle

when they rode their

noble steeds?

Do they mourn

the silent rhythm

of a strong and

beating heart?

Do they miss the

lilt of melody

and master works

of art?

Do they once recall

the clamor and the clanging

of their toil?

And the scent of

perfumed women

and the seasons

and the soil?

Do the

bones of men

remember night

and moon and sea

and star?

Do they contemplate

the faulted flesh that made them

what they are?

Do the bones remember

holding onto children, home

and wife?

Do the bones remember

anything at all of

loving life?

When we return to dust

I pray our bones will only sleep,

instead of dreaming

of the things of life

we couldn’t keep.

 

No Glory Here

There is no glory here for me

The victory flame is quenched

No more the striving, driving fight,

in perspiration drenched

No more the laurel crown

that wreathes the winner’s fevered brow

The tender flesh of virgin maids

press not against me now

No more the cheering of the crowds

resounding in my head

No smiles or chants or accolades

No rivals full of dread

In this arena here I stand

though weary, sad and worn

But not til death’s hand pulps my heart

this sword from hand be torn

Dead Affections

I come again by the light of a sickle, sickly moon

to an old, cracked and mossy stone. In front of it, a

tarnished vase of long-decayed flowers, liquified

with rot and mold

Cold mist covers me like a tattered prayer shawl,

and the wolves stand still and watch from the pines.

I go down to one knee, and brush the lichen off the letters,

now almost level with the stone.

I sigh, searching my heart for the kernel of it once again,

hoping against hope, knowing it is no longer there,

and just not willing to concede.

Its leaving was painful, and it almost

severed my fingers

as I tried to keep it close.

The pain was so great, I could only beg in silence.

The thought of the looming, yawning chasm

of its absence paralyzed me, and my trembling fingers, unable to

take any more,

released it.

On my first visit here, the memories were like the flowers:

fresh, vibrant, full of color, fragrant with life.

But just as the flowers would make no new petals,

we would make no new memories,

and in time, these I cherished turned to sepia,

now tinged an ashy gray.

You made me feel life was worth living.

You lied.

And yet, still, the letters of your name

can be seen,

and I whisper it to the

black, eternal sky.

“Love.”

The Haunting

The haunting

of these

hallowed halls

comes when the

Midnight bell

is ringing

 

And the maiden

climbs the stairs

to stand there in the choir loft

singing

 

Lovely, high and sweet

her voice

The notes ring long

in beam and rafter

 

Then sweet voice

begins to quake

And singing turns

to demon laughter

 

And the fight

for her fair soul

begins with

every night anew

 

And I relive

the sin I did

that killed her love

and turned it blue

 

I have no reason now

to stay

I only know

I cannot leave

 

For I did love her once

you see

and for her fair soul

I did grieve

 

but my eyes strayed

as did my heart

as did my flesh

and I unclothed

 

Drove in the knife

that pierced the heart

and damned the soul

of my betrothed

 

 

And now she walks

these ruined halls

Once stately, grand and

full of life

 

And looks at me with

sad,wet eyes

that say

I should have been

your wife.

 

So from the palace roof

I plunged

while Midnight bell

did twelve times toll

The last knell saw a broken

shell of bone and blood

and fleeing soul

 

Now two walk

moonlit halls together

when the Midnight bell

is ringing

Saying now their

wedding vows

 

in harmony

in the choir loft

 

singing

A Moment of Weakness, A Lifetime of Pain

Your life upended,

just wanting to feel good

for a moment,

 

The serpent slithered down

and flicked your ear with

a silver tongue

 

Betrayed, you were

hung up

strung out

and dying slow

 

The jester bested

the king

 

And the pain of your need

dimmed the light of your soul

 

You’d say anything

Do anything

Kill anyone

 

And now

the programs sprout

like mushrooms

pretty with disease

nutritious with bacteria

 

And you live in

cold and wretched

shadows

 

in cold and wretched

places

 

with a cold and wretched

heart.

 

and cold and wretched

voices in your head.

 

I would reach out to you,

but you won’t put your hand out,

except to pull a weapon on me

and have me supply your

demon’s need

 

Sometimes I just gave it to you,

because I knew you once

and recognized your shell.

 

I can’t return home,

And you can’t leave.

 

Is this goodbye?

 

I wish we knew

I wish it wasn’t

I hope it isn’t

 

but as we idolize

the parasite

that infested you

as he drives his Escalade,

his rims spinning as he goes

nowhere, a reflection

of both of you,

 

I can only look in from

the outside,

and say

I’m sorry

our

friendship

our

brotherhood

could not make you

feel good enough about

you

 

I still hold out hope,

my brother, that one day

through your nightmares

a dream will come instead,

and

you too, will remember

the man you

used to be

 

I’m standing in the light

calling

waiting for your

crawling shadow

to pass the dirty window

 

I’ll still be here

when you answer,

if you answer,

but

it’s up to you now…

I Had Nothing to Atone For

There were Black men all over

the Mall in Washington DC that day, praying, bonding

laughing, crying,

Strangers coming together in unison

for their race, their families, and

themselves

 

The phone rang, and I heard the voice

of my father, with an undercurrent of

excitement in it.

 

“Do you want to go?” he finally asked.

 

“He said it was a day of atonement, and I have nothing

to atone for; I married the mother of the my children, and

my kids see me every day.”

 

 

My self-righteousness came through,

My judgmental attitude against

my brothers who weren’t doing what I was doing

came through

 

We didn’t go.

 

And after it was over,

I began to think about all

the love and knowledge

my father imparted to me

 

I thought about his contribution

to my love of art and music

and literature,

and racial pride.

 

I never got the chance to apologize.

He’d grown up in a different

time, and saw himself circumscribed

by others as a threat because of his

keen and vast intelligence,

 

And I thought: What would it have cost

me to see his heart soar, to see the

Pride of his people in his eyes, to hear

the wisdom of other elders who were

there that day?

 

What young man could I have ministered

to about the rewards of being a

family man, an involved father?

 

I called myself a teacher, and on that day

no one learned from me, and I learned nothing

about myself.

 

I called myself an artist, and on that day I

there was no input of experience to relay

in words or music

 

There are no pictures of me and my father

on that day

because I was a self-righteous hypocrite

who only thought of myself,

and not of my dad

 

I know he forgave me,

but I should have done that

for him

 

I most likely would have found

it was for both of us.

 

I didn’t get the chance to say it then,

but I will say it now, in words,

for posterity, for all who read

to see:

 

I apologize,

Dad,

for breaking your heart.

 

I thought

I had nothing to atone for…