Speak Truth in Love

This will be the third and final poem on a theme with a friend (for the time being). The theme this time is “Seeming opposites brought together”. This poem takes some liberty with that in calling “truth” and “love” opposites, though I base the idea off the fact that so many people do (incorrectly) consider them such. I will post a link to my friend’s poem here when it is published.

How can I explain this to you?
If I only knew a method of teaching
That would cause you no pain
In learning the lesson you hate.

Is there no easy discipline?
But then I see it is like the struggle
Between two foes to submission:
It is rebellion that causes anguish.

And thus put down, the rebellious
Would cry out against the injustice
Of the victors in their strength
And their unmerciful constancy.

The adage owns that truth hurts;
The truer it is, the sharper the sting.
How fit that the highest truth should
Call us to take up our cross and die!


A Bottle for Two

Continuing last week’s project of writing poetry on a theme with a friend, this poem’s theme is “Sharing Food (or drink)” and how that brings people closer together. You can find my friend’s poem here: https://thisisbeautifuldust.com/2018/04/25/table/.

The makeshift wall of glass between us
Invites, rather than divides, we two
Who have joined together at table
To share a moment and intertwine.

The bottle shrinks and the glasses grow
In fullness of health and tannic vivacity;
Dry mouths are whetted for conversations
That swirl around in our decanting minds.

We pour out libations of joy and mirth
Alongside moments of sobriety and warmth,
For we know our own temperant limits,
And here we will better know one another.

Tennessee River Valley

Over the next few weeks, I will be writing poetry with a friend on similar themes. This week’s theme is “Childhood” and you can find my friend’s poem here: https://thisisbeautifuldust.com/2018/04/20/letting-go/

I see before me, in morning light,
On the sides of Tennessee highways,
Cherished, long-forgotten memories–
Snatches of childhood adventure.

The trees of a never-ending forest
And the fields that lie just beyond
Blush with new-found coloring–
The greens and golds of first spring.

I see a young boy, scrambling ably up
Shadowful, tree-laced mountainsides,
Hands in dirt, grasping at bramble,
Pulling his way toward the hill peak.

From there, to look on his domain;
What is not his that he can see?
The world belonged to those like us:
The youthful boys who claimed it.

Far from society’s spoiling politics,
Simple nature displayed her customs,
Granted us wisdom from on high,
Revealed mysteries on breath of wind.

Such was stolen from me long ago
By a sinist’rly structured complexity;
Now I know it yet remains inside
To be revealed only in remembrance.


How many times has the thought crossed my mind?
Nonchalantly, rationally, I’ve examined the idea.
At the strangest of times, it makes an appearance,
Whenever a spare moment empties my mind.

How easy would it be to win the game here—
To say enough and to fall into lasting sleep?
But it never seems so simple as the fall itself;
There remains the afterward to think about.

There are, of course, those last few moments
Before the impact, the flash, the snap of eternity,
Wherein the mind might choose any number
Of alternate decisions, regretting the impossible.

But the aftermath of eternity
For those still stuck in time
Is what so often saves me—
To save them the trouble.

Thirty-thousand Words

Nothing demonstrates so well
The frailty of this human coil
As when floating helpless on air,
Where hundreds, thousands, feet, miles,
Lose all their relative meaning.

What action could I now take,
What word should I here speak,
That would change fate’s mind,
That might tempt her to acquiesce,
And allow a man just one day more?

One day more to say what needs
To be said to those who need
To hear one last word of parting,
For peace at heart, if nothing else;
That is all I need ask of her.

But if there be words to give,
Let these few suffice for you:
What I have not said aloud,
You have already guessed;
In your heart, you understand.


To me it seems sometimes strange,
Though the feeling is familiar,
To hate and love a thing at once
And never know the true desire.

To discern myself has proven
The task beyond ability;
Learning my own mind and heart
Has only taught me more humility.

Like other men who came before,
I wondered of my own worth;
How could such a one as I
Be but a lesser creation of this Earth?

What contribution do I make,
What gift do I offer God or man,
While sitting alone in dim-lit room,
Another useless, lonely also-ran.

Once, did I not have potential?
A dream there was, dear to heart,
That I might prove–some day–useful;
Have I never moved past the start?

Unfortunate, I do not know my lack
And am left seeing only the effect;
With all that I know not, I know I have
An inborn inability to connect.

How can I be the only of my race
To whom this does not come freely;
Instead of knowing, loving, being,
I might paint the walls like Kurt and Ernie.

But then tonight, at twilight-time,
The Heavenly Painter showed me,
With brushstrokes of blood-red on black,
A canvas renewed each eve in beauty.

The lonely trumpeter taps away
As the evening lamps are lit,
But he gives no sign to carry on,
Or if he does, I do not hear it.

What now, my oldest friend?
Do we go on or end forever
This experiment of our life–
Our greatest and only endeavor?

Dazily stumbling, sullenly marching
Onward, we continue to press,
Against a lack of hope and will
Or chance of once-defined success.

We go—until we no longer might—
In search of a better aim;
Knowing naught but to hope and trust
That all will not be done in vain.

Set Eternity in the Heart of Man

This life is a binary proposition.
The question’s answer is yes or no–
There will not be any modifier–
Merriment and vanity or something more.

Can a man transcend objectivity?
Can I deny that for which I was made?
God has set eternity in the heart of man;
I have not been made the exception.

Only it seems that in recognizing this,
I have been fated to greatness and loneliness
Or offered the obscurity of soft acceptance.
The choice cannot be left unmade.

In separating myself to climb the heights,
I would find myself rejected by those below,
In whom I would otherwise find the appreciation
Of self-congratulation of another who joined the mass.

But this less than madding crowd,
Which seeks solace in self-same company,
Is less than sure of its worth
So that it demands capitulation

From those outsiders who dare
To cause them to feel less than worthy
In their wholly unsatisfactory performance
And woefully inadequate achievement.

For they have decided to rest content,
Hidden away from eternity’s demands,
And hate ever to be reminded of
Their everlasting calling to Truth.

Should I be required to sacrifice the work
Of which I am capable, to which I am called,
Only because others feel themselves incapable
And recognize neither calling nor requirement?

Woe to those who find themselves in good company,
Who have never known the greatness of loneliness,
Who have never made the precious sacrifice required,
And to whom vanity is a comfort.

Unnatural Relation

I make no claim to natural ease with
Those connections that others find innate.
This human grace was never granted to me.
I feel myself detached from my fellow man.

And you, you give love so readily,
At the first glance, with many and most takers.
But you supplement that which is natural
With that which seems right in your own eyes.

In thus doing, you have run afoul
Of an edict you have never recognized,
A Law for which you were not afforded the veto.
Yet here, in the court, you find yourself accused.

And though I be not the judge,
I act the hung jury, trying to make sense
Of a Law I do not understand myself–
One sinner hesitant to condemn another.

What could I say to the defendant who asks me
The meaning of the terms by which she is being tried
When I’ve never defined them for my own life?
Are we judged by alternating standards?

I know the tension between assuring her
Of love and of requirements made upon her–
Requirements eternal and real and full
Of truth and love and grace, at first unseen.

How can one be required to give up
Everything that looks right and good
To receive what only looks to be
Empty promises from an unsure guarantor?

Could we trade places, you and I?
Let me be the one required
To forsake all I want and love
For all I reject and need.

Let it be you to whom true love comes easy.
My friend, my friend…
What I would not give for you to know this grace.
What I would not give to take your place.

Captive Audience

Truly, wasting a man’s time
Is the deepest sign of disrespect.
For Proustian time, a precious thing,
Can never really be redeemed.

You take, without thinking–
And, may I add, without excuse–
My own rightful possession,
And return to me only your pomp.

Get behind me, thief! Depart!
No longer hinder me on my way
To greater things than those
On which you would have me dwell.

Pitied and Fearful

I no longer know what this is;
I have named it too often.
Is this love, hope, delusion?
I submit I do not know.

Ask me to describe this to you;
I will beg for time–and patience.
Do you know more than I?
Instruct me on what I lack.

Show me the things I do not know;
Make me to understand them.
Is there hope for one lost?
Between us, surely you know.

You were recently born into this–
Untainted by lessons I have learned.
Or will your youth be our end?
Naivete, too, begets tragic catharsis.

Some day, this curtain will fall;
Pity and fear will pass away.
Is purgation too hopeful?
Then I will know what this is.