Wednesday, July 6, 2011

wayside pulpit

Mind astray reading the
words on a wayside pulpit-
so awkward a prophet-
bumbling knowledge-
the acidity of a stunted worldview.

Are you simple as this?
So explainable by twists of phrase  
and pithy wagging tongues
of a bored and boring populace?

Or do you exist in more than an
ever-changing, plastic-lettered,
scared domicile of homicidal  
banalities; meant to be smart?

Might you reside in the
memory of a deceased relative
who died in pain but lived in promise?

Do you dwell a lady’s kiss
at Summer’s first light, balefires lit,
anticipating your rise?

Have you been heard in silent want
upon cold gray steps, with brothers'  
saffron robes dragging the freezing floor?

Or can you be found in
a painted representation of a savior  
dangling, bleeding, rescinding all sin?

Do you feel anger when forced
in containers or bound in
dead leather as the pages of a book?

Can you smell the petals of
an opening rose; waft along the breeze;
yourself the perfume of floral fascination?

How does it feel to be an enigma-
an unknown quantity 
straddling an absolute world?

Have I seen you in my daughter’s smile;
my son’s face in the morning
when I am home and it’s Saturday
and what's past is left in proper place?

I care not how you were conceived;
how to ratify your existence; define your mystery.
I seek only your presence, not to fall by the wayside-
no pulpits, nor altars, nor prayers, nor kneeling.

* * *

Since I took such a long break between posts, I thought I'd try to write something new. That didn't work out, so I went back to a past piece & edited the hell out of it (or maybe into it, depends on your worldview.) One of my pet peeves are those little blurbs that appear alongside the road on church marquees- wayside pulpits- that are supposed to be witty. To me they epitomize the general dumbing-down of religion in this country.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Almost everyone who reads this comes away with their own version of its message. Just a hint- throw away anything obvious- think metaphor, people! One of my more personal selections, written during a time of great transition.
* * *
Looking like
you’re skinny-sweet.
Twig-thin breakable
won’t bear the heat.
frail-boned glass-jaw
head to feet;
Must prove you’re

Grinding gears
you’re double time.
Thick skin big engine
never knew benign.
Elegant delinquent
bring spark to mind;
I think you’re

Pleasing pain
you’re satisfaction.
First-glance flirtation,
one-day distraction.
Don’t dare to miss us
so no retraction;
you say you’re

Berating bleats
a headstrong sheep.
Pent-up acrimony
sarcasm seeps.
Mutation matrimony,
more’s to weep;
forced to be

Treacly tune
contempt in form.
Sad-sack familiar
caused me scorn.
enshrined boredom;
forced to be

Fantastic flights
come to an end.
Tin-man melting heart
on whom all depends.
Wrestling frivolous
to comprehend
just what is

Thursday, May 12, 2011

guest poet : Amara Tankersley

Part of the fun of having FBNL be in blog format rather than its own website is the opportunity to feature other items than just my own poems. Today, in honor of Eilena's birthday yesterday, my daughter, 12-year-old Amara Tankersley will show off her verse. As far as I know, this one is untitled. She isn't aware that I am posting it just yet (ssh!) 

* * *

Eilena enjoyed having fun
in the warm summer's sun.
She took rides
in her red wagon
and pretended she was 
a fierce dragon.
While she sat on a small chair
there was a strange silence in the air-
Eilena went up the many stairs,
"Surprise!" yelled her family with
birthday gifts in the chairs.

Happy Birthday Ena-beena! 
From Amara.

Friday, April 29, 2011


The Source of all being, continuum timeless.
The ground of existence, rhyming and rhymeless.

Today we honor your limitless love,
Your limitless freedom and limitless trust,
O unity of sky’s spirit and earth’s dust.

* * *

O aspect of feminine,
Goddess, wisdom, delight.
Womb of our birth,
Nourishment of eternal life.

Maiden, Mother, Crone
Earth, Water, Moon.
From you came our birth, and all birthed who have lived.
We honor your part in creation,
Your partnership internal in our beings
O Mother in the Earth...

The Goddess on the hillside on a sunlit morn,
bathing Her body in the mists;
She trills out a tune to the infinite;
She sings of yearning and bliss.
Her voice calls the fervor of Her love
His presence She insists
She beckons him sweetly to rendezvous
to fulfill all that exists...

* * *

Bachelor, Father, Sage
Sky, Fire, Sun.
From you came the seed so needed for life which grew in the mother.
We honor your part in creation,
Your partnership internal in our beings
O Father in the Sky...

Dance to the song of the hillside Goddess
and she will lie with thee;
the dew and the flowers and the daylight’s gleam
welcome summer’s jubilee;
spring is complete and summer nearby,
dance with your passion, dance down from the sky
join with your lover by the hillside stream
kindling the fires of life Her decree.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

child's play

For my son and daughters.

I think children are the real masters of all things magical. Weaving the forces of nature to make new realities is something that comes natural and instinctive to a child, especially one very young. The more time I spend with my children, the more of that I see.
* * * 

Children play with rhythm
write your musings for
all the world to see
every verse, all prose, all poetry
'til the drums of war
begin to schism.
'Til the sand grains in the hourglass
forget what they're falling for
incited to rise
No more children shall you play with lies
but wrap
your hands 'round
what's at your core
hear sounds in your heart
that are proud and pure
and ghost-dance freedom
knock-knocking on that door.
Sit laughing naked in wet earth
wearing air as your robe.
Children play with God
make Him yours and
just hit reload if He should smite,
there's no throne for a God of spite
in the clay you're baking to be your globe.
Craft new parents from the ground
let inclination coagulate;
No resting easy- children create!
Fashion cities and farms and compounds
skyscrapers of solid crystal
that can never be marauded down!
Or let there be no buildings
only enduring plains
whoop a paean to the patrons
of the open range
and quicken your mount
by releasing it's reins.
Children play with time
repair the errata we've printed afore
engrave your legends and myths and lore
fate is your minion,
the future your reason
Children play with wisdom,
respect every season.

Friday, April 15, 2011

on loop 288 & I-35, Denton

It is shocking how quickly life situations can change- in reality we are all just one or two unlucky events away from being one of the people we ignore standing on the street with a sign- frightening.
* * * 
The lady at the counter
tells me no more is left
so I move along past
shuffling my feet.
Does it matter to her
that my tongue is cleft-
deformed, so I stay in my seat?

I look in a mirror
and see what others view-
tattered clothes
wrinkled skin and scabs
face unshaved.
Fly-like eyes darting 'round
search for non-existent food-
beasts in my belly gnawing
like eviscerated slaves.

You chuckle at my sign
as I hold it to my breast
or stop and gape
with wonderment
at a man whom has no shame.
You rush past and forget
how God has made you blessed;
it seems that "good Samaritans"
no longer have a claim.

A man in a loud tie
talks about me on TV;
I see it at a store
and on the newspaper page.
You wonder if I'm aware
of the time spent just on me;
I want to scream I do not care
but can't bring forth the proper rage.

Not a one impatient
stranger in their
their empty words produced
for re-election
can understand why I
stand with sign and "slack"
they stare dumb
from windows gilded to perfection.
I fought their war
kept their precious
children rich and free-
grimy hands once held
their flag with swollen pride.
The same hands would have
gripped tight my college degree
but foreign lands and bullet holes
cast dreams aside.

So I stand in the median
with my sign clutched
to my breast
while empty suits spout
"robust times" and
"deserving" what I've seen.
I rage inside my brain
until I reach a lofty crest;
then sag down in disarray and
the smell of spent gasoline.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

amber waves

I think all people who write poetry have their own 9/11 poem. That event may have inspired the most poetry not based on personal relationships since JFK's assassination.

Or perhaps a 9/11 poem is about personal relationships... who was unaffected by what happened and the aftermath we still face?

* * * 

American field with amber waves like
slaves laboring into the wind.
Send pollen in air to clog trachea
breaking apart, strangle the divine.
A fine excuse for missing the days,
haze slithering ground up to nose
rose and to earth violently fell!
Hail in unscrupulous melody sings,
rings out a note of pure melancholy like
folly of the leaders taken deaf and blind,
signed away right to in agony hiss the
protagonists with serpent's tongues in their bliss.
Fists moving low caught American waves-
crave any old reason to look aside.
A snide and relentless fascination,
prostration on ground, her two proud generals like
minerals left in the firewall's wake,
faking they see what is to befall.
Keep all of their promises, all of their flaws!
Gnaws at the heart with amber fangs,
pangs in the night, wake with startled gasp-
rasp in breath from the pollen grains,
hear strains of a dirge now almost blithe.
Knife couldn't cut like the videotape-
gape at the carnage. Repeat! Repeat!
Replete with still frames of a heartsick plunge a
lunge from an edifice seeking the son.
Come feel the lady, all silk and perfume your
doom her caress, not fair to a man.
American waves in the wind, like the paper,
raped her and tossed the carcass aside.
Abided through pain as it rammed her
and rammed her like
amber waves blowing in September wind.
A blend so curious of smoke and frustration-
a nation, a people, frozen time and fear
leer at an enemy with phantom's guise
cry millions of throats,"vengeance our right!"
Fright masking pathways of reckless intent-
"Repent! Repent! For the wrath is upon us!"
All trust died the morning our lady's eyes closed.


Thursday, March 24, 2011


Reflective of issues I deal with on a daily basis, some enumerated below, many not.... I am a professional who hates corporate identity. I am a consumer who rails against Wal-Mart-ization. I am a spiritual person who resents organized & intrusive  religion. Can I be these things at one time? Can I be more than one person? Am I digging my own burial vault through trying?

* * * 

Smelled upon breath is

sweet bottled optimism

swallowed, pasteurized

chemically-born mask

translucence over eyes grants 

sight as though a veil

a shelter velveteen-tender

demeanor muted, certitude paled

a stimulating simulacrum

this aftertaste of life

about my spirit a phantasm

flavored of doubt and paranoia

from assorted petty annoyances

it cradles like a shroud of

sumptuous cashmere

proud rococo styling and

foolish notions held dear-

ideas, ideals and influence.

The motion of a hand

a finger’s minute twitch

yet no movement felt

the air remains unmixed

mind ponders signals 

dealt and ignored, transfixed

then legs turn about-face

brain racing over un-issued command

in its stead the field animates 

jaw muscles skulking to 

upturn, cannot withstand

craggy smile pasted over cracked lips

presenting to existence

a vision neither wanted nor real

structure with soft plastic outside

and innards of limpid steel expands 

and ripens into a plenary prison keep

buttressed by cruel homilies

spirit inside sits petrified

waiting in vain for resolution

in a self-styled sepulcher.

Monday, March 21, 2011

alkali soil & raw flesh

Encased 'neath skeleton chalk rock,

crooked with crags pressing into my sides

gnawing jagged scars deep in naked skin

but I’m comforted by the pain and then

molasses warmth creeps into my muscles

legs at first, then trunk and arms

the numbness seeps, seducing with charms

and I lose the memory of living in a body,

I’m a packed up heap in a dried-out hole

no moisture here to tickle my lips

nor to guzzle, chug, even halfheartedly sip

parched dusty desert terrain squeezing

out memory, sense and mission to maintain.

Alkali soil and raw flesh in chemical collision-

I reach out to stretch with arms restrained

but I only eke a fraction of an inch

before my body starts to jar, spasm and wrench

then sags, slumps and gives way to nature,

a sacrifice to the noonday sun

and the hungry whimsy of nighttime creatures.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

express service

Amazingly enough I wrote this while driving- you guessed it- from Waco down to San Antonio. That route is one of the ugliest in the state- nothing but empty rangeland, truckstops and porn shops in between towns. I felt like it was a healing experience to concentrate on anything besides the "scenery!"

The title comes from the first sign I looked up to see at the exceedingly unsightly gas station where I had stopped after I wrote the poem.
* * *

The country song

drones on and on 

I-35 from Waco

down to San

and I think as I steer

thoughts that soon interfere

with the faith that I left

in a warm mug of beer

neath the neon of the sign

winking crisp, winking fine
on and off, a short circuit

like these thoughts in my mind-
circling 'round- little rats

gnawing tunnels through the slats
of the bed that's my head
rotting wood knocks it flat!
If I can't stop the vermin's' tear

with some poison  or some dare
I'll succumb and

out my head they'll race

without so much a care!

Wink the patterns of the neon-

frequencies I'll never be on-

hypnotize me like a magus

so I'm happy as a peon.

In this life, to find purpose

we're the rats and they're no worse 

off than we- driving distances,
we're driving our own hearse.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

most precious thing

Her body sags in my arms

trickling sick with blood.

One hand in an ersatz wave

as if saying goodbye

to a most precious thing.

My joy, my desert flower, 

My breeze at midday

now crumpled, coated red;

wilting to the world.

Did you listen to this on NPR?

What matters so far? 

What matters in a world turned ragged and hard?

Did Fox News show you this? 

Drudge or CNN?

You will not see the picture, 

never ponder who’s sinned.

Never held in your arms

your most precious thing

stained brown, clotted and drying.

So far there’s been nothing

but heartbreak and regret, 

fired Peter Arnett for reporting in

with the real dividends of a war

that’s seen little liberation yet.

Your collateral damage

Was my most precious thing

now six feet in sand

but entombed in my memory.

You did say you came

to set her free.

Does any future or freedom for me 

matter more than her today?

* * *
I saw the above photo on a BBC website one morning after the initial attacks in Baghdad in 2003. As a father it sickened me to think about being in the same situation.

Our media does us wrong- this photo was from an American wire service, yet I saw it in no U.S. paper I read. Found it again on an Al
Jazeerah website. I think in the video game, news-at-10, rah-rah way we are presented the current war it is all too easy to forget that the Iraqi people are not monsters. Osama bin Laden was responsible for 9/11. Saddam Hussein was a horrible dictator whom deserves whatever fate shall befall him. He victimized and exploited the Iraqi people. Now his fate is sealed. Buts is ours with him?

machine gun

Martyr has a machine gun

a magic wand trained on the man,

aimed at the head, arc of destruction planned

for the mark with the wicked hands,

who winces through blood-blind visions

staring and stammering,

quixotic pupils straining to scan for

nonexistent paths of escape.

Garrulous explications paint the anecdotes

he expectorates like the gore that drips

precariously from swollen lips- they undulate-

saccharine incantations, meant to negate his fate.

Barrel lording, unrelenting,

gazing on fresh lacerations,

mark genuflects, articulates

praises to an astral savior-

split lips spit his requisition-

pleas for forgiveness, for restitution

mindful all the while he’ll receive no reply.

Barrel lording, unrelenting,

mind decoding the difference,

the distance from adoration to hate.

His daughter frolics to mind,

all summer afternoons and pomegranate rinds.

Her reaction, seeing him die...

Wicked hands drop the machine gun.

The wand holds magic no longer

for the martyr who marked himself.

perpetual care 'til the end of time

Written partially from a fascination with the slogan of an old cemetery in McLennan Co., Texas... there's just no way, in this humble writers' opinion, such great care & attention could ever be given the amount of time advertised. What is "perpetual" anyway, if not an untenable promise? So I decided to find out what kind of care might fill in for the overzealous marketeers.

* * *

"Perpetual Care 'Til the End of Time,"

says the faded-out printing

on the ramshackle sign

tombstones guarding the

grown-over paths- names chipping

slipping silently to ground

yielding to twin wraths

of time and circumstance.

Empty beer bottles

strewn about blazes of stickerweed and thistle

prickly points of cacti replace

the sign's exaggerated epistle

water pooling stale, teeming sick with larvae and disease

affairs foreboding wafting despair

to the very canopy of the trees.

Intaglio of Jesus invaded

by blue-green moss

life blooming on dead stone savior

hanging limply from crafted cross

all anonymous residents now

corpses and fertilizer for

the forests and wilds

feeding from the spent decades

a landscape and era free of charades.

From the heavens rain down

distant recollections of a chime:

nature keeping covenant

'tween ghosts and sounds sublime,

"Perpetual Care 'Til the End of Time."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

god on its head

Newly dedicated to Gov. Scott Walker in WI & those protesting his autocratic policies.

* * *

Tipped torved

concrete rock-hewn

head in sand

island-man erected

god in graven image in 

hand-selected granite

encased perpendicular

eyeballs ogling horizon in

indifferent malediction

moulded of stone 

with taunting stare-

the swaggering sneer 

and stoicism dare-

We can turn the god on its head!

In a turmoil of one-thousand hands

a cacophony of 

hard-charging fingernails

cracked to the quick

boot-bottoms, sinew

and walking sticks

fixed at the base

and the idol will tumble;

teeter reluctantly-

molasses on the soggy grass-

but undulate under 

our weight en masse

together we make the tyrant humble-

We can turn the god on its head!

Cheer the convulsion

and the peal of pebbles

chipping in all directions

howl at the detonation-

an unruly hedonistic orgasm 

of ascendancy-

a clamor of heights unheard

join with me-

bloody your fingertips

embark to heave-ho

cold stone will puncture,

bruise our skin below

but we will hoist

in heroic travail

new era of extrication

without fail-

We can turn the god on its head!

This all started when I watched a Discovery Channel docu on the statues on Easter Island. One of
the giant heads had been toppled at one time. It lay on the ground and didn't seem so 
miraculous in that position. The archaeologist on the program surmised that originally the great 
heads were built as spiritual figures but eventually came to symbolize the power that the higher-
status islanders held over the lower-ranked islanders. The wealthy built taller heads that grew 
more and more elongated- a very phallic statement. The more I look at the situation in which our society has placed itself, the more I see gigantic heads erected with a "mine is-bigger" mentality. 


Tuesday, March 1, 2011


My grandfather lived to be 97. Throughout this time he was my father-figure, role-model & constant friend. This poem is about him but can be expanded to mean THE Grandfather, God, or the sacred masculine if you prefer. Pa displayed many of the virtues I think of when I think about what a man should be. I like to think the god is something like him.

The choir, by the way, was made up of rabbits.

* * *

I went to church

last Sunday morn

thought not a pastor spoke.

The only choir 

gnoshed oats with teeth

and did not sing a note.

With my grandfather, 

I worked on the sabbath

but did not suffer sin.

His sermon rich, 

entwining hope

with stories of where he's been.

The pews were plastic

no need to kneel

and neither of us tithed.

We talked as men

on equal ground;

a sense of respect and pride.

Nobody swooned

and no one prayed, 

nobody bayed in dread.

There was no shouting

nor threats of hell, 

the hour was never more sacred.

I went to church

last Sunday morn, 

I did not find it odd-

between Pa's voice

and the joyous work

I felt the hand of God.