True Beauty

“Beautiful is as beautiful does,” my mother used to say.
“Beauty is only skin deep,” she sometimes added, or
“Beauty is the eye of the beholder.”

It was the beauty without that fascinated me when I was young.
Not beautiful people, famous people,
not celebrities and heroes.


The falling leaf, the ripple on a pond,
the drift of clouds in summer’s blue,
the startle of a red flower along an unkempt road
caught my eye, held me bound by simple grace.

“Everything that is made beautiful and fair and lovely
is made for the eye of one who sees,” said Rumi.
“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful,
for beauty is God’s handwriting,” Emerson advised.
I believed these words; these were truths to touch, to hold close and long.

It took years to appreciate
the beauty my mother described,
the beauty she carried everywhere with her.
Now I see, as Ghandi taught,
“It may be possible to gild pure gold,
but who can make his mother more beautiful?”

Inspired by a prompt at First50; quotes from BrainyQuote.


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One Battle in the War

He waited,
beneath green shadow
weapons sharp and ready
to plunge
into a soft, unwary neck.

still he waited
as she strolled closer,
He could smell her,
feel her
hips swaying,
light steps innocent.
He could taste

He sprang.
She struck,
claws out,
He retreated,
licked his wounds
and hunkered once more
beneath green shadow.
He waited.

From a prompt at First 50

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News from Railey Ridge

News from Railey Ridge

The squirrel has been at the bird feeder again,
scattering sunflower seeds for the doves
to peck on the ground
and the ants to carry the leavings away.

Some seeds will be blown on the breeze
to nestle against a tree, a wall or a lily
and surprise us with a sudden sunny face
turned to catch the morning light.


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What’s That Smell?

What’s that smell?
Damp basements, mold,
rotting food,
drying mud,
smoke from campfires and grills
as those who lost everything
make do the best they can.

They camp in tents,
wear boots all day,
watch for snakes,
tear down beloved homes,
sweat and cry and curse and hug
and clean mud, clean mud, clean mud.

It’s the smell of daily life
in the flooded communities of southeastern West Virginia,
the smell of defiance and stubbornness.
It’s the smell of courage,
the smell of hope
rising from the wreckage of their lives.

(Inspired by a writing prompt at First50.)

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Heart Seeker

I see into your heart. I know
your longing,
your anger,
your grieving,
your immense thirst.
I know these all.

Each stab of joy,
each shiver of shame,
each prickle of guilt,
each pinch of remorse
and all of your tears
I know them all.

All I can do is
see you,
know you,
hold you in my heart,
not safe but known
for who you are
and how you will go on
with all of that inside of you.

It glitters in your eyes,
strikes with your words,
burns in your touch,
becomes of my blood,
your heart,
one soul.

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Words and Music

Poets in a circle read carefully, self-consciously,

one after another as the hot June wind

blows through windows

and green leaves just outside whisper

secrets we cannot know.

Words of love, gunshots and loss,

apples in copper tubs and little girls in pink,

a ring of guilt, a soldier dead so long

and long distance romance,

the stench of a feedlot. Words flutter and drift,

shimmer and disappear in late afternoon heat


while inextricably mixed

with voices, leaves, and wind,

a soundtrack

seventeen years in the making.

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He laughs, hiding tears
and fears that wrap his nights
in darkness not of nature
but of memories that hide
from daylight and the smiles
of those who think he’s funny,
a man of jokes and wisecracks,
with blue eyes so clear and bright
that alone can see the holes
in his heart.

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