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Long Friendship Poems

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Long Poems
Long poem by Laura Breidenthal | Details

To Be A Friend Pleaser

I heavily recall two times when I had made you cry,
Both of which bewildered and moved me
My response was that of disbelief, and regret
And never, upon recalling, 
Have I felt more of the need to address these moments

We were young, certainly, tied together by our imaginations, 
Our wit, and artful talents, 
You, an adept, musically inclined, 
And I musically aroused 
It seemed such a normal day that my guards were broken,
And I freely blabbered, 
As I would to a sibling, or my favorite play thing
We had known each other for a while,
And I deemed it right to show my all
You shared your favorite toys with me, 
And I made it my signature, in my goofy ways, 
To disperse each play session stirring your mind
So that you may laugh, and I may laugh too

I remember the living room, 
Sitting on the light brown carpet floor
And Grandma, for I considered her my grandma too,
Contented on the couch, enjoyed our giggles, and smiled,
While she read her weekly romance novel
I always wondered the reason for her reading,
And how she might receive pleasure in such a simple thing as
Attending to our nonsensical trifles

We played with our stuffed animals,
Hers was a white, fluffy bear with sophisticated clothes
And mine, an alligator, naked, and morose looking
I thought it would stir more laughter if,
In contrast to the kind, gentlemanly bear,
The alligator would respond in grumpy exclamations,
Even insult, if he were pushed too far to conform 
For as the gentlemanly bear insisted upon conversing with the alligator,
Having tea with him and discussing matters of interest, 
The alligator’s response, frank and cold was soon drawled to,
“No, no, no, I do not want to!”
Having repeated such a phrase a couple times,
I saw that it resulted in her laughing,
So, repeating the phrase, 
I meant to conjure more fits of joy,
However, after the third repeat, she suddenly stopped, 
The insistent gentleman was speechless
In a strange pause I stared at my friend,
Watching her pink cheeks pale,
And her eyes water with sudden tears
I squeezed the alligator, almost cursing it instead of myself,
Watching her and wondering what had caused this sadness and pain
She turned away from me, and cried, 
Getting up quickly, embarrassed, and darting into her room

Grandma seemed understanding, 
And this bewildered me even more
Surely, I had done something awful, 
Making my closest friend cry,
And surely, a lecture was soon to put in me in my place
Instead though, she apologized to me, 
And told me not to worry, that she would be just fine
Though never, being the friend pleaser that I was,
Did I feel more awful, and more worrisome
I thought of what I might do to make her feel better,
As Grandma walked down the hall and entered her room
I thought perhaps, she would want me to go home,
So I got up, stuffed my bag with my things,
And waited at the door,
Rehearsing in my mind a thousand apologies

She returned out of the room, 
Saying nothing, but motioning me to the floor with the toys
I obeyed her, never more guarded and thoughtful in my life,
And we resumed our play session
The alligator had took a turn to being quite the sweet chap
And realized that the gentlemanly bear was not as annoying
And bossy as he first thought,
That he only needed a friend to talk to
Someone kind and understanding

The second instance was in a later year
Dear Grandma was away in a separate apartment
Her father was frequently at the house, 
A quiet, but nice man, 
Always retreating to the back room
Whenever we entered the house for lunch or to retrieve a doll
Despite his kindness, his reserve slightly intimidated me,
And the few times he addressed me 
Were always awkward, and thankfully, short
We were more inclined to outside activities those days,
Roleplaying, sporting, and running about,
I the servant and she the princess
I did not much mind the role of the servant, 
As I had many quirks, 
And nothing too great was expected of me
We often, befriended despite our opposite positions,
Would sit at the swing set and converse together
As equals, almost,
The princess gaining from the servant wit and adventure,
And the servant, gaining from the princess,
Patience, poise and simplicity
But our session was long over as I heard the call from her father,
And we both sighed, and ran into the house
My mother had come to pick me up,
And her father, gently, led me to the front door,
With the usual, “See you later!”, 
And, “It was good to see you again!”
My friend, happy in countenance, bid me goodbye,
Smiling, though pale, once again
It did not occur to me at the time,
That she was on the brink of tears
And as I got into the car, 
As we pulled out of the driveway,
I saw the look of sadness and despair on her face
Her eyes… they splashed on me grief
She was staring at me, tears running down her face,
Her body quivering, standing at the curb
I could barely make out from the muffle of the car,
The sound of her crying out,
Just as her father stormed outside, dragging her away,
“Ashly, what the f*** is wrong with you!!!??”
And we drove away, my face plastered to the window,
Thinking to myself, 
“What have I done?”

I was so confused,
So sad, and so strangely angry
To see her father drag her in that way
Though I wondered, perhaps, I had faulted her once more
That in me leaving, she took it as a rejection,
And I felt it my duty to be near her again,
To assure her that I was always her servant
And she was always the princess
I could not, if I wanted to,
Revert to the mindless alligator again,
And, like her father, disregard her enigmatic feelings,
As well as her insistent need for affection and kindness
I vowed I would always provide her with my best
So that only smiles and laughter animated her delicate being

To be a friend pleaser—yes, that is what I am,
Requires more of self, to even enhance oneself, 
To build up the deprived,
To change perspective, 
And change character,
And in turn, serve selflessly,
For to gain the thrill of happiness
From a more than worthy companion,
Is, for me, to gain the world

Copyright © Laura Breidenthal | Year Posted 2015

Long poem by Brian Johnston | Details

Beary Tales Episode 1-13, Many New Vignettes

(Remembering Innocence)

1. Bear Johnston
“Bear Johnston,” a stuffed bear, IS boy’s friend for life,
He’S a bit worse for wear but boy’S missing stuff too,
But the strength of their bond ISn't wary of knife,
Unexpected, bear’S there, post a trip to the zoo. (1)

There're IS's he IS, and some IS's he ain't,
Though his name IS quite obvious (when mother asks),
And no mystery he IS, to me, quite a saint,
He’S an angel that guards me through everyday tasks!


2. Search for Rainbow’s Gold
Bear Johnston, in truth, IS the best of my friends,
And adventure IS always the path that we choose,
So one day there IS search for where rainbow descends,
If a pot of gold’S found what’S the fear we could lose!

Sure! Leprechaun waits (IS reward) round next bend,
Camouflaged by the meadow but here’S the best part!
There’S just smile on his face as he shares (our new friend),
Tells us real gold of rainbow IS always God’s heart.


3. Butterfly Dreams
Bear'S poetry's muse with his quite "beary" views,
Nature always IS good entertainment to Bear,
Dancing bee (2) IS a "hoot," gives hive friends honey news
Of more blossoms to share, "They "IS" just over there!"

A butterfly dancing, IS riding air wave,
IS like leaf in "free fall" that has own batteries,
Pirouettes takes a chance, but IS soon in his grave,
He'S great meal for a bird, one of life's mysteries.


4. Tippy's Blues
My first dog, IS Tippy, though cousins' dog first,
A "found" pup, she IS nervous, all motives impugn,
A car ride makes her crazed, IS she fearing the worst?
As she grows passing vehicle'S chased to the moon.

Our heart'S in right place, so we take her along,
Tippy'S leashed (Bear IS carried), we go for a walk,
She IS locked in fenced yard (she'S aggressive and strong),
Still, she'S fearful of new things, life comes as a shock!


5. Hidey Holes
Bear Johnston IS privy to hidey hole too,
Hide and seek IS our forte, tight lip IS our fort,
IS a safety valve when dark events make me blue,
Danger looks, but its news ISn’t much to report!

It'S scary whenever my folks get upset,
So much bigger than boy IS, sometimes forget strength,
Though when boy'S wrongly punished there'S always regret,
Belt abuse IS much stronger than thickness or length.


6. Cicadas Are a Buzz (2)
Cicadas lay eggs on our elm, it’S home tree,
Their nymphs hatch then, there’S fall to ground waiting below,
Now home’S ground, sucking sap, molting skins till we see,
Climbs a tree, splits back open, Cicada hello!

There’S shelter for nymphs on a screen for the night
It’s a miracle moment, shell left, wings fill out,
And the time for release IS the next morning’s light
There’S a buzz in our hands, then they’re flying about.


7. Tasting Honeysuckle
There'S fragrant long blossoms that grow on the fence,
Sweetest taste of the summer that'S not from a store,
"Beary" power invoked, ISn't subtle, intense,
Not a whisper of doubt, when it'S there, we want more!

Attraction to sugar has always been rough
More addictive than 'BIG' (3) it'S said, fruit of the vine
But my bear says he'S ready, we mean to hang tough,
So beware honeysuckle, our plan IS to dine!


8. Turtle Farms
Our Sunday farm trip IS worst day of the week,
It IS boring for kids when Dad checks out the cows,
Even though Dad IS fond of a splash in the creek,
I will never be rancher IS oath that Bear vows.

There'S box in the trunk for the turtles we see,
Turtle crossing the road IS so easy to catch,
Don't know who'S most excited Bear Johnston or me,
But for our turtle farm, every turtle'S a match!


9. Evil Under the Bed
Our room IS both dark and cold, back of the house,
Although bear seems indifferent, message IS clear,
If a wolf'S under bed, bloody cinch for a mouse,
There IS chewing on toes if we show any fear.

The truth IS as adult I still have this dread,
Though Bear Johnston IS claiming bears sleep winter long,
IS there no one but me worried waking up dead?
"Hear our voice in the wilderness Lord” IS my song!


10. BB Gun Jealousy
A gun that shoots BB's IS pox to small birds,
It'S why Red Ryder rifle was high on my list,
It IS "pop goes the weasel," bird dies without any words,
Magic "act at a distance," in fact, IS its gist!

Don't think on it much but my choice IS clean shot,
Oh my God, boy IS lusting but lusted in vain,
I'd say Bear is pro-life but, in fact, he IS not,
When Bear'S lusting for honey, he thinks bees a pain!


11. Curse of Training Wheels
"First bike" IS for me all about "training wheels,"
As my friends' bikes don’t have them, there’S pressure galore,
But the starting arrangement IS one of those deals,
And Bear Johnston, (not me), IS chagrined to the core!

"First bike" IS designed to go slow, very slow
It'S much harder to pump, and you’re close to the ground,
Feel like turtle at best if real speed’S what you’d know,
For the bear and the boy best if no one’S around.


12. My Lovely Tree Fort
God save the tree fort I built high in our elm,
There'S board seat on tree "Y" thirty feet above ground,
One IS high above roofs when he climbs to this realm,
And a foe'S in for trouble, who dares come around.

There'S crate full of clods grader tore from dirt street,
Smiling Bear high in tree IS quite hard to get down,
Distant ammo supply IS a cinch to defeat,
Throwing up'S sign you're ill, bombers all win a crown!


13. Castles in Spain
Love'S name of the "castles" we build in backyard,
All our building material'S trash from Dad's store.
Large appliance crates saved; what IS there to discard?
After doors, windows cut, there'S new home to explore.

Wood edges enforce, so it'S easy to craft,
There IS doghouse for Tippy, Bear gets private door,
Our sloped ceiling IS rainproof with vents front and aft,
And smooth brick laid for patio now IS our floor.


Continued in Part 2

Copyright © Brian Johnston | Year Posted 2017

Long poem by Russell Banks | Details

No Happy Ending

Bright lights, big city...
bright lights, big city dreams...
please just take me away tonight
Let me rest on your elegance tonight
I have no energy left to spend in reality
so please knock me unconscious
just to be in the place that makes me...
I wanted to sing
so loudly, proudly of a heroine
put aside a feeling of haste, of hate
of Juliet turned Medusa
now my Medusa Juliet turning Rapunzel
Strange it may seem, I'll explain a different day
something betters my attention
begs my words to form a letter
Veronica...once my Veronica
in this play, in this scene
we were able to make amends, stay friends
20, we are both 20
Life is confusing
all these convoluted schemes it throws our way
How are we supposed to seize the day
how about she seized me instead
A story, a flashback inside another story
remember 'If Your Reflection Could Kill'
a memoir asking questions and banishing Juliet from my life 
if only for a while
I just wanted answers but she fled away
from what she believed to be cancer
though it gave a chance for Veronica and I to be consistently happy
but there is no happy for me
We hit a cosmic rift, a cosmic shift
a month after a daringly rushed proposal
someone got lost, got scared, turned ghost, just shutdown completely
Months go by and we reconciled
you'd think there'd be a happy ending in silver lining
yet a month maybe three weeks from present day
arrives Juliet atop her steed of do-overs and repeats
a fresh start
I didn't buy a single word
I don't subscribe to politics but I know how hers works
still I couldn't banish her again
I couldn't, I can't
Myself, I've been running away
pointing if only an ounce of blame her way
knowing full well I fell in love with the girl for three years
who was just words across a screen
a voice from a phone
I only dreamed of who she could be
now I know
and in her eyes I still felt that same bitter love 
I wanted to keep 4 years back
so Juliet wanted my audience
my ears and my eyes to acknowledge she was finally here to stay
here to play no games
I had no good reason to deny
so my answer was obvious
but Veronica, she caught wind of this
and there went my attempt to gain back what time has torn apart
Veronica, she tore down my walls so she knew
I could hear her scream with disdain, curse my name
What was she angry for
an entire year, she tried to see my face again
an entire year, I had a list of excuses to keep her at bay
It was never because I didn't trust myself
it was all because I couldn't dare stare in the face
someone of importance
knowing it was me that once dared to keep a promised
and succeeded in the quickest time to break her and it 
making her cry
What made her angry
She believed I chose Juliet over her
and I tried to defend myself with armed words
justified explanations
but I had no explanation to give
I was unarmed in these verbal fights
I didn't know what was right
what to say
that day changed everything
Juliet took Veronica's place
as the conversationalist, the smiling heroine
as the one I could compliment
the one I could make happy
the one I could just be me
Veronica, she just spent two weeks
taking jab after jab at Juliet
taking jab after jab at me...till yesterday
a bad day turned nightmare
when I unbottled truth built up for weeks
I confessed my reasons, my seasons
why she hasn't seen my face, a long list of apologies
so the weight of my shoulders would leave
so she would know, so we could grow
as like me, you would hope for a naive understanding response
as like me, you would hope for a silver lining
hope she'd understand
but I know all too well
there is no happy ending for me
The deities all laugh at my scorn
never happy till they see me destroyed
never satisfied till they, in awe, watch me weep
Veronica, I think I may have lost a friend in Veronica
I called it fate, I called it destiny
since she made it all to be my fault
that I'm a liar
when she knows full well I just want everyone in the world
who steps in my universe to be happy
Forgive me for my selfish desire but it's true
I may now talk about myself too much
but it doesn't compare to how much I cared about her
or want her to be happy
Oh no
She pressed the button, she pressed the button
Did she really say that she doesn't know who I am
did she really say that I'm not her old sweet best friend
does she really have the right to say anything? ! 
She left me behind! 
When we were kids, she left me behind
for the religious remarks of my cousin tore her apart
She could've came back at anytime
She left me behind
For years, I waited for her return with baited breath
though each time she came back
once to tell me at 2 in the morning that she got lucky
once to accompany me through my second tour of Juliet 
as freaking spectator
she left and never said anything else
If it wasn't for a mutual friend
she would've never talked to me again! 
She left me behind! 
She wasn't there when I needed her the most
when I needed a friend the most
but that doesn't matter no cause oh I'm a liar
cause I have a selfish desire to be miserable
while I want the whole world who steps into my universe to be happy
All these words I never said to her, to Veronica
I just sat defenseless, sat stunned, sat fed up, sat done
tried to defend myself again but there's nothing to defend
told her good night, good life
hope to talk again
but if she was done with me, tell me so
cause I'd rather not spend another night
getting cussed out, getting yelled at
trying to muster up a defense case 
for something I do that doesn't directly effect her
but in her eyes this friendship isn't worth it
I'm not worth it
freaking perfect...
Bright lights...big city...
just take me far away from here
give me amnesia or just omit her from my memory
I'm sick of this
of everything inadvertently being the fault of me
Are you happy deities? ? ! 
Are you happy? 
There is no happy ending for me

Copyright © Russell Banks | Year Posted 2016

Long poem by Brian Johnston | Details

Beary Tales Episodes 14-20, New Vignettes Here As Well

Continued From Beary Tales Part 1:


14. The Fourth of July
Why IS it explosions make males all see stars?
July Fourth IS boy heaven, though Bear thinks it'S hot,
Folger's cans fly through air seeking passage to Mars,
Lucky ant den'S a blast in our neighbor's back lot.

Bear'S watching from sidelines, he'S shy to get hurt,
Though he'd like longer legs so that speed IS a choice
And he hollers when cherry bombs fill air with dirt,
But He'S sweetest on sparklers that make kids rejoice.


15. Firefly Magic
Spring firefly's light show IS celestial bard,
Since its passionate pulse IS a troubadour’s song
And Bear Johnston'S ecstatic at stars in our yard,
It seems Nature’s light whisper’S akin to birdsong. (2)

It’S Grandma’s idea, her suggestion'S a jar,
One’s for catching, one holds them, as lightning sparks grew,
But for Bear and I 'having,' beats 'catching,' by far,
For to sleep with night sky under bed sheets IS new.


16. Putting Out the Trash (After Dark)
To put out the trash after sun's light IS gone:
Total darkness beneath elm when foliage IS full!
So I whistle a tune, IS life's lease overdrawn?
It'S "black op" through our back yard, and that IS no bull!

Bear'S left in the house for the bag needs both hands,
But my plan'S not to hurry; afraid to show fright,
IS the end of my tune, ‘flare’ (4) that mom understands?
Lead-pipe cinch no boy'S free of things "bumping" at night.


17. Hello Christmas
A hat full of names IS passed, hoping to teach,
Christmas spirit IS custom observed by each clan,
Siblings loyal, it’S true, Grand folks all within reach,
Hot pie’S served “a la mode,” roast and quail (cleaned by man). (5)

As Christmas IS opened, play some with our loot,
Brother’s itch IS for whiskey, Dad won’t, but plays cards,
Mom and Aunts cleaning up IS bit calmer pursuit,
Bear IS fond of adventure, we plumb neighbor’s yards.


18. Overnighting with Bear
But best thing (to last) IS Bear sleeping with me,
Feel incredibly safe when he'S there by my side,
Like the Winter IS warmer, like Spring'S destiny,
And swear "honest to Jesus" this bear IS my pride.

My hope IS you’ll all have friends loyal as he,
Frankly doubt, it'S important if girl or if boy,
May you rest with God's servants whose love'S meant to be,
Share your path with companions whose joy IS your joy!


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Poem Now Fast Forwards 70+ Years To The Night The First 10 Stanzas Of This Poem Are Finished:

The Poet Is Sitting Bemused At His Desk Wondering (As He Has Many Times Before) Why  He Can't Remember Ever Having A Birthday Party Like The Ones Some Friends Had (That He Was Jealous Of) Where Many People Were Invited? Suddenly He IS Shamed By An Insight: "Neither Of My Parents Ever Had Such A Party Either," And His Sadness Shifts To Many Generations Before Him. It Is Not That He Was Denied A Party, Such Things Likely Did Not Exist In His Parent’s World View!
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


19. Mysterious Missing Birthday Parties
It’s seventy years now, no birthday stands out!
There’S no trace of a party on land or the sea.
Mom Is master cake baker so I shouldn’t pout,
Birthday guests misremembered if it’S up to me?

There’S bear I could ask, but his head’s sprung a leak,
Perhaps cake ROM (6) IS there, but then fog rushes in,
And it’S such a long time since we slept cheek to cheek,
IS it possible reader might help me with spin?


20. The Bear (And The Poet) Vanish
Oh, Bear! How I miss you! Our path’S out of time,
Hope it’S true our adventures will find a new shore,
Though my verse I think'S lovely, it hangs on a dime,
Here’S my hand, beary friend, let's go find evermore!


Brian Johnston
August 9, 2017

Poet’s Notes:
Bear Johnston actually exists, and though his eyes have been replaced by buttons, he is really in pretty good shape. I am so lucky that my mom saved him for me. Another gold star for you Mom! Note also that every line uses the word “Is” so that the whole poem is present tense. It was my hope that this device would make my story sound younger.
(1) Some Poetic license here. I actually can’t remember how Bear came into my life, but this myth seems plausible.
(2) Forgive me for injecting a little science now and then. I just can’t resist at times though Bear would have been unlikely to know such things, I’m sure this knowledge would have delighted him.
(3) Remember the Tom Hank’s Movie “Big?” The intention here is to at least mention a child’s desire to grow up more quickly and to be “free” like adults are (in his mind)!
(4) This is an actual memory. Though I was afraid of the dark in my sizeable back yard, I comforted myself with the fantasy that if I whistled all the way to the garbage can and back, there was at least a chance that Mom might rescue me if something grabbed me and the whistling stopped!
(5) Christmas and Thanksgiving were the two big events every year in my family. So I actually got Christmas presents on three separate occasions, at home on Christmas day and again at each Grandparent’s house. These holidays were also a time for quail hunting, and the men rarely failed to get enough birds to feed everyone. The women would cook the birds, but men had to clean them! And as a boy matured it was a right of passage for him to be allowed to go hunting with the men and to have his own shot gun.
(6) The poet is perhaps flailing a bit here! ROM is a very modern word that means Read Only Memory, and certainly, Bear Johnston would not contain such a device?

Copyright © Brian Johnston | Year Posted 2017

Long poem by Carl Halling | Details

Snapshots from a Child's West London

I remember my cherished Wolf Cub pack, 
How I loved those Wednesday evenings, 
The games, the pomp and seriousness of the camps, 
The different coloured scarves, sweaters and hair 
During the mass meetings, 
The solemnity of my enrolment, 
Being helped up a tree by an older boy, 
Baloo, or Kim, or someone, 
To win my Athletics badge, 
Winning my first star, my two year badge, 
And my swimming badge 
With its frog symbol, the kindness of the older boys.
                                                                    
I remember a child's West London.
                                                                    
One Saturday afternoon, after a football match
During which I dirtied my boots 
By standing around as a sub in the mud, 
And my elbow by tripping over a loose shoelace, 
An older boy offered to take me home. 
We walked along streets, 
Through subways crammed with rowdies, 
White or West Indian, in black gym shoes. 
"Shuddup!" my friend would cheerfully yell, 
And they did.
"We go' a ge' yer 'oame, ain' we mite, ay?"
"Yes. Where exactly are you taking me?" I asked.
                                                                    
"The bus stop at Chiswick 'Oigh Stree' 
Is the best plice, oi reck'n."
"Yes, but not on Chiswick High Street,"
I said, starting to sniff.
"You be oroight theah, me lil' mite."
I was not convinced. 
The uncertainty of my ever getting home 
Caused me to start to bawl,
And I was still hollering 
As we mounted the bus. 
I remember the sudden turning of heads. 
It must have been quite astonishing 
                                                                    
For a peaceful busload of passengers 
To have their everyday lives 
Suddenly intruded upon 
By a group of distressed looking Wolf Cubs, 
One of whom, the smallest,
Was howling red-faced with anguish 
For some undetermined reason. 
After some moments, my friend, 
His brow furrowed with regret, 
As if he had done me some wrong, said:
"I'm gonna drop you off 
Where your dad put you on."
                                                                    
Within seconds, the clouds dispersed, 
And my damp cheeks beamed. 
Then, I spied a street I recognised
From the bus window, and got up, 
Grinning with all my might:
"This'll do," I said. 
"Wai', Carl," cried my friend, 
Are you shoa vis is 'oroigh'?"
"Yup!" I said. I was still grinning
As I spied my friend's anxious face 
In the glinting window of the bus 
As it moved down the street.
                                                                    
I remember a child's West London.
                                                                    
One Wednesday evening, 
When the Pops was being broadcast 
Instead of on Thursday, 
I was rather reluctant to go to Cubs, 
And was more than usually uncooperative 
With my father as he tried 
To help me find my cap, 
Which had disappeared.
Frustrated, he put on his coat 
And quietly opened the door. 
I stepped outside into the icy atmosphere 
Wearing only a pair of underpants,
                                                                    
And to my horror, he got into his black Citroen 
And drove off. I darted down Esmond Road,  
Crying and shouting. 
My tearful howling was heard by Margaret, 
19 year old daughter of Mrs Helena Jacobs, 
Whom my mother used to help 
With the care and entertainment 
Of Thalidomide children. 
Helena Jacobs expended so much energy 
On feeling for others,  
That when my mother tried to get in touch 
In the mid '70s, she seemed exhausted, 
                                                                    
And quite understandably, 
For Mrs O'Keefe, her cleaning lady 
And friend for the main part 
Of her married life
Had recently been killed in a road accident. 
I remember that kind 
And beautiful Irish lady, 
Her charm, happiness and sweetness, 
She was the salt of the earth. 
She threatened to ca-rrown me
When I went away to school...
If I wrote her not.
                                                                    
Margaret picked me up
And carried me back to my house. 
I put on my uniform 
As soon as she had gone home, 
Left a note for my Pa, 
And went myself to Cubs. 
When Pa arrived to pick me up, 
The whole ridiculous story 
Was told to Akela, 
Baloo and Kim, 
Much, much, much to my shame.
                                                                    
I remember a child's West London.
                                                                    
The year was 1963, the year of the Beatles, 
Of singing yeah, yeah, yeah in the car, 
Of twisting in the playground, 
Of "I'm a Beatlemaniac, are you?"
That year, I was very prejudiced 
Against an American boy, Raymond, 
Who later became my friend. 
I used to attack him for no reason, 
Like a dog, just to assert my superiority. 
One day, he gave me a rabbit punch in the stomach 
And I made such a fuss that my little girlfriend, Nina,
Wanted to escort me to the safety of our teacher, 
                                                                    
Hugging me, and kissing me intermittently 
On my forehead, eyes, nose, cheeks. 
She forced me to see her:
"Carl didn't do a thing," said Nina, 
"And Raymond came up and gave him 
Four rabbit punches in the stomach."
Raymond was not penalized, 
For Mademoiselle knew 
What a little demon I was, 
No matter how hurt 
And innocent I looked, 
Tearful, with my tail between my legs.
                                                                    
I remember a child's West London.

Copyright © Carl Halling | Year Posted 2015

Long poem by Russell Banks | Details

Wellful of Wails

'You've thrown me over the edge of the highest peaked cliff imaginable
As I spiral further down, my outer shell gets roughed up
by sticks and stones
until my body is disfigured beyond recognition
as if I'd been torn apart and restitched together by a confused child
Will I ever hit the bottom? 
And then it happens, I'm slammed to a standstill.
I don't know if I can make it out, I'm so terribly down on myself.
Do I have the strength to save myself? 
At least go halfway to safety? I'll try.
But the only way to go is by crawling
dragging my nearly lifeless self along the railroad tracks
that no one seems to come across
unless they want to hide away and wait for death.
The track eventually runs into a tunnel I must get through
to receive any chance of comfort
But so many have died on this very set of tracks.
Can I make it? I'll try.
I'm gripping the cold, hard ground.
Struggling to continue on as each and every moment
even tiny, cuts deep in me as if slashed by the gory blade
of a masked offender as I move along the rugged tracks.
I'm almost under the cover of the tunnel.
Oh God, what's that sound? A train? 
Of course, along comes a train.
The train constructed by all the grim gray deaths 
that have been committed along these very tracks.
Chugging, chugging, chugging along.
Way faster than any pace I can produce.
The very structure of this train is held up by malicious spirits.
The steel walls are formed by the souls
of all those who've laid out on the tracks
and awaited their brutal deaths they so longed for.
I do NOT want to become an etched soul in that steel.
But it's coming for me.
I can hear it's whistle, and in its sound one can hear all the cries of the dead ever screamed aloud
formed into a single sound so evil 
it must've been the work of the devil himself.
But wait! ...I see the light.
A light at the end of the tunnel. Hope.
There's still hope for me yet. I'll be there. Just wait for me.'
They're only words, that's what I said when I opened this letter
fragile, fleeting meaningless words ever wrote
despicable, disgusted I could care less
This whole world, it makes me sick
Words, they're only words
I only speak volumes in words but I never really make a sound
how can I
when every note I wish to produce
has been stolen from the very lungs used to produce my breath
Here, let me convert your ears to my wellful of wails
here, let me shed you a tale of mediocrity 
as I'm pleading, beating these bear walls with my fists
bleeding, desperately trying to make real
what my dreams won't allow to be true
I love you
so hollow, so empty
it's been used as a gift but delivered like a lance 
through my abdomen, piercing me through
and there's no phoenix resurrection, no elixir to bring me back to life
Love has slain me, defaced me, mocks me
if had my way, I'd burn it all to the ground
slit both my writs and laugh as I merrily bleed out
but those are just empty words, just empty words
Can you blame me for going to the extreme
a morbid end to a pipe dream
though it's that very pipe this hot steam is flowing through
I need a smoke, I need a drink
words recited when days get too rough, too jagged
it seems like everyday now, it seems like every hour
I never want to go home, I never want to stay home
but I have nowhere to go, nowhere to be, nowhere....
now I don't know what to do with myself, do with myself
except curse the blue sky for looking so joyous while I in misery
marvel at how jealous I am 
at the happiness in the stratosphere I can't reach
as I watch these jets mimic my outlook on life
while I take these shoes to sidewalks
to burn off desires, burn off these painful feelings 
as I burn on the inside
Hope, what hope is there for me
when I look in the mirror and all I want to do is cut my eyes
turn my arms into cobras
rip them out and throw them away
cause I refuse to see what life is doing to me
and accept this is how I was meant to be
I used to be everything I was proud of
now I'm a split image, an illusion
staring at myself a universe as he cries tears of entrapment
in glass I'm too far away to break him out of
a scared little kid, in a corner he can't fight his way out of 
I'm the fighter, the lier,  the spark, set me on fire
he was a lover, a genius, but someone deceived us
now I'm the only one left
Now my heart unglued, I trade food for ink cause I hope the smell will induce me
but these are just words, meaningless fragile words
I only speak in volumes of words
but twisted and turned are my insides that I weave this tale
convert your ears to my wellful of wails
so I can shed my dark complexion for one slight bright side
so I can crack my black, sky just a pencil point dot
with this meaningful shout: THERE'S SOMEONE I ADORE! ! ! ! ! ! 
She, the author of the letter
gives me light, gives me comfort, gives me warmth
my blanket to hang over me, shield me from this darkness I cast
She, the author of the letter
my heroine, my rainy day, my cold breeze on a cloudy
don't misread my words, their her compliments, not her insults
Why would I insult one of the greatest things to me
but then again I can only name she
she, the author of the letter
who hasn't tried to kill with me love
- Sincerely, Your Crow
That's...that's what his letter told me
but I wrote no such letter to him
who is he, how does he know me...

Copyright © Russell Banks | Year Posted 2016

Long poem by JW Earnings | Details

Sitting On The Ground - Our Friendship Bond and Our Vital Vows

I’m sure of it – we’ll do good enough in the long run
Let the crazy, busy, and sunny day begin and I welcome the sun
Do you welcome the sun?
You’re a lot of fun 
Let’s run in the sun
Embrace your passions and good side 
Our friendship bond is like a marriage commitment between a good-looking groom and a beautiful bride!

There’s a recompense for doing the right,loyal, and faithful thing…there’s a way out of captivity – don’t be fenced in by ferocious fears and be conquered by life-changing, wonderful cheers and be free like deer, hopping into the fervor-blossoming flower fields…have no feeling of overwhelming fear! You have no excuse for cheating on me - not while I'm around here...
Embrace your passions…never let it go…
Do your thing, oh you darling peace-abiding angel…oh, you peace-crafting angel of light – can you linger by my side everywhere I feel, darling, oh darling angel…believe and be stable – 
Embrace your passions…never let it go…
And do your thing and be my everything – don’t be scattered on the ground like beads or shattered glass everywhere you step…and gloriously sing and bring everyone peace in mind with your unique, relishing ring – flourish like the tall grain in the golden terrain…fill everyone’s hearts with perpetual cheer! 
Embrace your passions…never let it go…
You are such a beauty from every single angle…untangle me from the web of bewilderment and spread cream cheese to my bagel! Read God’s bible – nothing close to a mad myth or a frivolous fable! Place those beliefs under the table and give as you are able! 

You gottah get up and try as P!nk sings in her song
Embrace your passions with me...and you'll slowly, but surely belong!

Go with the flow of the current of the aqua-blue sky
Kiss the abyss "farewell" - sit back and chillax and be high like a kite

Embrace your passions…never let it go…
Bring me to my dwelling place called Dandelion Delight
It’s time to face what we’ve done…
One…two…three…four
Guide me to my heavenly haven called Illuminated Night
It’s time to run the race – we’ll survive the run…
Four…three…two…one…
We’re sittin’ on the fence, 
Catching a glimpse at the sundrenched sight
Am I makin’ any sense?
Watching a marvelous sunset transform into an illuminated night
Hand me a bouquet of stars 
Don’t remind me of my past scars
Who can mend them now?
Embrace your passions…never let it go…
You’re more precious than the best of poetry 

Do you know where the wind does blow?
It’s a mystery to conceal…say that you want to fall in love with me
’Cause I want to practice by admiring you with 100% certainty that you’re the one that I want to spend the rest of my life with…someday, the day will come somehow…this moment with you is so unreal
How can you blossom like fireworks in the midnight sky? I ponder about this as I find myself sitting on the ground – gravity-bound… How? Somehow, you do it…someday, I’ll know how! I wanna learn to give you space when you need it and I’ll know for sure that you’re my Only Devotion...how did these scars heal? Is it you, my dearest angel? I’m not insecure, but I do take things to the next level – it’s no good deal
Fight for the right purpose and fight the good fight…the reason I fight is for your sake…alright?
You and I will earn beyond-brilliant-and-flawless peace….don’t let the bright opportunities fade…you don’t make me flip out, but you allow me to look at the bright side of life – you’re the reason I’m shimmering anew and I’m the most handsome tint, not a shameful shade 
Fight with your might – there’s an afterlife to look forward to – everything will be black and white
You’re quite a dashing princess – gracious evermore – go play that majestic melody of yours – I want you to know that you’re as sharp and tough as my favorite pocket blade

Come, face this roller coaster with me and go along with the ride 
Face your fears…look them in the eye – you’re gonna be fine with me, though we’re not sitting on the ground…but later on, it’s a possibility possibly…
Go with the flow and put your hands in the air like you don’t care – care to be by my side?
Face your fears…face them eye to eye like a wo-man–you’re gonna be OK with me around…I guarantee! Stay with me and echo your feelings of ecstasy! Think of us next to a sparklin’ sea with serene shores washing against our bodies as one gaily…so happily…so merrily, do we sing! 
Bring us accord and don’t sow discord, 
Let your talents, gifts and high spirits take wing
Let’s sip some wine and be as happy as two jovial pigs in the mud – happiness, free will, and joyfulness are what we can afford!

Let's lock hands and make an agreement and a special bond plus a scared oath...
Like grand lands - just kick back and chillax for a time - you're the one I'll never have the heart's desire to loath
Spread butter to the toast...and slice away all doubt
You're the one I can't help but boast about
You lead me to a nirvana-like, narrow pathway
Come follow me as I blow you XOXO's along the way
Let positivity drive us on and trek that big mountain
Shine on, dear angel of unbreakable, ardeous strength, like the dawn - weep no more, you fretful fountain . . . 
Let God's healing rain heal our pain
That's been driving you and I insane...but we're still sane,
Driving on our love-abiding, painless lane

Promise me you won't break our friendship vows...

Copyright © JW Earnings | Year Posted 2014

Long poem by Donal Mahoney | Details

Long Before ISIS

Thirty years ago, long before ISIS started executing Kurds, Muslims and Christians, I hired a Pakistani Muslim as an art director in Chicago. I was an Irish Catholic editor putting out a small national magazine. I hired him because his work samples were good and he had worked for the United States embassy in Pakistan for more than a decade. The embassy facilitated his emigration to America. It didn’t hurt that he had seven children and I had five. I too knew the misery of being out of work with a family.

Different as we were, Mohammed and I were also much alike. Deadlines and details were important to both of us. Other than the two of us, the staff was female. It helped on occasion to have another man around the office.

After a few years Mohammed invited my wife and me to dinner. His wife put out a big feast of Pakistani food, dishes we had never had. We also had never had Indian food and we know now there are certain similarities between the two cuisines although I remember to this day that a staple dish like biryani was moist in the Pakistani style and not dry as I have experienced it to be in so many Indian restaurants in America. I have no problem with either version but personally prefer a moist biryani. 

My wife and I knew very little about Pakistani culture and Islam on our arrival for the dinner. This showed when I shook hands with his wife, something I found out later to be a no-no although our hosts said nothing and his wife shook hands like an expert. I also engaged her in informal conversation during dinner which again is something of a no-no but she seemed delighted to respond in kind. 

And I probably made a big mistake asking her about a famous Pakistani poet alleged to be a drunk. Mohammed had previously denied this allegation as a complete falsehood. But his wife assured me the poet was indeed a drunk and seemed to disapprove of liquor in general since most Muslims, I believe, do not drink liquor, never mind to excess.

When his wife confirmed the poet was a drunk, I just happened to see Mohammed look down at his empty plate. He rubbed his forehead for a minute and then managed a slight smile. He knew that I did not know any better about carrying on a conversation like this and he loved his wife. It may or may not have been the first time she had engaged an American in an informal way. She was a terrific cook and certainly knew her Pakistani poets, much to the momentary distress of her husband.

Maybe a month later or so, the subject of religion came up at work. Mohammed told me he was sponsoring a cousin to emigrate from Pakistan and they were not close friends, simply kin, and he was obliged to do it. Apparently his cousin was a Sunni Muslim and Mohammed was a member of the Shia branch and the two branches do not get along when it comes to their theology. 

It was just Mohammed and I talking at that time while laying out an issue of the magazine. I can’t recall precisely what areas we covered but we did not get very deep into the vast differences in theology between Islam and Christianity. I may have asked him questions about his faith but I don’t recall that he had any curiosity about mine. But since I had asked for clarification about certain points in Islam, he wanted to make certain I understood what the facts were. I appreciated that and then somewhat facetiously said all was well as long as he didn’t try to convert me.

He paused for a moment and said, “You be a good Catholic and I’ll be a good Muslim.” I knew already that he was certainly a good Muslim. I also knew at that time I had a ways to go to qualify as a good Catholic.

All this took place as I said 30 years ago when there was no ISIS and I don’t recall any simmering conflict at the time between Islam and Christianity. I knew that neither side had forgotten about the Crusades but by and large the Crusades were at most an unfortunate fact of history for Catholics. I did not realize that certain Muslims still burned quite hot about the Crusades and had other resentments against the West and wanted to avenge the injustices they thought had been visited upon them. 

I am happy that Mohammad is still alive despite the fact that we are both long of tooth. I found his phone number today through Google. I saw his picture as well. He still lives in a suburb of Chicago but the picture must have been taken at a religious event because he was dressed in a black robe and black hat not unlike the garments worn  by imams addressing the faithful on the evening news. Needless to say his appearance disturbed me. 

I still might call Mohammad but if I do, it wouldn’t bother me if his wife answered the phone. It’s been 30 years but I think I’d ask her if she can tell me the surname of that drunken Pakistani poet since I remember only his given name and can’t find him so far on Google. And then maybe I’d have the guts to ask if Mohammed was home. If he was, maybe I’d ask him what is going on in the world today, from his point of view, because people like me don’t understand it. I imagine it would be a long conversation. Thank goodness there are no long distance charges on my wife’s cellphone. 


Donal Mahoney

Copyright © Donal Mahoney | Year Posted 2017

Long poem by Bob Quigley | Details

Walter

He stood and aimlessly watched the parade of patrons and volunteers that wandered daily past his kennel.  All so familiar, so ordinary.  Just like every other day he mused.  Nothing new.  Nothing special.

Moving to the small crumpled blanket near the back of his cage, he turned several times and finally curled up, head on his paws, positioned so that he could watch the activity around him.  But in reality, he was bored.  It had been a long time since he had met each morning with anticipation.  Too many days.   Too much disappointment.  He would leave all that barking and racing to the front of  their cage to the younger pups who hadn’t figured out yet that the cute ones went first.  It didn’t really make any difference what you did to attract attention if you weren’t young or cute, or both.

Too much time had gone by to participate in the charade.  In reality, Walter had seen a lot of people that he would rather not spend a lot of time with.  You know the type.  Kind of hyper, bouncing from stray to stray, looking for a perfect dog.  Kids poking their fingers  through the kennel screen or banging on it.  Some even making barking sounds.  He didn’t need any of that and was glad when they were gone.

Walter was very picky.  Set in his ways after so many years.  He had had it good for  a long time.  An only dog in a household of two people that let him be himself.  No tricks. No stunts.  Just long naps and daily walks.  A yard to himself to reflect on what was for dinner.  He had been fond of his doggy bed in their bedroom.  Each night he would help his owner walk through the house turning off the lights and checking the doors before they climbed the stairs together.  And there was always one last good night pat before settling down.

But those days were gone now.  First one had become ill and went to the hospital and never came back.  The other one changed overnight, spending long days, sitting mostly.  The walks became less frequent.  Walter did what he could.   He could see it in their eyes that they were hurting from their loss. He would make a point of laying his head in their lap, trying to let them know that he missed them too.  At times like this, he instinctively knew that although it remained unsaid, they only had each other.

He remembers well the day that his owner snapped a leash on him and said, “well Walter, I’m afraid we have to say goodbye.  I have to go to a place where they won’t let me keep you, so I am going to have to let you go.”  Walter could see the tears in his eyes.  He knew it would do him no good to whine or resist.  It was obvious there were no alternatives.  And besides, it would just make it harder on his owner.  But he was going to miss him.  It was not going to be easy to adjust.

But adjust he did.   He had been here a long time now and had seen countless pups and dogs  trot past his cage with light hearts and  new owners, heading off with new found hopes and expectations.  But it soon became obvious that there weren’t a lot of people that wanted an old yellow hound.  Everyone wanted the young ones.  So here he lay, dozing a bit, but still keeping an eye on those walking by, many giving him but a glance before moving on.

He heard them before the saw them.  ”Honey” the voice said.  ”That looks like Walter, old Mr. Whitney’s dog.”  Walters ears perked up a little.  ”Do I know them” he thought.  ”They seem to know me”.  I’d better go take a closer look” and with that, he stood and slowly ambled toward his kennel gate, giving a cautious wag of his tail.

“It is him” the man said.  ”Walter, how you doing boy?  Do you remember me?”

And upon closer inspection, Walter did remember him.  He used to live right across the street.  He would see him in his yard and if Walter were to ramble over, he usually had a dog treat in his pocket.  With the recognition, Walter gave a little stronger wag and moved toward the fingers extended through the fencing.  It was good to see an old friend.

“What do you say hon” the man said.  ”How would you feel about bringing Walter home with us?”

Walter looked at the woman and saw her nod in agreement.  ”You wait here and I’ll go find a volunteer.”

The man bent down and said “What do you think Walter?  Would you like to go home with us?”

Actually, Walter decided, he could think of nothing he would like more.  A chance to go back to the old neighborhood with people he already knew.  What was there not to like.

Soon the woman returned and the gate opened.  A leash was snapped on Walter and together they proceeded past the rows of dogs and puppies, all vying for their attention.  Walter couldn't help but stand a little straighter, stepping a little more lightly, showing off.  ”This is what going home looks like guys.” he thought.  ”Good luck and goodbye”.

As they neared the car the man said “I can’t believe we found you Walter.  There is someone I am going to take you to see.  I can’t wait to see the expression on his face when you walk in his room>”

Walter, of course, knew exactly who he was talking about.  And he couldn't wait to see the expression on his face either.

Copyright © Bob Quigley | Year Posted 2013

Long poem by Ivor Davies | Details

Legacy of Penang

Back in 1962 when I was just a lad
my dad gave me a holiday
the best I ever had.
A holiday of every dream
that one lifetime could hold
so listen while this wondrous time 
to you I now unfold:

In bygone years to travel far
was not a normal thing,
to travel some six thousand miles
by plane was amazing!
Propellers aided by a jet,
a very modern way,
aboard a British Eagle plane
my life would change that day.

A little island in the sun
where British troops were based
on active service out Far East
where they would get a taste
of jungle warfare while they helped
to form a brand new state
by helping stop objections from 
a few this change did hate.

But as a teenage boy, you see,
the politics of war
were not as noticeable to me
as other things I saw.
I felt the beauty of this land
with folk of every kind
for at this time in England
few ‘cultures’ could be found. 

For back at home in Blighty
a youngster such as me
had to know his place in life
and couldn’t roam quite free,
but out here in the tropics
no prejudice I found
of the nature that had kept me thus
by England’s limits bound.

Now out here in Malaysia,
on this island of Penang,
I found a place where deep inside
stirred memories that sang
of a time in my existence
that I’d never felt before
born of ancient inner knowledge
that my soul was screaming for.

To continue with my story
of the time I was a lad,
when in a British Barracks
with a soldier for a dad
I had given up my schooling
for adventure in the world
and like a butterfly emerging
my wings were now unfurled.

On this truly wondrous island
Minden Barracks was my home
with excitement and adventure
wherever I could roam.
I immersed in all the wisdom
of simplicity I met
and learned that what you give to life,
returns in what you get.
 
For the Chinese and the Indians,
Malays and some ex-pats
had found ways to live together
though all wore different hats,
in perfect symbiosis
where all fulfilled their roles
and by leaning on each other
could emancipate their goals.

Now even at this early age,
I was not too dim to see
that the rich were getting richer
and the poor were never free,
but something buried deep inside
these people of Penang
bore a certain understanding
of the common song they sang.

Now I grew up very quickly
as my friends all went to war,
young soldiers who were now my age
what were they fighting for.
Atrocities befell them 
as they fought Malaysia’s side
against those from Indonesia
who would not join this ride.

Skirmishes abundant
though Penang was hardly hit,
it was only very seldom
that we faced a scary bit.
When Minden B’ was threatened
all the locals stayed inside
just in case the British soldiers
started shooting the wrong side!
 
But throughout this ‘confrontation’
my job became pure joy,
for the Army’s recreation 
then became my brand new toy.
On the island’s sandy beaches
you would find me day by day
driving speed boats for the soldiers
when they found the time to play.

In Penang, their favourite island,
 the troops would take their leave
and have fun while water skiing
as they took a short reprieve
from the nature of their duties
that had brought them to this land
and for just a fleeting moment
could enjoy the sea and sand.

For three years whilst Water Skiing
I enjoyed this paradise
but the days I was not working
were all equally as nice
for at home in Minden Barracks
was a special swimming pool
where friends would meet
and wash their souls
with conversation’s tool.

This really was the centre
of our commune in this land,
the meeting place for sharing
where all friends would understand.
Soldier’s wives, their men at war,
and others gathered round,
if any place is hallowed
then this pool is sacred ground.
 
But Georgetown and its traders
was the place I loved to be
where the colour, noise and culture
always let my soul soar free.
Where the many, many trishaws
and the bikes and traffic mix,
with the hawkers, shops and markets
this is where I got my fix!

Four good years I lived my life
in this very special place,
absorbing understanding
at a multicultural pace.
I’d been born into a country
that the world thought was mature,
but maturity is lost of mind
when progress is the lure.

Back in 1962 when I was just a lad
my dad gave me a holiday
the best I’d ever had.
Back in 1966 I went back home again
and the schooling that I’d given up
had not been lost in vain,
for I’d learnt the real meaning
of my Life in this short stay,
a meaning full of everything
I carry till this day.

So now I’m in My sixties,
not the sixties of my past
and the thing I’ve found along the way
is most things never last.
But learn from where you travel,
let morals be your guide
for none can steal the things you hold
and carry deep inside.

Ivor G Davies

Copyright © Ivor Davies | Year Posted 2015

Long Poems