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Best Poems Written by John Herlihy

Below are the all-time best John Herlihy poems as chosen by PoetrySoup members

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Dressed in Rags

Scarecrows dressed in rags

As haunted human beings

Fall down to the ground

Copyright © John Herlihy | Year Posted 2017



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A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls

A monster calls,
But I do not respond.
The frightening voice enthralls,
But I feel as though forewarned.
Down the ages and across the hours,
The fiend has shown emboldened powers. 
A shadowy presence stalks within,
Bringing with it feelings of chagrin.
I hear its sound, but I do not listen,
I only strive my indifference to christen.
Truth to tell, I confess I feel scared stiff,
When the evil force awakens, I get a whiff,
Of what it means to be truly afraid,
To uncover things of which I am not made.

The terrifying fiend lies within,
Securely hidden far beneath the skin.
Our duality walks along a sharp knife,
Within us lie forces of good and evil rife.
We think we are free in whatever we chose,
With no fear of consequences for what we lose.
What use is the good of being completely free,
When in choosing the wrong thing we do not see,
That unlimited freedom comes with a steep price,
If we lose our souls when the clock strikes thrice.
The midnight hour will have long since gone by;
We cannot gather up the pieces even if we try.
Our hearts will now be carved with a ragged edge;
The monster gladly calls when we offer our pledge.

Copyright © John Herlihy | Year Posted 2017

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The Horror of Aleppo

May grief freely flow.
Our hearts fill with sorrow.
Can we compassion borrow?
Nothing at all left to owe.
Can anyone save Aleppo?

Aleppo now has no other name
History has recorded its fame
The ruling clique has no shame
The entire world falls into blame
Will no one at all save Aleppo?

A city fully destroyed,
With human lives toyed.
Daily life no longer enjoyed,
We are looking into the void.
Can anyone save Aleppo?

Wherever we may go,
We feel the undertow.
Listen to the cries of woe,
With no hope of tomorrow.
Can anyone save Aleppo?

Mothers only embrace sorrow;
Sad orphans bow their heads low;
Fearful civilians flee with the crow;
Starving children no longer grow;
Can anyone save Aleppo?

War planes now fly overhead;
We seek puff clouds instead;
Exploding bombs we dread;
Soon we will all be dead,
Unless someone saves Aleppo.

This will be our very last day;
There is nothing left to say.
What misery we have to pay;
Can anyone this horror delay?
If only someone can save Aleppo!

I am still a child only ten years old;
You are beautiful I was once told.
My mother not here my hand to hold.
Will I have the luxury of growing old?
Can anyone now save Aleppo?

Good-bye world, this one last time.
May the earth still continue to shine.
Today, this day, is no longer mine.
I lay myself down, no longer to pine.
Aleppo stands desolate, an odious crime.

Copyright © John Herlihy | Year Posted 2017

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The Discipline of Failure

The Discipline of Failure
By John Herlihy

There is a discipline to failure that no one can deny;
We are set up to fail miserably, by others on the sly.
Risk can be calculated into the mix to heighten success;
You cannot achieve higher goals if you settle for less.

There is more discipline to failure than there is to success;
Failure teaches us about caution and scrutiny, I must confess.
To examine what went wrong in spite of concerted efforts,
And to learn from our many mistakes like seasoned experts.

My individual success may produce unreasoned envy,
Coloring with darkness the meaning of the word friendly.
My failure only exposes me to the vulgarity of people’s insults,
But insults do not necessarily impinge upon my final results.

Success by definition includes the inevitability of failure;
Without the risk of failure, mediocrity will be our savior.
Failure makes the drudgery of digging holes into a fine art;
We dig our own graves and then lay down with a broken heart.

Risk-taking is now a fashionable impulse in the modern-day salon;
To ward off failure, we cling to it tightly like a police baton.
We take risks in the hope of achieving a glorious success,
To ward off evil and make sure that failure has every redress.

Make every effort to control risk, otherwise risk will control you;
What seems at first a pot of gold may only turn into a boiling stew.
There is a time to have courage and express the need to be bold;
But recklessness only invites failure and the feeling of being sold.

Hold fast to the discipline of failure as a means of achieving success;
By God, I will ultimately succeed in my goals and never settle for less.

Copyright © John Herlihy | Year Posted 2017

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Migration

Winter birds remain
His map a mask of destiny
Summer birds flee winter

Copyright © John Herlihy | Year Posted 2017



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Death Mask

Death Mask

The man lay quietly prone as if sleeping,
All earthly cares laid aside for safe keeping.
A hushed silence with amplitude filled the room,
Pungent incense wafted amid flowers in full bloom.
The body now lay supine and never to arise again,
A storybook now closed on once upon a time and then.
What was left of the man still lay placidly on the face,
The fingers, legs, toes now immobile with undue haste.
The face, once lively expression, in death now wooden,
Once a wealth of emotions, now as a child’s sorely chidden.
The face still framed as in life with old-fashioned whiskers,
Sunburned and blotchy as though recovering from blisters.
He had the look of an old farmer or sea captain in leathers,
He no doubt worked outside, familiar with all weathers.
Grey cascading curls now surrounded the venerable head,
The man’s features giving the air of being frozen instead.
The death mask, ah the one mask that will never be lifted,
Now that the soul has moved on and elsewhere drifted.
We wear a series of masks all our lives in search of peace,
This mask gives nothing away but its feeling of release.

Copyright © John Herlihy | Year Posted 2017

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Animal Instinct

Animals just know
The praying mantis looks above
The clam closes down
The turtle’s head hides inside
The spider seizes the fly

Copyright © John Herlihy | Year Posted 2017

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Inside the Drum

Inside the drum, nothing is hidden; 
The truth of the outside world arrives unbidden. 
No one knows or imagines that I lay quietly inside; 
No one wishes to reveal what they wish to hide. 
Physical presence tends to put people on their guard; 
Their deep dark secrets safely tucked away to safeguard. 

People go about their business sounding their drum; 
They pour forth their rhythms that resound and hum. 
They lie, cheat, and steal thinking no one is around, 
Anonymity carries its own weight pound for pound. 
People speak about themselves in exaggerated tones, 
For an undue advantage, they will abandon their homes. 

I reveal that I am on the inside looking quietly out; 
No one has any inkling that I am anywhere about. 
Invisibility can sometimes serve a useful purpose, 
A trait that allows me to burrow below the surface. 
In certain traditions, I am identified by fixed name; 
When my name is raised, individuals see the blame. 

Inside the drum, I am the silhouette against the light; 
I am the glowing light against the darkness of the night. 
Inside the drum, I am the chameleon changing color; 
The secrets I hear reveal the depths of human squalor. 
Inside the drum, I listen carefully but am never heard; 
The modernite mentality considers the unseen absurd. 

My name is conscience, an inner spirit breathing flame; 
I scorch the way of the world and hopefully induce shame. 
Self-awareness allows people to think of themselves as free; 
To do whatever they wish and to be what they wish to be. 
However, I lay silently within, as life’s intricate net is spun 
Listening to the whispers and cries of the beating drum.

Copyright © John Herlihy | Year Posted 2017

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White Magic

White Magic 

In our uninhibited exuberance for the beauties of Mother Nature;
We sometimes seem to forget the strength of nature’s dark force.
Peel back the layers of beauty only to discover a sinister black magic,
Hidden amid the divine adornments nature draws from its source.

The lush grasses of rolling countryside are covered in autumn frost;
The sky remote as heaven and cold as steel in this season of Pentecost.
Bone grey clouds gather their forces and roam the sky with lurid haloes;
The desperate daylight seeking ways to shine forth on the earth below.

A lonely redwood farmhouse gleamed against a row of forest trees;
Trees dark and waving ominously with branches full of dead leaves.
By the house, deep green growths were grey with the powder of frost;
Weeds drained the fading colors in the flower-beds until all color is lost.

The house stood waist-high in a melee of shrubs and bushes in a bundle.
Too luxuriant in these northern climes, lending the air of an arctic jungle.
A grey confusion filled the country fields, protected by a straw scarecrow;
A great continent of cloud hovered overhead suggesting: “It’s going to snow."

The pillars of trees in the distance now seem dwarfed by this canopy of cloud;
As I say, Nature comes dressed in all its divine glory, but what is this shroud?
On the fencing and up the side of the barn cling the sinews of creepy vines;
The grey canopy of cloud seems to bow down to earth amid the forest pines.

Sometimes Mother Nature seems to draw upon a mind with elaborate schemes;
Earthquakes, tsunamis and unrestrained storms are exactly what nature seems.
The wild forces use a secret language to break the rhythms that design brings;
Mysterious signs and wordless pictures invoke the names of nameless things.

The fall of twilight accompanied by the angelic horde of snow falling down,
Drifting idly from Heaven to Earth as if the landscape with peace to crown.
The land suddenly whitened into a purity that earlier seemed almost tragic;
The earth now cast into a divine glow that seemed born of a white magic.

Copyright © John Herlihy | Year Posted 2017

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Legend of New York

Legend of New York
Always unattainable
Always seductive
Where sirens will always sing
Where bright lights memories bring 

Copyright © John Herlihy | Year Posted 2017

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