featured in the poetry forum October 6, 2023  :: 0 comments

Fame the one drug you don’t recover from,
Since you seek no cure. In Hollywood once,
My wife and I had to change plans to see
Old friends; the sidewalks were jammed mile after
Sweaty mile of folks insane, for one glimpse
Of any star. (That night was a big night–
The world premiere of Too Many Sequels.)

And fame must shift something inside you, make
A thirst without quenching. On that same trip
We met a star manque, who took us for steaks
At a place right by Hollywood Boulevard.
This man had once been on par with Johnny,
Merv, and Groucho: one phone call always meant
The best table, no matter the hour.

Except now he was any tourist, from
Any town, and tonight’s table was right
By the can. He minded that, and the staff
Not caring, he minded more. To distract
Himself he gave us, unsought, reviews of
Current tv, music, cinema. It
All stank. Sic Transit Gloria Tonight Show.

Part of my wife feels a tender pity
For the famous, and the once famous, so
She arranged for some strangers to drop by
And be thunderstruck. ‘Are you X?!?!!! Could we
Get pictures??? How about an autograph?’
He obliged each one, carefully signing
His name to that night’s late dinner specials.

We had seen his fake smile all night; now we
Saw the real one. And the former knew not
The latter. He was a changed man now, as
If he wandered again in arcadia.
Say this for thirsts that cannot be quenched; when
There is rain in the desert, beauty blooms,
And if only briefly, then how brightly.

editors note:

Not who you are but where you are seen makes great. – mh clay


featured in the poetry forum June 9, 2023  :: 0 comments

On a fall walk, the leaves drift between us
Lazy, one or two at a time. Autumn
Is bliss till the sleet stings. This afternoon
The sun is a soft haze, now orange, now
Gold, like we are in a film called Perfect
, and we chat of this and that, your week
And mine; love has that substance sometimes, all
The sweeter, silent.

Out of the blue we stare at a maple
Tree losing two thirds of its leaves from one
Strong wind. You say “If only it was that
Easy, if our past would just leap free. Gone.”
And I nod, wishing it were true….except
What would we change, and which leaves keep? All of
Of us have mistakes we just say we rue;
Stuff we’d dearly love another crack at.

Memory paints some things golden and sweeps
Other thoughts away. For all that we know
The maple tree regrets each strong fall wind,
And misses each tender shoot, each branch no
Matter how frail, each leaf heavenly green
In summer, in autumn, the eye’s delight,
Yellow, gold, orange, russet: reminders
Of what was, and might be still.

editors note:

Together, past leaves will shade that one to leaf alone. – mh clay


featured in the poetry forum December 8, 2022  :: 0 comments

The kids around here have the same
Deal I had as a kid — quiet
Street, no customers, baking sun.
No one thinks to bring any ice
For their spare selection of room
Temperature sugar water.

At two in the afternoon these
Children have made no money. They
Ask me if I want Lemonade!
Sir! Lemonade! but give up soon,
Catching my advanced age. How old
Do I seem to them? Eighty? Dead?

Just a few years ago, I swear…
I was on this very same street,
Making the same money. Our brave
Acme did not last long: it was
So hot, the sun so high, that we
Often closed up shop by one sharp.

Strange the way you look back fondly
On steamy August afternoons;
Stranger still the way memory
Shapes being young, how a long day
In the sun becomes something else
Now, a thought that glows. As if our
Minds protect the past, a second
Life only we know; and some of
Our memories glow because kids
Truly don’t care how witty they
Seem on Twitter, let alone how
Happy they say they are online.

editors note:

So good, them goodle days; gooder than they were, but always gooder than now. – mh clay


featured in the poetry forum June 13, 2022  :: 0 comments

On a hot Friday afternoon a man
Walks from block to block, with a sign saying
Only ROMANS 6:23. His clothes
Are designed to protect skin from sun; it’s
Clear he’s done this before. He is a voice
Of one. Most come to Hollywood to be
A star, or, just for now, imagine they
Rule the earth. All the sirens call here.

He plays the same loud tape over and over,
An urgent man who says our time is short,
And the walk of the Lord is the walk
Of light. I wonder if, apart from me,
Anyone takes in the sign: he is used
To being ignored, makes no attempt
At eye contact. People bypass him gently,
Polite, relieved he is not panhandling,

And he gets indulgent stares, as if his
Sign was written in Klingon. To believe
What Paul wrote in his letter was once
Dangerous, you paid with your life, as he
Did. Then it took hold of much of Europe
And the Americas. In time out of mind
There was a learned, stubborn Jew rotting
In a stinking Roman jail. On the last

Day he spoke the last words. Death was coming.
If he was lucky, he would meet Peter’s
Fate. “Write this… write this down. Out of the mouth
Of the lion have I escaped. Our Lord
Will deliver me yet. Jesus, I come
Unto your kingdom; bless me and all men,
Except that son of a whore, Alexander,
And the other jackal, Demas. You will

Judge them according to their works: God is
Not mocked. I… I have kept the faith, my course
Is run. Jesus, stand fast by Timothy.
Grace be with you.” And when the end came, did
He dream dreams? Which one would have a sharper
Sting? First, he’d see men put to the torch
For believing in God differently
Than other men, love no longer the law.
The second prophecy might cut deeper still.
There would be a man in Hollywood who
Called out the wages of sin, and no one
Cared, and a soul on fire for Christ was now
Simply quaint, odd, just another crazy
Person on this crazy street. Like the heart
Can only cling to hope for so long, as
If faith itself has a time limit, stricter
Than the hold on your ATM card.

editors note:

It takes a lot of polish to keep a shine on faith. (This poem comes from Brian’s recently released collection, Zen In Beverly Hills. Congrats on that, Brian! We can get our copies here.) – mh clay


featured in the poetry forum March 6, 2022  :: 0 comments

So easy to spot, for each film
Costs one billion dollars and by
Rule has one helicopter chase.
The title is White House Down Sky
Fall Jason Bourne Ultimatum.
Each cliché takes its rightful place.

They fill the cast with broad types, not
People. The villains used to be
Russian communists but now are
Russian plutocrats. Usually
They are jejune dead-eyed men, caught
By hammer, sickle, gold red star.

The women are bleached blonde dull: their
Job is to stand speechless, in awe
Of our hero, as he takes on
That mass of men who break the law.
All their shots miss and they stand there,
Nicely, waiting to be mowed down.

The plot? The Woman He Loves is
Killed in act one of the sequel,
White House Down Again. The villain
Has a speech about the evil
U.S. and then our hero throws
Him thru broken blue windowpane.

When the yellow curtain comes down,
I sometimes wonder, or don’t, why
We watch. As if we need a far
Off place, where our rules don’t apply,
And we’d be dreaming of our own
Hammer, sickle, a gold red star.

editors note:

Meanwhile, just east of the west, a villain enacts his evil plan while we watch. – mh clay


featured in the poetry forum September 29, 2021  :: 0 comments

I am a medium, I speak with the dead,
But you, the skeptic, don’t believe.
That is why my web page is filled
With real testimony from r e a l
People who’ve been blessed by my sight.

Here is a note from the Gresbachs that I got
In April of this year–“Dear Trish, with love
And my thanks. I don’t know if you remember
Me, we went to your reading in March.
Somehow my shaking tears told you there was
Sorrow in my life. You asked if anyone
Close to me had passed. I kept sobbing.
You said ‘Father?’ and I shook, yes.

‘I see his spirit. He is here. He says he
Loves you and always will.’ My husband
Laughed, and said this was just secular
Church, but I could hear my father in her
Words. There was a spirit. I know because
Of the paperbacks you sold to me.
With love, the Gresbachs.”

If this woman believes, why don’t you?
What I do brings relief, comfort, and joy.
The dead do hear. They care. They want
Us to be happy. Our great suspicion–
That they are just rotting somewhere,
Unknowing, unfeeling– is foolish.
There is a spirit. Let me share one more.

“Dear Trish, it’s Valerie from Comox. I
Was at your reading in the spring. I
Sure wasn’t there by choice, my boss
Asked me to “volunteer” and I owe her
Too many favors to say no. So there I
Was, pouring coffee and collecting empty
Cups. I looked down and made no eye
Contact, especially not with you.

But I guess you were looking, and may
Have seen my Snoopy t-shirt, Littlest
Hobo belt buckle, and the loose dog
Hairs on my jacket, and sensed I was
A dog person. You said my dog died
A month ago and I was very unhappy.

I dropped everything, all the coffee cups,
Full and empty, and shook. I couldn’t
Sit or stand or be in one place.
My boss thought I was having a stroke,
But you said “It’s grief, and deep, and won’t
Go away anytime soon. The death of our pets
Cuts harder somehow.”

I bought one of your books, The Life Beyond,
And you write, quote, nothing that lives
Ever really dies, unquote. Until I met you, I
Would never have believed that. Thank
You again.”

I hear a voice; I hear a spirit; I bring water
To the desert, hope to the hopeless. I use
No force, no law requires you to be at my
Readings. The police do not care if you
Love me or hate me. The books out front
Are reasonably priced.

To those who love, I return your love
In full. To those who hate, remember
The choices. You can believe there
Is a spirit, and we live forever, and love
Is the light of the world, or you can believe

That this, this cesspool, is it. That some
Friday you die in a ward everyone avoids,
And some bored intern ticks a chart, and another
Intern takes you downstairs to a room
Full of people who have stopped breathing,
Stopped thinking, stopped seeing.

That someday all the pictures will end.

editors note:

Between eternal bliss and the abrupt nothing rests a happy medium. – mh clay

Beautiful For Situation

featured in the poetry forum January 19, 2021  :: 0 comments

For some reason this poem takes
You out of place, out of time. For
Some other reason when you think
Of this hymn, it is a warm night,
A Sunday, all three windows flung
Open, and we stand together,
And sing together, in a shy
A cappella. And a few times
I remember our pastor’s wife,
To help us out, would softly play
Her piano, to keep some of
Us in tune, and she’d smile every
Once in awhile, and tell her husband
He’d given us the wrong key. He
Would wink, grinning. “Ok, right, then
‘Great is the Lord, and greatly…’”

And today she died and I don’t
Know what will happen to this thought,
Just something from my mind, some field
With no taxonomy. Alone
By law in the ICU, did
She sing? Could she see Mount Zion,
On the sides of the north, city
Of a great king? Before death came,
And waited, so kindly, so nicely,
Was she in rapture, her joy
The whole earth?

The piece in the paper will say
Suddenly this last Monday, she
Is survived by a devoted
Husband, loving son, two cherished
Daughters: in lieu of flowers, please
Send to this fund.
They will not add
This strange dream of June evensong….
Still, in ways beyond calling, part
Of me hopes that when she closed her
Eyes, she left the ward, and never
Came back; and for her it was years
Ago, a warm evening, and she
Played a stately F major, her
Soul all song, and the last words,
City of a great king, kept ringing.

editors note:

Wishing eternal citizenship for her (and for us). – mh clay


featured in the poetry forum January 25, 2020  :: 0 comments

It is late and the sun will not be up
For hours yet. At my age dreams are more dull
Than fantastic. In that half trance of
The not asleep I reach for a book I
Read in school, hoping its famously long
Sentences lull me to sleep. And early
In his text he says good and evil we
Know in the field of this world grow up
Together, and are so mixed, it is hard
To tell one from another.

Was he listening? Did he hear my call
Last week? I phoned a friend of mine, someone
I had known for years, and for years she’d
Been sober. But not today: one of those
Calls you wish you had never made: sometimes
You lose just by trying. She is screaming
And raging and boiling. When her brother
Died a light went out and the room stayed dark:
As if death is a wake-up call and your
Phone never stops ringing.

It does not help that he killed himself, which
Her parents lied about, and he left no
Note, no final thoughts, no apologia
Pro vita sua
for the vita he could
Not rid himself of fast enough. The booze
Makes her think she is coping but she is
Instead screaming to me about her rent,
Her parents, her landlord, the new mayor,
A hydro bill, and the chairman of North
Korea. A stew of misery.

A runner on her days off, ten miles
At a time or more, this she can’t outrun.
I wonder… if she goes to work Tuesday,
At Vichy, the godforsaken French bistro
She works at in Hollywood, will people
Notice her cassoulet of rage, resentment,
And hangover? But strangers are smoked glass
To us, thick; too late we learn that good means
How good they are to us. And evil
Just as far as we don’t care.

And too late we learn how little we know,
That all souls are blank slates unless you have
Been there on the good days, when the sun is
Up at six and on that day the light has
A way of never dying; and been there
For their bad days, when the sun waxes pale,
Weak, and hopeless, and your parents have called
To say they found your brother’s body… but
They don’t say the pills were pumped out too late,
And there was no note, nothing, and you have
The rest of time to wonder just where
He wandered to.

editors note:

Pointless, to defend what’s done, when all of life is suicide. Selah! (…but, sometimes, smile-worthy. Read a dog’s POV poem on Brian’s page – check it out!) – mh clay


January 25, 2020  :: 0 comments

On a Friday somewhere, so hot the streets
Were steaming, a border collie mix, who
Knew Latin and ancient scripture, went from
This life to a life to come. And one night
Weeks later the moon was so clear and still
I saw him at the table of judgment,
Speaking with his maker.

You are Pumpkin Sentes? Etiam,
Stop showing off and answer
Me, by your word. I am Pumpkin Sentes,
I am told you ruined many walks,
At the beach or in the woods. They tell me
You started fights for no reason. That you
Took on dogs big and small.

It is whispered, by other dogs I know,
That you were not above stealing food: and
That you were known for barking all day
At no one, and nothing. Hic et ubique?
I said, stop with the smartass remarks. What
Should I say of you, Mr. Sentes, what should
My sentence be?

I cannot praise a cloister’d virtue. (That’s
Your last warning.) At the beach or the park,
Any dog who gave me space had nothing
To fear. Food? If it fell on the floor, who
Would catch it but me? As for the barking…
Dogs see the unseen and hear things unheard
By any human.

Dogs are a kind of love poem to life
Itself. The worse I was the more my
Mother laughed, as if I was there to help
Her forget her father was not. Life comes
From nowhere and ends nowhere: and yet still
A rhapsody: just ask a dog chasing
Waves by the river.


featured in the poetry forum December 24, 2019  :: 0 comments

For R.A.S.

Δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις θεῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας. Luke 2:14


The cars race along like they’re at a track meet,
Everyone in a hurry. Six o’clock. People speed
Right past you, unseeing. Just like last year…
They forgot. And now have a million things to do.
Evening rain falls on their heads, reflected in street
And car lights. “What about something for that guy
At work? I think he said a hamper. What about my
Mother? Right, she said flowers. Dad? A mere
Grunt, said ‘Anything would be fine indeed.’
Cards for relatives I don’t see. Uhm, something new

For my ‘special’ someone. Her hints are oblique…
Something like this through every head,
Even the ones so far from God they don’t mean
To even pretend to care. How could He
Matter? The ‘merely’ secular has no room for mystique.
So why the fuss? Especially all those tacky signs.
Why the shopping & the hustle & the lines
And the sighs at the cash machine?
(“I should have gone to Wal-Mart instead.”)
And why, above all, why the sudden charity?


Anchors who sternly tell you about Unrest In
Pakistan pause, blink once or twice emotionally,
And then earnestly wish you the best of the season;
Stores play song after song celebrating the redeemer—
A man who would shut their business down within
Seconds. Even the beer companies get profound,
The tone subdued, ancient hymns thundering in the background.
In car ads, very briefly, the shilling stops for some reason,
As the couldn’t-be-happier mixed-race family
Stares & grins at the brand new Beemer.

And goodwill towards whom? Christmas,
Just like poetry, makes nothing happen.
We can sing carols all we want, & never cease,
But the men in caves will keep planning our death;
Nor does it end hate or bring even fleeting justice
To the near, far or middle east. Fear & war always prevailing
Over the child born in Palestine, his parents fleeing
Caesar. His beginning did not bring peace,
Nor did his end. We read that he was forsaken,
Asking the unanswerable with his last breath.


Still, even the atheist & agnostic treasure this time,
Their trees, like the devout, a spire of hope.
Something in the season grips us, despite
The shouting ads & clanging clichés, reindeer
And a little drummer who triumphs in rhyme,
Or Mommy kissing Santa Claus at half-past two.
On that late December night, the frost reaches you,
As your breath blooms clouds, almost white,
A clear full moon reflects on the steep slope
Of snowy streets. It stops you, the frozen sheer

Beauty. You turn the corner, & someone has dazzled
Their tall cedar; the blinking lights a symphony,
Sparkling, little bubbles of rhapsody, tiny stars,
Reminders of a love so perfect no hatred could destroy.
Rachel, you are a bliss slow unfurled;
You make the old new, & the new, bright;
You were there in the beginning, daily my delight.
I hear her, in the north, singing to the auroras,
Her soul an aria, fanfare & harmony,
As she repeats a sounding joy.

editors note:

This year, let’s find our joy in someones, not somethings. – mh clay