Three Poems

With today being Halloween, I want to share two seasonal poems and one speculative poem.

The first is a narrative poem that attempts to capture the spirit of trick-or-treating in a rural area.

Photo by James Wheeler via Pexels.com

Halloween on Lamphear Road

Blackness shrouds the land
between the houses on a
long stretch of rural road
in Rome, New York.

You and your best friend
are shining flashlights
as you go trick-or-treating
on a Halloween night.
The smells of cow manure,
burning leaves and ripe apples
permeate the air.

You and your friend walk briskly
along the edge of the road,
chattering about sports,
movies and girls—
trying not to express
the terror you both feel as you
navigate the darkness.

You fear a witch, a ghost
or another malevolent force
will emerge from the adjacent fields,
snatch you and fly away.

You tell yourself to calm down
and keep walking—you are safe
and there’s nothing to be afraid of
on this country road.
And all you have to do is make it
to the next house, the next doorbell,
the next fun-size Snickers bar.

Photo by Eberhard Grossgasteiger via Pexels.com

This next poem has bothered me for several years. It doesn’t sit right with me and I probably shouldn’t post it, but it has a strong autumn theme and it seems appropriate for a weekend in which we turn our clocks back.

Falling Back

Alone on an empty school playground in Toledo, Ohio,
my worn-out sneakers shuffle on concrete,
as I practice left-handed hook shots
on a bent basketball rim with a rusted chain-link net.
The sound of the bouncing ball reverberates off the school’s red brick facade,
as my reflection jumps out at me in the first-floor windows
adorned with orange paper jack-o’-lanterns.

A towering oak tree with thick branches
observes me as I throw up an air ball from three-point land.
It studies my movements while a sharp wind
strips away its cloak of golden-brown leaves.

The cold sticks to my fingertips as I lick them
to get a better grip on the Spalding rubber ball.
And with my nose running and my chest heaving,
I swallow the chill in the air, trapping it deep inside my lungs.

I pick up my dribble … stop … smell … look and listen.
Street lights flicker on,
and across the road a pumpkin is perched on the porch of a white house.
The smell of burning leaves wafts through the suburban neighborhood.
Charcoal-gray clouds dominate the sky,
and on the western horizon, near a row of pine trees,
there’s a feathering of soft pink light.

At the nearby park, soccer goals stand idle,
and on the gravel softball field,
silence reigns on the base paths and outfield grass.
In the schoolyard, monkey bars are free of tiny, groping hands,
and empty swings sway in the stiff autumn breeze—
as the wind calls out for the children to return.

Photo by Dominika Roseclay via Pexels.com

The Chill

Marble statues, pale and worn,
flash me scowls
as I take a long walk
down the aisle eternal,
where a bride in white
stands lovely and radiant.
She beckons me closer,
waving me on, until I
drop into the everlasting abyss.

She shrieks as the earth
swallows me whole.
But this place hath
no fury or fire, only a toll,
paid with collected sins
and a blackened soul.

And this domain is
no less dreadful than a
frigid castle or cardboard box.
It is without torture and torment—
no gnashing of teeth,
just a mundane domicile.

Yet something is amiss.
Ah yes,
despair clings to the walls
since God has been thrown out
by the occupants.
His spirit is absent and ignored
in this dank stone place
lacking light and an exit.

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Night Moves

Marco Polo Arts Mag, an online literary and arts magazine, has published a prose poem/experimental essay I wrote. It’s entitled Night Moves and the text follows:

Who says the trees don’t dance when no one is looking? A 3 a.m. when darkness surrounds the neighborhood, they might catch the wind in their leaves and amplify it. They might wave their limbs and shake their trunks and jump around on the front lawn.

Slanting Desert Tree. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

Slanting Desert Tree. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

Who says trees have to act stoic all the time—just stand there like boulders and endure the weather? Why can’t they have some fun?

For all you know, while you’re sleeping, they may choose sides and face off in a team dance competition. The maple and oak would have to be the captains because they are the most athletic trees. But all varieties would get to dance: the poplar, birch, elm, ash, hickory, locust, walnut, sycamore, etc. Even the evergreen trees—the pine, spruce and fir—would participate; however, they get picked last because they have no rhythm. All they can do is sway their tops a little.

Waltz, salsa, tap, modern, ballroom and line dancing—you name it, these trees can do it.

While you’re in bed you hear the wind rattling against the house and leaves rustling outside your window. But this is nature’s night music and the trees are showing off their moves, gyrating in the backyards, parks, cemeteries and forests of North America. They make the stars jealous because the stars can’t dance; they aren’t in tune with the Earth vibe. They can only look down on the green canopies and shine some light.

Fall Trees. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

Fall Trees. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

The trees draw other spectators too, as deer, cats, skunks, dogs, squirrels, crows and rabbits gather to watch the action. Sometimes the insomniac Mr. Johnson will stand at the curb and observe the trees when he’s out walking his collie Garrett at 3 a.m.

Mr. Johnson told me the secret of the dancing trees while I was raking leaves one October day. He said he heard a rumor that the winning regional team will travel by chartered semi to California to compete against a team of palm trees.

The maples and oaks don’t like them anyway. The palm trees think they’re such hot shit because they don’t lose their fronds with the seasons and get to bask in the sunshine all year long.

The trees of the Northeast and Midwest want to remind the palms that while deciduous trees lose their leaves in autumn, at least they don’t have to worry about water running out.

The maple team captain already has some smack planned for the palms. When he sees them, he’s gonna say: “Are you guys thirsty? Well, too bad. You only get seven inches of rain a year. Don’t drink it all at once.” The oak captain thought it was funny and said he’d steal the joke if his team beats the maples.

Maybe one of these nights when I can’t sleep, I’ll look outside my kitchen window in the predawn stillness and catch the trees in the act of dancing. Maybe if I step outside they’ll allow me to keep score or judge the dancers. Maybe they’ll even let me hear the music they make so I can dance too.

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