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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Built-In Inspiration

One of the great things about working for a university is the opportunity to explore iconic buildings on campus.

Crouse College exterior. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

Today I had to go to Crouse College—home of Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts—to pick up a check from the BBC that was mailed to the wrong office.

I stood on the steps outside the wooden doors, admiring the exterior archways and the designs on the reddish-brown columns. Stepping inside the building, I noticed sunlight pouring through a stained-glass window above me, while one floor up, someone was playing the organ inside Setnor Auditorium.

Stained-glass window inside Crouse College at Syracuse University. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

An artistic ambience enveloped the place, punctuated by warm tungsten lights illuminating the hallways and panels of medieval artwork hanging on the walls. I walked past the Winged Victory statue as I looked for the business operations office, which was occupied by cheerful employees sitting in cubicles. Large windows framed a postcard winter scene with snow falling on a row of evergreen trees. A woman handed me the lost check and I went on my way.

Winged Victory Statue at Syracuse University. Photo by Steve Sartori.

But before I left the building, I wondered if I could get transferred to an office in VPA or at least do a three-month rotation.

Railing and staircase inside Crouse College.

Then I thought, would such a stimulating environment spur my creativity or would I fall victim to sensory overload, viewing and consuming art every day but not producing any work? Too bad I won’t get the chance to find out.

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