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Old Furniture

Old Furniture

That old wooden clock,
my grandmother’s grandmother’s
keeping hand-crafted time and
still ticking long after we become
objects in bones, like furniture,
and no one knows the color of their skin
or the content of their character.

We think we live in black and white
but it is always Grey
and Baltimore was burning,
that great unspoken poverty,
the ignored, silent epidemic of
American tragedy,
vast, sweeping like the plains
across black ghettos, white trailer-trash towns,
and forgotten people in Appalachia,
we are all toothless and shoeless on some level.

Burning across the land without a hill
or a tree to stop the rising of
an evil beast’s heart
like a toxic Trump
or any other form it could take,
miles from any canyon or ridge
that could stop it.

At least there’s baseball and
sometimes Baltimore is all orange.

So down south where deep rivers
still flow in veins of deep hatred,
in Alabama on a college campus
I heard young men shout from a truck,
“They only brought you niggers
here to play football.”
I think of Langston Hughes composing
his symphony at day break in Alabama
wondering where black kids get
to ride the merry-go-round.

That old wooden clock kept time
during the Civil War in southern Virginia,
time that must have never seemed possible
to end, to change or mend.
My family was at Gettysburg on
both sides, both bled,
one lost an eye so
I’m a half-inch away
from never existing.
The clock sat on a chest of drawers
with a secret compartment in the top
to hide valuables in case of
a union soldiers raid,
perhaps a letter was once there
of a secret friendship between a little
white girl and a little black girl
who knew nothing of war,
who knew only what children should know,
the soft societal fabric of
small-scale love that keeps humanity human.

M.L.K. wrote a letter from jail unsure
of how to raise a daughter in such
a pointless hatred filled place,

so with a heavy heart
I have to stare at the clock,
at the future,
my reflection in the glass of
the picture frames that show
old relatives and the
chaotic twitches of their eyes
from their portraits unsettled
by their wasted blood,
my pathetic hands that
can’t do anything except
write like a coward in a book
all while knowing that
we are not teaching
our children
to hate less
than we do.

Kyle McHale         2016

I Died With My Brother

I Died With My Brother
for Donall Dempsey

The world took you
I wasn’t ready,
we’d never be ready.

I have beautiful love
but a brother’s love is gone now.

I wish another part of me
could detach itself and be with you,
a liver, a kidney, a lung,
but my heart has gone with you,
covered itself in soil and ash
and deep sad earth and beats
in the same peaty mess we
played in back in that place
of childhood.

I died with my brother,
his kindness I cannot
replicate in this world.

These are relentless, hard,
brother tears,

and I just wish I could say,
“Ya alright bud?”
“Ya alright?”

But through the beating mess I’m in
I somehow know

You’re alright bud.

You’re alright.

Kyle McHale         2016

A Night on a Train Window

I don’t know that face that’s
over mine, it seems old,
not in years but in time spent,
it stares back, through me and
I stare through it
floating on a night-train window.

I focus on the whites of his eyes
to not see the black of them
and wish I had another drink so
I could forgive, forget the world
flicking by, through my
translucent face, printed smears
of distorted sweeping concrete
and light, black air and purple
silhouetted trees, missing fields
with broken flowers after heavy rain,
and litter angels picking up
what they can find on the streets.

It goes by so fast.
I don’t talk to you anymore,
you are in the past
and I cannot get there.

Am I the train or the dark air,
the seat or the glass,
those eyes or the sadness
of that translucent mess?

Am I the past tracks,
or am the next?

Kyle McHale            2016

Oni’s Death

Oni’s Death

How does one feel about the
death of a friend’s friend?
A horrific end,
a young man on his young way.

To stay frozen in that horror
scene at night on black tide,
only from life to hide
that midnight madness island.

A place I’ve been and love down deep,
wild ponies ride,
dunes and beach collide.
Where was the joy that darkest night?

A midnight swim, a pair of friends,
black water dancing,
a death dancing,
a loud distress in distance fades,

help too late. Terror echoes through
hearts of loyal men
to weep a dead friend,
all changes when sun hits the sand.

So many want to be with you
washed up in shallow tide,
a friend’s friend has died,
another day the earth has cried.

Kyle McHale       2014

That is No Place for Birds

After heavy loss, sorrow stricken streets,
crushed towns, broken houses,

that is no place for birds
but still a robin sits and sings
on the gate
through the rainy window,
knows you’re sad, and waits.

After heavy loss, torn, convoluted earth,
shell holes, blood-stained muddy puddles,
lost young souls,
it has been one hundred years
since the Somme,

that is no place for birds
but they found perches
even on bare trees
with no leaves
even if the worms they
ate crawled out of the eye-
sockets of the dead,
they were fed
singing still, knew the
sadness in the air,
and waited still.

In my dreams that
I cannot control
a shock of living
re-living in a
make-believe dream world,
a make-believe real world,

that is no place for birds
but a giant eagle appears,
tucks me under his wing
to rest on his warm breast
to keep the bad noises out,
he knows my sadness
he lets me sing
and waits.

Kyle McHale       2016

A Boy and Baseball

A Boy and Baseball

Picked apart by moments
of clarity, like a father’s
hands cracking nuts at a
baseball game.

A childhood vision that was
the sunniest day ever remembered,
a summer afternoon perfect in the
high heat. The feeling of fitted
leather on the hand and of a
young understanding of the world.

A few generations together sharing
an American summer day
at Camden Yards.

Kyle McHale 2014

The Way We Live

The Way We Live

Woven into a living fabric
an item of clothing that was a gift
that became meaningful and was
unintentionally ruined,
like ourselves,
given this gift ruined by us
on every scale,

bleeding the globe
bleeding our personal souls
and their need in the actual
living of life,

do not accept the formula passed
down as necessary,
whatever it is or was for you,
cycles of poor trailer-trash shit
uneducated and pregnant
neglected and unfair
given an inheritance of the burdens
heavy, sick as sin,
inescapable, cry-able,

spiders that spin webs to trap
themselves and eat their own hearts
and burrow into their own flesh and
poison the tissue that connects our
hearts to each other, our minds
to a future and our spirits to the earth,
a poisoned vein that sprouts, stunted,
toxic roots, spills the overflow into
and back out of us
so we all hurt the ones we love
hurt ourselves and this place we live in
so warmness feels uncomfortable and
misery normal,

label it whatever you want,
create the form it manifests for you,
call it a disorder or depression
make it a substance abuse problem
treat the symptoms of misery
and stay in it forever because
it’s become normal,

or claim it unacceptable,
pick up the shit you’ve
been given, smear it on
your face as war paint
smile and say, “fuck it”,
I’m going to play the
hand I’ve been dealt.

Kyle McHale          2016

Between Buildings

Between Buildings

As children we sought new hiding spots,
explored between houses, down paths,
under benches, through gaps in stone
walls and wooden fences, between
churches and tombstones and stained
glass in day light, sheds and gardens,
between buildings where strange, unseen
flowering vines hid in summer,
unpicked fruit trees blossomed and no one
noticed us, they never even looked,
they wouldn’t have seen us
even if they tried,
even if they wanted to,
we had found the gaps to dance and sing in.

Peace in cities is in the wanderings
down side streets, alleys that lessen
the humming of the universe, where
graffiti can be appreciated and life can
be seen, felt in every window and on every
balcony, families sharing meals and someone
sitting out enjoying a beer and a smoke
listening to the radio,
the urban plants do their best to clean the air
between buildings, the only stillness left.

Then there was us in Venice,
it is better than they say,
being lost in Venice means anything
you wish it to mean, there is no
childhood pretending needed.

The apartment we stayed in had a
neglected courtyard between four walls,
over grown, cracked, forgotten, rusty barred
balconies and ripened vines, tattered drying
clothes out on lines, the sun was trying
to touch it all, the climbing plants grew
where it was possible to grow in the gaps
between brick rows out of the beautiful
sinking city and rose like
our heart fires rose.

At night, to look between buildings
into that city slivered sky, chasing
what can’t be seen, perhaps
a star or a place, some dream in the gaps
that dreamers dance between
what’s been built and what’s been felt,
in the veins of the city, or of the heart,
in the center, in between it all at night,
there is always hope for a small glow
of faint warm light.

Kyle McHale     2016

 

 

 

July Desert

July Desert

Two old friends still young
when we crossed the desert.
We had never been out to that
barren beautiful madness,
we had never been
to many places then.

It was July fourth, I drove
your American truck through the
shifting landscape in changing light.
You, asleep from a Las Vegas hangover,
we had to make it to Albuquerque.

Little sparks interrupted the skyline
like gunfire, every desert town in
every direction celebrated independence.
Dozens of towns sent up their flares,
layers of color from two-second torches
bursting in the dark desert.

I drove through that warzone of happiness,
reflecting on how those towns came to be,
the settlement of scratching slowly west,
an impulse to be content stopping there
so that their cheerful explosions could
light up sparse plants and sand covered
bones, light up all the truck’s mirrors and windows
with color confusion, light up my face in the
windshield to make me look at myself for brief moments,
driving free as I would ever be across the July desert.

Kyle McHale           2015

Where My Father Stepped

Where My Father Stepped

I have known the path trodden
through forest floor dirt
where my father has stepped,
the woods in the east whose
leaves hold that warm green
golden light of summer
whose forest rivers
clear and bronze
cast down through smooth stones
cut through steep hills
and hold his best footprints,
where my father stepped and left
parts of his heart on young hearts.

I have known the tragedy
of his bravery after war,
muddy jungle rotting steps
he took far from home
to watch friends step
their last steps
to watch friends gasp
their last breaths.

I have known his last steps,
those shuffling struggling sickness steps
and the march of Marine brethren
who carried him his final steps,
those were his feet
and his feet those
marching linked by spirit
breaths the fate
some soldiers chose.

He has known my first steps in a
humbling father’s joy to see an
early life after taking lives
thanking God my guns were toys.

I know now he steps where I step,
just ahead or just behind
our earthly wrongs matter not
even though he has left
I have known where
my father stepped.

Kyle McHale 2015

At the Pond

At the Pond

At the pond with Gramps I
did not know what I was
becoming, I thought it would
be like that forever, that I
could always catch bullfrogs
and fire-bellied newts with
my small hands, Gramps
guiding me over my shoulder.

Years later the pond changed,
I caught catfish and large-
mouth bass, my fishing line
that connected me to the web
of every living thing, to the pond
Gramps fished on his childhood
farm, Gramps confined to a chair
I could still march up the hill and
tell him the days fishing stories,
I thought it would be like that forever.

That I crossed that pond in every
way; in a small rowboat that leaked,
by foot around its edges, by a
young brave swim, in my mind,
was proof of it all, of
early earth when life began to
more developed creatures to
a place, a pond teeming with
all that makes life pleasant.

In his eyes I from boy to young man,
some potential he saw in youth,
in my eyes Gramps from old to older,
strong to frail, life to wisdom to rest.

To know Gramps gave time as
if he were the pond, as if he had
an infinite mound of sand in some
hidden room somewhere that he
could fill up the hour glass with,
fill up the pond with creatures to
fish for after he had gone, fill up
my head with infinite cherished
gifts, birds and frogs and snakes and fish.

 

Kyle McHale        2014

Published Poems

Hello all,

I have recently had three poems published in The Keystone Anthology as part of a wonderful variety of poetry collected from the 1000 Monkeys readers.  The titles are “Roses”, “Christmas Eve”, and “Could be Ireland, Could be Anywhere.”

http://www.dempseyandwindle.co.uk/index.html

 

Nana’s Bears

Nana’s Bears
Nana bought us brown and grey teddy bears
that each sat proud in their old fashioned chairs
before we had known or felt any fear
she had worried for us and kept our bears.

Her long life triumph of happy tears
of God-guided vision to combat fear,
I know she’ll return home one day to care
and again become sweet Virginia air,

two boys grown into men, both now aware,
though she had ours, we were Nana’s bears.

Kyle McHale       2015

Wine by the St. Lawrence

One summer we had wine by
the St. Lawrence on Howe Island,
as wide as a river can be,
as old a story a river can have,
a thousand islands dot that section,
as open as our bottles
of delicious red and white
that woke us up, inside-out,
and our eyes could feast on
the crafted scene, outside-in,
the day glittered away, flowed westward,
chased the sun in its colored trail.

We were with someone who watched
fireflies emerge and dance
their glitter dance up to the tops of
dark trees for the first time,
who had seen her first chipmunk
earlier that afternoon.
I remember noticing my first fuchsia,
those pink-petaled-purple-bells,
my first British robin, the first time
I noticed bluebells in the woods,
the things we miss and know,
the things we take for granted,
subtle gifts in something new, some quiet joy.

A silent howl for Howe Island
gave way to a full moon
over black water, black land,
black trees, black sky,
the moon was everything then.

Through all the dark silhouettes
it shimmered, glittered, an oil-spill of light,
danced sideways across the river
like ice-angel-wings that you could glide over,
step delicately over, tiptoe over, onto,
holding your breath to not be seen,
up that stairway, through the gap,
silver water, white land,
bright beams, to the moon.

Kyle McHale        2014

Laura’s Grandpa

Laura’s Grandpa

Among certain things of yours,
old books with page corners thumbed down,
I could take them off the shelf
by titles that caught my eye:
“We Piano Teachers”,
“How to Build your Social Speech”,
“Medicine and Drugs”,
“Stories of the Bible Explained.”
Flipping through those marked words gave
me a glimpse of who you were
before I met you, as one forgets
seeming to only be a sweet
old man is not who you are or were.

That those words crossed your eyes at least once,
became your thoughts for a moment,
and mine, to know you a little more.

For one day maybe my
granddaughter’s boyfriend may wander
around my house when I am gone,
flip through the thumbed-down-corner-pages
and realize what poems I enjoyed,
what historical events I preferred,
what geographical features
intrigued me, maybe he will
form an image of me other
than simply a sweet old man
that greeted him and did not say
much else, maybe he will have
a glimpse of someone who helped
shape and guide the person he
came to love, surely, that must
be enough.

Kyle McHale          2015

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

Enough sun is left hanging low to
turn one side of everything golden.
Depending on how you enter into the fading day,
your mood is decided by which part
of your body enters the light first.
Golden hands. Golden feet.
Golden heart. Golden mind.
Filtering that light the neighborhood,
sifting that horizon gleam, every house,
every chimney, every small branch on every tree,
seeping into things as it passes by until it hits you.

Gold-kissed flurries swirl around,
gentle wind swept snow clouds whip up
and look painted in the cold sky.
Wind enough to chill your breath and let it
wrap around to your opposite ear,
almost a whisper to yourself,
wind enough to sneak a snowflake into
your mouth to melt on the tip of your tongue,
freezing all other senses for a moment,
or maybe you ate a flake of gold that circulates your veins,
maybe those clouds have gold trim like one of
your childhood pillows had.
Maybe it was all there just for you.

Standing where you used to live, thankful.
How could you have ever moved away?
How could you ever live here again?
Which side of you must be golden?

One day in the future on this night,
you’ll sit in a chair with a good view of the room and the tree,
among certain things, everyone else asleep,
whiskey in hand,
perhaps a fire softly roaring if you’re lucky enough,
what will matter most on that day of all days?

Your thoughts will say, “I hope what’s golden is seen
by those for whom my love is truly meant.”

Kyle McHale                                2014

Easy as the Days Go

Easy as the Days Go

Easy as the days go by
in the summer villages,
in the English gardens and
on American front porches.

You have not lived if you
have not spent time rocking
in a chair on wooden
planks that creak under the sun.

You have not lived if you
have not spent time not thinking
too much, only how pleasant
the current moment is,

how scent-kissed the air is,
how sun-kissed your face is,
how sense-kissed your body is,
how slow-kissed the time goes.

Easy as the days go by
you find that place where
getting nothing done
gives you everything.

Kyle McHale 2014

Fishing on the Bushkill

When all that meant everything
Was a fire burning deep at night,
With friends to share life’s comic air,
The moon above to steal sight.

That was right, that was right, a time
And place suspended still somewhere.
A vault, untouched, unnamed, floating
Above those who wish they could stare.

Protected there my father lives
At that scout camp Resica Falls.
In his teens and full of living,
Hearing that Pennsylvania call.

One summer out there out posting
Past the main camp to staff Fawn Run,
My young father was on the edge,
A place where deep thoughts had begun.

He had time in those woods alone,
And ran his post when campers showed,
He’d often talk of Bushkill Creek,
Of its bronze color and how it flowed.

He’d make a fire, grab his rod,
At evening time he’d fish the creek,
Time spent in that flowing sweetness,
Relying on brown trout to eat.

Like a bear that is so content
To fish and eat and sleep so well,
Under stars from heavens glow,
The years to come no one could tell.

What thoughts my father had before,
Standing there on Bushkill’s shore,
Before he lost love and fought a war,
When life was moments, nothing more?

Did he know what the future held,
Or simply watched the river flow?
Was Vietnam even a thought?
Into that jungle he would go.

Did he know he’d be scoutmaster?
His sons to be and that boy the same,
All destined to be Eagle Scouts,
I knew the man that boy became.

Navigating rivers and life,
In that protected vault of then,
Trout, Brotherhood, Spirit, being
Among the links of boys to men.

Deep in the woods where wild calls,
Links that are not seen, are not heard,
Father’s gone but the Bushkill flows,
He has become that secret word.

Some of his ashes flow there now,
To keep the Bushkill’s spirit safe,
To guard by way of bird and fish,
To strengthen love and heighten faith.

What thoughts my father had before,
Standing there on Bushkill’s shore,
Before he lost love and fought a war,
When life was moments, nothing more?

Kyle McHale      2011

What is Left?

What is Left?

After death
what is left?
When heart break wins
what remains?
Melting skin and
spirit sweats,
what is there and
what has left?
Broken dreams or
family gone,
so it seems some
more sad songs,
life remains, life remains
but what is left?
One more time or
every time
a mirror shows a
sad soul blind
to all the wonders
that are left,
that are left,
after rage, war, and death.

The world is
still there somehow,
love is left,
love is left,
If only it filled
every breath.

 

Kyle McHale         2014

Twenty-One Shots

Twenty-One Shots

On a blue October day twenty-one shots
echoed through my heart,
jolted me back into the current moment,
where my thoughts had wandered
back to Pop-Pop’s firing salute years before,
this time empty shells hit the ground
and heavy blasts hit the air for my father.

Warriors get what they deserve at Arlington,
where their heavy hearts can rest.
Left here with our troubled hearts.
Rest well and forever,
whatever losses life gave you
have been given back.

Have you ever seen Marines fold a flag?
I’ll only see it once,
Marines in perfect symmetry,
folding the flag over my father,
ceremonial, sad, perfect,
brothers honoring each other
separated only by time.

I’ve had family in every American war.
Dad said he went to war so
Kevin and I did not have to.

God, I hope I deserve not
to see combat. I hope all
their blood has been enough.
God, I hope I live well enough
knowing there is a burden
they carried that I will
never be able to repay.

 

Kyle McHale                         2014

Love on its Own

Love on its Own

There is nothing love won’t do for itself
When left enough alone and on its own.
A festering burst of blossoming plumes
Of red liquid dripping on long preserved tombs,

Of daisies pushed up through old lover’s dirt,
A long ago tale of harsh loving truth,
That spoke of a journey known by so few,
But when told to others everyone knew

What to do, and what was best and who was who.
For the unknown is what to truly do,
And guided love lasts out the rest,
Like a frozen moment when the sun must crest

On new day’s horizon, an early breath
Stretching far across a valley or sea,
Where ever it happens to be just then,
Love the beginning and love at the end.

Kyle McHale         2013

Drip-Castles

Drip-Castles

When I learned how to make a drip-castle,
I felt as though I was an engineer,
Overcoming the dripping hassles
To sculpt my vision by a sandy pier.

I dug a large moat near the changing tide
To sit and collect that wet sandy goo,
Wet sand the cement to build it high,
To defend the coast under sky so blue.

I sculpted the base for the kings and queens,
Then added dripping columns stacked upon
Their wishes for the kingdom and their dreams,
Hallowed ground that spot that it now sat on.

A drip-castle is such a funny thing,
Warped towers bulging at the sides,
Strange places for princesses to sing
Then shackle away at the rising tide.

The week Jale` left I went to the shore,
The sun setting late I began the moat,
I dug until the moon told me no more
And wished for some gull and I to float.

It was as grand as the sand would allow,
Towers that stand when the kingdom has gone,
A lost world that vanished somehow,
A thief in the night, a treacherous song.

Then there was the one I built with my love
On a hazy day filled with sweating skin,
The drip-castle mentor I thought I was,
A castle of love was soon to begin.

Roots in the towers began to sink in,
And rays from the sun boiled the rest,
Founding a drip-castle love and then
A summer red glow did burn in my chest.

So children and men do drip-castle on,
The water your friend, the water your foe,
The tales of love through all the eons
Tell of the castles and where they all go.

Kyle McHale       2013

Floating Over

Floating Over

This mystic world, those colored trees,
Those rolling hills my dreams do paint,
My gloomy head and foggy thoughts
Collecting to precipitate.

For this place through eyes of men,
Or eyes of bear, or fox, or deer,
Their world’s see what I cannot,
My world’s smoke, theirs is clear.

Pure instinct makes those hearts guide true,
While clouding thoughts weigh on me,
For what to do in such a scene
But sit and think with large pine tree.

Colorful land, colorless sky,
These worlds meet at sheltered creek,
Autumn bronzed and flowing peace,
Pine needle forests pulsing deep,

And oh to sleep but it’s too cold
To rest and escape these thinking things,
You mystic world let me in,
Tell me what my heart can bring.

 Would I add to your confusion?
Or maybe I the one confused,
And this world makes all clear sense,
Or am I the one that has to choose?

Land shutting down, sky holding still,
What’s asleep and what’s awake?
Do shedding leaves mean drowsiness,
Would proper be my hand to shake?

But mystic world answer me,
Take me up in this color mess,
Where trees meet sky and sky meets trees,
Me to float between back and chest

So heart becomes the mystic line.
For land you have a spirit here,
But I the beating heart that’s true,
You confuse with your graying air.

My natural guide will let me hear
Half of your secrets in the ground,
And half the creatures’ place I’ll see
And know your whispers have been found

And placed in my secret pocket,
My thoughts on page, my diary,
But only by pouring out
And floating over all the scene.

Kyle McHale      2009

Sky Message

Sky Message

Up there, cracked crust,
Continental drift, ancient collisions,
Earth history sped up
On that blue canvas,
A million years in a day.

Cirrocumulus shaped just right,
If you were blind and could
Reach out it would be brail
In the sky, only those few
Could read it.

I do not know what it would say,
A message from those before perhaps,
Or from the earth before people walked it.
We are just spectators here,
We are more temporary than the shifting skies.

Kyle McHale          2013

Old Professor

Old Professor

For Stanley Plumly

It started years ago, or before that,
a child, the source of everything
we become, the subtle origin of
a mighty river, that old first poem
ever spoken, the first pumps of blood to
the human heart, I was on my way.

I, nineteen, sitting in a lecture hall,
poetry 101, thinking I had
somehow mastered the craft already,
how wrong I was, how wrong I am.

You walked in on a frigid afternoon,
snow, melted and refrozen sat in the
sun crusting everything, casting light
back to where it came from. The cold campus
glistened like February, wisps of
cirrus engaged in their ice dance on that
blue stage, all those young minds afoot underneath,
like busy ants, channels of flowing blood
giving life to every brick and stone,
every piece of the place nurtured with youth.

I watched you approach, stage front, off came the
scarf, the over coat, white hair and a white
beard emerged, hand selected for the part,
meticulously putting all in place.

You spoke, that calmness, deep but not too deep,
serious but still warm, a low youthful
glisten in those old eyes, a room of young
reckless ambition put at ease by that
tone of voice, like the way I sought advice
from my grandfather cross-legged on the
floor at the foot of his chair, all the men
who had ever spoken to me rolled into one,
I knew then I knew nothing.

I read all that was assigned, frustrated,
something remained blurred, thoughts hung over me,
an orange moon tortured me one night,
purple clouds another, gaps that remained
in my head and in my heart, they still do.

You, an Old Heart by the time I arrived
in your presence, defender of the old ways,
a pulse giving master to the old craft.
You said, “Do not fear, poems do not get
lonely, they read themselves tucked away on
shelves”, lost in time, with time, deep in the stacks.
Though I am sure my beer stained verses
sat crumpled up on the floor, as lonely
as it gets, unloved, unread, unwanted.
The whirlwind of college absorbing
everything around, eventually
closing in with Frost “like a dent in dough”.
How much can one heart truly endure
alone in a world full of heartless things?

You and your Keats, observing the autumn
chill set in, but it was the deep heart of
winter, before the campus bloom of spring,
soon flowers, perhaps tulips, Plath’s Tulips,
you had us rearrange those stanzas once.
I could not see a new order to Plath’s
madness, only that those African cats
stalked me as well, some calculated dark-
ness had descended on my existence.

I have a fondness, as those who think do,
for that place where the water meets the land.
A stone, that heart-shaped stone by your beachside,
churned up in the origin countless times,
those unending forces, unforgiving.
After a night of heavy drinking I
split my eyebrow open on my night stand,
bleeding and passed out on the dorm room floor,
a scar on the body and on the heart,
spit back up from the tumultuous mix
of living for a breath, only to be
thrust back in to survive, stone heart and all,
“nicked from the top half down”, our own hearts
wishing to disappear in the skyline.

I sat with school children, you among them,
dense as Yeats questioning in his school room,
children sit in a classroom for me now.
The master source, the bole and the blossom,
you blossomed once, and yet, as if by chance,
I know we are both the “dancer and the dance.”

I have been to your roadside near Staunton
working some summer at Goshen Scout Camp,
that picture on a wall I have walked into,
arriving there without knowing it,
frozen in ancient mountain-building-time,
Appalachian time, beautiful time.

I would see you eating lunch on South Campus,
too afraid to approach for fear of
being dismissed over something that I
thought we may have had in common.
I will say something next time, I never did.

So Old Professor, let me not forget
a degree of thanks, a Directive on
how to get lost in the meanderings
of the mind, winding like your poem rivers,
like your clouds for Keats, like your first poem,
like campus frozen in February.
The source of which may one day empty
into some great delta, the Mississippi,
the Nile, the Me Kong, the gates of heaven,
a start and an end, as your young heart must
and has become an Old Heart, as youth led
you to, among many things, an Old Professor.
I was then, and am now, on my way.

Kyle McHale 2013

Poems referenced:

Stanley Plumly – Old Heart, Simile, Off a Roadside Near Staunton, Constable’s Clouds for Keats

Robert Frost – Directive

Sylvia Plath – Tulips

William Butler Yeats – Among School Children

Cloud Everest

Cloud Everest

When those sky creatures build up
The right way in the summer heat,
Craggy cumulus mountain peaks
Somewhere our souls seek to summit.

If one looks up and thinks, most don’t,
That calling is there, the whole range
Morphing and shifting something strange
That the sky map shows and land maps won’t.

Spirit looks to the tallest form,
Aborigines born out of red
Rock in the heart where earth is dead,
A legend spreads of where we are born.

A Cloud Everest no one can climb,
Temporary tortures and leaves,
Mountains no one could conceive
Become lost in the wandering mind.

A seeking soul, a traveler,
That same reason for land searching
And climbing and wanting and dancing
Strung out above the wanderer.

Recognize that all may be blest,
Kit up and go! The puffs of ice
That don’t exist but in this life,
Climb what’s yours that Cloud Everest!

Kyle McHale 2013

Meeting Winter

Meeting Winter

Over out across winter’s day,
A pale blue with wisps of white,
Some sad forest with autumn gone,
Those trees that miss the season’s life.

I wander through at easy pace,
No goal in mind, no worrying,
The cold has me awake and clear,
The trees question what life I bring.

I am no season or the sun,
I cannot stop the season’s sleeping,
I am here by accident,
I can’t replace what nature’s taken.

But life still stirs, just slowly so,
Among some trees the birds still sing.
Among the ground some life is found,
Those hearts still beat under winter’s wing.

Maybe my small heart still glows,
Reflecting golden hopes of sun,
The subtle sounds of winters woods,
Wishing for that warmth to come.

At night when dark and cold must mix,
All living hearts are little lights,
Keeping safe those that are around,
Giving pulse to the lonely night.

At last I’m trapped out here somehow,
My glow is fading but won’t forget,
Those little torches light the way,
That night when winter and I met.

Kyle McHale      2011

Hanging Heart Dripping

Hanging Heart Dripping

Running, running, running away,
To peaceful place where heart has fled,
I need, I need, I need to catch
My heart before my spirit’s dead.

Before the buzzing flies go round
My corpse, my corpse, my corpse that sees,
Just black in distance, distant air,
Catch up, catch up, catch up to me.

When my body finds my heart
In that serene swirl color,
I promise, I promise, I promise I will
Keep my word to friend and brother.

I’ll then be able to complete
The life, the life, I wish to live,
Bitter heart and angered soul,
Release, release, release, forgive.

That heart of mine I think I know,
Waiting on a steep face of rock,
Around it a protective orb,
Protect, protect, protect its thoughts.

I hope it waits and thinks of me,
Sends out a guide in white light beam,
So please, so please, so please arrive
So I can show it what I’ve seen.

To fill it whole and put in chest,
The face of rock is mighty steep,
I climb, I climb, I climb the beam,
My brain with memories to keep.

The only color is the heart,
Blank eyes, blank thoughts, blank skies, blank trees,
Life would be with a touch of grey,
Life is gone with no memories,

Unless the hanging heart decides
To wait, to wait, to wait for sight,
Sight my lost eyes could provide,
To call, to call, out into night.

Roar at the wild hanging heart,
Sitting, thinking, color-dreaming,
Ensure it’s mine and not turned black,
Raining, raining, raining, thinking.

Rock face wet and fingers bleeding,
A storm I will not soon forget,
Blank heartless land should not have rain,
What’s heart’s, what’s heart’s true habitat?

Pulsing, pounding, waiting, needing,
It needs, it needs, it needs to stay,
Was that a touch of color sight
Or are my hopes falling away?

Drip-drop red in front of grey,
The rain is not the rain I thought,
My heart, my heart, my heart it drips,
It drips, it drips down into rock.

Dripping liquid frozen love, and
Spraying, raining a forceful spit,
Into my eyes, the cracks, the brain,
I slip, I slip, my finger tips

Still seem a hundred miles out,
All that’s here are red and wishes,
I wish, I wish, I wish to cry,
Shades of redding-grey blow kisses.

My thoughts, my thoughts, my thoughts alone,
I ache, I climb, I shake alone,
I miss, I cry, I shatter bone,
Dripping heart, drip my love, take me home.

Too much this scene has weighed on me,
Storming, flipping red collection,
I think, I think, I think it has
More than one color reflection.

Reach the ledge, hope it wants thoughts back,
Liquid rocky mess, hope it knows,
I touch, I touch, I touch my heart,
It then, it then, it then explodes.

Kyle McHale      2009

Strange Hung over Me

Strange Hung over Me

What was to be a normal afternoon,
A Sunday, Quiet and pleasant, a mild winter day,
Suddenly a strangeness hung over me
Dropping down close, stratocumulus hovered
Intensely near my brain, a strange light,
Not the normal blue and gray, enough blue
Let into sight by the hovering forms
That it almost seemed on purpose.

A peculiar color as the connective tissue,
Muscle and fibers, veins and vessels
That held the sky together, each cloud a
Spider in a blue electric web-spun world.
Almost a lack of emotion. A freezing of thought.
It watched only me for I acknowledged
Its existence, others had not. Singularly
Bearing the weight of the entire heavens,
At least the weight of its glare.

Someone hanging from strings, like puppets,
A hundred uncomfortable paintings
About me, a maze of mirrors of the
Great scream by Munch in every direction,
Inescapable, that long face in an
Awkward world, brilliance in the discomfort.
Some surreal aura that dripped down to
Surround me, melting strangeness from a sky
That I wish was more Monet-like,
Monet’s clouds do not freeze thought or shake one’s core
Or stop inspiration.
His sky is for lovers and dreamers.

Perhaps it was Munch’s psyche during
Every brush stroke of his scream that
Governed the sky that afternoon.
Haunted and taunted by the insane,
The screamer from Munch’s twisted world heart,
Whatever pushed him to paint that now glared
Down on me from above.
Though beautiful, that Sunday
Strange hung over me
And it took several days to
Escape its influence.

Kyle McHale         2013

Sweet Pickings

Sweet Pickings

A farmer’s field picked up sweet
Summer scents from a sunrise glow
And vision had a feast to eat
So did scent when the wind did blow.

A basket filled with summer fruit,
Hard hands in dirt to smile high,
To Kokopelli and his flute
Blessed harvest it’s not too dry.

Please play a little note or two
Way out on the horizon line,
Those notes carry when sky is blue,
Perhaps this night is meant for wine.

For knowing love has filled the ground
At least for one more year,
Deep in the night the whispers sound
For rest and wine and hope and cheer.

A season lived, a season kept
In memories of cheerful kind,
Summer nights when the peaceful slept,
When a spirit flute had you to find.

Kyle McHale             2013

Pearls

Pearls

I imagine a thousand oysters drifting
away slowly, keeping perfect space,
like synchronized swimmers hanging in air,
suspended there like an oyster chandelier,
and then all at once begin to laugh, happy as
a thousand clams, crooked smiles opening
chuckling in a choking manner, coughing up
and letting drop a thousand perfect pearls,
white as ivory, clean as young river water from high in the hills.
Peaceful pearls in air, silent, like a pin before it drops,
like the sun before it rises,
hitting water a thousand droplet splashes turn into five thousand
water rings that for a moment do not touch and are in perfect symmetry,
a thousand pearl epicenters.

I close my eyes before the rings collide to keep
the moment frozen and think of the white orbs
sinking deeper into black water.
A calmness comes over me and I realize it was only a thought.
I opened an oyster once to find a perfect pearl,
It felt smooth in my hand with a sense of purpose
like a children’s marble resting on the thumb before it shoots.
Pearls do not remind me of any women though I’m sure they do for some.
One may find it a strange thought to think of
an oyster somewhere in some ocean, bay, or river,
sitting there not knowing it’s place in the world.

Kyle McHale       2013

At That Site

At That Site

Somewhere in the heart
My world’s beating slow,
While resting on a stone
My heart has come to know.

At a dying site
Where the stones sit still,
Type of life in air
Only souls can fill.

And moments so in time,
Thinking peacefully soft,
Swirling dancing air,
Dancing dreadful lost.

A site of life and death,
Of strong earthy mud,
Connecting air and ground,
A site where flowers bud,

And rain and rain goes round,
And up and live left down,
The rest of beating faith
Leaves without a sound,

The rest of fleeting love
Leaves the heart to run,
That only person’s left,
Just senses and the sun,

To keen eye all the air,
All surrounding place,
Knowing only body,
Knowing fight or chase.

And in this primal state,
Of life and death and love,
Will it be the rabbit,
Or the hawk and the dove?

Or creature that is new,
Still a heart and human soul,
Knowing fear and loss
And all that sadness goes,

 Feeling heat and cold,
Howling for the pack,
Turning out all soul,
Letting heart come back.

Real human faith,
Eerie place hold still,
The ending and the start,
My breath is what is filled.

Kyle McHale      2009

Thoughts in Autumn

Thoughts in Autumn

I become lost in the scattered mess as I always am,
or seem to be, unable to break my unhappy cycle.
When daylight begins to die with everything else I find some peace.
The modern world allows for many of us to
avoid panic before the cold comes,
too much time to think when survival is not the pulse of thought.

I let an early frost-covered weekend morning break the silence,
and watch the cold glisten outside the kitchen window.
The house is asleep, though I am not.
My head hangs, my heart hangs,
my thoughts aren’t of anything memorable or meaningful.

Coffee is a good thing,
I learned to drink it too young with Gramps who would wake
too early to watch frost with a hanging head as well.
A deep sadness carried by men who often spread cheer themselves
but know the grim realities of life,
staying with those who have love in their hearts despite
the darkness of the world.

Slow mornings are good.
I wish I could share them with Gramps and Dad.
I say bring the season on with a quiet passion.
Dying colors have that special beauty,
an irreplaceable hit on the senses.
The air is cold, the coffee hot,
and I somewhere in between.
If anything I am ahead of the day
but behind in everything else,
thinking on this autumn morning.

Kyle McHale      2012

The Keeper

The Keeper

The farewell light, the watch tower,
The candle keeper up so late,
The flickering thoughts, the sadness stays
When off go those but some must wait.

One day upon returning, maybe never,
The coastline torch that was left behind,
The keeping light may have changed hands
But the light still stays for those to find.

Aged old man are you the one
Who sent me off those years ago?
Are you the one who keeps the light?
Are you the one who guides my soul?

A ship amongst a lonely shore,
A night hanging low in moonlit air.
Fade away into the world then
Find light from a man with silver hair.

Tell him a tall-tale or two,
Watch the light and share his drink,
Do not forget he keeps the shore,
And as you talk, he will watch as he will think.

Kyle McHale      2012

Dying in a Chair

Dying in a Chair

I don’t want to die in a chair,
I’d rather be afoot somewhere,
To be out there when I’ve no air,
The men before me died in chairs.

For Pop-Pop faded in a chair,
All that he saw way over there,
The Pacific blood he went through,
Then understood what men must do.

For Gramps faded in a chair,
All that he saw way over there,
The prison camps that he went through,
Then understood what men must do.

For Dad faded in a chair,
All that he saw way over there,
That jungle hell that he went through,
Then understood what men must do.

I don’t want to die in a chair,
I’d rather be afoot somewhere,
To be out there when I’ve no air,
The men before me died in chairs.

Kyle McHale      2010

Reflections

Reflections

The way our souls are drawn to the underground
As if roaches were surviving the end of times,
Crowded, shoulder to shoulder wishing the
Worst to be over.
We travel in trains under the earth like blood vessels
Moving us to work everyday, from light to darkness to light.
Time moves normally above ground.
The complexities in a day that never cross our mind
Lead us somewhere unknown in the layers of daily routines.
Outdated D.C. metro trains pass by through mind numbing tunnels,
Our reflections flicker in train windows
And we rarely notice them spying on us,
Like mirrors aligned at a barber shop
In endless worlds of ourselves,
Each receiving a slightly different haircut.
My reflection self may have had a better day than I,
Stepping left instead of right to avoid tripping,
Or arriving a minute earlier to catch a train on time.
Our reflections live every part of our lives and theirs.
The poor ones who live only underground,
Stuck to the windows of things,
Remind us that when we have a chance for light, or love,
We must take it without flinching.
Time is patient, though we are not,
And we must love so that our
Limited reflective selves know there is hope for them too.

Kyle McHale       2012

The Wild Ravine

The Wild Ravine

Remembrance of a wild spot,
Paths unknown through time’s web,
Holding deep some sacred rock
Where all stays amongst the sacred thread
Of all that’s gone and up ahead,
Everything, alive and dead.
Whispers only a few may hear
When most don’t know locked behind doors
Seeking comfort on man-made floors
And miss the wonders in a year.

For crashing in and letting out
The cries of beasts and past dead men,
Some may know when nature shouts
Linking now to what was then.
A deep ravine that hides its place,
Where glowing ferns fill up the space,
Where thoughts and dreams are frozen still,
The canopy becomes the scene,
The whispers flow in secret streams
And all is subject to its will.

Trapped is time, the motions flow,
The ground stays touched by natural hands,
The crafty creatures stay down low,
All is harmony in the land.
The quiet sounds are so profound,
Except the feet that trudge the ground.
Join the place carved by the knife of
Ancient shaping artists who wait
Eons of perfection to create
Nature that takes but also loves.

Kyle McHale       2012

Between Trees and Stars

What floats around the canopy
At night when owls and stars can see
The tops of giant evergreens
Where those wonders are seldom seen?

That place where trunks may kiss the sky,
Where wind and secret stars pass by.
Given life by remoteness deep
Into the woods the whispers keep

That very line a sacred place.
The last green needles seeking space
Towards heavens true star lit map,
An ancient road, an unworn path.

Between there sits some answers to
What can’t be seen in day time blue.
If only one could fly with owls,
Or travel as the grey wolf’s howl.

Kyle McHale      2011

Gramps

Gramps

I write for the hands that cannot,
And for those of us full of fear,
I pace a life to burn and live,
To fit all moments within few years.

Then I look at a man named Gramps,
At a life I do wish to know,
Then I shall see a golden heart
At a Korean hell in snow

That prevailed through three dead years
In a camp I don’t wish to know.
That one heart kept warm that dead chill
In a place where the dead don’t go,

Is a triumph of faith in life,
For one more day to give a try
Is a will to live again and
For the chance to see an eagle fly.

Then I look at a man named Gramps,
Who had two shots at all true love,
Then I learn from a man named Gramps
Who taught more than life and his love.

I listened through the years to learn,
“Do right, work hard, be a good man.”
I watched as the watchful will do,
The deer, the bear, the dogs loved him,

In a way most creatures did do.
He died in a most peaceful spot,
Not in the days of cold Korea,
But on a gentle sweet hilltop.

Kyle McHale      2006

Sad Marine

Sad Marine

To hope and pray for peaceful days,
Those that in them a fire grew,
Burning out a sacred force,
To be with them, the proud, the few.

So marine where have you been?
Some awful place where combat slept,
And waited for your heart to come,
Then tore it out of your thick chest,

Then hung it heavy over you
To follow you for all your days,
To soak the thoughts that you have left,
To stay with you at every age.

Sad marine, sad marine,
No one knows what you have seen,
Pick up your heart and crying soul,
Place them where a few may know.

Where have all your friends gone to?
Were you the last thing that they saw?
Are they sleeping at Arlington,
Or are they resting on a wall?

Do they visit you in dreams,
Or are they just inside your brain,
Or do they haunt you as a ghost,
Or better yet, they live the same?

Is there some old monument,
A graveyard stone that tells it all?
What is left for the living who
Had to watch their brothers’ fall?

Sad marine, sad marine,
No one knows what you have seen,
Pick up your heart and crying soul,
Place them where a few may know.

And know you did not leave them
Out there in jungle air.

And know you did not leave them
At that spot on mountain top.

And know you did not leave them
Under sky in dusty dry.

And know you did not leave them
To be a ghost on battered coast.

Reflecting some on all one’s done
Under some mortal vibrant sky,
What freedom costs and then to know
Those who have fallen never die.

Their souls shine out from heaven’s place,
Some peace all seek to feel.
They have found it early on
And left you with pain that’s real.

Only left the true marine to
Love and live and dream so deep.
Loneliness stays with the heart,
Those memories that you must keep.

Sad marine, sad marine,
No one knows what you have seen,
Pick up your heart and crying soul,
Place them where a few may know.

The light and love you have for us,
In everything you do and see,
That bond of sacred freedom trust,
The life you give you true marine

Makes us believe in hope that’s left,
To patch up that heavy heart you have,
To promise you we won’t forget,
You make us proud, you make us glad.

Carrying all that heavy load,
Kneeling down to honor friends,
Even as the time will go,
What you know will never end.

Sad marine, sad marine,
No one knows what you have seen,
Pick up your heart and crying soul,
Place them where a few may know.

Kyle McHale        2010

The Old Earth

The Old Earth

Into the earth and into the flower,
Where roots and beauty swirl together,
Into the routes that water takes
To keep the warmth of blooms awake.

When sun shows up to say farewell,
Then cold sets in and drowns the spell
Of what kept life in such a phase,
That spirit of earth in olden days,

Where ancient souls would pray down to,
That origin life came up through.
That coldness takes the life away,
Frozen darkness finds place to stay.

Those roots and flowers wilting dead.
Some old earth warmth in whispers said,
“You cannot keep blood off the ground,
Or toxic rain from falling down,

But you must have faith to find peace,
Look north and south and west and east,
For when my warmth seems gone away,
When sun forgets to light the day,

When souls leave earth and fade out west,
Following where the sun has set,
Remember your love, use it to,
Warm that which sits just under you,

To give pulse back to my design,
Let all the roots and beauty find
Each other once again, and when
All’s exhausted and seems to end,

A golden hope in light will shine
Over from the horizon line,
That pleasant waking you will see,
Orange warming glow and majesty,

Once those words softly leave your lips,
Gently touch earth with finger tips,
A flower will open up for you,
The grey above to warming blue,

Into the earth and into the flower,
Where roots and beauty swirl together,
Do not forget I am old earth,
Where I leave death, I must leave birth.”

Kyle McHale 2010

Beautiful Confusion

Beautiful Confusion

Lost in the beautiful confusion,
In the slow waking of pure leaves in spring,
In the fluttering of everything,
Lost in the warming suns direction.

Within the secret rays of light shining
Down blessings of thoughtful notes, hues, and cheer
Hides the sounds of waking this time of year.
When all we hear are winds and birds hanging

In the air. A beautiful confusion
Delights our dull senses for a season.
Those who blindly follow with no reason
Are left lost but have no further questions.

Those who are left are lost but seek some truth,
That wherein lies the hopeful beginning
There are some swirling senses ringing
And some wonder left in the seasons warming youth.

Kyle McHale     2012

All That Lives

All That Lives

I’ve led some dreary path around
A world that beats to every sound,
And every wave on every coast,
A glacier break or jungle ghost
That almost share humid air,

Or bitten wind with warm venom.
How can one live with all the madness
Set in stone or root or stem?
Or live where love is lost?
Or near the ground with frost?

I think into this movement place,
Confused as I may be,
Maybe earth and love are
All a dreamy possibility.

Kyle McHale 2010

Two People Dreaming

Two People Dreaming

Two people dreaming far away,
On opposite ends of the earth,
One breathes the night, and one the day,
One crested hill, one ocean surf.

Two people dreaming each other,
What’s to say when they both pass by,
One clear scene, and one cloud cover,
To pass in dreams is worth a try.

But they must dream of real love,
Uncertain when to kiss again,
The kind that hurts to deep think of,
A message that their dreams must send.

That stranded end of lost love thoughts,
Holding deep as best they can,
That space that dims all glowing hearts
And spreads the glow across the land.

Two people dreaming of pure chance,
To hope to dream on one rare night,
Each other passing, catching glance,
To feel warm, to feel right.

From just one smile pure and brief,
Those seconds that they wait long for,
Where both breathe air and colored leaf,
Then kiss, and kiss, and kiss some more.

For then it’s gone to stay away,
That dreaming chance just one time,
Left again so far away,
Left again with dreaming mind.

 

Kyle McHale         2009

The Sharing Space

The Sharing Space

One day far away from now,
When heavens closer to my feet,
I’ll let the path behind me form
A pebbled road so we can meet,

But if light finds me from the sky
And I float away into the dust,
Know that warm road is there for you,
It’s been worn in from me for us.

To meet at different moments,
Then cross paths in times true spot,
I may leave on cold winters day,
You may be there when summers hot,

But know my love has entered earth,
The rock, the dirt, the lovers ground,
Know those whispers travel from
Out there and cross where you have found.

Standing there just take a breath,
Look up with arms embracing all,
Let the natural forces find you,
Feel the love from water fall

Down from your head into your heart,
From heart to foot to spirit,
Don’t think too much but just enough,
That message sent for you to hear it.

When it’s done, when it’s done for you,
To share the peaceful space with me,
The world holds it for us now,
The love is what will let it be.

Kyle McHale      2011

Jale`

Jale`

To you, to you, I pray to you,
For all you did, and all you do.
What’s left of you for us to see?
You dressed in black tranquility.

An open space, a casket grave,
Reminds us beauty that you gave,
And at your final resting place
We sat, we cried, wished for your face,

But not in ground and left to fall,
We placed you in a Turkish wall,
My hands said farewell then let go,
A moment I ignored to know.

But then I knew that you were there,
Because those wings of flapping air
That you loved in butterflies,
Beautiful movement in the skies,

On the large arched window glass,
There stood a large green creature that
Some of us saw and pointed out,
Keeping quiet, wanting to shout.

It sat with heaven for a time,
No place for this large butterfly,
Maybe it was a lunar moth,
Either way, my breath stayed soft,

Until the pastor’s words were done,
Then opened the glass into the sun,
The lovely spy took magic flight,
Then graced us with movement delight,

And circled round the podium,
Then flew out to kingdom come,
Into the golden open spot,
A summer field, golden hot,

Swaying grass and wild flowers,
Forgetting long dreary hours.
So we knew you said goodbye,
You knew we loved you, so did I.

Your family felt the pain the most,
And knew a time of your ghost,
I want your children to grow well,
Beautiful, with life to tell.

In all things and flying motion,
Your faith in God, and the ocean,
A painting that you gave me once
Of crashing waves and sandy bumps

Calms me down when life is steep,
In all those waves the oceans keep
Your love against the shores of sand.
I let you pass right through my hands

To let you go and be with Him,
Where faith meets love and all else ends.

Kyle McHale      2010