Archive | Poetry

The Invited Guest. . . .


                                                                              with hammer and saw and wood and file. . . .

Many of us when we find that our life is not working for us, no matter what we try and even invent, take ourselves to the doctor.  And when all the protocols still do not work, if we give it thought, we take ourselves to school or wherever we find quiet space and open the books, whatever our persuasion.

When we learn that Dante took Virgil as his mentor-guide we should wonder why.  And find our reasons to look for own guide-mentor.

I chose the Nazarene as my Mentor after much study and have never regretted  my choice.  It was not a reason based on faith for I had none.  But it was a reason based on knowledge and for me the right one. 

For you whose Faith has meaning,  I share with you this poem.  It was written long ago and has great meaning for me. 

It has meant a life of hard work, study and some lovely sparklers.

The Invited Guest. . . 

I once knew a good carpenter who,
with hammer and saw 
and wood and file
showed me how to build a chair.

I did and sat on it
and then decided I needed a table.
With hammer and saw
and wood and file,
I built a table and sat at it.

I knew I needed another chair
for an Other to sit on.
So with  hammer and saw
and wood and file,
I built it.

I then invited the carpenter
to join me at the table.
We lit a candle and talked
and a new world was born.
How did I know

I first needed to learn how to build?


Me and Mother Nature Have a Something Going On. .

(please keep in mind my understanding that all time is simultaneous . )

In the April 10th  1992 journal entry  I wrote of a prior conversation our second son David and I had before he left our Earth, (a philosophy major first before becoming a lawyer) about the benign nature of the Universe, being neither good nor bad.  Floating through my brain was Robert Frost’s ‘forgive me lord my little jokes on thee . . . and I will forgive thy great big one on me.’  He knew of what he spoke.  It made me weep once but now I think that is the way it is.

Susan Howatch , one of my favorite authors on her Church of England series, writes that some philosophers believe that human nature cannot grasp the concept of reality at all.  Charles Schulz said that it was ‘so futile’ as the reason he stopped cartooning. 

I think all is eventually universally good.  Otherwise and I still know it deep down,  we could not go on.  But how far out does one go for universally good?

I scribed the edited paragraph answer. . . Your lament of how far out is universally good is not valid.  Because for you to see it where you are, the last chapter would be writ.   No pages turning over or flying by with the taste of exuberance never to know again.  Imagine a life without it, any life? 

There are those who do not know  exuberance.  The dailyness numbs one’s creativity.  But there are books to reread, knitting to pick up or something to give another go at the morrow.

This entry ended with telling me to pack up my few  illusions and get some sleep.  And why I had so few illusions baffled the teachers.  I scribed the following poem from that entry.

Nighttime  Conversation  . . .

I say. . . That spring will be a long one and
the summer will be a cool one.
You say. . .
It is amusing to hear your pronouncements
on the weather.  You feel its feel upon your face
and monitor your response with some rare things.

You and Mother Nature have something going on.
Or is it you listen to the birds singing their song or

the earth whispering to the sun that its arthritis is

not healing?  Or perhaps the night song is the one
that the sun hears in the morning and in the night
you listen in and eavesdrop?  Perhaps that is all

there is to your murmurings on the condition of the
weather?  But in your arthritic state why is it you
revel in the cold and dark, drawing up your gown

closer to your neck and whispering how old you get
because you love your comforts?  Is it too much just
to say my bed is the most comfortable and my tub

long enough for this creaky body to lie down?  And
why the guilt?  Asceticism went out with the hair shirt,
you know.  There is nothing decadent about wanting

to stay warm nor relieving one’s congestion.  Ahhhhh . . . .
you civilians. . . when will you learn?


photo by John Hallissey


To Break The Waves, enough it is. . . .

(sometimes in the midst of memories, I need to be reminded of what mattered most.  And if I need this, perhaps a reader does also.  The memory is now fresh for me.  I appreciate the chance for reprinting a favorite one.)

After having been told a zillion times that no one would want my head,  I have decided that I truly would not want anyone else’s head either.  Because then I would not see the world that I love the way I do.  I would not see the pine trickle of a branch pulling itself courageously out of the trunk of the tree amidst a  half dozen other twigs and marvel at the beauty of it.    Or  hear the  young grandmother puzzle at the toddler wondering why is this child so angry?  And another placid?  And see the connections in all bornings   from their source already bent.  Chance, you think?  My head tells me of no coincidences.

Understandably there are some who prefer to think everything is newly chaste.  But each of us has a history and life is a gift given.  It is with hope that we uncover its gems.  And profit from its lessons.

If You Can Bear The Truth. . .

If they should ever ask you
from where comes this knowledge
and you can bear the truth,  tell them.

It was written in the stars that I saw
with inner vision,  shining exuberantly
with a vitality that bears description.
It was hung and dried by a sun that had
dried my ancestor’s tears
for a million centuries.

The lyrics have pressed my ears
in moans that I find unbearable.
Does not everyone hear the cries?
If they should ask you,
tell them this.

It is the music of celebration,
when one, even one is freed from
a lifetime of servitude to anguish
clogging the throat.

This music is heard down long lines
of generations and will be mated
in their genes.   They will glory in
their freedom and they will live forever.

So if they ask you and you can
bear the truth, tell them.

It was taught by my Spirit
spilling into my heart with no reprieve
and into my mind with no relief.
It is a lifetime of no alibis and
a coping system diffused.

My teacher has no name,
still the imprint is within my genes,
implanted within my ancestor’s memories,
resting within me.

They do not rest while I cannot.
My songs continue, if only for me.

Enough it is for me to break the waves.


Photo by
John Stanley Hallissey


The Spirit Within Speaks. . .

In reviewing  this poem,  I was surprised to see the journal entry so I read it anew.  And the last paragraph of the two pages typed was the lament that I had a head with so much to say I felt I was going to die.  And I wrote the words of St. Paul,  ‘it is I who do it, yet not I, but Spirit within’, when I listened with tears running down my cheeks as Gladys Cooley Nicholson read my poetry on npr’s WDET, in a deep voice powerful with meaning.  She honored my work.

To strike a balance with the desire to create and overwhelmed with what it takes to submit and follow a prescribed path to publish, my need to create won.  So I independently studied and created  at night and the need to maintain property and people took  the work long days.  Commitments made options unavailable.  One of the non negotiables in life is sometimes there are no options.

And you are given with grace, in time,  a wise granddaughter saying,  you just suck it up Gram, just suck it up.  She is mine. 

Perhaps a bit boring, but nice to leave with no regrets and commitments intact.  Amen.

Time To Go On . . .

Is it time to go on?
Just one more garden in blossom,
I think,  just one more winter.
And I wonder if I could
appreciate them anymore or
berate the ones who cannot see. . .

Will I be able to look at snow
and see as a depth to remove
before I can move or will I
see a feathering dust of density
and walk through it
like the man on water?

 Will I ever be able to look
at this evergreen outside
my study window and not see it
as a thought form?
Or will I take its trunk
in my hands one day and like
paper mache bend it out of existence?

It is sturdy and it grows.
It takes space and cools
this room I sit in and
is a haven for the birds that
trust its branches will hold their nests
and the spidery tines will hold them.

Will I never mow the lawn
because I will by a thought,
landscape the Earth?  Am I
a dreamer in motion . . .

like speech, aahhh. . . my thoughts stutter. . . . .


July 01, 1982   journal entry
Poem Written April 01, 2016

photo by Joe Hallissey Sr.


Often the Larger Picture is Universal Life. . enhanced. . .

Jon Meacham, historian,  told the story of when President Reagan was in the hospital after being shot he was wiping up some water in the bathroom when a surprised visiting President Bush asked him what he was doing.  I spilled water and I didn’t want the nurse to get blamed for it he said. 

These are the small things about us that we leave as our legacy.  Not the big things that we sometimes are noted for.  Not always the Salk vaccine that Jonas Salk saved the world from polio but the Conscious Evolution he taught I came across in the interview  when he wanted to save humanity from themselves.

We are beyond the times of physical survival as such evidenced by growing numbers.  Now we must emphasize the human values we do not have time for that are taken by devices with addicting instant gratification.  Or even casual relations we indulge in that make us not proud.

Where conscious action determines the potential in human behavior across the planet because we cared enough to do something right and good that enhanced life for just one person.   Because of its inherent goodness, it became a lifesaving principle for all humanity. 

And the small, light touch I wrote about that I appreciate as you put your hand on  the small of my back to help me up the curb.  It is a small curb to viewers but to me a mountain to climb.   You know the why of the kiss on your forehead as you depart  telling me that you are not feverish. 

As I see you both hug your loves with a quick crush to let them know the strength of your arms in that loving moment.  The small things that will be your legacy also. 

That will be the difference we make,  we all make in lives we touch even perfunctorily.  Seemingly innocuous, seemingly without feeling.  But it makes in enormity, the teaching lesson confirming to us that we are of worth, that we are good.

In Looking Back

Sometimes in looking back
to grasp meaning. . . .
the uneventful brims with it.

The small deeds by the young
take on logistics of magnitude.

The small bouquet often picked
from the neighbor’s garden
is innocently given with largess of heart.

It is no small thing
when the child says I will do it. . . .
and unburdens the caregiver.

It is in the uneventful
that the heart grows in understanding,
when the lesson becomes the food on the plate.

Not good to look back?
How else to learn what life has taught
and perhaps we learn what not to repeat?

It bodes well to forgive when harshness
makes brittle the connections,
but in the smallest detail,
in the dailyness of the commonplace, we grow.

And the soul leaps forward and universal life is greatly enhanced.


Photo by Diane Rybacki of her husband, my brother Stanley,
releasing the pheasant they helped heal from injury.  (2002)
Both now transited, but would have been great grandparents
of great granddaughter named Diane, born this past week.


Our Light That Shines. . . .

Sometimes we find when we are not on good terms with ourselves,  life is not sympathetic to how we are feeling.  Yet we fulfill what is demanded and later are grateful that someone stands beside us when we are in need. 

We hope that whatever we offered is regarded not with impatience we might have felt but accepted in the love that we deeply feel.    And  our good intentions are noted because we are at heart, decent people.  

Somehow to be known as decent speaks volumes in these times.  The lack of decency looms heavily on us as a fall from grace as we have relived the recent assault on our democracy.  We wonder the effect  of our behavior as viewed by those immediate and far. 

Times test our mettle and these times have.  Yet always we hope that how we relate in the small things will be our light that shines .

Light Touches

Your light touch
on the small of my back
gains for me a courage
lacking sometimes
to even climb the curb.

I appreciate that.
Somehow beneath the layers
of what I hold to be
the who of what  I am
is a someone still of note..

Comforting to lay my hand
on the side of your face
to note the structure
of the child no longer a child.

As the mother of you sons,
born of the best of who we as parents were,
Nature shares her secrets
letting me know that the goodbye kiss
on your foreheads still tells me
you are not feverish.

You know my secrets also
as you hug your children
and show them that
no matter how old you grow
your light touches reveal the depth
and speak volumes

of their place in your hearts.


artwork by Claudia Hallissey


Ordinary, but real. . . . .


Again, in that conference time when all is quiet, you cannot go back to not knowing, once having attained what it is you know.  Quantum, sumus, scimus.  You are what you know. 

And what you know is yours forever.  The talents, the Master spoke of,  no one understood to teach.  What moth and rust do not destroy you take from world to world because life is everlasting, but he taught that also.

They said we danced with the devil when we multiplied the silent talents of listening with our hearts and talking silently to minds that pleaded for help. 

We were burned at the stake for this.  When our eyes spoke the understanding of what was written on their hearts, it was peace surpassing this world.

It was compared to giving him a drink of water knowing that the world would be satiated.  What is done for one is done for all.  It is doing for one’s fellow so that the act will one day be everyone’s act.

It does not come easily nor without its pain.  But having attained it,  you are there.  You speak a language most hunger for and know to be true. 

And without doubt know that we are accountable forever and have but one face, truth.

Ordinary but  Real . . .

There is question surrounding
the not so fair exterior of one who chides
the meaning from the leaves of the trees.

To say in truth the sun should shine
a bit more on the Maple to the north,
readying sap for nourishment.

Or the mushroom to elevate its wattage
with the feel good serum designed
to lift one up. . .

And what about the water in the bog
needing a bit of air to allow
the simple life to get on. . .?

All this is mine I hear, but I’ve
known it all for so long,
since first I fell in love with life.

Dragging a foot still wedded
to the firm stuffs holding me,
yet not willing to give me up,

since incomplete was the knowledge
to ferret out, but I said it was the best I could do.
And was affirmed to have held nothing back.

I hugged the life with all the strength
remembered from the time before;
from lives loved and loves, loved,

mistakes made good and wounds healed
and to write poetry from a world
not of this one.

I keep moving thoughts like furniture,
as I did the evergreens and the mock orange,
like summer loungers for the lawn.

And when there are no other
room arrangements peaking,
I will create another world.

With another house to make a home
to live in for life to be an example,
to teach the connectedness of All That Is. .

An ordinary person, real in this world
of ordinary days. . . . .
is never just ordinary it seems . . . . .


It Takes Many Lifetimes to Learn. . . .

Word reaches that there are issues with some of my  posts that  are unreal;  that perhaps I don’t know how the real world works.  I write what I know, not  hope or pretend.  As Lawrence O’Donnell commented on  President Biden’s Inaugural, experience is  something you cannot teach.  We always knew it, I think,  just never applied it to ourselves.  Seldom are we lauded for our experience, mostly they say that  we are simply old.

When I say we go to an earned place when we die, I know it.  It has taken a long time for me to be upfront with memories and no, some of them are not good; have even put me in cardiac arrest. 

Since  teaching we are in the world creation business  by the late Robert Nozick, contemporary philosopher, I would create a heaven dispensary if it were already not so.

If life were not everlasting, I would follow the daffodil or if hard pressed, even the mushroom because they come up year after year forever.  It has taken many lifetimes to learn what little I know.

I understand that heaven’s remedial classes are now instituted to get a head start on Dr. Jonas Salk’s Conscious Evolution. This is evolution not to just survive but to evolve to a higher form of human potential, with the spiritual aspects of more compassion, empathy and the heart elements like love and the more stingy,  sharing.

I  came dragging a foot from a world where learning was held sacred and  have lived a functioning life for almost a  hundred years. Not easy .  but doable.  But thinking I should wear a hazmat suit for protection from cynicism which may yet do me in.

The  Poet’s Memories

Torn from an event
with memories still alive
and placed in an incubator to breathe,
are poets expected to live.

Leaving a world incomplete,
they wander in vegetation
totally unfamiliar  and expected to survive.
And give rise to credence
in a world with no root,
where trees are shades
of others more vivid.

Whose flowers whisper their names
in a forgotten language,
whose people are ghosts of livelier images,
all crowding the nimbus.

Where horizons are vast
and what eyes behold are stark lines
dividing two dimensional realities
pretending a depth that fools not a one.

Where snow sheds its stars
on a crystal night and the night becomes
a holy night eliciting unexpected
extravagances bestowing grace.

All grasped in a moment’s vision 
to linger through worlds creating ulcers
by gnawing the viscera with dreams not completed.

The poet’s pen translates worlds
of mean existences from memories held
long in the heart’s pocket.
Translates the colors of those other places
where winds caressed and sun bathed 
a skin unlike his own.

In another place and time he walks
and because he does 

his memories give rise to an Other’s dream.

poem written January 1988

photo by Claudia Hallissey


I held your heart in my hand . . . it is whole . . . .

We need to come to a place now and again when it is necessary to find a mind matched to ours so we can for all purposes say all that is heavy on our hearts.  With no explanation necessary because our route has been followed step by step;  to hear the words,  I held your heart in my hand for safekeeping and here it is, whole. 

And in a whisper would come the words,  I thought it fractured beyond repair!   We are embraced knowing instantly that we were not abandoned to do it alone. 

We prepare then to venture another time to come with the sweet knowledge that great songs will be sung again.


Great  Songs Will Be Sung. . . 

Should you find the need
to tell your story in words,
think mightily on them
and they will be caught up
in the air’s currents
and carried on the birds’ wings.
They will reach the ears
they were designed for.

You will find
you are not alone 
and in this infinite universe
you will be heard.

And when the thoughts
reach the places 
in the heart of an Other

great songs will be sung again.  . . . 


We Are The Music. . . .

I was nicely surprised by my niece Linda to receive a photo of this wall quilt displayed in her home; from an exhibit in Oak Park, IL in 2012.  Linda graciously nudged my memory to help remind me.  As in all memories,  coming forward, tightly wrapped,  deep within time’s measure. . .familiar territories. . . .to find we are the music. .

Following should be why the time and why the difference.  Some of the  why’s  in our lives deserve our thought and some will require great courage.  To even get to a why in thought requires footwork but we know that and avoid the work while we can.  Rules change even while we breathe and I have learned to anticipate.  Rule one, start now.  And good luck.



Lullaby Last

The moon assists the drama,
heralding the arrival
of the event,
locked within memory.

A place, deep within time’s measure
nudges from familiar territories
the clockwise turn of events.

Incense, sweet hay,
pungent holly, sweeping palms,

The eye follows the moon rays
to find the final beam
lodged in our heart.
The ear strains to hear the lullaby last

to find we are the music. . . . . .


(if you have one of my quilts,  I would appreciate a photo to nudge my memory.  It is a gift when I look upon something hand done and see what was accomplished.  I guess I took seriously not to let the left hand know what the right hand was doing or something like that.  This was a real pleasure to see. )



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