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Barbara Grace Lake

Poetry & Other Crimes

JOHNNY BOY

© 2017 Barbara Grace Lake

 

His older mates said Johnny Boy
Or John; for me, the name is gone.
It mattered then. It doesn’t now.
It is his life I can’t forget

They all were young, our John much more
Still beardless, clear unjaded eyes
A friend and I adopted him
At service club, we’d talk for hours

John dearly loved his mountain home
The mockingbirds that sang all night
And critters almost tame to hand
Delight as dawn stole through the trees

Not once did John complain of want
He’d food, he said, enough to eat
A coat to keep the winter off
And Pa’s old boots that almost fit

Why then did Johnny Boy enlist?
What prompted him to leave his home?
“In winter pa would hunt, I skinned
Ma tanned the hides and made us coats”

“Last winter for my pa was bad
When finally the doctor came
Pa had pneumonia, might not live
And sure enough the next day died”

John’s mother poorly, father gone
Of siblings eight, the eldest John
His Army pay would serve their need
They told recruiters John 18

The last time I saw Johnny Boy
His company’d locked down to go
He risked court martial to be out
That one last time to see us both

A scarf he purchased for my friend
A Ronson Princess lighter mine
“At fifteen there I will not know
What I must do. I won’t come back.”

About three months, almost the day
Our mail from Johnny’s closest pal
Told of a brave young boy who died
In war he did not understand

The lighter’s in my treasure box
Although so long ago it stopped
That piece of John remains with me
But John Boy’s home, his mountain home.

 

 

CHALLENGE

© 2016 Barbara Grace Lake

 

Kind, lovely Frances
Urged a poet on to write.
Doubtful mind set free

As words encourage
Silent pen takes up the dare.
Dreaming knights wake up

Onward!  Ever on
Filling pages, or a verse.
Vivid minds create

Unused, living seeds
Might lay untouched infertile
Poet writes haiku

HOPE

© 2016 Barbara Grace Lake

 

When all hope dies
Can ever threads remain
Of former ties
To call it back again

Does hope join dreams
Mid broken solemn vows
As uttered means
Enthralling men to bow

But threads there be
So hope is still aware
Within a sea
Of monstrous self despair

We are alive
Our souls unfettered bare
And hope survives
If mantle we would wear

 

THANKSGIVING

© 2016 Barbara Grace Lake

 

Native tribes saw need
And helped newcomers planting
Corn, squash, beans they grew

Instead of hunger
Men had game and garden fruit
Food enough for all

They came together
Tribes and whites to share their feast
Gave thanks for friendship

One sings Great Spirit
Others bow to distant God
Prayers find both as One

I TREE

© 2015 Barbara Grace Lake

 

When Spring returns green

fingers stretch toward the sun

Roses bud in warmth

 

Under passing clouds

Small nestlings dance of hunger

Breezes sing in crown

 

Dressed in crimson gold

I take my leave from Summer

Snow geese pattern sky

 

I brave grim Winter’s

Icy kisses frozen touch

Red snow flowers bloom

 

TOO YOUNG

© 2016 Barbara Grace Lake

 

The minister told of his life
His barely eighteen years of life
The casket closed, his body ripped
A valiant soldier he, life shorn

Two years before and for three years
In Little League, my own son’s team
A flawless fielder, playing fair
He gave no quarter, asked for none

So when the summons came he went
To fight or perish far from home
To slay an enemy unknown
He served his country well, and died.

And now we put his casket down
Three shots, each echo in my head
Three shots, each crack the morning air
My choking, sobbing tears won’t stop

It’s not enough.  He gave his life
Three shots and taps and folded flag
In two more years he could be mine
My God, they’re young…too young to die.

I AM A LEAF

© 2016 Barbara Grace Lake

 

I am a tiny bud
So small you cannot see me yet
My tree absorbs life from the sun
And I absorb life on my branch
Before I dare come forth

Pale green then gently veined
To carry tree sap to my tip
And I, with all my sisters, reach
To flourish in a solar bath
Of radiant light and warmth.

All summer breezes pass
Through leafy boughs and hidden nests
Of agile squirrels, singing wrens
Who play by day and rest by night
Then come alive again

But now the air is chill
I feel me change, no longer green
My sisters, too, are red and bronze
Our tree no longer gives us life
I fall toward the earth

Oh, please don’t sweep me up
I am not trash to throw away
My colors have such beauty yet
Display me on your mantelpiece
Till I come green again

LIFE AND DREAMS

© 2016 Barbara Grace Lake

 

Another year of earthly turns
But was my birth one year ago?
Or twenty-five or eighty-five?
Oh, time enough, forgetting all
From noble aims ignoble loss
Self limiting despair–and yet

In life we share upon this world,
This tiny speck in all of space,
Such hopes, defeats and even toil
That each may claim a life beyond
The struggle we encounter here
Perhaps to wear a crown of stars.

 

AND NOW I LAY ME

© 2016 Barbara Grace Lake

 

And now I lay me down to sleep,
My raucous bell to ring at dawn
For leeway still to read the news,
Attend to all the things I’d choose
To miss except for habit’s keep.
I pray for God my soul to keep
While heavy lids are downward drawn,
One last unseen escaping yawn,
Ere daily strife to Morpheus lose.

And if I die before I wake,
My prayer as life by rote avow,
I rise and dress and eat and toil
From unknown challenges recoil,
In mind alone will fancy take.
I pray for God my soul to take,
All worldly trappings disavow
In hope a flensing stroke somehow
Will strip the stains of sterile soil.

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