Barbara Grace Lake

Poetry & Other Crimes


© 2018 Barbara Grace Lake


In time of war when still a child
I dreamt intense unbidden dreams,
Of rain-slick sidewalks full of holes
Foul demons pushed till I fell through
On each dark night I dreamt this dream
Till screams that I alone could hear
Would leave me sweating, cold, awake

As war compels, no matter when,
A nation’s needless cost in men
Who fight and die in dubious quest.
A child I was but still I knew
The horrors of a home’s collapse
Exploding guns, and bodies torn
Of men who’d not see home again

But in the end a morning comes
To bring into the world new warmth
To damaged cities, countrysides
Restored if given long enough
If given growth and peace to grow
Where children dream of candy floss
Encradled safely in their beds.




© 2018 Barbara Grace Lake


I rose from sediment and mold
Two thousand years ago and more
I fought with elements, made war
Against all forces, known-unknown
Those animals whose step would crush,
A bolt of lightning’s blasting fire

Colossal creatures near my grove,
Perhaps unseen, oh let them pass
They’re huge, so big and I’m so small
A giant foot directly up
It’s coming down. It’s crushing me
Down into earth. I’m smothering

All living things are running wild
The lightning, thunder deafening
I smell the scorch of burning trees
Not me, not yet, please let me grow
A bolt of hell fire strikes the ground
My branches burn. It hurts, it hurts

The river’s rising to my feet
I send out roots to hold the mud
But can they grasp? No! One let go
And now another one. Dig deep
Entrench, hold mud, hold earth, hold tight
If not our life will wash away

Two thousand years and more I’ve lived
To grow immense. three hundred feet
My shady paths give life to ferns
Green carpet grows abundantly
When looking up men cannot doubt
They’ve sensed a godlike majesty

My girth provides for many home
Ten men it took to measure me
For cutting saws? They shred the air
I hear the screams of sister trees
Now at my feet, the saw’s first bite
Two thousand years of life erased.



© Barbara Grace Lake 2018


Uncaring, ruthless time, hold back
Conceding there is no return
I do not wish some ghostly hand
Return to life a former time
When I was less than twenty five
And time itself seemed infinite

When days, not blaming stripling age,
Were filled with fleeting, youthful craze
Of parties, dance, erotic lust
Euterpe’s waste in primal quest
How recklessly I dared each day
I’d not repeat that time again

Though when, perhaps, my first born child
Drank deeply from his mother’s breast
Or when a baby daughter cooed
Or children’s laughter filled the house
These things I’d love to see, but no,
Vignettes like this are better dreams

I could not know when I was young
How precious time would be in age
How quickly fly unyielding years
My neighbor’s children, grown like mine
And now I struggle savoring
Each hour a gift to see and feel.




© 2015 Barbara Grace lake


I don’t remember hair. Oh, no,
I don’t remember hair at all
Although there must have been a time
When grandpa had some long ago.

I saw a picture once. Gram said
That it was grandpa. When it was
I never knew, but, damn, it showed
A lot of hair on grandpa’s head.

A thick and wavy lion’s mane,
And coppery, like dogwood leaves
Start turning as first frost sets in
Before we lose them in the rain.

I didn’t like that picture much
Grandpa looked so stiff and mean
As if a smile or anything
Might crack his face with just a touch

And there were times when gramps was stern
About my schoolwork, chores and such
And if I caused my mother grief,
Then, still, he always said I’d learn.

I don’t remember hugs and stuff
My gramps was not that kind of man
He’d ever gently teach me things
Then cover up by acting gruff.

He taught me how a piece of wood
Could be ‘most anything I’d want
If I’d be patient, carve and sand
And finish building as I should

He taught me how someone who cares
No matter what their size might be
Would see their home was clean and snug
A proper shelter from life’s cares.

He taught me every day I knew
Him how a man could show his love.
He’d let me fall–but never far,
He’d always be there while I grew.

My gramps. A lot of things are there
Reminding me I knew a man,
But only when he’d gotten old.
I don’t remember him with hair.



© 2018 Barbara Grace Lake


So downy soft with tender care
Returned a nestling to its tree
To see the worried mother bird
Fly home to nurture, help it grow

As gently lifting me
From cradle to her breast
To suckle till I fell asleep
And dream warm baby dreams

Accepting, loving, strong
How able as I grew
At shushing tears as anger burst
Or bandaging a knee

Black garden dirt they wore with pride
Ingrained in every crease
But rainbow blossoms graced our home
The gift her hands displayed

Long years they spent in usefulness
Till gnarled, blue veined in age
Still soft and loving, loved as her,
My Mother’s hands


© 2017 Barbara Grace Lake


I do not feel like Christmas time
Please let it all pass by
This year I will not decorate
Nor roast nor cookies bake

I’ll not hang tinsel, bulbs or lights
My creche stays on its shelf
No tree will grace my living room
To hide my gifts to friends

I’d call my elder uncles, aunts
It always cheered them so
A friendly voice on Christmas day
But, no. They’re gone. I’m left.

I’m old, so old, I can’t bring cheer.
And then a welcome call
Hi, Grandma love, don’t cook again
I’m doing turkey, ham

Give us a chance to cosset you
You always work so hard
For once, sit back, enjoy the day
One simple call of cheer

A tree, a small one’s going up
I’ll honor Christmas Day
No funky blues can hold it back
As always, Christmas comes


© 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
“I’m just fifteen, how will I 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.




© 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


© 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


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