Barbara Grace Lake

Poetry & Other Crimes


© 2019 Barbara Grace Lake


I’d never take full pride
Assume no credit how I’ve lived
That made me who I am
To life I’ve given, taken much
Good works and foul misdeeds
Traced murky distances between


I’ve lived near 90 years
Made many friends, some enemies
Contained within my frame
Are actions chalking phantom lines
Drab places time forgot
What have I done, where are my marks


Yet in my august years
I find that life awarded me
A virtue, grant unearned
A heart that loves is loved in turn
From life a precious  gift
Nor ever taken back again.


© 2019 Barbara Grace Lake

This is not a personal experience but an imagining from the anguish of many with whom I have spoken. It is a blot on humanity that must be stopped. The terrorism of young children must stop. We need to do a better job of warning children about “funny uncles” or anyone else who touches them inappropriately. Let them know it is very OK to “tattle” on that person.

A child she was, so innocent
Clear eyes, sun brightened, rosy cheeks
Her pony tails in ribbons shone
Diminutive, sweet elf turned six
Delighted having fun with friends
Today ice cream and chocolate cake

Her Uncle Tom as silly clown
Beguiled young partiers for hours
Caressing every child he gave
Absurd balloon-made animals
“Tom’s always good to entertain
He loves wee tykes so very much”

That night when checking on the child
His words of love awakened her
He whispered, “Let me show my love
But this must always secret be”
And then his knife-hard penis stabbed
Her pain, her terror screams he choked

When done he cleaned her, changed her bed
And left no clue that she’d been touched
Each night when he would come again
She’d be too frightened now to cry
Nor tell her aunt or anyone
About her fear — her secret shame


© 2019 Barbara Grace Lake

Sun drowsed, I lay supine into
My tattered, cat-torn easy chair
First listening to cool music on
Son’s stereo, unwanted now;
Distractive voices, harshly drop
Unkindly racous at the door
Now gone, heard only in my head
Dry ashen ghosts of shadow brawls
Unhurried dissipating off
Allowing cherished time alone
Immersed in sound of silence


© 2019 Barbara Grace Lake

I often feel like this, well, maybe not often, but sometimes.  How about you?


Invidious boredom, lethargy
Imposing sloth on torpid minds.
Black gaping maw of empty time
Too tired to do, too tired to be


© 2019 Barbara Grace Lake


If I believe in life
Could I deny that sentient beings
Exist beyond imagined sense,
Outside prevailing culture lore?


If I believe in life
Would I deny to any being
A life because of color, shape
As I’ve denied on earth to men


If I believe in life
I could not kill, imprison men
Advancing white supremacy
The proof no farther than my door


If I believe in life
Would I refrain from aiding those,
The storm tossed, ravished populace,
Though brown-skinned, our own island folk?


If I believe in life
I’d not illegal separate
The young from parents seeking help
To live their lives behind cage bars


If I believe in life
I’d share our lives among the stars
But ‘til we stop our madness here
I pray God keeps us on this world



© 2019 Barbara Grace Lake

I’m often asked what I believe.
Do I know God? Do angels sit
Upon my shoulders guiding me
To do what’s right else I’d be wrong?
And yet, without those astral hosts
Would I an evil person be?

I’ve lived my life eventfully
So many friends and lovers too
At times I help beleaguered man
More often they then help me grow
Becoming part of who I am
Becoming part eternally

But what of Heaven next I’m asked
How do I see my end of life?
Dear God it’s when I come to you
Returning to the source of all
Would Bible written “streets of gold”
Compare with spatial vaults of stars

I’ll see and be small flickering flames
And watch them grow into vast worlds
I’ll see a comet’s origin
And flow with it across the void
I’ll see an ever-rising sun
Encompassing the whole of life

I’ll come to life
Where death is gone


© 2019 Barbara Grace Lake

Adorable her aunties thought
A her first timid “no”
In time those no’s became less shy
Ear splitting, thunderous roar
You’ll have to train her, now they said
Or she’ll a rebel be

Approaching her, so malleable
Unwisely they began
To rid fore’er her lexicon
Of “no,” and “no,” but “no”
You must be pleasant, compromise
Was skewered in her brain

At twelve her dates were parties, groups
Of scarcely less than eight
School dances, miniature golf or films
Activities allowed
Her preference often set aside
Refrained from saying “no”

As children do she reached sixteen
And dates for real began
Engagements still were innocent.
With kiss upon the cheek
Her Mom’s last cautionary words,
“Be sure you’re home by ten”

Progressive school curriculum
Sex education gave
The mother said “not for my child
Enticing her to sex
She’ll learn in marriage what she needs
And all she needs to know”

When handsome high school quarterback
Proposed a date with her
He claimed her in his father’s car
They went for food and beer
She later could not tell him “no”
Virginity was lost

But quarterback her bête noir
His avid teammates told
Too many relished giddy news
Of how a virgin crashed
In after days she stayed at home
Lay sobbing in her room

Her friends, distraught, abandoned her
Adults who might have helped
Instead, increased their cruel abuse
“Loose, common slut exposed”
All hope, all sense of self-worth gone
She ended her own life.


© 2019 Barbara Grace Lake

One step is all to mists beyond
Encircling, thick and hidden close
Outside of blankets, drug-like warmth
Of sleep and visions, comfort dreams
Is life revealed within dense mists?

I cannot see through mists beyond
Damp pulsing tendrils summon me
Too frightening without retreat
Of sheltering eaves, slate shadowed doors
Dare I reach far into those mists?

What will I find in mists beyond
Too thickly vaporous to see?
In life as death am I to go
Through fearful portal, shrouded gate?
Its call enticing, silent mists

I hesitate at mists beyond
Amorphous essence, swirling fog
Safe haven that it promises
Reach out. Its covenant says home
Will I step through dense mists beyond
…..Dense mists beyond
……….Dense mists beyond


© 1990 Barbara Grace Lake

 Years ago, in an almost storybook “once upon a time,” my father, mother brother and I lived in a tiny, Depression-era house in Los Angeles.

With the innocence of a 5-year-old, I didn’t know what my father did for a living, if he was good at what he did, what kind of struggles he had, or even if he was a good man.
I knew one very important thing:  My father loved me.

I remember Saturdays as special and wonderful.  For one thing, we had our “walking game.”  To play this game, we often set out for the park, with its swings and sandbox.  But sometimes, with no destination at all, we just started walking.

We began sedately at first — my tiny fist engulfed in his huge paw — until we were out of sight of the house.   Gradually we began to walk faster, faster and faster, until we were racing, trying to catch something — or keep from being caught.  We would end up running so fast I nearly pitched forward over my own feet.

Then my father would swoop me up in his arms, and we laughed till the tears came.  I never once fell.  Daddy was always there to catch me.

One day my father came home early.  He had lost his job.  He didn’t seem able to get another.  Always, since I could remember anything, there had been serious adult talk about “the Depression,” but the whispers about my father were that he was a dreamer.  He was shiftless and lazy.  He lacked moral character.

I wasn’t supposed to hear the gossip, but children of the ’30s sat quietly around adults, overhearing a lot never intended for them.

Suddenly, there were no more Saturday games with my father.  Then he wasn’t there at all.  He never came back.

Layton Abbott Pierce was big and gentle, but without the quiet strength one usually associates with such a man.  He skidded with the Depression, falling into every trap, drinking, gambling, always looking for an easy way out that never came.   He wished and dreamed while the harsh reality of the Depression pressed in around him.  In the end, he abandoned the crushing reality and all responsibility that went with it — including his family.

I was too young to now recall much about the next few years.  I remember a terrible bewilderment when told, “Daddy isn’t here anymore.”   My fervent “why?” went unanswered.

As the years passed, the whys became less urgent, then forgotten completely.  When I reached my teens I listed my father as “deceased” on required school forms.  It was much easier to believe he was dead than the other — that he left because he didn’t love me.

I grew up.  I graduated from high school, did a stint in the WACs, married and started raising a family.  From my teens on, I rarely thought about my father.

One morning, shortly after the birth of my second child, he called.  Through the years he had kept in touch with one of my aunts, and she gave him my number when his ship came into San Pedro Harbor.

My father said he wanted very much to see us.  I honestly didn’t know if I wanted to see him.  For 19 years I had believed him dead.  Could I accept him now as a living, breathing father — one who abandoned me?  My husband intervened, and Layton came to spend the weekend with us.  He stayed a month.

That month was hell.  Dad drank himself sloppy, until I hated the sight — or the smell — of him.  One day, he passed out on the kitchen table and our entire dinner crashed to the floor in a mixture of spaghetti sauce, broken glass and china.

I cried in the bedroom until I could barely see out of puffed and reddened eyes.  When I came out, I took some bills from the grocery money and paid dad’s cab fare back to his seaman’s hotel in San Pedro, 70-odd miles from our home in Chatsworth.

After that my father began phoning collect for money, and the calls kept coming until we had nothing left to give.  He finally shipped out without a word.

The bitterness was strangling.  This time, instead of asking a human being why things weren’t right, I cried out against God.   Why?  Why?  Hadn’t that man hurt me enough already?  How could a loving God let someone like that live if just to inflict more suffering?

My answer arrived in the mail a year later.  When I opened an envelope postmarked Seattle, a small white card fell out.  One side contained the “Serenity Prayer.”  On the other my father had written, “I’m helping others find their way back as I have.  Forgive me if you can and God bless you.”

In that instant a big fist reached back to a Saturday of long ago and tightly held the hand of a frightened little girl so she wouldn’t fall.

Layton Abbott Pierce died at the age of 85 in Seattle on September 29, 1988.  He left my house in Chatsworth in November of 1957.   But what of the years between?  Some still say Dad’s life was without value, that he was quintessentially “worthless” as a human being.  Yet in Seattle, he not only found his way to Alcoholics Anonymous and achieved sobriety himself, he helped dozens of fellow alcoholics on the road to recovery.  Only a higher power can judge the ultimate worth of those last 31 years of my father’s life.  I don’t have the measure.

I do know that I’ll never again doubt the wisdom and mercy of Almighty God, for my answer to that last wretched “why?” was that my father had been given a chance to redeem himself.

Blog at

Up ↑