Amjad Hamid

He smiled like someone who would welcome me into his home.
We were also about the same age.

I know little about him, not even his name really —
Is the J silent?
Would he have pronounced the first letter of his last name with a glottal fricative?
Our first meeting would have been awkward:
Hi, nice to meet you…
and if he hadn’t picked up on my hesitation, I’d have opted for the silent consonant —
Is it, Am – ad?
I like to imagine him laughing at my clumsy greeting.

If I were really curious, I’d consult the WWW and discover the WWWWHW of his life:
Who was in his family,
What he did for a living,
Where he went to college,
When he joined his mosque,
How he was being remembered.

Why he was there last Friday

I’d rather not know these things.
Such knowledge would only bring the horror closer.

But I did hold his picture in one hand the other day,
an electric tea light in the other,
and along with a few hundred people in my home town
said a prayer in three religions united in one voice on a bracing cold day half a world away
that we could evolve into a world where nobody would have to mourn for strangers.

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Dumbphone

[Instead of my usual “oh gosh that’s cool” appreciation of Sarah Doughty’s latest epigrammatic poem, I thought it would be neat to write a response.]

I have trained the ear of my soul
to not be distracted by the rumoring whispers of untrustworthy shades

You are my beacon,
steady through my mind’s fiercest storms,
and without your love I am dumb,
a phone with no signal.

Let us dispense with the mourning of broken memories,
and revel in the anxious joy of a new day’s discoveries.

Legacies

Her foot dangles off the bow of the canoe
and flicks lake water onto the gravelly shore.
For fifteen minutes
I’ve been watching her.

If the stars had any of the curiosity that terrified me that night
they would have wondered why this lad let his dungaree knees
soak in an April mud blackened with the memory of winter
as his friends danced in the warm gymnasium.

Like every night, he dozes uneasily in his recliner,
glasses slipping down his nose.
At any sudden noise — setting my glass down on the table,
the front door opening, a shout from the sports announcer —
his eyes snap open, and he cries out, startled and afraid,
until he sees one of us, and we tell him everything’s fine,
encouraging him to go to bed for crissakes.
Some mornings he wakes up in that chair.

An envelope in my graduate school mail slot,
filled with the two twenties, a five, and three singles
I had left on the table the night before,
storming out of the bar in anger.
I needed a sign to renew my trust in them,
and was disappointed at their passing my narcissistic test.

Her responses were exactly opposite of mine,
eruptions of anger instead of simmering resentment.
We saw the flaws in each other,
and the love we shared allowed us to be each other’s healer.

I hope these young men have acquired
the strength and wisdom necessary
to overcome their fears
and forgive my role in their creation.

Two brown circles, each a quarter inch diameter, every night.
The supplement is half that size, and looked much cooler as a green capsule.
When I forget about not liking to ascend mountains, there’s one other.
For the past two years, I’ve said the same words to two licensed professionals,
but those words have lost no potency in their repetition.

We all become legacies.
But our stories are always changing.

Antidote

[Using today’s prompt from The Daily Post to flex my lyrical skills]

Where the twilight of hope gives way to the reluctant dawn
And tranquility is poisoned with fear,
A quickening stone clears the paralyzing dam
To cure the silent disease.

Stalemate

Victory is a mirage for both of us,
the manic schemer
and his somber doppelgänger.

But the game can’t be stopped
and the only way we know how to play
is to imagine an oasis that could sate
our thirsty ambition for winning.

The brash schemer believes his coming triumph
is the destiny unjustly denied to him,
and knows it will be the start
of a life-long winning streak.

His quiet foe is confident
of a devastating conquest,
draining his opponent of the desire
to continue trying.

The game continues,
momentum flowing to one side while ebbing from the other
before shifting like the tide,
balanced in indecision.

The game tires both combatants,
Yet neither is willing to concede.

Chrono Logical

Time has been wasted,
seeking comfort under leaking shingles
crafted out of fear.

Time passes,
screamed wordlessly by the invisible clock
hanging from the wall like mildew.

Time has come,
to escape from the hovel of necessity
and dance in the foolish rain.

Habeus Corpus


The smiling jailer nodded as I yelled out my request.
He unlocked my cell, and without a pause, removed my gilded bracelet.

“Come this way,” he said, and like a kindly neighbor
Led me down a darkened hall, to the judge’s chamber.

But when the door opened, I only saw the baliff.
“Where’s the judge?” I demanded, “let’s get this over with!”

“He isn’t needed,” the baliff said, “you’re case is very simple.”
“This is outrageos!” I replied; no time to act civil.

“Show me the charge, and tell me who accussed me.”
The baliff looked at me, then winked: “You can go now, you’re free!”

“Is this a trick? You know I’m nobody’s fool!”
The baliff laughed, then left the room — he seemed so very cruel!

The smiling jailer then said, “I’ll show you what you seek.”
Not knowing what else to do, I decided to take a peak.

He led me down another hall, this one brightly lit
And ending in another door — I pushed, but couldn’t open it.

“It’s locked,” the jailer told me, “you’re gonna need a key.”
But when I turned to ask for it, there was no one there to see.

I looked at the door again, but saw no knob or lock.
And then I knew the answer — it didn’t come as a shock.

I closed my eyes, touched my temple, and wished the door away.
And when my eyelids raised again, no barrier before me lay.

The room was dark, but I felt no fear.
I knew that the truth was near.

So I stepped into the black, and in my mind
I heard a door close behind.

Total darkness, then a moment later, light all around.
I was amazed to see what I had found.

Mirrors everywhere. The ceiling, floor, each wall.
And my face staring back at me. That was all.

I came to seek my freedom, but the truth that I did find
Was that my body was in a prison I had made with my own mind.

Eric Blair

orwell-id-card

You warned us back in forty-nine
About the stamping boot.
The blow could come from right or left,
And render freedom moot.

We fought a frigid war for years
Against an iron curtain.
Your corpse became freedom’s hero,
And the freshman’s burden.

But die Mauer came down, and then
Your words seemed old and tired.
Your famous work a distant year,
No more to be admired.

Our victory seemed so complete –
History at its end!
But the coming years unfolded
In ways we didn’t intend.

We spent our aspidistral lives
In shopping, while asleep.
And sold our freedom on eBay
To a vain, huckster creep.

We thought that meanings chose the words
But we were so naive.
Our leaders tell alternate facts
And ask us to believe.

You never felt comfortable
Born in your evil time.
Perhaps we share a bond with you –
Our eras seem to rhyme.

What would you make of Amazon
And your resurgent fame?
And would you like the adjective
That we’ve made of your name?

We need you in an age like this,
Your words so clear and true.
For none should face despots alone  –
Not Smith. Not Jones. Not you.