Brendan Howard, Author

Summer Solstice

restless nights
lead to desperate mornings

the sun woke up on the wrong side
of the sky---
before the songbirds
during the darkness before the dawn

an invisible cloud shields the sunshine
from my swinging mood
and paints the landscape
a deeper shade of depression

scorched grass
dingy dry leaves
cracked earth
trampled dreams in the dust

the Night cannot be shorter than it is tonight
the morning cannot come soon enough

the days are black and nervous
until Night returns
and drags loneliness at its heels

no hand to hold on to
no secrets to share
no face to adore as it slumbers
no smile in the forefront of memory---

but if one concentrates on what one lacks---
fortunes and monuments
immortality and eternity
or even love---
one will never see what they possess.

the day is long
the Night is short
loneliness is not a state of being
but rather a state of mind.




Selective Attention

The moon exploded into a trillion shards of greyish-white
Pitter-pattered on the lush green grass of spring
And the night was less bright from then on.

It went unnoticed.

Trees all over the world started growing from the topmost branches
Downward, boring holes deep to the core of the Earth.

The world kept turning.

Frogs were spontaneously renamed 'dogs'
And the canines rebelled by ribbiting
While the hogs merely shrugged.

Day still turned into night.

A spiderweb, thinner than a dream and more real,
Wrapped itself around a slender throat
And tied a perfect square knot
More masterfully than a Boy Scout on a good day.
No pendant hung from the strand
Just sunlight sparkles.

Someone blinked and missed it.

And so the world spins 'round the sun,
While a baby cries in the night
An ice cube melts on the kitchen floor
And a tree falls in a forest.

Does it make a sound?





The tick-tock clock clicks against my skull
The sun drags itself through the blue on knees and elbows
Night falls like a light switch
Stretches past the borders of the horizon
Into the landscape of the dreamworld
Where fantasy plagiarizes what is real
Dredging rubbish from the riverbed of imagination
Dumping it on the shores of sensation
Mingling what is and what has never been




Random Thoughts of the Heavens

Night falls like a feather on a still day
With obvious finality and unmistakable beauty
The moon smiles as a reminder of the wide blue sky
It glows with a strangely cool luminescence
Tumbling over the ground, touching all with glowing dust
The light does not seem to come from the moon
But from everywhere
Light means heat, doesn't it?
Heat and light go hand in hand
Heart and mind take different perspectives

The moon is the most common of heavenly obsessions
The sunlight too dangerous
The stars too far
The moon just mysterious enough
Yet able to be reached
For we know of the man on the moon
One small step for mankind
We should know of the man in the moon
One small stretch of the imagination
A little childlike sense of truth
To find humanity in the heavens
And in the world around us

The earth shines brighter from the moon
Than the moon from the earth
But between the two
I'll pick the earth
For that is where is where you are




Swinging Moods

Little legs stampede through the sun-baked dust
Racing to the park swings with tireless energy
The kids grab the swing chains with sweaty fists
Pump, pump, pump those skinny legs with fresh scabs
Swinging higher and higher over the park
Only to brush the earth on the down-swing
Maximum altitude lasts only a moment
Before falling to the other extreme
A foot race with gravity to win weightlessness
Is futile, but worth another upward swing
To see if the string might be broken this time.

Little legs strain to reach for the treetops, for the stars
And all too often finish by dragging in the dust.



Fallen With Pride

I walked along the quiet woods
And came upon the fallen trunk of an elm
Black with aged serenity
In the deep shade of afternoon.

Younger trees held the wooden corpse aloft
Dead weight on sturdy shoulders
It floated, like a trapeze artist caught in his safety net
While the young trees snake around the ancient elm
Choosing new directions for growth
Where they would have sprouted straight to the sky.

A jagged scar marred the trunk's end
Snapped by the elements
Victimized by gravity's pull
Vertical strength must have groaned to horizontal
But the deadwood did not crash to the ground
Where the worms would feast
Where the bugs could nibble
Where the earth should take back its own.

No, eternities might pass before the elm is a memory;
Only the rhythmic beating of countless raindrops
Might erode the log, a particle at a time
Breaking free as airborne dust
While scores of new trees poke through the moist soil
Blink in the sunshine
Rushing in patient competition to be strongest, tallest,
Closest to the fireball in the sky
All in a futile quest for immortality.
The tree that grows quickest cannot support its weight
And snaps with the first good blow like a matchstick.

I looked to the ground beneath the floating elm
And could not find the stump from which it grew
Surely its root have returned to dust.
Stranded in midair, it's held aloft
By young trees on a sighing pedestal.

I followed the leaf-covered path out of the woods
Into a clearing of whispering grasses
The sun washed over my body alone
And I enjoyed the solitude
But I followed the path through the meadow
With my feet solid on the ground.



Aftermath of Romance

Midnight, and the mangled smile still lies awake
Listening to heartbeats, straining to understand the unfathomable
With the knowledge that thousand better men have failed in this quest
Yet I search for sense in the ways of the fairer sex.

Fairer? Unfair is more the word
The mind of humanity is split between logic
And oh-so-subjective emotion, with few avenues of connection
So breadwinners and childbearers communicate like deaf-mutes, if at all.

When so much is given
It hurts to leave it for lost
Beat a dead horse until it dies again
While the heart bleeds a river that drowns the soul

Escaping emotions
Is not that, but avoidance
But the pain of rejection is less than repression
Speaking the truth will ultimately lead to peace of mind, peace of heart.

Use or abuse the word if you must
But prepare to pay the consequences
You toy with powers misunderstood
By every man who walks the Earth.




Scattering (for the Class of 1991 at Roncalli High School)

The field had lain fallow this past year
Through rains of spring and summer heat
Thick grasses, whispering secrets across the plain
To the field's edge, where a stream divided properties

On the bank of the creek stood a tree of solid strength
Its branches obscured by leaves
Whose thirsty surface gathers the sun
And spreads the light through the living wood.

The sun lost intensity as time passed
Autumn's first colors arrived
The leaves grew diverse and specific
Melting into bright oranges and dreamy browns
And a rare flash of shocking crimson
In preparation for the scattering.

Weeks passed and the wind marked the season
Migrating blackbirds paused at the stream beside the tree
Chattering, swarming, flitting with choppy wingbeats
Like suits on a crowded sidewalk hurrying to offices
Then the birds took to the air in pattern

And the leaves began to fall
One by one
The wind carried them high into the air
Among the blackbirds
Darting, dancing, free from connection at last.

An arrangement of blackbirds ascended through the cascading leaves
Taking the familiar path of previous years
While the leaves followed the wind
Higher and higher
Each one finding its own horizon.



An Eighteen-Year-Old Contemplates
Moving Out of Mom's House

Unattractive backdrop
Background to my anger
The four shrinking walls
Seem like so many more

Painted into a corner
The same place I was punished as a child
For eating all the corn flakes
Tension gnaws at my sanity
It dives into the red water
And breathes deeply of the warmth

Nothing is
Except my growing frustration
Everything is
Which won't work when the child can reason
As well as the parent

The child stops being a child
But the parent is always a parent.

I need my own four walls.
Show me a cave
I'll show you a castle.




Ignorance of Bliss

A china doll wears an eternal smile, illustration of contented spirit,
Painted eyes on a face frozen in a joyful memory.
A reflected smile need not be present for the doll to stay happy,
For its soul glows with a peculiar warmth,

Ignited by unusual flame that cannot consume that which it touches.
This flame acts as a forge--not to metal, but a substance more precious:
The heart, such a delicate slice of humanity,
Which a doll cannot understand, only observe.

Children forget the magic of a china doll as they grow older
So a friend is put on a high shelf, lonely in the sunbeam,
A memory knocked to the hardwood floor and shattered,
Swept under the carpet where it fades to nothingness.

As the flame cools down, dust settles and time fleets,
The china doll seems to have a tear in her neglected eye.
It remains hardened, unable to dry like a human tear.
Perhaps someday a warmer, fresher flame will glow,
Melting the china teardrop into the fragile heart-stuff
And after the flame the eternal smile will have new meaning.



Attempt to Justify the Death of John Brayman

In my thinking, the yardstick of age
Is marked in large capital letters EXPERIENCE
rather illogical lowercase time.

The enlightened accept this as true
So our sorrow may be misdirected
The loss was not his, but our own.

His years of EXPERIENCE outnumbered Methuselah's
So much that his life overflowed
It dripped like honey into the lives of passers-by.

He made knowledge as golden as Midas made his daughter
But unlike the King, he would not beg for its return
To anything less than precious.

Until we lose all who he touched
And those they touch for a thousand generations
He will never truly be gone.




Time Spent Apart

There were two birds who became accustomed to flying together
Only to find that they must take different paths for a short time

After reaching such heights together
This was no cause for celebration
Though undiscovered wonders surely lay on each one's path

One swooped from the other in a wide arc, hesitantly, and they parted
They flew high and strong with visible individuality
The wingbeats, the scattered chirps, the full-fledged songs
These were not twins in spirit
But two halves of one soul

The birds' keen eyes were somehow different
The rushing wind was all that dried the tears of loneliness
Not loss, for nothing had been lost in this time
Being apart could not affect these two in such a way
Loneliness could be found in each sunset,
Each waterfall, each vision of life
Because it could have been experienced together.
Soon it happened that the two were reunited
As they always knew would come to pass

They danced in the air, swooped joyfully, as if to say
"Even when you were far away,
You were right next to me."

Can a wing, a hand, reach so far?
It need not, when the heart is so strong.




Thoughts of Shoveling

Silently snow flows to the surface
A billion pins dropping on blades
Covering green in a blanket of brilliance
Much like rain yet different in mood
Water dribbles life into a dying flower
While snow cast a veil of death.

From a distance the white seems alike
Little dots that cover the earth to the horizon
Beauty is only visible up close
Intricacy and individuality in design
But the moment a snowflake is captured
It escapes from reality as a droplet of water
And the unique sparkle is lost forever.

Keep knowledge in heart that a greater crystal
Lies beneath the snowdrift in your path




Daybreak on Interstate 90

The fog blankets a restless horizon
A mystery of beauty and obscured vision
It lurks like the last guest to leave a party
And I can do nothing but peer into the mist
Waiting for loss of sparkle and mystery




God and Other Misunderstandings

Nobody can know what He means
But there are countless conceptions
Each working to achieve its own ends
And the Meaning returns to dust

"Do unto others" is more than just those words
"Turn the other cheek" when it's your turn
Don't offer me a solution
Until you've nailed down the question
Perhaps the best answer is 42
Because it can't be misunderstood

I'm sure He wouldn't lie to us
But He could be misinterpreted
We call Him different names
From "Daddy" to the unspeakable
We all read different books
And read them different ways
We follow different Commandments
And worship on different days

But He remains the same

Nobody's perfect and no one is perfectly wrong
Every lump of coal has a shred of diamond
Look for the silver lining and you may find
A core of purest gold

One can't misunderstand
If an understanding is never reached
Faith was never meant to be blind
But vision may be corrected




Wings of a Dove (for Chris Gabriel)

The Lord would raise you up on eagle's wings
Though even a dove could carry you to heaven
And make you to shine like the Son.
Your youth has not been wasted,
Because you shared it with all of us.
It springs from your innocent heart
And fills us to overflowing with your spirit.

We release your memory in tears
Not because you are gone
But because we cannot be with you.




Lightning Without Thunder

How can you make love stay?
Words are not the answer.
Love cannot be explained
Cannot be tamed by mere language
Should not be placed on a pedestal
Where it will only fall to the cold bare floor
And shatter

Love is mystery
Love is blind
Love is not deaf
But love is dumb
Behind the shimmery veil of love
Hides fear
Black and shivering
Cold and dark
And it strikes at love from within
Fear of the worst
Fear of the best
Fear of the unknown
Fear of one who knows too much
Fear that one knows too little

So much fear
Indicates too little faith

A beginning can be an ending
And so comes fear of The End
Beyond which lies only blank pages
Thirsting for words
Dark groups of symbols
Grimy language
On white sheets
Spelling out stories of love and love lost
Of life and life's struggle
Of never and forever

The world would keep turning
If the tales remained unwritten
And pages stayed as pure as snow
But the only thing sadder than a story never written
Is a story never told

Love can only bring freedom
Fear condemns the soul to solitary confinement
Risks lead to victory
While surrender liberates the mind

Red, like fire
Blazing a path through the deadwood
Scarring the trees with ash
Leaving an opportunity for new growth
Your spirit is as red as sunset
The End of the heat of day
The onset of rest and peace
Your fire invades me
It glows inside my heart
And burns
Fire is eternal
Even after the rain
Your red spirit flickers within me

Green, like life itself
From the inside out
Cut me in two and count the rings
Too old to be naive
Too young to be bitter
Red-hot emotions have scorched my soul
But healed
Like a scar from a lightning strike
On the bark of a mighty oak
It does not perish
Even when the green of spring turns brown
Nature plays possum through the seasons
And seasons must change

Time is not our master
It is our slave
Time waits for no one
But we can spend it as we see fit
Once time has passed, it is history
Existing only in our memories
Time can be killed
Or it can be gilded
The past can be framed and admired
And the past can be mimicked
But it cannot be recreated

Time is a lie
The past is no more
The future will never be
That leaves the present
Which is a gift
Time is to be given
To be shared
More precious than any trinket
More real than any language
More personal than any familiarity
Give me a minute
And I'll return infinity

Again, how can you make love stay?
Our weapons are life, love, words and time
Our enemy is fear and misunderstanding
Our only defense is hope and faith
And the prize is eternity in memory
Truly, making love stay is like running uphill
Running on ice
Fleeing from the unavoidable face of fear

How can you make love stay?
You cannot trick love
For it knows the tricks already
It hides behind a kiss
Within a cuddle
Between two warm hands
And mingled among words and smiles

Love will only stay if it is protected from fear

Yet love without fear is like lightning without thunder
Rain slaps the streets in soggy sheets
The sky cracks wide open
With a zig-zag neon yellow
Night gives way to day
For just a moment
And that is enough

But the gunshot door-crash rumbles through the darkness
Making a shower a storm

From a distant vantage point
The storm is but a lightshow
Lightning without thunder
Divisible, like love and fear
With distance and reflection
A spark of honesty
A rage of intimacy

Watch for the flash of light
Count the seconds

Never say never
Learn to say forever


© 1997- Brendan Howard
All rights reserved.