Category Archives: Poetry

Judah’s Shoes

From July 12-31, 2017, I helped lead a troop of 34 boy scouts to the 2017 National Boy Scout Jamboree, featuring ten days of camping and high adventure activities at the BSA Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.  As part of the jamboree experience, we took the boys to New York City, Philadelphia, Gettysburg, and Washington, D.C. for eight days before the camp.  On the itinerary was a visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.  I had read so many books about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, and seen so many films, that I dreaded going, or rather, dreaded the grief and pain I knew I would feel upon experiencing the museum.  Still, the boys needed to know and appreciate this awful period of history.  Our youth are those who will see that such things never happen again.  I held myself together as I studied the various exhibits.  But then I came to the room of shoes.  Real.  Tangible.  Worn by the departed dead murdered in the death camps, in the gas chambers.  So many.  Outside the museum, my son and nephew put their arms around me as I collapsed into convulsing sobs.  We must never forget.  This must never happen again.  We must never forget.

JUDAH’S SHOES

This room is
filled
with shoes,
worn brown leather
crumpled and twisted and squashed:

shoes of the stripped and the shamed

they lie upon
one another,
laces yanked,
the pile deep,
crooked and disjointed and mangled:

shoes of children and working men and working women
shoes of rabbis and butchers and violin players

toes point all directions,
searching,
forlorn,
never finding,
their mates lost:

shoes of the gassed and the dead
shoes of the forgotten
shoes of the remembered

 

Roger Evans Baker is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The non-fiction book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  Rose Gluck Reviews recently reviewed Rabbit Lane in Words and Pictures.

Psalm

This poem expresses my hope in humanity and in the universal Forces that lift and edify us as we experience life, making us better and better souls.  I believe in a Power that heals, that instructs, and that loves.  I believe that human beings, by exercising the power of choice and by learning principles of goodness, can become noble and powerful and good.  This poem, entitled “Psalm,” is both a prayer and a song, a reaching upward of the human mind to touch the Divine and invoke its powers on our behalf.  Whatever your religious, spiritual, or philosophical inclinations, I hope you will enjoy this poem and the hope to which it aspires.

PSALM

Let thy stiff knees bend
at the hem of that gracious garment,
and touch.
Let thy weary head bow
beneath the benevolent hands
that lift
your face to his.
Let thine eyes permit
his omniscient eyes
to seek out the heights and depths
of your willing and wounded heart,
to close your cracks,
knit together your tears and broken bones,
anoint your bruises with balm.
Let the Mystery fill you,
lift you
above demons and fiends,
over faithless perpetrators,
who possess the power of worms
twisting under the sun.
Sway with the breeze, with the trees.
Soar with the clouds and the high-flying birds.
Dive with the falcons and the raindrops.
Crash and roar with the ocean waves.
Float with the green damselfly, a dandelion seed.
Breathe the winds and swallow the sun.
Arise a new creation, whole,
complete: You:
the glory of God,
His child,
His masterpiece.

See My Wings

On my recent cycling and hiking forays into the local canyons, I have been graced with the presence of hundreds of gorgeous, enormous Tiger Swallowtail butterflies.  Such amazing creatures!  Utterly vulnerable, yet mighty and magnificent in their beauty and flight.  I reached into the memory of my butterfly collecting days (God forgive me) and my first experience of seeing a butterfly wing under a microscope.  That these stunning creatures can fly on flimsy wings astonishes me.  They embody such a rare combination: beauty and strength and humility.  With no worry for their future, with no thought of the impossibility of them against the world, they fly and fly, in spite of the skeptic.  This poem grasps at the metaphor of a butterfly’s flight to contemplate the concepts of beauty, introspection, the flight of the human soul, and the finding of hope, faith, and trust in this life.  I hope you enjoy it.

SEE MY WINGS

Look closely
at my wings,
carefully,
do not touch,
scrutinize
up close
with the microscope of your brain
and see,
see scale upon scale
in row upon row,
the most exquisite tapestry
known:
orange and blue
spots and whorls
blending
into one another;
yellow and black
fields and stripes,
veined,
coursing
under Sun’s heat
and tiny flutterings
that flash beauty unabashed and unaware,
that lift on wing
into apparent invisibility
of air and sky,
of breath and life,
of trust
implausible and true.

Roger Evans Baker is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The non-fiction book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  Rose Gluck Reviews recently reviewed Rabbit Lane in Words and Pictures.

Look Around

Finding myself suddenly with completely new surroundings after 20 years, I wrote this poem to describe my momentary impressions of the neighborhood, its houses and people, the scenic backdrop, and of my own emotional reaction to it all. Moving one’s life from here to there can be an overwhelming experience for even the strongest.  There is no substitute for time when acclimating to a new atmosphere. And wherever we go we can find beauty and positivity. But it took me awhile.

LOOK AROUND

Look over the world.
Look to the west where
the sun has fallen behind
the mountains.
Look to the north where
the lake blends
with the sky,
blue on blue.
Look around:
that shirtless man
in the field throwing
a ball to his happy mutt—
this sulking kid carrying
sacs of garbage to the dumpster—
kingbirds surveying
from gable tops, darting
off to snatch flying bugs—
a small pony-tailed girl inching
her bicycle along, training
wheels rattling, a pink helmet
strapped on—
garage doors opened and closed down
the street, an assortment
of deteriorating cars, and a crammed collection
of the detritus of living—
the stop sign standing red, standing.
All is in order:
look around:
everything as it always
is, as it should be,
I suppose.
Now shuffle
back inside,
look around,
turn off the light
again.

A Day to Rejoice!

I sat in my home recently, contemplating my blessings.  I could see quickly that they abound.  I felt to rejoice on that day and wrote this poem.  I thought it fitting to post the poem on Fathers Day.  I hope that you all find reasons to rejoice today and everyday.

A DAY TO REJOICE!

Today
is a day
to rejoice:
A Rejoicing Day!

Do you see
there
on that wall
those photographs
of young people who
consider
you their friend, who
trust
you with their hearts, who
love
you despite your imperfections, who
call after
you, papa, dada, pops,
smiling from their place
on that wall, who
forgive
you
today:
A Rejoicing Day!

What do you think of these
bratwurst,
tell me:
stadium brats,
beer brats,
smoked brats,
sweet Italians—grilled
on that Father’s Day grill
under flames leaping after dripping juice—
which do you like
best?
You like them all?
A Celebration Day!

No booby-trapped doors.
No roadside IEDs just waiting to rip off your limbs.
No bullets through your windows on a Sunday afternoon.
You can walk
to your church,
you can pray and sing
and lift your hallelujah hands to the heavens
and not get beheaded for it;
you can hold your grandbaby,
almost smiling,
and have
a reasonable hope
in her
prosperity and peace—
a reasonable hope.
Yes,
I declare it:
A Rejoicing Day!
A Rejoicing Day!!

Then
there
is
you:
your wrap-around hugs, tight,
your battalions of butterfly kisses, soft,
your letting go and letting God,
your dogged determination
to forgive
me.
I am permitted to dream,
am I not?
A Jubilation Day!

The sun shines.
The rain falls.
The garden grows its fruits.
The church steeple rises
toward the sun in heaven,
rises,
with your heart, in
a reasonable hope
that the world,
for all its cracks and chasms,
is a home worth living in
on this
Rejoicing Day!

 

(Note: parts of this poem are autobiographical; other parts are aspirational.)

Red Rock Trail

Living in Utah, I have come to love what we call “red rock country.”  Bizarre twisted shapes dominate canyon landscapes, in every hue of red and orange, remnants of ancient tectonic upheavals and eons of erosion.  On the trails winding through these hills I have found inspiration and wonderment, pondering the forces of creation and nature.  I have held my young children’s hands as we scrambled over boulders and up screes.  We have marveled at the prickly-pear’s crimson bloom and the aromatic sagebrush.  We have laughed at the lizards and cottontails scurrying for cover beneath black brush and Mormon tea.  All, the stuff of awe and sweet memory.  In this poem I look back at an early red-rock-country explorer on horseback.  Enjoy the trail.

RED ROCK TRAIL

shod hoofs
stumble on stones,
leave glintings
behind, sparks,
scramble to rise
to the high red butte;
desert varnish trickles
below, springs
sprout cottonwoods,
beaver chewed,
beaver felled,
feeding, damming
all but flashing
floods from distant rains
beyond, where
snows melt
under desert sun
on the high red butte

Snow Canyon, Utah

Arco-Iris

On a recent evening, the image of a piece of thick chalk popped into my mind, perhaps from an old photo of my daughter’s driveway chalk drawings, perhaps from an web ad for a sidewalk chalk contest.  I decided to see what I could make of it.  The Portuguese word “arco-iris” is one of my favorites, meaning “rainbow.”  For this poem, I imagined my daughter making long, curving sweeps with her pastel chalks, to make a rainbow.  I hope you enjoy it.

ARCO-ÍRIS

make me an arco-íris
a pretty one
take this piece of chalk
here: scrape a long arc
on rough-brushed concrete
a yellow arc
a nice, thick arc
the chalk on its side
take this piece of chalk
here: grind out the green
the blue, nice long injured
arcs
now here the pink, and red
put the purple above
or beneath, either way
just make me an arc
an arc
before
rain


Roger Evans Baker is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The non-fiction book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  Rose Gluck Reviews recently reviewed Rabbit Lane in Words and Pictures.