Sackcloth and Ashes

November 30, 2007 at 5:00 am (Poetry, RefleXions) (, , , , , , , )


Bravely he dared to take his child to see what ignorance looked like in the flesh. Was there flesh or unearthly demons hidden beneath bright white hoods? Anonymous men pranced in the flickering glare of a bonfire in the moonless night. The wicked cross, never again a holy thing, was aglow with the Baptist minister’s promised brimstone. The surrounding woods  ghostly lit, the rounded hard steel cars reflecting fire, parked everywhere in straight lines like a simple drive-in. They were putting on a show, like a movie after all, weren’t they? With wide eyes and nose pressed against the window, my breath came fast and hard, to form innocent condensation that I wiped with lily white hand.

It terrifies me now, to think how close I stood to the oozing maggot-eaten decay that a clean white word like ‘prejudice’ fails to convey. This one-dimensional word sits on dictionary’s page and doesn’t kick ribs and thrust bitter blades into human flesh, then stand there smiling, self-satisfied.

Virile Nubian youth, simple gift to man and wife, a near-man of sixteen, had chastely kissed his date goodnight, they say. It was by chance alone that he was who chose to walk the railroad tracks whistling a happy tune, they say, at ten p.m. as the others hid, these white pillars, with hard-ons of anticipation, before they circled like hounds of hell determined to make a point. It was a warning, they say. Later no one squealed on anyone.

“There’ll be crosses burned in yards.” Even spoken softly his low voice rumbled. “Let’s hope there won’t be one in ours,” he whispered and Mama didn’t move or speak. There were times he’d been able to help, been more closely involved, and no one guessed, she knew. His sapphire blue eyes barely hid horror laced with shame, and with wide eyes I pressed my nose to the window to watch for the burning crosses he said would be there that I still see in every campfire’s glow.

© 2007 C. Harter Amos

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Dazzle with Glitter

November 26, 2007 at 11:11 pm (Poetry) (, , , , )


I wish I could dazzle you with glitter.

I stand here feeling glazed and a bit jaded.

It’s a shame it can’t be faked…

To produce a good piece when the time comes,

Every time.

Point a finger and tell me to dance;

I can’t stay on strings though I’ve tried that.

When I change into my red dress

And feel sultry in the dim light,

Just for this one night,

I can’t help but remember even honeysuckle wilts on the vine.

Like a child, right now, I just want to go home for the holidays,

Back through the fog of time to warm Southern charm,

Everyone visiting everyone with dish in hand,

Warm breezes blowing through open French doors

    while we drink spiced tea swirling with the smells of the holidays:

        cinnamon and spice and everything nice

To go with the soft drawl of good conversation

       with people I’ve known all my life.

I want to remember Christmases wrapped in

      warmth and everything familiar:

A handmade wreath on the door,

Cut glass bowls on the dining room table

       filled with camellia blooms.

“Come help cut flowers,”

Scissors in gloved hands,

Bundles of red, pink and white fresh from the yard.

I was too young to know then,

That family and friends ease into the distant past.

Even the memories are stale,

Taking on the hue of sepia-toned antiques,

Mounted in gold leaf frames

Collecting dust.

So it’s time for me to get a Brass Monkey from the bar

And find a table so I can listen to youth and vigor

Spilling over with uninhibited enthusiasm.

Someone whose time is now,

And whose pictures are not yet faded.

© 2007 C. Harter Amos

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Sunday Night at the Orchid Room (Nov. 18, 2007)

November 22, 2007 at 10:12 am (Poetry) (, , , )



Ah, the Orchid Room…

I come here to listen


 to youth and vigor spilling out

      from inner voices that speak of vinegar and honey,

      of sulfuric acid and mercury.

Sweet Voodoo Child tests the waters 

      giving glimpses of the power of her words

  yet to come.

She is what gives us hope for the future,  

as delicate as the dew-shimmering webbing

     of a dragonfly’s wings,

as strong as the chainmail of the black knight,

a soul with a Kevlar vest made to fit,

  The inner visual acuity of a Lennon not dead,

          a Leary not burned out on LSD.


I salivate at the mere thought of new words,

    of wisdom so ancient

 it free falls from his soul

…Older Than Aztecs…

Look into his eyes, it’s there to see.

Listen to his voice, it’s easy to hear,

A prophet, he’d scoff at what I say,

 but it’s as real as this dream we live.

Only a man who’s seen beyond time

Could play the music so well

And wear that gray fedora with such grace and style.


I come here to listen to

Sweet Child of Mine,

who brings out the mother in me

        and my she-claws spring to defend.

    But she’s quite grown up, speaking of love,

her voice grown strong

   the way Women’s voices do

       when they leave prince charming’s behind

sitting in a mud puddle of pig shit, his mouth hanging open

as she saunters away.


Make no mistake,

None of these people need my

clipped and broken talons in their lives.

They don’t often know it’s me there at the corner table.

I simply listen to the timbre of their souls

carried on the blue smoke of the Orchid Room

and love them for the fact

they don’t simply live, they feel in ways I recognize,

in ways I respect,

     they stand at this mike to sing their songs for us all.


Ah, the Orchid Room…

I order my drink here:

A Brass Monkey

  That’s ½ oz rum, ½ oz vodka, 4 oz orange juice in a high ball,

But the bartender knows me here, knows my drink.

He fixes it a bit stronger and longer and forgoes the optional Galliano

on nights when I come in

nodding my head in his direction.


Pardon my bare feet;

This is the place I kick off my shoes

And let my hair fall down.

I sing my song at the mike

   for the others who come here to listen.

Pardon my low cut crimson dress;

This is the place I show myself for who I am, it’s true.

There are no lies here for me.

    It’s far too easy for the others

           to feel insincerity in my words if they aren’t stripped bare.



© 2007 C. Harter Amos

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Winter: A Southern Perspective

November 17, 2007 at 1:05 pm (RefleXions) (, , , )



People from Omaha say this is an extremely mild winter so far.  Even so, it freezes almost every night, which would be a major cold front in SC or Texas, but a fact they take for granted here.  I have no frame of reference.  It feels like the dead of winter to little ol’ me.  I keep hearing people complaining that it hasn’t even snowed yet. Some decades, I’ve failed to see snow.  I gather Omaha is suppose to be knee deep in gray by Thanksgiving.  My daughter says that’s what she doesn’t like about Nebraska; the constant gray from first snow to Spring.  I’m not really sure how I’ll like it, but know one of the first things I’ll do is freeze myself building the biggest snowman I can.  I’ve only twice had enough snow in my life to have a snowman.  This should be a good year for snowmen.  I have three grandsons to have a snowball fight with…AND Christmas should be white.  I’ve never had a Christmas when we didn’t have the windows open and a warm breeze blowing the tinsel on the Christmas tree. Never a white Christmas though one year it snowed north of us. My two girls were young and my husband and I drove two hundred miles so they could see snow.  It was about two inches, but we thought it was a miracle on Christmas.  Maybe I’ll change perspectives, but I’m singing Christmas carols already!

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Student of the Past

November 13, 2007 at 4:57 pm (Poetry) (, , )


Near water’s edge,
the delicate sound of thousands of shells

dancing on turning tide
make the sound

of most delicate wind chimes

ringing like tiny bells, fairies at play.
routinely cast on shore,

on shore to be collected

as treasure.

      She didn’t doubt she knew more about him than the woman he married. They had been old and secret friends for far too long. His wife would never think to ask him about the collection of small seashells in an intricately decorated wooden box nestled in the bottom of his armoire. There were several tiny conk shells in his collection that took a magnifying glass to see if you expected to see more detail than a simple dot. Probably his wife would never know the shells existed. She would never hear the excited explanation of the type and size of a shark when he found a shark’s tooth there on the white beach sand. It was his favorite place; his skin well tanned by summer’s end. Would his young wife ever bother to ask what was in the leather bound book that held the drawings and descriptions of new things that he stumbled onto in his travels? She could still picture the pages covered in drawings and in his left slanted script in blue ink on parchment. No doubt the young girl only saw dollar signs and he was blindly in love.
      He was handsome, rich, and well endowed and these attributes were all a woman like that would care about. He’d put a three karat diamond on the girl’s hand, not because of its worth, but because she was so much like the living ghost of the sweetheart from his youth. He couldn’t help but lust and give. He’d had too much money for too long to remember how much power it held over most people. Other people cared about what seemed too superficial to matter to him: people like his young wife and things based around looks and money. It would be only a matter of time before those rose colored glasses would fall from his face, and his heart would be broken again.
        She sat beside the water and listened to what he said she would hear; the delicate sound of seashells in the turning tide. It was the sound of thousands of small fairy’s bells striking each other as they played. The salt of the sea spray blended with the tears she cried for him.

© 2007 C. Harter Amos


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Feng Sui of the Written Word

November 10, 2007 at 9:39 pm (Poetry) (, )


Well past midnight I close my eyes,
     and old terrors come to call,
An angel whispers in my ear
     as it flies past on ancient wings,
A melody echoes in my heart,
     or drops of dew fall from my hair
          splashing me with inspiration:
          a single word, a turn of phrase,
          some piece of spirit that calls out to be heard.

The words fit nicely
     into notches in my imagination
          where meaning lays itself bare.
I search with a musician’s ear
     for the one and only word
          that fits there,
The feng shui of the written word.

Years ago
poems spilled out
full of hormones and angst,
suffering and loss,
but now they move slowly,
they kick back and yawn their way out.
They laze in the back of my mind,
in an imaginary hammock
among tall pines in blue shaded mountains
and enjoy themselves,
each poem like contented, well kissed lips
     like warm chocolate covered cherries
          just waiting to be savored.

© 2007 C. Harter Amos

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