A Smile and a Drawl

February 7, 2008 at 8:21 am (Poetry, RefleXions) (, , , , , )

Rainbow Row

 Charleston, South Carolina has a heartbeat all its own,
     Steady and slow,
The sound is St. Michael’s bell that has rung like clockwork
     For three-hundred years,
     Like an uncracked Liberty Bell
          Through two wars, slavery and civil rights,
And always it sings, “sweet freedom” as it tolls the hour
Over cobblestone streets and tourists taking carriage rides.

Couples still do their promenade on the Battery,
First down from their homes and back
     on Sundays after mandatory church,
With sea spray splashing on white fancy frocks
     and white planters’ suits,
The sound of Palmetto branches rattling
     In the sultry breeze,
          barely audible between the roaring roll of waves.

Rainbow Row, its softly rainbow colored houses
     Turned sideways to the road
     Each facing a garden with intricately designed wrought iron gates,
     And walls of tabby, oyster shells
          peeking out from accidental artistically placed patches.

It’s a matter of pride that only a few blocks away
Porgy met Bess and sang “Summertime” from a porch
     less well kept but sideways to the main road.
          It’s Charleston, after all.
And there’s always ambiance, a smile and a drawl.

© 2008 C. Harter Amos

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Sweet Charlie, Long Gone

January 21, 2008 at 1:40 am (Poetry) (, , , , )


The sea…

The foam kissed my bare feet as I ran…

In my memory, I play always at the edge

And laugh as I hold my sundress down in the wind

And laugh as I hold wet cloth away from bare skin…

    Once as the sound of a melancholy violin

        drifted from a bungalow at dusk

 it nailed me in place;


So sad, it seemed to bleed onto the sunset colored sand,

riding atop the steady tumble of waves.

and yes, the music was in the foam that licked my toes

and yes, I thought the man morose

to play such a sad song

             when the world of the ocean was at his feet as well as mine…

I found out later he was as handsome close

As he was mesmerizing from afar

                                        and quite charming.

I had a weakness for black hair and dark eyes even then.

I thought I would never find anyone else so worldly

Never anyone so refined…

as he gracefully played his aged violin,

As he carefully played me.

I played the innocent,

played the piano,

played him.

I remember thinking we played well together; our music, our games…

He said we came together well, smiling as he said it.

So shameless and debonair,

                       sweet Charlie, long gone.


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After All These Years

January 16, 2008 at 7:00 am (Poetry, RefleXions) (, )



I don’t know why after all these years,

I’m still surprised

When the purity of your voice,

The purity of your talent,

Wraps me in a womb

Of calm, warm alpha waves

That fills the holes in my heart


To mould a song from thin air

That you coax to grow,


Like giving birth to a thing of perfection,

Its notes a double-helix of DNA notes

With not a single protein out of place,

Not a rest or a sixty-fourth note wrong

Or misshapen.

It’s a miracle indeed.

The sound takes me to

So many places

In the center of a universal soul

All placid and full of downy soft dreams.

With never a sharp corner or ragged edge

To tear my peace asunder.

I don’t know why after all these years,

I’m still surprised

When the sparkle in your eyes

Tells me you’re happy

Long before the words are said.

Somehow, the world would hold

Hands beneath you if it could.

It’s karma, I think…

For all the wounds you’ve healed

For the hearts you’ve held in your hands

And failed to crush when you could have.

So many want nothing more from you

Than to know that you’re happy.

It’s a miracle indeed.

© 2007 C. Harter Amos

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Sentimental Heart

December 28, 2007 at 9:08 am (Poetry) (, , , )



Her heart is locked away,

Untouched by passion’s thorn,

Never again to walk on winged feet.

Hollow anxious breezes sway


Once upon a time,

She danced,

On a beautiful autumn day,

In the arms of Prince Charming

His chosen Fairy Princess;

Their future love a mere kiss away.


Tugs at her spirit

No more often than every day.

Her mind is scorched by memories

Of love, like Handel’s Messiah,

Written by God,

Translated by angels,

So mankind might comprehend

Such perfectly balanced obsession.

A lifetime gone awry,

Would she take love back?

Play the fool,

One more time to try?

Where her happiness lived

Behind brown eyes

In his perception of their lives,

Her heart is locked away


Safe and sound,

Never again to cry out in pleasure

Or in pain.

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When the Journey Began

December 8, 2007 at 12:59 am (Poetry) (, , , , )



The rut is so comfortable

I forget that I’m in one…

Until the mud and clay

suck at my feet

and pull me down.

I gasp for breath and wonder why

as the walls of the rut

  tumble down around me.


Claws spring from the delicate hands of daughters.

Even if I can’t forget the sweet children are now grown,

     my heart is open to them like a mother’s arms stay

out of habit, and history, and old bonds they broke, not I.

Memories of their innocent doe-like eyes

     keep me off balance,

keening with the effort of owning empty arms

  with the need to rock and sing lullabies

    to soothe aches that no longer need my care.

I’ve helped to make them strong

     Encouraged them to let me go.

         So why am I surprised they do?

Oh mother dear, see here, see here

  We really don’t need you near.

Empty nest syndrome is simply so passé.   

I realize I’m in the rut again,

   But I can’t seem to stop the blood

That pours from my soul

   From the wounds I don’t dare speak of.

(They don’t show do they? 

Like the hem of a red lace slip from under your Sunday best…)


Mustn’t whine, mustn’t cry

Stick a needle in my eye

Mustn’t make them ask me why

Mother: a temporary state of being that had all the earmarks of permanence

When the journey began. 


© 2007 C. Harter Amos

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Parchment and Pen

December 5, 2007 at 2:32 pm (Poetry) (, , , , )



Taking comfort in the parchment of my life,

I push limits toward better things.

What power beyond our lives

decides if our smiles outnumber our tears?

It’s not for you or me to know.  Our guesses are only guesses,

but we write,

learning from mistakes,

taking knowledge through the next door

with us as we go.

Take life’s credit card from me, please.

Don’t let me see the total I’ve spent

in minutes 

sighing against my lover’s ear,

staring at the sea to dream

or philosophize…

to love who I’ve loved and to remember that love…

Then to write of it…

 “What a futile foolTo write of such things…to think…to dream…            Peck-peck-pecking out words, making chicken scratches on empty pages like so many others.” 

Fool I may be

That I’ve failed to learn the game, I suppose…

Did I not make a difference to anyone, you think?

Not skeptic, not stoic, not epicurean?

Does everything have to be bathed in obscurity

to be thought clever enough to earn your gold star?

My eyes must be blind

and my art a cage that must surely be a small one:

I learned its maze one inch at a time

by the feel of its edges that were once clean, and smooth,

and as sharp as any razor’s edge.

Suddenly, unexpectedly,

The edges mocked me with flaked and uneven boundaries,

the new instructions you gave me were in a language I never learned.

I promise, I felt each ridge before I threw your list of foregone conclusions away.

I won’t bloody my fingers redefining myself or my writing

because in the end, writing is not an equation.

There is no cage.

There are no boundaries beyond the imagination and the page.

And we write…

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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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