Leaves Love


Something new, inspired by and dedicated to a very good friend. However, it will no doubt speak to anyone who has been there.p1015-19b

Leaves Love

Some day’s a wake; we reminisce.
So much at stake; to love like this.

Our sadness climbs; relentlessly.
From joyful times; oh, family tree.

A photograph; of rings gone by.
A tortured laugh; as we ask why.

The dinner’s set; an empty chair.
Our tears though wet; cannot repair.

This fucking life; it seems so wrong.
Where dirge is rite; and love the song.

If one could take such pain away.
Though hearts will break, we choose to stay.

In pain right now; intensely felt.
To honor bow; we tensely knelt.

Today our grief must own the day.
As fallen leaf returns to clay.

The one who leaves, knows only joy.
To love we cleave; learned as a boy.

Yea, one who’s gone knows perfect peace.
Who’s heart beats on; let love increase.
Whose heart beats on, let love increase.

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Eulogy or Effigy, that is the Question


His sanitized obituary might read as follows:

Alan Booth, 77, died September 17, 2010, at Oneida Extended Care Facility of congestive heart failure.

Mr. Booth was born May 5, 1933, in Brooklyn, NY, to Harold and Hilda (Squires) Booth. He graduated from Oneonta High School, served in the Unites States Navy during the Korean War, and then attended and graduated college at Syracuse. He moved to Annapolis, Maryland to work for Arinc. He retired in 1993 at age 60, moving back to his upstate NY home in Erieville, NY.

Mr. Booth was a member of and trained lay-speaker for the Methodist church. He enjoyed hunting, camping, hiking and reading.  He loved poetry, especially the chiefly Scottish dialect of Robert Burns. He was an avid member of the Robert Burns Society of Annapolis and recited many of Burns poems from memory at their annual meetings. He was a member of the Fenner Conservation Club and the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)  Club in Cazenovia, New York. He is survived by 3 children and 10 grandchildren.

Cue the dragging-of-the-stylus-across-the-vinyl-record sound. The scathing obit might read as follows:

Alan Booth, 77, died September 17, 2010, at Oneida Extended Care Facility of congestive heart failure brought on by years of indulgent excess and gluttony. He loved his cholesterol-rich diet with a slathering of sugar and hard liquor. Well aware of his weight problems, Mr. Booth bought all the weight-loss programs advertised on TV over the past 50 years, including but not limited to: DVDs, Nutrisystem, ellipticals, cassette tapes, 8-track tapes, and a vinyl 78 rpm 3-record set claiming a Guaranteed Reduce Plan. All of these items may be found unused and, in many cases, unopened, in his home in Erieville.

Mr. Booth’s first 2 wives left him because he abused them. Information on his 3rd wife is sparse, although, she did abandon him as well. Mr. Booth had 3 children from his first marriage and deserted them when the divorce was final. During this time, he turned his brilliant mind to the realm of divorce and custody law, successfully minimizing the financial burden of being a father. Mr. Booth’s career never miss a beat through all this turmoil. He served in intelligence in the US Navy aboard the USS Witek during the Korean War. He went on to college, earning a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering.

Mr. Booth loved dead poets more than his living children. And his poet of choice was Robert Burns, the 18th century Scottish Bard. Booth spent much of his time and money learning, reading, and memorizing Burns’ poetry and life.  On any given month, he would send the court ordered fifty dollars of child support and zero dollars in alimony while spending hundreds of dollars and multiple weekends on collecting antique poetry books and traveling to the latest Burns society gathering on various continents.

Mr. Booth would be remembered best as one who served his country; loved reading; valued education and learning; appreciated good poetry; enjoyed hunting, fishing, and camping;  and ate, drank, and made merry on every occasion possible. He will not be remembered as a devoted husband or loving father. As such, there are some in this world who will remember him as an abusive husband, who traumatized and abandoned his children.

Cue the dragging-of-the-stylus-across-the-vinyl-record sound.

Not because this is untrue but, rather, because it is unfinished. As with most things in this world, the truth of who we are lies somewhere beyond the sanitized and the scathing.

Yes, it is true, the two most organized areas of my father’s home were his library, where he attempted to quell his insatiable appetite for knowledge, and his liquor cabinet, where he attempted to quell the screams of his daemons.

Between these two rooms he would stop to rest in his living room. There he would take part in daily devotionals with a televised bible study leader. When both knowledge and alcohol failed to bring peace, Al, like many before him, turned to God. He did not arrive at the Christian God lightly, as his library boasted books from many, if not all, religions, including witchcraft and occult. Al arrived at the cross. Jesus met Al bearing much needed grace.

Al suffered sexual abuse as a child at the hands of his mother. Although he never called it sexual abuse. In this way, Al became stuck in grade school. Stuck is a word therapists and psychologists use to describe a psychological and emotional response to trauma (a.k.a, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Moving past such trauma is like voluntarily walking across a bed of hot coals. Children are especially susceptible to becoming comfortable with being stuck in a state of disorder for long periods of time. In Al’s case, that period lasted for the remainder of his life.

Becoming a functional, emotionally-balanced adult meant walking across that bed of coals. Becoming a loving husband and parent meant acknowledging and experiencing searing pain. Trusting anyone again, especially women, meant the impossible. Freedom lies on the other side of the bed of coals. Of course, the bed of hot coals works both ways, that is, anyone attempting to get too close to Al will inevitably experience the same pain.

It is on the dark side of this bed of hot coals, where I found Al — a cowering, weak, trapped, and traumatized boy who was too ashamed, too afraid, and too emotionally immature to show himself but for an few fleeting glimpses in his living room.

For example, there was the time, when we were talking about Christian theology in his living room, and he abruptly got up went into his library to retrieve one of the 14 different bible translations from his shelf. Opening it, he began reading aloud:

There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

(Al’s emphasis, not mine.)  After flipping some pages, he continued.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

As he read, tears filled his eyes. Jesus brought Al grace.

Then there was the time I wrote a poem for him for Father’s Day in 2005. As he silently read, what is probably his first home-made Father’s day card in over 40 years (and quite possibly the only one ever), he began trembling. Then crying. Then sobbing. He hugged me and then opened the card again and read the repeating verse aloud while sobbing: I was walkin’ in the dark in broad daylight.

Then there were the two times he insisted on me watching a taped episode of JAG with him. The episode, Second Sight, explores forgiveness. In Second Sight, Sarah MacKenzie’s father is dying and she must deal with the forgiveness of her abusive, alcoholic father. This worn VHS tape had obviously been played numerous times in Al’s living room. Here is a poignant clip from that episode.

But for these fleeting glances of the scared, insecure, little boy, Al’s life remained safely hidden in the dark while walkin’ in broad daylight. However, he was not cowering alone. It appears Jesus did the same thing for Al that he does for us all. He left his throne, walked across the hot coals, away from freedom and into darkness, to meet Al where he hid from the rest of the world.

Did my father, Al Booth, deserve such kingly treatment? Absolutely not. But then, this story is not about Al Booth. This story is about his rescuer, Jesus, who, in the early morning hours of Friday, September 17th, 2010, picked up a cowering, lonely child and carried him out of his dark world, across the hot coals, and into freedom.

The Battle


When I am distressed about something I write. Usually poetry. I don’t know why. Some people eat chocolate, some people bite their nails, I write poetry.

Many times in recent months I feel pitted in a battle with my inner demons: shame, fear, loneliness, and depression. In January of this year I wrote about this aggregate pain as a persona I very much would love to shed or, as my poem puts it,  slay. Re-reading this poem now, after being on antidepressants for six weeks, I wonder if I was not writing about the people who introduced me to my demons.

——————–

i want to slay this friend of mine
i know him well you know the kind
he visits pain on me each day
reminding me how I will stay
my heart suffers his company
a battered life on bended knee
invite him in to cave once more
familiar friend whom I abhor
he paints my walls a well groomed man
no one suspects nor understands
his brush a whip of secret sin
his strokes lay bare my wound within
at night alone i weep to sleep
he leaves me then a fleeting peace
for wake i will to him again
this place i am has but one friend

——————–

A Silent Rock


My love for the music [poetry] of Simon & Garfunkel began with their album The Sounds of Silence. Back in the 60s and 70s, we had 45s and record players. I could stack up to about 10 45s on the player and it would automatically play each one from bottom to top… my mechanical playlist. To put a song on repeat, I would prop the arm up, tricking the record player into thinking many 45s were there to drop. I had these particular songs on repeat while [hiding] in my room. I am only now beginning to appreciate why as I break the silence and disturb the slumber of feelings that had died. Of course, grown-ups know feelings don’t die, we just bury them for a while.

I am a Rock

A winters day
in a deep and dark December;
I am alone,
gazing from my window to the streets below
on a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock, I am an island.

I’ve built walls,
a fortress steep and mighty,
that none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
Its laughter and its loving I disdain.
I am a rock, I am an island.

Don’t talk of love,
well I’ve heard the words before…
its sleeping in my memory.
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock, I am an island.

I have my books
and my poetry to protect me.
I am shielded in my armor,
hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock, I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.

The Sound of Silence

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
because a vision softly creeping
left its seeds while I was sleeping
and the vision that was planted in my brain
still remains
within the sound of silence…

cast•a•way


I wrote cast•a•way in December 2006 and, after some tweaks, posted it on March 10th, 2007.

I am reposting it because I now realize I wrote this 22 months ago to have it ready for this day.
Shoreline

Castaway attempts to answer the question, “What does the cycle of evil look like?” A follow-up question might be, “And why does Ric seem know so much about it?”

In our typical fix-it mode, we ask, “How on earth can we stop this!!??” Of course, the sobering answer is, we cannot. We lack that kind of power. Even more sobering is the fact that even if we could stop this cycle, we would not.

Fortunately, we are not the ones in control.

castaway, cast•away, cast•a•way
by ric booth

i know how to lie, my dad i would be,
i learned how to hide from hope and all dreams
i know how to be the nicest of whores
i learned how to see your love as a chore
i know how to whore my heart without shame
i learned how to store my guilt and my pain
i know how to shame the thief from my cell
i learned how to blame this world for my hell
i know how to sell the lies that can kill
i learned how to tell these lies from my will
i know how to kill with words from my tomb
i learned how to till my pain in the womb
i know how to tomb a child’s lone hope
i learned how to doom; give judas his rope
i know how to hope you die while i seethe
i learned how to cope to stay off my knees
i know how to seethe; so scared i would rage
i learned how to teeth on bars of my cage
i know how to rage, the screams in my mind
i learned how to wage my war on your kind
i know how to mind my p’s and my q’s
i learned how to find my time without you
i know how to queue my vilest of deeds
i learned how to lure my friends in the weeds
i know how to deed all evil i know
i learned how to seed a child’s lost soul
i know how to know when teaching my hate
i learned how to sow the lies of my fate
i know how to hate the one i should love
i learned how to bait my lies with your dove
i know now your Love.
your death for my sin.
i learn from above
now living in Him.
i feel all my sin.
i spit in your face.
i’ve learned i can’t win.
i’m quitting this chase.
i hear now and face
my echoes roll past.
i’ve learned not to waste,
the years go by fast.
i see now my past.
i cringe at my lies.
i’ve learned just how vast
my sin is and cry.
my children know lies.
it’s me they would be,
they learned how to hide
from hope and all dreams.

dead me i can’t be,
seen tied to my stone.
cast me to the sea
then bring them all home.

And whosoever shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it were better for him if a great millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.
–Mark 9:42 (ASV)

castaway:lost
cast.away:tossed
cast.a.way:crossed

Cider


We are gathered
in the fall.
This season of our life
The apples of his eye
It does not matter how,
as skin is not the concern
Only the inside matters
The good he has locked within us.
Knocked from the safety of our branch
Falling to the ground
Bruised and alone
Gathered
Tossed
in old burlap bags
Pressing down under our own weight
Taken
from the orchard
to the mill.
Breaking us wide open
Shattered us into mash
Shoveled into layers
upon layers
For the final press
Until every last broken fruit
Lay dying.
Pressed down slowly
Deliberately
Relentlessly
as all that is good is released
the threaded press turning
twisting as we weep
tears
Gathering tears
Bottling tears
Sharing tears.
Each gives
and gives
until
the we have no more to give
Satisfied, the press
discards the crushed, withered, rotting
remnants
becoming compost for the next generation.

It is not meant for enjoyment,
just joy.

Sit awhile with me


This year I started practicing the song, You Raise Me Up with my voice coach. I fell in love with the song a few years ago when I heard the cover by Selah. I have improved to the point where I can sing this song in my sleep. After this week, I now know why I choose this song many months ago.

You Raise Me Up

Music by Rolf Løvland
Lyrics by Brendan Graham

When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;
When troubles come and my heart burdened be;
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up to more than I can be.

There is no life – no life without this hunger;
Each restless heart beats so imperfectly;
But when you come and I am filled with wonder,
Sometimes, I think I glimpse eternity.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up to more than I can be.

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