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Sep 15 · 210
Black Canyon
Over untallied millennia,
    roiling Gunnison waters
sliced through southern Colorado
    schist and gneiss like a sabre -
carving tower walls of black rock
    ribboned with tableaus of
pegmatite and mica flakes
    flickering in the mid-day sun.

2,000 feet below, meandering
    through its stark canyon walls
like some legendary serpent,
    the Gunnison murmurs softly -
resting on its laurels.

Robert Charles Howard
September 2019
Jul 4 · 695
for Onorio Zaralli

Wherever we look, my friend,

we see children at play.
and children in school .
     We see children in triumph
     and children at risk.
We see mothers at work
or lost in thought.
     We see mothers on the edge -
     survivors striving for a rainbow.

We see aged ones,
proud of their grand-kin's deeds
      and of marks they have etched
      on the universal ledger.
We are our forefathers and sons,
granddaughters and mothers,
     foraging our way through chaos -
     searching for the best map home.

So we hone our skills
and practice our trades
     to harvest our daily portions
     and navigate the tides of time.

Whoever we are today,
wherever we might wander.
      we are our only hope for a better day
      the only “us” we can cherish.

Lost in dreams, my eyes gently close
foraging for a well-marked path to follow
     paved with respect, compassion and justice
     where we may all walk together in harmony.

© 2019 by Robert Charles Howard
Jun 27 · 312
"Synergy is the creation of a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts." - Organizational Behaviour (2008)

Hope takes breath when kindred tempers
     cast off qualms and hubris
to unite in harmonic synergy -
     pledging always more and never less
than each could dream alone.

Lewis and Clark together
    eclipsed the gifts of either man.
Marie and Pierre Curie were
    married to science and life
as they were to one another.

As dynamic as two conjoined streams,
     driving toward the distant sea,
minds in concord free the channel clogs
    that masquerade reality.

But what of us, cast adrift
     in this inscrutable world?
It all comes down to
     who we are together
and how we fasten life to truth.

© 2019 by Robert Charles Howard
Feb 25 · 2.9k
Morning Rainbow

Myriad prismatic crystals,
     refract the morning sun-streams -
painting layers of spectral arches
     across the misted horizon.

Eyes turned to the western skies,
     we suspend our meteorological selves  
acquiescing to miracles unveiled before us -
     un-beckoned and scarcely earned,
proffering thanks for the radiant epistle
     of healing, hope and promise,
artfully encoded in transfigured light.

Synthetic Refractions

A luminary ballet takes center stage
    when synthetic refractors come to play:
crystal pendants bathe our foyers
      with dazzling swaths of color.
Hazy coronas encircle streetlamps
      discovered by headlights through the fog.
A science class prism slices light rays
     into pre-ordered spectral strata.

If the sky denies us a rainbow,
     we can always fashion one of our own
and we do!

Spectral Sound

Before there was music,
     bird songs brushed our souls
and the murmur of woodland streams
     held us captive by their banks.

Soon we learned to sing and tint the air
    With prisms of wood and wire and metal
and to color soundscapes in our spirits
     With songs of wonder, joy and longing.

Before there was music,
     bird songs brushed our souls.

Robert Charles Howard, 2019
This is a rewrite and expansion of a prior poem called Morning Rainbow. The poems are design to go with an original piece for solo flute also called Prisms.
Dec 2018 · 1.3k
Robert C Howard Dec 2018
A lost and thirsty wanderer
          sought oasis on a parched and dusty plain
                   where spectral mesas
                merged with pastel stratus clouds -
            quivering in the summer sun.

                    A slender blue ellipse emerged
                            along the horizon's edge,
                          taunting the traveler’s arid throat.

                    Recalling child-day afternoons.
                         splashing in the pond behind the barn,
                              his legs urged toward aquatic deliverance.

                                       But knowledge seized his boots.
                                   Wary of loving a delusion,
                               he chose instead to seek a road or farm
                           or chance upon a horse-backed rancher
                                tracking down an errant calf.

                                       Still he looked back to his phantom pond  –
                                             never to know if an oasis flowed
                                                   less than an hour’s walk away.

                               December, 2018
Oct 2018 · 321
Dancing with Descartes
Robert C Howard Oct 2018
I’m pretty sure I’m here
(or so I think),
but who or where are you?

Stuffed as I am
in my elastic envelope,
it’s hard enough to find myself
let alone discover you.

Can you hear me?
Can you see me?
May I press your hand?

Stay please for a while;
let me a sound you a tune
on my flute.

© 2018 by Robert Charles Howard
Existence connection music
Oct 2018 · 2.6k
Sacred Calderas (repost)
Robert C Howard Oct 2018
Above the caldera at Yellowstone,
a brittle soil-rock crust
caps a lake of liquid fire
with only fumaroles and roiling geysers
to stay its upward ******.

One errant step is all it takes
to breach that mantle's fragile seal -
spelling death by fire
to any hapless wanderer
who fails to guard his path.

Fragile calderas also roil
buried in darkest hollows of our psyches -
brewed of failures, slights and fears
dissolved in molten pools
of self-consuming misery.

To dress and salve our wounds
we sow gardens of reconciliation within
with beauty, trust and reason
and bow to gods of grace and solace.

But a despot’s studied eye
knows just how to tap our fragile crusts,
releasing acrid lava flows
from pools where fear and rage reign hot
and reason has no district.

Sisters and brothers of our flesh I pray
we find a holy and transforming alchemy
to convert our heat to light
and shield our sacred calderas
from enemies that stalk us from within.

July, 2006, revised December, 2014, 2015 and 2018
Robert Charles Howard
I decided to repost this poem because after scores of revisions over the years every stanza is substantially different than it was when I first wrote it in 2006.  Hopefully after 12 years, I've got it figured out.
Sep 2018 · 321
Canyon Voices
Robert C Howard Sep 2018
Cupping my hands at the canyon’s rim
      I fill my lungs and release a primal call,
           vaulting the chasm to a distant face
     where another me answers back.

My cry’s journey spans a mere second or so
     but what stories could that echo tell?
          How can I know that returning voice
     is not the soul of some past or future kin?

         So many questions, so many mysteries!

How many suns and seasons have passed
     since ancient torrents began to cleave the plateau?
          When did the hawk’s shrill cry first split the air
    as it fished in the river’s howl and spray?

When first did the ancient ones walk
     a mile below the canyon’s rim.
         to kneel by the swift river’s shore
     and fill their cups with sustenance.

If you listen closely you will hear
     their voices calling in the restless wind.

The canyon’s colossal breadth
     can be charted in time and space
         but will always be shrouded in mystery.

So I stand at the canyon’s edge and sing
     and the canyon answers back
         but will hold its secret truths forever.

September, 2018
Sep 2018 · 6.5k
Harbingers of Autumn
Robert C Howard Sep 2018
Prophesies of impending fall
     creep stealthily over the Great Divide.
Gold-green Aspens shiver in the breeze
     like leagues of fibrous wind chimes
serenading the mountain slopes
     with aires of shimmering gold.

A few distant bugle calls echo
     across the Big Thompson valley
as bull elks warm up for the autumn rut.
     Sudden early gusts of frigid wind
bring waves of sleet and snow -
     in tune with the turning polar axis.

The greater chill is soon to come.
     The animals know it as do we.
Bears bulk up on grasses, roots and berries.
     Elk and deer drift down from the heights
To show their young the ways
      of the plains and river valleys.

We pull our sweaters on
     and toss another log on the flames
and greet the harbingers of approaching fall
    creeping stealthily over the Great Divide.

September, 2018
Oct 2017 · 697
Affairs of the Heart
Robert C Howard Oct 2017
The heart sounds cadences 24 - 7
    whether we choose to march or where,
rhythm section to our several songs,
    no drum line like a blood line.
It's all business for this noble instrument
     never laying out for a chorus
for survival is its singular tune.

Aristotle thought our hearts were made
    to air condition our brains
but evidently not enough my friends
    for that pesky mythic heart,
right sized for greeting cards
    and hopeful men on bended knees
also drives our swords and powder
    to quell our brothers' singing souls.

Brothers and sisters, is not the hour at hand
    to tune our hearts to superior anthems
composed for us in celestial harmony?
Robert C Howard Sep 2017
On the shortest day of the year
    the sun seems to wither away
and solemn darkness cloaks the earth.

The whole world rattles in its chains,
    captive of brittle icy blasts.
Where do we go for shelter?
    Where can we turn for hope
on the longest night of the year?

So we do as our ancestors have before us;
     building shelters of rock and wood.
We make our fires for warmth
     against the cold winter drafts-
on the coldest nights of the year.

Thus we live as our ancestors have before us,
    singing glad songs of love and peace.
and sound our merry bells of hope.

*© 2017 by Robert Charles Howard
This version is shorter and is designed to be easier to sing than the whole poem.
Sep 2017 · 487
Winter Solstice
Robert C Howard Sep 2017
On the shortest day of the year
     the sun seems to wither away
and solemn darkness cloaks the earth.

The whole world rattles in its chains,
    captive of icy blasts -
prisoner of sharp and frigid winds.

Where do we go for shelter?
    Where can we turn for hope?
Where shall we turn? Where
     on this darkest day of the year?

So we do as our ancestors knew they must.
     We start our crackling fires,
build shelters of rock and wood –
     and drape ourselves in skins and weaves,
clinging fast to one another.
    This shall be our fortress
and shield against the icy blasts.

On the shortest day of the year,
     We lift our eyes to the starry sky.
We seek and find our hope
     In merry carols, candles, and rites of peace.
Thus we rashly dare to cast aside
     the bitter sting of winter’s cruel offense
and ring the cheerful bells of hope.

*© 2017 by Robert Charles Howard
Aug 2017 · 374
Thoreau's Alembic
Robert C Howard Aug 2017
"Man is the alembic of art"
That's what Mr. Thoreau said.

A - L - E - M - B -I - C

Hold it right there!
Just what the hell is that?

Well, OK in a word, an alembic is a still.

So the man at the pond is telling us,
making whisky and poems is the same deal.

Take a *** of sludgy words,
boil is so it shoots out the cap
and into a tube.

With a little luck
only good stuff condenses in the beaker -
"Thoreau-ly" purified.
Hopefully it's a good year.

Still, (sic) your verbal whisky can be
no better than the sludge you start with.

Bottoms up!

© 2017 by Robert Charles Howard
Aug 2017 · 419
Festive Bells
Robert C Howard Aug 2017
Let jubilant bells ring out
     proclaiming the joy of the season.
Banish all darkness with bold Christmas lights
     that brighten the sky on a cold winter night.
Rejoice in the bells of the season!

With joy-filled hearts we zip up our coats
     to savor the crisp morning air.
We take to our sleds for a vigorous ride
     then draw snow angels in the meadow.

Our town is decked out its holiday best
     where strangers and friends pass our way.
We stroll down the streets ‘til the stars appear
     to dance in the jewel case sky.

The bold steeple bells peal so clear and loud.
     Bright Christmas lights are gleaming.
Our kinfolk have gathered from far and near
     To share in a holiday feast
and after the meal we all gather by the fire
     To celebrate the blessings of family.

With grateful hearts raise our songs
    and ring our bells this joyous day.
Rejoice, give thanks. Give thanks, rejoice!

Let jubilant bells ring out
     proclaiming the joy of the season.
Banish all darkness with bold Christmas lights
     that brighten the sky on a cold winter night.
Rejoice in the bells of the season!

*© 2017 by Robert Charles Howard
This is the text for the third movement of a cantata entitled Winter in the Rockies.
Aug 2017 · 3.6k
Sam's Watch (1915)
Robert C Howard Aug 2017
When the arc of his watch hands  
reached the top of the hour
Sam pushed the throttle forward.

Engine 138 thundered
out of Blossburg station
like an iron dragon
breathing smoke and steam -
whistle shrilling over the Tioga valley.

Powered by coal
the train carried coal
to the waiting city of Elmira
where Sam would press his mother's hand -
perhaps for the final time.

The wheels churning iron on iron
across Pennsylvania farmlands,
turned like other wheels before
moving settlers west
to break its ready earth -
wheels beneath his grandfather's oxcart
turning toward Lycoming's verdant hills.

New wheels now carried America
to urban landscapes
drawing us like electro-magnets
to streetlamps - factories - dry good stores -
new crops for a modern age.

Elmira’s silhouette expanded on the horizon.
and Sam pulled the train in on time -
brakes screeching through billowing steam.

His wife, Jenny and his sister's Sam
came in a horseless carriage
with Zoe, Marie and Edward,
children now grown at their sides.

They all gathered by Hannah's bed
now approaching her final hours
soft voices and fragile smiles
cradled the truth beyond all telling:

Time, ever advancing
like the hands of a fine old watch,
holds us all in its circling sway

© 2006 by Robert Charles Howard
Aug 2017 · 337
Robert C Howard Aug 2017
The moon hovers high in the dawning sky,
    heedless of clocks and calendars
foretelling the approaching hour    
    when her diminutive circle
enshrouds the proud and mighty sun.

Back in reliquaries of time,
     our fear-quaked ancestors
cowered in deepest shadows of doom,
    “Now that the sun has died,
what will become of us"?  

Then as now, the resilient sun
     rebirthed as it will again
to warm and illumine our ways.

But shadows darker than eclipse
     remain to cloud our future,
“What will become of us
     should reason's light be doused
and forever vanish from the earth”?

*© 2017 by Robert Charles Howard
Jul 2017 · 359
Robert C Howard Jul 2017
A blessing, please upon my mess!
     For this seeker finds no greater bliss
than weaving a little order
     from tangled strands of chaos.

Whether it be quirky verbal wanderings
     in search of virginal syntax
or note-ribbons hung on the boughs of time,
     allow me a little chaos please
and I'll fight like a badger to sort it all out.

*© 2017 by Robert Charles Howard
Jul 2017 · 392
Mountain Snowscape
Robert C Howard Jul 2017
In the stillness of a winter dusk
     softest snowflakes begin to fall -
draping the western slopes
    with delicate veils of purest white.

The rising moon faintly glimmers
    veiled by swirling clouds
and towering peaks swiftly vanish
      beneath the storm’s frigid advance.

Winter has come to the mountains
     painting a snowscape wonderland.
Winter has come, winter is here
     and rules the high country once more.

Howling winds merge with the poignant cries
     of distant coyote laments.
Deer and elk bed deep in the woods
     gaining warmth in the sheltering pines.

From dawn to dusk the snow cloak deepens,
    wind-sculptured drifts sweep over the hills.

Through the long night the storm presses on
     lashing sleet waves against our window panes.
Homebound, we gather close to our hearths -
     braced to wait out the storms final frenzy.

By morn a few lingering clouds remain -
     spreading vibrant prisms of violet and gold
and shimmering crystals across the valleys.

Winter has come to our village
    and with it a snowscape wonderland.
Winter is here, winter has come
     to rule the high country once more.

*© 2017 by Robert Charles Howard
This poem was written as a vocal text for the first movement of a choral piece called Winter in the Rockies.  There will be two other movements.  Winter in the Rockies will be premiered on December 15th and 16th of 2017 by the Oratorio Society of Estes Park.
Jun 2017 · 378
A Life in the Balance
Robert C Howard Jun 2017
For Ben Godfrey

I awakened today to the frenetic clamor
         of a desperate wasp at destiny’s gate
                  thrashing between my blinds and window.

         (Surely Kafka’s bug had fared no worse).

Emerging from my soporific haze,
         I released my back door latch
                  to clear a portal back to liberty.

But all hopes for a nobility rush
        faded to black when I found her -
                  comatose on the bedroom floor.
Placing her shell on an envelope,
          I ferried her through the open door
                  to rest in state on my back porch rail.

          She wasn’t quite so done as feared.

As if by cosmic intercession,
         she suddenly twitched her wings,
                  and soared into the morning sky.

My elation mystifies me just a little.
       After all, who cares about a lowly wasp?
Yet for one frantic insect,
        how could anything matter more?

© 2017 by Robert Charles Howard
This poem is for Ben Godfrey who observed this scene first hand and suggested I express his delightful story in poetic form.
Robert C Howard May 2017
Through an open window, I hear
      the Big Thompson's steady music
drifting up from the valley below.

May breezes and gentle rains
     coax the snow-capped peaks
to surrender their alabaster cloaks
      downslope into gathering streams.

Silhouetted by light from the waxing moon,
      a cinnamon bear lopes along water’s edge,
pauses for a draught and meanders on.

A bull elk newly coifed with velvet antlers
        folds his legs beneath its belly
and kneels into grasses beside a tranquil pond.
        while the Big Thompson rushes on.

Spring beauties, calypso orchids and geraniums  
       shake off their winter's sleep and
dot every vagabond trail and verdant hill
        while fresh new leaves adorn the aspen boughs.

The Big Thompson inexorably presses on
        bound for rendezvous with time and space
and tumbles into the always patient sea.

© 2017 by Robert Charles Howard
Mar 2017 · 376
Vision Quest
Robert C Howard Mar 2017
With head bowed and eyelids sealed in prayer,
    an Arapahoe youth crouched atop Old Man Mountain
waiting alone in silence for a dream to come -
    a dream to reveal the course of his future days.

A rush of wind bent and shook the silvery aspens
    and the breath of his ancestors came and whispered,
“You are to be a shepherd of the mountains.
    You will gather and tend the sheep of the slopes
that your people may gain warmth and shelter
      against winter’s harshest chill and searing winds.”

Guided by the moon and morning constellations,
     the youth, now elevated to manhood
descended the mountain with joy-filled heart
     to reveal his vision to his people.
*© 2017 by Robert Charles Howard
Robert C Howard Jan 2017
I have placed recordings of the music for my poem cycle, Elements of Antiquity (on HP) on line. Here is a link.
Jan 2017 · 766
Spring Song
Robert C Howard Jan 2017
'“Music is one of the attributes of matter, into whatever forms
it may be organized”. - John Muir

A song bursts out as I wander
through a glaciered valley -
richly coutured
in the opulence of spring.

Verdant grasses and Aspen leaves
have shaken off winter's pallor
to join voices with evergreens
in praise of new life emerging
out of the glowing, spectral universe.

The love of a doe guides her fawns
to finest grazing and sweetest waters
as the vibrant sun above
affirms its life-giving covenant.

If I cared, I might lend labels
to flowers, trees, streams and grasses
but have recused myself -
for the season's majesty demands
that nature do all the singing
and I do all the listening.  

*© 2017 by Robert Charles Howard
Music Nature Streams Mountains Forest
Dec 2016 · 991
Can we Talk?
Robert C Howard Dec 2016
Can we talk?

I'm new to town
and I'm certain that you and I
have not yet met.
Are you a stranger too?

It's rather soon to say
but I caught a beacon in your eyes
(or maybe hoped I did) -
wanting down those
Frosted walls of unfamiliarity.

Who knows what tales
we soon may say
of overlapping circles
of shared community -
of parallel victory and loss.

It's so soon to say,
but for now, accept this hand
as a token of mutual membership
in Pangaea's beneficent sanctuary.

Can we talk?

*© 2016 by Robert Charles Howard
Dec 2016 · 315
Robert C Howard Dec 2016
Sam Clemens snagged his nom de plume
     from a boatsman's measuring cry,
"Mark twain," two fathoms depth - quite enough
      to keep a stern wheel free from mayhem.

What are the markings of our voyages?
     What leadsman within will navigate us
through the rocks and shallows
     of feckless greed and foolish delusions?

The captain waits uneasy at his station
    then above the engine's quiet purr,
and the music of gently lapping waves,
    a voice from the deck cries out, "mark twain"
and he nudges the throttle forward.

*© 2016 by Robert Charles Howard
Nov 2016 · 18.4k
Morning Rainbow
Robert C Howard Nov 2016
A halo of transfigured light.
     spanned the hills and autumn gold
of scores of aspen groves
     basking in the morning sun.

But what is this thing we call a rainbow?
     For all our science talk of vapor,
refraction and angle of the sun
     we surrender still in willing captivity
to its beauty, mystery and myth.

Rainbows beguile by their fleeting rarity
      as ephemeral as life itself -
temporal blessings suspended in time
      unintended and undeserved,
spectral bridges between here and there -
       between what is and what should be.
Oct 2016 · 441
Just Call me Bull
Robert C Howard Oct 2016
for the 2016 Estes Park Elk Fest*

They call me Wapiti or Cervus Elaphus
      but you can just call me Bull.
Momma raised me in these peaks and valleys -
      and I owe it all to her -
showing me places to graze -
     taking me to trumpet lessons -
guiding me to the choicest watering holes.

And now I am a man-elk
      and have the rack to prove it.
Fall is here again and some of the ladies
      are looking mighty sweet.
( Just last week I saw one making eyes at me)
      so I gave the rut another go.
It worked out a bunch better than last year
      when I left half my head gear
lying in pieces on the grass.
       but life is good this year as you can see
from all these ladies standing by.

Now let me slip a friendly tip
      just from me to you.
If me or one of the other guys
      have that look in our eyes
and seem perturbed or fidgety.
       Don't mess with us!
Never forget  we outweigh you five to one
       and can book along at 35 miles per.

The same goes for the ladies
       when the babies come in spring.
They love their own like you love yours
       and will abide no wrong to come their way.

Mostly your folks and mine get along fine
       amidst the hills, lakes and other critters
so let's share our common miracles
       in thanksgiving, peace and harmony.

Robert Charles Howard
     *Estes Park, October 1, 2016
Sep 2016 · 828
Forgiveness is for Losers
Robert C Howard Sep 2016
Why should I entomb my hatchet
     after so much toil in the honing?
After all its blade excels alls measures
     for heft and keenness
and no finer tool can be had
     to strike the ultimate blow -
except perhaps the one you're holding.

So here we stand my friend
     ensnared by pride's inertia
with everything to lose
     but one or another's demise
within our imminent grasp.

Then without a sign or preamble,
     our eyes meet as if by chance
and in that unsought instant,
      the shame of forgiveness
saps our strength and sinew.
     Our weapons clang to the pavement.

Unless we're history's fools
     we know it seldom ends this way.
How much must we sacrifice
     before the worst we have been
can give up its sorry shade
     to the best our souls demand?
Sep 2016 · 1.5k
Brave Rodeo Clown
Robert C Howard Sep 2016
for Dawn*

Clem, the rodeo clown
wears a bold painted smile,
a bright plaid shirt and bib overalls
with cuffs too short for his legs.

Between the rides and roping -
Clem taunts and banters with the emcee
wheeling off groaners
as corny as a mega-field in Kansas -
scrambling in and out of his barrel
playing the air-headed bumpkin.

But Clem is nobody's fool;
when that gate opens, his real work begins.

Bull and rider explode from the chute
and the game is on.
The cowboy weaves and writhes to stay on top
for that eight golden seconds
that will earn him his pay
against a half ton of feral energy
stomping and lurching to fling him to the earth.

With eyes as keen as a hungry hawk,
Clem tracks every buck and lurch
for any peril sign - and then it happens:
the rider is hurled airborne,
landing inches from the driving hooves.

Clem seizes the cowboy with
a linebacker's grip
and swings him safely over the fence
while wranglers speed the bull from the ring.

The show goes on and Clem
has plenty more jokes for the crowd
who knows he's never a barrel of laughs
when a rider's life is on the line.
Aug 2016 · 1.1k
Big Thompson River Walk
Robert C Howard Aug 2016
Our dog, Hannah and I wended our way
    across the Moraine highway
that winds west toward the park.

The front range, rising to our right
    and Lumpy Ridge to our left
were shrouded in the post-dawn mist.

A short walkway through speckled fields
    of Asters, Mexican Hats and Gallardia
led us to the tall gray slat fence
     that lines the path down the hill
to the Big Thompson River Walk.

Hannah and I took copious notes
      each in our own way as we took in
the sounds and sights along the trail.

      The morning lights danced over
rock-strewn rocks and riffles tumbling down
      from the mountain rains and melting snows
and the sweet music of the river
     assured us that tranquility exists even
amongst the jagged rocks of a troubled world.

*Estes Park, August, 2016
Jul 2016 · 3.0k
Pennsylvania Barn Raising
Robert C Howard Jul 2016
They gathered by Williamson Road at sun-up
      from neighboring spreads across the Tioga valley.
They came with carts laden with lumber stacks -
      with saws, adzes, hammers and sundry tools.

They gathered with the homesteaders bond.
      to co-build their neighbor's' dreams.

Sweet music of community echoed off the hills.
     Chisels clanged into rock, shaping the foundation,
saws sang into boards to frame a timbered skeleton.
     The staccato syncopation of hammers fastened walls
that soon would shelter plowshares, stock and grain.
      A smithy leaned over his fire and forge -
chiming iron into sturdy latches and hinges.

     Children scurried about mixing squeals and laughter
with exuberant fetching and lifting whenever called.
In two short passings of the sun the deed was done
      and a handsome new barn, decked out in a wash of red
was silhouetted tall and proud against the fading light.

Homesteaders gathered at a celebration table
      to share a hearty meal adorned by the music
of fiddles, grateful smiles and easy laughter.
Then one by one they steered their wagons home
      gazing back at what their labors had wrought -
knowing to the depth of their communal souls
      that we are more together than we are apart

Listen up, America!  This is the music of community.
      We are more together than we are apart.

*© 2016 by Robert Charles Howard
Jul 2016 · 1.4k
Independence Day
Robert C Howard Jul 2016
" It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews,
            Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and  
                Illuminations from one End of this Continent
                      to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
      John Adams – July 3, 1776.

Webster Groves - 2016

The Townhall fountain dances
cheerily in the morning sun.
The red-white-blue shirted crowd
rises as one for the colors.
Laughing children scramble for
tootsie rolls and sweet tarts
tossed by a strolling  clown.

         Philadelphia, July 3, 1776

        *Carriages sped toward Philadelphia
        where resolute patriots
        would turn the pages of history
        and tell an unsuspecting world
        that a new nation had given birth to itself.

Sousa strains peal from the marching Statesmen,
Girl Scouts guide their well-groomed mounts -
hooves echoing through concrete caverns.
Vintage firetrucks and autos
sound their horns and sirens
as candidates work the crowd, pressing the flesh.

        Each crass insult from the British crown
        had tightened the noose on the colonial neck.
        The middle ground was soaked with patriot blood
        and revolution was the only course left.

Barbecue clouds drift over Pat and Lee’s farm
Horseshoes spin and clang and frisbees fly.
A ***-luck feast with beans and franks
interrupts the pop and glare of bottle rockets.

        One by one, each patriot quilled the parchment
        resolved to endure the costs of liberty -
        knowing to the marrow that defeat
        would spell certain ******* and death.

We reach the lakeshore at dusk -
unfolding chairs - spreading out blankets -
strains of Americana drift over the lake.
then a pyro-technic extravaganza
blazes across the summer sky.  

        Washingon’s tattered and bloodied men
        cornered Cornwallis at Yorktown.
        Then surrender - all British claims
        to American soil banished to the tomes of history.

The grand finale pummels the darkened sky
raising cheers and whistles from the crowd
Toddlers collapse in parental arms,
car doors slam, engines ignite
and head-lighted caravans, turn for home,
spiraling off in every compass degree.

“Happy birthday,” America and endless happy returns
"from this time forward forever more!”  

Robert Charles Howard
Jun 2016 · 368
America at Work
Robert C Howard Jun 2016
Garden Avenue Driveway*

They pulled up at 7:00 with spades, trowels and hoses
      and a spinning truck full of concrete soup.

Then as precisely as an olympic fencing team
      six men with well toughened and tanned biceps

drove the liquid rock down the chute
      and into the the “two by” forms.

Then with rhythm as fluid as a *corps de ballet

      they poured, smoothed, spread and coaxed the mix

in to a concrete lake as smooth as glass.
      and the morning’s deed was finished.

They hosed down the chute and walks,
      packed their tools and vanished by 9:00

leaving their concrete sheet cake
      to bake in the hot Illinois sun.
Jun 2016 · 365
Savior of the Nation
Robert C Howard Jun 2016
Think about it, I just might be the
savior of the nation.
I will make America grate (sic) again!

Time to grease the campaign trail!

Imagine if you will,
perfect unity fabricated
from the empire between my ears.

I could hose down the airways
with bile and ride the waves of
angst like a super surfer.

Should some ***** reporter call me out,
I’ll just whine in my nappies,
call her names and bully on.

I pledge to forge my ignorance into
a sword of virtue and tilt
every wind turbine in the US of A.

Demons are everywhere and I
have conspiracies to sell.
Help the cause; buy a bucket full!

I think we all know
that reason is for sissies.  
Just look how far we’ve fallen!

Listen up now, since
America needs me so badly,
you will be granting me your fealty.

I will make America grate again!

What, you say, my mission
is already spoke for?
My noble cause has been taken?

He has? How dare he!

**** you, Donald Trump!
Jun 2016 · 320
At the Threshold
Robert C Howard Jun 2016
Do I know you, stranger?
Here, move closer; move into the light
let me search your eyes and touch your face.

Ah, now I see you -
the wrinkles on your brow
rutted just like mine
like weathered roads
passing through hallowed fields
of sorrow and elation.

It's funny; You remind me so
of the choices I've made
and all those foretold
and unexpected consequences.

So there is hope for us yet!

And do you know me?
Here, let peel away my mask
and move a tad closer.
See, there's nothing to fear
and who cares a fiddle about
our colors, creeds or pedigrees.

Tossing our cautions windward,
Let us roll the dice
and dare to trust each other.

Sure, we might not know each other yet
but perhaps in time we shall.
May 2016 · 442
Miles to Go
Robert C Howard May 2016
for the Webster University Jazz Quintet

A tripod of piano, bass and drums
was spread across the stage
weaving chords and counts
into finest sonic cloth.
trumpet and tenor intersticed between,
dazzled the sound-scape
with vision and calculated risk.

Solos poured out like fountains
with swaying, clapping and bobbing heads;
Eyes closed to let the light of imagination in.

With colors as sharp and vibrant
as the cut glass windows behind them,
they painted memories of Miles
back-lit by Solar flares
and took a pleasant hike
in Shorter's Footprints
to the jazz realm's distant borders.

Having journeyed so many Miles,
we paid them sincerest thanks,
steered our engines homeward
then slept – tapping our toes in our dreams.

April,  2007
Still another refugee from Poetfreak
May 2016 · 482
Captain Toro
Robert C Howard May 2016
Dedicated to William Shakespeare, Gene Roddenberry,
Lewis Carroll and Franz Joseph Haydn.*

The power scythe roared and quivered;
Had he chops, he would have licked them -
So rabid was he to taste the fray.

Verdure clad stalks by the thousands
Eschewed all feint of
Futile resistance -
Falling like spineless wimps
Before the carbon breathed Leviathon's
Cyclonic advance.

Pausing only to quaff
A long draft of energy potion,
Toro relentlessly carved a swath
Across the battle ground -
Vorpally snicker-snacking his way
Toward the mission's
inexorable termination.

A single command
Brought the roaring vortex to a halt.
Victorious, sans medals or ceremony,
Captain Toro was debriefed
And escorted back
To his lonely barracks
To sleep, perchance to dream
Of past and future triumphs
In the jungle wilds at the confluence
Of Prairie and Missouri Avenues.

*August,  2007
May 2016 · 348
Aymara Rivero
Robert C Howard May 2016
Aymara Rivero and Hunting Honey
thundered past the finish mark
three lengths before the placing horse -
the tenth triumph of her rookie season.
How many winner's circles await her arrival?

Just a few brief yesterdays ago,
Mari had watched a lecture hall clock
checking off the hours of her life,
when a voice within her whispered again
"It's now or never,"  and Mari chose "now."

So shutting the college door for a time,
she returned to her stable home
and the company of equine friends
who'd brought joy to her youthful days.

Today the paddock gates open
and apprentice Aymara guides her mount
to the starting gates of life itself.
Another refugee poem from Poetfreak.  Aymara Rivero is an actual person.  I have met everyone in her family except Aymara.  I have seen her race a number of times and sometimes win.  Her grandparents are very good friends of mine.  Her grandmother is a huge sports fan and is ecstatic about having a professional athlete for a granddaughter.
May 2016 · 2.0k
Each Be Other's Comfort Kind
Robert C Howard May 2016
for Ashley and Trent

Joyous tears lie just ahead,
for Trent and Ashley
will seal their love today.

Pipes, strings, brass and voices
will soar beneath
Saint Peters towering nave

and we'll rise as one to affirm
their pledge of love and faith.

They met in band at Belleville East
and always seemed to know

that on some spring morn in June
they would stand at the altar
to vow their lives to constancy.

We all knew it too and today
we would be no other place

for hope unbounded rules the day
and echoes in our grateful hearts.
Another refugee poem from Poetfreak. The title is from a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins called At the Wedding March.
May 2016 · 690
A Thousand and One Nights
Robert C Howard May 2016
Sinbad’s sea-battered ship was
poised on the edge of annihilation,
The Sultan's brow furrowed with curiosity,
then without warning
Scheherazade stilled her narrative
and lived to see the morning sun.

When the moon and stars next owned the sky,
Sinbad was snatched from the jaws of death
then the saga of Prince Kalandar
seized the king's soul with wonder
but Scheherazade left the tale unfinished
and sang with the birds at dawn.

Rimsky-Korsakoff  turned the pages at his desk -
consumed by Scheherazade’s charms
then etched his pen across the waiting staves:
The violin must weave her spell once more
and bassoon and oboe take the prince’s part.

Trombone and trumpet led the martial call
and all the rest enlisted for the cause.
Russian bravura fused with the seductive allure
of exotic tunes born of the dust on the silken road.

A sonic whirlwind filled Saint Paul Church,
as winds and tremolos grew to cyclonic force.
A wall of brass completed Kalandar’s tale.
capped by an exuberant clash of cymbal plates.

The silence yielded to tender violins
chanting a hymn to the princess in all her grace.
Tambourine and winds wove a tapestry
of her debonaire and most virtuous prince.

As the final pizzicato chord faded, the Sultan
turned to Scheherazade with tear-filled eyes
and beheld his immortal princess
and she her valiant and eternal prince
and so it would be as long as night preceded dawn.

She kissed away his tears of joy and whispered in his ear,
“My beloved husband, I will tell you stories forever.
Tomorrow you shall learn of the Feast at Baghdad.”
Another site I have posted on, is shutting down so I am moving some the poems here. More refugees will follow.
Apr 2016 · 3.3k
Soul Flight
Robert C Howard Apr 2016
in memoriam Woodrow (Woody) Rifenburgh*      

The soft purr of a Piper Cub
drifted over Italy's southern hills.
Soul stirred by the landscape’s song,  
the young army pilot gently spoke.

“It’s mighty peaceful up here.”

Touching wheels to the tarmac,
Woody shed his flight suit
for an engineer’s desk
and placed a viola beneath his chin.

For three score years
Woody molded horsehair and wire into string song
steadying the orchestra’s midriff
with the vibrations of his spirit.

On Christmas Eve he played for the coming child,
fell stricken and flew his last flight
on instruments at Memorial.  

Early New Year’s morn one could almost hear
the faint soft purr of a Piper Cub
as it banked to the right around the moon
and merged with the waiting heavens.
This poem was written for a dear friend who played viola in the Belleville Philharmonic and other orchestra.  In WW2, Woody flew reconnaissance missions in Italy.  He graduated from Purdue University in engineering and worked for decades designing pipe line systems for Laclede Gas.
Apr 2016 · 763
So Long, Pluto
Robert C Howard Apr 2016
For Denis Joe*

Alas, poor Pluto
I knew him slightly
Dangling out there
On the sun system's edge
Unsung by Holst
Who knew him not at all.

Furl browed tribunes smack their gavels
And in a nano - second
Planetary glory dashed to asteroids.
Mighty Pluto busted to dwarfhood!

[Brief moment of silence]

Well, the dwarves will have to have
Their own music now -
Nothing Earth shattering
A humbler essay, say a trio
For tuba, autoharp and cello.
Modest but catchy tunes
For little orbiters and shakers:

XENA (warrior princess)
CERES (goddess of grain)
PLUTO (mythical silver smith)
CHARON (underworld boat jockey)

Oops, almost missed the big send off.
There he goes now with Charon at the oars.



           ­           fellow.

Apr 2016 · 385
Robert C Howard Apr 2016
Ouataga raised his arms to the sky
in offering for his people -
prepared to be ripped from life
by the claws and teeth of the Piasa

    The monstrous bird with blood red eyes
    and bearded chin soared above the bluffs
    in search of a solitary brave
    to devour for his evening meal.

Throughout the cycling of the whole moon
Ouataga had fasted and prayed
for a Piasa slaying plan.
The Great Spirit had come at last in a dream
and now the trap was set.

    The great monster gliding on thermals,
    drifted over the rise,
    clouding the bluff bluff with his shadow
    fixed his crimson eyes on Ouataga
    standing alone in the clearing.

    His monster wings pummeled the air
    and he began his ******* swoop of death.

Obeisant to their young chief's dream,
twenty braves concealed
in a circle of bush and trees,
sent their poison shafts flying
straight to the center of the glade.

    The ravenous Piasa
    baring teeth and talons,
    never saw the rain of arrows
    rupture his skin - pouring venom
    into his murderous veins.

Ouataga, untouched by talon or arrow,
smiled as the Piasa writhed
and fell dead as a stone at his feet.

Grateful tribesmen embraced their chief
who painted the monster's effigy
on a bluff by the Father of Waters
where every passing brave from that time forth
shot contemptuous arrows at its loathsome face.

*March, 2008
Another immigrant from Poetfreak.
Apr 2016 · 446
New England Sunrise (Haiku)
Robert C Howard Apr 2016
I look to the east
    beyond the Catskill ridges
        bathed in dawn light hues.
Apr 2016 · 307
Nurse Tree
Robert C Howard Apr 2016
We know the invisible nurse tree
for what it used to be
before that windy night that
spun and tore it from its moorings.

The tortured Bigleaf Maple roots
shaped in hollow colonnades
having nursed for decades
on a once proud hemlock
brutally humbled to the forest floor
and now consumed by elemental time.

It's Mother Gaia's eternal story -
present tree from yesterday's death
which in time will bequeath its torso
to unborn generations hungry
for a fallen trunk - ripe for suckling.
Apr 2016 · 368
Sketches of Spring
Robert C Howard Apr 2016
Earth's axis twisted around the vernal equinox
and March passed the baton to April
in a radiant kaleidoscope of
pink and white and fuschia blossoms.

A sudden breeze launched
a thousand tiny choppers
into the April air
each crafted of finest maple -
spinning, fluttering
searching for a helipad
in the moist and pliant soil.

A spring shower tore
an oak limb from its its trunk
and gravity did the rest.
A robin perches
on a fallen branch
Another fugitive poem from Poetfreak.
Apr 2016 · 404
Mid-Winter Clarity
Robert C Howard Apr 2016
Bending forward against the winter chill
I clutch my jacket collar tight.
against the moan and whistle of the wind.

A speaker clamped on a holiday post
crackles a hymn to a midnight clear
releasing from the vault of time
memories of another winter's day
when a happy boy on a Christmas bike
caroled that same Yuletide song
to a swirling snowflake congregation
tuned to distant steeple bells.

A phantom in a store front window
startles me back to now
and arrests my curiosity.
Just who is that gray haired fossil
clutching his collar like a shield
against the whistling wind
and why is he staring at me
this blustery mid-winter day?
Another poetry site I have posted poems, is shutting down so I am moving several poems including this one to Hello Poetry.
Apr 2016 · 432
No Exit
Robert C Howard Apr 2016
It wasn't supposed to go like this!
Julian and cousin Henry
fled breathless down the alley
Henry turned and fired two shots
toward their uniformed pursuers.

                             "Late breaking news:
                              Police interrupted a burglary
                              in the 300 block of Hastings.
                              An officer is down and has been taken to
                              Blessed Sacrament Hospital."

Henry and Julian raced in
through his Mom's front door
scrambling for the basement.
Henry mad beyond himself said.
"I know I hit him, man, I saw him drop!"
"Get a grip you fool,
you winged him and we got away

                             "The slain officer's name has been released.
                              Brad Kravcik leaves a wife, a grown daughter
                              and two teen-aged sons.
                              Witnesses identified two youths and police
                              expect an arrest at any minute."

Julian's mother exploded
down the stairs. "Your pictures
are on the tube. You idiots
killed a ******* cop.
Get the hell out of my house!"
The two boys tried for the door
but bullhorns, lights
and a forest of rifles barred their exit.

                             "This just in: two suspects have been arrested
                              in the shooting death of officer Kravcik.
                              Julian Lewis and Henry Behrens
                              are believe to be responsible
                              for a string of north side break-ins.
                              The whole community is
                              breathing a huge sigh of relief."

The governor made no eleventh hour call,
so Henry banished all thoughts
of the plastic tube silently
dripping terminal liquid into his vein
He felt the world go hazy
then felt nothing - nothing at all.
Apr 2016 · 311
Sunset Haiku
Robert C Howard Apr 2016
A feast of colour
yellow, orange, crimson, black -
Dusk's kakeidescope.
Apr 2016 · 1.3k
Fragile Truce
Robert C Howard Apr 2016
"The pity of war, the pity war distills". - Wilfred Owen"

Just as a feral war begs for armistice,
    a season of peace engenders
a violence vacuum that begs to be filled
    as surely as a hollow begs for a pond.

It seems a cosmic battle rages
      between the oversouls of people
who would chisel a sculpture to grace
     and those who would hack off its arms.

History’s fools fire up their bully horns
     shouting proud oratory to ignorance -
and lemmings goose-step to the precipice -
      doomed to plunge into a sea of misery.  

Then there is quiet - guilty and reflective.
     How could we let this happen
with so much gain and loss in the balance?

and the sculptors of civilization
      find fresh marble to once again
carve reason, beauty, purpose
      from the acrid ashes of pride.
But the oversoul of hate will brood and re-fester
     as long as it's thought noble to **** for a cause.

© 2016 by Robert Charles Howard
This poem was written in response to a poem by Vicki called Brooding.
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