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John Van Dyke Dec 2021
He carved a headboard out of pine
And shaped it til’ a bird-shaped thing
Emerged. And then, he thought,
‘One could do worse
Than sleep beneath an angel’s wing’

‘Perhaps this wing will keep me safe
When darkness comes, when lights are dim
I’ll think of Psalms and sleep’, he said
But little did he know
What Heaven had in store for him

Until the day his daughter came
And with  her  daughter, rested there
And then he knew a miracle
Had waited patiently to come
In answer to his wooden prayer
Heaven sent my daughter, Elizabeth.
John Van Dyke Sep 2021
“One of us should say grace”.
“I will”, I said, and then:
“Thank…you” but the “you”
got tangled up in a sob.
And I couldn’t continue.

Like Joseph’s turning away
To hide his tears,
I cleared my throat
Disguising, belying:
A thousand gazes at the soy bean field,

Opening the drawer a thousand times
to see your card: “I love you”,
Taccota played a thousand times,
A thousand silent prayers
that I didn’t know were prayers.

Until you came
And looking through wet eyes,
I watched you sitting there
Amazed that almost everything
That mattered in the world, for me

Could be contained,
In this smiling girl
A sunflower placed
On the mantel In a glass vase
“Thank you”, I prayed.
John Van Dyke Apr 2021
The darkness and the quiet
Are less frightening than before.
Even, as in the world of Poe,
The shroud, the pall, the tomb
Are looming truths in store,

The thing I fear the most
Is not the end, the sad goodbyes,
Tears, or labored breaths.
It’s not eternity or judgement,
Or even sweet oblivion.

There’s a larger tragedy,
A greater loss to me:
It haunts me even now
While death’s still off a ways,
Waiting patiently.

That you might spend your life,
Your family grown,
Now gray and stooped,
Career complete,
With loved ones of your own

And, looking back, see an empty place
Where other’s lives were full
And feel you weren’t enough,
Arms stretched, Innocent,
Reaching out, a little girl.

I fear your life will pass
Not knowing, or believing
You were cared for, celebrated,
Your young life
The greatest source of joy to me.

In you I saw a thing
I hadn’t seen before.
It touched my heart, and brought
A peaceful inner feeling
Whenever you were near.  

Clumsily, I overstepped
My deeds and words
And gifts, and more...
Felt right, but came out wrong
I failed, you left, and that is that.

My old fool’s error
(I’ve made my share)
Was what I said and did for sure.
Though what was in my heart
Was bright and clean, and pure.

My fear’s that you won’t know
(Or care to know) the joy you brought,
The calm I felt, priceless, but free
But most of all:
That you were loved- by me.
For Jillian
John Van Dyke Apr 2021
I can’t get the pieces to work,
there’s one part missing,
Without it, I am lost.

Everything swims,
A flotilla of parts,
Swirling around and around.

I reach for one, hoping,
then another,
I put each back.

I cannot settle down.
This bed of despair
Is not a place to grow from.

Determined, I reach,
grasping, letting go.
It must look strange.

I’ll sleep.
In my dreaming you’ll be there.
And I can breathe for a while.
John Van Dyke May 2020
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil. “
      But I am afraid.
This Sunday morning,
Our world is breaking,
And we’re each alone.
We’ve seen a fellow man
Crying for his mother.
      But I can’t breathe!
Friends talk at a distance,
Searching for meaning
In just the eyes.
A mask conceals a smile-
Or despair.
      But I can’t tell.
Cities burn.
Flames silhouette a form
With outstretched hands
Reaching for justice.
       But there is no justice.
People ask:”Where is our leader?”
But the leader says,
“...the shooting starts!”
And sows to the wind.
Even while we reap the whirlwind,
He sows to the wind.
       But there is no repentance.
This is the wrath of God,
Not for sacrilege of crosses,
Or flags, or creeds, or scripture,
But for hardening of the heart,
For looking away.
        And I am afraid


John Van ****
George Floyd
John Van Dyke Dec 2019
A full century ago
Our mothers played church
Up on the hay-wagon.
They sang hymns
And took turns being preacher.
I can hear her telling me

And tonight one sister’s son
Will stand up tall and weave
A tapestry of notes
So beautiful ...
A heart, or two, or more
Will feel a touch
Much deeper than
Shining brass, the rustling of winter clothes, or applause

The other sister’s son, well...
He’ll shuffle to the porch,
Look up and turn his head
To see if he can hear
The long arc of a single note.
The silver cord,
Grandpap used to sing about.

And then he’ll cry.
Cause this is real.
It is no game.
A passing cloud, each song,
a bird, even bread.
Is held a little longer.
Clasped and pondered,
like a letter
Before it is sent away.

It took this long,
and this much loss and gain.
Things held tight and then let go.
Reluctantly
To learn
This life is good,
And why old men
Can cry so easily
Cousin Richard is giving a concert and I can hear him 600 miles away
John Van Dyke Jul 2019
It’s a good thing
We all left when we did
Or I’d of spilled the beans.

Blithering on
in my drunken state,
You’d of learned it all

How sad I am
That making love
is only history

A withered fool
whose only dreams
are memories

Of indiscretions,
shameful then,
but blissful now

Slurred words tumbling out
would’ve told of
My ‘non-conforming’ love,

So powerful
but misconstrued,
that when she said she loved me

I stumbled to the piano
singing “ thine is the kingdom,
and the power,

And the glory”
(Oh, thank you, thank you)
“For...ev..er!  A..a...men!”

Thanking a God
Whose address I misplaced
with words I forgot (till then).

An abomination
Long suppressed by force of will
Might’ve stung your ears,

Thank God I kept
My mouth barely shut
But poised

To betray the little storm
Wreaking havoc in my *****
But not yet my demise

Had I gone on.
But, No.
Good sense prevailed.

Dignity still intact,
I gathered up this twisted history,
This love, this brokenness,

Like so many rags,
trailing on the ground,
And tottered to my car

My dignity’s unscathed.
Oh, it’s a good thing, I suppose,
But, next time, stick around.
One more gin and tonic and it’d be a permanent assignment of shame
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