one fell swoop*

one hundred nuclear bombs
black carbon rising
blackness blackout descending
frozen blackness
billions die
ozone gone
cancer eating through the soot
no food
ten years — a flashlight of light
twenty years, maybe some life
a hundred years
a thousand years
a human-made tribulation

*a scenario of what the detonation
of 100 nuclear bombs would do according
to a recent study

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As the Sun Rose

As the sun rose through the trees
he wondered somewhat timorously
if all things would be well
“all manner of things will be well.”

Never before had he had such doubts
in all manner of things to have questions about.
Will Rome burn once more while Nero fiddles?
Will we exist in a limbo of lying riddles?

Are we in a Shakespearean tragedy
or just a farce and a reality-show comedy?
Will Zeus open one urn and rain down woe
or will he open the other and let blessings flow?

Perhaps Odin will send the Valkyries
to lift the oppressed, those yearning to be free.

Much to the Chagrin of His Buddies

Now is the time for all good
men to come to the aid of
their party. He typed and

typed and typed on an old
typewriter at home and felt
his fingers freeze before

the timed test while in a
hot, summertime, high school
classroom. “That’s fifteen

words per minute with three
errors, young man. I hope you
aren’t considering a career

as a secretary.” He took that
class as non-credit much to
the chagrin of his buddies who

thought that was cheating for
class rank, but he didn’t need
the credit and he knew going

in that he didn’t have great
hand-eye coordination except
on a baseball diamond. He gives

thanks that he took that non-
credit typing class in the hot
days of summer school much

to the chagrin of his buddies,
as his fingers fly over the
keyboard of the computer

composing e-mails to those
old, no longer chagrined, he
trusts, high school buddies.

BIRDS by Mackenzie Acree*

We’re driving to church
On Christmas Eve,
Each dressed to the nines
My father only goes to church with us
Perhaps twice a year.
He is in the driver’s seat
Chatting to my mother about his childhood
The first time he saw snow.
He’s doing 75 through the countryside,
And the forest along the road is flying by so fast
That the leaves on the trees could be flocks of tiny birds.

I see God in those birds.
I see God in the crows feet at the corners of my father’s eyes
When he laughs.
I see God in the way my parents hold hands
As we merge onto the highway.

The easiest way to see God in your life
Is in the littlest of things;
A song on the radio.
A soft rain after days of cloudy skies.
A baby’s toothless grin.

I see God when I’m writing.

I think that
Poetry,
When it really means something,
Is as close to perfect
As a prayer can get.

*Mackenzie Acree is an award-winning poet and the granddaughter of my very close friend CHAPLAIN [LTC] JAMES C. BERBIGLIA, USA, Ret. PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH USA. Jim wrote this about Mackenzie: Mackenzie just completed another year as editor of the O’Connor High School (San Antonio, TX) Literature Magazine and has been re-elected editor for her senior year.

The White Sons of Cain

Being the white sons of Cain
do we have any right to exist?
By murdering millions upon millions
do we think we will secure power?
By building an excruciatingly huge arsenal
do we really think we can dispel fear?
By grabbing all the wealth
do we think we can buy security?
By plundering the earth
do we think we will have dominion?
By lifting up Jim Crow do we believe
we can keep people down?
By building walls do we really
think we can keep people out?
By stacking the judicial deck
do we think we can control females
and obliterate gays and that will
keep our straight, white, male butts
in our rightful place?
By promoting individual salvation
(more akin to the phony notion of
rugged individualism than the gospel)
in accepting a lily-white Northern European
Jesus Christ as our lord and savior
(a fabrication of our selfish imagination)
do we really think we will go to heaven
when we die while burning in
hell right now by killing millions
upon millions, by stock piling weapons,
by hoarding wealth, by plundering the
earth, by legislating hate, by building
walls, by stacking the judicial deck,
by keeping minorities in shackles,
when the only shackle is that we are
the white sons of Cain, lifting and
offering our fear-driven and
hate-filled gift to heaven
Have we sacrificed our right to existence?
“Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Above It All

The residents of the top floors call down
in the morning to the front desk to see
what the weather is like on the street

because they are above it all. Their
heads aren’t in the clouds; they are
above the clouds and so when they look

up they see clear blue skies and down
they see billowy down, almost soft enough
to jump into and bounce back to their

rooms, like standing on the edge of Pike’s
Peak on a cloudy day and looking down into
the soft, billowy down and seeing that

the top of the clouds are only a few feet
below the edge. He remembers standing too
close to the edge when an officious voice

said calmly, “Please step back, sir.” The
residents of the top floors always take
the elevators down. The concierge will

be waiting with a complimentary umbrella
and the news that some down-on-his-luck
guy just jumped. The residents of the top

floors shrug, step out the automatic doors,
stand under the canopy, open their compli-
mentary umbrellas while the cabbies signal

eagerly that they are at the service of
the residents of the top floors and ready
to shake, fold and close their umbrellas.

Teleological Discussions, a poem by James D. Schwada

Teleological discussions
Often end in concussions.
Philosophers and Holy Men
Driven round the bend
Disputes about how it all began
Disputes about how it all will end
Fights about the place of Man
Whether there’s a Plan
Who to praise?
Who to blame?
What’s He look like?
What’s His name?
Or if its really She, not He?
Beats me.
I guess we’ll see, wont we?

Listening

He jogged by a stream today
and the stream spoke. He
listened. The stream said,
“Follow me.”

He jogged in the woods today
and the woods spoke. He
listened. The woods said,
“Follow me.”

He jogged along a city street today
and the street spoke. He
listened. The street said,
“Follow me.”

He jogged with the wind today
and the wind spoke. He listened.
The wind said,
“Follow me.”

He jogged in the rain today
and the rain spoke. He listened.
The rain said,
“Follow me.”

He jogged today by the stream,
in the woods, along the city street,
with the wind, in the rain,
and Jesus spoke. He listened.
Jesus said,
“Follow me.”