If you ever lose heart and the earth seems as distant as stars fading into the noise of your busy mind, know this. That a tiny island exists in the blue hands of the ocean. That a tree grows upright into the salted clouds. That two eagles love each other enough to spend their lives greeting the morning sun together. That two eaglets stand in their nest, gazing at the heavens. Looking down to the forever ground. They eat and sleep and flap their wings. And one day in July, one by one, they will jump into the air. They will know the difference between existing and what is beyond. They will hold onto nothing. The hurricane will come, courage catching their pinions on fire, as they mount the wind, climbing ladders into realms of the invisible.

--T.L. Stokes

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Color of Clothes

There is a voice rising from the earth, eight hundred thousand.
From the black one hundred days wild dogs slink. The sun
clutches the cloudless sky unable to hide its eyes. Rwanda
is a burden the earth cannot keep. Sleep, sleep. The air is a river.
The cry that rose up is an unhappy stone. We forget we are
connected. Your face, your child is mine. I mourn who I thought
were strangers. It could be my mother dying I begged you to carry.
What do the walls of the church say to each other? I am the voice
of their spreading moss. I think the land welcomes a little wind
to blow the sand. A blade of grass. Something, another color to
remind us the photos are not just black and white. I think
I am blind now that the fabric is the only color coming
from the dead, the relaxing bones, doll faces, the zigzag
of unfolding fiber.

Dr. James Orbinski

A boy of a man, skinny and definitive, stands talking with some people.
He could be your son. If you watch his eyes they become larger,
you could fall into the things he’s seen. I watched the stories come alive,
and somehow he made friends with nightmares, and when he opens
his mouth, the victims of genocide have a voice. The woman lay
bleeding to death from the places where her breasts were,
her ears were gone, seed splashed on thighs. Stripes from
the machete were a broken sun across her face. The doctor,
began to stitch up what he could and pulled a little too tightly
on her skin, and she reached out gently touching his arm. He
looked at her and saw she was a woman, her wounds, and he
turns his face slightly to the right as the camera keeps shooting,
his eyes go there, that far off look, into the innocence of a
memory that continues to burn him.

The Light That Falls On All of Us

I want to bring some light into the poem. I want to bring light
into all the broken places in history, what it means to be human.
We separate ourselves from each other. I want to make sense
of this. However my mind is silent. I sit in the great room after
dinner, the black dog sleeps. A week ago half a sourdough moon
hung in the sky. All the stars clung to their mother. Last night when
I got home, I walked the dog out into the field and above our heads
swirled the ghost lights.

Across the world in Rwanda, in a small stark building
at the victim's memorial, one of two survivors from that field,
spends the rest of his life digging and preserving bodies. He
pours lime over the threads and bones. Puts them on a long table.
Tenderly fingers a necklace. He hungrily keeps the doctor there
as long as possible, sharing the beauty and horror of what he finds.
He wants a witness. Someone to listen with him, to all the ghosts
who follow, pointing at the next place to dig.

~~~ c2011 T.L. Stokes (all rights reserved)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Shades of Light and Darkness

Some days I want to be a darkhorse.
I will write only about bones and skeletons;
about the scent of an abandoned house,
the walls fall slowly inward;
how rafters are the last rotting layer
of dust and broken lace.

I want you to see how the light drifts down,
how voices in the floor boards
rise up in the throat of crows.

Other days, I live with angels. Eagles lend
their wings. Each flower in the far field
has its own voice, each an unspoken name.
Dragonfly darts in its necklace flight. You there,
come over here. Stand with me silent in the evening.
The circle of giants around us bow their heads. The grass
is wet. The last thing we see is the field
retreating into blackness.

Wait. It is not all. Overhead the stars point in all directions.
It is the next thing. It never ends. Climb with me into the loft
and we will sleep.

~~~ c2011 T.L. Stokes (all rights reserved)