Stop Making Angels

It’s nice having angels, looking down on us from high,
But we must stop, prematurely, sending their souls to the heavenly sky.
I know some say that tragic death is all part of God’s most holy plan,
But never will you find me believing God wants guns in a killer’s hand.

The list of killings in America has grown to be way too long,
“Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes should not be this country’s most played song.
The headlines below are the most tragic, starting in 1984,
By the time you find and read this poem, it will probably include more.

Twenty-one innocent souls sent to heaven from a McDonald’s restaurant,
An out-of-work security guard, our spirits start to haunt;
Fourteen killed in Edmonds, Oklahoma while working with the mail,
A co-worker with guns in hand, afraid that he might fail.

Five killed in Stockton, California; ten in Jacksonville, Florida the next year,
Twenty-two in Killeen, Texas, just adding to the tears;
Four in Iowa City, four more at Lindhust High School –
In Olivehurst, California, the world seems oh, so cruel.

In an office building in San Francisco, eight more souls sent to their graves;
Six in Garden City, New York, that nobody could come and save;
Five killed in Jonesboro, Arkansas by two kids with guns in hand;
Thirteen in Columbine High School, I just don’t understand.

Nine in Atlanta, at two offices across the street;
Seven in Fort Worth, Texas; why must these tragedies repeat?
Seven in Honolulu, by a madman with a Glock;
Seven more in Wakefield, Massachusetts, these senseless killings we won’t stop.

Two in Santee, California, in another high school attack;
Three in a Tucson college, by a war veteran when he came back;
Five in Meridian Mississippi; nine in Red Lake Reservation, Minnesota;
Six more in Goleta, California – please wake me when it’s all over.

Five Amish girls in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania – I bet you’ve forgotten most of these;
Five in a Salt Lake City shopping mall – again I am praying down on my knees;
In Blacksburgh, Virginia, Virginia Tech University is in the news
Angels sent too soon to heaven that day total thirty-two.

Eight killed in Omaha, Nebraska; five at Northern Illinois University;
Thirteen in Binghamton, New York – how many more killings must we see?
Thirteen in Fort Hood, Texas – we will return here on our list;
Three angels made in Huntsville, Alabama, as the killings still persist.

Eight killed in Manchester, Connecticut; six in Tucson and almost one more,
Yet the gun laws in this country stay the same as they were before;
In Seal Beach, California, eight more angels sent on their way;
At Oikos University in Oakland, seven more bodies taken away.

Twelve from a theater in Aurora; six in a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek;
Six more in Minneapolis – my faith is turning weak.
Three dead in Brookfield, Wisconsin – none of these we should forget;
Then 27 angels were sent to heaven from a school in Newtown, Connecticut.

Five in Santa Monica College; twelve killed in Washington D.C.
Then back to Fort Hood, Texas, where three more we won’t again see;
Six dead in Isla Vista, California; nine angels in a Charleston church will earn their wings;
In Chattanooga, Tennessee, it’s a sailor and four marines.

Nine killed in Roseburg, Oregon – I have to sit and wonder why;
Three dead in Colorado Springs – are there any more tears left to cry?
Fourteen more in San Bernardino; terrorists are said to blame,
But if we don’t do something about our gun laws, we will just be suffering the same.

I wish we would stop making so many Angels
Before we get to know them in human form;
With a list as long as that above,
It seems we have more than enough been already warned.

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A Christmas Tale

Outside my dorm window, the snow began to fall;
Everybody had gone home, but I didn’t have a car.
Christmas break started yesterday, they’re gonna throw me out;
I’ve got no place to go, I’ll just be wandering about.

Rubbing elbows with the rich kids on an academic ride,
But the tracks that I come from are from the other side.
No daddy who’s a lawyer; no mother with a doctorate degree,
No car keys to a new Porsche underneath a Christmas tree.

Threw some clothes in my backpack with the cafeteria food that I stole;
Borrowed my roommate’s comforter to protect me from the cold.
Found a shelter for the homeless on the other side of town;
With my First Year Contract Law book, I started to hunker down.

A little boy walked up beside me and stood beside my cot,
“Mister, would you like to share my candy, it’s the only thing I got.
I’ll give you half my candy cane if you read me a story from your book.”
How could I refuse this little boy and the longing in his look?

“You can keep your Christmas candy, but I will tell you a story,
About a newborn baby King and the star that signaled glory.”
As I told the story of Christmas, the best I could recall,
People gathered around the two of use as the snow outside did fall.

When my story was finally over, the little boy just smiled,
And put a smile on every other face that gathered in the crowd;
Then he looked at every one of us and said, so simply,
“Jesus Christ put that star of hope into all of you and me.”

Suddenly, my self-pity flew right out of my soul,
Becoming rich like all my schoolmates, no longer was my goal,
I closed up my text book and went outside into the snow,
Laying on our backs, making snow angels, we watched the stars aglow.

“The star of hope still shines brightly, each and every Christmas night,
With our faith in baby Jesus, everything will turn out all right.”

I returned back to the university and finished my degree,
Dedicating my life thereafter to helping others out of poverty.
Every Christmas Eve I go back to that shelter on the far side of town,
And retell the story of Christmas to whoever comes around.

Merry F’n Christmas (A Short Story)

It had been a bad year for Daniel. The company for which he worked for over 40 years went out of business due to criminal mismanagement, including the embezzlement of the company’s pension fund; his wife of 40 years suddenly became ill and passed away; the hospital expenses wiped out all of his savings; he had a terrible fight with his only son who, after being married for ten years, with two kids, announced he was gay and changing his life-style. It was, indeed a bad year.

As the sun rose on Christmas morning, an unseasonably warm day, Daniel put on his hiking boots and drove out to a trailhead deep in the mountains where he started his hike up to Lookout Ledge. Once he reached the ledge, Daniel stood on the edge of the high cliff and, looking out over the other mountain tops as far as the eye could see, he yelled, at the top of his lungs, “Merry Fucking Christmas”.

Listening for an echo before jumping to his end, instead, he heard, in a high pitched voice, someone shout back, “And a Happy Fucking New Year”.

Daniel stepped back from the ledge and looked all around him.

“Hello”, he said, “is someone up here?”

Sandra approached the ledge on a trail coming up from the other side of the mountain.

“I didn’t expect to find company up here”, she said, removing the wool cap from her head, releasing long flowing hair that fell below her shoulders.

“What the hell are you doing up here”, Daniel asked her.

“From your salutation”, she responded, “I suspect, the same thing you are doing.”

“Yeah”, Daniel asked, “and why is that?”

“You first”, Sandra replied, sitting down on the edge of the cliff, hanging her feet over the side.

“That’s a long way down”, Daniel cautioned, “you shouldn’t be that close to the edge.”

“Oh, you mean this edge that you were about to test your wings from”, she asked in sad reply.

“Well”, Daniel said, “I’ve had a bad year.”

Daniel then proceeded to tell Sandra his story. At the end of his tragic tale, Sandra commented, “I thought old men were supposed to be wise.”

Daniel just stared at her with a quizzical look on his face.

“I mean”, Sandra continued, “you are being soooo stupid. You have spent 40 years with a woman who loved you and who you loved. You have over 40 years of terrific and happy memories and, instead, you dwell on the one year that was sad and challenging. You have a son who loves you so much that for 35 years of his life he pretended to be the person you wanted him to be and gave you grandchildren you wouldn’t otherwise have had. And, now, when he finally discovers the courage to be who he really is, a time when he needs your support and understanding the most, you abandon him. At a time when your son must face the ridicule and contempt that the rest of the world is going to heap on him, you tell him that the love he thought was unconditional, is in fact, subject to the condition that he shares the same sexual desires that you have. And, you bemoan the loss of money promised you in your old age when, in reality, you already have more than you need. So now, you come up here to end it all like a coward. No, you are not wise, you are just being stupid. I have never had anyone love me; I have no children to shower my unconditional love on; I have no money; I have no reason to be here anymore. I have no one to miss me when I am gone.”

Daniel looked at her and replied, “What are you talking about? How old are you, 30-something? Look at you, you are a gorgeous, beautiful woman, I don’t believe that no one has ever loved you.”

“Thirty-eight”, Sandra said, “and yes, I am beautiful; always have been. Sure men love my beauty; they love my face and my body; but no one has ever loved ME. No one has ever gotten past what I look like to find out exactly who I am. Yes, I have had many lovers, but no one who loved me. I grew up in foster homes; I never knew my parents or what happened to them. It was from one of my foster fathers where I learned the curse of being beautiful. Every time I complained about one of the foster fathers, I simply got transferred into another home where the lesson would be learned all over again. I am the one who was being punished and labelled a problem for their acts. Then, at eighteen, I was on my own – no schooling, no training, no preparation for this harsh world. I got by; waitressing; a modeling job here and there; cutting hair. And a long line of lovers. You know, no one has ever asked me my opinion on a political issue; no one has ever asked me to join a book club; no one has ever invited me to hear a lecture, or taken me to the opera. I love writing poetry – have all my life, but no one has ever been interested in reading any of them; people just laugh at me when I tell them I want to read them something I wrote. And no one has ever invited me to have Christmas with their parents or their family. This is my Christmas tradition. Every year since I was twenty-one years old, I have hiked up here and contemplated doing just what you were about to do, but I always lost my nerve; I always tricked myself into believing, it will get better; and, I always made my way back down to my car in the dark. I thought, this year would be different. At 38, with my beauty fading and no longer an asset, I thought I could actually jump this time. Then I had to find some idiot like you here in my spot, crying about losing what I never had, when in fact, you haven’t lost anything at all, you are just throwing away beautiful memories and abandoning those who still love you.”

Sandra sat there on the ledge; Daniel stood nearby; and, they both looked out over the mountain tops in silence for a while.

Finally, Daniel asked, “Do you have any of those poems with you now?”
Sandra chuckled, “No. But, I’ve got a bunch of them down in my car.”

“Do you want to go down there together so you can read some to me”, he asked.

Sandra held out her hand so Daniel could help her to her feet. “Sure”, she said, “why not? I can always just do this next year.”

They walked the five miles down the mountain to Sandra’s car in silence. Upon reaching her car, Sandra said, “You know, I know most of my poems by heart; I could have just recited them to you at Lookout Ledge.”

“I know,” Daniel said.

“My poems are pretty romantic”, Sandra joked, “you’re not going to want to become my lover, are you?”

“I am sixty-five years old”, Daniel said with a smile, “and have only made love to one woman in my entire life. That ship, I am afraid, has sailed. I have no desire to add to my list of conquests.”

“That is both sweet and sad at the same time”, Sandra offered.

“Perhaps”, Daniel replied.

After Sandra read a few of her poems to Daniel which he listened to with tears in his eyes as a result of their beauty, she offered to drive him to his car at the trailhead on the other end of the mountain. It was late by the time they reached Daniel’s car.

“Do you want to go see if we can find a restaurant still opened for a late Christmas dinner,” Sandra asked.

“You know,” Daniel said, “not tonight. I have some driving to do. I think it’s time I go make up with my son and he’s a few hours away. You’re going to be okay, right?”

“Good as ever,” Sandra smiled.

“Merry Fucking Christmas,” Daniel chuckled.

“And, a Happy Fucking New Year,” Sandra chimed back.