Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Winter Tree

Photo Brian Federle: Desert Tree, Palm Springs, 2016

The winter tree 
does not move.

Its wide trunk 
plunges into graven earth, 
unseen roots, grasping hands
feel deeply the living soil,
hold firm anchorage
against the coming storm,

but rising wood, thin
though strong enough 
to paint slender lines, 
trails into purer air, 
gives shelter
to Christmas birds.

They hunch on stems, quietly
waiting to sing open 
the dawn.


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Modern Parable

The evil one
believes that he alone
lives in paradise.

He sees his gold and marble halls
fat tables groaning under
feasts unshared,
worships the idol
in the mirror

and he smiles;

whereas the saint 
labors in hot vineyards, 
wipes brows burned by 
the risen sun, 
creases the fertile earth
and with wrinkled hands
fills the bowls
of the poor,

and God smiles.

(2014 March 23)

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Wildfire in Paradise

The burnt sky of
Paradise, drifts
towards the sea.

On acrid breezes
ashes fall —
promises scattered
and consumed,

as the sun —
its dark,
bloody husk,
exposed at last —
hangs, ruined.


Evening Meditation

Our apple tree is exuberant tonight,
its white blossoms flare within emerald shades
of our big cottonwoods,

and the flashing red finch descends
busy among the bursting white flames,
when suddenly, by a small boy enraptured,
it poses as the guardian halcyon.

Love in April is like this,
measured in flashes
of red wings in trees
and scored in lines of
molten sunlight, pouring
through our knotty fence
into the silky darkness
of our star drenched night


Saturday, July 4, 2020


Deep thunder shakes this warm July evening
and lightning flashes over the waterfront
filling the clear, starry sky with acrid clouds and glimmering rain
falling to the water as children gaze
in shock and awe,
waiting for the next big one to explode.

False bombardment as celebration:

such fits my nation, founded in genocide and slavery,
this nation baptized in the blood and tears
of Navaho and Cherokee and all the tribes of the American holocaust
a nation that devoured one quarter of its sons
in four short, blood-soaked years; my nation,
a nation of efficient bigots and hungry hypocrites,
giving the world Gettysburg and the Trail of Tears
as models for problem-solving;
a nation unlike any other, not able to live up to its promises
because no other nation dares make such promises.

The bright violence of rockets' red glare lights our sky
like the bold Declaration ignited the world, and thunder
rocked mighty kings from complacent belief in their divine rights,
rocked the people of Europe, thirsting for their own rights
and land and a chance to pursue a little happiness;
yes, rocked even distant Asia, deep in its ancient dream
foolish men joyfully following the distant thunder
to seek the fabled Golden Mountain.

The promise was made and broken and made yet again,
and the anger of betrayal torched the cities of the sixties,
and singed our hearts
and in the redeeming pain of change
made them a little less impure.
Yes, we are imperfect,
but we know our sins
and pay for them over and over again,

and to remind ourselves of the debt yet unsatisfied,
every summer we celebrate in the only way fitting for such a nation;
In the starry sky fiercely glowing with liberty -
in the transcendent thunder
of the Promise.

(4 July 2011)

Sunday, June 28, 2020


I heard the game was tough, and they lost,
despairing in muddy jerseys,
turf jutting from face guards and heavy cleats.

Sweat-stained and sore, they showered,
and the camaraderie of the locker room
broke through the stern silence with boyish laughter.
Weekend plans made, they climbed into the chartered bus
and drove slowly through the misty night
to the airport, to go home, back to West Virginia.

The plane gleamed reassuringly, like technology always does.
The power of the lift, the whine of competent engines
flinging them into the clouds, driving them high beyond the storm
into the clear, star-filled night. But the flight was rough, and
nearing their goal, it happened; a jolting shudder,
surprised looks, and amid the confusion of savage g-forces
suddenly nothing remained but flames
and twisted metal
and silence
on the charred mountain.

This is when I first became acquainted with death.

These were my friends, my old team-mates;
two years before we jogged in the hot August sun
and ranged through snowy October backfields;
like dangerous tigers we hunted quarterbacks,
thinking we were forever young and strong
and invincible.

Jack Rapasy, Bob Harris, and Mark Andrews:

Jack was the joker, but he could catch a bullet
six feet over his head, and leave two defenders
to slam into each other as they met, mid –air,
where he was,
while he ambled smiling to the end-zone.

And Bob could throw that bullet, his baby-face
And million dollar smile belying muscle-thick arms,
rocket launchers, splitting Friday nights with their fire.

But Mark, gentle giant of a linesman, was like my
big brother; he taught me how to shift and pull and trap,
and admired my fierce tackle, my willingness
to sacrifice clarity to stop a power-sweep.

We grew up together, but Mark died far from home.

Their three caskets in our high school gym lay,
while I, staring at glaring metal,
stood silent and amazed
that never would they run,
or throw, or tackle, or smile, or laugh,
or again be.


Saturday, June 27, 2020

The Beginning

The road calls
its whispering song
as early trucks whine,
red-shifting down the highway,
past the heavy curtains
of our room.

But we’re ready,
early risers,
eager to begin.

The motel lot is already alive,
as sleepy travelers
coffee steam rising
with the morning mist,
dream of going
to the coast,
to the mountains,
to the desert
To glittering Las Vegas,

to see all the places
In the thick triple A book,
following sure, red lines
on bright, creased maps,

but on my dark dashboard
the glowing GPS,
polite, sure girl
leads the way.

This road has called us
over and over,
and this time
we are going
east,  into the rising sun,

as bright white lines flash
like years in our headlights,
quickly forgotten
and always another
flying into another
never looking back
to see where we were

only seeing now
as this now blurs
into the next now
and the future
never really

But such philosophy
can be dangerous
at 75 miles per hour,

so turning on the radio
we glide down I-5.

It’s a fast road,
but straight as a
boring dream,
until, beyond Bakersfield,
crossing the
high eastern limit
of the great, green valley,

suddenly we break free
into the dry Mojave,
into a space so wide
that the pink, morning sky
arches its bright back
all the way
to space.

Time itself
could get lost here,

but not us!

Time never had a GPS girl
cheerful  guide
to lead us
on our summer’s journey
across wide America.


Rose at Nightfall

“God wants to know the divine goodness in us.” Thomas Merton

Red rose flames
in shade of day’s end.
Night sifts gently
through dark trees;

but the rose!
the rose yet blooms;

defies the fall
of night’s certain pall.


Tuesday, March 3, 2020

from "Memorial"

Brian Federle, born March 4, 1986


Seven years after my father died
my first child, my son, was born in spring,
and in the gleaming, sterile room
I first held him in my arms
as, with his impossibly wide, blue eyes
he calmly gazed right into my raw soul,
and I felt in a sudden rush of warmth,
a timeless love
and at last discovered
the reason for my life.
It was then
I understood my father.
In my son’s face I saw my own
and felt my father’s eyes gazing
in warm wonder on me
and I glowed with
unconditional love for my son.