POETRY

1.

Precarious,
stumbling on
the cliff’s edge of wakefulness,
I grab at wisps of dreams,
then tumble
headlong into today.

© Stephen P. Huyler 8/16/19

4.

Memories of assault
held hostage
deep within my bones.

Walloped head,
spinal shocks,
and rape.

Far too many stars
embody
half a hundred years
of hiding pain.

Unfathomed
muscle memories
attempt release.

Can I be
at last
unbound?

© Stephen P. Huyler    8/20/19

7.

Seering pain,
constant throb,
almost half
of twenty thousand days and nights.

Three seconds only
and four ingredients:
an unguarded moment,
a young boy,
a sadistic teacher
and a cattle prod;
and two results:
a twisted spine,
and half a lifetime
with a pounding head.

No one
at the time to tell,
no recourse to the man,
long dead
and never accused.

Potions, pills, illegal drugs,
therapies and a myriad
of hands-on healings
provide some relief
that never lasts.

Constant escape
into literature and film,
the solace of music,
and immersion deep in creativity.
Diversion
comes
in the moments
of sustained or fleeting beauty
as nature unfolds
herself before me
and when
the true pleasure of friendships
rekindles my soul.

And yet…
and yet the pain endures
Again,
and I again I search,
desperate,
and desperately unable to ease
its agony.

© Stephen P. Huyler    9/1/19

10.

FOR HELENE

You fill my thoughts so often
whose heart entwined mine years ago.
So young were we and insecure,
each lonely and alone.
The light within your eyes reflected mine,
together magnified, enhanced,
uncovered secrets safely shared,
revealing realms
that only have enriched
through lifetimes’ blossoming
of trust,
of generosity,
of listening deep
and recognizing,
accepting strengths and faults alike.
Infusing all
is whimsy, humor, wit,
adventure, joy
embracing daily such beauty
as this earth unfurls.
This,
yes, this and more,
this is our love.

© Stephen P. Huyler    9/9/19

13.

Get lost, my muse!
Too many words and no sleep
through your demands.
Wrung out,
bewildered by emotions.

Leave me alone!
Go take a trip
and let me just enjoy
the subtle pleasures
of the sun’s tilt into autumn
as colors crisp
and splay themselves
unabashedly.

Damn!
There you go again
catching me unawares.
Can’t you allow my mind
simple unevocative thoughts?
Give me bland now!
I want rest…

© Stephen P. Huyler    9/21/19

14.

Progress!
We’ve lost our sense of presence,
of being quiet,
feeling the pulse of living
without distraction.
Now caught by compulsion
to know, to interact,
to own,
blood racing,
oblivious,
never stopping
to breathe
in silence.

Not that long ago,
less than two centuries,
a new turmoil entered our lives,
gradually growing in momentum
with each new invention.

Daily newspapers,
telegraph, telephones,
uninvited voices breaking the silence,
wireless, radios, records,
high fidelity,
mass printings, magazines, paperbacks,
dizzied by television,
beguiled by personal computer,
cassettes, VHS,
exponentially spreading
cable, satellite,
CDs, DVDs,
internet, gaming,
smartphones, streaming,
smartwatches, data plans, 3-d vision…

Until? Until??
When does it stop?
How long can I sit still.
Even as I write these thoughts
and share them with others,
technology channels my words.
Hooked in
totally,
I try to find some peace…

15.

Jet Lag, 1

I have returned
through mists,
through veils of fog and time,
of otherness away.
Confusion,
loss of sleep
confounds all sense
of ground,
of now,
of where I am.

The inescapable pain
of colliding worlds.
Thorny tentacles clasp
brain, limbs, blood,
and squeeze.

Two selves,
two universes collide
while longingly
I await
their fusion.

© Stephen P. Huyler    1/29/20

18.

Gliding,
I fall,
turning,
pirouetting,
toward earth,
finally releasing
the strength of my grip,
a leaf plunging,
yet floating,
radiant with light,
indefinable hues,
turning this way,
then that,
finally alighting
on earth
only to scurry
upwards once more
alongside a myriad
of other swirling leaves.

© Stephen P. Huyler    11/3/20

20.

(For Ian)

Mountain
man of far northern wildness,
and endless snows, long summers, forests, plains,
horses, huskies.
Now bound by tubes,
caught by well-intended care
far from that unbounded horizon
you made your home.
Are you letting go?
Becoming that which for so long
has been extended you?

You taught me first:
years younger, always taller,
mocked as dim by many,
yet continuously connected
to earth, stars, plants, animals,
the nature within,
ever in wonder,
never carping, quibbling, or discontent.
My only friend for years.

Vastly different,
yet more alike than others knew:
my mind so fast, planning,
yours deep beyond measure, present.
We met in realms of endless imagination
and pure acceptance,
while those around us
could not see,
did not see.
Were you already in that world
you chose to inhabit?

And you grew and grew,
misunderstood colossus,
until you reached beyond those measures,
above us all, untouched,
startling many with your wide angle views.
I’d known,
unstartled.
Your depth informed my childhood,
formed my being.

Still young,
you journeyed far from man’s intensities,
seeking solitude in the magnificence of this land,
leagues from all others,
melding mountains, snows, trees, wolves, bear and elk,
enraptured by phenomena beyond our human ken.

Once you’d found that perfect peace,
the greater world found you,
recognized the rarity of your views,
sought your wisdom,
came to be led deep into that wildness
that flowed now from your fingertips,
from your unkempt hair,
connecting thought, skin, bones, body
through your feet into
the land that had become you.

Mountain man,
towering like the trees
you knew so well,
my earth will never be the same
without your presence.
You were my first true friend.
Together we reimagined the universe,
and now in pain you fade away.

© Stephen P. Huyler    3/31/20

2.

Caught
between
the urgent, constant
call of creativity
and
the gentling solace
of quiet inactivity.

© Stephen P. Huyler    8/18/19

5.

No church for me,
no chapel and no shrine,
for I am drawn outside of doors,
no walls, no pews, no roofs that might confine.

A pool of dewdrops on a leaf,
new blossoms’ subtly shaded hues,
pebbles held within my palm:
each its own unique and transitory
avenue into grace.

The soughing wind between the trees,
or gentle orchestra of birds,
rain’s pattering, then drumming on the stones:
these are my choir,
while one insistent often repeating chirp
is my mantra.

I need no priest
and no minister,
no guru, iman, or rabbi.
My lessons can be as subtle
as the patterns of light on sidewalk or wall,
or as momentous as a thunderstorm
or a sudden squall at sea.
Minutes become hours
gazing at the constant change
of colors in ocean or in sky.

Congregation surrounds me,
composed of friends and family,
far and near,
recently seen and long dead,
whose love sustains and gives me ground.
No sermon need remind me
to reach out and welcome in.

Yoga is sitting on a wall,
or stretching toward a sunlit web between two trees,
or each step climbing up a mountain path.
Tai Chi might be
the ever-slow unfurling of a fern
or perhaps a caterpillar inching up a tree

Even these,
when words bubble unbidden
to the eddying surface of my thoughts,
these are my prayers.

© Stephen P. Huyler 8/16/19

8.

COMPOSED FOR A FRIEND

Where once
you were so bright,
dazzling, in fact,
your flame falters,
not guttering yet,
but steadily,
almost imperceptibly
diminishing.

Your laughter,
your bright eyes and smile
belie
the evidence
in your words.

Sensing your struggles,
I know my own fears:
the ineffable experience
of thoughts beyond grasp,
familiar names and concepts
now evanescent.

Can I keep my mind?
Will you?

Remembering
your mother’s
indignant anger,
her increasing frustration
at not knowing
who, what or where
she was…
you were…

What frightens you now?
Becoming her?

Loose,
losing,
elusive,
lost…

© Stephen P. Huyler    9/6/19

11.

Heartsick
for our earth.

When did we first view her
as commodity,
as ours to own,
pillage, destroy
for personal gain,
not as
Mother,
Father,
without whom
we would cease to exist?

A thousand years?
More?
Since we forgot
her forests are Our lungs,
her seas and rivers, Our blood,
her lands, Our bodies,
her fruits, her minerals, Our sustenance?

How could we become
detached, indifferent,
so arrogant we can consider,
even for one second,
we are our universe’s ultimate creation?
Can we even pause the momentum?
The upward outward thrust
to grab all for ourselves,
to consume without care,
to continually grow unchecked
until we burst?
Until it all erupts?

We scream so loud,
can we even hear
the voices of our land?
Our trees, our rocks,
rivers, mountains, oceans, skies?
They speak, if we but listen,
they sing, but we are deaf.
Their wisdom resonates within their roots and leaves,
buried deep in stony veins,
in wooded valleys and ice clad peaks,
in ocean trenches, in pillowy clouds.

They do not weep,
complain, find excuses for inaction.
Their time is now and future.
In perfect symbiosis,
they serve one another
and a good far greater than themselves.

No longer do we know their affinities.
Attention directed to our own small tribes,
we cannot truly
see, smell, touch, taste, hear
this all-encompassing other
that is also us.

We pity ourselves and remain undoing.
Many recognize our malaise,
yet greed or inertia
keeps us closed off.
Easily we blame others,
our leaders, politicians,
our bankers, corporations,
internet, misguided media,
anyone or anything but ourselves.

Am I too late?
Can I act now?
Can I forgo
my hunger for the next,
more, better, stronger, younger, new?
Can I allow
myself to listen deep
to that which envelops?
Can I stop acting, scheduling, planning, comparing,
and simply breathe
in concert with the breath
of this blessed universe?
Can I add my life to the healing
of this ailing heart?

© Stephen P. Huyler    9/12/19

16.

Jet Lag, 2

Suddenly,
as I awake and lie
in bleak, black hours,
I turn over
into the soft envelope
of your love
and am
at last
again
home.

© Stephen P. Huyler    1/30/20

19.

Welcomed
into India
for fifty years.
Seen, heard, fed, and nourished.
Learning to listen,
be present,
notice, and observe,
welcomed to participate.
A foreign guest
transformed
into brother, son, uncle,
even father.
Welcomed through grace
to remain
my own separate self
while melding into
cultures, families, communities.
The Other
becoming so familiar —
almost
an extension of myself.

© Stephen P. Huyler    3/6/21

21.

Tensions
this past year, and more,
tighten
as we learn of
yet another spike,
or the death of someone
deep within our veins.
Shattered by the news
of more divisions,
more incomprehensible
blunders of our leaders
or of those we’re told
are on the other side,
no matter what that is.

We know
deep down
we can’t return
ever
to the same nonchalance,
the unwitting tranquility
of complacency,
pretending
our world is not flawed,
our lives not miraged
by the injustices
we refused to see.

© Stephen P. Huyler    4/17/21
Fire
Twelve thousand miles away
chews bits of my life to blackened shreds.
Distance, exhaustion, new time, rich food,
all merge into incomprehension.
Quick half glimpses of boxes, files, drawers
of what-undermind.
My poetry — years of stretching emotion,
words of growing awareness
finally lost to inner combustion.
Slides of innumerable adventures,
unremembered keys to worlds of before,
undeciphered years of depth are lost.
The fabric jewels of past peoples lives,
costumes, cloths of fine-worked brilliance
dimmed in sodden soot.
Others, loved, but unknowing,
shocked and distressed, sift through remains
while I, worlds and lifetimes away,
begin afresh.

© Stephen P. Huyler    1/19/87

3.

Muse
invades my sleep,
tugs at my dreams
with unbidden words
insisting on form
until I rise to write.
Resisting,
I return
to manufacture a litany
of patterned phrases
to dam the flow
and dimmer thoughts
without success.
Poetry pulls me
awake.

© Stephen P. Huyler    8/20/19

6.

I pledged my allegiance to the trees
on this land long ago.
I say this land
as it is not truly mine.
It has been theirs
for the past century and more,
tended by local natives
for unmeasured years before that.
These trees
hold the soul of this garden
and of our home
that abides within it.
Daily I honor them,
whether I am here
or across the world
near trees not part
of my own heritage.
I acknowledge their rooted strength,
their uplifting, leafy spirits,
and the majesty of their trunks
whose textured bark
sings symphonies of silent character.
By being present with these trees,
I continually rediscover
my own humility.
I learn yet again
that my kind and I
are almost insignificant specks
in this magnificent
and highly intelligent universe.
These trees,
each so different
in personality and form,
teach me a profound reverence
for the symbiosis of us all.
I stand daily in their presence
in rapt respect.

© Stephen P. Huyler    8/26/19

9.

My world collapsed
when I was raped
by an older boy:
my nemesis.
My young, preteen body
forced to grow up
far too fast;
defenseless and alone.

My family
did not want to know,
never had.
never saw my terror of Nemesis
who, even from my first steps,
almost daily
conceived me some harm.

A trusting child,
I smiled too much,
laughed too easily,
his perfect bait,
continually beguiled
by false promises
before he pounced,
coaxed, taunted, trapped,
then hurt me again and again.

Abuse carried from home to school,
seeded by this nemesis,
my confidence chipped away
by teachers and other children
whose pleasure came
by belittling others.

My parents disbelieved
the beatings and abuse,
and, when told of bullies,
insisted I fight back.
Violence was never my way.
So, when I was raped,
violated by the one person
I most despised,
I swallowed my pain
and told no one.

My spirit, always strong,
refused to be crushed.
Defiant,
determined to be myself,
I rebuilt my world
by choosing to work alone,
a profession immersed
in communities a world away
and answerable to no one else,
managing my own life…
managing.

Transformation
through therapies, friends
and lasting partnership
holds my past in light.
Compassion
for women raped and bullied,
whose stories reflect my own.

Decades passed before
I could fully accept myself
as worthy
of being called a man.
Although
my mind and heart felt clear,
my body still held tight
those years of pain.

A strong man now,
whole in my skin,
I reached out to Nemesis
a year ago
for the first time
since boyhood.
Without hooks or self-pity,
I wrote of his brutality
and of the other boys
he had molested long ago.
I prayed there’d been an end
to these violations.
No word from him,
no amends or self-defense,
no pledge that he has stopped.

I am no longer alone.
The outreaching cry
in recent years
of struggles shared,
of endured, unspoken crimes,
Me Too,
these bring me voice,
these bring me peace.

© Stephen P. Huyler    9/8/19

12.

Held somewhere
in this man’s body,
a child yearns
to be released.
Timid, untrusting,
as yet unwilling
to reach out his hand
and clasp mine.
His greatest wish
is to grow up strong,
straight of spine,
loved, secure.
For years I’ve tried
to coax him out,
assure him it’s safe,
help him understand
how loved he is now,
give him space
to spread his limbs
within me.

For months at a stretch
I think
at last he is free.
My ageless pains diminished,
I no longer feel
his insistent pleading.
The joys of life
seem to overflow my brim.

Activities dominate each day
and drown that plaintive cry,
diminish the small boy’s yearning
until without warning
a cycle of bodily pain again
dominates my waking hours.
Can I fully welcome him
out into the world this time?
Can I allow him to play,
to laugh, run, jump, spin, sing
as any child might
unhindered by deep memories
of abuse?

© Stephen P. Huyler    9/17/19

17.

My young hands trailed
over rows of books,
countless covers,
each containing a wealth of knowledge
I could only imagine:
my adventures yet to come.
My world unfolded
through unending tomes
on miles of shelves
in aisles of wonder.

Card files shunned,
the stacks allured me
with their creased and faded spines.
I squinted to decipher titles,
faded and worn
like stretched tattoos
on aged and wrinkled skin,
their years of handling
imbedded deep within.

Once eased out of line,
each book heralded discovery:
heavy cloth bindings
embossed to resemble
carpets, fields of flowers,
mountains, seas, ships,
volumes opening to reveal
endpapers, title pages,
frontispieces and illustrations
that entranced, transported.

I felt compelled to read,
excavating realms of insights,
captivated by thoughts far outside
the constrictions of classroom.
I learned through the rich smell
of paper and old inks,
musty scents evoking
generations of thought,
the feel of print beneath fingertips
primed to turn the next page,
relentlessly pulling,
drawing me in.

I absorbed a universe achingly wide.
Libraries gave me life,
while the wildness of nature
sustained my soul.
Some thought me a lonely child.
They couldn’t sense my inner worlds.

Now I am besieged by immediacy,
knowledge ever-present,
accessible each moment
at the touch of a device,
through metals, synthetics and wires.
In our world,
books and nature,
both endangered,
rapidly become obsolete, unnecessary.
In the quest for more,
I risk losing the tactile, the sensory,
the physical thrills of opening a book,
riffing its pages,
the smell, the form, the feel:
the world of print revealing
each imaginable treasure.

In these divisive days,
when sensibility, acceptance and trust are challenged,
I need to travel
through volumned aisles
fingering spines,
to rediscover this open universe.

© Stephen P. Huyler    2/18/20
You who have given me myself,
have kindled my soul.
You were always there,
listening, open, attentive to my inner needs.
You saw through my defenses,
the clouds of my ego and petty wishes.
Challenging my complacence,
you validated my strengths
and gave grace to my weaknesses.
You helped me search for truth,
and tested me, nudged me, cajoled me, intrigued me
into the struggles that formed
the man I am now.
You demanded my honesty,
and were rigorous in your persistence
that I continue to open — to myself and to others.
You were tender without pity,
caring without coddling,
critical without rancor.
If you had not been present,
I still would have been me,
but with your help, your push and pull,
your insights and encouragement,
your insistence on rigorous accountability,
your willing ear and constructive responses,
the path to my truth has been clearer.
You are gone now, not faded.
Your presence continues to command my attention.
Still within I listen,
and give you thanks.

© Stephen P. Huyler    1998