Halfway out of the dark by stephenherronold

The opposite of summer,
That forever twilight of my youth,
The sky just a darker blue Long past midnight.

Solstice balances Solstice,
A line connecting each pole.
The year strung out, summed up in sunsets
And reckoned in rises.

Every sunset is a defeat,
Every sunrise a victory.
The ticktock of days
Rushing by ever faster.

The worst days,
Like broken glass
Crunching and cutting
Under your feet.

The best days,
Brief moments of bright
Gone too soon,
Never forgotten.

It's not the days in your life,
But the life in your days,
Lick your fingers clean,
Reach in and take another.

Sam by stephenherronold

He was a good cat
Though unspeakably vile
To the not-us and un-we.

He was the third of his name
A tradition of my family
Now thirty six years in the making.

He was my sidekick
In my first months in America
My feline shadow in the Canton apartment.

He always smelled a bit like curry
A pleasant and exotic scent
As if he wasn't just a common tabby.

He loved my feet
Would sleep by and over them.
Say howdy with a nibble and a flop.

He loved straws
Would pull them from cups
Drag them up and down stairs.

He would say hello
With a nod and a short meow
As if copying the human gesture.

He liked being scooped
Picked up and cuddled
But only by us.

He would come when called
Chirping and curious
Wondering where the turkey was.

He played fetch
Would bring you something
And wait for you to throw it.

He was generous
Leaving loose change in my shoes
Turning every pair into penny loafers.

He missed us
Would be at the door when we got home
Endless nose-rubs after vacations.

We miss him
Eleven years old, almost exactly
A wedding gift to ourselves.

He was a good cat
A gift that never stopped giving
And never will.

Samuel Jay Herron
April 2000 - April 2011
He was a good cat

Closer Apart by stephenherronold

Spring Promise
Summers Golden Wish
Open Eyes, Heart Unfurled
Waiting with patience tested
Dangerous tender words

Autumn change
Winters dark sorrow
Deny hope so gently
Biding time, waiting for the moment
Tonight the truth aches

Spring Hope
Summer lies before us
Shadows fade, we remain
Closer apart

(Lyrics written in 1997)

September by stephenherronold

The late afternoon sun
Lays upon the leaves just right,
Evoking green from long ago,
Light from faraway.

The cooling days of autumn,
The end of endless summer,
Staring at the sun-painted green world
From a different classroom window.

After school,
We'd make the most of the deep blue evenings
Watching the sun set behind Cave Hill.
We're suddenly in shadow (the warm into cold of the air),
The new and old scent of peat fires relit
For the first time in ages.

We trade sunlight for streetlight.
Growing up in the dull orange glow
Of sodium vapor.
Sullenly railing against the end of the day,
Before my mum calls me home.

Soon there will be more night, less light.
Frosty dark mornings.
Up far too early,
Walking to the bus stop on the Antrim Road.
The streets are icy, but the passing gritter
Assaults both road and boy.
Just an insult added to injury.

September was the start of our year, back then.

Brick by Brick by stephenherronold

It's called Lego.
Just Lego.
A plural like sheep Or fish.

We never built cars or fire engines.
We never built planes or houses.

We built starships.
Small ones, big ones.
Fighters and capital ships.
The crew (the cast, really)
Would lose one ship,
Just so we could build the next.

Epic battles,
Space-opera storylines.
Unfolding in a storm
Of copyright violations.
Drawing inspiration from everything,
Ever-hungry for the next story.

Science fiction was our reality.
Our childhoods defined by parsecs, not miles.
We were light years away,
In the Collinward garden.

Belfast by stephenherronold

It was the big smoke
The one and only city
Gigantic and sprawling
(Or so we thought)
A thousand different places,
But one place.

The name rang
With promise. 
The distant thunder rumbled
From over the hill
As parts of the city
Were turned into dust.

That didn't matter to me
A trip downtown
Meant so many things.
Leisureworld's endless treasures
Woolworth's and Boot’s
Bookshops and Argos
Movies with my dad or gran
Always something new

Later, I went to school there
The city center was too close
A brighter, more tempting place
That still sang to my senses.
Until I moved to a place
A little too far away.

Later still, we reclaimed the city
Driving down weekly or more
The brand new glass and steel
Better cinemas and restaurants
Discovering the city all over again.

Eventually I lived there
A small nameless house
In the shadow of the building
Where I came into the world
Living out the same
Heartbreaks and triumphs
As everyone else.

That’s when I felt it.
Belonging to the place
Just as it belonged to me.
A connection going back
To before I was born.

Eventually I left.
Another post-industrial city on a Great Lake
Trading saltwater for fresh
Leaving Cave Hill behind

Sometimes I go back
Haunting the streets
Like an absentee ghost.
Always a hint of guilt
And wonder.

Barberism by stephenherronold

Red and white stripes
Tell us we're there.

My father walks me up
The creaking wood stairs
Bent here and there
From the leaden feet
Of ten thousand shaggy men.

At the top of the hill,
A line of strangers sit
Reading "Punch"
Or old newspapers
All men.
This is the Barber's,
Not a hairdressers.

The paintings on the wall are for sale.
The place smells of old man,
Of hair tonic and stringent things, 
A hint of alcohol and aftershave

I see blades.
Sharp things. 
Devices for cleaning.
It feels like a doctor's office.
Nothing good ever happens there.

The snickersnack of steel, 
Scissors sneak around, 
Cutting, biting, snipping,
The tense anticipation
Of careless nick and stab.
Sitting on a small bench
Balanced across the arms Of the giant chair
That I'll fill one day,
But today, I'm only six.

His fingers are a vice
Ice-cold, in control.
Turning my head
This way and that.
In silence.
It hurts.

I stare back at the be-cloaked boy
In the mirror.
The scissor-man doesn't see him.
Just hair to be cut.

The black and white tiled floor
Looks like an endless chessboard, 
Ten thousand fallen soldiers
Scattered all around.

They get brushed away at the end.

Mystery Prize by stephenherronold

An old friendship
(school years are like dog years)
You gave me a transfusion of music
Donating good taste across
A dozen tape cassettes
In a single first-year term.

I moved, we maintained.
Summers here and there,
Hanging out,
Books, short stories,
Musical remixes,
Endless talk about girls.
The typical teenage stuff.

I thought
We'd share our stories

A sudden silence.
A sudden distance.
No explanation.
Decades of mystery,
A sense that I betrayed...

Still rejected, even today.
Attempts to reconnect

I'll never know
(unless I ask)
I'll never ask.

Shopping Trip by stephenherronold

Five years old.
Wide-eyed in the city.

Wrapped up against the drab grey cold,
My mother's hand pulls me through
The dreary sullen streets.
Boarded-up shop windows
Await new glass.
Metal gates block the streets
From everything but the buses.

This all seems normal to me. 
Wondrous, in fact.
Compared to what? I'm only five.

Getting into the city center
Means walking a gauntlet
Of English accents, uniforms, guns.
I'm patted down, like my mum.
The man tousles my hair with genuine affection.
He might be dead a week from now.

Grey things growl past,
Followed by armoured things.
Metal, wire and glass I watch, impressed,
Missing the point.

A pause as we enter the shop.
Waiting for another uniformed man
To search my mother's handbag.
A line of other mothers waiting.
For more of the same.

A sense of urgency,
A surgical strike. 
No messing around.
In and out, get what's needed
And go home.
Just in case.

A childhood less ordinary,
Better than most.
They kept me safe,
Kept the distant thunder

Winter by stephenherronold

Our memories are short.
Every Summer is endless.
We're surprised by Autumn,
And, for a day or two, Winter
Seems like the end of the world.

Yet when the snowflakes fall
I still feel a surge of wonder
A quickening, in awe
That's when I realize
No heart stays broken forever. 

Nature's Course by stephenherronold

Taking out the trash.
Walking back from the street.
A small form on the concrete
between the houses.

Like a frog, or something.
I looked closer, curious.

A dead bird.
Just a baby.

I looked up for the nest
Saw no obvious point of origin
For this fallen angel.

My eyes turned reluctantly downward.
taking in the tiny naked
unfeathered form.
Face up,
forever gone.

I stared for a while
Feeling odd
If a kick to the bushes
or a spade scoop to a trash bag
was appropriate

Or just to leave it be.
Let nature take her course.
Some scavenger
would surely take care of this.

I walked away,
imagining a tiny skeleton
remaining a few weeks later.
Hoping that it would be gone

Trusting to nature
to take care of this thing
I could not take care of myself.
Would not.

Sometimes it's a bird in the driveway.
Sometimes it's not.

Giving Thanks by stephenherronold

A strange holiday.
But it makes lots of sense.
(Ignoring ignoble origins,
like most holidays.)
Coming together to give thanks
And share good food,
just seems right.

I'm a fan.

It breaks the end of the year
Up into a more manageable chunk
That's never a bad thing.

Back home,
we don't have such a feast,
until Christmas Day, at least.

And having one day a year
When we're thoughtful of
What we're thankful for
Is better than nothing.


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Entropy Pocket by stephenherronold

it happened at noon
walking out to my car
anticipating lunch
carrying an empty box

I walked through
a pocket of entropy

my shoelace unravelled
step by step
as the box lid slid
off and fell

shirt-tails escaped
from my belts embrace
a band-aid unwrapped
a little off a finger

and all this within
a few steps of my car

all was repaired
with quick tuck and tying
the box thrown into the backseat

I knew that it wasn't over
just a brief intense conflict
against the falling apart
a small battle in the war
that never ends


Just a Sestina by stephenherronold

An attempt to expand my writing skill
To write a sestina, tricky and delicate
Sometimes poetry demands much order
This is no small example
At least the poem doesn't have to rhyme
But care must be taken all the same

After this, nothing will seem quite the same
Free verse requires a different kind of skill
Not needing to make the endings rhyme
Yet working in cadence is still a delicate
task most times, this is a bad example
since I'm trying to keep these lines in order
And while I write these lines in order
I'm coming to realize that it's much the same
as writing a sonnet, you can find an example
somewhere nearby, when I tested my skill
writing 'Quest', weaving schemes so delicate
to try and keep the italian rhyme

I already know why poems rhyme
it's all about rhythm and order
That gives a poem that might seem delicate
some weight behind it, and that's the same
reason behind this exercise in skill
To give myself my own example

Of why all poets, Keats, for example,
Demand our respect, regardless of rhyme
It's a poets skill
to master both chaos and order
With short stanzas, but they aren't the same
as me, and that's a point that's delicate

Because I'm a hack, no, don't be delicate
This poem lacks subtly, for example
I talk of Keats, as if he's the same
As an Irish guy who hacks at rhyme
Barely able to keep this sestina in order
All this just to test my skill

This last bit's delicate, no, it doesn't rhyme
This is the best example of order
All the same, I hope this may hint at skill

Quest (a sonnet) by stephenherronold

The past has teeth - that much we know
Inflicting wounds that should serve well
Reminding us we should not dwell
On that which happened long ago
And hard it is, when we are low
To move on past, escape the hell
Left as an introspective shell
Just fading fast, nowhere to go

We try to rage against the night
When some things should be left behind
Flung aside like so much burden
To make us free to seek the light
That is the future where we'll find
Peace and truth, where love is certain

Recognition by stephenherronold

An accidental encounter
News from home
Streaming across
Three thousand miles of glass and metal.

A familiar voice surprises me.
I pull the window up.
A woman in her late thirties,
Talks ernestly.

It's been a decade and a half
She looks so different,  
I almost wonder if it's her.
But it's in her eyes, the tilt of her head
Her mouth, when she speaks
The cadence and accent are hers.

The years have been kind,
She looks good
More confident and assured.

Things forgotten
(not thought about in years)
Tumble through my mind.
All our little intimacies
Winter evenings
Spent keeping each other company
All the games we played.

The last time we saw each other,
One night in Belfast, in different company.
Silent recognition.

I wonder if she thinks about me,
If the years inbetween
Made hearts grow fonder
Or memories warmer.

I sincerely doubt it.