Monday, May 29, 2017

Moving to Medium

Hello everyone!

Just to let you know: I'm moving my poetry to Medium.com. You can follow me on Medium as "@darrylbwillis".

Thank you!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Empty Spirits

Latest poem to be published: Empty Spirits, published in December 2016 by Vox Poetica. Follow the link here.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Jael

Hold it steady in your hand
and with the hammer drive it deep.
Your arms are thick from setting and striking 
as you move from place to place. 
The world gives little choice. 
Your life was set at birth:
who you marry and how you live.
The power you have was not given. 
You built it by driving pegs 
each day of your life. Then this pig 
shows up with his imperial demands, 
ignores the rites of guest and host 
for after all, you’re not a man. 
So you wait; he falls asleep.

Hold it steady, drive it deep.

̶  November 23, 2012

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Kenosis

for Kelly
Philippians 2:5-11


There is an empty cup once full
poured out into the living hearts
of those you served. If you heard
this said of you, your face would flush
from neck to ears (you know it’s true)
accompanied by an “aw-shucks” grin.

The good die young and old and in between
and all too soon, it seems. And a life
heaven-bound fails to mitigate
grief and pain: tears can wash but not
erase, never erase. Deny the pain
denies the life, denies the love.

A life well-lived deserves to be well-mourned.
The deeper the love, the deeper the scar that binds
the broken heart. And as grief pours down
to re-baptize the wounded lives, an empty
cup once full remains to store the tears.

Friday, May 27, 2016

In Silence Sleeps

In silence sleeps my lady lovely.
She cradles my head close to her breast.
The evening keeps its sentry watch
over our bed while we take our rest.
In youth and age our love has kept;
grown close, grown far and close again.
We've turned the page, we've laughed and wept.
We've shared our love: the joy and pain.
So I watch her sleep this lady lovely;
kiss her face, gently caress.
And I will keep this quiet memory
locked in my heart close to her breast.

To Terri
Valentine's Day, 2008

Friday, April 8, 2016

Immortality

You cannot write eternal words
by design. But once in
a life a thought takes hold.
Even then, you cannot know,
you dare not know lest you corrupt
the words themselves. You just write
with brains on fire, as if all
depended on one word, one phrase,
one solitary syllable.
So you search elusive words
without a clue if they will live
beyond your grave. You have to write:
                                 you have no choice.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Ashes

February 10, 2016

smudges on a fleshly canvas
mark the metanoian moment
with soot crucified in oil

The hope for those who fell;
a light for those who cannot see.
a hand that plumbs the deepest hell
to lift to heights of bended knee.

For the times when I did naught,
for false humility and pride,
for the things I’ve left undone,
for all the good unbegun,
when calloused, I refused to cry,
for the times when I forgot…

Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy
                on this heart

Ascending steps on winding stairs
upward facing toward the light
brooding visage in stark relief
a face obscured in primordial night.

For the times I did not care,
for the times I hid my eyes
pursing pleasure, avoiding pain,
denying love, embracing shame
refusing truth, believing lies,
and falling to the fowler’s snare…

Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy
                on us all

remembrance of a heart unturned:
broken, blackened, unforgiven
ashes, ashes we fall face down

(a meditation for Ash Wednesday)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Two new poems from this week...

A Sunday Sacrilege
April 26, 2015

In my heart resides a rage;
something dreadful to contain.
I stand upon a precipice
prepared to burst and explode.
There is a violence in my soul
that wants to master and control,
to wreak indignation on
someone I don’t even know—
on someone who, if I had passed
him in the street would stay unknown.
I am a man of peace who wages war;
who wants to embrace the foe,
drawing near to one afar
with fingers interlocked around his throat.
Who is this savage who stares at me
eyes rimmed-red from a darkened glass?
Whose mouth is this: a tight-lipped
line of crimson slashed across
such a terrible face? Lord
God have mercy on my soul.
Christ have mercy on my soul.
Lord have mercy—for I can’t.

Mourning Rain
April 27, 2015

Yesterday morning I found a full-
feathered mourning dove chick
and saved her from my cats. She spent
the day within my side-screened porch
protected from fang and claw.
That evening I returned her to
a high branch in a tree.
But in the night came a storm
and in the morning she was gone;
no stray feathers beneath the tree,
no Cheshire grins from my cats.
Perhaps she’s found in morning rain.


Monday, April 13, 2015

For My Daughters Wherever They May Be

Look for the beauty where it may be found.
Reject while you can the horror and hate.
Search the dark to find the peace that lies
hidden underneath all hurt and pain. 
Grasp and hold the love that holds you now, 
even though you cannot fully know 
the One who holds you ever close. All 
things transcend and converge within.

Close your eyes and hear the song written
from the dawning of Creation's first
day. From dark and chaotic dreams
the prelude can be clearly heard: redemptive
chords composed even in the night.
Paradox and mystery are placed
within your hands: a melody for you 
to play, so together we will sing.

I will do what it takes to help
you know His love for you. In spite of all 
that seems to mitigate and deny,
the song will still be played and sung even
if it takes my dying breath, if death
tries to intervene I will stay
true to the song God breathed within: this heart-
song that refuses to be mute.

(Written in Kharkov, Ukraine in June 2014)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

November: Holodomor Remembrance Month

November is Holodomor Remembrance month. The Holodomor was a terrible time in Ukrainian history (1932-33) where several million Ukrainians perished due to a "famine" brought about by Josef Stalin's attempt to break the spirit of the independent Ukrainian farmers. The author of Dr. Zhivago, Boris Pasternak who visited the area during the famine wrote: 
What I saw could not be expressed in words. There was such an inhuman, unimaginable misery, such a terrible disaster, that it began to seem almost abstract, it would not fit within the bounds of consciousness. I fell ill. For an entire year I could not write.
My poem focusing on the Holodomor was published a few years ago by Apropos Literary Journal but the link is non-functional. Here it is below with a photo of the heart wrenching sculpture marking the tragedy in Kyiv.

Holodomor

Blue sky over a field of grain.
And in the square a little girl
in braided hair stands alone 
in grief with hollow, sightless eyes.
Deep thoughts have been taken away
by her deep pain.

                             Deep calls to deep
and sorrow to sorrow. I would give
her hope but all I have are my tears
falling into Lybid’s stream
while hers fill the wide Dnipro.



Sunday, August 17, 2014

Anniversary number thirty-four

For Terri, August 16, 2014

The heart in winter still stays warm
while the world is bleak and cold.
Though we age, our cups brim full
as love matures and grows old.
Dawn long spent: twilight comes
and when the darkness fills with fear
our hearts stay warm as we embrace
each other while the night draws near.
Night is short lived, death will die;
the day-star will again shine bright.
Eternal love can never fade
into the darkness of the night.
My love, I'll never leave you alone
but will remain until night has gone.

--------------------------
It is my habit to write a poem for my lovely wife for our anniversary. I generally do not submit these for publication--and true to form, this will not be submitted to any publishing group or site. But I did want to share it with others.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Latest Poem: "To Pray With Priests"

My latest poem to be published is "To Pray With Priests" in Vox Poetica. You can access the poem HERE.

The poem was written during the height of the Maidan (Maydan) protests in Kyiv. It was based on a photo of a small group of priests standing between the two warring factions: the protestors on one side and the line of Berkut riot police (rigid and behind their shields) on the other. The ground was a sea of ice illuminated by halogen lights casting an unearthly and unsettling glow over the whole scene.

Go to the site and please post a comment.

I am hoping this poem along with several other pieces focusing on Ukraine will be published soon by Unbound Content (author page here). The collection Hope is the Last to Die: A Ukrainian Passage is due out sometime this year.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Poem published in Deep South Magazine

In February, Deep South Magazine published my poem, "Driftwood." You can access the poem HERE.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Happy birthday, Daughter

(for Alyssa, January 17)

You were born
in winter’s cold: snow chased
and pushed us forward just in time
to push you out.  We joke about
Macbeth and McDuff. The wind pushed
rather than your mom. Untimely
ripped you were from her: tiny
but hardy, strong enough to
subdue any tyrant who
tried to stop the moving wood

or the wind who gave you birth.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Roses of Donetsk

In dreams I walk down darkened streets
of the city I’ve grown to love.
My heart is heavy, my red rimmed eyes
fill with tears that fall for the blood
yet spilled, the cries yet voiced
but are waiting to be unleashed
unless violence dies and hate-filled eyes
are exchanged with God’s peace.

Flags are flying, allegiances made,
loyalties are tested and tried.
But in the middle of gunfire and noise
the voices of saints still rise.
And God still hears the heart-felt prayers.
He waters the earth with his tears.
But he cannot force them to hear his voice;
they must open their hearts to His.

War is the language of politics
of nations, tyrants, and kings.
But children are crushed and their homes are cursed
by the desolation it brings.
So they look to us in simple trust
while we bicker, struggle, and fight.
Dare we look in their eyes and give up our lies
to follow them into the light?

Cry for the roses of Donetsk:
for the hearts of the people to grow and be bright.
Pray for the children of Donbass:
that out of the darkness they’ll lead us to light.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Svyatogor’s Bed

I was always proud of strength,
the only thing a mountain loves.
And once I bragged to God if there
were just a place to set my feet
I could carry the weight of the world!
Earth bound legs were only a shade
of what would come. If only God
had given me the sense of my horse
I would still be alive.
Ilya tried his best to best
(how those Kyivan flies can bite).
At least he could plainly see
the value of humility.
But even that broad sword
of Muromets could not free
me from my pride. Now I lay
me down in sleep, wrapped in wood
and iron. My brother Muromets,
the mighty do not fall, they sleep
in beds they make for themselves.

--------
Svyatogor was a bogatyr (knight) of the Kyivan-Rus time period (Kyivan-Rus primarily covered the territory of Ukraine and beyond). Legend has it he was a giant with shoulders two-three yards wide. Ilya Muromets was briefly his companion. The name svyatogor means mountain. Legend has it he and Ilya discovered a coffin on their journey. Svyatogor climbed inside and bid Ilya cover him with the lid to see if it fit. It fit him perfectly. Unable to remove the lid, Ilya tried to hack it off but with each blow of his sword an iron band wrapped itself around the coffin. Svyatogor bid his companion leave him to his fate and the sorrowful Ilya obeyed.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Svyatogorsk 2013

New poem published by Vox Poetica! Check it out here!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Two More Poems Published

The Spirit of Saint Barts has just published two of my poems, "Unwashed at Bethesda" and "Sabbath".  This LINK will carry you to The Spirit of Saint Barts but evidently the link to the poems has been broken.

Here are the poems:

Sabbaths 

Fallow field turned; 
broken, bruised, and burned
by bright Apollian heat. 

Some call it abuse
to leave in such disuse
what should brim-fill with wheat.  

Yet divine sense demands
relief from workers' hands;
a sabbath-rest for land:
a chance for brief retreat.

Unwashed at Bethesda

I suppose I should feel gratitude;
I had been a cripple all my life.
But who gave him the right to force his way
into my world and turn it all upside
down? Oh, he knew full well my game
and put me to the test with his burning
eyes and pointed question: “Do you want
to be made whole?” I tried to put him off
with some excuse. People never ask:
they don’t want to know. They just throw
their money at your feet and avoid
looking at your maimed and crippled legs
or into your eyes. Oh but he did. How
I hated him, hated the way he forced
his way into my life. That is why
I turned on him and told the others who
he was. But he found me out all
the same and now I never will be.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Girl in Black


Who is the “girl in black” that appears in several of my Ukrainian-setting poems? It interesting to me she almost always appears in places of transportation: a taxi girl in an airport, a girl smoking a cigarette outside a subway, running across a street, or a girl at a train station.

The taxi girl was based on a real person who I encountered in the old A terminal of the Boryspol Airport of Kyiv. Although she didn’t actually wear a “black Tegin dress”—she wore a black pants suit— still,  she was quite a stylish young lady. The others just seemed to appear in my poems almost by accident if that were possible. I am not certain who they are or whom they represent. Perhaps they are Ukraine herself: hopeful, cynical, frightened. Perhaps she is Lybid, still hopeful but still cynical as she witnesses her namesake dry up. Perhaps she is the poet, Lesya Ukrainka[1], who died at the early age of 42 (making her forever young).

 As the girl in black appears more often in my poetry, I hope to make her acquaintance and perhaps learn the mystery she would reveal to me.

Perhaps she is the future of Ukraine—always on the move…or at least in places where movement is possible, but she really isn’t moving. She seems to be waiting for something to happen. Will someone take her away? She’s looking into the eyes of passers-by with a dead look at times—has she given up or not? She is insular and self-contained—at times cynical—but I think she wants to be open and vulnerable. But she has been so abused in the past.

The girl in black is not a Cossack, nor is she a Hutzul. She is not a Tatar. She is not of the warrior caste. She is someone who has been helpless—a woman of antiquity. Yet, she has been resourceful. She has survived. She is nobody’s fool, either—while she is none of the above groups, she is all of them, too. 

I think the women of Eastern Europe have shown incredible strength and resilience. She is no victim or helpless damsel in distress. She is savvy and strong. But yet, she cannot seem make it on her own, either (at least she doesn’t believe she can). As much as she wishes to appear strong and confident, she also needs assistance.

I love this girl in black for all that she represents. The pain and abuse she has suffered in the past and the hope she represents for the future. I love her resilience, perseverance, and yes, her strength. 

Will the future be kind to Ukraine? I don’t know. But I know Lybid has been around for centuries. And although she has been bruised, she has never been broken beyond repair. She still remains.


[1] Lesya Ukrainka is the pen name of Layrissa Kosach-Kvitka (1871-1913). Her mother suggested the pen name which means literally “woman of Ukraine”). Lesya was one of the three pillars of Ukrainian literature. Her first published poem was titled, “Nadiya” (Hope). I find that appropriate.