Poetry: On a visit to Taliesin West






by Kevin Kwilinski

Orange and blues, the boldest hues
adorning beam and stone

Oasis ponds nurse desert fronds
reflecting sky and sun

Flower beds in crimson reds
hiding thorn and thistle

Chinese art found torn apart
dance in light and shadow

Concrete mass of stones from past
rise from earth to mountain

Imagine them with ink and pen
perfecting line and angle

Guided by the careful eye
of Wright and the ghost of Sullivan

Beauty speaks beneath the peak
transcending space and time


Poetry: On the road to Mandalay

by Kevin Kwilinski

The City of Lights is dimmer now.
Sin City kneeling down in prayer.
As pleasure pretends the greatest good
so death pretends the greatest pain.
But isn’t the moment a soul goes blind,
the beginning of the shooter’s rage?
The greatest fear a man can have
is off beyond our worldly stage.
Cling to belief however faint.
Read liturgy so rote and true.
Though evil may extinguish faith,
God’s word will not abandon you.

Dedicated to the memory of the 58 people killed by the shooter from the Mandalay Bay Casino/Hotel on October 1, 2017. The Mandalay Bay project was introduced on December 31, 1996, as Hawaiian-themed, "Project Paradise". In February 1998 the project was renamed Mandalay Bay to evoke the exotic tropical romanticism of the Rudyard Kipling poem Mandalay.

Mandalay, by Rudyard Kipling

BY THE old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ lazy at the sea, There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me; For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say: “Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay! ” Come you back to Mandalay, Where the old Flotilla lay: Can’t you ‘ear their paddles chunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay ? On the road to Mandalay, Where the flyin’-fishes play, An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!

‘Er petticoat was yaller an’ ‘er little cap was green, An’ ‘er name was Supi-yaw-lat – jes’ the same as Theebaw’s Queen, An’ I seed her first a-smokin’ of a whackin’ white cheroot, An’ a-wastin’ Christian kisses on an ‘eathen idol’s foot: Bloomin’ idol made o’ mud Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd Plucky lot she cared for idols when I kissed ‘er where she stud! On the road to Mandalay…

When the mist was on the rice-fields an’ the sun was droppin’ slow, She’d git ‘er little banjo an’ she’d sing “Kulla-lo-lo! With ‘er arm upon my shoulder an’ ‘er cheek agin my cheek We useter watch the steamers an’ the hathis pilin’ teak. Elephints a-pilin’ teak In the sludgy, squdgy creek, Where the silence ‘ung that ‘eavy you was ‘arf afraid to speak! On the road to Mandalay…

But that’s all shove be’ind me – long ago an’ fur away An’ there ain’t no ‘busses runnin’ from the Bank to Mandalay; An’ I’m learnin’ ‘ere in London what the ten-year soldier tells: “If you’ve ‘eard the East a-callin’, you won’t never ‘eed naught else.” No! you won’t ‘eed nothin’ else But them spicy garlic smells, An’ the sunshine an’ the palm-trees an’ the tinkly temple-bells; On the road to Mandalay…

I am sick o’ wastin’ leather on these gritty pavin’-stones, An’ the blasted English drizzle wakes the fever in my bones; Tho’ I walks with fifty ‘ousemaids outer Chelsea to the Strand, An’ they talks a lot o’ lovin’, but wot do they understand? Beefy face an’ grubby ‘and – Law! wot do they understand? I’ve a neater, sweeter maiden in a cleaner, greener land! On the road to Mandalay…

Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst, Where there aren’t no Ten Commandments an’ a man can raise a thirst; For the temple-bells are callin’, an’ it’s there that I would be By the old Moulmein Pagoda, looking lazy at the sea; On the road to Mandalay, Where the old Flotilla lay, With our sick beneath the awnings when we went to Mandalay! O the road to Mandalay, Where the flyin’-fishes play, An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay !


Poetry: A Parody of Tolerance

by Kevin Kwilinski

That hunk of metal sitting on a stone
memorializes who? A man? A woman?
You object to my very question.
Not who but what you say.
An idea. A belief.
Buried, but just below the surface.
Its rotting toe protruding.
Stinking up your manicured garden.
Tear it down! Erase its words.
Words are killing me.
But I love you. Don’t you want to hear that?
What good is love when hope is gone?
Destruction is launched not with a button push,
but with a word.

Poetry: Responding

How should we respond to tragedy?
A tear, a word seem not enough.
How do we relieve the feeling of dread,
deep in the pit of our stomach?

We shake our head and proclaim our disgust
but the despair lingers, like a heavy stench.
With every breath, we are a little short of air.
We breathe deeper, more deliberate,
and with more difficulty.
When it’s harder to breathe,
it’s harder to live.

We pause to focus.
Staring off at a point just beyond our monitor,
or beyond the condensation on our kitchen window,
or beyond the taillights in front of us.

We see the images of those we love flicker in our mind.
Like a vintage flip-book they move quickly,
one image to the next, blurring together
into a single image.
And that single image is the sum of our love,
the sum of our life.
That image burns deeper into our brain.
Reminding us of who we are, why we are,
and how vulnerable we are.

So we hug our children
as we hide tears in their hair.
We bend our backs and our knees
as we pray to our God.

We pray for protection.
We acknowledge our blessings.
We seek forgiveness for our faults.
We come a little closer to understanding
that that single, composite image of our beloved
is in fact the image of God.
But it occurs to us that God is so much more than that.
So we commit to expand our image
by loving more of those around us
and loving those around us more.

Poetry: A Great Run

by Kevin Kwilinski
Some runs are bad.
A bad run is exhausting.
It takes more from the body than it gives back.
Only the mind is strong enough to finish a bad run.

Most runs are good.
They serve their purpose.
Good runs build the body up.
The mind is free to wander on a good run.
Few runs are great.
A great run is spiritual.
The body and mind separate.
Awareness becomes acute.
Aware of the effortlessness.
Aware of the raw speed.
Aware of the ability to do anything.
Everything becomes easier.
Easier to love.Easier to believe.
Easier to forgive.
A great run is a gift from God.

Poetry: A Good Day Passed

by Kevin Kwilinski

I began naked in silence but the bright sun shined down on me.
I entered the cold river and was bathed in sound and color.
I came to the shore and was clothed in your laughter.
I drew pictures of what I saw and was very happy.

I soon felt the coolness of the shade of evening.
I stumbled in the darkness toward my home, afraid.
I called to them and they heard me and I heard them.
I was happy and realized that I had never been alone.

I felt the warmth of the sun upon my face.
I remembered the good day, just passed.
I was thankful for all that I had learned.
I thought anxiously of the day ahead.

I smiled then, as you called to me.
I was happy to hear your voice.

Poetry: The Lessons

He sits to practice
Protesting. Under duress.
The notes come out clumsy.
Out of key.
Frustrated I take his hands.
Guiding them.

Much better now.
The notes are in tune and sweet.
It’s not the instrument.
I’m relieved.
I take my hands away and he continues.
Still on key.
Tempo slightly slower.

I leave the room to work.
Listening, straining to hear his work.
He maintains for a while.
Loses concentration.
Slips back into mediocrity.
Is he fine with this?
Is this all he wants to be?
Maybe it is the instrument?

I return and guide his hands once more.
The pattern repeats.
Over and over.
Each time he holds on a little longer.
The notes a little more precise.
The tempo a bit quicker.
I get a glimpse inside and know.
He wants to be a virtuoso.

He’s just not ready yet.
He needs more practice.
More patient instruction.
More love.
His instrument is fine.
It thinks and reasons well.
He just doesn’t know how to play it yet on his own.
I love him.

Written after a difficult period trying to develop discipline in one of my son’s schoolwork. The piano is a metaphor for his mind and the music was actually a series of math lessons.