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Haunted Tears



Inspired by The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

For Sarah


It’s embarrassing, really.

My kids turn to wait for it…

Wait for it…

Breathlessly waiting for my eyes to

Softly brim over or –

Worse –

Violently flood,

Whether at pain or triumph,

Splendor or travesty.

My eyes,

My emotions,

My heaving heart

More captivating

Than the story

Or its images on the LED screen.


What sappy sentimentality!

You’d think a grown man,

Whose beard is snow-er white

Than an animated heroine,

Could control his emotions by now.

For God’s sake,

Have a little dignity, man!


It’s the faces.

      It’s the characters.

It’s their stories.

They haunt me.


It’s the angst-ridden poet

And the grief that accompanies

Beautiful words

Of vulnerability and

Hope against hope,

Or angry words

Shaking a fist at injustice,

Falling on unhearing ears.

And it’s the picking up of

That pen that saves her life

Again and yet again.


It’s the enigmatic skeptic

And the honestly won

Cynicism that clouds his world

Like an impending

All-day soaker

Of disappointment

And unveiled hypocrisy.

And it’s the hope that

Cracks its way somehow

Through his

Impenetrable granite surface.


It’s the idiosyncratic genius

And the ostracism

Of self, not to mention

Those who do not understand

And those who fear,

And all, ironically together,

in unacknowledged pain

Suffering silently, and alone.

And it’s the brilliance

Of his ideas that break through

Obscurity into light.


It’s the hidden-faced one

And the arm-wrestling

Over who is most uncomfortable –

The one possessing or

The one trying to divest,

The one hiding or

The one hoping

Not to find.

And it’s the discovery

Of the first vestiges

Of truly seeing and being seen.


It’s the grief-stricken loser

Of lover or dream

Picking herself up

Off the mat,

Only to be body-slammed

Once more, and again,

And the pitying spectators

Sipping on their sympathy.

And it’s the final transcendent

Triumph of the loser

In a company of them.


It’s the young realist,

(Really, undercover idealist)

Whose ideas have both

The insight and power

To change the world,

But who’s told it’s

Not yet your turn,

So get back in line.

And it’s her refusal

To settle for a despotic

And impotent status quo.


It’s the starving artist

Whose vision and creativity

Stem from an invisible,

Unending source,

Uncomprehended by those

Whose prescription has expired

And whose ear cannot hear

Such visceral sound.

And it’s his devastating choice

To paint it, play it, still

From his deepness.


It’s the man with no roof

Whose stereo-typewritten story

Is authored by a community

Just fine with it all,

By a culture gone wild

With pragmatism

And struck blind with

self-interested analysis.

And it’s the dismantling

Of collected assumptions

Against all odds.


It’s the church-ridden follower

And the guilty pleasures of

Dogmatic certainty

And sanctioned

Outsider relegation to

Hopelessness and despair,

Whose gut tells him

He has missed something.

And it’s the courage found

To more closely follow

The One who always hopes.


It’s the alienated world

And its torment,

Torn apart by isolation

And compartmentalization,

Fragmented by war and

Fraudulent efforts at peace,

Heaving its heavy heart

In grief-stricken agony.

And it’s the hope that

Reconciliation and redemption

Are palpably real.


Oh, how often and how desperately

I want to quit.

            To run.

                        To forget.

That I care.


But the stories.

       The characters.

The faces.

They haunt me.


It’s the self-tormented pastor

And the fatigue that accompanies

Grieving loss

And all the lost grieving,

Whose lofty aspiration

Is yet so distant that it

Defies the most stubborn faith,

And falls to disheartened earth.

And it’s the hoping

Against fleeting hope that

The final story will transcend

His haunted tears.