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Heaven Underneath the Sound of the World


First published 2018 by F. E. Feeley Jr

Copyright © F.E. Feeley Jr at Smashwords

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Text Design by: F. E. Feeley Jr

Cover Art:

Title: Panama

Photograph: Tom Berrett

Cover Art Assembled by: Roe Horvat

Formatting: Beaten Track Publishing

* * * * *

John, I love you




About the Author

By the Author

* * * * *


The first time I heard Dr. Maya Angelou speak, was on the day that she died. The Human Rights Campaign posted a video on Facebook of her speaking at a function they hosted some years prior. The camera introduced me to a tall, black, regal woman, in a crimson dress standing behind a podium and although I’d heard her name, she was a stranger to me.

She opened with her poem, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and between stanzas she sang in a profoundly rich contralto voice, Two Wings. I was immediately captivated. For the next hour, I was enraptured by her. For the first time in my life, someone spoke to me as a gay man as not only an equal but as someone who is essential solely for the act of being. I found myself, as country singer Kathy Mattea once described in a song, as Standing knee deep in a river and dying of thirst.

“You are who God made you, honey.” Dr. Angelou told the crowd. Yet, it wasn’t just the crowd who heard her all those years ago. She didn’t cast a spell, there was no mind control, the heavens didn’t open up, and angels didn’t sing. It seemed like all she did was point down to the water, the truth, pooling around my calves.

President Bill Clinton once commented that Maya Angelou spoke with the voice of God. I agree. She was called America’s Conscience. I agree with that, too. I had found my very first hero.

When the video was over, I was so moved, I got down on my knees next to my office chair and prayed. Reminded of the story of Elijah and Elisha, I asked God to let me have a tenth of a tenth of who she was and promised that I would do my best to carry her with me.

At that time, after writing three books, I found myself in the midst of crippling writer’s block. I turned to poetry to try and encourage myself to move forward. While not on a par with Dr. Angelou, I made a promise to her that I would try and that I would remember her.

This collection of poems was written over a period of several years, in a little apartment in the shade of a Live Oak near the Gulf of Mexico. There, watching the world, I drank from that river until my stomach was full. Sometimes the poetry was joyful, sometimes it was erotic, sometimes it was sad and reflective. Late at night when I couldn’t sleep, I’d jot them down like a prayer. And as the season’s passed, one making way for the other, I collected these poems up and decided to share them with the world.

Thank you, Dr. Angelou. I too, know why that caged bird sings.

* * * * *

Spring the First Sister

Raven haired springtime

the color of thunderclouds spiking thirty thousand feet

comes the first and most dynamic of all the sisters

Hell hath no fury, as tempest shouts her arrival

when the warm and cold air collide in a battle high above Terra Firma

She is the regal one, with trumpet blasts and flashes of mortar fire as hot as the surface of the sun

that sends humans fleeing before her

With a flick of her wrist, a tornado touches down

and with its wicked tail writes her signature on the ground announcing her presence

as her armies of southern sweet air clash with Winter's bitter winds

The age-old fight between life and death

what was and what shall be, a clockwork madness that

despite its wrenching pain happens again and again

and unlike her three other sisters, her place is seized not given

Astride a lion, whose roar causes trees to bend down in respect

crocus, tulips, daffodils burst forth from the solid ground - resurrected from slumber - triumphant where the lion's foot touches the earth

as the white fades from the landscape and the world stretches and wakes

Once upon her throne, she calms slowly as the earth turns from concrete to clay

as the nights shorten in length to day

she lowers herself to walk among the cradles of the babes with doe-eyed wonder and tender promises

In like a lion, with all the majesty one could muster

she awaits her ebony sister, Summer, with a lamb's heart

She is spring, wise mother, giver of life abundant.

Her name is Spring, and she is the Queen of all she sees.

Oh, for the Trees in Springtime

oh, for the trees in springtime

when the bud first opens and litters the ground with its remains

and the tender petals emerge, fresh and palest green

upon the face of a stately tree that bore the winter snow

with ease - slumbering, white powder on black branches

occasionally alighted by a visiting blue jay or cardinal, red

awakened by the golden kiss of heaven - all spring long it stretches itself upward and onward in a slow, luxurious yawn

drinking thirstily from the sky turned black with terrible rumbles of thunder

the tender peddles flip to expose their bellies while the world and the cardinals shiver in fright

Oh, for the trees in springtime

when fat fisted children reach into the grass the fall before

and pull back two or three winged seeds

from Maple trees and scream in delight as they helicopter

to the ground

next to the trunk older than their mother's mother

and just as watchful

now remembers why she loved those children as children of her own sprout up just outside the reach of her canopy

Oh, for the trees in springtime

but the live oak seems almost like a god of ancient times

with a base broader than a man can embrace

with tree limbs stronger than the river flows

who - in the fall drops acorns faster than squirrels can gather

the spirits within, you can hear snort with mirth - when one of their artillery happens to fall on someone's head

they don't call them Live Oak - for nothing

But oh, for the trees in springtime

new leaves combined with the smell of the earth

modern life as old creatures give away to the new birth

promise a thousand days underneath the cool of their shade

is where I read my favorite book

and upon my shoulder and neck and side of my face

sunlight dappled touch kisses me every time the wind

runs its fingers through the branches

Springtime Memory

Chase memory through the wildflowers

down by the stream and across the covered bridge

stand in the in-between place - between the sun and the shadow

and remember the dragonflies alight on lily-pads

florescent blue upon the emerald green

Remember the feel of the worn sun-bleached wood

as you slipped off your sandal to touch barefoot

and how you jerked it back up quickly with a hiss

but not before you felt the smoothness almost softness of the plank

Remember the smell of the water all around you

as stream fed the pond fed the lake that surrounds

and the scent of sun-dried earth and freshly cut grass, drift

as a John Deer moans across the path and down the hill a’ways

It’s a Thursday, and you're playing hooky and its Springtime

and you’re young but not in love and so your burdens are light

and your skin is so much tighter, and your smile is still quick to wrinkle your nose

and comfortable as the warm day resting now upon your shoulders

Twenty-one, maybe, no more than twenty-three to be sure

open to everything and everyone around you at this tender age

Not knowing that this moment will be recalled days and laugh lines and gray hairs later

as if you were a dusty camera plucked off a shelf in the hands of someone who needs a smile

And perhaps you'll only revisit this memory once

then again maybe you'll come back again and again

when the smell of cut grass, or the sound of water rushing

reminds you of that in between place when a moment you barely witnessed

you recall so vividly

so much so you can almost feel the burning of your foot

The Truth Is…

We try to divine what we know

or what we think we do

regarding people and places

and things

We tell ourselves these narratives

that only reinforce our prejudice

against others as well as ourselves

But the mile less trodden upon

uncut in fields rarely visited

when the sun's direct light

bakes the clay hard and fills

the surrounding sky with the scent of sweet grass

and pungent dried earth

truth awaits us

In this field

where the blue dragonfly alights the Black-Eyed Susan

its gossamer wings only a moment's hesitation

before its dash back into the summer air

and in this field where the grasses make warm beds

for nursing deer

Truth awaits us

In this field

where the only sound breaking the whisper

of wind running its fingers through the grasses

or the buzz of a worker bee diligent about

his duties

is the truth ready to be spoken to an ear willing to hear it

And that truth is sometimes the healing hurts as bad as the hurting did when the hurting first happened to us

So, we fill our heads with static

whispers about neighbors, about ourselves

never thinking that pain doesn't have to be

the destination

it can just be the journey

The Rain Remains the Same

There are fresh winds and sweet smells on the air tonight

As a storm rolls in from the south

Like a gentle push, the humidity flees and the sweet fragrance that was held down

Is flung heavenward as the thunder begins to roll

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