Friday, August 14, 2015

Letters from an American Soldier

Letters from an American Soldier
by Jesse Payne

Mother, father, sister, brother:
My will has been broken.
I sit nestled in leaves
branching over blood and field.
This sunset ridicules the decay
of my country’s remains.

On mountains once shared, and breakfast tables
Will we ever mend these disconnected cables?
Tents fill bottles and eyes with liquid compromise
as I’m left to read about days of old
and dream of coming home.

I’m thankful you all stayed on the family farm.

A friend of mine watched
as his brother died
On the far side 
of enemy lines.

How could the conversation stop in order for towns to burn?

War is hell and I’m faced to bring it
in bags and drop it on the doorsteps
of a backwards society.
My clothes are torn with ragged sweat and the blood of my friends.
I wish that I could go back to childhood
and start my life again.

With a form of innocence that no longer resides within me
I’m broken but held together by curse and scorn. Born
is the man who cannot forget.

Above these hills are visions of freedom
but if I jump, I will not land on my feet
nor on my knees but in a sea full of dreams
that will never be seen.

Keep my place at the table warm
for I will return someday 
in some kind of form.
I hope I can hold you all before I die
in these arms that time has denied
my enemy.

I’m thankful you all stayed on the family farm.


"The two most powerful warriors are patience and time."
-- Leo Tolstoy

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Biting the Towel

"Biting the Towel"

Grinding teeth becomes sandpaper
ripping the surface from the tops of piano keys.
Dissonant in nature, but in music
dissonance is beauty.

Cold blooded dogs slithering down
the back alleys of a city abandoned by the righteous.
Fangs suspended in air with foam and fear
understate the ribs and the fur that shines.

I remember when I’m in front of my mirror,
an heirloom draped over shoulder blades.
A face pressed between metal and clamp,
a Mona Lisa smile beneath historical eyes.

I can see the tears that once fell
from her chin, so fragile.
Lost in a time when no one was found,
my lungs tremble with her fragrance 

I have lost more than my life.

In a dream I was dancing on counter tops,
my toes reaching for the stove.
Courage doesn’t matter to the ill-informed,
It’s naive.

Wisdom withdraws from the kitchen, 
elegant in its transmission.
The years of a moment that will not end.
Nothing else can matter if you could never begin.

I’ll keep biting the towel
until I’m relieved

of my responsibilities.

JP 2015

"It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop"

Monday, November 4, 2013

Broken Palette

"Broken Palette"

I tried to leave a painted picture
without destruction
I loved the imagery and context
but without the frame
there is no security

I combed my hair the way you said
without questions
I tucked in my shirt and counted my blessings
without fear
there can be no love.

JP 2013

“Slander is the revenge of a coward, and dissimulation his defense”
--Saint John Chrysostom

Thursday, August 1, 2013



Time catches 
us all
in a fist
of rage
a graph 
designed for 
its prey.

veins that twist 
like oak trees
shackled beneath 
laundry and dirt
Parallels of action 
separated from thought
nothing falls that isn’t forced

Blessed are the eardrums, 
they’ve been through hell
material comforts
shoulders for shelter
and moments of triumph
until the mind sinks from the weight
of knowledge and space
wormholes and a hefty court case

Time catches 
us all
in a deep 
a graph 
designed for 
its prey.


"In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same." -- Albert Einstein

Friday, June 21, 2013

Scales of Obstruction

Scales of Obstruction

I forgive the death of those we bury
curses are the shovel, cruel and twisting
behind the walls of swollen words
like investments, handmade and worthless
a wicked black downfall
taking control of our central trees
Threatening our way of life
hands of the owner
messages deceive
when written from beneath
I hesitate before I breathe

Loneliness, the whiskey of defeat
tears from the ashes of tyranny
the lawless violently aiming
with crooked souls
Condemn the scales of obstruction
and tell the stitches to project

We can criticize leverage
of autographs and crevices
while surveys search the random wire
creating sparks
Threatening our way of life
hands of the owner
messages deceive
when written from beneath
I hesitate before I breathe
and the lawless violently aiming
with crooked souls


"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.  The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time" - Thomas Edison

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Innocence is Forever Fleeting

Innocence is Forever Fleeting

My beautiful son, 
I wish I could view the world through your eyes
Innocence is forever fleeting
all day, everyday
May love be your anchor.

The perfect storm has taken me
but provided the waters for you to be 
My tears cannot wash away your troubles
nor will they erase my faults
but let them fill your well
so they may cushion your fall
let them hydrate your strength
my beautiful son.

I wish I could see the world through your eyes
Whatever was good in me now is with you
True gifts cannot be wrapped
nor purchased with gold
They stem from hearts, spreading through souls
but innocence is forever fleeting
all day, everyday
May love be your contribution, my beautiful son.

I bear the blame for the burdens you will carry
Treat the world with kindness
regardless its rotation
Never lose sight of your most precious dreams
be the change you want to see
Tolerate with the knowledge, evil exists
resist it with your entire existence
and may you carry on
my beautiful son.

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards"
---Soren Kierkegaard

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Entitled to Our Ignorance

Entitled to Our Ignorance

We are a culture of entitlement.  Let me be clear, I am not referring to entitlement programs put forth by policy.  No, I am referring to the overall belief of personal entitlement.  As a culture, we have determined, generation after generation, that we are entitled.  We are entitled to pick which Scripture we want to follow, which laws we think are unnecessary and which laws we expect others to obey.  We believe we are entitled to pick who we will treat kindly and who we will exclude.  We believe we are entitled to dream up our own facts without proof or research.  We have become a culture who is entitled to our ignorance.

Most of us were raised to believe that we are special just because we were born.  We have been programmed to believe that if we put our mind to it, we can accomplish anything.  We were raised to believe that there are absolutes in life.  No wonder our society has a difficult time with disappointment.  We were never told that failure was even possible.  Maybe others can fail, but not me.  I have God on my side.

Scripture states that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us.  We get “road rage” when someone cuts us off on public roads but expect people to understand when we break in line at the grocery, movie theatre, or in traffic.  We lie without understanding that there is consequence.  We get angry when people lie to us. We segregate society based on our own bias.  We demonize people who speak their mind and in the same breath, we will defend our freedom of speech. We then turn around and try to sell them on our beliefs and then are offended when they do not succumb to our judgement.   Judge not, that you be not judged.  If we are to quote Scripture, then by God, we’d better be living by it.  

Some are so righteous to believe that what is wrong with our society today is that we have turned our back on God.  OK. Let us go back to the days when God was at the forefront of our society.  Remember those days?  I know that the native Americans remember those days.  I’m positive that the slaves remember those days.  I would bet my life that the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who gave theirs in the Civil War remember those days. How about the innocent black people who were raped, murdered, segregated, and lynched?  I know they remember those days.  Oh, the good ol’ days when God was politically correct.  We were all peaceful, loving, do-gooders who were doing God’s will.  Of course we were doing God’s will, God was on our side.

We are a society entitled to illegally downloading music from the internet although that is classified as stealing.  We are entitled to driving ten miles an hour over the speed limit because we have a lot to get done.  We are a society entitled to celebrating in public our own religion but no one else’s.  We are entitled to our misinformed beliefs on climate change, although, scientists and facts tell us that the truth is known.  We are a society entitled to our guns, even though we take no personal responsibility for the tragedies that have occurred.  We are a part of an entitled culture.
There is good news though.  There is hope. Entitlement is an illness that we can overcome.  Entitlement is a mistake that we can fix.  Entitlement is a plague that can be cured.  It can be cured if we just changed one word in our culture.  If, instead of entitlement, we were to be a culture of responsibility.  Responsibility for our speech.  Responsibility for our actions.  Responsibility for our history and our future.  We have a responsibility to our children.  We have a responsibility to our planet.  And above all, we have a responsibility to our fellow human beings.  Knowledge is responsibility. 

Maybe, if we strived to be a culture of responsibility, we would find it easier to forgive.  Maybe, if we strived to be a culture of responsibility, we would find it easier to change.  Maybe, if we strived to be a culture of responsibility, we would find it easier to love.  Maybe, if we were responsible for each other, we would finally take responsibility for ourselves.  Maybe, just maybe, we would then finally take responsibility of our ignorance.

“A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.”
- Bob Dylan