battlefields: a sestina

For years I’ve been stymied by fear
there is so often a suffocating dread
following like a cloud at my heels
It’s all those little battlefields
I carry in spite of my aching back
agony burns my shoulders with a weight

I feel pain now controls my fate
every thought has now become drear
a once strong body now gone slack
waiting for each new doubt to spread
randomly across these bloody battlefields
hampered by mud beneath chariot wheels

this unknown enemy dogging my heels
bears down with ever increasing weight
I struggle over countless battlefields
eyes constantly rain tear after tear
not apt to lessen this feeling of dread
no way is found to hold emotions back

another wave of panic tortures my back
sends waves of despair down to my heels
shaking a spirit already crushed by dread
I feel lost beneath this black weight
will I ever be able to overcome this fear
that invades all my personal battlefields

that invades all worldwide battlefields
making it impossible to turn back
even were I able to face my fear
doubt would forever shadow my heels
even were I able to bear this weight
there would come another to dread

much like butter smeared on my bread
a necessary part of all battlefields
this foreboding, ever present weight
like a searing flame on my bloody back
what little courage I once had spills
away as I feel each new spasm of fear

should I dare turn back to face this fear
beneath this weight that keeps dread
on my heels across endless battlefields

JOURNEY : a sestina

drawn by something I can barely feel
brought to me on an unexpected breeze
was little more than a whimsical stray
tossed upon my senses from a western sea
that set my course as I began this journey
led upon my path by that fleeting caress

what a fool I am to be led by a soft caress
must I always be pulled apart by what I feel
is this going to be another fruitless journey
whose end becomes as elusive as that breeze
I hope has truly come from that western sea
I push on afraid something will make me stray

yet from this course I cannot walk away
even should I never again know her caress
forever looking toward that forgotten sea
my ship is tossed about on its uneven keel
struggling to stay on course as waves tease
my senses trying to interfere with this journey

that could very well be my final journey
dreaming again to hold one I could never betray
begging just one more chance to try and please
hoping against hope to taste another brief caress
from those lips I am yearning again to feel
whose memory pull me towards this mournful sea

that for years untold has been just an empty sea
not worthy of being a focal point of any journey
I struggle toward my goal not letting how I feel
cause me to dread what happens should I stray
struggling at times to hold fast that last caress
that awakens this sudden desire to squeeze

out those bitter particles carried by that breeze
bringing tears to eyes fearful of what they see
as I realize there has been a change in this caress
that has been my fateful guide on this journey
afraid something should cause me to delay
aching to express exactly what it is I feel

as I near the end of my journey I can imagine I feel
a different caress from that now brutal breeze
bringing its bitter spray in from that western sea


some ninety plus years
sitting feebly on a patio bench
not moving with his head down
just staring at his hands
so I sat down beside him
he appeared not to notice

as I sat longer I began
to wonder if he was OK
not wanting to disturb him
yet needing to check on him
finally asked if he was OK

He raised his grizzled head
looked at me and smiled
Yes, I’m fine, thanks for asking
he said in a strong clear voice

I didn’t mean to disturb you, Grandpa,
but you were just sitting here
just staring at your hands
I wanted to make sure you were OK

Have you ever looked at your hands
I mean really looked at your hands?

I slowly opened my hands
stared down at them
turned them over
palms up then palm down.
No, I guess I had never
really looked at my hands
as I tried to figure out
what point he was making.

Grandpa smiled and related his story
Stop and think for a moment
about the hands you have
how they have served you
throughout your years

These hands though wrinkled,
shriveled and weak now
have been the tools
I have used all my life
to reach out grab and embrace life
They braced and caught my fall
when as a toddler
I crashed upon the floor

They put food in my mouth
and clothes on my back
As a child I was taught
to fold them in prayer

They dried the tears of my children
caressed the love of my life

They tied my shoes
pulled on my boots
They held my rifle
and wiped my tears
when I went off to war

They have been dirty,
scraped, raw, swollen, bent

Decorated with my wedding band
they showed the world I was married
and loved someone special
They were uneasy, clumsy
when I tried to hold
our first newborn child

They wrote the letters home
trembled and shook those sad times
I buried my parents then my spouse
walked my daughter down the aisle

Yet they were strong
when I dug my buddy
out of a foxhole
and lifted a heavy plow
off my best friend’s foot

They have held children,
consoled neighbors,
shook in fists of anger
when I didn’t understand.

They covered my face
washed and combed my hair
cleansed the rest of my body

They have been sticky and wet
bent and broken, dried and raw
And to this day when not much
else of me works real well
these hands hold me up
lay me down again
continue to fold in prayer

These hands are the mark
of where I’ve been
the ruggedness of my life

But more importantly
it will be these hands
that God will reach out
and take when he leads me home
And with these hands He
will lift me to His side
where I will use these hands
to touch the face of Christ

I will never look at my hands
quite the way same again
But I remember God reached out
took my Grandpa’s hands
then led him home

When my hands are hurt or sore
or when I stroke the faces
of my children and wife
I think of Grandpa.
I know he has been stroked, caressed
and held by the hands of God.
I, too, want to touch the face of God
and feel His hands upon my face.


once said I could not imagine being so ancient
as my older brother when he came to be thirty
now I have become aware how suddenly years pass
with difficulty I try recalling those lost days

years pass and now so many remembered things
go back beyond decades that many may never know
today I look backward to what some call history
not too bad for some I thought as I turned sixty

today I am looking forward to a couple more years
when my warranty runs out to see how years pass
when I become as old as my brother once appeared
those forgotten days gone just short of forty years

years pass as I think forward to another twenty
then I will be as ancient as he once appeared
to one who has at long last filled his own days
and become more comfortable as those years pass

~~~~~Jerry Marks