On the Human Condition
                      Life’s Trilogy


He feels the word, FORECLOSURE,
beat against his chest with angry fists
until despair eats away his brain,

while naked hands grip tight the table’s edge
as if to keep the house, and all he has,
from slipping down a muddy slope,

each finger bleeding truth … that all is lost,
the boogie bank has come at last
demanding blood for debts unpaid.

Whose fault is this that fingers bleed,
knowing full well the effort futile?
It is the monster Greed who lies at fault,

making goods from sheets of paper,
and profits from promises to pay,
as if both speak of something more.

They are the ones who live in comfort,
while others pray to find some warmth.
It is the monster Greed who is to blame. 


What shall come of those whose greed we name,
and those who live in roofs of rain—is simply this.
They’ll be ignored by the rest of us, as if the same.

      An Evening Walk in Manhattan

I charge into the evening air
through thick brass doors
hanging heavy against the wind,
as shimmering crystals
clad the night in shrouded chill.
With each step, encapsulated cold
edging past umbrella fringe
nips at my heels under neon signs 
that modulate the pavement 
with a symphony of colors,
like the beat of a metronome
in tune with the music of the night.

Hoping to keep the chill at bay,
I shuffle past deserted tables, 
some out,
some in, 
each normally set for dinner. 
Yet those very tables stand naked 
while food servers, 
up dressed manikins, 
notice only empty chairs, 
no patrons, no menus, no tips,
not me,
the inertia seeping from their soles.

Quickly I back into the warm glow
of steaming mussels in garlic glaze, 
leaving a dripping umbrella 
confined to its own pool of solitude.
Seated alone amongst empty tables
in an old windbreaker and wet jeans, 
I conjure up imagined patrons,
monogrammed shirts wearing golden cuff links, 
and sequin gowns bearing deep cleavage.
Those ghostly images are exaggerated 
by the attentive staff surrounding them 
and by the transparency through which they view me,

as if a ghost myself.


The true portrait of one’s life
is like a Renaissance painting, 
worked and reworked 
by the artisan’s own hand,
and by the hand of time,
            a top

And like a Renaissance painting,
to comprehend one’s own life 
requires stripping off layers, 
digging through strata. 

Should you wish to view
the portraiture of your life,
peel through the depth of your soul, 
one stratum, then the next,
and observe the shades of gray
muted by time, 
as they prance about,
within the shadows of your mind,
sometimes in step, sometimes not,
forming a charade of images, 
sometimes perceptible, often not,

but always obscuring the clarity of your view.


The river of time carries you downstream but once,
like a raft fighting rapids with no hope of returning
until you have reached the end of your journey,
until you have reached the end of time.

Through conscious effort and periods of calm
you may captain your own destiny,
but conscious or not, 
the river of time will control your rudder at its whim, 

never letting you see around the next bend,
never letting you out of its grip—save for drowning,
Save for the end of your Journey,
Save for the end of time. 

Time is the bosom that feeds your flesh
and the soft voice that feeds your soul.
So ride its wave to the dryness of its season,
through the darkness of your future,

to the end of your time.

                    See of Hate

Ill thoughts are preludes to words and acts,
yeast fermenting the blood that does the killing,
precursors to insidious deeds against humanity
perpetrated in the name of such thoughts.

Alone, ill thoughts have the force of a light breeze
against the rooted trunk of decency.
Together with words, followed by action,
they gain the strength to uproot civilized worlds.

Such is the realm of religious zealots,
thoughts falling off pages into a see of hate,
hate for those who challenge their dogma
and refuse to bathe in the very same thoughts.


Abraham climbed a mountain on steps of guilt, 
staking his claim.

Jesus wandered the desert within shadows of fear,
establishing his fame.

Muhammed revealed the word to the tune of violence,
          exposing God’s aim.

Steps of guilt, 
Shadows of fear,
Tunes of violence,

the lynchpins of 
western religious thought
intended to maintain enlightened 


           A Day of Reflection

I look outward from the darkness of my being,
my view eclipsed by the body of my soul. 
Inward, my gaze shines like a diamond of light 
breaking the puzzle of my thoughts 
into the fragments of my being. 

The dawn of my day throws shadows 
Onto the walls of my memory, 
the shadows dancing with the glare of the sun, 
sometimes in step and sometime not, 
forming a charade of images, 
sometimes perceptible, often not. 

Eventually the dusk of my night 
rocks me into the chamber of my dreams 
Where the beat of time is put to rest,
where truth is all pervasive and yet forgotten. 

Rarely, as when the moon is painted on the canvas of a calm sea, 
there appears before me glimpses of the darkest past, 
though more often than not such glimpses are quickly washed away 
by the waves of time. 

And so, the day ends
as it began.
No real movement, 
except as a moth caught in a closet of despair.

I take the puzzle of my thoughts, 
the dancing shadows on the wall
and the glimpses of the darkest past
and sew them together as best I can 
into a tapestry of my reasons for being. 

There are whites of the sky forming shapes of the future, 
greens of the earth anchoring the present to the past; 
and reds of passion tearing life from its roots heaving it 
who knows where. 

                  Agar in a Petri Dish

A failing economy fosters
incubation of ubiquitous fears
turning green as if in a petri dish,
fears (like bacteria) beating down 
resistance of those without
unfettered funds to fight them off.

The ever shrinking middle (what’s left of it),
for one,
the kaleidoscope of colors (not white),
for another,
and the poor (regardless of their pigments),
the overwhelming majority,
all those folks—but not the wealthy,
find themselves trapped 
in the solidified agar 
of a petri dish.
Each culture demonizing the other,
causing anxiety to grow to anger,
anger to hate—cells in a petri dish 
vigorously dividing in abnormal ways
until a tumor grows 
within their collective society.

No jobs, no hopes, no ways of salvaging 
shattered expectations of equality,
unfulfilled dreams 
metastasizing like a cancer 
forever contaminating 
agar in a petri dish.

Poetry Inspired by 
Ira Neebest and the First Coming

        The Righteous Path

From craving God to seeking godless ways,
the roads to conversion are numbered.

Listen to Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens,
if you choose, those preachers of statistics,
of sermons, pounding the pavement with cold 
hearted genocides still reeking with truth
as stale as stagnant ponds of rainwater,
attracting only those long converted
to the enlightened world of non-belief.

Or read about the very same issues
I strive to wrap with fine literature, 
penned with imagery, plots, and subplots
involving everyday people, characters
resonating with those of faith and those of none,
yes, wrapped in fine literature,
not bundled in tired statistics and blurred
genocides appearing merely as black
ink on page after page after page,
but as the flesh and blood of those genocides
dripping from the pages into your lap,
flesh and blood you can touch, feel, and smell
as reminders of the consequences
humanity has on humanity.

        A Eulogy to Mama

Mama gave birth under cloaks of shame,
and died within shadows of blame.
Guilt drove her from cloaks to shadows,
guilt transplanted into the marrow of her bones 
and the very ventricles of her heart 
by the guiltless more guilty than she, 
the righteous who knew God through delusions 
of piety, hypocrites void of good will.

Mama thought she could master the tightrope
between religious and secular counterpoles,
a feat fraught with impossibilities, 
so much so the Abyss became her savior,
the Abyss her safety net she embraced, 
and Darkness her captor imprisoning 
a love stricken grief haunting her inner space, 
keeping her from climbing into the light of day. 

Mama’s fault … she loved to extreme,
and was molded to a reality
that was not hers, that did not resonate
with the essence of who she was
and the person she strived to be,
a woman who only wanted to love,
but was incapable of seeing 
through the charade of pious convention.

Mama, I loved you deepest in despair,
like an abused child, hoping my love
would expel the anguished isolation
that pounded incessantly at your chest.
I hated you most during those moments
the clouds parted and the sun crossed your face,
painting colors of kindness, warmth and love.
That’s when I hated you most. You gave me hope.

         Ira and Leonard

We sat at the kitchen table eating,
Oreo cream filled cookies to be precise. 
And milk, we were sipping milk as the sun 
painted my father with mourning colors

and delighted me with the morning tales 
he told through his transparent fish bowl,
the one with no demons he carried about,
tales of mother, of the deepness he felt.
But what of the evening tales, I cried,
the ones through the fish bowl hidden away,
murky with demons locked tight in their place,
tales of mother and you late in the day?

Shall they die as she died, with demons in check,
while you pass on to me a demonless bowl?
Shall all that I love and all that I know 
die the same way, in deafening quiet?

Those were my thoughts as I sat with my father
breaking Oreo cream filled cookies apart,
eating only the sides that kept icing in tact, 
an old habit I learned from my mother.

© 2010 Steve Shear