May 27, 2011

After the Fire

As she sifts through
the ashes -
fingers smudged gray and
black -
She finds the melted,
deformed arm…
A doll,
once –
laughing eyes,
ribboned hair –
Nothing left but the
Cherub’s blackened
No more tea parties.

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

May 26, 2011

just a friend

a festering ulcer
sits in my stomach
thousands of maggots
wriggling and writhing
under my skin
eating me alive
threatening to burst out of me

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

May 25, 2011


little boy
5 or 6 maybe
trust me
(he whispers)
i love you
(he lies)
the house is filthy and dark
(like him)
little boy
concentrates on a cockroach
skittering back and forth across the floor
(instead of the pain)
the rancid breath
(cigarettes and gum disease)
the violence
followed by tears
(and apologies)
(and threats)
little boy
closing memories
(and shame)
behind locked doors
copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh


is what i feel
sitting here
mesmerized by the fire
and popping

i lose myself in the
hypnotic dance
of the flames

my mind
dancing with the glowing sparks
floating upwards
towards the stars
then suddenly

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

May 23, 2011

Song of the Times

The cripple played a banjo
The blind man played a flute
People rushing past stopped and said
“Look, aren’t they cute?”
“Throw them a nickel”
“Throw them a dime”
“Don’t pause too long”
“We haven’t got the time”

The cripple whistled
The blind man sang
People rushed by
Church bells rang
“Love your neighbor”
“But not too much”
“The blind man’s cane”
“The cripple’s crutch”

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh


   blue orb
   i grasp

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

May 18, 2011

Inner City Rainy Night

The boy sits alone in the rain
He pays no attention as the woman screams
Echoes of earlier explosions
seem distant
He sits against the cold brick wall
staring blankly at the endless night
rain gently slapping his face
as red lights pierce his eyes
The hole slowly drains
but the boy still just sits
water dripping from his nose

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh


As I lay here
watching your slumber,
breasts slowly moving up and
I am hypnotized.
Shallow wisps of breath
escape your sleeping form.
shines on your face
like moonlight.
My mind softly whispers
in your ear,
I love you.

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh


1:00 am
Sleep eludes me once again
Coil around my chest
like a giant snake
constricting me
I am a rat
about to be swallowed
by my worries
I need to change
be a better husband
be a better me
I know what has to change
what has to happen
I can’t
do it
I am frozen
in fear
on a ledge
high above the earth
almost easier to just fall to my death
than to climb back in the window
and live

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

Plastic People

            Plastic people
with painted smiles
dull, lifeless eyes
            mingle together
at the right exclusive clubs
            drinking exclusive drinks
            wearing exclusive clothes
Speaking in tongues
talking at each other about their Stuff -
            their stocks, their cars, their phones…
oh yes,
of course,
            their happy, well adjusted
two point five children
            who have adapted
“very well, thank you”
            to the new home and
the new private school.

            Plastic people
with painted smiles
dull, lifeless eyes
            exchange cards,
            shake hands firmly
            and make hollow promises to call each other –
and then
            with a sip of their single malt scotch,
they move on
to the next plastic person
            with a painted smile

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh


My name is Screamin’ Joe Johnson and I sing the blues. 
I’ve sang my songs and poured my heart out in every smoky old blues club from Chicago to Memphis for the past 60 years.  I’ve worked with all the greats in my day:  Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed… But there was one person; one person more than all them others, who didn’t just play the blues - he was the blues…

They called him Lightnin’.

They said if you was ever lucky enough to hear him play…
First of all, lemme just stop here and say, Lightnin’ didn’t just ‘play’ that beat-up, old electric guitar of his; he fondled it, he caressed it, he made love to it; and just when you thought he was through, he coaxed his old gal (that’s what he called that guitar – his ‘old gal’) into screamin’ out some of the nastiest, down and dirty blues riffs ever heard this side of Hell...
But I digress.
They said if you was ever lucky enough to hear him play, you was one of the lucky ones; because when Lightnin’ and his old gal was jammin’, you couldn’t see his damned fingers move – he was goin’ so fast.  It was like that guitar was a part of him; an extension of his arms, his hands, his fingers – yeah, especially his fingers. 

I guess that’s why folks called him Lightnin’.

He wasn’t just a guitar player.  He was a bluesman.  He was a bluesman in every sense of the word.  Some folks whispered that he traded his very soul to the old man in black for the right to be called a bluesman... 

Lightnin’ came up out of the Mississippi delta, with no possessions other than the clothes on his back and an old guitar by his side.  In a matter of a few years, he hadn’t just become a part of the ‘blues scene’ – he was the ‘blues scene’.  People who had been playing for years came to see this young man play just so they could see what all the fuss was about and to try and copy his style.  But as much as they tried to copy him, none of them managed to ever capture that spark that was inside of him.  That spark is what made him better than all the imitators.

Eventually though, it was the fame, mixed with his own demons that caused him to fall from the limelight. 

During his prime, Lightnin’ whored and drank with the best of them.  People came out of the woodwork just to be his ‘friend’.  Towards the end, when his fame, his friends and his health had all abandoned him, he still drank bourbon like it was water and took pills like they was candy. 
Through it all though, there was one thing that Lightnin’ cared about more than any woman, any high, any fame…

The Blues.

Lightnin’ loved the blues.  When you walked into a club and heard that unmistakable gravely voice of his crying out in anguish because his woman had done him wrong – it touched you.  When you heard his 'old gal' wailing and screaming at you through the haze of broken dreams and cigarette smoke – it moved you.  No matter what you were doing, when you heard Lightnin' you stopped and listened – and damned if you didn't feel whatever it was that he wanted you to feel. 

That’s how good he was. 

Even towards the end of his career, when he was older and no longer drew the crowds like he did when he was young; and people started sayin’ things, like he was washed up, burnt out, an old has-been whose glory days had passed him on by; even then Lightnin’ showed them that he was still a bluesman and that he could still jam with the best of them.
Lightnin’ showed them that, even then, he could still make his old gal cry like a baby, moan and wail out in ecstasy, or rumble like thunder.
Lightnin’ and his old gal showed them that they could still cut some nasty blues riffs, and I swear to God that you still couldn’t see his damned fingers move… 

Even then.

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

May 17, 2011


I watch my son
as he navigates the minefield
of emotions and
My heart breaks
and swells with pride
as I watch my beautiful boy
traverse the rocky
path of impending adolescence
and Asperger’s.
I want to hold his hand,
to shelter him
and protect him,
but he looks up at me
and lets me know with a crooked smile
that, even though he’ll stumble
and occasionally fall down,
he’ll be okay…

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

May 16, 2011

Jazz Sax

Golden Goddess
Calling out the names of
Woman who has
Ever hurt

Golden Goddess
My hands ache to
To caress
Your sensual

Golden Goddess
Your sad melody
Through the halls
Of my

Golden Goddess
Through the smoke filled
Burrowing deep
Into my

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

red balloon

red balloon
towards the ground
escaping the fragile body
memories of children’s laughter
fade away
as the red balloon

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

May 9, 2011


His blood is spattered on the canvas,
his soul drips from the brush,
his pain screams at him from the pallet,
and his sobs echo with color.
As madness grips his mind
and tears roll down his heart,
the Artist creates.

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

Found in the Cupboard

     I detest

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh


listening to the Plasmatics on vinyl
feeling the heat from Wendy’s outrageous anger
(my emotions are her kindling)
chainsaws mixed with electric guitars
throb and scream neo-dadaistically
televisions and speakers explode
as raw sex, violence and noise become Art

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh


The color of a soul
of a song
of a sky

The color of a smile
of a tear
of a sigh

The color of a love
that lasts
‘til you die

The color of two friends
like you
and I

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

May 5, 2011

Ares (The God of War)

Anger courses through my veins
Fire rages on all sides of me
I inhale the fumes of death and destruction
I have been baptized in my enemies’ blood
The battle frenzy is still upon me even though all have fallen
My ears still ring with the echoes of battle
I throw my head back and roar triumphantly
I raise my bloody sword towards the sky as an act of defiance
Do you see me now Father?
Do you fear me now Father?
I am Ares
The dead of a thousand nations lay at my feet.
I am Ares
The sounds of men destroying each other enflames me
I am Ares
I am the bane of mankind
I am the god of war
I am the god of slaughter and bloodlust
Fear me
I am Ares!

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh


As I travel through life
I am assaulted by a barrage of noise and hostility.
A man on a soapbox screams down at me
telling me why I should be afraid,
telling me why I should be angry.
I try to understand why he is so incensed;
I try to ask questions...
“Questions are not allowed!” the man screams down at me.
The people gathered around him like sheep
glare suspiciously at me.
“Only traitors ask questions,” they mutter.
The man on the soapbox points his crooked finger at me.
“You are either with us, or against us!”
His face is a contorted mask of rage.
I try to run from his fury and from his intolerance
but he is everywhere.
He shouts at me from the street corners.
He shouts at me from the radio.
He shouts at me from the television.
He shouts at me from the pulpit.
I curl into a ball to shield myself from his cacophony of hate
and I pray for silence.
copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh


at the doors of life
i will not be
(shut out)
i cannot be

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

May 4, 2011

Poetry Is...

Poetry is?
The Stork asks,
his beady eyes darting to
and fro.
I do not know –

He stands there on one leg asking me
to define the indefinable.
What is Poetry?
Some sort of verse?
Must it rhyme?  Must it flow?
omigod…  I don’t know!

The stork paces,
waiting for my answer,
waiting for me to speak.
If I don’t tell him,
he will gouge my eyes with his beak.
I hear the tick of the clock:
Poetry is… Poetry is… Poetry is…

I bet Whitman could have told him,
even Tennyson, Keats or Thoreau…
But as for me,
I do not know.
I do not know.

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh


he kisses her naked breast and tells her he’ll be back soon
            I love you Maddie
just going out to walk the dog
            I’ll be right back
he runs his fingers through her red, tossled hair, winks
and is gone

hours of unanswered calls, text messages and tears
an officer finally appears at her door
matter-of-factly informing her of her lover’s death
            Random act of violence
he looks away embarrassedly as she drops to the floor screaming
            You can come down tomorrow and identify the body
he shuffles his feet nervously, pats her back
and is gone

cradling his pillow, breathing in his scent
she cries herself to a fitful sleep resurrecting him in her dreams
            I love you Maddie
he comes to her with sad eyes and caresses her face
she desperately struggles to hold on to him as she starts to wake
            I loved you
as he fades into the fog, he smiles at her
and is gone

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

the end

sometimes life ends
not heroically
or swiftly
or quietly in our sleep
(like we thought it would)
but slowly
taking our dignity
and smashing it against sterile walls
and slowly
taking our personality
and muddling it
with tubes, treatments
and radiation
‘til there’s nothing left

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh


the steel gray sky weeps

wipers smear the cold, icy tears across the windshield

the world rushes past at 65 miles an hour

former prairies, forests and farmland

being served up in single-serving, disposable containers

infested with humanity

paved over with

strip malls



the steel gray sky weeps

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh
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