October 27, 2011

Stars (for Sammi)

“We live beneath the stars.”
Father always said.
As he kissed me goodnight
and tucked me into bed.

“They watch down over us
as we sleep and as we dream.”
“Flowing through the night sky
like water in a stream.”

“But why?” asked I.

“Can’t I reach up
into the night and feel?”
“I want to hold them in my hands
so I know that they are real.”

“I want to grab the stars and clutch
 so tightly on to them.”
“Like they were a precious rock,
or a sparkly gem…”

“Silly girl,” Father said
as he smiled down at me.
“You cannot collect the stars
like pretty shells from the sea.”

“Now hush my precious little girl,
not another peep.”
“Lay your head down and close your eyes
it is time for you to sleep.”

After Father had left
and turned off all the lights -
came a glow from under my pillow
so brilliant and so white.

A star I had grabbed earlier,
lay twinkling on my bed.
I smiled - then slept
with it tucked underneath my head.

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

October 26, 2011

The Blue Haired Girl

The blue haired girl sat in her tree all day
Reading a book about trees – that’s what they say
She never came down to eat or to rest
She sat up in that tree like a bird in a nest

The Cherry trees blossomed
The Pear trees flowered
The Pine trees bristled
And the Redwoods towered

The blue haired girl just sat in her tree and read
Her face never left the book – that’s what they said
She never came down to dine or to sleep
She just sat up in that tree never making a peep

The winter leaves shivered
The spring leaves bloomed
The summer leaves danced
And the autumn leaves zoomed

The blue haired girl kept reading year after year
Never leaving her tree – that’s the story I hear
They say she’s still there today, reading about trees
She sits up in that tree, her hair blowing in the breeze

The Oak trees whisper
The Walnut trees sigh
The Maple trees sing
And the Willow trees cry

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

October 24, 2011

the pillow

the pillow no longer smells like her
but i hold it anyway
trying to remember how it felt
when she loved me

i try to remember the scent of her hair
and the feel of her body
i try to remember a time when
she was happy
i try to remember the sound of her laughter
and the way her eyes would dance with mine

during the day
i try and stay strong
i try to be a rock for my family
but late at night
when the world is asleep
i hold her pillow
and try to remember

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

October 19, 2011


standing on opposite sides
of the courtroom
separated by lawyers
and papers
and years of
imagined transgressions

neither daring to look at the other

intimate details of a life once shared
laid bare for all to see

they once lay in bed together
dreaming of a future
that will now
never happen

the battle lines have been drawn
there will be no prisoners
taken today

at one time
they made love
now they make war

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

October 18, 2011

The Beginning

In the beginning there was only blackness.  The universe was devoid of light and substance. 

There was nothing. 

Until the voice…

“Oh my God!”

The voice pulled me from the abyss, the nothingness.

“He’s back!”

A woman’s voice.

“Jerry, it’s me.  Wake up!” 

A beautiful voice. 

“Speak to me Jerry.”

A voice full of concern and alarm, but beautiful nonetheless.

“Oh please open your eyes!”

The voice was more insistent this time.  A tinge of desperation in the voice made me realize that whoever was speaking to me was close to panic.  I became aware of other noises and voices, but I only focused on her voice.

“Jerry!”  The voice sounded terrified now.

I slowly opened my eyes and a woman’s face gradually came in to focus. 

I blinked my eyes several times trying to get through the haze.  I didn’t recognize the woman, but she was as captivating as her voice.  She had light strawberry blonde hair pulled back off of her face.  Intense red rimmed green eyes brimming with tears peered at me with worry.  She wore no makeup and had freckles on her cheeks and her nose.  There were small wrinkles in the corners of her eyes and around her mouth that told me that - even though it was currently covered with a look of fear, this was a face that was no stranger to smiles and laughter.

“Oh, thank God Jerry!” 

The woman wore a white lab coat and was kneeling on the floor next to me.  I seemed to be lying naked on a cold floor in the middle of a large, white room.  Powerful bright lights shining down on me made it hard to see all the commotion in the room.  Several other people in matching white lab coats were bustling about the room shouting excitedly at each other as they stared down at me and examined print outs and computer screens. 

A small mousy looking man with thinning gray hair and thick John Lennon glasses scurried over and carefully covered my body with a white sheet that seemed to be designed more for my modesty and less for keeping me warm.

It was then that I became aware of the intense pain.  I felt as though I had been hit by a bus.  My head was pounding and my internal organs felt like they were on fire.  A moan rumbled up from my throat.

“It’s okay Jerry,” the woman soothed me with her voice and caressed my face with her hand, “We’ll get you fixed up.  You’re going to be okay.”

An older woman in a white lab coat swabbed my shoulder with rubbing alcohol. “You sure are lucky young man,” she said as she stuck me with a syringe.  “We thought we were going to lose you for a minute there.  But thanks to Doctor Martin here,” she smiled at the beautiful woman who was still cradling my head in her lap, “we got you back.” 

Back from where?

I opened my mouth to speak, but I was unable to produce anything other than an unintelligible gurgle.  I struggled to sit up, but the world turned upside down and everything went black again as I tumbled back into the void…

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

October 14, 2011

The Math Bug

In class learning math one fine sunny day,
I was wishing school was over so I could go out and play.
Struggling with numbers and facts and such -
addition and subtraction – it was all just too much!
Suddenly I heard a voice from way down below,
“I see you are struggling friend – what is troubling you so?!?”
I looked under my desk and there on the rug,
stood a tiny, nerdtastic, mathematical bug.
“My name’s Jeff!” the bug said as he jumped on my arm,
“I’m here to help you and I mean you no harm!”
“I love to do math and I can help you today.”
“So you can finish this work and go out and play!”
“Let me see, let me see…” he said as he looked at my test,
“One plus one equals two??? Surely you jest!”
“This world is too large for such an answer as that!”
said the tiny, nerdtastic, mathematical gnat.
He jumped off my arm, scooped up my pen,
and wrote out the answer: five thousand, two hundred, eleventy-ten.
“That’s better!  That’s great!” Jeff yelled out with pride.
“Now let’s tackle the rest!” the tiny bug cried.
“Two plus two? Two plus two?  Hmm, this could be tough.”
“But I have been known to be good at this stuff.”
“Some people would say that the answer is four…”
“But you and I both know that it has to be more.”
Jeff scribbled and scratched at the paper for me,
then he wrote that the sum was a bazillion and three.
"What's next? Three plus three?  Oh dear, oh dear!"
"A problem like this might take me all year!"
But the bug thought and thought and then shouted out with a laugh
"Oh I should've known - the answer is thirty six gajillion... and a half!"
“Now what? Four plus four?!?  That’s a trick question, can’t you see?”
The tiny bug laughed and shouted with glee.
“Your teacher might tell you that the answer is eight.”
“You’re so lucky I’m here to set the record straight!”
Jeff wrote and he wrote. And then loudly declared,
“The answer to this one is fourteen point seven plus X… squared.”
“This is so easy! So Simple! At math, I’m the best!”
And then as quick as a wink, he finished my test.
Then with a tip of his hat, Jeff jumped back down on the floor.
He ran down the aisle and right out the door...
Now if a small bug ever offers to finish your quiz,
Tell him "NO" dear friend – for he is no math wiz.
Because of that tiny, nerdtastic, mathematical Jeff –
The grade on my test that day was a big, fat “F”.

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

October 11, 2011


He was a twenty-something Latino (like me), just waiting for the bus. 

He wore a white 'wife beater' shirt and baggy jeans.  His entire body was covered in tattoos - even on his neck and face.  He wore dark, wrap-around sunglasses and had a blue bandana tied around his bald head. 

He watched me closely as I limped under the overhang of the bus stop to get out of the rain.  I was really learning to hate this kind of weather.  Every time it rained, a relentless dull throb would settle into my leg and my hip.  I was too young to feel this old.

I felt uncomfortable having him stare at my cane and the scars on the right side of my face, but I didn't show it, I was raised in these neighborhoods and knew to never show fear or weakness.  I just looked blankly ahead and sat down on the bench a few feet from him. 

He stared intently at me for a couple of minutes before speaking.

"Dude, that sucks."

I looked over at him.

"What the fuck happened to you?  Car crash?"

"No. Afghanistan."

"No shit?  Wow man.  Tell me about it."

Normally I tried not to talk about what had happened to me over there - the memories and the pain were still pretty fresh; but he wasn't asking me to talk about it, he was telling me.

I gave him the condensed version about the night that my convoy was attacked - how my Humvee was hit by a "home-made" roadside bomb and how my face was burned and how I lost part of my leg in the explosion. 

I left out a lot though.  I left out how I was considered lucky since many others had died in the ensuing firefight.  I left out the incredible guilt that I carried every day because I survived.  I left out the intense physical and mental pain that I experienced over the course of the next several months as I fought to heal my body, my mind and my soul.  I left out the fact that my fiancĂ©e had left me for another man while I was still on my back in the hospital fighting for my life.  I left out the fact that I had become increasingly addicted to the pain meds that the doctors at the V.A. hospital fed me like candy.  I also left out how I'd thought of killing myself...

He said his name was 'Chewy' and he asked me a lot of questions.  On the outside his demeanor seemed to be friendly, but from behind his sunglasses he was studying me - like a predator.

"You lose a lot of home boys over there?" he asked. 

I nodded.

"Yeah, I've lost a lot over here too.  Funny how you went over there to go to war, but I’m at war right here in the streets – every day."  As he said this, he made an elaborate ‘gang sign’ with his hands.  I nodded solemnly so that he wouldn’t think that I was disrespecting him.

We talked for awhile, trading ‘war stories’.  Chewy pulled up his shirt and showed me the scars from bullet wounds put there by a rival gang years before.

Eventually, he took his shades off and looked at me in the eyes.  "You know what homey? I respect you.  I really do.  You've been through the shit and you're still here."

I returned his gaze, lied and told him that I respected him too, which seemed to make him happy.

He reached out and firmly shook my hand, “You’re alright Vato.”

Suddenly Chewy's demeanor changed.  He let go of my hand, stopped talking to me and slouched down on the bench.  A low rider had turned the corner and slowly drove down the street, stopping right in front of the bus stop.  The windows were tinted and I could hear the bass thumping from the music inside the car.  I tensed my body, getting ready to throw myself to the ground in case there was trouble. 

The passenger-side window rolled down slightly.

"Yo Chewy!"

Chewy got up from the bench and slowly strolled over to the car in the rain.  He bent down and looked in the window.  I heard him talking to the people inside the car.  I couldn't hear what they were saying - at first the conversation seemed heated, but finally I heard them laughing.  Chewy reached in and clasped hands with one of the passengers.

"I'll talk to you later Homies."

My body relaxed. 

Chewy turned around and started walking back towards the bus stop.  When he met my gaze, he smiled warmly at me like an old friend.

He was almost back under the overhang when a voice from the car called out.


As he turned towards the voice, automatic gunfire erupted from the barrel of a gun that had suddenly appeared from the passenger side of the car.  Chewy's body spasmed as the bullets slammed into his body.  I dove to the ground as the glass from the overhang rained down on me.  I felt searing hot pain as a bullet shattered my already ruined knee.  I lay there in the glass and blood, covering my head with my hands and screaming in terror until finally the shots ceased and the tires of the low rider squealed as it sped away down the street.

I looked up and saw Chewy's body twisted obscenely just a few yards in front of me.  The rain was already carrying the blood away from his lifeless form in small rivulets. 

From somewhere in the distance, sirens could be heard over the sound of my sobs...

He was a twenty-something Latino (like me), just waiting for the bus. 

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

October 7, 2011

love poem

she was old
much too old for this nonsense
her children and her grandchildren were all grown

yet here i am

she gazed at him as he walked up to where she sat
her heart beat faster

so handsome

his rich mocha skin
contrasted with his perfect white hair
and perfect white smile

hold me

he stopped in front of her
reached out his slender hand
his kind smile gently grabbed her heart

my beautiful cuban

she stood and held his hands
his hazel eyes caressed her face

my love

as they walked arm in arm
out of the miami heat
into the hotel
she felt like a young woman again 

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

Thank you Thursday Poets Rally for this Perfect Poem Award
I nominate Papo for the next award.

October 6, 2011

haunted house

she steps out of her car
and looks up
at the haunted house

gravel crunches underfoot
as she walks up to the
crumbling front porch

the old screen door
groans in protest

she enters the abandoned farmhouse
and is immediately surrounded
by ghosts

dusty floorboards
creak familiarly under her shoes

the ghosts follow her from
room to room
as she walks carefully through
this ancient tomb of memories

she hears her mother singing to her
and tucking her in for the night

she smells her father
old spice and pipe tobacco
as he sits at the kitchen table
helping her with her homework

the ghosts awaken all of her memories

climbing trees
saying grace before dinner
laughter and hugs
sitting by the fireplace on winter nights

the ghosts also show her
other memories

the despair in her father’s eyes
after he lost his wife
her mother

his continuous struggle
not to lose the farm
their home
to the banks

and the feeling of sadness she felt as she left
him for the last time

watching him in her rearview mirror
as she drove into the future

away from the ghosts

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

Written for the Poets United Thursday Think Tank prompt – Haunted Houses

October 3, 2011


blow back into
our lives
in a drunken squall
all in your path with
and fists
your newfound hatred 
sets me free
you have broken
the vows
you have spit on
the promises
you have destroyed
the love
i am no longer
your doormat
i will no longer feel
for your
copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh

Story of the Week--- Short Story Slam Week 10

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