The Eastern Patio

By brian francis

The sun still hidden paints the eastern sky.
Feathers rustle with a waking shake.
The coolness draws a shiver.
Cupping the ceramic mug
warming palms and fingers.

Sleep still beckons, a siren’s song,
whispers taunt a weary gasp.
Sipping and pondering my day
to the trickle of an artificial stream.

Stillness pervades this hour,
quiet thoughts drift through the mind.
Bats seen returning to roost,
dance among the trees of the orchard.
Down to the last drop
of french press brewed Kona.


Just in time to see the first rays
as Helios blesses nature’s beings.
Even the trees turn their leaves
to greet him and his warming touch,
as he bathes the waking world.
A glowing moment.

The chirps and cries of the birds
soon joined by the beeps and chirps
of the electronic devices ever-present.
Texts, emails arrive, the morning gathering.
I hesitate to look and lose this moment
to the coming day’s chores and duties;
but as the neighbor’s cat rounds the corner
the parrots scream a fear-filled warning.

The cat enjoys his affect and strolls
slowly, as he displays his power.
The reveille announcing my day.
Thankfully, the neighbors rarely complain,
but, still I release the hound.
The cat skedaddles and peace returns–
my day’s begun.

Copyright © 2020 brian francis

A Bias Comparison

By brian francis

As a painter uses pigments
To make us see his thought,
All stretched out on canvas
A picture soon is wrought.

A poet uses lesser things
To show a grander view,
A rhymed or metered group of words
Makes us our lives review.

A painter stops a single breeze
As we see the flowers bent.
We see exactly what he wants
Exactly as it’s meant.

But the poet makes us feel the breeze
As though we were right there,
He takes us to a different time
And lets us smell the air.

Where the painter has his limits
In expression, depth and hue;
He can merely represent
A single time stopped view.

A poet’s brush is language,
His canvas is the mind,
His pigment imagination,
His space is not confined.

The painter and the poet –
Both necessary parts
Of what mankind can offer;
With and through the arts.

Copyright © 2020 brian francis

Variegated Digressions

by brian francis

The garden has been blooming
Flowers of every hue unfolding
The verdant stalks and leaves
Jostling for an embrace of the sun
My glory in full display; its regalia

The soil was once stony lifeless
Amendments, turning and raking
Creating a loam — a gardens foundation
Casting the stones to the margins
Lovingly kneading it into condition

This too speaks truth of life itself
The mix is lacking bland at first
Amendments added in the learning
The lessons cast off from those around
Settle on the innocent minds implanted

Weeds too, grow well in unbalanced soil
Lessons that lack integrity root fast
Tapping deep into a being’s very soul
Without the lessons of virtue’s worth
The Ph can run out of control: too acidic

Love an additive to sweeten any soil
Brings balance and soothes the soul
Strengthening the defense’s crenulations
A cleanse to any taint’s warp and stain
Can yet offer a thorny embrace

We each tend our garden’s many rows
Choosing the plant and its location
Learning as seasons come and go
The soul’s continuous edification
We become what we nurture

I’ve seen gardens rife with thorny weeds
The gardeners lost in life’s many woes
Addiction a test of lines one will cross
To attain that which hidden kills
The daily sacrifice on one’s soul

I’ve seen gardens of splendorous beauty
Yet found to be hiding a poisonous taint
Hidden among the green vegetation
Suffering those who visit leave infected
To carry their welts and wounds away

There are gardens too without any flowers
A green expanse of the herb and leaf
The season coming for blossoms and buds
Fruit for the birds, nectar for the bees
Built upon these sun catching leaves

No matter the gardening theory you follow
No matter the time spent on your knees
Pleading for rain, to then fear the torrent
Howling to fall upon this creation of love
Dancing to the wind’s whining measure

Copyright © 2020 brian francis

Chasing Inspiration

by brian francis

Pages, windows open to the world
I send them out to tease and tickle
A message or an observation
Casting them into the winds to
distant eyes

they dance on the tongues
and spill into minds,
nudging, provoking
inspiring an internal response
annoying, persisting, affecting.

“you’ve made me cry” they write
their tears my happy reward
let them cry great rivers for compassion

Rhymes – sometimes I can’t find them
so I walk on the other side of the street
a different rhythm becomes my strut
a feeling of freedom
freedom from form and confinement
stanzas become strophes
meter becomes flow
as the garments of creation are changed
to the colorful aspects of language
painted in poetic prose.

It feels like magic to wield the pen
to cast the lines in black and white
knowing readers will chant them aloud
to find, their, deeper meaning
in the words cast upon the page.

Copyright ©2020 brian francis 

A Ring of Chairs

By brian francis

Sitting in a circle strumming on a six-string
All of my friends making music there with me
Grandpa with his fiddle stomping and dancing
Playing hallelujah while his soul is flying free

Johnny has a banjo playing out the challenge
Six of us strummers reply in answering
Smiles paint the faces of the generations
Sharing this tradition of the music ring

Billie took his chair and sat it in the center
Standing there beside it, his guitar on his knee
He started to play an old church house standard
Everyone in the ring joining to accompany

Missy and her mama sang the words of praising
While working in the kitchen preparing all the food
Jim and Sammy Daniels joined in harmony singing
All about their constant and sorrowful mood

Woody Guthrie came in spirit to join with us
As we sang about the plenty of this land
And how Tom Joad just wanted some too
So, he could place it in a hungry child’s hand

All through the day remembering in song
The building of this republic, the journey shared
The troubles suffered all along the way
The joys and sorrows of how we’ve faired

Late in the evening before we broke and parted
We played some favorites of friends, passed away
We closed with Roy’s farewell song of happy trails
With embraces and kind words we finished our day

Copyright © 2020 brian francis

Dandelion Dreams

By brian francis

Sometimes in silence
I remember corn-cob summer days
And pig roasts: smoke and fire
and the ever spinning carcass
Grass grown by a blazing summer sun
nurtured with sweating sky drops
Family – the laughing voices,
and comfortable rhythm and tones
Flag day or the 4th or just a family gathering
because there was love
where generations laughed
and fumbled to play a semi-sober game
Baked beans and salads galore, sodas, cousins, cars
Sometimes I wish I could live in my dreams
Forever laughing surrounded by love
Sometimes I think I can

Copyright ©2020 brian francis

Sherm and Bundy: Setting Out

SS/ Fantasy 3367 – WORDS By brian francis

The water in the stream flowed with a purpose which has always interested Sherman.  By just watching it drift by, it seemed to help him think. Like thoughts that he had never once felt the need for a hand on his back in congratulations for a job well done, that was something that his father had never offered. He had a certain drive all his own. He had tried his hardest to excel in everything he took to task; he’d taught himself to read, to write, to fish and hunt and even make furniture – even furniture, people were willing to buy with money.  Now, he’d learned how to care for wounds and administer medicines, and even how to allow a person the time needed to accept their fate and move on.

He had been caring for his father for the past six months; the doctor had visited their small home numerous times every week since David Taylor had laid down on the bed and would not, could not get back out.  Sherm had cared for him as best he could since then, with the help of some of the neighbors, and some people from the nearby monastery.  Mostly it had fallen to Sherm to clean his father’s messes, to feed and support the household.  Now with his father finally laid to rest in the field down in the stream’s bend he had nothing but time.

“Sherm, are you down there?” came the voice of the Doctor. It wasn’t until the second or third time that Sherm stood up from the tall grass and acknowledged the call.  The doctor, calling, waved him up to the house and they sat down for a fine talk about living and dying.  It wasn’t like he hadn’t come across death before; something always dies when it’s time for dinner.  That is just the way of it.  But the doctor went on talking about letting go and moving on and such until Sherm was about to fall asleep. “So what are ya going to do now Sherm?” that simple question ask by the doctor had been swimming in Sherm’s mind for week.  As the end came for David Taylor, he was spared the pain and suffering by fading into a deep sleep.  As he lay there in the bed and made no requests or demands Sherm was left to wander the thoughts and confusions of his mind.  He would sit for hours petting Bundy the white parrot given to him by a passing carnival master. 

Bundy was too young to perform and would never have survived on the move–and the show must constantly move.   So for some repairs to a wagon’s hitch Sherm earned some money and a bird not expected to live.  That was three years ago.  Sherm’s attention to the bird’s care was heroic and an important lesson for him.  His devotion to the bird was all consuming in those first months.  Now he was rarely seen without the bird perched on him somewhere. He still sees to the feeding of the Bundy before himself and it is obvious to all around that there is something special in that rather weird relationship.

“Sherm …yo there… you Ok… Sherm” prodded the doctor.

“Yeah, I’m doing just fine.  Other than not knowing what to do now and fearing being on my own and not being able to do it.”

The Doctor laughed a long and low chuckle. “Well, I imagine it might seem a bit scary to think about; but if you really think about it you’ve already proven your mettle boy. “ Reaching out and cupping Sherm’s cheeks in his palms the Doctor went on,  “There is not a person within miles who does not admire you for the devotion and care you’ve show to all things, all of your life. There is not a father who does not pray his son would show the same strength of character.  You are not alone …you are not alone.   Do you understand? “

As Sherm listened to the doctor’s words his heart seemed to stop and at that moment, overcome with emotion, he fell into the embrace of the doctor and sobbed.  It had seemed like he would never be free of the duty and burden that his father had become.  Now all of that was behind him and his purpose in life seemed to have disappeared along with it. He was a stranger even to himself

After a while, having regained his composure and able to speak without stumbling over sobs, he and the doctor finished their talk.   He was prepared to make the decisions required of him; he just needed some time to figure it all out. 

There were still chores and the Widow Jengk’s chairs for her sitting room at her boarding house.  She made the most wonderful lace cookies, a cross between a candy and a cookie, which make mouths water all over the township at the mere mention.   He decided to buckle down and just get on with living.  Maybe stay here for a while finish up with his undone tasks and then set out to discover the world. 

                                           * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Getting his responsibilities completed became a chore as the good people here about discovered tasks that only he could resolve. It was nice to realize that those neighbors cared enough to do all they’d done.  He had been working hard for three months and had put on weight for all the pies and custards brought to him.  He was finally ready to step away.  His home would be lived in by a friend whom he trusted.  He had built a shed so the collections of the family furniture could be moved out of house and allow the new residents to move their stuff in.  When Sherm started to empty his bedroom, he was stopped by the friend who told him that this house was his home and his room will always be waiting for him. 

That evening friends and neighbors gathered on that plot of land that would always be his home.  It was a very emotional night for him, Bundy was jumping from person to person trying for a bite of this or that, A joyous scream announced the arrival of Bundy’s favorite monk, Brother Bean, Bundy’s head feathers rose as he bobbed his head in excitement. 

Sherm was actually thinking he might be a fool to leave so many loving supportive friends.  But then the happy announcements from Bundy “go bye byes, hurrah.”  He knew he had to keep his word, second thoughts be damned.  His pack was ready to go when he laid down to wait for morning.  He had sold the farm horses to pay for the doctor’s visits so it was going to be a walking tour of the world for a while. He did have a healthy pouch of coins.  At least it seemed healthy to him.  

Neighbors were still hanging out when the sun came up.  Sherm wanted to get an early start so his intention was to wake and being to wander.  But that was not to be, he was made to endure another meal of delicious fresh berry breakfast cakes and some coffee that had been made into a special treat by the addition of chocolate.

The good byes where endearing and each person present wanted a hug that often came with a whisper in the ear of loving support.  Rebekah, whispered in his ear that she would wait his return.  Just as he was ready to turn and walk away he heard the sound of a wagon racing up the road.  It was Brother Bean probably coming for the other brothers who were mostly passed out lying about the porch.  As he approached he cried “Sherm not without a hug. My Friend!” He slowed and stopped nearby and jumped down with a huge bear hug that forced the wind from Sherm in a gush.  “You my friend have set an example worthy of study and devotion.  The many animals that you have cared for when injured.  The many people who have had you touch their lives with your loving attention.  During all of your struggles you never demanded help like some people do and still you found the time to help that eagle and the bear cub.” Brother Bean had told the bear cub story many times.  He was amazed at the way the mother allowed this boy to go into the water and release the cub from the tangle of vines it had created.  She allowed him to inspect the cub and then even seemed to say thank you by nudging him with her nose and knocking him down before walking away. 

Well with all that said, Brother Bean, walked to the back of the wagon and released the rope tying a beautiful painted pony unlike any, Sherm, had ever seen.  It had a beautiful rosy coat with black blotches. Its eyes were wide with excitement and it was not winded at all from the ride.  In the back of the wagon there was a fine saddle that had silver work and in the bed roll Brother Bean explained that there is a special blanket of warmth made with magic.  After readying the horse and finally looking at her from a distance he realized how smart she looked and imagined how smart he would look riding her. Sherm gave an apple and carrot to his new friend Bundy jumped onto the snout of the mare and while she did shudder she had no problem allowing it to climb up to the fore head and grabbing two bunches of main while screaming “Go bye byes hurrah, hurrah.” and with that Sherm mounted and began his new life of adventure.  It was surely a sight never before seen of a man riding a horse with a parrot atop its head. 

Even after a full day’s ride he was still among his friends.  He found a barn where he could sleep and rest.  He opened the doors leading to the outside so the horse could come and go he gave some hay to a stall and crawled into his travel bed and was joined by Bundy who nosed her way under the blanket and slept in the crook of his arm.

A pile of hay made for a good bed and his blanket of warmth lived up to its promise.  Sleep came quickly and dreams of what lie ahead teased his rest with excitement and even dread.  When in the morning he was awakened by the mare eating him out of a bed.  He rose to make a hard tack, dried meat and hard cheese breakfast.  While he ate, Bundy found his pocket of seeds and dried fruit and joined in to this their first breakfast away from home. Taking the bucket and getting fresh water for the horse and taking the time to brush her and inspect her condition. She was in wonderful shape and ready to go again.  Periodically Bundy would climb down from his shoulder or jump onto his lap from the horse to find her pocket and eat some food and ask for drink.  More than able to drink from a bottle the canteen was no problem in fact, all was well.  Life was good.

Bundy chose to ride on Sherm’s Quarter staff and fly into the trees to scream and do her crazy bird act.  She would cling to a branch and spread her wings and screaming as she would fall over backwards and continue her screaming gyrations.  She was happy and her joy lifted his spirits and made him laugh. 

Half way through the day with storm clouds threatening they came upon a small farm with the whole family harvesting wheat as fast as they could.  Sherm understood the imperative – the storm would destroy the harvest left in the field.  When he noticed that the family consisted of three boys all young and a woman presumably the mother with no man to be seen he found himself approaching the woman and offering to assist.  Asking only the opportunity to shelter in the barn through the storm.  The children were all dreary and looked exhausted at least until Bundy came flying up and saying hi and introducing himself.

With terms agreed, Sherm took charge, instead of the kids carrying their every bundle to the barn he had the woman lay out the largest tarp she could find in the barn and having them gather onto it.  He cut the remainder of the field like a pro and the family worked to gather as the storm approached.  Using the horse to drag the loaded tarp to the barn was much faster and far less work than the alternative. In the end the harvest was a success and exhaustion was the result. 

Quickly, Sherm, found himself the unwilling victim to unrelenting questions as he made his bed and prepared for rest.  The boys each wanted to have Bundy ride their shoulder.  And boy did they puff up and get prideful being a perch.  After brushing his horse and fielding questions about its name that he could not answer.  He asked the boys to allow him to get some rest. They obliged and Sherm and Bundy settled into their night. 

Though rest was soon interrupted by a most wonderful smell.  Root stew and fresh bread brought to him by the nice mother to the little ogres.  She told him of the loss of her husband in an accident last year.  In the morning she was sure that the storm would be the final straw, not seeing any way for the children and her alone to accomplish the task need.  She had had their wagon and field team stole the previous month and she just so appreciated his help, with tears on her cheeks.  He encouraged her to get back into the house before the storm which had developed some gusty winds and was threatening to really set in.  He closed up the barn after watching her get safely inside.  And it was back to sleep.  Though a full belly, sleep was restless due to the raging storm, yet,  even the great cries of the thunder could not raise his eye lids.  And still excitement and dread haunted his sleeping hours. 

Waking early to a wet but storm free world Sherm grabbed his bow and quiver knowing that this would be a wonderful time to find some game for the family.  And after a few hours he’d trussed a good number of birds and when he finally scored a wild pig he regretted not bringing his horse, “Spot.”  No that didn’t sound right he’d just have to keep thinking.  After field dressing the boar, he dragged it up a nearby tree to secure it while he went for the horse.

She was all teary and grateful again when he asked if she could dress the birds.  As she set about prepping the hearth for the process, he set off to retrieve the boar.  The rest of the day was spent in butchering and smoking, a sack of salt found in the smoke shed sure helped.  

As evening fell and the meal was smelling delicious, he found himself pondering how lucky he was to have had such and easy life.  The lean-too on the side of the barn facing the smoke shed was a perfect spot to rest during his days toils.  While lost in thought he seem to fade to a daze.

“Sherm can I speak with you for a moment,” came her voice in the sweetest of tones, dragging him from his reflections.

“Eh, Sure Misty, I was just trying to slough off the day and catch my breath. It’s been a roundy – round all day,” he said while rubbing his eyes and leaning up.

“I just wanted to say” she started, but then exclaimed, “Oh my, but your eyes are red! But I guess mine are too,” revealing a shy coyness in her expression. 

“Well, I’ve been playing with smoke most of the day” he teased her “What is your excuse?”

“I have been crying tears of joy for the first time in over a year. My heart has been lifted by your kindness.” She said staring into his eyes. “Thank you Sherm for coming into our lives.”

Now was the time for Sherm to be uncomfortable, now was the time to remember that expressions of gratitude are the right of all people and receiving them graciously and without expectation is the will of the gods with respect to a worthy soul.  And with that mantra in his head he explained that it was his blessing to meet such a strong family.  As he now had friends here where he’d never been before. She also let him know that diner was ready and the family wanted him to share their table.

After washing up and checking the smolder he knocked on the door. Their dinner was awesome roast bird and root stew with bird stewed right in.  There were comments of cannibalism when Bundy asked for a piece, but Sherm assured them that Bundy was more than a bird, a sentiment all agreed was true.  He heard about the boy’s father and shared with them how he too lost his father.  They spoke of dreams and his travels.

The rest of the week allowed him to finish up the smoke curing of the meat and the curing of the hide with the ashes of the smoking fire.  He made some repairs around the farm and tried to teach the boys all he could in such a short time.  They absorbed his attentions eagerly and proved their worth in short order.   The youngest, Danny, taking up the chore of the watcher of the smolder.   While Rye and Trip took on the repairs to the leather hinges of the front door.  By days end he was prepared to leave and had gathered and packed his belongings.  Rest was comfortable all night and in the morning his goodbyes were brief aside from the meeting with the children in the morning when he awoke with them kneeling around him waiting.  He gave each a handful of coins their earning for helping him.  They assured him at his coaxing the they would wait until he was gone to reveal their windfall.

Misty cried and Sherm announced that he’d dubbed her forever in his mind as his friend  “Misty Cries” After a brief hug he set out once again on a path to tomorrow, Oh ,but maybe that is it “Tomorrow.”  Hmm, thought Sherm still looking back and waving.  “Tomorrow!”  I think we’ve found a name for you.

A day and a half up the road he found a small hamlet called Hemm.  Not much beyond a couple warehouses and about twenty residences and of course a traveler’s inn and tavern. 

Asking permission to enter with Bundy on his shoulder had never led to anything but a warm welcome and this was no exception.  Some grog is said to help the traveler stay fit.  While the taste was often bitter, this inn’s private brewing was almost sweet in its bitterness.  So the grog flowed and the conversation flowed until a man with a green feather in his cap approached him and let him know about a team of horses found abandoned on the road three or four weeks before in response to his discussing Misty’s predicament.  The locals all seemed unaware that she had stayed working the farm.  Those present agreed with Sherm’s proposal that she was a part of their community.  The wagon would be returned to the family by these good people in the morning.  And they would reach out to her and her family. 

It was easier to continue down the road knowing that Misty and the boys would have a community helping her.  Having studied a map on the wall in the tavern he realized that the transport road would take weeks longer than following the old trails down through the steppes to the low lands and the great caravan roads.   Although that would leave him little contact with people it would save him time in getting to a real city. 

One more night then setting out in the morning early after a nice breakfast and one final study of the map.

National Path

By brian francis

Our national path can seem always up hill
Brightly we climb our progress a thrill
But then we find on the other side of it all
A much steeper hill and down it we fall
And down in the valleys where shadows play
Licking our wounds, we sit and we stay
Regretting the effort, we’d expended before
We sulk in sorrow, feeling weak and sore

Deception might fool us lies leading us astray
Challenge the union in hopes it might fray
Whispers and secrets and deceptions and lies
We question our progress, tear at our ties
When we are inspired by our just looking back
Seeing the progress, we have made in our track
And remembering what has bound us ‘til now
The Declaration, Constitution, our societal vow

We await the sound the siren cry of our cause
Excited we rally together without pause
The giant gets restless in its slumbering rest
As the nation is challenged put to the test
Liberty cries loud that great banshee scream
As again together we climb and we dream
The banner waves high its light shining bright
The bald eagles fly talons ready to fight

Copyright © 2020 brian francis

Observations on a (m)useless day

by Brian Francis

The cardinals sing and bathe below
The window to my little studio
Where dreams are chased
And sometimes caught
To the tune of natures bards

Romping and playing in the street nearby
The echoes, screams and cries of fun
Careen through the window
And into my mind
Instantly clearing my thoughts

Dinner is cooking and the bread is made
And the cats and the dog are asleep
And the gentle chirping
In the nest outside
Speaks of comfort and warmth

Copyright ©2020 brian francis



Thunder Mountain

by brian francis

They gathered around the mountain;
the skies, roiling, stirred by the gods.
Cold the wind descended and blew,
the medicine teachers studied the skies.
Drums chanted their rhythmic beat.
Cries from dancers embracing the might,
called out to the skies to reach down
to touch with the hand of god light;
To bless them in their seasons to come.
Darkness fell upon the valley with rumbles.

Unabated, the call to the gods continued.
Glowing reflections dancing in the storm,
drops came in waves riding the winds,
touching upon those gathered in worship.

The light broke through the clouds streaking –
fingers reaching out, the power rising, sizzling.
The storm gathered its muster and roared.
Wind, racing, leaned into the crowds – blustering.
The drums held their rhythm, each beat sharp
as the dancers stuttered their steps and leaps.
Their souls revealed in the trance of their eyes.
Flashes strobe the night, stopping all motion.
It came in a sizzling crash onto the mountain’s dome.
Light, blindingly bright, lit the valley like day.

Everything changed in that moment, cheers rose
unheard beneath the clamor of the strike.
The blessing granted the celebration a success.
The season will be bright, with harvest and hunt.

Copyright ©2020 brian francis

Author’s Note: This was inspired by a Photo by, Stacey Le Clair.