he lifts himself

so quietly

from beneath
the sheets

soiled with neglect

makes his way

past the shallow-breathed
that lay milky-eyed
in a heap

on the floor

save a twitch of the head

which head
now harbors demons

where nocturne angels
of sweet release
laid down lush
upon her

in fevered embrace

lustfully conjured
by last night’s
spoon and lance

still skewered
in the soured vein

this wreckage
is his mother

he stops
but for a glance

verifying life

then moves on
head down

he angles
to the bathroom
to the scum-brown bowl
to wash his face

a face

lit sallow
by the yellowed bulb

that hangs bare
and lonely

of knowing

of sadness

that stare
into the mirror

broken as his heart

in the dank
foodless morning
of this ruined
single room

he gathers up his books

steps lightly
through the door

down the damaged stairs

into the hostile streets

with a childhood
of strangled dreams

he ducks and dodges
in and out of shadows

his prayer

to once again
avoid the evil

that lurks and slinks
among the garbage
and graffiti

of these crumbled
brickened canyons

seductive as a smile

as a snake

evil which

if diligence should fail

will consume
his youthful soul

deliberately he continues

until at last
he finds his way
into the building

into the classroom

into his desk

into the only hope

to which
this innocent dare cling

• • •

rob kistner © 7/3/05




Powerful photo at top is of the Hope Street Wall graffiti in Philadelphia
captured by: Eugene Martin

Wonderful mural at bottom also from Philadelphia, on a school at 27th & Cecil B. Moore
captured by: Shackamaxonbaby



• • •



~ by Image&VerseToo on April 10, 2008.

19 Responses to “Courage”

  1. Ah! You have expressed so well what my first thought was on seeing “fearless” as the prompt! If one is truly fearless – without fear – in the face of circumstances, where is the courage? This is vivid and insightful poetry.

  2. A tangible fear in the air, here.

  3. A tangible fear in the air, here.

  4. so dark and yet with so much hope. your poetry is just soo moving and vivid Rob.

  5. Love this eerie walk in darkness. Especially liked the image of “brickened canyons”. But nice to see just a hint of hope finally.


  6. Wow what a sad and lonely little kid. Good thing he has school to turn to.

  7. “soiled with neglect”

    Loved this line

    shapely ghosts

  8. Enjoyable read – lots of thoughtful layers.

  9. Absolutely stunning!! So well- written with Tim Burtonesque flair. You are a poet extraordinaire. Thank you for sharing SS post

  10. i would love to read more on how classroom gave him the only hope..just curious to read more

  11. Hi Rob, I think Granny said it best so I will just say wonderful job!

  12. Such vivid images of poverty and courage!

  13. If fearless brought this poem, I’m glad, For anyone who has struggled to work out of such a situation, this poem has a strong message. But I’m glad the title is COURAGE, for there’s more of a “knowing” in courage. Somehow fearless in the context of this poem seems unaware. As others have said, a lovely dark poem.

  14. very poignant,

  15. it may be dark but there’s something in it thats so hopeful. the descriptions are enough for me to be in the situation..

  16. wow, this was beautiful, as if spoken from experience.

  17. Hi Rob, it’s nice to see you again!
    Wonderful words, just as I remember from PT days…
    The number of homeless children on our streets is amazing and shameful… you write so eloquently about this today…

  18. gorgeous collage, and moving poem. so much suffering occurs right here in the US. Your poem is told with the beauty of spare lines, making it all the more powerful.

    What a photo, too. THe perfect lead into the poem.

  19. that could be a room in so many places in the world
    I love books and hope, too!

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