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Richard Betts Jr.

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Warrington, PA, US

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Stones

by

Richard Betts Jr.

I confided in you,
All of my hopes and dreams.
I told you of my nightmares,
And how I would scream.

I confessed to you
Every one of my sins,
And cried how I feared
God would not forgive.

I told you that, for years,
Someone I did not know,
Was pelting my back
With little gray stones.

A close friend passed away,
He just suddenly died.
And you and I, together,
Went to say our last goodbyes.

As you reached your hands
Up to the heavens to pray,
I saw something slip from your grasp
And slowly fall away.

When everyone was gone,
And I was alone,
I found what you dropped,
It was a little gray stone.


Wishes

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Some people wish for strength,
Others want only love.
Some pray for evidence
That there is a God above.

Some people wish for wisdom,
Others demand more wealth.
Some want nothing more
Than blessings of good health.

Some people enjoy great fortune,
And still they request more fame.
Others ask only for an end
To all the suffering and pain.

Some people wish for peace,
Others plead for war.
Some people have a box
Where all their wishes are stored.

As for me, my wishes are kept
Silently under lock and key.
Few people have ever been welcomed
To view this vault inside of me.

I wish that when you ache,
My touch would soothe your pain.
And when I turned to leave,
You'd ask for me to remain.

I wish that when you smile,
The heavens would fill with your laughter.
And when the sky suddenly burst open,
I would be drenched in your enchantment.

I wish that when you shimmer,
I would be favored to feel your grace.
And when the night has retreated,
I could recall the sweetness of your taste.

I wish that when you're troubled,
Your spirit would be redeemed.
And in the night as you slumber,
May I dwell among your dreams.

I wish that if you ever falter,
I would renew you with soft kisses.
And breathe new love and hope to you -
These are my secret wishes.


Blue

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Do you know what I remember
About that final, fateful day?
I recall how blue the sky was
As I watched you walk away.

It was as if God had taken a brush
And spread paint across the skies.
And when He chose a color
He picked the pigment of your eyes.

The morning progressed so perfectly,
I thought heaven and earth might collide.
The sky appeared to be so close,
I thought I could touch it if I tried.

I still remember marveling
At the blueness of that day.
Then my world came crashing down,
And the face of heaven turned away.

As that beautiful blue morning
Faded from blue to gray to black.
I never relinquished the hope
That you were coming back.

I used to believe in heaven
And someone who was merciful and strong.
Now it's hard for me to believe
In anything - anything at all.


Friends

by

Richard Betts Jr.

I wish my old friends were truer,
And I wish I were truer to them.
Everything I know now,
I wish I knew way back then.

I've learned some friends will disappoint you,
Other times, it's you who will fail.
Some friends will move to other cities,
Others will walk the Appalachian Trail.

As time rushes by quickly,
And our memories fade and soften.
I remember those days,
And think of you often.

And if I seldom see you,
Or our paths never cross again.
I will count myself lucky
To have had you as my friend.

As days turn to years,
And years pass in a blink,
No matter what we do or who we become,
Our lives are forever linked.


Sad

by

Richard Betts Jr.

It's sad to think of a young man's mother,
Clutching pictures of her smiling son.
So sad to think of a young man's brotherk
Who is now the only one.

Did he die for his country?
Well, I never heard any bells.
Some say he died for the rich men,
And that he died for their oil wells.

His eyes were bright like fire,
Now they are blank instead.
The blueness is gray in color,
And the fire within them is dead.

The dawn gives birth to another day,
The sun blooms and shines.
And when the sky is sunny,
We tend to shield our eyes.

From the horror, the death
And the travesty,
That accompanies
Purple mountains' majesty.

I pray for my country
That its wisdom will match its strength,
I pray for our leaders,
And I pray at great length . . .

That I never see another
Black granite wall,
Etched with the names
Of all those who have yet to fall.


Side

by

Richard Betts Jr.

What if you and I
Both believed deeply in the Lord?
And you and I
Were on opposite sides of a great war.

And each one believed
With all his soul,
That God was on his side
And would march him through the battle whole.

How do the Gods
And the Heavens decide,
Who will live
And who will die?

And how does God
Pick and choose,
Which side will win
And which side will lose?


Flowers

by

Richard Betts Jr.

People we love are a lot like flowers,
And we are the gardeners who reside,
We get to choose which flowers
Are the centerpieces of our lives.

Some blossoms bloom,
But are quickly taken away.
Other flowers flourish,
And are fortunate enough to stay.

Some flowers live in bunches,
Others live one by one.
Some blossoms burst to life
And prefer the brilliance of the sun.

Some flowers grown in loving homes,
Others show up alone.
Some blossoms grow wild in the fields,
Some battle between stones.

Some flowers grow old and tired,
And quietly they fade away.
Others do not mind the twilight
And prefer the coolness of the shade.

So surround yourself with many flowers,
And love them for what they are.
For flowers do not live forever,
The frost may not be too far.


Guilt

by

Richard Betts Jr.

How did I manage to make it?
How did I somehow survive?
I look at the others who perished,
And I ask myself, "Why?"

Why was I so fortunate?
Why not me instead of them?
I often see their faces;
A silent roll call of our dead.

Nighttime is the hardest,
For my slumber is less than kind.
And carrying around these questions,
Weighs heavily on my mind.

Sleep comes hard, but when I sleep,
I always dream in red.
And lying there in the fields,
Are the scattered bodies of my friends.

When I walk by any garden,
All the flowers seem to wilt,
Like they are being crushed
By the weight of all my guilt.


Fail

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Your most loyal lovers seem to
Loathe your most basic commands.
Your most faithful followers
Fail to meet your simplest demands.

Those who profess to love you
Fail to love thy neighbor.
While those who live "a good life,"
Fail to find your favor.

Your many followers complain
Humankind may have failed you.
While others explain,
You fail to award virtue.

Those who say they know you
Use your words like a razor.
While those who still seek you,
Pray fo find their savior.

The answers may not
Be impossible to find.
They may not lie above,
But more appropriately inside.

For if I do not love
And protect my brother,
Then it is he and I
That have failed one another.


Duality

by

Richard Betts Jr.

The world is beautiful,
Life is fine.
The world is frightening,
And life is unkind.

The world is wonderful,
Life is magic.
The world is wicked,
And life is tragic.

The world is happy,
Life without a care.
The world is desperate,
And life is full of despair.

The world is funny,
More like funny-strange.
The world is constant,
Constantly full of change.

The world is full of goodness,
And I pray you find your share.
For the world is a fickle lover,
And life will be unfair.


Whispers

by

Richard Betts Jr.

I breathe tortured whispers into the air.
These tortured whispers are my prayers.

They take flight to the sky on the wings of a bird.
And as they soar to heaven, I fear they are unheard.

My whispered prayers turn to screams of silence.
I pray for peace, but see more violence.

The world begs for sunshine, but the sky sends forth rain.
The sick hope for healing, but receive another dose of pain.

A little baby lies dying, the parents are crushed in grief.
With so much senseless tragedy, I question what I believe.

Maybe we need to create our own peace and love,
And look more to ourselves and less to the sky above.

And as I stare at the stars in disbelief,
Maybe it is up to us to provide healing, love and relief.


Ascension

by

Richard Betts Jr.

In my sleep, I see the people,
Leaping into the blueness of the sky.
But none of them begin falling,
They sprout wings and commence to fly.

The people glide and gently float,
And gravity they defy.
Rather than plummet to us below,
They turn to the heavens and slowly rise.

Perhaps they are there to survey our horizon,
And serve as our saviors, our protection.
I watch as they disappear,
To the pinnacle of their ascension.


Crucify

by

Richard Betts Jr.

We send another dagger deep into its side;
And still we are forgiven.
We crucify and curse it,
If every drop of blood is not given.

We watch with anticipation,
As it staggers from its wounds.
We clamor for our buckets
To scoop up the oozing crude.

I return to view the violence
And survey the scene of our desecration.
But all that remains
Are the scars of our devastation.

We must change our course,
For if we fail to make the correction,
Finality will fuel the future,
And there will be no resurrection.

What will we do when we
Have bled our victim dry?
What will we do when there
Is nothing left to crucify?


Discovered

by

Richard Betts Jr.

I know you are holding back,
I just can't understand why.
Are you afraid to search yourself,
Fearful of what you might find?

Do you not wish to be free,
To release yourself from your inhibitions?
Wouldn't you like to know for sure,
Rather than decide from suppositions?

Perhaps if you break loose,
You will discover liberation,
And instead of guilt and shame,
Maybe you will feel exoneration.

Aren't you tired of being shackled
By thoughts that pinch and bind?
Would you like to experience freedon
And not feel so confined?

Do you think in your exploration
You will end up lost and all alone?
Do you fear you might lose yourself
And never find your way home?

Face down your fears,
For there are wondrous things to uncover.
There are so many details about you
That have yet to be discovered.


Contradiction

by

Richard Betts Jr.

My thoughts and my emotions
Are sometimes horribly conflicted.
I feel like a walking
And talking contradiction.

I find that life can be frightening,
But I refuse to live afraid.
I hope I'm not a coward,
And pray that God will make me brave.

Sometimes I feel broken,
But I refuse to fall apart.
Other times I feel emboldened,
And the world wrecks my heart.

I long to like more people,
But I have become suspicious.
I question people's motives,
And find mankind is malicious.

I would like to be pure,
But I feel so unclean.
At times I feel forsaken,
Other times I feel redeemed.

Sometimes I am filled with sorrow,
And my soul is overwhelmed with grief.
Other times I am blissful,
And your love offers me relief.

Many times I am angry,
For the world is full of strife.
But mostly I'm searching
For some meaning to my life.


Hide

by

Richard Betts Jr.

It seems the more I seek,
The less I find.
The more I search,
The more you hide.

The more I question,
The less I understand.
The more I reach out,
The less I find your hand.

The more I read the writings,
The more I am bemused.
The more I hear the preaching,
The more I am confused.

The more I look for light,
The harder to find the sun.
The more I look for goodness,
The darker the skies become.

The more I look your way,
The more frightening is the violence.
The louder I scream,
The more maddening is your silence.


Dandelion

by

Richard Betts Jr.

When I was young and brave,
And my world was fun and new,
I'd pick a bunch of dandelions
And offer my flowering hands to you.

Through the eyes of a little boy,
The world is full of wonderment and beauty.
When he grows to be a man,
The wonderment is replaced by duty.

The difference between a boy
And the man he is soon to become,
Can be as different as the dark of night
And the blaze of the noon-day sun.

For when a boy glances at a dandelion,
He sees a flower - beautiful, yellow and sweet.
The man sees nothing but a weed,
Which he crushes under his feet.


Hypocrites

by

Richard Betts Jr.

The hypocrites spew
Their sanctimonious lies,
Then go home to live
Their felonious lives.

The mind of the hypocrite,
Like the pupil of an eye,
Closes and contracts
When exposed to the sky.

The more light one shines upon them,
The more they are fearful of the sun.
The more one offers opposing ideas,
The quicker they reach for their gun.

If you were not a hypocrite,
You would teach tolerance and inclusion.
But in your righteous indignation,
You breed fear and confusion.

Make the world safe for diversity,
For we all have much to give.
Don't dislike me because I'm different,
Just live and let live.
The more light one shines upon them


Child

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Wail, crawl,
Waddle, fall.

Stumble, walk,
Giggle, talk.

Play, laugh,
Bubble bath.

Catch, throw,
Jump, grow.

Sing, dance,
Frolic, prance.

Wonder, dream,
Eat ice cream.

Skip, run,
See the sun.

Joke, smile,
Stay awhile.

All your troubles
Should float away,

Like the bubbles
You chased today.


Exception

by

Richard Betts Jr.

When the mob is angry,
And blood is their lust,
I try to remain calm,
And I seek to be just.

When the Earth is evil,
And seems as if it's no longer safe,
I try to maintain my sanity,
And attempt to keep my faith.

When the world is wicked,
And I think I'm losing my mind,
I try to keep my compassion,
And I seek to be kind.

I want to be fair,
And I wish to be wise,
So I may know how to answer,
When my children ask me, "Why?"

I attempt to be gentle,
Yet I seek to be strong,
So I may do what is right,
Instead of that which is wrong.

When everyone else is hot,
I'd like to be cool.
I prefer to be the exception,
Rather than the rule.


Start

by

Richard Betts Jr.

"When someone dies, where do they go?"
My curious, young son wanted to know.
How do I answer, what should I say,
To the tender, little face there in the doorway?

I knelt down to equal his size,
And looked into his bright, blue eyes.
"Some people believe if you live true and live well,
You will go to heaven and avoid the pain of hell."

He nodded his head and said, "Oh, I see."
I said, "There are other things people believe.
Many people believe that Jesus died to save our souls,
And when we die, with him is where the believers go."

"Still others do not have faith in God and eternal life,
And death to them is like a dark and endless night.
Or when a person dies, maybe they becom like the air,
They become part of us all, part of everything, everywhere."

Finally, I said, "What do you believe deep in your heart?"
He kissed my cheek and said, "I believe I'm off to a very good start."


Demons

by

Richard Betts Jr.

What do you see when
The demons come calling?
What do your dream
When night has fallen?

What do you see when
You close your eyes?
Do you scream when your
Demons come inside?

Are you haunted by
Your hidden fears?
Are you paralyzed by
Your passing years?

Have you spent your
Life running, too?
And, in turn, has
Life run from you?

Musical chairs,
Hide and seek,
Do you run and jump,
Or are you afraid to peek?


Zealot

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Your fervor leads me to believe
That your views are a bit extreme.

I am saddened by the look in your eyes,
As you stand for all you say you despise.

You hide your hate and bigotry,
Behind the shroud of religious ideology.

Fear masquerading as love,
Is as the hunter killing the dove.

Hate cloaked in the guise of religion,
Is like the hawk stalking the pigeon.

If your conviction is strong, try not to sell it,
The way you market your morality, makes you look like a zealot.


Sins

by

Richard Betts Jr.

The sacred hoop is broken,
The center is no longer whole,
The circle has been shattered,
By the blackness of your soul.

You slew the animals,
And destroyed the loving land,
You turned raging rivers,
Into streams of scorching sand.

You were the savages,
Who slaughtered everyone,
You killed the moon and the stars,
And even murdered the sun.

Everything died around you,
Nothing in your clutches could flourish,
And where there is no vision,
The people shall surely perish.

You crucified the people,
For their heinous sins,
Found guilty . . .
Because of the color of their skin.


Restoration

by

Richard Betts Jr.

When the night refuses to relinquish the dawn,
Your love inspires me and makes me strong.

When heaven's breathe has turned harsh and cold,
Your love wraps me up and warms my soul.

When life's journey makes me weary and frail,
Your love encourages my spirit until I cannot fail.

When my fragile heart feels empty and old,
Your love allays my fears and makes me whole.

When I crave love and attention,
You offer your love with gentle affection.

When my desire is solace and peace,
Your love cradles me in comfort and relief.

When the clouds of uncertainty swirl around,
Your love braves the storms until I'm found.

When sorrow soaks me with its rains,
Your love caresses me and soothes the pains.

When I feel lost and utterly alone,
Your love restores me and guides me home.


Ignore

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Grant to them your guidance,
Lavish on them your love,
Teach them self-reliance,
Let them believe in God above.

Hug them when they hurt,
Comfort them when they cry,
Wash their mouths out with soap,
When you catch them in a lie.

Retain their respect,
Reward it to them in return,
As much as we teach them,
Just as much can we learn.

Demand from them discipline,
Bounce them on your knee,
Steady them with structure,
But allow them to be free,

Hold their little hands,
Teach them how to fight,
Show them the hardness of the world,
And the softness of the night.

Do all of these things,
And more, I implore you.
If you do not have time for them today,
Tomorrow your children will ignore you.


Top

by

Richard Betts Jr.

You move quickly and you talk a lot.
You race around like a spinning top.

You reached your goal - made the grade at last.
Then you looked at us and said, "You're going nowhere fast."

Yeah, you reached the top. It's true you touched the sky.
But you took the low road to enable you to reach so high.

You trust in God, or so you say.
As long as the sky is sunny and it doesn't rain on your parade.

Your station gives you power - power to protect.
But when people call you "Sir" they offer you no respect.

You sleep with one eye open, so you can watch everyone else.
I say you sleeep that way, because you don't trust yourself.

You say we are jealous that you were able to succeed.
You say we envy all that you achieved.

Most of us were happy that you were able to go so far.
But you destroyed everything in your wake, In order to reach your star.

You climbed so far, so fast that no one can hear your call.
And no one will be there to catch you when you fall.


Small

by

Richard Betts Jr.

I strive to do my best,
To live by the rules and survive.

I do everything I can,
And pray it is enough to provide.

Despite my good intentions,
Sometimes I feel so frail and flawed.

In spite of my best efforts,
Sometimes I feel so fragile and small.


He

by

Richard Betts Jr.

In your effort to be holier than thou,
You tread on the very things which you say you espouse.

What if you saw him and didn't know it was He?
Would you spit in his direction or drop to your knee?

What if his skin was dark and his eyes were brown?
Would you embrace him or throw him to the ground?

What if his hair was long and his clothes were torn?
Would you treat him kindly or with prejudice and scorn?

He treated the less fortunate as one of his own,
Yet you insist on pelting them with your rocks and stones.

You often say, "I don't like him, he is not like you and me."
What if the object of your dislike turned out to be He?


Break

by

Richard Betts Jr.

The fickle hands of this world
Build you up - only to break you.
The twisted ways of this Earth
Will let you be - only to take you.

Time sprints by quickly,
Hasty hands spin around the clock.
And the weight of this world
Crashes down on you like a rock.

Dreams are deferred and shattered
By the free-falling boulders,
As you sag and bend by the
Enormous weight of your shoulders.

You struggle and groan,
And your hands cut and bleed,
As you cling to your hopes
And clutch onto your dreams.

Maintain your strength,
Do not let this world break you.
Don't let the pressures of life
Steal the dreams that make you.


Carried

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Carried through the thunder, clutching our shame,
Some accept the offering, others refuse the blame.

Running without knowing, running across the field,
Can't see where we're going and so we need a shield.

Hear the voices calling, but never see the face,
Feeling as if you're falling, but never press the case.

Carried by believing, lifted through the storms,
Carried by deceiving, to save those who aren't so sure.

Carried by faith, which is good and very fine,
But be careful when your faith is a faith that is blind.

For blind faith smothers questions and drowns the anwers you drink.
Blind faith narrows your vision and doesn't allow you to think.

So, believe! Believe with all your heart.
But remember to question, the things you are taught.


Believe

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Sometimes I wear my emotion on the tip of my sleeve,
And people try to wipe their noses on what I believe.

I believe in love and life and passion,
In mercy and goodness and compassion.

Rather than suffer in pain and misery,
I believe in the right to die with dignity.

I believe that lawyers are leeches, sucking on the blood-soaked proof,
Who, in their search for victory, murder the long, lost truth.

I believe in God and that we are graced by his smile,
I just wish he would grin at us once in a little while.

I believe that homosexuality is not a sin,
There is nothing wrong with true love, regardless of the from it's in.

I do not believe in time off for good behavior,
The time for that was before you killed your neighbor.

I believe those of you who release a prisoner on parole,
Should be forced to live with him in your own home.

I believe those of you who put rapists and molesters back on the street,
Should have them baby sit your children for a week.

I believe insurance companies rape you and laugh while you scream,
Then refuse to assist you in your hour of need.

I believe our children lack common courtesy and respect,
Because of parental indifference, laziness and neglect.

I believe in an eye for an eye, we reap what we sow.
If you take a life, you should pay with your own.

I love babies, but I am pro-choice,
Every woman must maintain here reproductive voice.

In a free society, where common people play a role,
Common decency makes me believe in common-sense gun control.


Poor?

by

Richard Betts Jr.

We may not possess the house we cherish,
With a deck or a fancy tile floor.
We may not live life with a bang or flourish,
But, let me ask you, who, being loved, is poor?

Think of all the things we share,
For which money we would not take.
Remember what is truly important
And that our fortune is truly great.


Sons

by

Richard Betts Jr.

I wish I could change the world for you,
And save you from life's pain.
I wish I could save the world for you,
And spare you from life's flames.

Since it is my job to help you grow,
I hope to teach what you will need to know.

I will teach you right from wrong;
To be gentle, but be strong.

I will teach you to have faith and passion;
To maintain your mercy and compassion.

I will teach you discipline and respect, in time,
And to be thoughtful, loving, good and kind.

I will teach you to be honest and loyal;
To be true to yourself in all your toils.

I will teach you what my
Mother and father taught their little ones,
And maybe someday,
You will teach your sons.


Justice

by

Richard Betts Jr.

We blindfold you, so you
Know not what we do.
So you cannot see how we
Distort and bludgeon the truth.

I know why Justice is blind,
And why she has no rebuke.
For if she could see all we
Say and do, she would turn around . . .

and puke.


Time

by

Richard Betts Jr.

How many ticks does He permit?
How many beats does one heart hold?

How many spring showers will I see?
How many days will God grant to me?

How many times will I kiss your lovely face?
Or feel the warmth of your tender embrace?

How much time is one man allowed?
Before he must wear his own little shroud?

How many autumn rains will I taste?
How much more time will I waste?

How long will it take for me,
To become the man that I long to be?


Became

by

Richard Betts Jr.

My eyes are open,
Yet I cannot see.
My heart is hoping,
Trying desperately to believe.

My arms are groping,
To uncover what is true.
My soul is bleeding,
Tring to find . . .

Whatever became of you.


Liberal

by

Richard Betts Jr.

You call me a liberal,
Saying I have a heart that bleeds,
Because I choose to help someone,
Who has children to clothe and feed.

You lambaste me as a liberal,
Saying the world is a hard place in which to live.
Must we make it harder,
When we all have so much to give?

You may label me the "L" word,
And your labels I cannot control,
But I would fight for your family,
If, for you, the bells untimely tolled.

I'd rather lend a helping hand,
Than be confined like a critic.
I'd rather create something useful,
Than the skepticism of a cynic.

You may label me what you will,
But I believe what I think is right.
So, my question to you is . . .
"How do you sleep at night?"


Conservative

by

Richard Betts Jr.

A legless person
Who teaches running.
One who relies less on compassion
And more on cunning.

One who is too tired to think,
And too afraid to fight,
Who thinks the entire world
Should tilt to the right.

One who is resistant
To difference and change.
Someone who regards diversity
As suspect and strange.

One who feels secure
In the safety of the past.
One who would rather sit still
Than progress so fast.

One who finds comfort
In the corner of complacency.
One who faces the future
With halting steps of hesitancy.

One who fears
What he does not know.
Someone who takes pride
In the status quo.


Soul

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Hearts beat only for a lifetime.
And there is not guarantee
Of longevity in life.

Lifetimes vary.
But a soul . . .
Ah, a soul lasts forever.

Even when life fails
And falls from this Earth,
Souls continue to soar.

So in my lifetime,
However long or short that may be,
I would like to be not only

A part of your life,
But I sincerely hope to share your soul . . .
And soar with you forever.


Laugh

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Oh, these politicians make me laugh
With their casual talk of war.
They say diplomacy has been exhausted,
And armed conflict is the cure.

They can beat their drums
And pound their chests.
Because their children will be spared
The horrors that befall the rest.

Oh, these politicians make me laugh,
Because, otherwise, all I would do is cry.
As I watch another generation,
March off to kill and die.


Setting

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Would the boy you were
Be proud of the man
You have become?

When you come to find
That yours is not a rising
But a setting sun.


Worth

by

Richard Betts Jr.

How do we measure
what we are worth?
Is it by the things we own
While living on this Earth?

Is is by the car we drive
Or the yacht we own?
Is it by our bank account
Or the size of our homes?

Or should we measure worth
By what is inside?
By how much we are loved
In our short lifetimes?

Some cynics say I
Am a bit naive.
That you need money and
Power in order to succeed.

But I bet if I asked your loved
Ones how valuable you are,
They would not look at your house
Or talk about your car.


Clock

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Tick-tock beats my life's clock,
Counting the passing time away.
Tick-tock run the grains of sand,
Running through my outstretched hands.

Tick-tock march the hours away,
The hours of my youthful days.
When days were plentiful and so carefree.
Now, I watch them pass - grudgingly.

Tick-tock my clock has slowed,
An inevitable result of my growing old.
As I reach out with my aged hand,
I realize . . . I am out of sand.


Secure

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Why do you wear my love
Like a cloak and shield?
Is it to protect you from
All the pain you feel?

Why do you see my love
As a heavy steel door?
That you open and close
Only when you feel secure.

Why do you wear my love
Like a phantom's mask?
Is it to hide you from the questions
You're not strong enough to ask?

Why do you wear it
Like a tight, winter coat?
That cuts the wind
While it's slitting your throat.

Why do you wear my love
Like an old pair of shoes?
Trampled underfoot,
Until the love is confused.


Went

by

Richard Betts Jr.

I went to your grave.
It was covered with snow.
I went hoping that you
Didn't feel so cold.

(At least not as cold as I.)

I went to your grave.
To make up for the time
I didn't see you
While you were alive.

(As if standing in the dirt,
Could take away the hurt.)

I went to your grave.
Not to say goodbye,
But more to ease
My guilty mind.

(And see if any answers
Were there for me to find.)

I went to your grave.
It was covered with snow.
I went to tell you,
Well, you already know . . .

I went.


Cold

by

Richard Betts Jr.

You say you feel alone,
Like you were set adrift
On the open sea.

You whisper, mostly to yourself,
That the water has turned cloudy,
And the sea has grown cold.

The sky is getting dark,
And the wind blows in a constant gale.
A storm is on the horizon, you say.

You are thirsty,
Surrounded by a sea of water
From which you cannot drink.

You are freezing,
And you say you feel
No warmth from the cold, dark sea.

I know what it is like
To drift lost and lone
On the unforgiving waters.

I know the sea can be callous,
Offering no quarter to
The souls it carries deep.

I was drowning in it,
Looking for love,
And then you rescued me.


Truth

by

Richard Betts Jr.

You came here with your eyes half open,
You simply refused to focus and see.
You came here with your heart half broken,
And you wouldn't allow yourself to be free.

You said, "I used to believe
In the nakedness of truth.
Now I find all and everything
We do is subject to proof."

You say you find a screaming silence
Where the truth used to be.
And in the void filled by violence,
You don't know what to believe.

You were left standing, staring
In silent and distant desperation.
Looking for a savior to rescue
Your soul and offer you salvation.

But you have to seek
Before you can find,
And you have to know the truth
Before you know the lie.

I used to believe in
The innocence of youth,
But innocence quickly dies,
And the truth becomes a lonely child.


Night

by

Richard Betts Jr.

The night; it beckons me,
And the wind; it calls my name.
The moon; it smiles at me,
But the stars confess their pain.

The dark; it speaks to me,
It discloses and conceals.
The silence; it haunts me,
All it hides and yet reveals.

The night; it swallows me,
Engulfing all my fears.


Forsaken

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Your cross across my back
Has grown so heavy,
And I have become so weak.

The ruthless people prosper,
What is there to
Inherit for the meek?

The cross I once carried,
Now carries me.
Could I have been mistaken?

And in my final moments,
I cry aloud,
"Why have I been forsaken?"


Dark

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Dark tears,
Cried without a sound.
Fears $4felt,
But never said aloud.

Shadow faces;
Flashes of a dream.
Empty places;
Dark and dismal scenes.

One hand,
Holds the little child.
The other hand,
Feeds the flaming fire.

One side,
Fights to get away.
The other side,
Waits to feel the pain.

Shades of gray,
Turn black in the mind.
Then fade away,
But are never far behind.

Days spent,
Like a shadow in the night.
Years lived;
A life without a light.

Dark walls,
Soft from years of rain.
Crumble down,
As we confront the 4pain.

Dark tears,
That I have cried for you.
Please, let me
Be a light for you.


Dark

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Dark tears,
Cried without a sound.
Fears felt,
But never said aloud.

Shadow faces;
Flashes of a dream.
Empty places;
Dark and dismal scenes.

One hand,
Holds the little child.
The other hand,
Feeds the flaming fire.

One side,
Fights to get away.
The other side,
Waits to feel the pain.

Shades of gray,
Turn black in the mind.
Then fade away,
But are never far behind.

Days spent,
Like a shadow in the night.
Years lived;
A life without a light.

Dark walls,
Soft from years of rain.
Crumble down,
As we confront the pain.

Dark tears,
That I have cried for you.
Please, let me
Be a light for you.


Alive

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Blackness overtakes me,
Light vanishes from my eyes.

Heaven forsakes me,
Everything is paralyzed.

I have a pocketful of hopes
And dreams that rest unrealized.

Yesterday, I was alive,
I loved, I laughed and I cried.

Yesterday, I was alive,
But today, today I died.

How did I die they ask,
It really doesn't matter now.

What matters is - what did I give.
How well did I live.


Battle

by

Richard Betts Jr.

When day breaks,
It shatters the darkness
that engulfs my soul.

But while I sleep,
I am tattered by the forces
That battle for control.

While I wrestle
In the fitful sleep
In which I am engaged.

I cry aloud,
As the inner war
And the battles rage.

My desire to avenge
Those injured by the world
Becomes so great.

I dream I search the world over
Lookingfor the elements
That are to blame.

When I awake
From my nightmare
of frightful rest,

I take care
I do not become
The very evil I detest.

And so, when I lay down
To sleep again,
I am battle-weary and worn.

Though I try not to be consumed,
The constant tugging on my soul
Leaves me tired and torn.

Earthbound

by

Richard Betts Jr.

As a child, I always felt so close to heaven,
And my soul always felt so light and clean.
But as a man, the sky retreated from me,
And the world turned dirty and mean.

As a boy, I would playfully wrestle
The cottony clouds in the skies above.
But now when I grapple the clouds
I try to trample them into the mud.

As a boy, I was always faithful,
And my faith kept me pure and free.
Now, I am unsure. For truth and
Falsehood look the same to me.

I have grown to become a man,
But I possess more doubt than faith.
I feel as if I am covered in filth,
Driven Earthbound, I wait.

Eye

by

Richard Betts Jr.

You lecture about light
And love and Gods and sun.

You speak of saints and halos
And brilliantly colored rainbows.

You sit there pious and protected,
The world's ills pass undetected.

You speak of calm and clarity,
Yet you remain your favorite charity.

You ensure your interests are represented,
And you care not for the discontented.

Turbulent winds swirl around you,
Yet you stay oblivious to the rage that surrounds you.

You sit in the center of the storm,
Where you remain well fed and warm.

You engorge yourself on grapes and cheese,
While others pick at the pieces of their shredded dreams.

Disbelief

by

Richard Betts Jr.

As I stand here in the chapel
Praying for God to grant you His peace,
A deluge of questions rains down,
But the answers provide no relief.

Was there something we should have said
Or anything we could have done?
By some tragic twist of fate,
Did you not feel the resiliency of our love?

Did the world's injustice haunt you?
Did the joy in your life erode?
As you walked among the masses,
Did you somehow feel alone?

Did the world lie to you?
And in return did you mistrust it?
Did life's absurdity,
Leave you feeling dirty and disgusted?

I recall your constant companions -
Your strength and a face that was brave.
Were you beseiged and overwhelmed
By some imperceptible wave?

Did you enjoy your time in our company?
Did you revel in your life's travels?
Where along the way
Did the world suddenly unravel?

Did life become so insufferable?
When did it become more than you could bear?
In the night, when you looked skyward,
When did faith finally fail?

I stand before you - empty and confused.
My strength is about to falter.
With shaking hands, I touch a smiling picture of you
And reset it gently on the altar.

As I wade through the emotions,
I am engulfed in a flood of grief.
As I bury my face into my hands,
I am overcome with disbelief.

Treasure

by

Richard Betts Jr.

If you had a one-hundred-dollar bill
And a gust of wind came and blew it away,
Would you follow your treasure
Or sit still and stay?

Would you allow your money
To simply flutter down the street,
Paying no mind to where it traveled
Or what it may chance to meet?

Or would you attentively watch over
Your cash to make sure it was safe?
After all, a hundred dollars
Is a difficult thing to replace.

Might you even bend down
And take your treasure home,
Or would you leave it in the street
Discarded and alone?

Next time your children
Flutter down the street or nearest hill
Pretend they are your precious
One-hundred-dollar bill.

Within

by

Richard Betts Jr.

When you mock me,
Do you feel like a bigger man?
Do you not know that your words
Sting like the back of a hand?

And though I am the target
Of all your terrible jokes,
I look at you and think,
"Who has lost the most?"

As I stand here scalded
And my skin grows red and sore,
The pain from your remarks
Cannot reach me at my core.

And so I do not hate you
For your being less than kind.
Rather I pity you
And the things you'll never find.

Where I see strength and glory,
You find weakness and blame.
Where I enjoy hope and happiness,
You sit in sadness and shame.

Where I find poetry and beauty,
You discover trepidation and fear.
All that I carry within,
Your cruel words can never steal.

Remember

by

Richard Betts Jr.

I remember you with eyes
That were so proud and young.
And every now and again, I wonder
Whatever did you become?

Did you become a lawyer,
Or an outlaw or plunge into the sea?
Did you become a soldier
And go to war to keep my family free?

Did you become a teacher,
Or a dentist or rocket toward the sun?
Have you settled down,
Or do you live your life on the run?

Did you become a stockbrocker,
Or a mechanic who loves repairing cars?
Did you join the space program
And walk among the stars?

Did you become a bank teller,
Or a librarian or a supermarket cashier?
No matter what your station in life,
I still hold you dear.

Did you become an accountant,
Or a dishwasher or perhaps you drive a truck?
Has your life been filled with good fortune,
Or have you had your share of bad luck?

Is your heart still unencumbered,
Or have the years made your soul feel old?
Are you still striving for your dreams,
Or have we settled for lives that are less than bold?

Do you rush into burning buildings,
Or perhaps you enforce the law?
Do you program the newest computers,
Or work in the local mall?

Did you become a doctor or a nurse,
Or get lost in your religion?
Do you still laugh at silly jokes?
Did you become a politician?

Do you still sit on your boat at night
And watch the stars dance in the sky?
Do you wish we could do it all again,
If only given the chance to try?

Did you get married and have children?
Do you like to watch the sun set into the sea?
When you sit and reflect about the past,
Do you even remember me?

Beautiful

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Sometimes the world appears to me
That it is on the verge of falling apart.
And when I am about to lose my faith,
You restore my foolish heart.

When the angry heavens punish me
For my previous transgressions,
And turn a deaf ear
To my apologetic confessions,

I seek and find absolution
In the love that we have made.
Trough your faith and forgiveness
The grime on my soul is cleansed away.

When the world's horrors
Haunt my sleep and awaken me,
You never fail to comfort
Or think of forsaking me.

And from the shadows,
Where the darkness shrouds my weeping,
I notice you resemble an angel
As you lie there softly sleeping.

Correct?

by

Richard Betts Jr.

If the moon and the sun waged a war,
Who would win? The moon, I'm sure.

The sun would fight face to face,
Making sure everything was proper and in its place.

The sun would often stop and double check,
Just to make certain he was politically correct.

While the sun was being fair and safe,
The moon was off in a darkened place.

In the night, the moon slipped around
And hid behind the sun somehow.

The evening ended and the sun awoke.
He rose quickly as the morning broke.

The sun searched but could not find the moon,
And the sun was happy the war had ended so soon.

When the day turned dark and dark turned black,
The moon stabbed the sun in his well-meaning back.

Fly

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Years ago, when I was young,
I often dreamed I possessed the power to fly.
At night, I would shed the weight of my fears
And slip into the wonderful sky.

As I grew older, I discovered my ability to dream
Had been secretly stolen or snipped.
Like a bird denied his right to soar,
Time had found me and my wings were clipped.

Life succeeded in sneaking up on me,
And, over time, my heart succumbed to the pounding.
The lightness of the sky withdrew from me
And the evenings became heavy and grounded.

Still, I smile when I recall my dreams
And marvel at the magic of my childhood nights.
For now my sleep is grueling,
And my soul is too heavy to take flight.

I remember when I used to fly and soar,
My greatest fear was that I might fall.
Today, I have no such trepidation,
Because now I never dream at all.

Glass

by

Richard Betts Jr.

He sits at home next to the phone,
But no one ever calls.
He sits at home all alone,
Watching shadows pace the walls.

Pretend that you stop by his house,
Just on a whim.
And decide that you
Will visit with him.

And he tells you all about
Pork Chop Hill,
And the blood and tears
His friends did spill.

He tells you all about
The sunny day,
He met and talked
With JFK.

He talks and teaches
About the past,
And helps you see
The mountain of glass.

As he goes on,
You're pleasantly surprised.
And amazed at the treasures
Behind his blue eyes.

You see, it's not his mind
That has gotten old.
It's the younger hearts
That are cold as stones.

So . . . you never did
Get that whim,
To just stop in
And check on him.

Alone and tired,
The old man waits,
And the mountain of glass
Starts to break.

Repair

by

Richard Betts Jr.

I have never been this consumed,
And worn such resentment on my face.
And in our united sense of purpose,
I can feel His hand of constant grace.

Never have we suffered so openly,
And shown the wounds of our despair.
But our sorrow binds us together,
And tomorrow's hope is our repair.

Weary

by

Richard Betts Jr.

I am exhausted listening
To the litany of lies.
I am sick of seeing the world
Through bleary, bloodshot eyes.

I am tired of being bombarded
And force-fed all the baloney.
I am fatigued by the false promises,
Spoken from the lips of fakers and phonies.

I am so worn out from feeling
Heartsick and hurt,
Every time we bury another victim
Into the unforgiving dirt.

I am sick of the con men
Running the show.
Who, in the middle of July,
Promise they can make it snow.

When I was younger,
I was idealistic and cheery.
But, my God, this world
Makes me feel so wounded and weary.

Omnipotence

by

Richard Betts Jr.

I was taught to believe in a loving one,
And we praised You for your mercy.
I do not understand why You provide
No libation to those who are so thirsty.

They told me about salvation,
Taught me that You were the buffer.
But in your infinite wisdom,
Why must the innocents suffer?

When I speak to You at night,
I hear you whisper, "Trust us."
Then reality smacks my face,
And I question your fairness and justice.

I was taught about your omnipotence
And all your strength and power.
But the anguish in the world
Can make your goodness taste so sour.

When I think of your benevolence,
And all your love and grace,
If we were created in your image,
Why do we wear such an ugly face?

Rose

by

Richard Betts Jr.

You were such a youthful flower,
But I suppose God chose you not to stay

Because, even He, loves the most beautiful roses
As the center of his bouquets.

For Brian Rose

Play

by

Richard Betts Jr.

The little boy pleaded,
"Daddy, will you please play with me?"
But the man just waved his hand and said,
"Can't you see, I'm trying to watch TV."

So the little boy went outside to play
And found a gun lying on the ground.
And when he pulled the trigger,
The father heard the sound.

The boy fell to the ground;
His blood pumped and pulsed into the air.
And the father finally screamed,
"If I only would have gotten out of my chair!"

Vision

by

Richard Betts Jr.

The other night I had a vision
That you were at my door.
You must have floated down like an angel
Through the holes in heaven's floor.

I dreamed I scooped you up,
Cradled you in my arms,
Surrounded you with love,
Shielded you from harm.

I dreamed we cuddled close,
And I held you to my chest.
I felt the softness of your skin
Under the gentle kiss of my caress.

Soon I will awake,
And feel afresh the pain that is my prison.
I thank you, my angel,
For the healing magic of your visions.

For since you were called away,
I have found it difficult to cope.
But the enchantment of your visits
Renews my strength and hope.

As time lingers,
Still the struggle does not subside.
As I did before your birth,
I carry you inside.

Shine

by

Richard Betts Jr.

I always let the porch light burn,
In the hope of your safe and triumphant return.

Wherever you may have rambled or roamed,
The light was a beacon to guide you home.

Every night, without exception.
I prayed for you and your protection.

At dusk, I often wandered outside,
To see if you were there for me to find.

Some nights, I would seek and search so hard,
I could not bring myself to leave the yard.

Sometimes I think I see you walking down the hill.
I wish that you were out there still.

For much time has slipped and passed away,
And never again will you cross my way.

So every day and every night,
The porch light glistens strong and bright.

It has become you own eternal flame
And shines forever in your name.

1917

by

Richard Betts Jr.

I sit here in this
God-forsaken place.
With the lives of my friends
Smeared across my face.

I crouch low in this
Blood-encrusted trench.
Surrounded by death's
Unmistakable stench.

A bugle blow. Is my
Last morning dawning?
The shells fly, and the
Boys begin falling.

I sping up from my
Position and join the fray.
I shoot and kill
As I run and pray.

A hail of bullets
Brings closure to the madness.
I am overcome with
Relief more than hurt and sadness.

My last shallow gasps
Escape as I'm crawling.
I feel no more pain,
The Lord, I think, is calling.

In this unknown Belgian town,
I slowly wait to die.
Someone please ask the High
Command, "For what? Why?"

Torch

by

Richard Betts Jr.

We carry the torch to the setting sun.
We carry the torch for the forgotten ones.
We carry the torch so others may see
The untold stories of history.

Crosses that bear poetic names.
Children piled in shallow graves.
They wouldn't play the intruders' games,
So they died in the name of America's shame.

The proud tribe of the Cherokee
Battled relentlessly the wars and disease.
The tribe held out for one hundred years,
But one of every four died on the "Trail of Tears."

The Cheyenne - murdered at Sand Creek.
They had no chance, they were still asleep.
One hundred and five killed in their beds,
Only twenty-eight of the dead were men.

The Cheyenne - massacred again.
One hundred and three lie there dead.
Remember their stories, pray for their souls,
Only eleven men lie in those holes.

The Blackfeet - they were slaughtered, too.
The undefended camp was torn in two.
One hundred and seventy-three died that day;
Forty-six managed to escape.

There were ninety women and fifty kids,
Shot down for having red skin.
Thirty-three men were among those killed
And buried on an unknown hill.

The Apache did not escape the hand of death.
One hundred and forty-four gasped their last breath.
All women and children died at Camp Grant
Save for a boy and a very old man.

Why is it that all the books I read
Never told about the Native American dead?
Why didn't the films of my youth
Ever bother to show the awful truth?

At Wounded Knee, nearly three hundred slain.
The bodies spilled across the open plain.
Today I sit and cast a glance
Back at the sins of our nation's past.

So I beg you to carry the torch though your arms may ache.
Carry the torch, even when your heart may break.
For where crosses bear their poetic names,
Blood-red tears adorn those graves.

Dedicated to my grandfather - Clifford Collins.

Rope

by

Richard Betts Jr.

On the tall table above,
Is spread a beautiful banquet of hope.
As we struggle to climb to the top,
Most of us fall short as we run out of rope.

We are all given lifelines,
Which come in assorted lengths.
And the durability is not the same,
As the ropes are of varying strength.

Some are fortunate;
A good rope they are lucky to have found.
Others - for whatever reason -
Their ropes break before they ever leave the ground.

So the strong and industrious
Climb as high and as far as their ropes will fly,
Thanking God they have the fortitude
To rise into the welcoming sky.

And so they pull up chairs
To partake in this hopeful feast,
Only to find their chairs' legs have been cut
And are not high enough to reach.

But life is not so bad high up on the chairs,
For hope still abounds.
And some level of contentment
Can still be expected and found.

But below that - many are relegated
To eating the crumbs and scraps
That crumble from the table
And are brushed from rich men's laps.

On the tabletop above,
The bowls overflow with hope.
Down below, nooses are made
With the ends of a hopeless rope.

Wander

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Sometimes I feel as if I've
Been left in the lurch.
So I confess to you my
Involvement in a constant search.

You say you feel sorry
That I cannot control,
The wanderings of my
Discarded and restless soul.

I try to see life without blinders,
Just enough to get a peek.
But the more life that I uncover,
The more I question what I seek.

You say you feel pity
That I might never find,
The hope you have through Him
Or the serenity and peace of mind.

I admire that you are
So steadfast in your faith.
But for me, unfortunately,
That is not the case.

The more I hunt for answers,
And the more I search and explore,
The more I cannot reconcile
Why our prayers are forgotten and ignored.

I have seen a world where
Mercy and goodness are evasive.
Where hate and violence
Are all too common and pervasive.

I am hunting for a place
Where hope and light do not so easily fade.
Where answers to prayers
Are not so quick to evade.

I am full of faults and flaws,
I cannot deny that fact.
Perhaps I am searching
Because of all the things I lack.

But it is neither your pity nor approval
That I seek or will make me whole.
It is the quest itself that will soothe
The aching inside my painful soul.

Maybe those of us
Who search and ponder,
Hope to find some comfort
As we walk around and wander.

Stranger

by

Richard Betts Jr.

I am aware of my many quirks
That you may find quite strange.
But that is who I am.
Please don't ask me to change.

For if I abide your request
And my personality I alter,
Who have I become?
What if I regress and falter?

What if I am fortunate enough
To earn your love?
I fear you will not love me,
But the faker I have become.

If we were out with friends,
Enjoying the summer air,
Maybe I would become confused
And forget which face I am to wear.

No, I will not modify myself,
For I sense a tremendous danger.
The person that you've come to know
Will be nothing but a stranger.

Anymore

by

Richard Betts Jr.

As I entered the room and somberly approached his bed,
"Why are you so sad?" My five-year-old son said.

I gave him a kiss and turned off the light.
"I just found out my uncle died earlier tonight."

"What happened? How did he die?"
I searched for a response that would avoid a lie.

As I thought in the dark, he waited patiently for his answer.
Finally, I said, "He died from a disease called cancer."

We talked about things for a short time. Then I said,
"It's time to get some sleep." And gently he closed his eyes.

As I turned to leave, my son sat up in his bed.
"You know he's not really dead."

I returned to his bedside and touched his tiny hand.
I thought he was confused and did not understand.

"He's living in heaven, so in a way he is alive."
And with his little finger, he pointed toward the sky.

I kissed him again and told him he was right,
My uncle was living in heaven tonight.

As I left the room and closed the door,
I didn't feel quite so sad - anymore.

Dedicated to my uncle - Jud Hill

Mirage

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Wounded, I crawled through the desert
On heavy hands and bleeding knees,
Searching for something that might offer
Some sanctuary and a brief reprieve.

I pushed on and, in delirium,
I tried to drink the dirt,
So thirsty was I to escape
The heat and unrelenting hurt.

Off in the distance,
I found a soft and secluded place.
Full of trees and flowing streams
And your friendly, smiling face.

I crawled into the shade
And struggled until I could stand.
Only then did I realize
You never offered me you hand.

As my spirit was under siege
And battling life's constant barrage,
I uncovered my greatest illusion -
Your friendship was just a mirage.

Suffer

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Does suffering infuse wisdom
Into the hearts and souls of them

That endure the ridiculous
Randomness of death

As it steals their
Loved ones and friends?

Request

by

Richard Betts Jr.

I did not wish to die a hero
Or posthumously gain fame and wealth.
And if I could return from the grave,
I'd ask only one thing for myself.

I'd request that you do not forget
All the men and women like me,
Who died with eyes full of life and fire
To enable you to live so free.

Twilight

by

Richard Betts Jr.

The daylight dies.
The leaves float to the ground.
The house is hollow and empty,
Devoid of any sound.

The sun vanishes,
As dusk gives birth to night.
The impending darkness denotes
The twilight of my life.

Individuality

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Are you worried that if you are different
And your life not so neatly arranged,
People will stare at you suspiciously
And dislike you because you are strange?

We distrust things that are unfamiliar
And are comforted when people conform.
In this day of decadence, maybe we should reward
Those who deviate from the norm.

Part of life is to grow and learn
And move beyond from where we came.
Perhaps we should celebrate our oddities,
Because we are as different as we are the same.

Maybe you should not be so judgmental,
But I know I am as guilty as you.
Because while you were busy judging me,
I was trying to judge you, too.

People will think what they want
And perceptions are hard to change.
Embrace your individuality,
Because deep down, we are all a little bit strange.

Me

by

Richard Betts Jr.

You and I, we grew up together,
Went to the same school when we were kids.
Together we came of age,
Had the same beliefs and dreams, you and I did.

You and I, we were like most teenage boys,
The world was our stage.
You - so quiet and reserved,
Me - so full of fire and rage.

We thought we were invincible.
We shared a love of sports and beautiful new cars.
Together we'd drink cold beers
From frosty mugs at the local bars.

You and I, we enjoyed fishing
At that little stream just over the hill.
We tried our hand at hunting,
But we enjoyed the hunt rather than the kill.

Then one day it happened,
Just like I prayed it never would.
I struggled to summon the strength,
I'm sorry, but I never could.

I tried so many times to tell you,
But every time my courage broke.
You laughed at first and thought
I was playing one of my foolish jokes.

Then you screamed and called me vicious words,
Said I had deceived you and everyone else.
I said all I was guilty of
Was trying to deceive myself.

Now when you see me on the street,
You quickly turn the other way.
But I go home and tell our Mom,
"Hey, Mom, I say my brother today."

Your eyes have become so narrow,
And your mind has grown so small,
When you look across the way,
You refuse to see me at all.

When you glance in my direction,
I think I know what you really see.
All you can focus on is . . .

Gay little me.

Train

by

Richard Betts Jr.

As a child, I often stood
On the platform at the station,
Watching as people rushed past
In muted desperation.

I could not comprehend
The frenetic actions and flurry.
I remember thinking, "What is so vital
To demand such worry?"

Soon, I became a rider
And raced withe everyone side-by-side.
We would push our way past the children,
Who stared with questioning eyes.

One day, I drove myself so fast
My speeding train derailed.
And I woke to find, when it came to love and friendship,
I had often fallen short or failed.

Emerging from the wreckage,
I gained a new perspective
And desired to do some soul-searching
And be more introspective.

I thought I was succeeding
By living life in such a hurry.
But where is the success
When everything becomes indistinct and blurry?

I asked myself this question,
And its answer bacame my key:
Was I rushing to manage my life,
Or was life managing to rush by me?

Now when you see me
And hear the familiar clickity-clack.
You'll know it is my train
Rolling slowly down the tracks.

Deprivation

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Deep in your soul, many traits thrive and flourish,
Among them, the strongest is your spirit and courage.

Perhaps it is your tenacity that enthralls and entices me.
This surge of feelings overwhelms and frightens me.

It is difficult to turn the other way and ignore you.
When my desire is to gently engulf and explore you.

Perhaps if I close my eyes, I will erase you, my friend.
But in the darkness, I long to taste you again.

Should I run away and hide . . . or seek to destroy us?
When all I hope for is to plunge in and enjoy us.

I could easily lose myself and fall in love.
Instead, I choose to deprive myself the brightness of your sun.

I deny myself your smile and how it blooms before you laughter.
I may never know your hopes and the dreams they chase after.

Should I abandon you and our friendship fall forsaken,
Or carry on witha heart that is heavy and aching?

Which is to be preferred? Which is worse?
Is this friendship a blessing or has it become a curse?

Like a man surrounded by a feast but suffering from starvation,
You are ever-present, yet I am dying from deprivation.

Awash

by

Richard Betts Jr.

May He bestow His blessings
And cradle you in His care.
May you fell the love we send,
When we speak of you in our prayers.

May all His Grace greet you
Like the soft, morning dew.
And when you wake,
May your spirit be renewed.

May He hear our sincere wishes,
Which we offer from bended knees.
May our prayers be a source of strength for you,
In this difficult time of need.

May He shower you with our affections,
Which we sail to the Lord above.
And when the rains fall gently down from God
May you be awash in prayers full of love.

For Kevin Conroy

Fleeting

by

Richard Betts Jr.

If you have money,
Spend it.

If you share love,
Defend it.

If your friendship is failing,
Mend it.

If you keep a kind word,
Send it.

If you hold a grudge,
End it.

If you have a helping hand,
Lend it.

For there is one thing I have learned,
Life is fleeting.

You never know when you and God
Will have an untimely meeting.

Wallow

by

Richard Betts Jr.

I'm fearful to come to you,
And speak aloud my petition.
For what I propose to beseech of you,
You have spent existence in opposition.

I'm unsure how you will accept my request,
Or what my be its reception.
But my anger has grown stronger,
So in this case, I'll make an exception.

I fall to my knees and pray, practically begging,
For you to allow us our revenge.
And though it may be wrong toask such a thing,
I seek justice for the souls we must avenge.

They say revenge
Is a bitter pill to swallow.
But I will savor every single drop -
And in its bitterness I'll wallow.

Crumble

by

Richard Betts Jr.

My world crumbles . . .
And the pieces fall around you.
Yet you seem impervious,
To the suffering that surrounds you.

I crawl toward your light seeking warmth,
But still I shiver from the cold.
I wish to believe about goodness,
But wonder has it all been sold.

I come to you seeking mercy,
And marvel that love can be so callous.
I cannot reconcile the fact,
That you wittingly allow this.

We have crumbled to our knees,
Groping for reasons and lessons.
But instead of discovering answers,
We are left choking on the questions.

Define

by

Richard Betts Jr.

We must not become complacent,
Or fall prey to false contentment.
We must be ver vigilant,
And our justice must be relentless.

It is ok to be afraid.
It is ok to cry.
But we cannot shrink from our responsibilities.
We dare not fail to try.

I feel strong
And do not fear the face of the devil.
Because how we respond to his terror,
Will define our lives forever.

Silence

by

Richard Betts Jr.

I do not speak very openly
And often I know not what to say.
So I comment about the weather
Or the beauty of the day.

I have a hundred questions for you
Which I am reticent to ask,
So I seek protection behind my silence
As if it were an invisible mask.

But my face betrays my silence,
For my eyes cannot conceal.
I fear that if you search them,
You will discover everything I feel.

When you call on me at night
And walk among my dreams,
I plead that you step lightly
Across the magic of these scenes.

As you wander through my visions,
I hope you will decide to stay.
For it is here you will uncover
All the things I cannot bring myself to say.

Faithful

by

Richard Betts Jr.

At times I question Your very existence
And scream deep into the sky.
When sorrow hunts my spirit,
My knees buckle as I ask You, "Why?"

Why must the burden we bear
Be so heavy and painful?
Have I not been strong in my service?
Have I been less than faithful?

There are so many questions I carry
And many things I do not understand
About the reason for our existence
On this fallen world of man.

Does the depth of our faith
Engulf and usurp us?
Does sorrow invite wisdom
And a glimpse of His hidden purpose?

As I struggle with my faith
And sort through my confusion,
I've come to find
I've drawn this final conclusion:

Maybe He cares not
Of my complaints and my derision.
Perhaps my faith is shallow
When I question His decisions.

Maybe He cares neither
Who is to blame nor who is right,
But that we are forever faithful
And always searching for His light.

Keel

by

Richard Betts Jr.

When my world is content and joyful,
I tend to laugh a lot.
When sadness overtakes me,
I brood and cannot stop.

When my desire to speak is strong,
I often have too much to say.
When silence overwhelms me,
It is because I prefer to be that way.

When I see the children's starving faces
Flash across the screen,
My mind fills with questions:
What does it all mean?

When my world is wounded
And suffering such abundant abuse,
I wonder about humankind
And how we continue to be so obtuse.

When I stare at the despicable truth,
Like an animal in a cage,
My calm intensity turns
Quickly to a boiling rage.

I've been told to maintain
A more even emotional keel.
I am sorry, I cannot conceal
How deeply that I feel.

Divide

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Humankind has always enjoyed a challenge,
And man has always struggled to build.
It is a test between the laws of nature
And the strength of humankind's will.

But somewhere along the way,
Amid our architectural designs,
The builders, in their zest to create,
Constructed a demon destined to divide.

Man manufactured this towering giant,
And the people fell fearful and afraid.
For the creature was unbeatable,
Never to be conquered or betrayed.

And the surveyors who
Engineered this colossal beast.
May have lacked fortitude
And foresight, to say the least.

For when they colored the giant,
They saved his soul for last.
But his exterior was brushed
With colors of sharp contrast.

A different color marked
Each side - the left and right.
One side was bleached in black,
The other washed in white.

And the beast in all his stature,
Loomed large and blocked the light.
And the darkness of his shadow
Caused people to fear the night.

The monster ruled like a tyrant,
And to the other side we were forbidden to go.
And soon we learned to hate
The things we did not know.

Today, the creature breathes
And is very much alive.
He feeds off our hate and ignorance,
While he struggles to survive.

There is one sure way to destroy him,
And to this end we must strive.
We must all band together
To demolish the demon that divides.

Inventions

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Can someone explain to me
Cain and Abel and Noah's Ark?
Are these truth or fables,
Ancient history or a farce?

What about the mystery of
Jonah and the whale,
Was it a miraculous odyssey
Or more of a fictional tale?

What about the future,
All the predictions and revelations.
Were these men truly prophets,
Or are these simply fabrications?

What are we to make
Of fate and predestination?
Are our lives preordained
Or is this all just our imaginations?

What are my thoughts
And my contentions?
Are these true events
Or man's greatest inventions?

Presence

by

Richard Betts Jr.

I look at the stars as they dance
In the nighttime air.
As they shine down upon us,
They twinkle and stare.

The birth of each new star,
Like a gift, is heaven sent,
And made to shine down on those
Who have lost loved ones to death.

I welcome the night,
For the stars are the eyes
Of all our loved ones who have
Passed on and died.

When the stars wink at me
And the sky begins to grin,
I can sense their presence
As they become part of me again.

Fate

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Beggars, stealers,
Addicts, dealers,
Pushers, pleasers,
Destroyers, seekers.

What makes beggars plead for bread?
What forces stealers to thieve instead?

What causes addicts to pollute their veins?
What makes dealers sell their strains?

What prompts pushers to promote their death?
What makes pleasers fake their breath?

What makes destoyers die inside?
What makes seekers search to find?

Doctors, dreamers,
Lovers, schemers,
Finders, weepers,
Losers, Keepers.

Why do doctors search for cures?
What makes dreamers break down doors?

What launches lovers' hearts to flight?
What makes schemers scheme at night?

What forces finding hads to clutch?
What makes weepers cry so much?

What makes losers fail to win?
Why do keepers maintain their sin?

Devil, angel,
Lord, savior,
You, me,
Fate, destiny.

What makes the devil form in the hearts of men?
Don't you have more angels that you could send?
I look for the faith in our behavior.
I search for strength but find no savior.

So it's me and you and you and me.
What determines who we will be?
Is our destiny set and we cannot escape?
Is it predetermined or do we control our own fate?

Crosses

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Lay down the stones that you cast
At your brothers born of rosaries.
Condemn the old hatred and fears
Harbored in hearts for centuries.

How many more must we bury
Deep into the sod?
How many more must be killed
In the name of God?

Rather than focus on our divisions
And claim to be more righteous,
Let us dedicate ourselves
To the causes that unite us.

I have become consumed
By all the death and useless losses.
I am tired of digging graves
And marking them with crosses.

Angel

by

Richard Betts Jr.

Did I ever tell you that I believe in angels?

Not the ones we see in the movies
With halos and large white wings.
I'm speaking more about the calmness and serenity
The gathering with the spirits bring.

There are times when I'm alone
And your shadow I'll detect.
Sometimes it's a subtle movement
Or the sweetness of your scent.

When your aroma fills the air,
I attempt to touch it with my fingers.
Then I breathe you deep inside of me
Where my love forever lingers.

I'll sit in our favorite spot
And wrap myself in your essence,
And be warmed by the fire
Of your unexpected presence.

I know I sound absurd
To those who do not know.
It is difficult to explain the spirits
And the power of their glow.

As I struggle on without you,
My life I must resume.
But when I feel forsaken,
My angel soothes the deepest of my wounds.

Abandoned

by

Richard Betts Jr.

I remember reading stories
Detailing your grace and your compassion,
And I knew if I ever needed it,
You would be my protection - my bastion.

And when my world imploded
And I was buried beneath the rubble,
I reached out my hand to you,
Anticipating my rescue from this trouble.

But as I groped to find you near me,
I found that you had been remanded,
And the longer that I searched for you
The more I felt abandoned.

I prayed for your assistance,
But the help I needed never came.
Although I begged and pleaded,
Your deafening silence never changed.

Why, in my most dire hour of need,
Did you stand idly by?
Why, when I needed you the most,
Was your mercy in short supply?