Poetry by John Kirkwood

Love ... Faith ... Early Work ... The Environment ... Odds & Ends

Little Leaves

I watch the rain patter down
As it dampens the whole town.
Little leaves
Flutter down from the trees
Spokane, Washington, 1951

The Night

The night is cold.
The moon is bold.
The weary world is sleeping.
The stars are bright
With ancient light.
Their ageless journey keeping


Sing out! Sing out! For lo the bells
Toll out the passing year.
The season's brightest moment
Is softly drawing near.
As these silent patterns cover
The failing veins and hues,
May this Christmas season cover
All sad and mournful news.
May Christ and all His angels
Help the coming year to be
Enlightening to all people
And a blessing until thee.


Art thou a dog? Art thou a dog,
With fur as black as jet?
Art thou a dog? Art thou a dog?
I look and look and yet.
Art thou a dog with hazel eyes
Of droopy ears and whine and bark?
Art thou a dog of riven flank
Of misty nose and history dark?
Thou art not a dog of black and bark
But a man caught up in a cage
Waiting with a patient heart
For the freedom of an age.


I love the tide and wavelet,
That are on every shore.
I love the slapping water
And the combers ever more.
I love the oceans, seas, and rivers
And the dripping water drop.
And the reason that I love them is
They never, never stop.
Moscow, Idaho, 1955

A Faithful Guide

They wonder as working the long years through
If men are false or if men are true.
One kills and steals and then he says,
"I'm far too good for Alcatraz."
In and out the long years through they go
Killing and stealing and fighting a foe.
How, oh how can they abide
With no one for a faithful guide?
They pick one here and pick one there,
They do not know nor do they care.
Why don't they look up far above,
To find their guide, their guide of love.
Moscow, Idaho, 1955

The Sikh

No light of the Pleades, no song of the lark
Breaks through the fathomless, bottomless dark.
Each step we have taken, each creed that we've fought for,
Has brought us no nearer the dawn that we've sought for.
Now to the eastward appears a new light.
A harbinger telling of an end to this night?
Could it be possible this darkness to brighten?
This load to be lifted and us to enlighten?
One Man who has died for the earth's population
No one passed over, no matter what nation;
This is the luminous saga we've hoped for!
This is the prophecy in the blindness we've groped for!

Pebbles, Sand and Seagulls.

I love the tide and wavelet,
That are on every shore.
I love the slapping water
And the combers even more.
I love the oceans, seas, and rivers
And the dripping water drop.
And the reason that I love them is
They never, never stop.


This is the Story of a Life and even that which is Mine

In the days of the end there was a ship of humble ways and unpretentious image which was built in the city of Jerusalem and loaded aboard it was a cargo of great value. And it came to pass that the ship ventured out on the sea and was beset by
great waves and small waves and all manner of serpents and few fishes. And the
waves did lash at the ship and the serpents did bite at it that they might wear it down.
At that time and at that moment the captain looked out at his cargo which was on the deck and which was loosely bound and saw that the waves and the serpents would wash it away. The captain saw that this was not good - hence with great work and much labor the captain opened up the hold of the ship which was the heart thereof and did stow his cargo of great value in it. And the captain fixed the covers of the hold and sealed them with locks both great and small and cast the keys into the sea.

To an African

The black man stands in awe and fright
As armies say what's wrong and right.
Their mighty leader now is jailed
The nations courts have been curtailed.
'Tis little wonder that this man
With ancestral brain horizons scan
A thread of truth in vain to find
To help console and right his mind.
A heartened man his way would make
But is this way the one to take?
He knows not where his footsteps lead
To rock bound coast or Carybda's greed.
This way is dark and that one doom.
Behold! They all are filled with gloom.
The African --- he needs a light
To guide him through the storms dark night!

San Francisco

When I lived in San Francisco
I can remember times
At the beach where I
Built castles in the sand.
Those were bright clear days
In the surf and green water,
Water that pulled the sand
From beneath my feet,
Days when the cool breeze blew
In across an ebbing tide.
Stranded jellyfish dotted the beach
Like whitecaps in the surf
And I watched as white seagulls
Quarreled over scraps of fish.
Some afternoons the fog
Would roll in and drip from the wires
Here and there like rain.
Often in the morning my mother,
Two sisters and I
Would go to Golden Gate Park
For a picnic lunch or a walk
Beneath the large fragrant trees.
I watched the sheep and their shepherd
And played in the creek
That flowed through the park.
One day a tug was pulling an enormous raft
Of logs past San Francisco
When a terrible storm came up
And broke the chains that held the logs,
Then drove the logs
Up onto the beach.
For years after that,
People who went to the beach
Used these logs to build bonfires.
These experiences
Have influenced my life in ways
That I will probably never know,
But there are some obvious trends
In my life that came from living by the sea.
I love the ocean and the combers
That boom and spray across the rocks.
I love the pebbles, sand and seagulls.


Truth is like the light of day
That fades the fog of doubt.
A beam that brightens every way
And does confusion rout.
The agonies and sorrow
That are distortion's friend
When taken out into the light
Will in submission bend.


The railroad's roar and clackety clack
Sail on through the fog bound night,
Sending a message of whistle shrill
And steel steam-drawn might.
The railroad's sound is often mistaken
As noise of the open road.
But to me it's the sound of messengers
Bearing a nations load.


His beady eyes were ever on me,
Followed closely as I rode.
As staid a stance as ever met me.
Quivered not nor moved the toad
Lumpy, green and vitreous he was.
A sentinel through dark and day.
Thus the winkless rookerie watchman
Crouched alone, a craft of clay.

Moving Day

Cleaning house before we move
Seems to me it would behoove
Us to throw out some crumby stuf
Like grity boards or old pants cuff.
But when we start to look at them
What about a stitch or hem . . .
Could be a rag? It surely could.
But what of that we've got lots more
Way over there piled on the floor.
Hey! Look here, What ever is this?
I think it's just a little gizwhiss
No it isn't. Look at that. It's a periwinkle hat.
Throw it out. It can't be good.
Good Will it then? Perhaps we should.
Where's the phone book? Out of sight.
Push the switch. There is no light.
It's amazing that we do
Get moved at all before we're 'through.