Poems: Chapter 1

 Wondering to Myself

This poem started with my observation of the lavender bush leading up to my front door. I passed by it every day, and in spring it was covered with bees. I just happened to notice a lifeless bee at the very tip of a bloom, as if dying in the very act of doing what he was born to do. The other bees took no notice. That is the image and idea that struck me. So I stopped.


I watched a bee die while drinking

Its fill of nectar from a lavender bush.

I wonder if it came as a surprise.

Did he suspect what was in store for him this day?

Lying still on the tip of the flower, seconds before

In ecstasy, doing what it loved best.

I wonder, when he woke this day,

Did he consider it may be his last?

I wonder did he know to drink from that flower as if it would all end so quickly,

Or did he lazily drink, thinking time abundant

While brother, sister, and cousin bee darted and buzzed from petal to petal,10644831_10203828167736187_2396325247784160928_n

Too pre-occupied to notice their deceased kin.

I wonder if he would be missed. I wonder if he had regrets. I wonder.

Flicking the bee off its final perch, I watched it fall to the ground

Rolling lifeless until it stopped.


Older Than Ireland

This poem was inspired by a brief scene in the Independent Irish film of the same name. It was a documentary of over a dozen Irish men and woman over the age of 100 – born before Irish independence..Hence the title..


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Staring at the dusty lamp

Counting flickers per minute

What else to do today?

Routine rubs me like bed sores—

A food tray three times a day;

Oatmeal in the morning,

Soup and crackers at lunch,

Chicken or beef with rice for dinner,

And a cup of pudding for desert.

(With seven teeth left,

One must be patient.)

Sometimes I walk around the halls

With a walker and an aid.

Killing time slowly killing me—

Until you startled me

With that one question

That set my soul aflame.

Who new there was still life down there.

A rumble rose to a roar

From within my tired soul.

I thought was barren, that I was done.

Screaming through my teeth

I could not hold back a primal yell


When you asked about

My first kiss.


Brushing Her Hair

I am a father of four girls, and brushing their hair when they were little was a supreme joy I miss today. This image came to me in a hotel room in Kentucky at 2:00 am.

I was thinking of all the other things

That I could be doing right now,

Things a man of my stature might bring,

Things that only I know how.


To do what a man of my skills can do,

In a manner that strikes you with awe.

Noble tasks I toil at till through,

Busy making bricks without straw.


Yet there she sits so silent in the chair.

Her sisters wait patiently in line-

I artfully pull the brush through her hair

I ask how I’m doing, she says “Fine!”


Not a tear is shed nor an “OUCH” pronounced

As I labor long at my task.

The brush floats through the tangled hair

Getting easier with every pass.


Each knot unfurls one stroke at a time

I’m focused as an artist at his easel

She is still and content, no whimper or whine

While this brush makes our world more peaceful.


For all the manic dreams we men concoct,

Of conquering this thing or that.

As each daughter in turn kneels at my feet

I see now this is where it’s at.


So when I am bent by struggle and strife

This simple act my illusions lay bare.

I never feel closer to my purpose in life

Than as I brush my daughter’s hair.



Inspired by a two-week car tour of Ireland with my wife. The country seemed to constantly speak (or sing) to me. Sometimes joyfully, often sorrowfully.

We walk hand in hand down the gravel path

Straining to see everything at once – to lock it all up

A foreign land with ancient storiesWicklow Way Glendalough

Whispers to us from the stone fences

Whose hands placed each one down

Twelve centuries ago.


In our Adidas shoes and North –Face Fleece

We trample upon myths that still live on

In the towers and the castles and the High crosses-

Grave markers for the story tellers

Truths converted to stories by tell-bearers

Who saw beneath the paths and underneath


The stones-who turned up the turf

To find life crawling unobserved always there hidden

Beneath the stones and earth discovered only when

Turned up by the spade.

Who has looked beyond the heather covered hills into

A horizon where floating are angels and demons


Fighting for control over a spot of land worth nothing

Other than the small hearth inside the cottage holding a simmering pot.

A taste of boiled potatoes with a sprig of garlic

And another story is born.


Ora et Labora 

Inspired by an extended stay in a Trappist monastery in Conyers, GAmonastic-892682_640

This night fades into smoking embers

The hooded frame of some obscure monk

Leans against a marble pillar

Fingering beads and muttering.

Do not disturb him. He is at work,

Releasing all desires but the one

That drove him to this place when

Just a boy in order to lean against this pillar

Before the world awakens and beg

For mercy, not for himself­­­-he is long forgotten

But for the world.

Do not disturb him at his work

For in this cold, silent, dark womb

an epic battle wages on

For the salvation of the world,

The weight of which presses him down

into his seat, fingering beads

And muttering.


The Book of Hours  

    Playing around with the Haiku : This  Haiku is divided into the eight  distinct  “hours” the monks are called to communal prayer.


Watching in the dark

A single solitary flame

Dancing on its wick


The new sun rises20160819_061952

Splayed orange rooftops

Startled, I blink


Swallows scratch dirt-

Peek under fallen leaves.

The crows are coming


Sitting still alone,

Gazing out into the world-

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The river bank bends

The same this day as others.

Who are these faces?


Remember to smile

Feels like work.

He smiles back.


Goldfinch landing nearbakerma-party-020

Hummingbirds drink deep

Hands fold on lap.


sunshine shift now ends

With the rising of the moon

The owl stirs in the tree


To Bow My Head

   A pause in an autumn jog through Dash Point State Park, WA – The whole world is full of surprises that steal my breath if I will pause and look.

Tramping through the leaf-carpeted trail

Winding through woods ending

With a vista of the Puget Sound

The low- hanging sun tossing its rays between sparkling limbs

And the vast water shimmers in the autumn dusk.

Suddenly, a white flash streaks across the sky

Landing at the highest tip of an evergreen.

The bald Eagle rests, turning its gaze to and fro.kent-cartoner-053


Standing there, silent

in a clearing in the woods

I can only breathe and bow my head

Anything more is false.


The Playset

Written looking out my daughters kitchen window before the grandkids returned home from school.

The playset in the backyard stands at the ready–

Empty, still, and waiting.

Not used as it once was

After father labored all night

By the light of the flood lamp

While the children slept.

From wood and plastic and rope

It became the summer hearth,

Now in dead of winter in stillness it waits

As it does this time every year

Until the first hint of spring bakes the plastic slide

And the smell of wood is coaxed by the sun,

Knowing the day will come when even that

Will not bring out the children.


The Island Shepherd 

Another Image inspired by our Ireland Road trip – We would often navigate around sheep being led down the road by their shepherd.1065230_10200898541937373_1900610968_o

A narrow black-top road winds round

Wind-swept hills through meadows

Of clover, purple and yellow flowers

Bend over to kiss the ground.

A shepherd takes a pull on his long-stemmed pipe,

Bows his head to the damp breeze.

Dirt clodden sheep prance ahead

Without care.

They know the old man with his tweed cap

Will not lead them astray.



An early poem from days long past –

One more drink will be enough

To quiet the roar in my soul.

One more swallow, and the pain will go

And leave me be to run.

One more drink, and I’ll be whole,

At least for an hour or so

I can face this gray world.

With both hands clenched, I’ll get through!

One more drink behind thousands past

More of the same, nothing changes.

This living remedy lets me die slow.

And if not, who will know?

One drink to lose myself, and hide from God,

Fig leaf, hide me from this world.

One more to fit in with fitful masses

To be a part, till the glass is dry.

One more, and I feel the end.

What that will be, God knows.

One more drink, and I am broken-

Or crushed to pieces, swept up and disposed.



10 Responses

  1. Susan Toohey

    November 26, 2016 5:48 pm

    I love all of them as they are you! I think the Ireland reflections are my favorites – wonderful memories with you.

    • Bob Toohey

      November 17, 2016 8:22 am

      Thanks for stopping by, Steve. “One More Drink” is the oldest of the group. I like “Wondering” and “Older than Ireland” mainly because they were ‘given’ poems–ones that came immediately from an image. Most of my poems take a little more digging around in the dirt.


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