Category: Poetry

Laugh like a young man

Laugh like a young man

Trigger Warning. Caution:  This poem tends to glorify being a man.


Laugh as a Young Man Laughs


Laugh as a young man laughs.

Laugh hearty, laugh out loud,


Laugh at facing a day’s hard work,

Laugh at the wobble in your knees

Hauling hundred pound sacks of “taters”

Balanced across your shoulders.


Laugh and lug the loads up the ramp,

In the back of the big Mac Truck trailer.


Laugh at how damn hot it is gets,

At the sweat dripping off your forehead,

Running in your eyes and stings like hell,

Laugh at the damn forecast cause it’s only going to get hotter.


Laugh like a man laughs

As he strips the rotten shingles,

Splashes the black tar, shoots the nails

Into the new shakes on the old roof.


Laugh at the beer headache from the night before,

Laugh at needing to piss real bad,

Laugh at the cussing from the young wife

For flirting with a buddy’s girlfriend.


Tune up the News, laugh at the stupidity

Of pundits, presidents, prime ministers

And the local councilman

Who sells used cars during the day.


Laugh as they scheme to steal your wages

And spend your Money

At night meetings in empty chambers.

Laugh cause you know they’re all thieves,


Every one of them.


Laugh in your soul at how good to feel

Your muscles strain and push and pull

And dig and wedge, and turn and wrench

Until some mighty thing you’ve decided to move, moves.


Sling a sledge, chop an ax down hard,

Split the wood, explode the bark.

Feel the cool sweat return,

Rivulets down the back, over the belly,


The way it does when you work hard,

Gets the poison out,

Toughens the sinews, bulges up the arms

Bulks up the shoulders.


Breathe in the dirt and dust swirling

From your hits, stomps, kicks, and slams.

Could get you hurt?  Yeah!  And hell, if it does, laugh,

Got to do the work, so the hell with it.


Grit your teeth, smile, and “gett’er done” anyway.

Brag, yell, say what you think.  Don’t whisper,

Don’t’ chant, don’t hum nonsensical crap.

Be sure of everything, exclaim your beliefs to everyone,


Whoop it up, Shout out, In their face,

Laugh at the soft, weak, snotty effete professors of profanity

Who’ve never thumped a shovel in the ground

Turned over the dark earth, never crumbled clods in their hands


And who fear the offense of being a man.

Laugh as they shrink, and if they move to fight, club them back down

Sneer at their bowing and scrapping.

Laugh at their cringe, at their sniveling.


Know, by God, you are not wrong.

Laugh and go ahead, go forward,

It’s a job to do and, by God, it feels good to have a strong heart

Beating in a rhythm, a cadence in time with strong legs and arms


And the will to build,

Then tear up, then shatter,

Then erect it back up and then

Tear it right down again.


Don the pads and take the field

Tackle a runner and slam him to the ground,

Laugh when he moans and utters “good hit.”

Break up a double play and spike the shortstop,


Go on the court and Dunk the ball.  Hard!

Make the backboard shake, your defender cower,

Humiliated, mad as hell at you.

Laugh at the fear in his eyes when you drive toward him again.


Jump in a muscle car, a combustion engine!

Blow blue smoke in the atmosphere. Break the speed limit.

Hit the pedal, press it all the way down, peg the tach,

Go fast. Push a “vette into a curve too fast and

Pedal down! Accelerate out.


Ski head long down the high hills,

Those way beyond your skill.

Walk out on the edge of the cliff

And feel the danger of falling and laugh,


Show off and do a funny dance

Almost fall over and down the canyon laughing,


Launch on the ocean when its roiling.

Turn the sail boat sideways into the wind,

Race the storm to shore

Dare it to catch you, swamp you.


Walk down the avenue in the storm.

Out yell the thunder. Light a smelly cigar,

Lift your face heavenward

And dare the lighting.


Shoot a shotgun.  Feel the boom,

The shock, the force, the power,

And laugh at the splitting target.

And fire it again while your ears still ring.


Howl and joke with the whores

Standing on the corner.

Laugh cause your wit can never match theirs,

Laugh cause they know how stupid men really are.


Jump in the middle of drunken brawl,

Sock somebody in the jaw, sucker punch some dickhead,

Then buy them a drink and grab a hunk of beefsteak or ice pack

For the black eye he gave you right back.


And, Man, listen, if they come for us. Go to war. Fight the bastards.

Kill the sons’a’bitches with a knife, a gun, a grenade,

Blow them up with a shell from a tank.

Laugh over their bodies, kick them in the side of the head.


Laugh as you ship home

Laugh as you care for the widow and orphan

Because it’s hard, sacrifice is hard,

Duty is hard.


But you owe it to your brother

As he owes it to you.


And while you’re at it, Kick the bum off your sidewalk.

Laugh at his drunken curses

As he rolls around in the gutter,

Getting his filthy blanket soaked.


Then buy him a steak dinner

With mashed potatoes, with all the fixings

And, yes, a beer and laugh at his sorry tale

Cause they are all sorry tales.


Drive a cement truck, its big belly spinning.

Keep it going and turning so the cement

Don’t cure, then pour a foundation,

And carve your initials in the wet pavement.


Shift the transmission

On the big Caterpillar,

Ram it into gear,

Will it up the mountain road


So you can dig out the old road,

Haul it away and scrape level the ground for a new road.


Feel the strength in your shoulders and chest

As you wrestle a bridge in place,

Span it over the gorge, build it to last a hundred years.

Laugh at the hundred years.


Step heavy and loud into the forest.  Leave the camera.

Fell the redwood tree, chop it down,

Strap it to the long bed truck

And drive it to the mill.


Strip the bark, plane it through the giant saws.

Laugh when you tell how you cut off your forefinger

Right up to the knuckle because the damn board jumped

When it bounced off a knot in the wood.


Roughhouse with the dog.

Get him fired up and fighting.

Snarling and growling,

See if you can make him bite.


And laugh at his barking at you

Because he can’t out rough you.


And when you get tired, lay down,

Sprawl across the clean sheets

In your dirty sweaty clothes

And take your pulse and laugh


At the life beating, pumping under your wrist,

Deep in your chest, echoing across the canyons and gullies

Of your town, your nation, your region

And reverberating


In the laugher of other young men

Of every kind, on every other side of the planet,

In every time and every place.

Laugh it up with the young guys.



A Tide Barely Felt

A Tide Barely Felt

The Tide Barely Felt


Time, the tide barely felt,

Sweeps us



Its low waves rush across the shore

And withdraw,

The clicking sounds of tiny rocks colliding,

Raking over their fellows,


With each arrival, each delivery, each departure

Less force, less vigor, less wash.


Random faces float top shallow pools,

Then gone.

Lesser men, never friends, never mattered.

Women too with their skeptical eyes,

A smile, a hope, a moment’s attention,

Then forlorn, resigned,



To know I do not care


Have already forgotten.



Morning Moon

Morning Moon

Morning Moon

by Phil Cline


Mist surrounds the morning moon

Hovering above night’s remainder,

Heaven’s pale reflection of regret.


Dawn waits wet residue to dry,

Moist women asleep, their legs languid,

Carelessly spread, left apart-by the departed.


The raucous evening’s promises redeemed

Foolish jocularity shortened by haste of

Dreaded day.  Here any moment now.


Friends hurry home,

New enemies scurry away,

Excess devolved to lonely stillness


The tinkling music of clinking glasses gone,

Dark wood bar wiped, band packed, smokes lit.

All’s mute, wary of another horizon.


Windows shuttered, doors locked,

Gates of iron bars chained and secure.

The night’s celebration contained.


We, the last souls out,

Standing on the street

Respectful of the silence.


A dog pats by on gentle paws,

Suspicious of what he smells,

Cautious of what he might disturb.


Impatient of the Dawn

Impatient of the Dawn

Impatient of the Dawn


No new lease for the cabin in the wood,

No replenishment for the lake

At the bottom of the hill,

No more apple slice


Slipped between my lips,

The taste crisp, crunched

And savored like dew drops

From a branch’s furthest tip,


Only the lonely slap of my slippers

On the rain wet pavement.


I bend for my paper and up again,

Among homes still cozy dark.


The widow next door in silhouette,

Watches me from her upstairs window,

The flutter of her gown a whisper,

Ghostly and stark. She remembers


Not long ago,

When her husband drew

The rubber band away and

Unfolded the self-same news.


Those better times and bitter,

The feel of him, his arms,

The press of his chest,

His infrequent laugh, his frequent smile


At some homely comely disaster.

Then the day the test came back,

The day the cake slipped from pan to floor,

The dropped cup broken, and more, much more


Before he left ahead of her,

To lie in peaceful meadows

Among lesser friends utterly forgotten.

She does not know


My cortege too is leaving soon,

Leaving these verdant fields,

These dandelion hills

To craggy rock ledges,


To slate slabs for eternity’s repose

To troubled dreams,

And memories un-deposed.

While she continues her vigil


As dawn turns to day

And day turns to night again,

And homes cuddle to sleep all around

Until there’s just the one lone light behind her.


Thoughtlessly rude, I wave at her.

Crude to interrupt her reverie.

Offended, she turns away, disappears,

But circles back to wait her turn,


And poignantly ignore me and, like me,

Impatiently wait for the Dawn.











Before Life

Before Life

Before Life


Afloat snug in warm fluid for untold time

Awaiting mine own age to emerge,

Innocent, perfect, ready

To preen, to pretend, to prance


In seed plenum; shell, fossil, rock entombed

An eternity. Inanimate to animate by a bit of water,

A trowel, an earthquake shaking boulders loose

To gambol, smash, crush, to disclose


Life. Here. Come to Earth. Sent? Lost?

A tree to branch, to wish straight, symmetrical.

Yet defiant.  Grown awkward, gnarled, prickly thorns, scratching nails

Pruned and shaped by chance, by evil, by tragedy, by happenstance


By danger cowed until final ascension, up through the clouds, to

Where? Airy, ethereal, reclined on a cloud maybe, lazy, sublime

Yet haunted by life’s memories of travail, loss, unrequited pain.

Heaven won’t absolve regret though should have to


And all this fight, and, too, poetry and song,

These mathematics, glass beakers, computers, infinitesimal.

Great heroes flawed and fallen, forgotten.

Wicked villains redeemed. No less worth in


An Afterlife

Pined for, prayed for InLife,

Though BeforeLife, I think, must be

What we


To return





The Preacher on the Other Side of My Window Pane

The Preacher on the Other Side of My Window Pane

The Preacher on The Other Side of My Window Pane

At his farthest touch, beyond

A cold, translucent window pane,

Smudged, scratched, etched by those

Who passed this way many times ago

He bends, squints to peer past

Diaphanous curtains. At curious figures

Moving, gamboling; busy on the other side

At what he doesn’t know. Or why.

Echoes off the wall of his chest,

Rhythms. Blood beats Thumping, Pumping

In bursts up through chutes

Toward the residence of his soul

And around, down, back to 

His center seat of existence. And those

Reverberations travel outside his border,

Beyond his body’s jurisdiction

And on. Like a smell, fresh or foul, remembered,

Found, among broken shards in a melon field

Culled in summer; Spoiled remnants of fruit

Harvested, left for those compelled to survive.

The taste on his tongue, sweet or bitter or bland

And the linger afterwards, ineffable as a memory,

Concrete as a Soldier’s memorial,

Wispy as a fragrance butterflied on the air.

His aged sight, blurring the form of People,

Movements, appearances and disappearances,

Their existence other, separate, forever apart

From his body and imagination; from his unit,

But the outlines of worlds remain

Among the scattered, overturned furniture of memory,

Like the memory in a dream from

Other dreams, fleeting misunderstandings

Beyond the studies of science, literature,

Beyond our own sculpted rock,

Beyond these days,

Numbered and Checked off.

And if, as he says, he’s not bound alone by physicality,

He asks, how can the Unknowable be?

No matter what and where it be. And now

You know I know he believes







Unwelcome to me

The too bright light from

From across the street.

Spilling in, over the sill, onto


The undusted dresser,

The bedposts of an empty bed,

Blankets and rumpled sheets cast aside,

The door half closed as if she still slept there.


I wish to be left to my dreams.

And random memories of

Departed friends, scattered family,

The despair of lost security.


As another final morning dawns

The light through my window dims,

No match for this sky, gray like new steel,

The clouds at end on the far horizon.


Now awake, the Neighbor I see is only me

Reflected back on my window.

He naps fitfully in his last comfortable chair;

He will leave the light on again all day.








The General, a poem by Phil Cline

The General, a poem by Phil Cline

My General


Up along the hill

On worn and weathered knees

He strived headlong, stubborn,

Leading us to our destiny.


Our Captain shouted No! to him,

Warning of shocks and shoals,

Of arrows, pins, shards and blades,

Of bent, broken flags and escutcheons.


And all us foolish boys

Who marked his words,

Respected his histories,

Who stepped from platform to train


And left our fair loves

Huddled down against the rain,

Who laughed cadence to each other

Loud, hearty and brave,


Only to be vanquished

On this foreign hill,

To lie red in the mud, to stretch crooked

Across these rocks in death and misery.





Just Once, a poem by Phil Cline

Just Once, a poem by Phil Cline

Just Once


Just once watching the tides at play

A wave cut fiercely left to right,

Never topping nor breaking to white,


A green watery blade it was

Rising and rending the wind,

Scattering the screaming gulls,


Then calmed to mere swell,

It withdrew seaward

Never crashing to shore.


I did not know oceans could do that.

I do not know if it’s something

I need to fear.