Black History Feed

The Wild Life: 11 Poems From The Far Other Side Of A Very Thin Line

The wild life pic

                                                                                                               Photo by Marilyn Phelps


Eleven poems dedicated to those who, by the grace of God, and the love of good people, survive the consequences of bad decisions:


Perfect Balance

With medicated fears/tranquilized emotions

I dance on a tightrope between

darkness and daylight

without a net.



I have mastered the act,

high above the madness, yet

far beneath the sky.


After the Crash

Two ravaged vehicles sit awkwardly sprawled

on their knees, mortally injured,

unable to face each other.

Hissing, cringing in shock, they glare

at the curious crowds gathering

beneath a high noon sky.

Their broken eyes cry steamy streams of

bright green tears that splash on the pavement

and dribble over pebbles in a race

to the gutter.

Large ribbons of twisted metal,

ripped from their posts,

lie scattered on the asphalt,

reflecting sunlight amid

a heavy sprinkling of shattered glass

spattered with a spray of

alcohol and blood.


Drunk Tank

Feeling too heavy inside a hollow block

of ice…

Days over my head, hours under my feet…

Looking at life through a crack in my heart,

keeping things out that would keep me

locked in, struggling to bounce back

from a head-cracking collision

with a concrete floor,

sticky with the sickness of the dying

and the dead.



With my sack packed,

filled by a man who loved his life

more than money, I

jump behind the wheel

of a barely running car, tearing off

into the night!

Loud music booms from my speakers,

blocking out the pleading voice

of the conscience I left behind

and the maniacal laughter of Mr. Payback

lurking up ahead.


Correctional Education

This is where we study

the infinitely intricate structure of the

permanent upper hand,

where the apprentice learns to master

many different patterns of colorful deceit,

where the weak become more aware

of the strong,

where lessons inspire weapons for

a survivor’s defense.

Yes, this is where we study,

striving for the diploma that will

unlock the front door.


Group Therapy: Inside the Fish Tank

An unfortunate group of the highly stressed

make clever commitments to live better lives,

bathing the master’s ear in medicine so vital

to his health.

Under the guise of progress they practice

a vicious game, chewing petty secrets

down to the quick,

cursing the demons they say drove them mad,

challenging others to purge the venom from their brains,

tearing at crusty scabs that shield soft, fleshy wounds.

They yell and swear, a few even cry

till the musty little room reeks with a pungent,

fuming mixture of anger and sweat and

tears and fear.

But the timekeeper outside can’t wait any longer.

It’s time to go home.

Ignoring the hearts and minds nailed to the walls,

he points to the cheap watch choking his wrist.

Business as usual.

Get back to your cells!


On an Island Called Jail

How long will these fireflies of hope

flicker in the darkness, offering so little

in ways to light my path?

How much longer can I beat down the anger

that would easily consume my life?

And what shall be my pace in this race

of the wise, and the swift,

and the unburied dead?


Visiting Day at a Quarter to Three: Terminal Island Federal Prison

Your warm embrace and tender, farewell kiss

lift me into a different realm of existence.

A bright beam of light propels me forward

to a far away place where

nights of pure satin, and unleashed passion

let me touch you deep inside.

I could hold you close forever

in this spinning autumn wind, lost

and yet protected from the empty days alone,

sheltered from the distance between us that

grows with each good-bye…

But reality intrudes to pull you from my arms,

testing my strength, teasing my needs,

taunting my soul with an unfinished dream.

And so I watch you walk away

into the spaces where our future lives…

looking back, a sigh beneath a smile…

so pretty in the sunlight,

so precious in my heart.


A Prayer My Family Once Prayed for Me

Our Heavenly Father,

we come before you to request Devine Intervention

in the emergency rescue of a drowning soul.

The energy of this confused, restless spirit is enormous

but he has taken the wrong river and, at this very moment,

faces mortal extinction, thrashing about wildly

in a whirlpool of lies, cursing the darkness,

growing weaker by the hour.

And, while we do acknowledge the faults and misdeeds

of our wayward brother,

so do we also pray for Your merciful consideration of

his greater self,

asking that You brighten his midnight sky

with even the faintest flickers of lightening

so that his eyes may focus upon the nearness of the shore

and upon the many strong, outstretched hands.



The Wild Life

You’ve shown me the pains

of the unpaid rent,

the hollowness of time

wastefully spent,

the crawling  discomfort

of suspicious eyes,

the hypnotic power of

rational lies,

the confusion of losing

what never was mine,

the far other side

of a very thin line…

And yet, sometimes...

every now and then...

I miss you.


Act Four

I portrayed the fool, broke every rule

till even I believed the role.

Then I learned the part of the wooden heart

to silence questions in my soul.

Now I pray to be a better me,

never too heated, never too cold.

© Paul Howard Nicholas

November 25, 2022

June 27, 2022

June 26, 2022

January 26, 2021

October 19, 2020

March 11, 2020

February 14, 2020

February 07, 2020

January 17, 2020

January 13, 2020