Back to Collected Works | Back to Main Page


Prose by our Poet Laureate Emeritus,
N. G. "Gary" Stapp
from Irving, Texas
Deceased May 2000




Grieve not for me or for my low outcome
For I have not by chance acquired this state
I bartered on my own to reach my sum
And I and I alone chose every gate

Am I so much apart from other men
Who never proudly stood above the crowd
Who never reached the best they might have been
Whose fields of worth were never fully plowed

Still I am not the lowest of the low
And many men would envy what I've got
Their lives have little value they can show
And gladly would they dare exchange their lot

In short, I offer but this brief refrain
My needs were never greater than my gain




Sometimes in thought, I reconstruct the past
Or conjure scenes of what might come to be
At times, I'll alter scripts or change the cast
Sometimes I'll put a hero in for me

But these are only pictures in my brain
Reflected scenes from deep within my soul
They sate me with their pleasures and their pain
While each demands I reconstruct my role

Like puppets on a stage within my brain
I pull the strings while figures tell the tale
With me in charge, there's nothing too insane
The colors of these scenes will not be pale

But this is just a thing to do at rest
Reality's where all must meet the test





The nothingness has once more come to call
Persistently its presence drawing near
Transfixed, I cannot rise nor can I fall
So I'll just wait for it to join me here

I've come to know it well across the years
Those years that mark my journey to this place
A journey of regrets, some joys, some tears
Too filled with memories made I loathe to face

So come to me my friend and take me in
And let your hollowness become my own
Disperse this world that crowds me once again
And help me now forget all I have known

Then to your silent nothingness I'll cling
And thank you for the brief respite you bring



I yearn to tear away this useless flesh
Discard this fragile frame by which I stand
Reject all mortal things that now enmesh
My life in things that I have never planned

What good's this flesh if it may never sense
The wonder and the joy of your caress
If freed, my soul might bridge that mortal fence
To join your soul without the world's redress

And yet despite this shed of useless tears
You'll stay your course and still alone I'll go
My silent pain will never reach your ears
Your body and your soul aren't mine to know

This flesh will never taste your sweet embrace
For you were never meant to be with me
Your soul is destined for a higher grace
One day to wed with God's eternity

No matter what I do, I've no control
What good's this flesh, and more,
what good's this soul





He'd become invisible to the wind
And likewise quite transparent to the light
No hint from where he'd come or where he'd end
With setting sun, he blended into night

What sounds he made did not disturb the air
No footprints left behind to mark his path
His movements never changed the landscape there
His passing brought no joy but left no wrath

This faded formless farce that now is him
Is not a state acquired of his own choice
Those eyes once filled with light that now are dim
Once shined so bright they seemed to have a voice

His life took on this pattern most unkind
When he no longer mattered in her mind




I looked upon her loving countenance
And saw her soul there looking back at me
As we embraced in seeming reverence
My heart cried out to just be holding thee

Too well I knew her heart felt as my heart
Though different partner's faces did we see
And as I acted out my given part
My only thoughts were those of loving thee

I answered to her needs but she not mine
Convicting me of base dishonesty
For even there as we did intertwine
I just pretended I was there with thee

With last embrace and then a parting kiss
Our union ended, never more to be
How sad to realize how she might miss
Her having me, as I miss having thee





Once more we rise and fall and rise again
In rhythmic pounding blows without remorse
While grinding and destroying all that's been
And all we yet may find along our course.

For we're the mighty swells that form the sea
And waves that wash relentlessly ashore
That frightful ocean called humanity
A plague upon this earth for evermore.

The chorus and the symphony so sweet
That started out as nature's early plan
Became cacophony with ragged beat
Once fate produced this creature known as man.

With no apparent hope for harmony
This earth will someday drown within our sea.




All black and billowed up in darkened rage
Like mighty ships the storm clouds course the sky
To shadow all beneath upon that stage
Then once in place, their volleys start to fly

The whirling winds come lashing out in gusts
With sheets of rain they sweep across the land
Great rolling thunder through the air then busts
To shake the earth in rigors fierce and grand

Bright jagged bolts of light rip through the air
With terrible purpose, some will smite the ground
Through everything they touch they burn and tear
And in their wake they roll that deafening sound

Such ways of nature leave the mind dismayed
What force she wields to forge this subtle link
All sound and fury that she just displayed
Was made to give the earth a little drink





A bitter cold from Winter's angry stay
Surrounds all things to suck away the heat
And grimly hides the brighter light of day
In skies of grey all filled with snow and sleet

This visitor of gaunt and gloomy form
Descends at times to vent its ragged rage
Dispensing waves of hardship and of harm
Till all is frozen solid on its stage

Ill tempered winds then slice the air like knives
Through cloth and flesh they pierce to do their deed
Relentlessly against all things it drives
Till all the warmth within begins to bleed

The landscape left seems pure all dressed in white
A wondrous mix of beauty and of blight




It speaks through rattling leaves and twisting limbs
A presence felt without a form to see
Provoked by changing tides and season's whims
It races over land and over sea

Sometimes it speaks in low and muted tones
Like mothers use to lull a child to sleep
But other times, with frightful howls and moans
It gathers force and coils itself to leap

And then it lunges out to vent its rage
While churning skies and blotting out the day
A mighty beast escaping from its cage
And all within its path may come to pay

But when its rage is spent, its pressures ease
And it becomes again that gentle breeze





Now through another door I'll quietly pass
And scattered through that room I leave behind
Small pieces of my soul like chards of glass
Forever left but never out of mind

That room was just a stage for one brief play
Wherein I acted out what was then me
As I transitioned from another day
From what was then, to now and yet to be

Into the next room, slowly now I go
To meet new players and to learn my role
And act my part in this unwritten show
Without a hint of any final goal

How this will end, I cannot yet assume
Until that final door, that final room




Such bitter vetch, the venom of defeat
But just reward for those of spindly spines
They earn the right to taste their conqueror's feet
And kiss the nether parts of their behinds

How just their cause once was then matters not
Once tails are firmly tucked between their legs
Their cowardice decides their final lot
And leaves them in the role of one who begs

And those they rule are then themselves debased
When men of low conviction take the lead
Those men who ravel loose when first they're faced
With chance that they must fight and then might bleed

But men who would not veer because of fear
Who stood their ground when even overpowered
Have won for all of us things we hold dear
And what does mankind owe to the coward





Sometimes they're very straight and smooth and long
And then they'll curve and wind another way
At times, their jagged features seem all wrong
With nothing to explain the way they stray

Like fences bend to follow earth's terrain
Weak compromises often must be made
To circumvent obstructions on their plane
So changes in their shape become their trade

There, all we've ever been and ever known
All triumphs and all failures we have made
And all we've ever thought or ever shown
Are held within these boundaries we have laid

They tell the tale of how each one then strives
These jagged lines, these edges of our lives




It ties and binds and holds us captive here
Like victims underneath a witch's spell
Entwined by circumstances brought too near
We choke on our remorse until we're pale

No judge or jury brought this verdict in
No court convened to hear both side debate
For we and we alone now weigh our sin
And we and we alone will judge our fate

No clang from cell bars closing us within
No physical restraints to hold us here
Yet still the sentence passed must now begin
Within this jail not there but seen so clear

This prison is a place our mind has built
Where conscience is the warden of our guilt





A sack is made for toting things around
For holding things that we may need to stash
So they can someday easily be found
Or sometimes just for putting out the trash

Now sacks may come in many shapes and forms
To fit a certain use and certain place
When packed with groceries, they may fill our arms
And sometimes tend to poke us in the face

Some sacks are made to use and throw away
While some we'll use to store old memories in
Then there are sacks we'll need to use each day
From birth to death and everywhere we've been

These are a special sack that each one owns
We use these sacks to carry round our bones



In battle garb and gear and standing tall
With stomach taut and shoulders broad and square
He stands prepared to answer to the call
The clash of battle soon will find him there

The foes he'll meet are cold and battle hard
They will not cease to fight for higher ground
They'll hold their hand until the final card
And then his best defense must prove most sound

On time he'll orchestrate his bold assault
And catch his foes when they are unprepared
He'll try to force them to a quick default
Or in his well planned trap they will be snared

In deep anticipation of this day
He feels his heart beat fast and pulse grow strong
Soon from his bunker he will wind his way
The time grows short and now it won't be long

But then that plaintiff cry does pierce his ear
Please hurry dear, your ride to work is here





In hot discourse with others and my peers
Through words and images a game ensues
The goal of upsmanship then soon appears
As swords of sentences we carefully choose

Then the race to gain the higher ground
Takes form as voices grow in range and pitch
Attacks are made with gestures, stance and sound
With jabs of rhetoric we weave a stitch

With cannonballs of metaphors we blast
By curt retorts, we parry with our foe
We test our strenghts to see which ones will last
Which ones of us will make the better show

The chests swell up as cocks about to fight
And arms flail out as if about to fly
Our points and prececents we then recite
With egos charged, by dauntless thrusts we pry

But as the evening's course is fully run
And when the room itself is finally bare
The sum of all that's left for all we've done
Is but a minor warming of the air




When next you find yourself upon a beach
There strolling new washed sand still wet with sea
Take pause to note those treasures within reach
Small remnants of life forms that used to be

Dredged up from ocean floors in rising swells
Disgorged by waves sent crashing on the shore
They might appear at first as wastes of shells
Bright artifacts they are if you'll explore

Retrieve them from the sand that keeps them there
Then raise them to the light for closer view
Place one beside the other and compare
Note every unique curve and color hue

Each stands alone, a separate work of art
Its architecture written by its genes
Each having played a small but needed part
Within the changing cast of life's brief scenes

One day, like them, we all will leave our shell
The remnants that remain will tell our tale




In dirt and rocks concealing dread decay
All scattered round and rearranged through time
Lie remnants left where life has gone away
Their story now an opera sung in mime

Once animated, vibrant, thriving forms
They danced upon the earth and had their way
And gathered fruits of life with hungry arms
Too unaware how brief would be their stay

From youth, it seemed their reign would never end
All wondrous things were sure to come their way
But death's a sentence no one can rescind
And all must come to meet that final day

That final rest one day laid down their bones
While someone left carved names upon their stones


Hollow and empty is the man that has never come to know and to share love. The only memories he will leave with others will likewise be hollow and empty



High upon the rolling winds of Autumn
Unleashed from earth's eternal fervent hold
Departing all I know from whence I come
I now begin a journey swift and bold

I set no course, I know no destiny
And have no ties to bind me to my past
I journey forth completely loose and free
However long this journey yet may last

Caught up in swelling waves of rising air
I touch the hem of heaven's firmament
But suddenly I'm welling with despair
As now I understand my life is spent

I know not why my time was cut so brief
How should I know, for I am just a leaf




Within a private place that's hidden well
Through wear and tear and age, all covered up
Where mountains rose and trees in past times fell
Now creatures move about to take their sup

The soil there many times has overturned
And flowers made to grow out from its clays
Soon in rolling motion too are churned
Their brief existence counted out in days

The only constant there is endless change
As rocks make soil and soil makes trees and grass
Those things then brought to life fulfill their range
And flourish till their time has come to pass

In this small private place that's hidden well
A new scene paints its face each passing year
And each face a story it could tell
But no one's ever there, its tale to hear




Like haunting shadows cast by dieing sun
And always lurking, never far behind
Forever there despite how fast I run
In dire pursuit to confiscate my mind

Those dark-cast phantoms follow me about
Awaiting moments when my guard is low
To sieze my thoughts and wring my spirits out
And tell me things I do not wish to know

Their forced reflections recreate my past
And dredge regret from every deep recess
From first mistakes until my very last
They wallow me in guilt without redress

Why won't these dark-cast phantoms go away
How long for past mistakes must one man pay




That fleeting claim they had on things possessed
No matter how they verified that claim
Proved little value as their lives progressed
Their ownership was only that in name

For each, despite how great his gathered wealth,
Digressed each day until the very grip
That had such strength when in full bloom of health
Wore down with age till every thing did slip

No wit or will of man could prove so strong
That nature's plan could long be held at bay
The span for each could only be so long
And comes to end that final resting day

So gathered here across this well marked field
The only thing that each could finally save
At last is put away and tightly sealed
And all that's left is what's here in each grave





In failed attempts conceived from foolish dreams
Repeatedly, I've sacrificed my pride
Pursued unworthy goals and pointless schemes
And falsely claimed to win because I tried

Were there at least some humor or some wit
To breathe some life or purpose in these scenes
I might have seemed at least not such a twit
And all could laugh despite what all this means

But I was not a clown to please the crowd
No matter how I floundered or I fell
The sound of all their pity wasn't loud
Yet stabbed me with a pain that wreaked of hell

I hope that soon this circus act is spent
So I might finally fold this tattered tent



What rugged climb is this before me here
With jagged edges jutting all around
What goal upon that crest could be so dear
To lure me from this safe and level ground

Why can't I simply rest where now I stand
And never risk the falls that might await
This task before me now I never planned
So why am I engaged in this debate

But even as I stand and wonder why
As though no choice exists, I start the climb
I guess I'll find no rest until I die
For this is how I'm bound to spend my time

So once again I struggle to ascend
This ragged ridge that fate to me did send




A man is incomplete if he cannot find humor and laughter in the world about him. No one will cry at his passing for no one will have known joy with his presence.



I wear no well-made coat to block the cold
To shield against the winds this winter's night.
I seek no shelter's lea, no comfort's fold
No place I might escape this tortured flight.

And on I run, as if I knew to where
As if I even had a clue to why.
I act as though I still have cause to care
But truth cannot be mastered by a lie.

I run not from the cold, but to its grip.
This loose and tattered cloak I choose to wear.
I plan no place to rest along my trip,
I'm driven not by hope, but by despair.

Though strange it sounds, there's comfort in my pain
As it distracts from thoughts of you again.





Astray amid partitions of my mind
Round random turns I wander through the maze
Pursuing hidden imprints I might find
Fragmented memories left from happier days.

In such escapes, I know not what I'll see
Sometimes while there I'll meet a long lost friend
Or come upon that boy that once was me
And wonder when that boy and youth did end.

Some scenes I'll hold and struggle to relive
While others bring back only morbid pain
Just who and what I was is all they'll give
And even so, I know I'll come again.

Yet every time, no matter what I do
I know I'll make that turn and still find you.




The world forbade that I should ever know
Sweet ecstacy that might come from your kiss
And ordered things so I could never show
How in my dreams of you we came to bliss.

As moral beings captured by events
Our partners and our lives are well defined
So dark desires must linger in suspense
And hidden deep for none to ever find.

Yet even though our lips will never touch
And comfort from your breast must be denied
There is a gift from you that I may clutch
And cherish even past the day I've died.

Recorded evermore on heaven's scrolls
A time eternal sweet caress of souls.




A burned out place laid bare by heartless sun
Without a breeze to soothe its dry, parched earth
No sight of shade, no water loose to run
A barren plane that yields no fruits of worth.

A morbid stretch where beauty cannot stand
Where anything that rises is cut down
Then ground and ground again to add more sand
Upon this flat and useless spread of ground.

One lone and ghostly shadow moving there
Portrays a sadly lost and hopeless soul.
No one in sight with whom that man can share,
No one to mourn that final bell to toll.

A scene not for the brush or sculptor's knife
For this is but the landscape of my life.




I folded in the corners of my world
And very carefully left all others out
Till all the seams about me tightly curled
My isolation was no more in doubt.

 I wander through my days in measured space
While keeping all about me far at bay
Till each becomes but just another face
Which I discard at every close of day.

 All feelings gathered up and bounded tight
I hide in unused corners of my heart
Where they cannot assault me in the night
With memories stirred to tear my peace apart.

 Though no one is allowed my space to share
Sometimes I'll turn and think that you're still there.





With matted seaweed binding up my limbs
And squeezing ribs till breath no longer flows
While echoes ring forth ancient sailors' hymns
I sink to depths where light no longer goes.

 Descending slowly, surely to my end
The growing numbness brought on by the cold
Denies all chance that I might yet ascend
While shades of darkness ever deeper fold.

 A loneliness that no man could have known
Wraps me in its layers of dire despair
And from the very marrow of my bone
Draws out the final vestiges of care.

 Then startled suddenly, my mind returns
As I am snatched away from being dead
The cold is gone and now the fever burns
I realize that I'm awake in bed.

 My nightmare is the same each empty night
A part of me invites its final end
Since your departure robbed my life of light
Now even while awake, I still descend.




Such bitter cold from Winter's angry stay
Surrounds all things to suck away the heat
And grimly hides the brighter light of day
In skies of grey all filled with snow and sleet.

 This visitor of gaunt and gloomy form
Descends at times in blustery ragged rage
Dispensing waves of hardship and of harm
Till all is frozen solid on its stage.

 Ill-tempered winds then slice the air like knives
Through cloth and flesh they pierce to do their deed
Relentlessly against all things it drives
Till all the warmth within begins to bleed.

 The landscape made seems pure,
all dressed in white
A wondrous mix of beauty and of blight.






That fading edge of light I watch recede
While dancing over shapes along its path
It pulls the darkness on behind its lead
And paints the landscape grim in shadow's bath.

 All bright and all alive in moments past
The scenery soon becomes a morbid scape
While chilling quiet settles deep and fast
And soon we're cloistered neath its vast dark cape.

 How sinister and grave all things appear
When only parts and edges can we glean
From dark recesses, minds now conquer fear
Much more from that not heard and that not seen.

 In sleep's escape, we'll wait the pass of night
Till it recedes to lead in morning light.




Here in this room with all so dark and still
Now something odd has come to join me here
I cannot see its face, but feel its chill
From deep within, it sparks a primal fear.

 How can this thing exist, it has no shape
No form or substance, yet it claims this space
The laws of nature offer no escape
For everything of substance has a face.

 But formless as it is, it fills this room
And everything herein is now consumed
Within its eerie essence and its gloom
Till all within its presence are entombed.

 I could not make it out when first it came
But now I know it, silence is its name.




No longer do I search to find a thought
That's rattling round all lost within my brain
For now a thought's the last thing to be sought
No need to think once one has gone insane.

 So having thus declared my new found state
I only now await my purchased peace
With nothing left to write upon my slate
I only wish all thinking now would cease.

 But as I try to savor my new role
And from oblivion's waters take my drink
I only spiral deeper in this hole
While thinking how I might no longer think.

 The flaw in my escape I now can see
Insanity's not all its thought to be.




I cried aloud through still unanswering air
And waited for a sound to be returned.
But only silence came to greet me there
The loneliness I knew more deeply burned.

I stared into that vast and empty night
And cried once more at nothing to be seen.
No shape or form to give reflected light
Just me and nothing there or in between

No other there to see or hear or feel
No one to heed my cries, no one to touch
No one to help this wound within to heal
No one to pull me from despair's tight clutch

Yet still I cried again into that air
I cannot seem to learn that you're not there.





The twists and turns and turbulence of life
Like rising tides may shift the sands around
And islands carved from that broad unseen knife
Provide a loose and sure uncertain ground.

To mark your soil and claim security
Speaks low of what you might have passed as wit
On morning's rise, your island might not be
Your baseless claim not worth a single spit.

Like forces born from nature's careless womb
The acts of men will form the surging tide
And currents in that wash might carry doom
For those who do not find safe place to hide.

So offer thanks for what small ground you hold
And know one day that it might not exist
For as the shifting sands of life unfold
What now seems real is but tomorrow's mist.




They are the men whose minds can't range to see
The complex form an uncarved stone might take
The tune a string of notes might join to be
How from mere words a statement they might make.

They stare with empty minds at canvass bare
And dream not oils and strokes to fill its space
Confront another soul but do not share
The vast and unique man behind the face.

In muted tones, they pattern out their lives
Existing but as shadows among men
Dare not to venture forth for fear of strife
Concerned that such bold acts might do them in.

They too will pass through life as all men must
But all they'll leave in passing is their dust.





Such a brief and fragile image
That moving shadow of a bird
Gliding along the still blue water
Of this cool summer lake.

Appearing as if from nowhere
Commanding my attention
As it glides across the surface
Then quickly as it came, disappears.

I search across the sky
To catch that bird in flight
But find only clouds and empty space
I have just the shadow to remember.

Like so many other things
That have passed through my life
Now also reduced to brief reflections
Like shadows across my mind.



Wasted is the man who will not strive to understand himself, for no matter what he may learn of the world about him, he will never understand his part in that world or that world's part in him.





Top | Back to Collected Poems | Back to Main Page