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So high, you can’t get over it,
So low, you can’t get under it,
So wide, you can’t get around it,
Gotta go through that door.

Traitional spiritual, "Rock My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham"

There was no pain, no fear, no strobing lights.
Asleep, I think I was. I remember reading
in my bed ‘till late my last night
on God’s earth.
No life’s tale flashed before my eyes.
No recreation of my soggy birth.
Just another waking
than the one I’d been expecting
when my copy of "I, Robot"
slumped unfinished
to the floor.

I’m glad I’d read it twice (or more).
I’d hate to part with partial plots in progress
eternally unknown, uncracked
left on the far, warm side
of death’s dim door.

Nothing but a gentle waking
in a place I’d never seen before.

A meadow, bathed in sunlight, bright
as any concrete day. No, nothing like a dream.
As real as Massachusetts on afternoon in May.
Tall grass swayed, pale green and paler yellow
in a gentle, cooling breeze.
I may have heard a stream.
And though I was “myself,” as much as I had ever been,
I sensed I was more solid,
approaching something much more whole.
No heart churned blood and no guts rolled
the daily bread and daily wine to calories and shit.
My right knee didn’t ache. I didn’t itch,
and should have itched
from pollen in the air. I just felt


More me,
more mine,
not owned by "this and such"
and "which? what? what?"
"what time? what place?
where? where to be and who to see
and what exactly do I need,
I need
I need to be?"

Is this how trees feel?
Moist dirt wrapped in years of work,
worming downward to achieve a vital grip
on earthly, dark foundations. Lurking,
then bearing up their branches, leaves and fruit
on the lip of heaven’s dome?
Dirt or sky? Earth or air?
Which do the ancient forest lords call "home?"

As I stood and felt this strangely dense
and solid, self-defining sense
of self and mind
I sensed another presence in the grass behind
me, and I turned and saw a tallish man,
not unlike me. Past his middle age,
a kind and smiling mouth. Hair thinning,
face tanned by what looked to be a life spent working
in the sun. That kind of face.
Not one you would remember
if he sat next to you at the mall.

He spoke, then, saying, "You aren’t all
here yet. It takes time,
a little time, to get adjusted.
What you’re feeling..."

"I feel fine," I interrupted.

His smile tipped a bit, into something
maybe sad. Maybe knowing.
Then he asked,

"Do you know what Paul said?
About 'seeing through a glass?'"

"'You’re not all here.' What does that mean?"
I cut in once again. "Is that some kind of crack?"
He shook his head and tried to get us back
to what he’d said before.

"In this place, the little that we knew,
what we once saw dimly, darkly...
now is clear as..."

He stooped to pick a blade of grass,
handed it to me, and said,
"As this is 'green" to you."

Annoying. Riddles. Metaphors.
I wanted... answers. Wanted
Wouldn’t you?

"What am I supposed to do
with this?" I asked,
shaking the grass
right in his face. But even as I did
I felt his words
were what he was
supposed to say.
They were [his] in some [right way],
just as the grass was green and yellow,
sky blue, and now
(I noticed), tinged with hints of grey.

He shrugged, and turned to walk away.
"Face to face," he murmured.
"You have much less time
than what we used to call one day."

And as he turned to go,
I thought I saw a shadow in his eyes:

a boy of nine or ten, a blue-grey sky
who let a tire-swing slip and fly
knock down a little blonde girl just for fun
who’d been standing, laughing, by
the tree and he
thought it would be a lark to see
her bumped
she fell and hit her head just
and so
was gone
gone gone
from life and school and family
but never [eternally never]
never from his memory

He smiled again.
"Yes. Just like that," he said. "But more. Oh, more."

He turned his back on me. I swore
beneath my breath,
for the image of the little girl was clear as...

stains grass
and yellow burns the fields of hay,
and water in the air makes skies go blue
on sunny summer days.

He walked away.
And at his side I thought I saw a little girl
with laughing eyes and white-blonde hair,
just there, beside him, as he slipped beyond the world’s
soft edge. Her little hand. His, large and strong.
Two and one together,
they were gone.

How could he bear to have her near him here?
Where everything is ruthlessly, damn clear?

She must have seen what I saw. Though he looked now
the middle-aged man
the boy he’d been had grown into. Back then,
before her life began,
when his thoughtless, stupid push
had doomed her to this place so young.
How could she stand to look him in the face?
How could he calmly walk beside her?
Showing not a trace
of guilt
or even some embarrassment.

I didn’t understand. Couldn’t know just what it meant.

The quote from First Corinthians. "Now face to face?"
The man? The girl? Both here, together, in this place?

And then I felt them… all the people just outside my range
of sight. I could hear their thoughts a bit. And, strangely, knew
that if I tried, I could see their sins
and flaws. Nothing they could do
about it. Everything so open here.
So clear.

Betrayals large and small, floating on that gentle breeze.
How she cheated on him with her brother. Now the three
are here, together. I can see them, there, approaching.
A thousand others, too.
Linked by memory and doom.
Will they come and talk to me?
Do I want them to?
What am I supposed to do
with all these images, these thoughts?
Confessions stirring from their minds,
what is my purpose here?
What if I find

someone that I knew…

The grass is greener, now, than when I first awoke.
The sky more blue. The wind more… wind?
Like something made more solid, less like smoke.

A woman steps out of the fog of thoughts and she approaches,
holding out her hand. I don’t know her. Why should she…

the lights are turned down low, the basement smells of beer
there’s a shitload of pot smoke just floating ‘round in here
she still hasn’t moved my hand off of her knee
I think maybe she maybe yeah maybe likes me
she’s just drunk enough to ignore all my flaws
I’m just sober enough to take off her bra
she struggles a little, but that was the way
that girls were taught how to say “Yes,” in those days…

I shut down my mind. Did she see? Is it her?
Or her daughter? Her mother? Her younger sister?
That was so long ago.
Now she’s
reaching for me.
If I touch her
there’s no telling
what else she might see.

I can feel them all, now. All of them wanting to know.
What did I do? Who with? Where did I go?
Why do they care? Why should they see
anything about anything?
I just want to be

left alone.

So I sat down and stared
at the grass. Nothing shown.

At the green, green, green grass
in this evergreen yard.
When I hear voices, now,
I can shut them down

They pass by me constantly.
I feel them here, still.
Blocking them out takes an effort of will
such that I can’t raise my eyes anymore.
I sit on the grass and I hope for no more
than those days when there are
just a few fewer souls
walking around me while taking their strolls.

Their thoughts still leak through.
I can’t help it, I guess.
I’ll get better with time, though.
I’d better. Unless
I get stronger,
unless I maintain
they’ll get up inside me.
And that’s just more pain
than I’m able to handle.
So I’ll stay inside.
It’s hell out there, people.
And I’ve got my pride.

I’m fine here.
Those assholes can’t reach me, you see?
I know who I am.
And they’ll never break me.


I blog irregularly at TinkerX. I'm also on Twitter. @andyhavens, go figure.

Related Items


The following comments are for "The Way Down Up"
by andyhavens

Remember, judge these by how well they followed the rules. The theme was "From Hell". Rules, needs to be a loger poem (not homer long, just not short), not too much angst, avoid the "hell" cliches that's basically it. All votes below a 5 will be deleted. Voting will be closed at 9pm, Monday Sept 5th (1 week).

( Posted by: Chrispian [Admin] On: August 29, 2005 )

"OOOO" I thought, a new write off, and with such good writers! Then I opened the first one, and saw the word count. "Damn" crept into my mind. Little did I know how ironic that word was.
On to the work. A+ BRAVO Andy. I loooove the style, for it is mine as well. lol I also looove the imagery and use of colors. I didn't know the topic, and I don't like to when first reading these. That's the author's job, and you succeeded magnificently. I hope William's is as good. 9.5 if possible, if not, 10.
The guy on the couch.

( Posted by: Robert Walker [Member] On: August 30, 2005 )

This poem demonstrates your formidable technical strengths; the imagery and the pacing are impeccable. Your take on hell is interesting and succinctly expressed. The style and the content compliment each other well. I'm afraid I can't fault this.

( Posted by: MacLaren [Member] On: August 30, 2005 )

write off - Andy
Hey Andy,

I am having the toughest time with this write off. I read both pieces days ago but I can't make up my mind! They are both very original and both very good. If I keep this up I am going to have to flip a coin (kidding of course). I am working on making up my mind. Honest!

Nae ;0)

( Posted by: nae411 [Member] On: September 2, 2005 )

write off...
too many words to say something turns into nothing...blah something blah blah blah blah blah and blah

( Posted by: Judi1 [Member] On: September 4, 2005 )

Hard Choices

What can I say, you never fail to deliver the goods. Your masterful use of language and a unique approach to an age old topic are an excellent competition for Charlie's more personal slant.

I'll admit I'm having a hard time deciding because I loved both pieces. Your entry has more a more lyrical feel about it, without losing any of it's density.

I'm going to give yours the edge here, because while I enjoyed Charlie's slant immensely. I felt you gave me something a bit more unique to gnaw on.


( Posted by: Bartleby [Member] On: September 4, 2005 )

write off
I am sorry but I could not rate one piece over the other. I reread them both many times and they were both excellent. I felt if I gave one a nod over the other it would not be for the worth of the writing but out of personal preference. I really believe you both deserve a '10' so that is what you got.

Best to you both.

( Posted by: nae411 [Member] On: September 4, 2005 )

lovely, andy
I'd just like to not a few things first; I was highly entertained that both poems referred to "shit" although WilliamHill got extra points for the shitting of one's self in his piece, and the logical flow of then having to clean the sheets. And both pieces also used the reverse syntax, which seemed highly coincidental, as I don't too often hear it out of either of you.

That aside (which was probably only amusing to me anyway) I really like this piece. Good flow, good alliteration... The idea that hell is other people--great. The epilogue was a nice touch, a call to the old masters. In the end, I gave you the nod for the symbolism. It was nice.

( Posted by: shefallssoftly [Member] On: September 4, 2005 )

Write off- surrender
I am raising my white cheesecloth flag in surrender to Admiral Andy Havens, The winner of this Hellish Write-off. The better man won.(Again)
(Cried my eyes out all day.) I will comment about this superb piece tomorrow when time affords me. There is a lot to say about it. Thanks to Crowe for setting this up and indulging us. Thanks to all who voted and commented. It was a pleasure.
(Thanks to Andy, little orange creep.)


( Posted by: williamhill [Member] On: September 5, 2005 )

And the winner is:
First off, great job to both writers. It looks like you both had fun with the theme and ended up with two excellent poems. The result of which was a very close race with Andy coming out ahead by a hair! Great job Andy, and congrats on bringing home the trophy! Kudos to both of you for a great match.


( Posted by: Chrispian [Admin] On: September 6, 2005 )

Andy Havens
I just wanted to tell you how underrated your poem is. There should be an eleven. You made this appear as a personal poem, like you really lived it, at least in your mind, your dreams, your musings. You again used color to define it. You do that quite a lot, which adds to the realism and concrete feel to the fabric of this work. I have taken notice of your rhyme, it's pace, it musicality, it's playfulness, the way it stops and goes like a traffic signal. Holy cow! What a ride. The neatest trick though, was the way you kept it up, the rhyme, the scattered meter, the heart of it all the way through the work. It never let up except when you wanted it to. You sir, have a great mind, a writers mind, a conjurers mind. (I can hear Ann Wilson singing Magic Man) Anyway, sorry to take so long to comment. I hope you will grace this site and quality journals without delay.

Your Friend,


( Posted by: williamhill [Member] On: September 20, 2005 )

praying for the river lethe
I totally enjoyed this. It is really really hard to come up with another thing to say. This is what hell must be like after all.

( Posted by: brickhouse [Member] On: September 23, 2005 )

It may sound a little over dramatic... but it is an entierly serious yet rhetorical question in relation to what you said, not just the theme or an over identification of angst about how you phrased it. In the same sober perception as the narrator I must ask, how did you get in my head?

As a three penny nail is driven home to fufill its destiny, altered only slightly by the inherent faults within infinite variables, you have plucked on many of the strings that create the resonence of my perception.

(pardon the run on sentences)

( Posted by: jlimer [Member] On: September 29, 2005 )

did Jesus die for bores?
another dull example of poor writing, but to your credit imagination is not lacking here as is the case in the Williamhill entry.

( Posted by: JesusBlows [Member] On: October 26, 2005 )

Do you have anything worthwhile to contribute? Maybe even (and II know this may be shocking) some sort of rationale for your insults?

By all means, be insulting if you must. Just back it up.

( Posted by: Viper9 [Member] On: October 27, 2005 )

Moving on up
Somehow, what with the daunting length of this piece and the way it has lain so long as Home-page-wallpaper... I've never got around to reading it. Huge mistake. The many who arrived here with more alacrity have said it all, but it seemed criminal to let the thread lie on such a pathetic downer.

Obviously, this is the antithesis of poor writing: you have such a wonderfully assured voice - that conversational tone which belies its own cleverness; the underlying image brilliantly constructed, original, deeply human.

The opening stanzas were my favourites (somehow, I felt it lost a degree of economy after that... might have sliced out a few 'as's and 'and's... the 'write-off' time pressure, I guess).

And the punchline? I was dying to know how you'd wind this opus up and it's masterfully judged, the wryly understated portrait of hell-inside-one's-own-head - moving and real and utterly without pathos.

Well, best piece I've read in a long while. Thank you so much for writing it.

( Posted by: MobiusSoul [Member] On: November 10, 2005 )

your a good writer

( Posted by: BILLY [Member] On: November 11, 2005 )

Down Up
Andy, top score from me. This one hit all the buttons in my mind -- although I think a bit long, it never got mundane or anything, I'm just tired I guess, but top score.

( Posted by: BWOz [Member] On: August 12, 2006 )

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