“Umbrella” by W. Roger Carlisle

You were my first imaginary friend,
my sword for attacking
pirates, the trusted keeper
of my own black magic, a large leaf
of cool and shade, my witches broom.

Your canopy protected me from the dark clouds
of my mother’s illness, the critical voices which fell
in sheets, the accusations raining from bottles of alcohol;
your fan of blackness
kept me safe in the darkness of my room.

As I grew older, the circumference of my umbrella grew,
it’s presence became the spirit of my father,
always with me night or day,
rain or shine, stubborn, stable, resilient, strong,
so quiet in his love.

I trusted the stories we wove together
into the stretched black cloth
over the ribs of his old skin and bones,
through the patient listening of his old soul.

He was the one who walked beside me
the rest of my life, a listening presence,
a forgiving voice; straight or collapsed,
always ready to spring into action.

My shield against bad weather,
my copilot in a storm,
I could hold on to him in a breeze,
fly above the clouds,
see the world through his eyes.

He was the wind at my back,
a parachute of courage,
frail yet strong,
easy to carry, always keeping me dry.




W. Roger Carlisle is a 75-year-old, semi-retired physician. He currently volunteers and works in a free medical clinic for patients living in poverty. He grew up in Oklahoma and was a history major in college. He has been writing poetry for 11 years and is a nominee for a 2021 Pushcart Prize. He is currently on a journey of returning home to better understand himself through poetry. He hopes he is becoming more humble in the process.

“Walking the Dog” by W. Roger Carlisle

I am sitting with my dog on a faux antique bench
at the mall. Walking has been my salvation,
medication, and saving grace
for the last 12 years since I retired.
Movement is life.

Over the last 12 years most of the stores
have closed; the families and children
have been replaced by older retirees walking their dogs.
The dogs and people have gotten smaller. I should be taking
a new drug for depression.

No forethought of pity, blame or guilt,
my dog’s otherness centers my life; she is my walking mirror.
She sees my mind, my heart, my blindness
as I stumble through the endless stories I tell myself.

Here’s the thing, these dogs evolved from wolves but have more feeling
than humans. It’s no longer the hunt or protection that connects us.
I have evolved into a potty-trained parent
gathering up poop in my plastic doggy bag, clinging
to the only one protecting me from loneliness, before
returning home to my empty apartment.

Anyway, my dog seems to discover the world through her nose.
Does she miss smelling the pine trees, the flowers,
the honeysuckle, the grasses and freshness in the wind?
She seems excited despite the absence of squirrels, rabbits,
and chipmunks to chase. Does she miss running free without a leash?

I shiver slightly looking up; at the steel
and glass atrium; all is quiet except for
the occasional echo of a barking dog.
The hardness and the brightness of the glass give
far-reaching views of parking lots, apartments and suburbia.

It is all a reminder of the fear and pain
of not being young; that youth can never come again,
it is for undiminished others somewhere else.

Protect me God, from the pretense that I am searching for.
My dog knows how to be a dog, but
I am lost by choice and all the evidence suggests
I am wallowing in it.




W Roger Carlisle is a 74-year-old, semi-retired physician. He currently volunteers and works in a free medical clinic for patients living in poverty. He grew up in Oklahoma and was a history major in college. He has been writing poetry for 10 years. He is currently on a journey of returning home to better understand himself through poetry. He hopes he is becoming more humble in the process.

“Frozen Ground” by W. Roger Carlisle

I remember the winter when my mother left.
My dad and I walked bare frozen
ground on the Nebraska farm, no trees,
just a few broken stalks of corn.
“Your mom is gone,” he said
everything will be OK.”

I was nine.
We were visiting my grandparents farm.
I kept asking about my mother,
listening to family whisperings,
receiving no answers,
stunned by how quickly people disappear.

Years later, I learned from my father
the unspeakable truth:
She had been in a mental hospital,
too crazy to be mentioned,
too ill to be seen.

I still live in that frozen moment.
Even now, I never ask for help,
expect no one to listen.

 

 

W Roger Carlisle is a 74-year-old, semi-retired physician. He currently volunteers and works in a free medical clinic for patients living in poverty. He grew up in Oklahoma and was a history major in college. He has been writing poetry for 10 years. He is currently on a journey of returning home to better understand himself through poetry. He hopes he is becoming more humble in the process.