Diamonds and Rust

“We both know what memories bring,
 diamonds and rust” Joan Baez

 as golden moments passed
 wistful spectres haunt my mind
 fade in, fade out, striving to last
 contending to hold their place in line
 contorting sobs into laughs
 writhing to stay as times of bliss
 straining the lees, winnowing chaff
 clinging tightly to a first-time kiss
 being prone to looking back
 at tattered photos obscured by dust
 having faded into black
 we look for diamonds, unearth rust
 rjc 11/04/2020

Master my Maker

Master my Maker

I just have to complain

You left some loose wires

When you circuited my brain

Trains of thought they run wild

Careen off their tracks

When I send genius to heaven

It can’t find its way back

On the roadway of life

I’ve fallen off my trolley

While my noblest intentions

Are deemed as mere folly

Myriads of marbles

Roll around in my skull

I hear tweets from canaries

And shrieks from sea-gulls

As elevators go

Mine won’t reach the top

Every brilliant idea

Results in a flop

And my own moral compass

Is well off the charts

While my opinions are met with

“He ain’t got the smarts”

So grab all your tools

Your soldering iron too

Bring a few extra diodes

And I’m sure there’s a loose screw

Though my warranty’s lapsed

I beg for repair

Look how I’m kneeling

This request is a prayer

Rocky James Curtiss 10/28/2019

Old Friends, Old Friends

I’m fortunate to be one of a group of high school classmates (class of 1962) who make the effort and take the time to get together at least once or twice a year. This past weekend as we gathered once again my best friend, Ron, wore a T-shirt that read: GROWING OLD IS MANDATORY, GROWING UP IS OPTIONAL, and so I was inspired to write this poem.

Old Friends, Old Friends

It’s a curious event when I
Discover an old friend turned old
I look into his eyes and see the
Second grader I used to chase
In an endless game of tag
Today he’d be easy to catch
If only I could still run

Or, as the case may be,
In a young girl’s smile my heart still
Beats faster when aimed at me
Even though familiar eyes are now
Hedged by crow’s feet
But the heart sees differently
Filtered by warm memories
The golden years are not faded
Silver hair not tarnished by dross

Recognizable laughs recapture
Halcyon moments of joy
When all we needed was to be
Mindful of those dinnertime
Announcements from Mom
(Who has long since passed)
Important because Dad (also now gone)
Is home from the “salt mines”
Seated in his favorite chair
Reading the newspaper

There came a day we said “Goodbye”
Not aware it could possibly be a

Forever pronouncement except for
Spiritual ties which kept us linked
Across imperceptible miles
Thankful for those determined to
Resuscitate and rejuvenate
The “Good Ol’ Days”

As we share the stories that have
Become lifelong mementos
Precious remembrances
Glitzed by the glitter time creates
We are old Friends, not Old friends
And I’m blessed in their presence

Chamonix Disaster

Taking a lead from a friend, I’m sharing a poem based on a true event. I was a 20-year old traveler, hitchhiking across Europe, and my experience treated me to some exotic sights and unimaginable adventures. One such adventure involved what was affectionately known as a Turkish Toilet. I hope today’s poem paints an accurate picture of what transpired.

Chamonix Ker-Plop
(A poetic account; Chamonix, France May 26, 1965)

1965, the twenty-sixth of May
Savoring a pleasant Suisse day
A leisure hitchhiking spree
To alpine town of Chamonix

Mere hours since Clay’s phantom punch
Downed Sonny Liston into a clump
The headlines so displayed
As I ambled on my way

A stop a ride a stop again
By midday arrived at my end
Tired, hungry but needing to go
Les toilette publique was just a hole

Turned and squat, readied for plop
Sound ensuing caused heart to drop
Splash of wallet and passport
Sickly sound of pit’s retort

All of value disgustingly lay
Below the rim six inches away
Entrails painfully tied in knots
I argued, debated, disputed foul plot

No matter all my mind detested
Of the assets now infested
Dropped on knees reached into goo
Rescued goods from vile P-U

Washed then scrubbed, cleansed all over
Worst of filth outside the cover
A thankful sigh as I finished my duty
Left with a tale, a traveler’s beauty

Rocky James Curtiss 04/21/2017

Sometimes *%it happens, but not always quite so literally. I carried that wallet for another two years, and wish I still had it today, just for the memory.

I Look for a new Song

I look for a new song
The old one hasn’t died
Though it has been tried
It’s still a rhapsody
A fragrant harmony
But now suffers dormancy

I beg for a new song
To gladden my heart
Like love’s fresh start
When song sparrows’ trills
Resound through their bills
Burgeoning thrills

I ache for a new song
To reveal His presence
Christ’s holiest essence
Reigniting the fire
From a sweet singing lyre
Spawning dance of desire


it feels as if I’m without hope


while questions ricochet

like echoes bouncing

     in a cave

roaring continuous

     as the waves

crashing around in my brain

     leaving me week, drained

perilously I teeter

     on a cliff

          therefore I turn to the Holy Writ

but for the promises within

     I’m drowning in chagrin

yearning for relief

     pile-driven into grief

and yet my prayers

     they merely whimper

demons laugh

     and point their fingers

yelling “you, you are to blame!”

     overwhelmed I hide my shame

it has to be my fault (it just has to)

     for the enemy’s assault

but it’s been proclaimed

     marry your faith to belief

          whence the pathway to relief

but when reprieve isn’t granted

            misery is fast implanted

it’s hard to stay enchanted

nonetheless I cling to Hope

     one that survives, thrives

          in Gethsemane’s garden

          while clinging to His garment

          sheltered from doubt’s bombardment


By Rocky James Curtiss 04/26/2018

Again, Where is Home

It’s often just the place
Where I’m feeling most alone
With crowds or some close friends
I’ll scarce opine a groan
Doubting anyone ready
For the stutters of a stone
I continue in my search
Again, where is home?


In a world that’s been fashioned
By the extreme left and right
I choose retreat into solitude
Rather than jump into a fight
But this hiding bears a cost
As I disappear from sight
For I’m bound to keep the candle
Of Peace and Truth upright


I confess I lean far left
My aim is not to hide it
But for reasons I can’t solve
The churches I’ve abided
Deign my ilk ungodly
My disposition damned misguided
Alone in crowded pews
My loyalty divided


Yet again, where is home?
No answer smacks me clear
Nor lightning bolt from God
For the faith I hold so dear
Sixth decade of my journey
Eden has ne’er appeared
Peace descends within His whisper
Of “I love you” in my ear

Where’s Home?

I ask myself, “Where’s Home?”

Then recognize an enigma

Is it where I now reside?

With my wife

In an apartment

On Spokane’s south hill

Where mail clutter tracks us down

It’s true, but it doesn’t feel like such


I look back into my past

To the stucco house Dad built

Where I was raised

(Raised? We moved when I was 15)

And besides, the house is gone

Replaced by a modern monstrosity

Sarcastically dubbed a McMansion

My boyhood world extinguished


So then there’s Temple City

LA suburbia from birth (to 21)

But as I travel its streets today

Familiar landmarks evaporated

Orange groves exterminated

Friends’ homes abdicated

Familiar faces obliterated

The loss of roots exacerbated


Well, how about Redlands

Where we dwelt long forty years

Friends relocated

Children migrated

Parents expired

And then we retired

The familiar emerged unrecognized

Solid ground liquefied


I ask again, “Where’s Home?”

The query still unsatisfied

Intimate faces with disparate lives

Common faces without history

Local spaces void of memory

Shallow roots cannot abound

Attempt to anchor runs aground

I guess home exists beside my bride

…and I’m satisfied

Dream to Rise

an ode to MLK and Maya

on the 50th anniversary of his death

and the 90th anniversary of her birth

Dream to Rise

I was raised on an island

   So to speak

  A Southern California oasis

       Of white privilege

         White bread

         White T-shirts

         White sweat socks


Now privilege didn’t mean wealth

   But spoke of a freedom

     We took for granted

Exempt from inhumane laws

   That stripped dignity from souls

   Robbing them of their “inalienable rights”

For the crime of being born other…

     Black, Brown, Yellow, Red


In time we heard the stories

   They filtered through

     The walls of our ignorance

   Much as the sun diffused through

     Our shuttered Venetian blinds

So tight we closed our eyes

   But we couldn’t close our ears

     Until your voice, Dr. King

     And your spirit, Ms. Angelou

       Stirred us from coma


Your dream lives on, Reverend

   In the hopeful hearts of the cleansed

     For “free at last, free at last”


And still we rise, Dame Maya

  (If I may accord you regal honor)

     For rising above the “bitter twisted lies”


Like the fledgling who pecked his way

   From the constraint of his shell

     And then flew in the draft of eagles

Yes, it’s taken me a lifetime

   But…I have a dream that somehow

     Someday I may make a difference

     And move one more heart

       To rise from hate and intolerance

       On to the path of love and acceptance


Lord, move my spirit with theirs to rise

Friday Morning

I wrote this almost a year ago, in keeping with the season. Be sure to read all the way to the end;

Friday Morning


Friday morning
Slept barely but a wink
An evening celebration
Plunged headlong off the brink


He asked me to pray
To cushion His agony
I didn’t sense the pain
Treating Him so casually


I tried to atone
By following Him to trial
But when others called me out
I answered with denial


The guilt is overwhelming
The torment so intense
I rack my soul for answers
But forsaken of defense


He entered Zion in victory
To adulation and high praise
But now the sounds of sobbing
Is all that’s being raised


The crowds are on the move
To the hill called Calvary
As anger overflows
In spiritual anarchy


I dare not follow close
And be sucked into their hate
Will I echo denunciation
Adding insult to His fate


I can’t believe my eyes
As spikes pierce hands and feet
But He looks on me with love
My shame is now complete


It’s Friday morning
And my Savior’s on a cross
His death becoming real
While hope for man is lost





It’s Sunday morning!


Rocky James Curtiss 04/14/2017