What Happened?

"Does Mister Rogers live behind your yard?"
I stood up from my new used car and saw
In th' wink of th' eye, a man whose face was long
Upon whose head a skier's cap was stretched --
A man of Afro heritage who mumbled.
I turned my head along his pointing arm.

In sleeping blackness I heard crying screams.
Awakening, my eyes adjust to see
Through th' open sliding door a woman young
And Black and scared surrounded by police,
And desperately shouting her ignorance.

A worried voice, my wife's, calls out my name.
I see her face above my hurting jaw.
What happened?

Requiem Æternum
Lord give my innocence eternal rest
And let perpetual light illume my quest.

A hymn I sing, O God, to understand
How souls deflate since they're from sight now banned.
O Spirit, hear this prayer too long postponed;
All flesh must surely come before Your throne.

Lord give my innocence eternal rest
And let perpetual light illume my quest.

Lord give my innocence eternal rest
And let perpetual light illume my quest.


A piece of my life disappeared ...

Frank, dear Frank, saw me wandering the block.
He spoke to me, "What happened?"
I mumbled, senseless.
But I do not remember.

Officer Chen wrestled my assailant ---
   riffling my pockets ---
   I must have wandered from the car senseless.
But I do not remember.

My son sat in the police car with me
   concerned for me,
   a teenager all grown up.
And this, especially this, I do not remember.

A piece of my life is missing ...

Kyrie Eleison
O Lord, have mercy on my shattered sight.
O Christ, have mercy on my frightened plight.
O Lord, have mercy on my sense of right.

Hospital and Capture

What happened? Stretched and looking; can't see
My wife, explaining what she knew; my head
Was held immovable, braced for breaks; my jaw
Was hurting; racing through the streets and lights,
And carried off the ambulance into
Emergency; assigned a curtained niche;
Th' environment unshadowed bright; I talked
And talked unreally cheery, aching jaw;
Awaiting to be seen -- uncertain now
Of th' right sequence -- my son a young teenager
Reports by phone police activity
With chase and county dogs to find my mug-
ger cowering behind our neighbors' homes
In a garage just twenty minutes past;
At last I'm seen. Concussion? Shock? I walk
Securely to th' restroom on th' straight and sure;
My jaw does hurt and th' x ray shows a --
-- hair line break; my minister arrives;
I talk and talk; but time now for th' OR
And wiring shut -- no talk, no solid food;
One instance talking; the next moment
Then suddenly ...
       and wired and shut.
In darken room, the light of th' hall encroaching:
And Laurie comes and Frank to check and tell:
He is arrested, swift and just and sure.
They searched and found my glasses, but no gun.

The Littlest Witness

The littlest witness only three, but first;
The eyes that saw it happened, young, too young;
So innocent, a victim too with me.
A minute, only made a difference:
My Satur-morning helper, crisp and cool
In January cleaning, readying
The new old station wagon, chattering.
She needs a jacket on her tiny frame.
I send my child indoors; oh! just in time.
(What would have happened if she'd stayed with me?
Could she had fled? Would he had hurt her too?
Or did he wait until she was away?)
And there by th' door was she observing us.
She saw him come to me and speak and strike.
She saw him use a stone or gun or fist --
(The police investigated, finding nothing.)
And turned and ran to sister watching TV ...


While heading home Detective Chen, by Grace,
Observes approaching me, misplaced, a stranger ...
And turns around, returns, and sees me down
And my (for now, forever we're attached)
Assailant bending over me to pick
My pockets, hoping they contained more loot:

... Daddy's hurt ... Someone hit him ...
My eldest daughter runs to wake up mom ...

Detective Chen confronts th' attacker and ...
Assails him to arrest him straight to ground.

Across the street our neighbor Pat observes
A fisty cuff and telephones th' Police.

He flees, but his girl friend, confused, unsure
Is easily captured; while I; by Frank,
Unconscious, blanked out, wondered street and yard.
My son, my eldest seeing this, so young.

Then comes th' policemen nearly all of them --
With sure swiftness in a flash of th' eyes ...

My wife and second girl descend to find
An officer reporting my assault and loss --
The sirens wailing, lights a-strobing bright --
My son and I in th' cruiser side by side.
The ambulance arrives and I am moved ...

Dies Iræ
That day, that day of wrath and anger
Has mixed our lives with dirt and ashes
As hope dissolved, creation faded:

What trembling days and thoughts torment us
And grip us in our anguished fury
Before the ire of lost, ignored ones.

To Neighbors

And through it all were neighbors helping us:
Dear Frank who found me wond'ring: constant trust.
And Jim with Frank conveyed my family
To me in hospital, bringing me to home:
These anchors true relieved the fear:
No longer was our 'hood a safe and sound
Environment for families and friends:
Like th' other 'hood, now Danger lurked and walked
Along our streets in every innocent
Who wanders into town, along our street.

Alone in th' house my lover-wife would sit
By th' window peering out afraid of th' world.

Tuba Mirum
The trumpet sounds across our neighborhood.
Its wail resounds through every house and heart
To summon him but also thee and me:

The earth, the heavens cry out: doom! doom!
The dispossessed are driven to th' abyss.
The privileged no longer safe are doomed.

Wired Shut

Wired Shut: my jaw, a slender break to heal
Home Coming: teeth and jaws, so tightly clenched
Unnaturally now silenced liquid food
And worried that if I get ill the bands
Be cut in time, at best delaying healing:

The least, the most, enforced "vacation" time
A time to be the handicapped for once
The time to focus on the body ... not
The soul, the mind, the heart, or God and life
Too soon for mourning, understanding strife.

The Case -- A Crime Spree

The officer arrives at our abode,
While I am wired to ask about our side:
The littlest is asked her story gently.
The officer with teacher's empathy,
Permitted her to tell as youth allowed.
Then he explained what soon we'd read in th' paper:
One Clifford Jenkins (now a name and he's
Become a human!) stood accused of much:
A night and morn of crime, a list of such
A magnitude to be a spree of crime.
In search of funds for drugs, a nickel or dime,
He did assault a man and jacked his car.
Then raced towards another boulevard
With girl, confused, in outer space, in toll
And crossed the town line: found another soul
Who out for an early morning stroll was stopped
By Mister J to yield her purse; was whopped
When fought she for her bag and her esteem.
Then off again, he crossed a borough seam
And found yours truly early morning
Whose life confused now without warning.

Liber Scriptus
The Unfinished Book of open wide denial:
The tale of spirits twisted now together
In danse macabre of judgment filed and pending.

Now God Revealing sits upon the seat
To open wide the truth of twisted lives,
Convicting lies, consumption, wine and gods.

Quid Sum Miso
How shall I, uncontrolled, arise again?
From where might come my lost and ordered life,
When even th' privileged, righteous aren't secure?

Rex Tremendæ Majestatus
O, Lord of awesome wondrous mystery,
Unknowing Knowing, th' only Savior true,
I reach towards Your light: save me ... and him.


I read about poor Ana born below
In a garbage dump as were her mom and dad.
She grew up there and had a baby there,
Destined to grow up there just like her mom.
But mom would not allow daughter that:
Mom worked in th' school so there to send her child:
She mopped the floors and cleaned the boards and desks,
And watched her learn and grow and break the cycle.
But ...

Will th' world whose dump was home let her be free
And let her soar with her God-given skills?

I wonder what if Mister Jenkins,
Like Ana's daughter had a chance to rise
(Or did he get a chance and squandered it?)
Above the drugs to labor honestly,
Would he? Would our journeys ever cross?
And who was there that could have help?

Black and White

"That man's bad", said she.
"Oh? Why's that?", asked I.
"He's Black. That's why he's bad."
I knew. I'm her dad.

Th' invisibility of th' other's face:
A man whose face is black and who attacks;
Then as him others only see his race.
A chief whose eyes are slanted, lies and hacks:
And as him others only see his stock;
So rolls on our unthinking, stumbling block.

But how did such a little one
Associate his color to his deed
When we so nobly taught a different creed?
But so our hard and thoughtful work's undone!
And so we must again replant the seed:
By any people evil's web is spun
So ne'er because of race are you to shun.

Jesu Pie
O Gentle Jesus, we remember You
Upon the cross for us, forlorn, for th' world,
To show us liberation's suffering:
As we were struck, so You were struck and downed;
And like our own, thus Mary, Joseph, James.
And even for him You do not despair.
On th' day, this day of reckoning, I pray,
We, standing under judgment, will accept
That wholeness You give graciously to us.


I groan in th' ruins, burnt and radiocharged,
Of th' war of sympathy with penalty,
When from a distance, but now all to near:

O God, Who cursed me with this conflict
Of servanthood against imperfect flesh,
Demanding, calling me to righteousness --
Absolve my soul as You did Jonah's soul;
O hear my prayer as You did Job's despair
And give me peace in midst of murkiness.

O Lord of Love and Life, th' Light of th' world:
Direct me t'wards the scale of just deserts,
And help me find serenity on it.

Anniversary Exorcism

A year has past; the seasons have returned.
That fateful Saturday's treasons overturned,
But yet the fear is raw and lingers on:
Though th' harbinger of fright is hemmed alone,
I fear this day and would recluse myself.
But no! My life, my life, I shall not shelve.
So out, out I went to that car, old and used,
That morning trying not to see 't suffused
With curses evil threat and demon brewing
As th' host of my reality's undoing.

I breathed the crisp and cold midwinter air
And walked around my car all solitaire
To exorcise the embedded evil reign
And cast on th' wind what could have been my bane.
But I watched my back and carried no romance
For th' auto bull, but upon wrong's edge I danced.

I have been thrust into the land of th' damned,
Amongst confounded, hopeless denizens,
Accusing, angry, volatile and hurt.
And so, out, out of th' wasted pit emerged,
O God, that sad potential's way and end ---
O take me, Lord, into Your heart and way!

That day to come is one of tears and cries
On which shall rise again the guilty one
Out of th' abyss to face our history:
O Holy Mystery uphold my soul
And bring me through the fiery flames of fear.
Lord, give my innocence, eternal rest.

The Lions and the Antelopes


The antelopes meandered on the savanna
Heads bent low uprooting the blackened grass.
On the jumbled, chopped up plain,
One antelope slinked about.

Coming upon a lion's den,
He looked this way and that,
Then clutched in his mouth a sheaf
  of fresh, verdant grass
  -- and ran back to the herd.

Lying low in the charred grass,
The pride hid.
Now its king roared and
  like speeding trains
  they rushed the antelopes.
The herd startled, fled down the plain.
The lions overlooked the thief
  seeing only antelope.
Instead, they grabbed three
And dragged them off ...

The antelopes meandered on the savanna,
Heads bent low uprooting the blackened grass.
On the jumbled, chopped up plain,
Three females howled for their lost calves.

Domine Jesu
O Jesus Christ, our only Savior Lord,
Deliver me and mine from fear and dread
Of danger bodily and spiritually,
Of life becoming caged, restrained and dull:
But lead us, Mystic Christ, onto the Mountain
To stand at th' foot of th' promised spectrum bow
And see as one the whole of Your creation.


An antelope with angry eyes
  looked over the green, verdant plain.
Then as it seethed and boiled,
  his legs shrunk
  his body stretched
  his teeth curved
  and he hissed.
Crawling secretly through the grass,
  the cobra spied a lone lion.
He arched his body and struck,
  sinking teeth into the lion
  and paralyzing the lion with his poison.
He grabbed a sheaf of grass in his mouth
  and slithered back to the charred savanna.

  his legs sprouted;
  his body filled out;
  his teeth aligned;
  and he trotted home.

We offer You in praise of righteousness,
Our prayers and sacrifices, loves and dreams.
Accept them on behalf of every
Assaulted man and woman, boy and girl:
O Savior, let them pass from death to light
And part the sea of red division hate


The cobra slithered in the fresh grass.
In its belly was freshly claimed grass.
Now, he patiently awaited his prey.
There! He rears his body and strikes!

Like shots from a rifle,
  the lions strike!
The cobra is grabbed by the scruff of the neck,
  shaken, restrained
  -- and dragged to the Pit and
  cast down into its abysmal dark.

There his antelope head emerged,
  but his cobra body remained --
  left to crawl and waste in the Pit.

Is Mr. Jenkins a cobrantelope
  and his mom an antelope
  and we lions?

Photons and atoms, planets, moons and stars
Are filled with Your divine and fractal life!
O Holy, Holy, Holy God of Hosts,
Hosanna in the highest cosmic Realm!


A lion leered out over the savanna;
  its fur grayed and frayed;
  its mane shrank;
  its hind legs extended;
  its roar became a cackle.

The hyena joined his gang
  and together they surrounded
  the finest, juiciest antelope calves.
They snatched one and fled towards the lion dens
  There, too, they snatched
  the finest, juiciest lion cub.

And the powers the hyenalions?

Phone Calls

And now approaches judge and jury time:
And Mister Jenkins faced again a cell.
As months and weeks unfolded, th' hand of dread
Could not help but grip his heart and mind.
The county jail amazingly allowed 
Th' inmates to call the world around about.
Somehow our forlorn man so used to force,
Manipulation, and coercion found
Our listed number, phoning us to ask
In mumbling syllables we know not what.
For startled, shocked and panicked by a voice
From th' ether, begging, threatening in sense,
As swift as panic, Laurie cut th' attempt.
Yet later kin to him attempted same
And swift and sure our number changed to halt
Access to our abode from public ways.

Now soon I thought my resolution comes.
The prosecutor, she who stands for state
And you and me, arrives to verify
The story she's been told and to instruct
Yours truly on witnessing truth and fact.
The trial approaches; justice to be served.

Blesséd is th' one that comes in love of God.
Hosanna in the highest cosmic realm!

Agnus Dei
O Lamb of God, that suffers our distress,
Restore our confident serenity.
O Lamb of God, that knows our agony,
Assure our faith in Your eternal peace.

Trial and Judgment

That day, that day of certain wrath arrived.
Alone I went to do that which I must
So not to need concern for kin and kith.

I sat concerned that I would speak a-right.
As stressed I chatted with my saving cop:
Then I was called ...
Into th' ornate and classic court --
With wooden pews and bars and bench,
And jury box a-listening:

I sat upon the witness chair
And swore to tell the truth, just so.
And there at last I saw him clear:
Assailant mine, in front
With public lawyer white:
So small, so quiet now
Within my raging inner storm.
I glanced, but did not hold his eyes
  --- thankfully.
The jury came in: guilty --
  on every count:
  -- carjacking
  -- purse snatching
  -- assault
  -- crime spree
A week or two ticked, ticked away
And then the judgment: how enough?
The judge invoked his history, life, parole,
Pronouncing eighty years
  and sixty nine before parole.
So goes his life and justice so is done.

But not so resolution, peace or love.

Lux Æternum
Let everlasting light upon me shine
And lead me onto th' path of hope and mercy
Beyond mundane concerns and tribulations;

Lord, give my innocence eternal rest
And let perpetual light illumine my quest.

Wherefore is Forgiveness?

And so, it stands today and tomorrow.
Yet each and every creature, everywhere
Descends from common stuff: the dust of stars
And therefore I am kin to one and all.
Thus, everyone's duress diminishes me
So, "Ask not for whom the bell tolls
   it tolls for thee."
And, therefore, I am kin to Mister J
And his incarceration lessens me.
When, then, shall the bell's toll toll tolling cease?

Libera Me
Deliver me, O Lord, from spiritual death
Of emptiness and aimlessness this day,
This awful day of righteous reckoning,
When comes what prophecy proclaims through th' world:

Shalom of Your beloved community --
The Three in One of freedom, justice, peace.


O Muse, you still disturb my rest and peace,
Presenting me with possibilities
And visions strange of that which ought to be
Or maybe only what could come to be:

I do not know at which moment,
But I can imagine what locale:
Where but his caged and guarded 'hood,
Despairing gray and seething angry bad?
What if ...

Th' inmates, cobrantelopes, arise against
The self-dehumanizingly
Despairing, gray and faceless cell on cell.
Alone to brood and seethe in bitterness
To breathe in rage unnamed and bottomless,
To pace ... pace ... pace from end to end
In cages stark, exposed and glaring bright;
Alone surviving by favored deeds:
With gifts, protection, sex, and drugs to feed
A culture that reflects nefariously
The wider world's addictive self-indulgence.

A great uprising: nothing lost or gain,
Just raw frustration boiling out of them.
The prison, prison life, and guarding staff
Become hostage to savage, fierce demands.
Militarized police surrounding th' walls
Demand surrender, cease or sure assault.
Convicts with makeshift knives and guns around
The yard meander, waiting, wond'ring,
Where to? What more? And Mister J takes power
With gun and knife at warden's throat and heart,
Demanding audience with th' powers that be.
And stand off!
"We don't negotiate with prisoners!"
And so the waiting, waiting, waiting on ...
Impatience, fear, anxiety take hold
And th' awful noose constricts around the walls.
Soon only slaughter can conclude this act.

Then Mister J recalls (the grace of God?)
A minister, his victim. Just maybe.
He calls for him, or death to prisoners!
A hope to bring him out, resolving this,
The troopers race along the pike to fetch
This cleric home ...
... with bullet proof attire I enter th' 'hood
And leave it to the grace of Jesus Christ.


O Muse, you yet again disturb my peace,
Presenting me with yet another scene:
What if ...

I received th' required, on-going notice
That my nemesis while on th' lotus
In hazy anger struck to death a guard
And once again in court, now swift, he starred.
He found no mercy for his sin and crime.
He faced injection, Texas in our time.
We did not give him birth, but life in jail.
How dare we give him death, though he is fell?

Now must I not arise up from my stupor
And stand with him against this sinning super?
His crime's unjustified, yet we are all,
In guilt, rebellious against our call,
And must allow the Spirit room to move
And force her not into our groove.

Before the execution cell I stand
To put in Dissolution's phantom hand
A writ of life and hope
To cut the hangman's rope
And make a world of second chances
That good and bad alike enhances.


A dove spirals over the Pit,
Slowly circling down
  and landing on the cobrantelope's shoulder.
Then other doves appear in the sky.

In formation they spiral down
  and lifts up the cobrantelope.
Another formation spirals down
  and lifts up the hyenalion.
They rise towards the sky together,
  at first growling at each other,
  then at the doves,
Then they are silent...


O, in another alter-life,
Maybe, just maybe, he and I
Comrades together could have been:
He having opportunities
And I among his reaching out.


©2000, John A. Mills