The Flags

Artists of all kinds, this prompt is for you!

Artists of all kinds, this is a prompt for you. See the photo above? Share with me your inspiration in a poem, painting, song, dance, whatever, and I’ll express my heartfelt thoughts about, or with your interpretation. I’ll post them as they come in on special featured posts. I can’t post videos or MP3s, but I’ll figure something out.

On Earth Day, I participated in the March for Science in Bellingham, Washington, and earthy it was. I listened to the poetry of scientists, ecologists, and the like all informing us of the threats they face as a community, and the threats we face as the human race. For some reason these three large flags waving together in the wet wind intrigued me. My only vantage point was behind the stage, so the flags are backwards.

I first noticed the large “Trump for President” flag being waved right next to the stage. My first thought was, “Okay…ballsy.” But right next to it was another flag; a large flag of planet Earth. No text, just Earth with a blue background. My next thought was, “Look at her, Mr. President, please look at her waving next to you. Let this sink in and change your mind. The two of you are waving together, please let that be the case.”

The Resist flag then made it’s appearance. I refused to go to the place of tug of war. I wanted to believe the Trump flag and Resist flag were sharing the Earth flag. Their unity, or battling, in this scene could mean so many things with so many possible outcomes. What do you think?


From Emily To Dad


The sweetness of a flower, Emily;

The gentleness of meadow down, a skill

Whose soul is brevity; a wit to thrill

With master strokes levity. A plea

For nature plied your pen. Aesthetically

Enchanted men do kiss those lips now still.

Yet, even Death and Time cannot unwill

Those lyric steeds that prance poetically.

O Virgin ravished by Erato, who

Begot a summer’s day, a lovely lea,

A humming bird; o Bride of Beauty, do

Make room within your chariot for me.

Such verses as define “a funny fellows,”

A lign with Byron’s rhyme and Milton’s bellow.

©November 26, 1962, Donal E. Doyle (b. 1933)

The author of this poem, Donald Edward Doyle, is my father. We are both fans of Emily Dickinson. One of my favorite Christmas gifts my parents ever gave me was The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson. Though obvious, it was still revealed to me that it was my father’s idea to get it for me.

This post would be the longest digression ever about Dad’s history. I want to simply dedicate this space for private poets such as my father, and even Emily. Both of them had almost a secret relationship with their art their whole lives. Yet, keeping their poetry to themselves was not always by choice.

I wrote a short poem for Dad (or about him) a couple of years ago based on a video I saw. He was performing a dark and beautiful ballad on the piano. But as the video continued, it revealed something less. The artist is doing his job, the beholders are not. The ordinary minimizing the extraordinary.

the lens focuses
on young, old, and mundane
shallow chatter dominates
the camera’s interest
even in passive-aggressive lighting
attention merely winks at
the illuminated artist
his piano ballad will haunt memories
without creating them

I hear you, Dad.


Happy Poetry Month.

Big Different World

Big Different World

I want to see everyone.
I want to see everyone sitting
and standing and talking together,
working together,
partaking in differences.
Share your differences with me.
I want to hear your stories
as they stretch my mind.
I’m not afraid to handle 
how small I really am 
to our big different world.
I can face where I am incompetent
and you are skilled.
I will render unto you my entitlements
where you are denied.
Let’s see each other 
as we move, sleep.
Changing me won’t make you happy.
Feeling you as less won’t raise me.
But our energetic exchange
of passions, of ourselves
is with eye contact.

Image: “Weird Beauty” a project by the Russian photographer Alexander Khokhlov in collaboration with great make-up artist Valerya Kutsan.

The Heat of Hope


Pressed down by iron black
Unimaginable cold
Cold darkness, cold blackness
We sit, move
Separated enough to touch nothing
Isolated frozen dark

Enters hope

The heat of hope
Warmth in the dark
The Antarctic dark
Self generated calories
In the unbreathable dark
Enough for now
There is no light
Nothing in sight
A wasteland has no trails
But walk
Keeping your core temperature
From falling

When I hear hope described as a “ray of light,” I go dark.  Symbolizing hope as a means of illumination is to say one can see ahead because of it. As if hope is a predictor of the future. I will argue instead that hope keeps one going under tough circumstances to create the desired future. So I associate hope with heat.

Hope as light is a beautiful image. And coincidentally, light is often associated with warmth.  Technically, nobody projects actual light (rare people who can light a light bulb in their mouths is another discussion). But we do incubate, or wrap up ourselves in warmth for good measure. A loose analogy for hope can be described as wearing a good winter coat in a snow storm. Shining a light into a snow storm may reveal the severity of what someone is up against, but in itself doesn’t help one survive.

Does hope really create anything? Energetically and emotionally, I think so. Tangibly and quantifiably, not so much. But we can all agree that hope is one hell of a motivator. Ignited by inspiration, and self generated. Collectively, it can be powerful. Perhaps hope-light projects what can be, but hope-heat drives one long enough to forge what one is hopeful for.


The Pain of Joy

(Image above by Helena Bergenrud)

Suffering Joy

This is one of those nights

You know, the kind you don’t want to end

The kind when the moon is your friend

I don’t want it to end

Songs love me

The music was vein blood

Rushing blue cold

Oozing brutally purple

Mineral of a human

I fucking loved it

Such cruelty

When you have to get over joys

As if I’ve been wounded

I have to heal from my happiness

Pain from pain is easy to explain, to feel, to hate, to fear. An action considered an attack, harmful, or distructive is honest. But when joy feels like an assault, how does one recover? Happiness is a loss, not a means to an end. So it hurts more than it feels good.

Think of something that moves all the atoms and ghosts within. The ache of amped up energy alone can be paralyzing. That certain something that moves the soul is now associated with pain. I’ve stopped listening to certain songs, even albums, for that very reason. I have left a concert worse off emotionally than when I arrived because it was a perfect night.

Perhaps it’s some strange contradictory phenomenon. Or possibly positive emotional overload. Highs, orgasms, laughter, and the such are all fleeting, which is why in their own paradox they suck. In the before, during, and after of a happy moment, we know it will end. That dread that the gnat life span of feeling good was never meant to be to begin with.

So we keep coming back for more, as a way to tie the timing together of each moment to make one long lifetime of joy.  Despite how much I may hate it, I will take every second of joy I experience. I can handle the price of pain of happiness.


I think I feel
a little bit of madness
The words are moving
The voices are singing
The room is empty
I am filled with company
I think I’ve been touched
by a little bit of madness
The shadows are trembling
The music is spiraling
Eat and drink
Invisible feast
It’s madness I preach
Join in my drummer’s beat
I’m free, I’m free
The madness in me

Do you ever have one of those days when you don’t know what the fuck to do with yourself? *right hand up* Having one! So I made a Dutch Apple Pie. Feel better.


The Day After

The Day After

The rubble smolders

We may have to wait

Before we can start cleaning up

There is healing after surgery

Stop. Heal

I keep thinking 

It’s just a matter of time

Every year that passes

I better pick up more pills

Pick up a pen

I have a Frankenstein monster heart

Pieces of many, stitched together by 

A surgeon with limited resources 

The day after. A voice, a rose, a cat, anything for relief. There’s fear after the loss. Feel like a wasteland, it’s okay. Natural. Is it sand? Is it snow? The ocean? Darkness? In loss, we seem to see only the best and worse parts of ourselves; the white and black. There is no gray. We hold fast to the center ball of the pendulum swinging between the two sides every minute. At least we can keep still. Stillness in the sudden silence.

Loss will sterilize the air and leave a mess. Let the mess reflect you. The air will keep you breathing.

Loss is a long walk. You won’t know you were transforming until you are transformed. But that’s a long walk away. For now, remain under a tree, on a horse, in bed.

There is a ripple effect to loss. I’ve experienced one that wasn’t mine, but I surfed a wake. And out and out it goes. You’re never alone. When the tide comes back through the undertow it returns love, sand, nutrients, darkness, clarity, sharp shells, and the unknown.

You’re molecules hold you together in an erratic world. They clash, then stabilize, clash, stabilize, but hold you in one piece, more or less. One step at a time, tomorrow. Hold on, the day after.

©2017, Valerie Marie Leslie



Black Feathered Mystery



I’m awake now

Gray blue melted morning

Close enough to the window

You seem to follow me

From pine tree to palm tree

A tangible shadow

Occupying each other’s space

I can’t take cover

Spirit animals are supposed to find you. However, people have expressed encountering their animal in a dream like state, or a strong affinity to what they believe to be their “it” animal.  I never even heard of a “spirit animal” until, I think, mid last decade. And not because I was told something or became intrigued – I fell under attack.

The crow is the only animal I’ve had repeatedly weird experiences with. Usually a single crow is the culprit; only one out of my many encounters has been with multiple. The small murder occurrence was my day of awakening.

Trees lined my power walk along a park trail. Sunny, so I wore my black baseball cap, warm, slight breeze, several people there but nowhere near crowded. On a mission to sweat and clear my head, a few crows in one of the trees started making a fuss while I walked passed. Caw Caw. The trail was short so I would go back and forth a few times. I came back from the other direction, same thing, Caw Caw! I came back around, and what was a fuss was now a commotion. CAW CAW CAW! Passer-byres were noticing the noise, too; they would look up and around, but nothing to stir them because the crows would quiet down at some point. Still arrogant enough to think the crows’ hysteria had nothing to do with me, the next time I passed by the crows started circling above me, then swooped down over me. The other park patrons are now staring at me, and the scene I’m in. CAW CAW CAW! About the third time the crows (I believe three crows, probably two, but it seemed like three) swooped near my head, I finally took pause to realize, I’m their threat! As I watched them circling, CAW CAW, swooping, CAW CAW, I understood. I took off my cap. They circled and cawed, but did not swoop. I started walking away, turning back to watch what happens, they started landing in the trees. Caw Caw. The scene diminished.

I’m still skeptical of this spirit animal belief. Do I really have one? Do I have to have one? Through the years a crow will disturb my sleep, stand right next to me without flinching, and arrive everywhere I go, even out of the country. Do I feel a bond? No! When I finally looked into spirit animals I was pissed that my animal was possibly the crow. “That fucker?! What the hell does that say about me?!” I have felt a connection with other animals, but they remain docile in their influence on me. I decided to accept this ‘of course my animal would be an asshole’ fate, and pay attention like I’m supposed to. Is it real? I don’t know. Could the crow actually be the wrong animal? Possibly.

The first real thing I learned about crows is that they are in fact extremely intelligent creatures. Then come to find out they harness the power and insight I lack. Do I have respect? Yes.  So, technically speaking without any intention on my part, the crow picked me… rudely because it’s rude, but none the less, I can’t escape it.

©2017 Valerie Marie Leslie

Domino Number One

The window stands between me and the violence of rain

I watch it come after me

But I am safe

So, here we are. Blog post number one. A place for expression, thoughts, ideas, and observations. I gravitate towards the dark, sad side of life. Not to wallow, but to deepen my understanding of human suffering, ego, wisdom, and elevation. One of our biggest human mistakes is to deny the abysmal parts of ourselves, as if we are better than our own complexity. To be the fullest, most whole individuals we can be, shouldn’t we look in the eye of every part of ourselves? Or is that a monster of too many eyes?

Private journaling and creative writing sometimes feels like merely an echo chamber. As long as art, and self expression breathes freedom, I want them to be alive and well here. Not comfortable, but purposeful.