Breaking Hearts, Broken Children

The shootings here in the Springs, and then yesterday again, in a Virginia Walmart…So many families and communities torn open, devastated because of insanity with a gun in hand.

The guns are a problem, but insanity is the bigger one. Sane people can manage their guns with safety and good sense. The biggest problem here is how easily the insane can acquire guns, can walk around with them unchallenged in many states. Could it be we need to address the insanity that is a product of a terribly dysfunctional society, even more than the prevalence of guns?

How would we even begin?

Honestly, I think we have begun already. Parenting is changing to more wholesome models in many places, and that’s the first step. So many of the people I know who are having kids in these past several years are bringing new awareness to the emotional needs of children, the developmental stages, the ways kids perceive and collect knowledge, learn empathy and understanding. It’s nothing like 100%, and never will be. Maybe it’s more like 20%. But in the ways of societal change, that’s a great start!

Traditions of punishment and belittlement will hang on a long time, because so many generations have deep roots in that model of childhood–that children are essentially bad; that children are blank slates to be written over by authority’s plans and desires; that children are worth nothing in themselves and are no more autonomous than barnyard animals or other chattels.

The other end of that spectrum, of course, is that children are special to the point of being royalty, and accorded the privileges of princes and tyrants. 

As I see it, children are born savage in terms of society’s needs and expectations. Raising them is all about teaching them the benefits of civility.

Children come as whole people into the world, nothing like a blank slate, and they need to be understood as such, respected for their own personalities that they exhibit from as early as the hour of their birth. They are for a time their parents’ responsibilities, but not their possessions. 

They need to learn that their choices lead to consequences, very often unforeseen and startling and even sometimes very unpleasant. Kids need to learn how to foresee, how to manage consequences through their choosing strategies: to control impulse and emotional reacting. 

Of that supposed 20%, well-parented children will become better parents to their own children, and the of unbroken children will rise. That’s how societies evolve, by generations rather than by terms of office, or by laws coming and going. It’s how society grows from its own infancy through the tumult of adolescence to finally achieving maturity. 


I am not a tootsie roll
wrapped up to keep off lint and dirt.
I am a human being.
I have personhood and dreams
ambitions, likes, desires,
yearnings and creative fires…

I have a life to live
that is my own.

I have just angers,

I have boundaries,
not yours.

How ignorant
how arrogant
how mean of you
to think me nothing
but your lollipop.

CL Redding 2014

Pioneer Cafe, Montana Morning

Ladies of a Certain Age
girls no more
except in the heart:
What Life has given
you have taken
despite the dreams you had,
despite intentions and resistance;
Age acquiring resilience
for survival’s sake
when life is hard
or dull beyond endurance.

Power in the circle
around the cafe table
every morning, every day
except Sundays, maybe:
Ladies, old and aging
socializing despite,
because of Life;
finding, making, 
sharing power
’round this table…
and resilience,
and amusement–
even some days, joy!

The Pert Young Thing
with young good-looking Fella
full of certainty, resolve
and years-to-come
prances past in her low-cut denims
perky T and perm of wild curls…
She spares not a glance
towards Ladies
of a Certain Age.
Her dreams, her angers
her determination 
not yet tested, not yet tried
nor slapped around by Life–
as long as Fella’s true
and things continue looking up.

The Ladies come and go;
pull in the extra chair 
as needed.
The conversation 
does not lag–
not often, anyway,
does the stream
of interaction fail,
fall into gaps
of silence–
pensive individuality
for just an instant,
before the shield
of gossip, cheery news
and practicalities
asserts itself again.

There is no evil spoken
at this early hour
over coffee, cream,
the solace of bacon
and well-buttered toast,
oatmeal with raisins…
No, in the morning 
hope and cheer
and charity prevail…

The Ladies of a Certain Age
observe the Pert Young Thing
and know–
her chair is waiting.

CL Redding 2007


Sitting warm enough
at my window, watching
through the weeks,
the leaves all turning,
dying, flying–
Autumn draining of its color,
of its spicy scents and all
its memories of Summer…

Winter churns and blows
not so distantly it blusters
up among the peaks,
breathes out across the plains,
all flurrying and hurrying
to reclaim the air,
the land, the bleak
it seeks to hide
beneath the shimmering
romance of snow,
the lovely shine
and treachery of ice.

I will delight in snow
dancing in the air,
muffling the day,
or through the night,
laying down a counterpane
of fine, unsullied white…

Later, though, when layering
for warmth and style
have been no fun for
quite a while,
yearning will impose
upon pleasure,
upon patience,
and eagerly
I will be counting
off the days
until the green mists
of another Spring.

CL Redding November 2022

Ashes in the Oracle’s Mouth

Helen, oh Helen!
You silly git!
You pretty face,
You great lack-wit!

Paris, perspective
was never your strength
Just please yourself
at any length!

big as a bull
your heart pumps blood
and that is all.

greed for power
scours your life line
hour by hour.

as honest as killers come–
kill and be killed
is your personal sum.

Hector, oh Hector,
where else could you end
but dragged beyond death
your mouth full of sand.

Homer, great Homer,
Troy’s yours for the giving–
I know, I know, Poet–
writing– well, it’s a living…

By CL Redding 2004, revised 2022


Across the abyssal plain,
in waters weighted with the entire ocean
and as utterly black as night can be,
lit only by the thrashing sparking flaring
of creatures bizarre by any notion
of ourselves, the lubberly kind…

Across these heavy deeps
in measured tread of little feet crustacean,
they march, determined in their quest
with thoughts in mind, if there is any thinking,
of dancing fandangos in slow motion
with lady lobsters, fair and fine…

Across the rippling sands
the lobsters march in single-file profusion
parading to their dancing grounds
driven by intent of reproduction
with no digression or confusion
Miles of lobster swains divine…

copyright February 2005  by CLRedding

THE MAGIC HOUR  a sonnet of art and age

Stare not at the Sun, we’re oft reminded,
But in the Magic Hour, as the Poets tell
Eyes can gaze and be not blinded–
The day’s work’s done, for good or ill.

The Farmer comes home from the field,
The Baker from the baking;
The Vintner casks the final yield,
The Maker ceases making…

The Magic Hour, the Artist cherishes–
The Hour of rosy-golden light–
The Hour as the daylight perishes,
Before the final fall of night…

The last bird sings, his song transcending
All labors and trials of the day that’s ending.

CL Redding 2006


I thought you’d live forever, though I know it can’t be so–
I’ve always known I’d lose you, though I thought you’d never go…
There’d be time some perfect day to speak the long-unspoken word,
To tell you all I needed to, to be sure that you had heard…
That there’d be time to listen, to show how much I care
To be sure you know I love you, before you aren’t there.

But I have been so busy, and believed you’d always be
within my voice’s reach, and where my eyes could turn and see
that you are waiting, smiling, until my moment’s best
for attending to your moment, all those words and all the rest…
But time grows short–the leaf, it fades, falls drifting through the air
And it will touch the ground and still, before I can be there.

Sorrow, for the incomplete, the tales and songs unfinished…
Guilt, for all the chances passed so both our lives diminished…
Loss, for opportunities that knocked time and time again…
Anger, that you left too soon, and never warned me when…
Shame, because it is my fault, for the things I never gave
because it was so much easier to think you’d never leave.

by CL Redding revised Nov 2022

Autumn Storm

The earth does what it does
and always has–

Storm bellowing,
Flood rushing,
And the reeds bend;
Trees sway and sometimes
go roots up;
The waters wild
sweep the land
forgetting former banks
erasing dams
the diligent beaver built.


The tempest swoops in
off the ocean
where it trained,
charging like a heavyweight
out of his corner,
the ancient weather vane
sets the ponies running in the wind;
the last of autumn’s fire
off the swaying trees–
They, and later
the weather vane as well
fly on the wind,
the ponies
whipped up as wild
and rambunctious
as the lashing rains.

in tree-top nests disrupted
learn to fly
and small birds hide
as best they can
and cats
of independent disposition
come inside

Where we, close-huddled
by the fireplace
hope that the wood
already in the house
will be enough,
have candle lanterns ready
and flashlights
close to hand,
with extra batteries…

The kids are energised,
taking it in turns,
cranking on the new-fangled
old fashioned swamp-radio
that never needs a battery replaced,
and praying for a sudden cold
and maybe feet of snow,
and make extravagant plans…

Even when the blast
exhausts itself
to fitful gusts
and wanders off,
the rain drums on,
a flat percussive
drumming over-head…

The water fills
the hollows of the land
and saturates the soil,
drives out small rodents
from their earth;

And even the dog is whining
that, in fact,
he’d rather not go out
but must, he must,
oh dear,
and not alone…

And the water buckets down
and drums and drums
and finally lulls
the last of us to sleep,
that flashlight by the bed…

The dawn comes
luminous and calm–
as if the weather
never had a single
brutal thought,
never blustered,
never raged,
never came in reeling
like a drunk,
never loosed the ponies
nor beat the land to
sodden helplessness…

The day comes on
gently, cheerfully,
the light a little harsher
through trees denuded
their columns etched and dark,
still gleaming with the wet…

Birds sing,
Squirrels scold,
Cats consider going out,
The dog can hardly wait!

The kids are disappointed
not really getting
what disaster is…

And someone must go out
and find the weather vane
then climb up the misty roof
and put it back
onto its naked pole.