Forgotten Morsels and Turned Tables by Debra Webb Roberts

In this old park, the ancient sentries stand watch

Supervise shushed platitudes and lures of affluence

Beckoning and gloating from the high-rise apartments

With all their varied complexities tucked neatly inside


And billboards doing battle with the true blue sky,

so often laced with gossamer clouds mimicking notions of

“We Got This” and “All Sewn Up”


Here, the threading of The Needle

comes riddled with jet streams and failed dreams

and a patching together the pieces of life

as turbulent as the sea at its feet,

as looming and remote and  resolute

as the stature of the mountains which surround


In this old park, the trees tower over soft, rolling hills

Branching high into the gray as if to gulp greedily

The first drops of coming rain

(…seems it’s always raining here)


And again, the gray squirrels scamper and demand

Rifling through downed and bronzed leaves

Scouring for forgotten morsels


On a picnic table just a few yards off

Yesterday’s Seattle Times flutters in a wind sprite minute

Where, beneath those loose sheets

With their too many remote words

A parka comes to life,a sleeping bag gains an upright advantage

Stretches to the drab sky to grasp at the fleeting rays of sunlight’s warm invitation


I, too, am then stirred- with compassion


So, taking from my family’s small picnic

I dispense with a sandwich, a pop, a small of snacks

Made ever more aware of how quickly

Life’s tables

can turn

Closed Quarters *for DACA* by Debra Webb Roberts

Space shared multiplies,
slices of atmosphere warm
to congenial

where offerings of generous
are portioned, not rationed –
this becomes our giving room

We like tidy edges,
picket fence perfection
until maps reveal untraceable tracks,
crossed boundaries prove Others
left behind to hanging out on the fringe

We’ve elbow room for plenty,
wide brimmed-hats and big boots
boast enormity

Even the stoutest of walls must breathe,
expansion is a door blown wide open –
do we come unhinged at prospect?

Warm welcomes friend and stranger,
empty platitudes tossed aside,
dishing out, instead, the simplest gifts of grace

Here it seems irrational to segregate,
heart’s divided and sometimes stingy cry
for solitude goes unheard, defied
in the expansive act of ushering in

Old modes relearned,
elders taught necessity of compassion :
strangers and angels come, visit;
invitational is to revisit soul’s yearning
for connection

A land, a house, a home of plenty –
proverbial jar of oil never runs dry

Spaces portioned, freely served,
the welcome mat whose face
is worn away for traffic

Love does not divide, nor reduce

Where walls come down
hearts increase in size
souls expand with joy

Perspective From 32,000 Feet by Debra Webb Roberts

Drawing conclusions….
like drawing the blinds mid-day,
the sky too bright for clarity 
and other wise
shrouded by mood

I remember a song
from childhood : you know
one of those pop culture
silly happy joyjoy oft’ mindless
tunes we were compelled to perform —

when Camelot died
and a new king raised his head –
until society fell, mortally wounded

LBJ-isms, cloaked and pointed,
never so clear as black and white,
this melting pot reaching a boiling point,
lids blow, stammering, “kkkkkkkk”

and our poor scared parents
needing some metered assurances
that wars and death would not
always attend our frail journeys

that moon shot, as glorious
as Neal made it seem, was
No Place Like Home

Four score and more,
the decades fly, fall
into resistant pools
bruised and bloodied
and blessed

I’ve looked at clouds
from two sides,

All is transitory,
Everything born from the

from 32000 feet

(c) Debra Roberts 07282017*clouds at 32,000 feet , taken from my airplane window, leaving Denver

The Day Descending into Doubt by Debra Webb Roberts

*for the clinic shootings*
Culture in a petri dish
mouldering, gray
Civility in slow decline
rose pink innocence
sallows, hardens
The end of days
grows long in the tooth
– if only, toothless
Tassles for graduated
seclusion, excels at Nothing
Devolution of good, the bearded ones
dividing lots, split heirs of rhetoric
Find the teacher & the prophet
~ lip-syncing rote confessionals
rehearsed, still unwise
Foresight with cataracts
no envisioning benefit of Age
or ageless Perfection –
aspiration expires, robs breath
Wicked’s inspiration found at ignoble ends,
more telling than rants, than scripts of
madmen’s manifestos malformed,
secluded years & robbing
A final word, one final act
submitting to madness
Lunatics’ fatal fringe
elements untying cords
watch as the world unravels

Tenderfoot by Debra Webb Roberts

This is the ‘WHY’ in my road,
the intersection where I i meet myself,
dissect intentions of a journey to stand
firm or run, again
Reason is a farce,
the make believe that grownups spewed,
telling me everything would make sense

Family magicians sprinkle fairy dust
Historians bury truth like stolen treasure

…said that everything comes full circle,
even as whirling recollections drove me to distraction;
bad tales and numbered days of generations
bound to recalcitrant

(none of it adding up to grand or finale;
blue-blood & ribbons so far back
on the trail of genealogy
that destinations require my own charting

the obvious subtraction in gaining traction,
additional footage of necessary elements ~ plus side ~
still, leaves me outnumbered and hollow
trailing behind the pack of normal and successful;
negatives outweigh positives, I am saddled with a burden
i cannot toss even as miles stretch far into unpredictable futures

zero is a multiplier of empty
of broken promises and dishonest intentions
I jockey for better position, break out
of the pack too crowded, for fear of being trampled)

…said that all things end tidy even as i watched them unravel;
end runs and end pieces spliced, tied in naughts
feeling the bundle of snakes twisting in my stomach,
binding courage to the apple in my throat, threatening to strangle
Splitting hairs required a good eye,
and steady hand, a sharp knife ~
mine dulled by years of use, tongue
lashings and barbed accusations ~ diced hurts
and skin carving ~ faults and folly cut bite-sized pieces
~ easier to choke down

Crow pie is nothing to crow about
foul tasting road kill and sticking points, bony;
family matters picked at like the carcass of a chicken at the dinner table

everyone out of the closet about something; skeletons packed
on pounds, pricking points stuck in my craw ~ still, i choked it down
Stuck at a fork,
already, I pick my own side!

To deviate to Left (behind) or Right (minded)
doesn’t matter; I made up my mind
and said my peace, found that choice
is nothing less than Discipline

Slowly I remove the heels
firmly set my tender feet on solid earth;
for what it’s worth it matters not which road i take

~ every road out of hell and hurt is paved
with burning conviction

Step on a Crack by Debra Webb Roberts

Mother has a crooked neck
a crown of royal pains
too heavy for her head

She’s ravaged every closet,
every shore around the world
Built castles to ensure her clutch
but grip has lost is shine and strength

The peers and piers and moorings loosed
the hunt long done, the goose
is fully feathered and deboned

Island in the sea, afloat
and target for the desperate lot
whose hunger fans the flames of want
each drifting towards that greener shore

No pity found, no coinage left
for desecrated millions rolled,
who sought out refuge in the feathered nest
whose purse strings drawn so tight that all
within its reach shall starve

A Fractured Intervention For “just methin’ around” (cracked pipe dreams) by Debra Webb Roberts

We face your needling need
like sticking points ~ with pain,
poking holes in dreams spun
like silk for a young girl
before the sex and the pipe
and syringe plunged you
headlong to destruction

overcoming any sense you may have had
and leaving only nightmares

father, mother, small steps know dysfunction and the pain
losing precious lots and little bits of self
drown themselves in bottles, clouds of smoke
choke memories of youthful bliss
and innocence now lost for many years

there are tears we weep in private, praying
even as predators lurk to suck you in
shrug at the mug, blood-shot and posted one more time

~ will this mean bars and bars
of unsung months holed up in gray and cold,
habitation keeping you safe, and sane
and hopefully
clean ?

you call we won’t pick up
answers are yours to ponder
amidst the wreckage and the loss
decisions over which you weep, the choices heavy

count the cost, dear child
and turn yourself around
salvation, intervention
lay within the choices that you make tonight

The Pledges We Send by Debra Roberts

Spring in our steps turned heavy today
guilt vanishing with the vanity of youth
flexed once in all its robust bravado

when dutifully charged, Carpe diem!
We sent them shouting, A la vie! A la liberte’!

Is this how we pledge allegiance?
Red-eyed and bruised hearted,
taut-faced and drained of joy

Stone gray slabs lay stark against the living,
lawns laden with concrete idealism
blink into the pristine grounds
so far removed from beating breasts,
and echoes of the silenced tongues felled on foreign soil

Here, the stony sentries stand, again,
Staring down the stain of flagging resolve
Braced knees collapse,
too, bow our heads,
shed tears for the unspeakable

A chorus once,
tho now wholehearted tribute quelled
For crosses mar our pleasant hills
Our loved ones lay in cold repose

An oath which robbed them, every one
which stole away the ardent heart
their soul-shine gone and blotted out
for all who swore to us an vow – Defend and Serve

Eternal names stand carved in stone
History points accusing

Litters by Debra Roberts

When came the imperceptible shift,
cold stir in familiar climes, calamity of calloused winds?
Small comforts for social creatures, drift
and cling, cluster on corners, byways
This is what we cast away,
dispose of nuisance, wipe our
hands and call them clean
There in the alley, at the empty
storefront, pools of unwanted huddle
Move in for a moment,
if you dare approach
see the gray gaze,
the pursed lips, balled
fists driven deep inside
a threadbare trust
faded jeans and worn out souls
– judge a book by its cover,
a civilization by its streets
There on the corner, tattering
the glaring discrepancy points to critical:
High rises and props reflect
fresh paint and concrete coddles nothing
a tree grows in the city, stunted
– the motherless waif, the rough hewn castaways congregate
A sagging awning, their church
Smoke becomes a prayer
before they vanish

Cardboard Biographies by Debra Roberts

This is a story. It is not pulp fiction, written to wring momentary empathy from us so that we can feel good about ourselves — our station, our comforts, our meager charity. This is a cold reality I see regularly, and have seen regularly for the past seven years.
Nebraska and Kansas are magnets, mid-trek stopping points for the long migration coast to coast — not only for migratory birds, but for human beings, too. These two states are center plate of the big melting pot, the Bible belt, the Bread Basket of the world; and I witness the unfolding of a hundred sad stories, as semi-annually, many make their trek from east to west and west to east, each and all chasing friendlier climates.
I watch as a reality show flickers upon the screen of an unkind truth. Again, today, I witness the brutality of disparity – yes, even here in the Bible belt, where pioneers understood the tenuousness of life and were greatly dependent upon the charity of others for survival; where settlers knew the necessity of “sticking by” one’s neighbor meant more than just watching for the smoke to rise from their sod huts. But here, now, this comfortable – and even, affluent – culture, smack dab in the middle of the world’s bread basket, and yet so far removed from those very virtues which made it possible to inhabit — the Have’s are scared and the Have-not’s are depressed and desperate.
A woman waits at the Walmart corner lot, as if firmly staked down. Both she and the sign she bears are as drab as the brown grass under her feet, and turbulent as the wind-whipped air on that stretch of road, on that hill at the top of town.
This is where “they” line up, taking turns by pre-designated (?) days, as if they must cast lots for each turn at the post known for handouts of a meal, of coffee and coin — whose turn for the slim pickings this day, for the other six?
I imagine her, all big-dreamed, now reduced to shy supplication; once-grand ideas diminished to stark print reality, scrawled across a cardboard sign, pleading:
Fallen on hard times
Please help
God Bless!
The sun beats down a promise of sweet charity. My car, others, stop, look, a window rolled down to openness & a kind gesture. “‘Tis better to give than receive.” How much I’ve been given. Even having ‘worked for it’ – “it” is a gift, the result of the gift “to work.” And so the kind-hearted stop and give. The good-hearted andwise thinking, “this could be me.”
Down the road, another day, she thinks: A ticket out, if just enough; a bus to take her far away, a train, a ride to anywhere but Here.
This is her Ground Zero. It’s always Ground Zero. But here, the tinkling coins paraphrase a cache, collecting all she can of help beyond the spot of notoriety, unwanted, singling out.
I know there’s a difference between she and I. It was only a break in the weather; the one which brought me fairer winds, the other passing her over and by.
You can’t judge a book by its cover. Some biographies are written on paper, some on gilded leather,while others glare back from the cheap cardboard refuse littering the landscape behind one outpost representing one of the richest families in the world!
The end of this story is yet to be decided. The true measure of the heroine or hero:
How one lands when one falls.

Into the Dark by Debra Webb Roberts

a cell
as one more
is ripped to shreds

pieces of a few –
a bit of all of us, you know –
in fragments, scattered

litter in the streets chime in
an arsenal of change – chagrin –
of rage, of accusation

pointing, Whom?

so much for light
for city’s declaration


a slow burn
lighting nothing

a slow return
to hate

enter, again,
the dark ages
and a plague

farenheit by Debra Webb Roberts

Stark absence of rain
with no reprieve, hope
sings a lame song,
mock mercy

dry season for hearts,
humanity ground to dust,
civility razed, eyes behold
bruised souls, no water
for tears, weeping ceased
ten thousand days

bombs and fire, heat
still heart’s resolve
beats Freedom, barred
behind their heaving cages

rail at images, rage at meals of terror,
see sad bellies too full of horrors

decry cruel merchants of death
delivering slabs, collecting shreds

savage earth, its few parched souls,
we wring our hands, perspire despair

Newsworthy by Debra Webb Roberts

I had a bright idea
until it faded into black,
Image of the you-and-I
walking on a sunlit beach

But sun has set, we find instead
the golden years are at the door,
tsunamis storm the hopeful shores,
we watch as world go down the tubes

The drain that runs, incessant
faucet’s drip, the Never Fixed,
tumultous spill of wounded hearts
and leaking souls of all of us

This news is matter, matters more or less
We learn that we are not noteworthy,
worth mention only for the rich, the stars,
the villain and the victims

We sit crouched and stupefied
somewhere in the in-between,
mouths agape in horror, eyes
fixed upon the glowing screen

Big picture warped, in comfort here obscured,
the truth is bent in half, again, lay somewhere lost
around the reach of Reason

A tear that might be shed – or two
will wet the cloth of comfort’s hold
resembles not the bloodbath
that we witness every night



Friday is Garnets by Debra Webb Roberts

lead in and
bait, tight smile
and a switch

buttoned down

as another week

begins covered in pink,
soft, roundness & opulescence
of pearls – wishing this were
the way it was
(holding our breath)

by Wednesday
the colors more intense
This is the news
of world and home
televised fare, war
and woes, life explodes
leaves untraceable clues

(ferrets out the details for us)

Friday, in merlot drape
and garnet sparkle, world

aflame and we cringe at fires,

know how this goes

(transcends decades – we’ve seen it all before)

Roll call

bloody Fridays

(“here are another five”) 

camera pans out, away

(holding our breath)

Hoping that Monday
brings news  that is
paler, less

(c) Debra Roberts 06052015
*watching Judy Woodruff on Friday night 
wearing a merlot dress and garnet jewelry

bartenders and fires by Debra Webb Roberts

Bartenders, all
each one serving
up cocktails


and cheapening

drink in the reign of storms

Somewhere among shadows,
where dark covers the night

of souls, a bomb explodes,

and fears implode a city

anger carves out bitter paths,

displays the gaping wound

fires of indignation 

How to make amends?

(c) Debra Roberts 06012015

*Los Angeles/Rodney King

*Ferguson, MO/Michael Brown

*Baltimore, MD/Freddie Gray 

Thin excuses and tin cups by Debra Webb Roberts

I have showed you all things, how that so labouring you should support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how  HE said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. – The Apostle Paul as quoted in  (The) Acts  (of the Apostles )  20:35 

a coin for my tin cup, my friend?
Sop for my bowl
thin broth and fluid faith
equally thinning by the day

hope is a coat upon my back
the cape you left behind
ragged around the edges
while you kept your distance
threadbare intent

and i see you
hovering on the corner
sizing up options

thank you
for this one act,
my friend

a word of cheer,
a smile, and i am warmed
a little on the inside,
belly only slightly filled
but this heart
goes singing into the rain

(c) Debra Roberts 11142013

The Economics of Spring by Debra Webb Roberts

There is no Arab Spring,
but only the slow demise,
the sad, eternal holocaust
for power and land and oil – djr 11052012 

Silent are the footfalls in the dust
Dreams blown up as powder ‘neath their feet
Absent are the bouyant steps of spring-ing trust
Heavy are the mourning wearing black and borne with grief

No green limbs of canopy to shield The Dream
No vibrant, lilting lift rustling the verdant overhead
Instead a blackened earth lay wide, the gaping wound
bleeds dread, engulfs the grays of wooden borne on
sad and broken backs, deposit to the wicked rifts with ashen face
following the asking Why, in sackcloth draped and stained with tears
more common than the rains of spring

~ ~

Anoints itself with darkened oil, that villain horde
Kneels within confessionals soiled with stench of death
Contrition wears a flimsy veil, penance paid in desert’s wail of smitten
Indulgences are purchased by the conflagrating rich
Deals made with the devil line the streets with blood and putrifaction

For in this world obsessed with flowing crude and black
There is no time, no place for turning back the tide of ills
Means to bitter ends stand guardian at the gates
Blockading sense, compassion maimed, defend their greed
Tattered are the fallen flags, the vestiges of war in flesh
Ripped, the rags of personage, and so it is we reap
the tears of crocodiles with teeth, though truly unrepentant


Eden raped, in shambles shamed,
The Garden rent, polluting flames
Sands of time e’er turning and adrift
Ripped the tides and tables turned
Life is spurned and spent as waters turning fetid

Communal and the pastoral shred for nothing gained
Incinerate humanity and dies for lack of thirst
The oil flows, still drips in scorched
The whole earth dark and stained with blood


We found no band of brothers there
Marauding sons of Esau sell
mothers for a loaf of bread
Betraying love of land and fathers dead
Sons of Balaam bargain with the brutes for gold
Wicked seeds will overrun the Rose of Sharon’s wilting heads
A stiff-necked empire crumbles underfoot in carrion fields

Where soldiers sought their fortunes made of ruin
Toss their lamed and impotent onto pyres of funerals
Rip the innocent and babes from arms of mothers
Desecate the saintly tombs, pay homage to the gods of broken


Faith is but a mask from which they hide behind
For centuries of stony hearts filled with greed are blind
Where Tribal lights the fuse, ignites the ruse for plunder
and powers of the moment turn the living into graves

They build foundations cut in sand, new constructs, new collapse
Mirror the jaded images lacking nothing of the Old
and mimick at the slightest hint and shade of contrast
and formed with cold indifference to the price they pay for war

Mindless beasts, these men, who band themselves by rules,
twisted up in doctrine’s spin, convenient set of tools
They strain at gnats and swallow camels choking on The Deal,
tethered to the annals of the generations’ wars
when Faith is faked for propagandized fools and scarred
and Jacob’s sons still wander in the desert


We gifted them with weapons formed of choice and pity
We pledged allegiance to the blood of nations laid to waste
Protected dragons raining fire on their cities
Convenience snuffs the light of truth, exploding in our face

Guilt runs black-gold rivers dripping from an evil brood
and buries in the sands of hate the flags forever waved for tight
lipped men with iron fists

We kissed the palms of kings to squeeze the life from land and friend
Unfathomable their depths of greed for power’s unseen ends
Unquenchable the fires burn and strafe the scorching sands

And promises for futures blown in arsenals of angry words
Fanatics chanting vows to death more pure to them than seeking peace

We raised them up and built their dreams
where time ticks off in shifting sands
and coffins are the price of drums
and barrels are the tickets stamped

We wipe our hands on crimson cloth for gold and silver

(c) Debra Roberts 11052012 

as oceans clutch the stain of skin by Debra Webb Roberts

To swallow oceans, brother
Tell me, did I know the scent of
your sweet breath? All the world
lay now bereft – the softest voice,
your going down to kiss Poseidon’s feet
and jagged cries comes rising from the depths

‘Tis war that drove you far away
some wretched coast of rock
and inhospitable, where no soft landing
found at pillowed sand, at welcome shore
might greet

From rocking sea the stars
and night sky witness to the wrecks
the heaving hulls of capsized hopes
of all who never will attain to dreams

but spit into the chasms deep
the canyons raging ‘mong the froth
of cruel seas, where not one light
of ship or sail displayed, nor hailed
to save your sinking frame

With voice as one, with breath
from all our human strength,
a prayer may rise, invoke the gods
to intervene

But emptied hulls to travesties attest,
and mourning sight of brothers beaten
down, to sorrow’s point that most do
flee their homes

As kindred souls from distant perch
do watch, with candles lit, our vigil keep,
and sail to meet the migrant throng,
to snatch from death the brother
fleeing wrong

until that day the ravaged lands to
war laid waste, the ocean steeped
in bruising blues forevermore be stained

found teeming there in blacks and browns,
the flesh of refugees of hate, detained,
gone sinking into fathoms deep, mute
testaments to glory’s hope, salvation
found by many, at rest within a watery grave

the winds bereft by Debra Webb Roberts

Wayward whispers fall here like old leaves,
remembering last autumn’s collapse,
how cries to Allah, skyward sent,
entreaties in the face of Death,
evaporate in dust
While in another winter’s cruel
clutch a brutal chill invades, again,
while city sleeps in ravaged hold
to edicts of of impatient graves

With rapt attentativeness I pause,
strain the yearning ear toward flaws
– world of joy comes interrupted by
one cruel twist – to listen for the voices
caught in cried refrains
Again, again, so many words
of tears and lamentation, spun
into the skies as invocations, imploring
to their God who seems forgetting
sand and dust, as dervishes are whipped
about and flames of hell invade the strangled
lungs – sad tongues fallen silent
and forever stilled
But, oh! the words, so many words
and more than i can count, stirred
among the stars, adrift as listless clouds
come calling, waiting here to rain

My station here, to sit as witness
to their crash, while young ones fall from
broken, their familial branch too stained,
their skinned knee sobs, their rasping throbs
proclaim again bruised pride
How tenderly I’d hoped to grasp their pains,
lament with them the detonated bomb,
and leveled plane of landscapes once called home
From here I cannot rescue, nor reach
so far to clutch and hold, though heart
does stir within that I could sweep them
up, restore

And here, again, the fallen voice,
the cries of children’s mothers
relinquishing reliefs, their prayers
in repetitious echoes tossed into
the skies, where children cry, forever
children cry