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Shadows reaching down out of trees, petals fluttering to the moon, lovers' hearts embracing on distant roads. Welcome to the moonlit world of Gerard John Conforti's tanka. Here you will find a sweeping panorama of romance and emotion. Though it is enclosed by the theme of love and restricted to a strict poetic form, within these limits Conforti's poetry spreads a rich tapestry of images and a musical array of rhythms and melodies.

Tanka is new to the west. Among the various genres related to haiku that have been adapted from the Japanese language into English, such as senryu, haibun, and renga, tanka has up until very recently been the least amenable to adaptation. Though some of the Imagists were influenced by tanka early in the century, as were some of the poets of the San Francisco Renaissance in the '50s_such as Kenneth Rexroth_there had been only a few isolated attempts to bring the form itself into English until the recent tanka explosion of the last few years, which though centered on the west coast has spread across the country. This proliferation, growing out of the haiku community and its publications, has been spearheaded by Jane Reichhold's annual contest for tanka and the books and magazines devoted to the genre that she has edited and published_plus her own work of composing tanka and writing tanka criticism.

Since it has received enthusiastic encouragement from Reichhold for a number of years, Conforti's work constitutes one of the blossoms resulting from this flowering of the tanka. The translations from Japanese and the original works of tanka printed in haiku magazines that provided the seeds for this recent profusion of the form will no doubt be documented in some future history of the genre. The earliest successful English-language tanka that I am aware of are those of Michael McClintock and Sanford Goldstein both of whom were writing them in the '70s.



Though these two poets write their tanka in five lines they do not use a set syllable count. And both have chosen to write in the modern style of Ishikawa Takuboku (1886-1912). Writing in an ironic, wry tone, with an almost Kafkaesque-like examination of the self, rather than in the classic Japanese lyric style which deals with romantic love. Before and after Takuboku tanka have usually celebrated the joys or lamented the griefs of such love. The genre is one of the earliest forms of poetry in Japanese. Tanka appear in Japan's first literary collection, the Manyo-shu of the 8th century A.D., and there, too, have to do mostly with love affairs. This lyric form seems to naturally lend itself to subjective feelings-love and longings of the hear - in contrast to the more objective focus of the haiku, which relates us to nature and the ordinary things of the everyday world.

Yet when Americans have tried to emulate their Japanese counterparts by writing tanka to communicate their romantic feelings, the result has often been an embarrassing gush of sentimental language. Written with trite and clichéd phrases, many of them sound insincere and contrived. And they have lacked a musical sense of rhythm. Gerard Conforti, on the other hand, is a poet for whom the form seems made to order for writing about love. And though he uses it in a traditional way as far as form and subject matter are concerned, he has brought a fresh and original approach to it.

Conforti, who is also an excellent haiku poet, has been able to adapt the tanka in such a way as to transform his feelings of love into poems of simple beauty. A beauty of both language and image. In language, because he is able to speak so easily in syllabic form. Many American poets have opted to write tanka in a loose, free form, retaining only the five part arrangement from the Japanese - writing them in five lines without any set syllable count. Conforti has found that using 5 and 7 syllable lines with the 5 lines falling into the pattern of 5-7-5-7-7, as in the Japanese, he can express his feelings in a musically effective way. Though certainly not the first to use this strict form in English, he has demonstrated a facility with it rarely seen before.

We have to go back to the Elizabethan sonnet to match the stately and formal measures that this poet often achieves in poems less than half as long. An unobtrusive, natural sounding iambic beat underlies most of these poems, with enough variation to give each tanka its own distinctive rhythmic and melodic imprint. He breaks the rhythm in startling, yet musical ways, reminding me of how Thelonious Monk would play "between" the keys. Though they can call to mind the elevated speech of the Elizabethans, at the same time they are as modern in sound and image as the poems of Georg Trakl or Charles Simic.

There is much to admire about the imagery of Gerard John Conforti's tanka. His poems capture in a fresh way the mysterious power of such primal images as the moon, shadows, mist, and falling leaves. They become so vivid the shadows of the leaves seem to blow across the page as we read. The poet evokes the shadowy landscapes of both the mind and the earth itself to give the reader a sense of the strangeness and mystery that lie beyond the gates of birth and death. And he movingly expresses a belief in the power of love to overcome the suffering that life entails.

Conforti, like the Scots poet Robert Burns, has written fervent love songs to several sweethearts. They make up most of the tanka in this volume. Others are written to friends and the memory of his brother. The poet dedicates almost all his tanka: " The reason I make so many dedications is because my poetry, as well as my friendship, is all I have to give which is special to me. . . . since I don't have money to give, I can give my poems which are more valuable to me than any material thing. Poetry makes me happy and I'm happier when I can give them out to people who are special to me and who have encouraged me to keep writing."



n reading these tanka, the reader must participate in the creative process not only by letting the words come alive in the mind and heart, but also to search out the melody and rhythms in the poem. Conforti uses very little punctuation. No periods at all. So the reader must often decide where to pause. Sometimes the third line can be read with the first two lines, and then the last two lines by themselves. So the poem breaks into 3 and 2. Or the third line can be read twice, as part of the first two and in a slightly different way as a part of the last two. So it becomes like a 3 and 3. Sometimes the poem has a continuous flow and there is no real break, the pauses being very slight.

Often there is a best way to read the lines for the most pleasant music and meaning. For example in the following poem, I find it best to read it with a pause after the second line and then to read the following three lines as a new sentence:

Not even in love
does the rose live forever
on the thorny hedge
the early falling snowflakes
melt on the withering buds

The next poem provides an obvious example of the iambic beat which underlies the rhythm of many of Conforti's poems. But where would you break this tanka?

The rippling raindrops
fall upon the light of lakes
encircling the stars
dreaming in the midnight skies
a wandering lonely cloud

This might be read with a pause after the the second or third line. With the pause after the 2nd, the cloud is encircling the stars and it is the stars that are dreaming. If you wait to pause after the third line, it will be the raindrops that encircle the stars, by spreading ripples around their reflections, and it will be the cloud that is dreaming. Of course, this last way is the way to read the poem.

Finally, here is a tanka that does not break into two parts, though there should be a slight pause after the fourth line:

If you were here now
the joy in my beating heart
would blaze like the sun
rising in the morning sky
lifting the buds of flowers

Read these poems aloud and hear the music.

 - Cor van den Heuvel

Editor, The Haiku Anthology


Other On-line Books by Gerard J. Conforti

For My Brother Victor & Elsa His Wife

Spirit of the Wind

An Introduction to Gerard John Conforti Through His Letters
Jane Reichhold

The first letter I have from Gerard John Conforti is dated May 9, 1993.

"I learned from Cor van den Heuvel that you publish tanka. He mentioned to me the tanka you publish are good. Enclosed is a sample of tanka I have written..."

It was a surprise to me that Gerard wrote tanka because until this letter I had only read his haiku which had been published in Cicada and Modern Haiku. Tanka had been included in my magazine, Mirrors, since 1989 when I began the first of the International Tanka Splendor Awards series. Yet here comes his letter at the same time as another development.

The former editor of Lynx asked me to adopt the faltering magazine — a tabloid of renga and haiku. In making the changes in methods and format, I also decided to shift the emphasis to make it a journal for tanka writers. The first issue, out in June, 1993, contained mostly material which had been accepted and gathered, but I added a brief section on the tanka contest and a selection of winning poems.

At this time I already had Conforti's submission, but to tell the truth, I found his tanka to be so different from what the majority of writers were doing with this form, that I hesitated to bring these poems out as "examples" of what I expected tanka to be. However, after getting over "new editor jitters" and becoming more familiar with Conforti's work, by the second issue I was pleased to include his work.

The next letter which I have from Gerard, dated only as October, but still in the envelope postmarked October, 6, 1993, indicates that we were already deep into a dialog in letters which are now missing. Along with his thanks for the October issue of Lynx, Gerard writes:

"I appreciate the comment that my tanka weren't written out of insanity. You are right. I have never been insane. When I wrote that I was thinking of the German poet, Georg Trakl (1887-1914), who committed suicide during the war on the Galician front. I believe I follow in his poetic footprints, but I would never try suicide again as I have done in the past. Georg Trakl is my favorite poet..."

This letter, as were all subsequent letters, was hand printed with ball-point pen, in all capital letters. The letters are angular and well-formed. In the beginning the poems were typed by machine, but later the poems too, were handwritten. Even when using unlined paper, often colored pink, blue or yellow, the lines were as straight as when he wrote on tablet paper or notebook sheets. Rarely did he cross out a word or insert a word or letter which had been forgotten. Though there were times when he was very ill, and his writing became shaky and showed connective drift lines where his hand was too tired to lift the pen from the paper, his writing was still very legible.

Almost every dispatch he sent is faithfully dated. By this time, I was aware of his situation (without a home other than the mental health facility) and I began to carefully collect his letters as well as the poems which I had been saving for him.

He explained his situation in a November, 1993, letter: "As far as Chait House is concerned, I've been living here for over a year. Chait House is a half-way house on the grounds of Bayley-Seton Hospital. Before a year and a half ago, I was living on my own. I don't (underlined) like living here and wish I were on my own again and I will be on my own again in the future.

The reasons why I'm living at Chait House are many. It's a very secure place to live and the staff members are good to me. I need the security right now because of all the difficulty I'm in on Staten Island and elsewhere. I don't even know how to begin to tell you of the difficulty I'm in. It's a very complicated situation I'm in and one day I'll share the story with you, but right now I don't even want to think about it. It would take a two thousand page book to describe what I've gone through and now that things are better I'm trying to forget the pain of my ordeal."

In the November 12th letter Gerard wrote: "I want you to know, Jane, that if it weren't for you and your interest in my writing, that I wouldn't have written so many tanka. I write tanka almost every day now and will continue to do so. I dedicate many poems to people I know as close friends, and besides my love for them, I'm able to give them something that is very precious to me and that is my writing."

Early in our correspondence Gerard wrote to me that he had "lived six years with Ellen Rothberg" to explain the many poems dedicated to her. He also stated that "Joan Summer is nurse here who has been very kind to me."

Even in the first packet of poems were those dedicated to Juliana and in his first October letter he wrote:

"I think Juliana took a toll on me. I thought of her so much in the hospital, hoping she was all right, that I didn't get a chance to think too much about myself."

In the very next month Gerard writes: "The J. A. poems I've sent to you have to do with Juliana. I'm very in love with her and she makes me very happy. I knew her for [...] years before we got involved emotionally and she understands me very well, which I'm happy about."

Both Juliana and Ellen were patients in the hospital and its programs. He often reported on their ups and downs and difficulties, showing a deep and abiding concern for them as persons.

It was Juliana, however, whom he wished to someday marry. On January 2, 1994 Gerard wrote: "Next week I'm going for an interview for the apartment program here on Staten Island. I want to get out of Chait House, soon. I want to be more on my own... I may even start soon to look for a job. I know jobs are hard to come by, but I'm going to try and find one, anyway. I know that writing is my job, but I also know that I need money to survive on. I haven't made much money on my writing, but writing is in my blood. I need to write and write as much as I can."


In a letter from December 18th, Gerard wrote:

"I'm sorry I hadn't written to you sooner, but I'm trying to quit smoking because of my health and haven't written any tanka in the last nine days since I am so used to smoking while I write." The letter closes with, "I must (underlined three times) quit. I want to be well known as a poet alive and not after I die. Enclosed are more tanka."

On Christmas Eve Gerard wrote: "Yesterday, a very close friend of mine died in his sleep. He was an older man in his sixties. I knew him from the Hylan Manor, an adult home here on Staten Island. Because of his death and the holidays, I almost wound up in the hospital psych unit."

Many of the letters during the winter expressed Gerard's fear that he would lose even the relative freedom of Chait House to be readmitted to the hospital. The battle to give up cigarettes continued. In March, 1994 he wrote:

"I'm going to begin the nicoderm patches this week to try to stop smoking again. My good friend, Ed Crowley, paid for them and a month's supply of the patches cost him $105.00. They're rather expensive, but I didn't have the money so Ed helped me out. I've been his friend since 1973 and he's been a great help to me over the years."

In the new year, Gerard returned to working on his plays. January 16th letter: "I've been busy writing plays and tanka. Enclosed with my letter are more tanka and 1 play, "The Shadow" [which] I wrote in January of 1991. It was supposed to have a reading in the Blue Winds Theatre in 1993, but I never heard from them again and I think the theatre folded."

In later packets, Gerard sent "Hell's Room" and "A Song of Love", and "The Meeting". It is interesting to note that most of his plays revolve around two persons, usually young males, attempting to find a living solution which permits each of them the freedom and the security they want. The plays (aside from "A Song of Love") are dark and full of hostility and anger with occasional bursts of violence. In contrast, Conforti's tanka relate only to a natural world in harmony with himself or his loved one. Once a poem had the word "breast" in it. Later he wrote asking me not to publish the poem as he found it too sensual, as did the woman to whom it was dedicated.

In February he explained: "I've been writing drama, but there is a great part of me that edges me on to write more poetry, which I plan to write soon. I want to say that I wrote over eighty tanka in a short period of time and that is why I was overwhelmed by them and that is why I needed a break, which is nearing its end. It will be good for me to begin writing poetry again. I look forward to it. I still read your letters and have not and never will give up writing poetry. I just needed a little time concentrating on drama, which I have done the past two weeks. I have not heard from you and I hope you haven't given up on me. I need your friendship and I'm always glad to get a letter from you."

Later that month, he sent more tanka with the words: "Enclosed are some tanka I've written yesterday... I couldn't stay away from writing them. As for happiness, life isn't bleak all the time and I have been happy. I found writing poetry brings not only an outlet, but some joy to me. I'm very fortunate to have become a writer whether it be in poetry or drama or prose. I relieve some of my suffering by writing..."

Yet on his birthday, February 26th, he sent a new play, "In Fear of Dying" which he says, "speaks for itself." The rest of the letter concerned his fears of having to be recommitted to the hospital.

Then in the middle of March, Gerard wrote: "I'm no longer involved with Juliana in a full relationship. We are still close, but we are drawing apart from one another." Within a paragraph he continues, "and that I'm going to do my best from now to look on the positive things in life."

By the end of the month he was writing: "I wish I could be more than friends with Juliana. I miss her so much. Please keep writing to me. I look forward to your letters. I will be sending you more tanka soon."

The letter of April 9th begins: "I'm beginning to lose my grip on reality." There was a short, painful paragraph of delusion which was so rare in Gerard's letters that I began to share his fear that he would be going into the hospital. Even so, he closed the letter with "I appreciate your deep concern for me and I think that things will get better for me. I have to go on suffering, but I will continue to write."

It was a relief, then to read "After a tough weekend of emotional turmoil, I'm feeling better today. I have been able to stay out of the hospital and I'm proud of this." It was unusual for him to write of his surroundings, but on this day he wrote: "Today is a bright sunny day and the leaves are coming out of the trees outside my window. My window faces the east and every morning I watch the sun climb into the sky... I'm glad I have the view of the trees. On the west side of Chait House there are no trees."

In May Gerard began working as a volunteer for two hours a week at the Bayley-Seton Hospital and by the end of the month wrote: "I'm now working [...] in medical records two days a week and spend three days a week at Seaview Hospital. I'm managing to stay out of the hospital and I'm doing well. I have my tough moments, but I deal with them."

In the summer we had exchanged several letters concerning writing. On July 15th Gerard wrote: "I want to state that my writing is both a curse and a blessing. It's a blessing because I can write, but the curse involves a lot of suffering and misery. I've learned that if a person is happy with him or herself, that's what really counts. I'm a writer, but most of the time I am unhappy and I've wished over and over again that I did not have this gift of writing. The curse is also that I cannot (underlined) cease to write because it is in my blood and writing is the only thing left for me and I refuse to give it up. However, it is better sometimes to have a profession other than writing alone which I am aiming at by working at Bayley-Seton Hospital.

Writing can also be a very lonely task. It drains my emotions till I can't go any further. I need (underlined) sometimes long breaks to get myself back together again. The secret of writing is loving it. Even if I never wrote well, I would not give up on it. I would be happy writing bad writing as long as I was happy doing so... My intention from the beginning, when I first began writing, was not to be a great poet, just a poet; but my love for poetry drove me to where I am today."

The next month Gerard's letters were filled with his problems with the staff, their desire to keep him and Juliana apart, and switches in his medication. The reality of how tenuous his existence was came when I read the lines: "I have your address in my wallet. If I decide to go into the hospital, I'll write to you from there."

In September Gerard wrote: "I've been put on Risperadone and at the moment I'm not doing well on it. My anxiety is high, I'm having bad nightmares and I see a different reality altogether. Juliana has been a great help in explaining some of the things one goes through when changing a medication. It was a big mistake for me to go off Loxitane which has helped me greatly. I do not know if I will ever come out of my ordeal. I may wind up in South Beach Psych for a long time and this alone is causing my heart to beat rapidly." The letter continues repeated permissions for his poems to be printed, phone numbers for his family, pleas for a letter and affirmations of his affection.

On the 23rd of the month he began his letter: "I am writing this letter at 3 am in the morning. I'm awake and I don't think I will go back to sleep. What a joy to be alive! Yet, if anyone is lonely this morning, I am in this room."

"I want to thank you for your last letter. I guess I could be annoying at times when I write to you. My problem is [I] crave love too much and this causes me to reach out for you and other people. I guess I'm afraid of losing you or Juliana or my friends. Does this fear of losing someone go all the way back to childhood? Even then I was lonely and the only thing which comforted me at the time was nature. I've always craved love even as a child. Everyone needs people. People are more comforting then [than] the loneliness of nature. I would never want to be the only one living on earth. This would be too unbearable. I guess loneliness is a part of life and eternal love comes afterwards. I ['d] rather fulfill my mission on earth first. I'm in no hurry to get elsewhere. The struggles in life can be a joy. Life is tough, but it was (underlined) tougher for me only three weeks ago. I'm doing much better now." The unusual errors in the letter are signs of how the drug was affecting him, and yet the thinking processes were still his. Enclosed with the letter were the two poems for Juliana, "Oh, My Love for You" and "The Golden Sunlight".

The next letter, dated only as September, 1994, but on another deeper color of yellow finally contains the good news. "The new medication Risperadone is working! For once in my life I am sane! All my paranoia is gone! I see life differently! Nature is once again so beautiful! I will never again (I hope!) suffer like I did for all the years of insanity. I realize now, (and how clear I see it) that my tanka was written out of insanity, yet what I wrote came truly from the heart. For now I'm not going to write poetry so as not to disturb my equilibrium. I will, and I promise you, Jane, that I will write again."

In the postscript to this letter, Gerard adds: "Ellen goes to Seaview now. I have much compassion for her."

As soon as his psychological condition improved, Gerard was again faced by an (evidently) ongoing lung condition exasperated by his resumption of smoking. After many tests and words in his letters regarding them and his fears, the next letter came from St. Vincent's Hospital where he was in an isolation room. He mentions visits from his brother, Victor, and from Ed Crowley and wishes that Juliana would come also, but that he had not told her where he was because of her own problems at the time.

The next letter, also from the hospital, relates a conversation with Cor and Gerard's pleasure "it was so good to speak to him. Ellen phoned him and told him I was in the hospital."

The next letter is dated November 14th and begins with: "For the last three days I have been staying with Ellen... She is the most loving, and caring person I've ever known. She wants me to quit smoking. Do I really deserve her as a friend?" Gerard then copied a poem Ellen had written and enclosed it.

Thanksgiving was spent with Gerard's brother Victor, his wife, Elsa and her sister, Betty. He mentions that Juliana is now in the hospital because she was not taking her medication. Most of the letter discusses his reading of England's restoration period. After listing reasons he would liked to have lived in those times, he writes: " Unfortunately, the women at that time, before and even now don't have equal rights, but I know one day they will."

Christmas, he writes, was to be spent with Ellen at her place. He was looking forward to being out of Chait House where he stated he would miss his friends but not the staff. At Ellen's he wrote several more poems for her and taught her to write tanka which he also sent.

In this quiet he writes: "I've been looking over all the tanka I've written. I'm thinking about taking a different approach in writing them. The love-poem tanka of mine have been exhausted." Yet he sends two poems for Cor,  ("On This Lovely Day" and "There is the Spirit"), one for Juliana and another titled, "America" which he calls "one for myself."

In January, still at Ellen's, Gerard wrote that Ed Crowley was coming to take him to breakfast. He was trying to locate some of his old works and was disappointed to learn that Ed did not have them. However, Ed did have poems and letters from 1982 which Gerard was very glad to have. Seeing these old works caused Gerard to write again in rhyme and he sent several poems in this mode.

In April, 1995, Gerard wrote: "I've met another woman at Seaview two months ago. Her name is Sarah Brenner. What a beauty! No, I'm not getting my hopes up. What is now may not be later. Enclosed are some tanka for her. I may be writing sad ones in the future for her, but if this relationship don't [sic] work out — well, I can't say that it won't." The next paragraph continues: "I'm thinking about writing tanka five liners with less than 31 syllables. What do you think? Would like your opinion on this... I have mixed feelings about it, but I may try it anyway. I may like it better. I really do not know."

June 27, 1995: "Today I am leaving Chait House. I'm going to an apartment on [...]. I will be at this apartment for a few weeks, then I'll be moving again to a much better area. After being at Chait for three years I'm going to be on my own again. Although I never liked being at Chait House, the stay here did me a lot of good."

It was not easy for Gerard to resolve the changes in the situation with the staff in the mental health facilities with his new freedom. "I do not know what is going to happen from here on in. It is 2:35 am in the morning as I write this letter. I could not sleep all night. Am I scared? No! Am I nervous? So, so. Am I paranoid? Definitely not! Am I delusional? Hell No!" After writing of his difficulties, Gerard signed off his letter with: "P.S. Please don't be afraid for me. I'm a survivor."

In October Gerard reported: "Next week I am moving to [...], three blocks away from where Sarah lives and two blocks away from Snug Harbor where I wrote my first tanka for Ellen in 1986. Snug Harbor is no longer an Old Sailor's Home but is now a cultural center for visitors. I go to the harbor now and then to relax and gather all the natural beauty there. It is a good feeling. My job is going well. I work about ten hours a week."

In the new apartment Gerard has a roommate, Bob, of whom he writes: 'He is quite a good person. Despite the incident (and it still bothers me) we get along very well. We are kind to one another and I've been trying to make up for what happened between us."

Since January most of Gerard's correspondence has been concerning this book. He usually mentions Sarah; very often his compassion for her and her sufferings. "I don't want her to suffer and yet there is not much I can do for her, but be her friend and care for her deeply which I earnestly do."

On March 8th Gerard begins: "I have taken some time off from doing any writing. I took a seven week break and that is the longest I've ever taken from writing. I've been caught between heaven and earth and time seemed to have flown by quickly."

It was Gerard's idea that instead of my writing a preface to this book, as planned, that I edit his letters for the readers. This I have done with pleasure, some tears, and much admiration.

Blessed Be!
Jane Reichhold






In the hospital

my mind sounds with the voices

of my closest friends

whose vacant chairs stand silent

this cold February night




Lying here alone

in the isolation room

of the hospital

the hallways ring with laughter

on the first night of autumn




On the seventh day

I have come to know the room

of isolation

so far and distant from friends

even in dreams I'm alone








O' beauteous sun

when you come over the hill

the shadowy tree

in the solitary fields

reaches for the light of day




O' suffering days

the turmoil of emotions

swirl like the tree leaves

in the dry winds of autumn

gusting down the empty streets




Writing at the desk

the winds blow into the trees

outside the window

the dead leaves gather my thoughts

scattering them in my mind




As you lie asleep

the moonlight in the window

shines down on the floor

in the silence of the night

I reach to kiss your forehead










Today the windows

of the mental hospital

over-look the trees

sunken in the summer heat

reaching down for their shadows




When love drains power

from the stem of a flower

the spirit falters

then slowly withers and dies

a death that floods the cool earth




In rooms of sickness

where the living are dying

the loneliness bears

blossoms falling from tree boughs

outside beneath the pale moon




The struggle of life

leads along day's open road

lined with shady trees

that head for the distant sky

filled with a twilight of stars




Life's tribulations

come in the darkness of night

like a distant road

leading from the kitchen door

into the unknown silence





For Ellen


On this autumn day

sitting alone on the steps

outside the dark house

only the sound of tree leaves

falling against the brick walls



Looking for comfort

I sought the morning sunlight

in the open fields

where we once met in spring

now a land of falling leaves



From the autumn trees

a sparrow sings joyful songs

in the windy day

memories scatter the leaves

over the withering fields



Back in my small room

the silence greets me tonight

alone behind walls

a breeze stirs the autumn trees

in whispers of loveless sleep



From a cup of tea

the steam rises to my face

wet with life's sorrows

the winter dissolves in dreams

the cold nights in lonely beds



Silent as the day

the bells on the door jingle

as I enter rooms

of grief-stricken memories

shadows wait to welcome me



When spring comes again

and the warmth of the sunlight

bears down on my face

as I lie with you embraced

will the flowers bloom for us?





For Ellen


Alone in her room

I pace the floor of my mind

hearing my footsteps

sounding through the empty house

the winds shudder the windows




Lately I've wondered

about the lost days alone

in and out of rooms

seeking the infinite peace

waiting on the distant road




Asleep in my bed

the rain beats at the windows

to awaken me

from the warmth of summer dreams

in a storm of loneliness






For Ellen


Tonight the silence

beckons my heart toward you

in the moonlit room

I lie and gaze at the moon

so real, so warm, so distant!




Seeing you again

aching feelings gnaw my heart

with melancholy

bringing back those memories

too painful even for tears




From the porcelain

petals fall from the daisies

on the piano

as you play Beethoven's Ninth

in the cold desperate night




This cold winter night

the snow clings to the tree boughs

in the pale moonlight

the kisses of your soft lips

warm this aching heart of mine





For Ellen


In every tree leaf

fallen from the autumn boughs

the wind blows away

the long lost forgotten days

of winter's burying snow



Endlessly the winds

shudder the bedroom windows

this cold wintry night

the glowing candle flickers

while you sleep in my embrace




The coming new year

brings with it the falling snow

meeting its shadows

upon the vast frozen fields

where once we strolled together




Longing for your love

has left the white buds of spring

scattered on the grass

in the light cool breeze of day

the buds continue to fall




Let us remember

the blissful warmth of summer

when the shady trees

stood along the wooded path

where violets bloomed for us




Now that the night ends

the sparrows begin to sing

in the early dawn

the long suffering day brings

a loneliness to my heart





For Ellen



When the night sets in

and the moon climbing the sky

shines in the windows

of the silent rooming house

the sleepless know loneliness




Seeing you again

as we walk the distant fields

brings back memories

of days lost in fallen leaves

buried in the melting snow




This cold wintry night

the rain falls against street lamps

upon the wet streets

reflecting the pool of light

the dark ripples of my heart




Not even in love

does the rose live forever

on the thorny hedge

the early falling snowflakes

melt on the withering buds




Like the winter's cold

the pale frosty moon rises

in the purple sky

between the icy tree boughs

the hungry sparrows have flown




Long after the night

ends with sleepy dreams of you

caressed in my arms

the weary hours of day

tear the autumn leaves from trees








Like darkening night

the murderer heads homeward

lights the candle wick

the flame from the glass candle

dancing shadows on the wall




Outside the windows

the autumn tree on the lawn

near the private house

reflects the yellow sunlight

glowing in the attic room




This long winter night

the tree boughs sway in the moon

outside the small room

the cold comes through the windows

chilling his thin white fingers




The ebony clock

sounding in the winter night

on the white bureau

belonged to the dead old man

now in a glass-like coffin




As the candle burns

the moon rises in the sky

embracing the stars

in the windows of my dreams

the winds sway the snowy trees





For Ellen



Will it ever end

the incessant winds of rain

washing through the trees

of my imagination

lost to the bleakness of day?




The moonlit shadows

play upon my inward mind

like the gentle tides

combing back the coral sea

swaying in the deep of night




Today the snow falls

upon the path in the woods

leading up a hill

between the bareness of trees

sparrows fly from bough to bough





For Ellen


The rippling raindrops

fall upon the light of lakes

encircling the stars

dreaming in the midnight skies

a wandering lonely cloud



Oh, my love Ellen

the clouds are a mist of rain

flowing from your eyes

the sun a dream of flowers

pelted by raindrops of light





For Ellen



If you only knew

the remorse of autumn days

in dark empty rooms

where the walls of memories

hide me from your warm embrace




Alone in the woods

the song of a sparrow fades

into a sigh of stars

in the sweep of autumn winds

tree leaves flutter to the earth








The hope you give me

is a blaze of warming sun

melting the tree boughs

into a spring of blossoms

after the falling snowflakes




It's been a long day

the sparrows no longer sing

as the evening sun

sets below the wind-blown hills

where we sleep into the night








My love is deeper

than the touch of warm moonlight

on a summer night

where the embrace of your arms

enwraps the joy of our love




The life of your love

has brought a bliss of sunlight

to my lonely heart

when I'm alone in a room

waiting for the sun to rise




Tonight I ponder

the stars outside the windows

of the rooming house

where the silence of moonlight

dreams to be in your embrace





For Joan Summer


I will not forget

the hope you brought to my heart

even in winter

when the land is desolate

there is the warmth of sunlight





For Juliana



Loving you tonight

has brought me ever closer

to loving you more

than the sprouting rose in spring

blooming in the misty rain




Love, how can it be

that the blowing winter snow

falling from dark clouds

separates the two of us

from the warmth of our embrace




Oh, suffering night

the grass is a dew of tears

in the mist of rain

the moon is a grief of pain

shining in and out of clouds




Without you near me

the suffering days go on

in mournful silence

the flowers bow in the rain

pelting the buds in moonlight





December 8, 1947
- Died of AIDs April 16, 1988


As you lay dying

loving brother of the wind

in the early spring

the dew of morning flowers

flowed down from the mist of night








When the falling rain

patters the meadows with life

the struggling flowers

lift their buds above the earth

and open in the spring winds




When the sky is clear

the shooting streams of sunlight

between drifting clouds

warms the meadows of green earth

in the heart of the valleys




When the night has come

and meadows lie in silence

the pale rising moon

shining above the mountains

the rivers glitter with light





For Juliana



How I miss you so

when I'm in a room alone

there is no sunlight

but the rain against the glass

drumming me off into sleep




On this dreaming night

I startle awake from sleep

in the gloomy room

mixing with the dark moonlight

the emptiness of your voice




On this rainy day

I do not know how to explain

the absence of you

alone in another room

the buds falling from flowers



If you were here now

the joy in my beating heart

would blaze like the sun

rising in the morning sky

lifting the buds of flowers




The warmth of the sun

beats in the expanse of sky

like my joyful heart

in the green meadows of dreams

where we lie upon the grass




The voice of your song

sings in the winds of robins

in the shady trees

the leaves shimmer in the sun

on this early spring morning








The rising spring sun

showers the tree boughs with life

the budding flowers

open to the streaming light

the petals filled with raindrops




The summer sunlight

streams above the grassy hills

as the passing clouds

drift over the green meadows

the storm in the west pours rain




In the autumn day

the leaves swirl above the lawns

into the swift winds

the leaves blow into the trees

settling upon the cool earth



In the winter sun

icicles hang from the trees

dripping from the boughs

in a gust of frozen winds

the ice shatters to the earth




For Juliana



Today I want to

escape this cold lonely room

and stroll beneath trees

in the embrace of nature

the boughs reaching down for me




How much can I bear

alone in the blowing winds

beneath the maples

which have shed their leaves of tears

in the naked gray of day?




When I think of you

the pain edges at my heart

only to embrace

your loving arms around me

and never let go of you




Only in your arms

can I find the peace of stars

outside the windows

on this moonlit autumn night

the road leading to your heart





For Juliana


How lonely tonight

in the middle of winter

the dark icy trees

sparkle in the pale moonlight

as I gaze out the window




I know how lonesome

the darkening night must be

on this autumn day

the songless birds in the trees

bring a silence to my heart




On Thanksgiving day

the pale full moon in the sky

outside the window

lingers over the bare trees

in the silence of twilight




How I feel for you

the flowing river of love

sparkling in the sun

in the light of your embrace

the young buds sprouting tree leaves




The long lonesome road

brings back memories of you

from a distant path

I yearn to stroll to your room

and lie in bed by your side






For Juliana



Every passing day

the joy of being with you

fills the flower buds

with the drops of golden rain

falling in the spring sunlight




The joy of today

deep in the buds of flowers

in the clouds of rain

passing over the meadows

the streams of shifting sunlight




The sorrow of the day

hung in the absence of you

in the autumn winds

the swaying weeping willows

touch the placid starlit pond




The hope of the day

lies in the heart of your love

growing like flowers

in a garden of roses

still blooming in the winter






Now that the day ends

and the snow begins to fall

on the silent earth

in the dark the footprints lead

into the cold winter night




In the windless day

the tree stands against the sky

the naked tree boughs

reach into the void of blue

the bare twigs twisted like nerves




The unending days

of coming winter's fury

the unsettling winds

bind the bare tree boughs with ice

till the melting of spring rain





For Juliana


Through adversity

your love keeps hope in my heart

keeps my joy alive

despite the harsh suffering

I face each and every day




Love, do not be sad

for the sadness turns to joy

when we are alone

sharing the bitter winter

the candle in the window







This I beg of you

to comfort me in the days

of unending strife

when hope is gone from my heart

and the world is desolate



How often is it

that I suffer without you

embraced in my arms

the nights alone in a room

where emptiness surrounds me





For Jane Reichhold



Somewhere in the night

a star trails across the sky

above the dark sea

the moonlight plays with the tides

in a mirror of shadows




For Juliana


As the music plays

softly into the dark night

the moon is aglow

with its radiance of light

showering on the flowers



For Juliana



How can I explain

the love you shower on me

bringing me a joy

which rides the eternal tides

beneath the light of the moon



Oh, suffering day

hung in the evening of night

amid the blue stars

the sadness rolls like the tides

sweeping in upon the shore





For Juliana



The night seeks comfort

in this lonely room of mine

the clock ticks away

the seconds, minutes and hours

of this self-consuming grief




How sad this evening

hung in the absence of you

in a room alone

the walls hide me from the world

this long cold December night




How can I not write

the poems of my love for you

in times of distress

your love keeps flowing the words

from the bottom of my heart





For Juliana


The stillness of trees

brings the silence of the day

to my beating heart

as I gaze out the window

into the muteness of life




The cold blowing snow

swirls in the blustering winds

across the white lawns

glistening in the sunlight

setting in the western sky




The cold dreaming night

scatters the stars in the sky

above the dark house

the moon is a grief of light

shadowing down through the trees




The warm summer days

spent with you beneath the trees

in cool shades of leaves

have wakened the dreams of love

in the green grass of flowers




Though the nights are long

my memories lie with you

awake or asleep

the moon shines into the room

as the stars watch over me





For Juliana



The night is so long

the songs of birds are silent

on this winter night

the wrath of the blowing snow

swirls upon the frozen earth




The loneliest day

brings a sorrow to my heart

on the distant road

my love is waiting for me

to embrace her in my arms





For Juliana



The beautiful day

unfolds in the heart of you

Oh, true violet

blooming alone in the woods

fills the night with loneliness




The warm blissful day

dreams in the flower of you

the beauty of spring

awakens me to your love

the sunlight beaming downward




Love, the days go by

filled with the absence of you

within a small room

the night is filled with moonlight

shining upon the green grass





For Ellen



The grievous nights come

like falling stars to the sea

the sorrowful moon

gazes upon the stranger

forlorn in the mist of tears




Your love is endless

like the flowers blossoming

outside your windows

the raindrops pelting the buds

in a shower of sunlight




The sleepless moonlight

shining through the glass windows

watches over you

as you dream the night away

the moonlight upon your face




For Juliana


The day you left me

My heart sunk into despair

on this autumn night

the stars are a blur of tears

burning through the universe




For Jane Reichhold


The day is a dream

of flowers in the meadows

beside the river

the trees are hung in silence

dripping dew from the green leaves





For Cor van den Heuvel


The cool mountain winds

sweep down the autumn valleys

fluttering tree leaves

upon the streaming rivers

flowing toward the sunset




The frozen tree boughs

reflect the cold winter stars

outside the houses

of the quiet neighborhood

the full moon sleeps in the sky







As day lights the sky

the river flows with sunlight

in the shady trees

a robin sings of the spring

and the sprouting of green leaves




Night encircles night

like the ocean to the shore

or the stars to earth

like a raindrop on a pear

or moonlight on an orange





For My Brother, Anthony



The dying of day

sinks with the sorrow of you

now that the sun sets

the pale daisies are weeping

in the middle of the night




Oh, loving brother

the song of love forever

sings in the warm spring

the notes of the lost sparrow

still searching to find its nest




Night, and the bright stars

shimmer in a sky of tears

Oh, lonely brother

your loneliness grips my heart

knowing what loneliness is





For My Brother, Anthony



In the rooming house

during the long winter nights

what were you thinking

knowing you were going to die

and never letting me know?




The streets are lonely

when you are sick and lonesome

never knowing when

the time for the end has come

the night gently taking you




Brother, all your life

and the life that was in you

died into the night

leaving you to walk with Him

among the flowers of God






Beneath the spring sky

the blossoms fall from the trees

in the placid pond

the stars shimmer in the night

as blossoms flutter to the moon





For Ellen



The sadness of night

hung with the grief of the years

comes with nightly stars

above the long lonesome road

the void of the autumn skies




The night holds no joy

alone in a rooming house

confined to four walls

the moonlight plays with shadows

outside in the cold bare trees




Love, why do you weep

in the dark corners of night

when the rising sun

will blaze with a joy unknown

in the flower of your heart







Again a very special thank-you to Cor van den Heuvel at Chant Press for his help in publishing the book.

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  Now that the Night Ends  Copyright © Gerard John Conforti 1996. Published by Chant Press and AHA Books.
Online Version  Copyright © AHA Books 2003.

Read another of AHA Books Online.