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Life and Death

A selection of poems by Lawrence J. Fedewa


A number of readers of my memoir. Inside: The Early Years,  have asked about my poetry. I have been writing poetry since the sixth grade, so there were many efforts, few of which have survived. However, some have, and recently I have added a few new pieces to the list.

I have selected a few poems under the themes of LIFE and DEATH.

Life is one astonishment after another, whether joy, sorrow, faith or desolation. As the years advance, death becomes an experience of increasing intensity and interest. Many of my life experiences are reflected here.

A poem is not to be judged by its length, its topic or its mood, but rather by its message and its language. A good poem is a thing of beauty. Life must have beauty to offset its opposites. And beauty must be seen in sorrow and death as well as in joy and love. It is the beauty that makes loss bearable. True beauty is an astonishment in life. Perhaps there is some beauty in these words. If so, it is freely given.


Lawrence J. Fedewa

© Richfield Press, Ltd. 2018 (All rights reserved.)

America’s Challenge (original, 1961)

I have strength

I’m proud and sometimes stupid                     

but I’m young and big and cocky.

I want to move and grow, but where?


My lands are no longer wild,

my forests and mountains and deserts now

no longer tease with mystery and challenge.

My lands are tamed and hogtied with

railroads and highways and air lanes,

bundled up and ready to be sold

ready for people and plumbing and taming.

My mines are all discovered, my fields are cities.

My rivers are dam63ed and trees cut.

Where can I go? What plains and valleys

what forests can ring with my restless youth?


I can still fight and go hungry and laugh

I can still swear at my enemy and fight him

with fists and guts and beat him . . .


But how long?

Soon I will be bundled by age and fat

tied, held helpless like my tamed land.

Then I won’t be able to fight

maybe I won’t want to fight

maybe my fight and my spirit

will be lying in the dust beside me,

squeezed out like toothpaste from its tube

by the bonds of my land.


Let me fight now while I can still feel

while my long lungs can still tingle

with the great air, fresh and big from the open sea

 while my sinew and courage can win

while I can plant my feet in hell

and bump my head on heaven

and stand and strain and struggle

and know I’ll win because my cause

is great and grand and godly against evil

against softness and flabby muscles

and long streets of starving minds and idle hands


of bleeding machines and men dehumanized by greed.


But most of all against the godless men

who smear my clear vision

and conquer me with caresses.

Let me fight now, lead me to the battle

for the battle will end and I will bring victory

but let me go now.

[Note: A revised version of this poem can be found as a narration

“Freedom’s Call to Action” Below:



The universe pulses the greatness of God

Utter vastness of worlds and galaxies,

space, light, time in trillions,

suns and millennia and light years

grow and pass and pray their grandeur

and the greater grandeur of their timeless time

there to God alone, playing and praying

for untold eons watched by Him alone

before man’s telescopes and missiles and rockets.


God, more baffling and astounding and vast

than they and their offspring added and multiplied.


O God of space! O Presence!

God in every ion and molecule,

surrounding its infinitesimal, streaking explosions,

planning its patterns, placing its presence

for man to find and gape in awe,

hypnotized by the science of God

unfolding the mixture of things, the folly of senses

– for a paralyzing instant – a numbing flash

of the fantastic Mastermind of the universe!


The sun slips up above the level land,

caught and squeezed into a hazy, yellow ball,

surrounded by the last lingering grayness of the night.


The shining, dripping green of the leaves and trees

flashes and sparkles; and struggling little sunbeams,

young and smiling, report to the asking sun

that the worn earth has been freshened by its shower of dew,

made clean and new and ready by the night.

The sun dawns and yesterday’s world is innocent.


My trespassing footfalls are loud and hard and harsh.

The crickets’ purring, the crisp little breeze

swaying the luxuriant leaves of the wakened trees,

the scampering, squeaking squirrels, the tweeting little birds –

these simple sounds in nature’s morning concerto

do not disturb the rhythm and the wonder of the peaceful stillness.

  Somehow, they lushly accompany her solo of silence.

But my human footsteps intrude.


A car comes roaring into earshot

– motor sound, friction fighting power, blatant, brazen ugliness

violate the silence, blanch, break, bury the stillness,

boasting noise like a challenge, blasting away into oblivion.


Slowly the little sounds recover,

the peppy, pretty, resounding and timeless

silence in the green parlor of the sun.


My steps crunch and crinkle and intrude.

I open the door to my sleeping house.

Convicted, ashamed, I quit the arena,

leaving the field to the gentle victor.



Cock your head, colt, and paw and paw

the tinsels moon strewn on lake and land.

Raise your tired-of-grazing head

                                                 up and up, and challenge and charge                                                       

the hoof hurt heavens!

Prance and dance your pounding sound

pistons on the teasing earth,

beating her dare down to the moon shades,

the mighty, misty moon shades of the woodland.

                                                                                 Snort and sing, look and sing                                                                                   

at the sounding, echo bounding fields,

the breathing, beam sprinkled, bale bringing fields.

Hark to the whispering hoppers’ humming.

                                                                                  see far into the loud, lonely land                                                                                    

and shimmering, shining mirrors of the moon.

Then grasp the great ground flying,

and gripping go running close,

back clinging to your clothing big mare mother.


Youth dazzled; youth awed;

      youth terrified; youth glorified!

      Trees and trees and trees of power

       stay the sight and seep the strength,

       inflame the vision and the vigor of seeing.


      Glints of blending sunlight flecking

       black and brown and green with gold –

       breathless, over-powering beauty blasted in,

      veils torn from dream-swept trees, reality glares!


       Senses reeling, reality stealing

       stealing the soft, mossy cradle

       beneath the stark, unscaled treetops.

       Man’s hand butchers a tree.

       God’s finger fashions a cross.


      Back-breaking burden is basking,

                      basking in the darting shafts and wafts

      of the seeing Son as the Cross

                                          carries struggling, shrinking youth to the treetops!


I stand a tired raft and tremble

A rolling mist is cutting off

A fog is rolling back my grasping vision.

The gray night is closing in on me

And cutting away the sound and sight of men

Till my shivering soul stands all alone,

 And the loneliness plugs in my nerves

And turns the switch, charging senses

I never knew I had with shock.


And so, a radar man, I move away

Away and beyond the other men

Those older men whose souls hold up

“No Trespassing” signs etched in hurt and hate

 And my swimming raft is tired and drowning,

While my shivering brain and my shattered soul

Are sick and beaten and ripped and scarred,

A nameless man in a nameless sea,

Tortured by doubts, but conquered by mountains,

I’m afraid to live and afraid to die.


Wait! The breathing mist is sprinkled

I thought I saw a light spread out —

For an instant. Gone. Was it really there?


Dark. Gray dark. Breathing dark.

I dreamt, I closed my eyes

and saw bolts of lightning.

Carefully I kneel and touch the sea

My live trembling hands touch,

reach down to the warm, stale water.

Maybe I’ll just paddle over there a bit,

And see what it would be like – to possess a purpose.

“Uselessness” – the only word I know,

Other words are wistful shadows.


If I close my eyes and sleep, sleep . . .

Crouching and careful, I let myself deflate,

Go limp, try to become a thing,

A brutish, unfeeling bump on the top of the sea.

But my electric eyes will not stay shut,

They look for the light, they strain for the maybe . . .

 For a long, long time –

till my stretched eyes

Are weary, and my despairing body

laughs at my hoping eyes.


Then again!  Again a light blurs against the shadows.

On and off and on and off

“Come here, come here, come here and find me.”

My brain grows tense and knotted by the unknown.

Someone is out there!

Another hope floods up to my face

And drains my muscles and twitches my muscles

And blows blood through my bundled brain.


Taunt-rope muscles slack.

His thick leather shoes slow and stop,

and two granite eyes gaze gently.

From his own earth he rose

and, gazing, he feels it, he hears it.


The slender, fragile wheat shoots

with their thin-chested whiteness showing

are greening warily, wonderingly,

inching up from the black, soft earth.


 Naked, defenseless now

but swaying summer gold,

ripened by the growth of God

come harvest time.


The man pushes back his hat,

Showing white on his forehead

a white band like a halo.

He stoops, he touches the little sprout,

his hammer-hard hands

caress delicately, finely feel its whiteness.

He raises it to his mouth and tastes,

and a gentle smile refashions

his stone-cut face – a smile,

a tender smile in this rock-hard man.


The lonely, vacant howling emptiness

 of a bare city street in night . . .

Laughing sounds of happy hearts

echo in this haunted harbor of hurt,

dripping resonant tears of drizzle,

haranguing a lonesome sleepless street light

with the clanging chain of a useless flag pole.

Outside the buildings’ shining shades,

leaning shadows and gaunt trees

stalk the stark night street.

A laugh escapes the warmth inside.

The chill breeze bites, strips the intruder

and hurls it into the freezing mud,

turning the pattering rain to snow.


Faint footsteps follow and fall

there upon the hard, stone floor

reddened and warmed in the sunset glow.

And the patient peaceful footfalls.

clinking rosaries, rustling cassocks

are muted in the misty dusk of prayer

that falls on the shadowed black figures,

that gently lifts them from life

to a dream, a vision,

an ecstasy of light and love.

They wait, and He comes

and He breathes here,

in the somber, incensed soulful stillness

of the twilight cloister.