A Kiss at Fifteen

Wayne Michael DeHart    (July, 1996)

Nancy was her name. Not a good omen. His eighth-grade girlfriend had been a Nancy and she had broken his heart, her head turned by the quintessential older man – a 16-year-old with his own car.

Now 16 himself (though without a car), he knew instinctively this Nancy was different. She was a younger woman (15) from the poorest of families and lived in “that” neighborhood. It seemed like she had just a few outfits for school, including a couple of ill-fitting blouses and faded, dark-colored skirts often adorned with lint and loose threads.

Few other kids associated with her and none laid claim to her friendship – or wanted to. She often dawdled idly after the last bell and consequently missed her school bus home, thus having to walk the couple of miles to the outskirts of town in solitude. She was never seen at school events, and was never missed.

He had seen her around school and wondered why she was always alone, appearing melancholy and deep in thought. The factory town had its share of underprivileged kids, many of whom hung together and shared the dual struggles of schoolwork and trying to fit in. Among the loners, however, none traveled as much in a world of their own as this enigmatic girl with the striking black hair and upturned nose.

He found her enchanting, though he could not say just why, and he became intrigued by her detached air of quiet defiance and self-reliance. He wanted to approach her, to talk to her, maybe sit with her at lunch or something. When he mentioned his interest to his friends, he became the target of biting verbal barbs and jabs, the kind of banter that male juveniles deem requisite when responding to confessed revelations of sincerity and sentiment.

They made one point clear and unmistakable: Stay away. “Everyone” knew this girl was always alone for a reason – she was, in the jargon of the day,  a “skag” – a catchall, undefined term that simply meant she was deemed undesirable, unattractive, unacceptable, unsociable and unfit to be seen with. They said he could do better than, well, a skag.

 (Skag – Not to the manor born. Earthy. Plain. Ultra-shy. Standoffish. Doesn’t fit in, won’t fit in, can’t fit in.  Odd. Quirky. Rumored  to be reckless, dangerous, dishonest and dark. Liar. Not too bright. A vacant stare. Unsmiling. Rough around the edges. Doesn’t read, won’t read or can’t read. Loner. Lonely. A dog. Can’t trust her. Bad family. Not a nice girl. Was supposedly seen late one night with the black leather-jacket guys behind the dairy bar. A mindless monster, a heartless harlot, a soulless slut, a trashy tramp, etc.)

Skag – a scattershot term for a girl he had become smitten with from afar.  Well, skag or not, whatever it meant, he had grown weary of  listening to his friends’ warnings, and became more determined than ever to get to know her.

And get to know her he did. He had expected aloofness but discovered a warm acceptance. Right from the start, she dropped her guard and removed her mask, captivating him with her childlike innocence, her unpretentious charm, her rich sense of humor and her dazzling dark eyes.

He himself was mature beyond his years yet he knew he remained a step or two behind her.  She was strong from a lifetime of being shunned and teased and had protected herself with an ass-kicking air of independence that she compromised when they would talk for hours on their long walks home together. (She now missed the bus on purpose, knowing he would walk her home each day, carrying her books, always walking between her and the street as he had been taught, protecting her from errant traffic  – a noble, yet subtle, display of gallantry that did not go unnoticed.)

As the weeks went by, the young couple achieved a delicate balance of friendship, trust and physical attraction – a balance nurtured by a mutual respect that was rare for those of so few years.

He had recently read “The Once and Future King” for a book report, his selection inspired by a pleasant memory of seeing “Camelot” at the movies the year before. He had been captured by the spirited simplicity of Richard Harris’ fervent King Arthur and the seductive strains of Vanessa Redgrave’s alluring songs. He had cursed the intrusion of Lancelot, the betrayal of Guinevere and the naivete’ of Arthur as the king’s  dream and vision unraveled before his eyes. For some vague reason, he took it personally and thereafter preferred to remember only the first half of the story and abandon the rest.

In quiet moments of solitude, he would envision the town as his Kingdom, the mysterious Nancy as his Queen, and every other guy in the school as lurking Lancelots. He wanted the “happily ever after” ending from the title song.  It was a great dream and he rode it hard. His years were few and imagination serves none so proudly as the young.

Despite many opportunities, he had not once acted on his impulsive desires to kiss the girl, perhaps out of fear that bells wouldn’t ring, that sparks wouldn’t fly, that the earth wouldn’t move. For him, or for her, or for both. He understood that, in one brief, unshining moment, the magic of his Camelot could be reduced to the sordid sorcery of Oz.

Sorcery? Nancy knew little, perhaps nothing,  of Camelot, but surely would have rejected his imagery of the Land of Oz. To her, it was a wonderful place of endearing munchkins, yellow brick roads and the glittering splendor of the Emerald City. Home to Glinda the Good and wishes granted and happy endings. Though she had seen the classic movie, she had not read the books and was not aware of the blissful absence of poverty and ignorance and sickness and sadness in Baum’s evolving Oz.

The unassuming young girl was content to imagine herself as Dorothy, with true friends and real happiness – hailed as heroine by the masses, simple folk like herself. Simply put, when she was Dorothy, she was not Nancy. But it was Nancy that had captured the boy’s heart. And it was Nancy that had to deal with life’s uncertainties and burdens.

Acceptance, for example.

Football games at their high school were as much social events as athletic contests. Until the cold weather of November arrived in New Hampshire, most were played on Friday nights. With their team a perennial also-ran, students spent more time socializing and couple-watching on those most significant of date nights. It was still early in the school year, and new “pairings” were great gossip material for the following week.

It was Friday, October 11, 1968 – the night before traditional Columbus Day – and there was discovery in the air. Right before kick-off  came one of those moments that are forever etched into the memories of those present, there to be summoned forth from time to time to restore that balancing force in our lives called perspective.

Nancy had reluctantly agreed to go the game with him, their “coming out” as a couple and her first ever school function. She liked him, and wondered aloud if they should have just gone to a movie, where he would not get teased for being with her. He told her not to worry, that he could brush aside whatever might be said to him, and that no one would bother her.  She felt reassured and off they went.

They had been seen together almost daily in the cafeteria and sometimes on those long after-school walks to her house, but few really thought she was anything more than a curiosity to him.  And certainly he would never actually take her out, like on a date or something. But look …

There they stood, hand-in-hand, looking up into the stands for the least congested section of the bleachers, hoping to go unnoticed and subtly get to a seat while everyone was watching the field as the players started to line up. Then came the shout, cold and cruel, reverberating above the murmur of the crowd.


The word had no sooner pierced the heart of the young girl when it was followed by more shouts, more voices, in unison – “skag, skag, skag”. It was his “friends” and he hurt for her.

That resilient strength, that cloak of armor she had relied upon to keep her safe from hate and hurt and humiliation wavered in the October wind as everything went quiet and it felt like everyone there was staring at them, and not the field.

She turned to him, tears welling in those dark eyes that owned his soul, and he squeezed her hand tight. He froze, sure she was going to break free and run, the now-ended shouts still echoing loudly in her head, ripping through her like buckshot, her spirit bleeding in retreat.

He was wrong.

Ass-kicking independence dies hard in the young as well as the old. She pulled him close and fought off the tears. In a defining moment of courage and character, of determination and defiance, she turned and smiled in the direction of her tormentors. Then she pulled him in even closer and kissed him. It was showtime and he responded like she knew he would. It was a kaleidoscope kiss of blues and golds, of starbursts and rainbows. Each felt the pounding of the other’s heart and savored the sweetness and innocence of first love.

At first surprised, than seemingly delighted, many of those watching broke into spontaneous applause, then turned their attention back to the field, to the players, to the cold October wind that enveloped them.

The football team did win the game, but theirs was not the most important victory that night. It was the conquest of a love that proved at once sacred and spiritual – a love that was romantic yet believable, worldly yet virtuous , misunderstood but deserved. A love that was real and yet mythical, capturing all that was good in Camelot and Oz. It matters not that those fabled realms were flawed; only that their imagination, their inspiration, their vision and their promise are perpetuated and preserved.

By those who teach.
By those who learn.
By those who lead.
By those who follow.
By you …
and by me.

For his King Arthur.
For her Dorothy.
For youth.
For love.
For … ever.



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The real Nancy – at 15. Hope your life has been all that you wanted it to be, and more. Thank you for The Kiss, and the memories. The Patrick Swayze line, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner”, could have been written about you. You wowed me to the stars, you were sweet yet strong, and you won the night.

“And Here’s to the Dawn of their Days” … Sweet Sir Galahad, joan baez, 1969


With me, every step, 
every day, every night  – wayne michael dehart


You did not dedicate this book to the likes of me. Nevertheless, it guided my path, made me strong, brought me home. I read it on the plane ride over, and again on the plane ride back. The former with apprehension, the latter with gratitude. Sometimes in our journey, we bless the unintended. As you did for me. I do believe your sis would have smiled at that, all these years later. The law of unintended consequences is a coin toss. I called “heads”, and you flipped the quarter. Neither of us saw how it landed, nor did we want to.

On page 148, in a two-sentence chapter entitled, “Fourteen Old Bums”: you wrote “In the balcony of Madison Square Garden in New York City fourteen old bums filled up a row at the circus. In the middle of the Hungarian balancing act someone treated them all to ice creams.”

On page 191, the closing page, you offered, “Only you and I can help the sun rise each coming morning. If we don’t, it may drench itself out in sorrow … It’s up to you.”

Ice cream and sunrise. Daybreak and heartache. Faith and fear. 365 days.

A tip of that weathered hat and profound thanks to you, Ms. Baez – then, now and ’til the sunset of my days.


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The Bumper-to-Bumper Blues

Wayne Michael DeHart  (March, 1997)

Out of the office, into my car;
four miles from home, not very far.
At the turn of the key, the engine’s alive;
the clock lights up, it reads 5:05.
Into reverse, backing out of my space;
workday is done, getting out of this place.
Then into drive, and I’m on my way;
music is playing, it’s the 1st of May.
Now that it’s over,  I can finally relax;
I made it through, without getting the axe.
The sun is shining, and the sky is blue;
payday’s tomorrow, too good to be true.

Out of the parking lot, onto the street;
can’t wait to get there, can’t wait to eat.
Maybe a chili dog, and a bottle of brew;
a bag of chips, and a doughnut or two.
Not really healthy, but it is what I like;
and I’ll burn it off, with a ride on my bike.
(Soon to be home, in my own little heaven;
three miles to go, clock sits at 5:07.)
Maybe I’ll read, or write a long letter;
watch some TV, that might be better.
Perhaps solitaire, or lift a few weights;
or call up some ladies, and plead for some dates.

Work was a hassle, but now I’m released;
my nerves are relaxed, my panic has ceased.
Soon I’ll arrive, at my castle for one;
the suit will come off, the tie be undone.
(Car’s running smooth , oil pressure’s fine;
two miles to go, clock reads 5:09.)
On my way home, feeling elated;
glad that’s not me, with that tire deflated.
Poor guy is sweating, and looking so down;
I’ve been in his shoes, and I know that frown.
But today is today, and I’m sailing along;
the wind’s at my back, and nothing is wrong.

So good to be free, from the boss and his stare;
from the inbox that’s full, from the outbox that’s bare.
From the fax that screams, from the phone that shrieks;
from the desk that wobbles, from the chair that squeaks.
I’ll find another job, I vowed that today;
a perfect position, with much higher pay.
(My tires are hummin’, my engine’s a-revvin’;
just one mile to go, clock beams 5:11.)
Then reality strikes, and I daydream no more;
a new job’s unlikely, no change is in store.
So each time I leave, each time I arrive;
I remind myself, “well, it IS a short drive!”

Hey, why all those brake lights, appearing ahead;
so many, so quickly, so bright and so red?
They dazzle my eyes, they blind me so fast;
my senses are numb, my mind is aghast.
An accident maybe, or a stalled truck;
darn this route home, my life and my luck.
I almost made it, without a hitch or a glitch;
but now I’m stuck, and starting to twitch.
I’ll have to stay calm, blood pressure’s too high;
a mind trip to Europe, eyes closed I’ll just fly.
And I’ll pretend I’m in Paris or Rome;
curses to gridlock, when I’m so close to home.


Eventide on the Granite Coast

Wayne Michael DeHart  (May, 1998) 

Settling onto the smooth surface of the rock nearest the edge,
I took my rest in the sheltering shadows of those who came before;
seeking answers in the splashing symphony of the Emergent Sea.

Northeast winds gathered and guided the sun-glistened swells,
adorning the vibrant waters with brilliant diamond sparkles
not unlike those that danced across her eyes at touching time.

The hours drifted as the gulls grew accustomed to my stillness
and coasted in to reclaim their roost and take a closer look
at the encroaching stranger staring vacantly into the distance.

The autumn afternoon faded gently into unwelcome twilight,
obscuring the horizon and enshrouding both vision and view.
The dusk lingered, intruding upon my thoughts and solitude.

The shoreline withdrew its welcome when sundown retired the day.
Disrupted and displaced, I rose to bid the Emergent Sea goodbye,
then tarried long; uncertain of my future, unsure of my return.

How striking was that first step back toward the weathered cottage
as my sudden turn revealed a moon immense and full, brilliant and swift
in its sudden ascent and capture of the silent star-struck sky.

Its luminous glow returned the diamonds to the surging sea.
They glittered softly upon the black surface behind the breakers;
undisturbed by the fury and the passion of the powerful tide.

The smothering darkness had surrendered to the lucent lamp
and resettled in places far away and unknown to me that night;
my only selfish concern being the illumination of the pathway.

When next we met I told her about the skylight and my awakening
midst gales and gulls and writhing whitecaps on the Emergent Sea.
It was a full and familiar moon that exposed her knowing smile.

As her words remained unspoken, my thoughts remained unbroken.
Then, in a musing moment, she asked why I had not seen it all before
in forty years of days and nights and suns and skies and seas.

I realized it was because my eyes had looked inward
each time I sought refuge on a soothing sunlit rock;
too secure in the daylight and too afraid of its passing
to reach out and grasp the grandeur of the sunset
and understand its place in the circle and cycle of my life.

Today, my eyes look outward, and upward, and afar.
Now, my vision is unveiled, my view is enlightened.
I transcend the darkness and embrace the essence of the night.
My heart pulses to the rhythmic tides of the Emergent Sea
and my spirit sings the silent song of the emerging moon.

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A Day at the Dam – Summer, 2017, Franklin, New Hampshire

Wayne Michael DeHart

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Her: “It’s so beautiful here … and quiet.”
Him: “Yep.”
Her: “Whose car is this?”
Him: “It’s a Veloster, baby.”
Her: “Whose Veloster is this?”
Him: “It’s Ron’s.”
Her: “Who’s Ron?”
Him: “Ron’s gone, baby. Ron’s gone.”

Her: “He’s missing a great view.”
Him: “Yep.”


“The day at the dam was nice, even though they didn’t have blueberry pancakes.”

With a nod to “Pulp Fiction”, 1994

(“Fabienne: Whose motorcycle is this?

Butch: It’s a chopper, baby.

Fabienne: Whose chopper is this?

Butch: It’s Zed’s.

Fabienne: Who’s Zed?

Butch: Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.”)

Summer, 2023 Update:

ired, I Said.

Wayne Michael DeHart   (May, 1997)

Fired he said, you’re fired he said,
so drop what you’re doing and clean out your desk
and be gone by noon without disturbing the others
with shallow goodbyes and stuff like that
because you’re f ired , he said.

Six years of coming in early and leaving late
and skipping lunch and busting my butt for him.
Six years of showing up when I was sick
and missing vacations and covering up for him.

Tired he said,  I’m tired he said,
of your wrinkled shirts and worn-out suits
and Walmart shoes that don’t present
the proper image to our clients but no more
because I’m t ired , he said.

Six years of working at home at night
and neglecting my wife and kids for him.
Six years of waiting for a “reserved for” space
in the company parking lot for him.

Required he said,  it’s required he said,
that you turn in your name–tag along with your keys
and fill out some forms and aren’t those company pens
I see in your pocket so best hand them over
because it’s requ ired, he said.

Six years of concessions and wounded pride
and loss of self-esteem for him.
Six years of cheap motels and burger joints
to lower expense accounts for him.

Retired he said, Black’s retired he said,
without warning at mid-morning
to move to Scranton or some such place
and now the reports won’t get finished
because Black’s ret ired, he said.

Six years of torture in this terrible place
had greatly increased my disgust for him.
Six years of suffering in submissive silence
had nurtured a nagging contempt for him.

Expired he said, White’s expired he said,
dropped down to the floor at ten forty-four
clutching his chest and gasping for breath
without giving notice so we’re short one more
because White’s exp ired, he said.

Six years of timid yes-sirs and no-sirs
to display the proper respect for him.
Six years of flattering his unsightly spouse
so she’d always be in a good mood for him.

Re-hired he said, you’re re-hired he said,
it’s been a long morning of stress, strife and tension
but there are Black and White issues that need your attention
and  you’ll be forever indebted to me for saving your pension
and work even harder,  so you’re re-h ired, he said.

(How the tables had turned! I wanted to smirk.
Too often scorned, now I’d deal with this jerk.
Whatever the cost, it was my time and place.
But … valor was lost, when he snarled in my face.)

Inspired I said,  I’m inspired I said,
by your faith in me and this second chance
to prove my worth in this wonderful job and great career
to a man I trust and revere, respect and hold dear,
and I’m so incredibly insp…

ired, I said.


The Gray Two-Story Across From the Park

Wayne Michael DeHart   (May, 1997)

A Home Becomes a House Again:

The last boxes of this and that have been laid to rest
in quiet scattered solitude on the hardwood floor,
awaiting only a lift from the Mayflower man.

The hallway closet where our coats used to rest,
now stripped of the garb it stored by the door,
mourns the transfer of treasures to a moving van.

Deserted hooks and naked nails hug walls undressed;
relieved of their duties, bearing burdens no more,
they loiter and litter each bland plaster span.

The gas range fumes at the loss of its pilot blue heat,
its burners absent their fire, missing their light;
tempered door open, oven breathing at last.

Powerless, the fridge sits stripped, silent in defeat;
fortress in white –  lifeline by day, beacon by night,
provider, safe harbor, its presence now passed.

As comforting sanctuary, as reassuring retreat,
the safe kitchen oasis offered exile from flight,
a nest that felt right, when life moved too fast.

Now just a building, idled realty,
abandoned forever by my family.
devoid of domain and dignity,
a rest stop in time, soon to be
nothing more than a memory.

A House Becomes A Home Again:

U-Haul unloaded at the first light of dawn.
Contents in place before morning is gone.
Kids running barefoot across the lawn.
Parents inside with curtains drawn.
They’ve moved in; we’ve moved on.
Makes them hither, makes us yon.



(Aging nicely, some 60 years later,  though no longer gray,  no longer a home,  nor even a house – now simply a soulless, sterile structure, i.e., law offices.)

Maybe Just One Thing

Wayne Michael DeHart   (February, 1996)

I have had few good days of late.

At age 47, I have discovered that my dreams will not be realized.

Such discovery was not sudden. I have known for some time that I have been losing control of my life. Those around me define it as simply a mid-life crisis, an awakening of sorts, to the debilitating effects of time and spent emotion. This categorization of my condition is not accurate. I wish it were that simple, but it is not. Nothing is simple when you’re tired and alone at age 47. Tired and alone and beaten down by too many bad days.

So often I’ve heard people say they would decline an opportunity for a “do over”, to be able to go back in time and live their life over again.

To accept that opportunity would be to reject one’s past and present. Such rejection would be an admission of dissatisfaction, of poor choices, of failure. It would be a sign of weakness of mind and spirit. It would betray family and friends, It would be indefensible and unacceptable. It would strain the soul and hurt the heart.

I, however, would indeed go back again. Without hesitation or trepidation. And I would do a thousand things differently.

Or maybe just one thing.

I would have seeded and nurtured friendships. My privacy and independence are false treasures I have guarded too closely through the years. To a fault, and to an obsession. Consequently, as I grew older (though upon reflection not wiser), I spent more and more time speculating, imagining, daydreaming, fantasizing  – always sure that there would eventually be time for fulfillment of every wish, every goal, every aspiration.

Time moves slowly for the young – a blessing unrecognized by those who count the days until they reached milestones of age 12, then 16, then 18, and finally 21. Milestones of graduation, marriage, parenthood and the meaning of life.

I counted those days. Such a fool. I want them back. Each of them. All of them.

I would stop dreaming, and start living.

But now it’s too late for me, so I’ll settle for a  wish fulfilled. For a friend – one that will help make tomorrow a good day.

A friend that will care for me and about me. One that will be glad that I’m here, and will notice when I’m not. One that will leave purple and yellow flowers at my marker.

One that is real – in a world where nothing else is.





view from a hole

Wayne Michael DeHart    (September, 1996)

i look up and around as i slip down,
the light of tranquility fading

i scratch and i claw till my fingers are raw
losing my grip and my strength

i try hard to think as i continue to sink
to a depth too many have known

i curse my plight but continue to fight,
though my resistance mournfully wanes

my limbs are now weak and i can hardly speak
as the cylinder narrows its gauge

my will has expired and I’m so hopelessly tired
that i pray for the bottom to rise

but my descent is not done  (it’s just really begun)
so i resolve to shut down my mind

it’s my way to cope and cling to the hope
that my fall is really a stumble

and that i’ll awaken again
to a smile from a friend

illuminating . . .

this darkest of views
from this deepest of holes


Annie’s Time

Wayne Michael DeHart   (June, 1997)

Paul and Annie met and fell in love their Senior year in high school.

Well, not exactly.

Better said, it was in their last year of school. It was a different time, and Senior year was never a reality for either of them. Not even in the distance. Not even close. Reasons were many, and choices were few.

And while they did indeed meet in whatever final grade that was, the love came later.

For two, maybe a few, years they were simply best friends. She helped him work on his first old car, and he helped her eat the first cookies she ever made all by herself. She told him he was cute, and he told her she was cuter. He was shy and she was not, but the conversation never lagged and neither did the flirting. They kissed a few times, innocently and briefly, each time feeling both giddy and guilty, and retreating quickly to the safety zone of friends just passing time together.

Their first grown-up actual date was on Saturday, December 6, 1941. The now-maturing young couple went to the Gardens Theater to see Myrna Loy in “Love Crazy” and laughed with everyone else from beginning to end. The Great Depression was finally behind those in the theater that night, and with new storm clouds on the horizon, it seemed somehow the right time to lighten up, even when the goofy one-liners and forced frivolity of the film weren’t really that funny. It was like school recess, after taking a test, when the kids know there will be another one awaiting them after the bell rings, calling them back inside to their pencils. Just enjoy the fifteen minutes of freedom. And now, just enjoy the movie.

Later, the significance of the movie’s title was lost on them as they gulped down ice cream sundaes at Keller’s Restaurant on Main Street. He gulped faster, and she offered him the rest of hers. As he would later learn, it was the first of many such gestures to come from this girl who was getting cuter, in his eyes, by the day.

Annie’s “be-home-by” time was fast approaching and it became a quiet ride home for the preoccupied teens. At her door, the goodnight kiss was different than those they had shared as boy-girl companions. It lasted longer and led to another. They lingered. Until the porch light flickered twice, that is, sending Annie inside and Paul to the cold seat of his car.

Their innocence was lost – not that night, but the very next day. Along with that of millions of other young Americans. Lost forever in a hellish two hours of fire and fury at a faraway, strange-sounding place called Pearl Harbor.

Just two months later, at 17, Paul joined the Navy and was soon deployed to the Solomon Islands aboard the battleship U.S.S. Washington. His world became a whirlwind of waters off Guadalcanal, the Philippine Sea, the Leyte Gulf, then Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Annie’s world became one of loneliness and health problems, worry and wondering. After his ship limped into Puget Sound for repairs in the Spring of 1944, Paul unexpectedly arrived home on leave, surprising and then marrying Annie on April 13th in a hastily-arranged small ceremony at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Manchester, NH.

Back into warfare in the Pacific just two months later, his world returned to chaos and hers to frailty – the burdens of both worlds acutely heightened and intensified by their new but separated roles of husband and wife. It felt like forever, but it was just eighteen months after their nuptials that Paul was headed home for good, discharge papers in hand. Other than partial hearing loss, he was coming back from  the war unscathed. Physically, at least.

She met his train at South Station in Boston on October 1st, 1945, only a month after the surrender of Japan, marking the abrupt and unofficial end of the war.  Upon seeing him standing there, searching her out in the crowd, she started crying crazy tears. She had imagined on the trip down that she would go flying into his arms, kissing him madly, just like in a scene from one of the movies she had seen back home at The Gardens. Instead, she hesitated, experiencing a brief moment of inexplicable awkwardness, as if the moment may not be real. Then he saw her too. They met halfway, but there was no jumping into outstretched arms. Instead, they locked eyes in silence, hers still glistening from the tears.

He told her he loved her…
she said she loved him back.

Then they embraced, and held on long and tight.

They didn’t let go until Annie’s heart stopped beating on a rainy April night in 1994, just six days short of their 50th wedding anniversary.  The childless couple had made no special plans for their marital milestone. They joked about renting an old black-and-white comedy movie and making home-made sundaes (she would share hers with him, of course), and getting Annie tucked in before her curfew. Some things, however, were just not meant to be, and we don’t have to understand why.

Their love – the one between the cute guy and cuter girl – was genuine and ran deep. Potholes and curves in their long road were not infrequent of course, they never are. Still, they lived their love each day in at least some small way. Sometimes with words, sometimes with actions, but always with purpose and pride.

As Annie’s health declined, they greeted each new sunrise by praying silently together, another subtle concession she gladly made to accommodate his self-consciousness. He had not prayed aloud since he left the Navy, not even at church, which she always attended and he only sometimes did. So praying in silence it was. And it mattered not to her, as long as they were doing it together. Those were precious moments for Annie, who remembered the countless nights she had prayed for Paul’s safe return from the war.

His days since her passing all run together and he seldom leaves the small home where he still feels her presence in every room. He sees her smile in the kitchen , feels her warmth in the bedroom, hears her stories out on the porch.

Paul loved Annie and Annie loved Paul. Neither ever wavered. But then, you somehow already knew that.

Wait. Did I say Paul “loved” Annie?  No, Paul LOVES Annie.

He tells her so, out loud, every morning in his prayers.

And in the stillness of the dawn …
she says she loves him back.


Paul & Annie
Thank you both for all you did.  You live forever in my heart. Hope all is well on the other side of the rainbow …

The Fire in Jimmy Louis

Wayne Michael DeHart   (June, 1997)

He endures the emptiness of love lost, of dreams forsaken.
His canvas mourns in brooding browns and ashen grays.
Most say his drive and direction were lost
when she exploded out of his life,
shattering his heart, draining his soul.

Once most likely to succeed, they said.
Ambitious and certain with vision and goals.
But youthful daring and reckless confidence
were too soon manifested in acts of courage in conflict
that brought a hail of hot metal rain to nerve and bone.

Dazed and defeated from the dual punches to his gut,
( the loud rolling thunder of her retreat and
the lightning-quick loss of mobility and dignity ),
his memory of her white-hot kisses had faded to black.

But the mortar’s flame and flash and fury had not.

Now, this day, he vows to cast off the shroud that darkens his world,
shelters his apathy and shields his despair – and incite the embers
of the flickering,  lonely flame she left embedded deep within.

He will awaken his canvas with glorious greens and glistening golds,
then lay down his brush and wheel himself
into the night
into her sight
into her light
into her life
into her.

Together, they will
find …
feel …
fuel …
the fire in Jimmy Louis.

his canvas evolved from this …


to this.


Past / Passed in the Night: Next of Kin

Wayne Michael DeHart  (February, 1997) 

His heart expired at sunset with no one at his side.
The hospital bed was slowly stripped of its linen
by the amiable nurse’s aide who had winked at him
and smiled each time she captured his gaze.

Nary a flower nor a card had graced his room.
The young girl wondered how a man so endearing
could be forsaken by family and friends
as he struggled through his final days.

The doctors had prepared him for the coming of his Night.
The news did not surprise him and he shrugged it off
with a simple nod and drifting thoughts about the irony
of having worked his life away to never be retired.

For days thereafter he watched the door through hopeful eyes.
Maybe his brother or a neighbor or someone from work

would stop by and wish him well and remind him
that he had been respected and admired.

But he knew that no one  would come and sit down by his bed.
His had been a private life of unattended needs;
endless hours of solitude and solitaire
and sleepless dreams under unshared covers.

He once gave his heart to an Asian woman who promised him forever.
But she left in the night of their eighty-seventh day
and he realized he would never again find such wonder
in the silent, barren touch of casual lovers.

In his fiftieth year a vicious cancer ravaged his insides.
His restless mind was cluttered in his twilight hours
with what-ifs and should-haves and lifelong regrets
of one who knows he will soon be dead.

He was certain that his passing would hardly be noted.
But while the rest of the staff took the flatline in stride
the nurse’s aide, an Asian girl, sat down where no one had
right next to the empty bed.

She bid him Good Night and wished him stars in his sky.
Eyes closed, she paused for a breath,
remembering his face, embracing his grace –
before rising with a wink and a smile.

She sensed somehow that in passing
he had found what he had missed.
Because the girl who touched the spirit
of the man without a wife
was, unknown to both, 
his only child. 



Words you can touch – can touch you Back

Wayne Michael DeHart

Rescued from the furthest corner of the very top shelf, the nondescript brown book revealed itself to be dusty and dated, seemingly dispensable now after a long-ago demotion from displayed to displaced on the still-sturdy steel shelves of the basement library. I chose to allow the dust to see another day and carefully opened it mid-binding, to a random yellowed page of crowded text and curious font.

I began reading at the top, mid-sentence, and stopped, abruptly but gently, many pages later as I became aware of the hour and my inevitable tardiness upstairs. The book was then closed, dust fittingly still intact, and returned to its distant outpost, there destined to once again rest undisturbed for years to come.

For almost two hours, I had escaped the chaotic demands of a schedule to an unforeseen oasis of thousands of words I could touch, and be touched by them in return. The feel of a hard-covered book, the turning of its pages, and the sound of it being snapped shut when “the world” is calling is too often underappreciated and so often forgotten.

The title of that book that ambushed my day?

Decades later, I couldn’t tell you. It didn’t matter then, and it doesn’t matter now. The connection was, as always, fleeting and transient –  but then, as with all things pleasing and pleasurable, the mark, the memory, and the moment endure within the mind and the heart. There to dwell comfortably, always within reach, to be revisited at will.

You know, much like an old, dust-covered book, waiting patiently to be rescued, its words to be touched.