Archive for ‘Doug’

April 17, 2021

“Lifting Stones”

by HemmingPlay
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I’m thrilled to announce “Lifting Stones” is available for pre-order now. Publishing is set for June 8 in print and E-book formats and available world-wide. It is also going to be in catalogs for bookstores and libraries to place orders through normal channels.

Published by Rootstock Publishing in Montpelier, VT in the US, a website is now up with background information on the book and a link to pre-order.

Early reviews are starting to come in and they are looking good. A sample: “…There is humility and there is enormous bravery. Within the pages of Lifting Stones there is no finite limit to Stanfield’s poetic skill, nor to his quality….”

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November 28, 2020


by HemmingPlay

Oh, I saw my love go on alone 
on a sky-blue morning. 

life in a deserted land: 

A tent, fluttering in the
cooling breeze of evening. 
I crawl in and fall asleep with 

growing patience. 

November 28, 2020

As It Was

by HemmingPlay

As it was in the beginning,
so still it is.

The hourglass turned then,
the sand measures time, again.

This is no tragedy, merely
the nature of things.

I perceive I am dying—
as does everything—but since birth.

The Mayfly, the tortoise;
the orchid, mosquito. We

don’t leave much behind.
Remorseless winds grind even

Pharoh’s magnificent stones to dust.
(Like them, I can’t imagine a world without me.)

It’s hard to see past that.
But we ride the last grain of sand through

the passage, just wide enough, and this spirit
escapes time and space, again.

For now, I only wonder to what I’m ancestral
This time. Was I any good?

November 26, 2020

An Instant

by HemmingPlay

In every life,
there’s a moment, or two.

The curve of your neck
out of that corduroy man’s shirt,

Burnt orange,
of autumn; passing of the old.

How unaware you were
that our child-like lives had just changed.

That’s not quite the right word.
They rearranged themselves

Into a new pattern, the right one.
Like random iron filings on paper

Which, when a magnet comes near,
Spring instantly into order,

Obedient to the
Truth of an invisible force.


October 22, 2020

This Mortal Wound

by HemmingPlay

I felt for a while that grief would undo death.

Did it?


But I believed it might, if it were deep enough.

My cynic friend finally laughs at me.

Life is a fatal condition, my friend. Don’t you get that yet?

All the bandages in the world, all the disinfectants, all the healthy diets

can never heal that fatal gash we’ve had since the first moments,

Three Fates. One
fate, with three faces.

‘We strut and fret our hour on the stage
and then are heard n
o more’
Everything has a time limit here.

Such a gloomy cynic! You take away all hope.

Not at all. You don’t have to turn this into something.
You don’t need to get upset.
Think of yourself as dead already,
that you’ve lived your life.
Now you’re free to take what time is left and
live it as it should be lived.
It just takes being indifferent to what makes no difference.
And most of what we say and do is not essential.

Listen. Just do this. 
Go out into the desert just once. 
Lie down and look up at the stars,
A blackness filled with light so thick it seems alive

Let it bewilder you, and overtake you. 
As you shiver, though, it is not the cool air, 
but an angel that lies down beside you, 
and you’ll know that something 
beyond imagining awaits. 

October 21, 2020

Are We To Be

by HemmingPlay

Are we to be lovers, or companions, or strangers?
(Not that one is better in some tedious way.)

I do not know myself.
I go dark and am of dark.

My journey takes me there.
And back again, but sometimes…

Is it moral to get better,
if I see things as they really are?

True is true— a little epiphany—
But so is hope a triumph.

And I have that male instinct
to penetrate, to impregnate with

A true, whatever it is,
but also hope.

So what shall we choose?
And are they different?

For the search for love does not cease in this world.

October 19, 2020


by HemmingPlay

An end comes, eventually.

I struggle with that. Don’t you?

But hear me out.

I dreamt once of my age, at my ending.

Not too close, still closer than it used to be.

Later, when a terrible loss tore me in two,

It also reminded me that,

Like the most exquisite flower,

death will come.

October 12, 2020

Lifting Stones

by HemmingPlay
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This is an odd occupation.

Lift a stone to see what’s beneath,

Write a few heavy words,

Stare at the

Damp past,

Watch secrets scuttle,

Blinking in unwelcome light.

Lift the words, too, on what

Wants to dawn with each day

And pile them in a cairn, mark the

Trail and keep on.

No idea if another solitary pilgrim will chance past,

Maybe years from now,

Pause a moment, then

Reveal their own hidden things, share,

Lift a stone,

Add to the record.

Move on.

October 12, 2020


by HemmingPlay

Both doors of the world opened

You opened them both,

Passed through one as the other closed.

We heard them both bang in

The storm of your going.

We bore it badly for a time

But now have forgiven you

Your Ever

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October 9, 2020

Dig Me A Grave In The Air

by HemmingPlay
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Dig me a grave in the air one day, 
so I won’t have to lie in too cramped a way. 

Weep just enough to let me know that you cared, 
but then remember, my friends, that I’d finished the play. 

None of us leaves life alive, after all. 
The world goes on like spring does the thaw. 

So dig me a grave in the air one day—
or let the flames take me as I’m already away.

October 7, 2020

Home’s Moving

by HemmingPlay

I can’t go home, not yet.
Home is still moving,
When it stops, maybe I’ll rejoin it.

But this moment is real;
I can feel your lips,
and join you with
such easy passion.
I know the heat, the
weight, the wetness of you
In the dark,
or pressed against me
at a dock, oblivious
to jealous eyes,
saying a goodbye,
wordlessly telling
me what feels right.
Sensing it would not last.
My separateness
melts in the natural
grace of you.

Stay with me a while, dancer.

read more »

October 5, 2020

Waiting for Heaven

by HemmingPlay

A pile of poems,
a scattering of short stories,
a minor mess of manuscripts,
all in a state of perpetual preparation.
I wait to see
what will happen today.

These things, bits of a lonely soul,
Hopeful of attention float into
Jackson Square,
New Orleans, on a random Saturday morning.
Jock and Michelle
play a mix of the classics
in the next patch of shade.

Lovely, dark Michelle on the violin,
Jock, recently of Columbus,
sits in on the keyboard.
Buffalo, the veteran, hair strapped
by a black cloth band, plucks
a soulful strain from Mozart
on a battered guitar.
Its case is open on the dirty concrete,
a few coins and bills
coaxed from a family from Iowa,
will buy one or two meals,
a share of a dump on
Decatur Street, when he’s
not enjoying the wonders
between a girlfriend’s thighs in
a ratty old apartment in the Tremé.

September 27, 2020

Message in the Stars

by HemmingPlay

The stars were out

shockingly clear and bright.

I couldn’t sleep, again, and

(as a bed is best for only two things (not counting dying),

I slipped into clothes and went outside,

my dog curled up beside her, protecting.

It was an hour or two before first light,

a rare time here without clouds,

Venus rising in the East

like the Star of Africa on the paw of Leo.

To the south,

Orion’s three gems shine on his belt,

Betelgeuse on his upraised club arm,

Rigel in the buckle of

his raised left foot as he leaps into battle.

There is a universal beauty,

a unity of all creation,

a clear, subtle illumination

of the magnificence of life, and death

always there, like the stars,

beacons of creation,

in that last hour of darkness, when

the clouds slide away toward

Idaho, and dawn approaches,

a rare time without hidden things,

here in the kingdom of water.

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September 20, 2020


by HemmingPlay

I knew a guy.
Cancer survivor,
but worn down by it
to the lacy bone.
Thin, with a dry look.
Still, a light shone through
his parchment skin
like a flame through a mica shade,
like some kind of organic fire.
The brush with death left a calling card.
“I’ll be back” it said.
“You won’t know when.”

He knew what it meant to nearly end.
It was an epiphany, of sorts.

But there was this glow, as though
he had permission to use
whatever time was left.

As serious as a heart attack,
he was—
Afraid of being forgotten,
Of not being worth remembering–
but determined to try something.

It doesn’t have to be cancer.
Could be a stroke, the kind of thing,
you try to explain, but the lucky civilians
can’t understand:
“I could hear the whine of the bullet, the ugly sound of
something ruthless hunting, meaning to kill.”

You only know this
if you’ve heard the whine.
But it misses, now and then.
You realize you’ve got bonus time,
but fear being forgotten;
you’ve wasted so much time.
but that fire …
You mean to slap untruths
in the time granted.
Make some noise.
Burn some rubber.
Make someone cry,

Make someone happy.
Be honest.
Be true.
Repent wasting
seconds of precious time.
You know not the hour or the day.

It’s an epiphany, of sorts, hearing death whizzz by.
It lights a manic fire.
But you live sweeter, cleaner,
in its holy light.

September 18, 2020

Touching Glass in a Crowd

by HemmingPlay

The Earth burns and seas
Simmer, choke, seethe,
Smashing warnings
Against the complacent,
Sticky-tacky vanities
of rich and poor alike
With implacable indifference,
Erasing intrusions in wilderness
With mountainous, hideous
Flames and heat and smoke.
Hungry cougars flee into a plastic
Melting suburbia ill-suited to
A new reality.

But we still misread the moment.

As usual.

Like Pharaoh,
One plague after another

read more »

August 30, 2020

A Fierce String

by HemmingPlay

Minute by minute
year by year
the tangled string
of seconds
girdled by
fear of loss
joy, brief,
hunger, sated,
eternally to
drive us
out again.

August 30, 2020

I Am The Wind, I Must Move

by HemmingPlay


It was always thus:
The Father sun rises in the sky, the days lengthen, energy stirs the world.

I am born. And once born, I move.
I must move.

My siblings and I sweep through bare branches,
Laughing, whispering high and low through village
And city and farm and water,
We race and set power lines thrumming, push dead things
Against fence rows,
We sing along the high ridges and lift eagles
Above the forests, looking through their
Sharp eyes at the vista spread wide beneath.

I swirl in from Cuba, over the French Quarter and pick up
The mystique of fresh biegnets, snippets of jazz, the
Quiet sounds of suffering and joy,

I am Poltergust, mischievous imp of the air,
Slipping under spring dresses and flipping them upward,
Exposing long legs, hearing the squeals,
Snatching laughter, mussing girls’ hair, sprinting away…

read more »

August 24, 2020


by HemmingPlay
raven against the moon

I once thought I had become so used to sorrow that I
might never speak again.

I purged myself to a mute, perfect blackness,
waiting just to give one last unhuman cry and fly away,

Anything to escape, 
to  head for the far mountains and the headwaters,

To live the life of a scavenger and beggar, a medieval vagabond,
always apart, feeding on the lives and hidden parts around me.

But letting go wasn’t an end,
merely the funeral for the lost, the old and gone, a 

Mere rolling back of the stone for
what comes next: No life without death. 

The raven, feeling the updrafts, sought high air,
above the smoke of chimneys, beyond memory.

Intrigued by shiny things, he descends, in time,
awkward and clownish on the ground.

Charmed by unconscious kindness, he can tell at a distance 
the humility that comes  from a thousand small griefs;

And trusts a bit more. Drawn by the shrewdness and subtlety
of the neglected and the oppressed, who, like him, see

The powerful ones in their brutal clarity and adapt, 
who to survive, must cultivate the grace of forgiveness, and cleverness.

August 20, 2020

A Few Lines

by HemmingPlay

A good world—
dew drops fall
by ones, by twos.”
Japanese poet Isa 1762-1826

Three lines tell all.
Mountains, unchanged, ignore
Temporary things, let
The mist pass without notice.

One tardy fog-cloud
Rushes up the valley,
Chased by the sun.
An old man stalks by
On his daily trudge,
Face set against the inevitable,
Looks neither left, nor right.
Alone now, girls used to play
With his youthful body,
Craving the hardness
For their own purposes.

Crows comment
Cynically on yet another
dangerous fool.

Nearby, in that other world,
The fog still hugs the cold waves
Beneath which creatures
can only wait,
Wishing we were gone.

“In this world,
we walk on the roof of Hell,
gazing at flowers.”

August 18, 2020

To Forgive the World

by HemmingPlay

But I was up before dawn
When the tender last whisps of
The time of dreams slides west,
a 5 billion-year-old metronome.
The same, yet never the same. 
A bird —a finch, I think— goes about
Her day, at peace, hunting, exploring,
Hopping from branch to branch
With an occasional single pure note
To let her mate know she still is.

The Earth breathes in and out,
A promise, a new day.
The mountains — the same, yet not—
Please me each time
The sun touches them again.
The world lives,
And so do I.
This is enough.

August 16, 2020

Long Walk

by HemmingPlay

I won’t have power or fame.
I won’t save the world.
When I’m gone, my voice
Will be the first thing people forget,
As I did my father’s.
It’s funny what you miss.

As the third child,
I was always playing catch-up,
The gap never closed, but
I forgave this great injustice.
I’m not ashamed of my defeat.
It was foretold;
It doesn’t matter.

Endurance comes only
From enduring
“Even asleep we partake in the world.”
I wave at the ancestor,
2,000 generations back,
Trudging north up the Nile from
deeper Africa.
We made it, old man.
We made it.

August 12, 2020

Married to the Muse

by HemmingPlay

Photo by Richard Calmes

We know dark places,
the things we daren’t see. 
We learn, some of us, that
running away
is pointless,
that they are
mere ghosts and shadows and
lost fragments of us, 
longing to be seen.
My back is ribboned by invisible scars
from invisible claws, from my
desperate, abandoned children.

Still, I am always
looking for the
thing just out of reach.
I crave love, but after a life
of it, I choose to be slightly apart. 
I love women, and want them
To know how beautiful
they are. I love
them that way, true,
but I can’t give
myself to them,
I can’t give away part of me.
Not anymore.
I can love, but not be owned.
I don’t have the right.
I am now husband to the Muse,
and she is always calling
me to a dance of mystery
under a full moon,
on the edge of knowing,
to glimpse what’s over the cliff.
She offers me her skin to write on
and mocks my hesitation.
She’s a curse, a mystery, 
And a blessing, too long denied.

I learned, after long years of running,
trying to be someone
only partially living in truth. 
I learned. 
It took a cataclysm. 
Something survived all that,
some tiny golden thread of self,
though completion eludes me still.
I reclaim my birthright
and head homeward, to my nature,
still able to get lost in a high blue sky. 

A 20-year-old can stroll through
falling maple leaves— 
awestruck at the aching violet-blue
of a Western sky
almost to the
edge of space;
watch eagles
ride the wind above the rocky shore—
live in the promise of a great, great life,
in the long day of
glorious summer
that feels as if it
will never end.

August 7, 2020


by HemmingPlay


I crave the right words.
“They’ll solve any problem”.
Name it. Shame it. Smoke it out. 
Smite it without sentiment. 
I must believe. 
Poetic conceit. OCD
in a river of confusions. 
Order in chaos, 
in the mystery of my 
own despairs, questions, hopes,
doubts. Secrets. 

So… each day I
hunt the elusive truffle,
the best way
to capture a tiny
hidden reward.
I’m not “sad”. Not depressed, really.
I carry stubborn sorrows.
and that comes as
a shock. But…

July 25, 2020


by HemmingPlay


Do dolphins envy our ability to simply breathe,
to take air in and out without thinking,
without staying close to the surface?

Swimming with languid power,
graceful and fluid and joyful,
do they ever begrudge the need
every so often, to slip upward and break through
the air/sea boundary, exhale and take another breath
over and over—always scanning,
but with alert minds, aware of everything—
for an entire lifetime?

Do dolphins envy our unintentional breathing?
Or is envy just one of our monkey traits?
Something a few million years of oceans
have imposed on them,
to be able to race the sailboats,
surf the wakes of ocean liners
and wreak havoc on the silvery schools of
panicked herring.
Then, sated, playful,
swift when necessary, comes that sheer joy to
glide like arrows through a blue eternity, like gods,
Thinking, always, of the air
And those brief glimpses of burning fire,
and stars and thoughtless breathing.

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June 27, 2020

This Glorious Passage

by HemmingPlay

Hummingbird hovering at red trumpet vine blossom

Photo by Roger Levien

My past is as implausible as
the tale of a frail
butterfly that flies from Mexico to Canada.
Why? How? To what purpose?

Here and now, I’m between
million-year-old mountains
and the damp, salty shores of
one of an ocean’s quiet, protected bays—
where the fish and the plants and the chemistry,
change day by day, but where the whole is eternal,
where a thousand centuries is as a day.

An ocean and mountains
show us who we really are,
Mere children pretending to be
some heroic captain,
braced on a stormy quarter deck
defying the gale,
the rocks too close.
But the ocean knows it
has swallowed many like us before,
and will take many more.

read more »

June 24, 2020

In the 11th Year of the War

by HemmingPlay

Ruin of the Oracle at Delphi

The Oracle of Delphi didn’t predict it’s own ruin.

And the 11th spring of the war has stumbled into summer.
The rains fall as normal. The birds seem oblivious to us.
And look! There goes a pretty young woman
with sandals and legs and curly hair.
I want to call out, say hey,
my heart, I have the wine and cheese,
let’s remind ourselves how precious
is this brief life.
But I don’t.

Disease and insanity stalk the streets.
I thought my old age would be different.
I thought my people were better than they are.
The line between good and evil runs
Through the center of the human heart.

Sometimes it twists in one direction,
sometimes the other. The same person
is capable of great evil and great good,
but who would cut their own heart in half
to root out the evil?

read more »

June 15, 2020

Why I Write

by HemmingPlay

A writer of modest talent can only hope one day to put together a word or two—on a rare week, a phrase—that’s worth keeping. This is not the conceit of petty perfectionism. This is just the reality of having a mediocre vision that cannot totally grasp what floats in and out of view. It’s the curse of having an mind’s eye that comes close enough to see the possibilities dimly, but does not quite have that extra something that would make it all clear. The curse of the ‘if-only’. The torture of the dreamer who is granted a taste of a truth in the night but loses it upon wakening. The humility of Moses on the border of the promised land who may not cross over, no matter the sacrifice. And virtue is no guarantee. The world often rewards those of questionable credentials.

It’s a frustration that has to be managed—The gap between what might be glimpsed, a brief impression of something sublime and the skill that, were it a painting, only manages stick figure drawings.

So the experience is one of enduring the sense of of constant failure —even accepting it as the price— to press the cheek up against the foggy glass that keeps one just beyond the truth…. Throwing the lariat a thousand times at a stallion that prances just out of reach, hoping that one more throw will tame the beast and bring him nearer, to feel the heat and the true wild life of him. Yet still, as seems to be the way of the Plan, It is a way to learn humility, and patience and forgiveness. Nothing need be wasted, and the great wheel grinds always, and grinds exceedingly small.

That’s the job. Putting up with failure long enough to feel the hot breath of something beautiful.  It is insanity. But oh, so seductive.  

read more »

June 1, 2020

To the Daughter I Never Had

by HemmingPlay

I don’t mean to sound unkind, and I am far, far from perfect, as a father or man. But I have spent some time in your future, and hope to help you avoid some of what just ordinary life, and poor judgement and the next 20 years of wear and tear might do to you, as it has to too many of your older sisters.

For now, you revel in the intoxicating power your young beauty has to excite desire. It just landed in your lap —no pun intended— and by God, you’ll use it. And, it’s fun for a while. (You’re smart too, but that will last longer.)

Older women like to mock men’s appreciation for younger women. “You look ridiculous–” they’ll say “–panting after her like that. “Don’t you realize how ridiculous you are?”

Yes, we feel ridiculous a lot,  especially when we’re reminded of it—and often when we walk by a mirror, so we don’t need more reminders. Do they, do you suppose?

But we realize it comes from losing the illusion of immortality, of hurt feelings, and fear of being left behind; from the cosmic unfairness of time slipping away, and also a realistic understanding about how men are suckers for a good visual. You feel you can’t win. Ever. Some days Sisyphus wins, some days the rock wins.

Actually, the rock always wins. It’s the same for us.

read more »