A ballad

I said to Fear, “Away from here!”
And, softly, he withdrew.
But, lost in thought, I plain forgot
To bar the door anew.

So Faith and I sat down to try
And chat the night away.
But while we talked, outside, Fear stalked
And waited for his day.

That time came soon, next afternoon,
Once finished with my work.
I tidied up, sat down to sup,
Then started with a jerk.

From down the hall, an icy Pall
Came creeping to my chair.
He filled the room with horror’s gloom
And held me in his snare.

“Oh, Faith,” I cried, now terrified,
“Why aren’t you here with me?”
But Fear had moved in, unapproved,
And Faith I could not see.

The sun now set, I felt a sweat
So clammy on my skin.
Anxiety came over me,
And panic from within.

Familiar Dread had stopped me dead;
I struggled now to act.
To overcome, to not succumb
To keep my mind intact.

In my despair, I breathed a prayer:
“God, help my unbelief.
Don’t leave me now; please don’t allow
This evil, wretched Thief,

This eerie Wraith to steal my Faith
To fill this house with fright.
Please fortify my mind so I
Can conquer Fear tonight.”

And suddenly, I felt him flee,
That dreadful, clammy Ghost.
As Faith came in where Fear had been
Expelled him from his post.

Unwanted guests are often pests,
Unwanted Fear is worse.
He sneaks around without a sound;
He poisons with his curse.

But now I know to overthrow
His monstrous, grasping plan
By asking aid when I’m afraid
From Heaven’s Guardian.


Loving My Neighbor

A ballad

Poet’s Note: This was written in a writer’s group, where we had the following prompt: “Imagine if for the next twenty-four hours you had to wear a cap that amplified your thoughts so that everyone within a hundred yards of you could hear every thought that passed through your head . . .”  (Stephen and Ondrea Levine)

I stepped outside my house today
And saw the neighbor’s kids at play . . .
Their matted hair and tattered clothes,
Those muddy feet, that runny nose.

And as I ambled down my lane,
I saw their dog was off his chain
And digging for some buried bone
In my yard that had just been mown.

Their mailbox tilted toward the street
Just ready to admit defeat
As unsuccessfully it tried
To keep three weeks of bills inside.

The yard was littered, thick, with trash,
From junky cars and cigar ash
To paper plates and broken toys
And diapers from the baby boys.

And, once again, like other days
I thought, while walking, on their ways:
Their laziness and all the grime,
The filth and squalor all the time.

But this time it was not the same,
For all four kids now quit their game.
The youngest hung their heads down low
As, cheerily, I waved “hello.”

But then the older boy stood up
And called out to his errant pup,
Then, looking at me, almost scared,
But angry too, he, soft, declared:

“I hope you know that every thought
You’re thinking of us in this spot,
We’ve heard as plain and clear as day.
We know you think we’re in the way,

And dirty, filthy, sloppy folks
Whose mother sleeps and drinks and smokes
And never cleans the house or yard–
But let me tell you: it’s been hard.

“See, Mom’s been poorly for awhile,
I know we try to laugh and smile
And play here like it’s all okay,
But Doctor says that any day

The angels might come down and take
Her up to God, so she won’t ache.
And all of us are worried bad,
Since already, God took our Dad.

“So, though it’s messy, ma’am, you see
That we’ve been worried as can be.
I hope you can forgive this mess,
And, could you, when you see us, bless

Our family, while we walk this road?”
I looked at him, eyes overflowed.
My surface judgments from before
Had missed the suff’ring at my door.


Amy Foreman hails from the southern Arizona desert, where she homesteads with her husband and seven children.  She has enjoyed teaching both English and Music at the college level, but is now focused on home-schooling her children, gardening, farming, and writing. Her blog is theoccasionalcaesura.wordpress.com


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31 Responses

  1. Steven Shaffer

    Really nice! I especially liked:

    Familiar Dread had stopped me dead;
    I struggled now to act.
    To overcome, to not succumb <—– this line!
    To keep my mind intact.

  2. J. Simon Harris

    I like your second poem a lot. The prompt alone is interesting, because we all have thoughts to ourselves that we wouldn’t like anyone else to hear; and often one wonders what the value of such thoughts might be. The poem is good because it begins with a petty personal judgment based on surface observations, then reveals the real depth of what the narrator is observing. Too often we judge without attempting to understand. I think this poem really gets to the heart of that.

    • Amy Foreman

      Thank you so much for your thoughts, J. Simon Harris. When I received the prompt at the writers’ group, I remembered a somewhat similar scenario that had actually happened years ago with some neighbors we had at the time . . . in which I had thought a few judgmental things before understanding the situation fully–so that’s what I based my poem on. It’s a good reminder for me to never judge a situation until I know all the facts.

      My husband is fond of saying, “Never judge another man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. By that time, you’re a mile away, and he’s barefoot!”

  3. Jenni Wyn Hyatt

    How absolutely lovely, Amy. I particularly liked ‘Fear’, being a terrible ‘scaredy cat’ myself and ‘Loving my Neighbor’ is a salutary lesson not to judge others.

    • Amy Foreman

      Thank you for the kind compliments, Jenni. Fear is something all of us deal with on one level or another–a really normal human emotion, and one that can occasionally save us from real danger–“the prudent man sees the danger and hides himself.” But the thing about fear is, it grows out of control so quickly! We have to be vigilant not to let it get the best of us. That’s been a challenge for me, and this poem is a little “reminder” to myself! Glad it resonated with you as well!

  4. Amy Foreman

    Thank you, David. That rhyme structure was one of the most enjoyable I have ever tried. Finding an internal rhyme for the first and third lines of each stanza was a fun experiment with words, and I might return to it again sometime.

  5. Joan Carol Fullmore

    Amy, your poems are outstanding and moving and make one think and VISUALIZE deeply without preaching or forcing. You are fast becoming my favorite living poet – you had me at “I Think I Like You Better Now'” – practically saved my daughter’s marriage when I showed it to them for their twentieth anniversary. BRAVO!!!

    • Amy Foreman

      Joan, your words bring tears to my eyes! Thank you so much for that kindest of compliments . . . and I hope your daughter and her husband have many, many more happy years together. Blessings–

    • Joe Tessitore

      I agree with Joan.
      There are some among us whose poetry comes from a very special place and touches us deeply.
      Amy is clearly one of them.

  6. James A. Tweedie

    Most poems, even masterful poems, are the products of human skill and genius. Some, however, seem to come from someplace deeper–a muse, perhaps, or (do I dare suggest) from the One who spoke poetry through the prophets. Amy, your poems speak to me of deeper things. I hear your voice, but I also hear the voice of a genius not your own. A whisper, perhaps, of Romans 8:26? Even as I savor these two poems I eagerly look forward to your next inspiration.

    • Amy Foreman

      Wow. Thank you, James, for recognizing that inspiration (Rom. 8:26) from above . . . . Any thought of merit that I have ever had has come from the Father of Light, who gives “every good and perfect gift.” I know–I have seen in your poetry–that you also understand this need for wisdom from above as you write your own poetry. Without it, we engage, at best, in attractive and clever showmanship. With it, we imbue our thoughts with eternal Truth that can transcend both culture and time.

  7. E. V. "Beth" Wyler

    I love reading your poetry. These are excellent poems. Bravo! Please keep writing … and submitting to this site.

    E. V.

  8. David Watt

    I hadn’t had a chance to read your ballads until tonight. ‘Fear’ strikes the reader on a personal level through vivid description of an emotion we can all relate to. ‘Loving My Neighbor’ is a delightfully touching story illustrating the need to base on fact, not fast react. Well done Amy.

  9. Fr. Richard Libby

    Both poems are exceptionally well written and deal with important matters. It’s always a pleasure to read Mrs. Foreman’s work!

  10. Caroline Bardwell

    I enjoyed the skill of these poems and felt that my attention was held the entire time. Great job, Amy!

  11. James Sale

    I can only say I look forward someday soon to purchasing a collection of poems by Amy, that would be something, she writes so well and interestingly. I note with interest that our old friend Joseph Charles Mackenzie has a hardback book of his Sonnets coming out soon (late May in the UK) and I am really looking forward to reading his work in a good book. Ditto, for Amy’s work – so get busy Amy, I want to pay money for your collection!!! And well done: this is really good work. I thought the personifications of the first poem reminded me a little of Emily Dickinson, along with your crisp language.

    • Amy Foreman

      Thank you so much for this extremely nice compliment, James! I would love to put together a collection someday . . . thanks for the encouragement to do just that! I will let you know if it happens! 🙂


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