by John Casey

deference for despair

still sodden frigid morn
muddled ubiquitous shadows
scattered, brittle leaves at footfall
raven sky black thoughts dark path

restlessly listless lost soul
in a funereal slate suit
trudging toward
the same tired aimless train
preordained purposeless routine
second verse same as the first

raw deal wrong track wrong song
detest it all yet hold it close
there is tenebrous comfort
in deference for despair
when it’s all there is
with no way out and so
love it darkly


Cautiously serious, tiptoeing a line between feigned compassion and accusation. They say You’re almost right, in an uncertain, narrow scope of the thing. We understand where you’re coming from, but it’s a circular logic of sorts. And it doesn’t reconcile with the facts, as they are. And then they say The bottom line is, accountability lies with you. Though they don’t say it out loud. Thinly veiled is the language of the powerful.

And they sit, elbows propped on dusty dogma-laden volumes. Head bent forward enough to focus just over the top of their dull gold, wire-rimmed glasses. As if that’s the reason for looking down on you. Hand at the ready near an antique black fountain pen set neatly aside the sheet of paper that somehow, with a stroke, makes everything so cautiously explained, however so thinly veiled, however so nauseatingly wrong, right.

Discriminating Taste

He’s got no style. High-water department store slacks. Eight-dollar polo made by eight-year olds in Bangladesh. White tube socks, are you kidding? Complaining every year how he wasn’t promoted, yet again. Even though his numbers were better than most everyone else’s. If he’s so smart, why doesn’t he dress for the next level? Because he’s socially retarded. And he’s got no style. Right?

She’s so fat. Why is she even at the gym? She’ll be talking real fast and wide-eyed tomorrow at her lunch break, way, way too eager. Her coworkers will pretend to be interested and listening about how many miles she “ran” on the treadmill. And all about how so few people are there at six a.m., a dab of mayonnaise on her cheek as she scarfs down a footlong. Disgusting, don’t you agree?

They’re all a bunch of losers. Every Friday night at the bowling alley (not the nice one uptown), each one bent more on swilling skunky beer than rolling a 300. Back at home, their future ex-wives shove microwave dinners at their dirty, scrawny kids, all of them locked in on (and incrementally dumber from) the latest “reality” TV ignominy. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that they are, collectively, a waste of oxygen.

I’m a maven at reading people. Everyone is sized up in three seconds flat. Clothes and shoes, fitness, looks and weight. Bust size, jewelry, car and watch. Gait, eye contact, smile, vocabulary and mannerisms. Emotional control, confidence, intelligence, and sociability. Three seconds is all it takes. Then they are tucked away, assessed, categorized, and filed. It’s an efficient system. Logical, empirical, foolproof. I don’t assign any real value to what you think, but wouldn’t you agree?

Am I?

Oh, empathy. How painfully difficult to master. To comprehend how others feel. To be capable of relating, not to what is said or done, rather, to the associated thought.

I think, therefore I am. They think, therefore, they must be. Yet they do not think as I. Not remotely. And in my careful assessment, I feel they think wrongly. That they then may not exist as I do.

Ergo, they are not quite. Potentially lesser. Perhaps I exist alone? But I find this unacceptable. And the alternative, more iniquitous, that my thinking is specious, and I am different, the lesser. That I do not exist as do others. But what if I accept there may be an aberration in the way I think? And if I try to assess, to isolate it, and make an effort to understand the thinking of others? I believe both must be done for either to be done, to any degree of accuracy.

I can then perform a translation of sorts. And see others and myself as we are. This does not mean their thinking is always right. But at least I am now cognizant of where they may have gone wrong.

If I cannot empathize with others, genuinely connect my thoughts and experiences with theirs, I cannot fathom, or even validate my own existence. What is more, I will never consider my own partial, or nonexistence, as I am unaware of the aberration. I would be incognizant of the actuality that I am not.


slow falls the snow
laughing, glasses clinking
cheery conversation, anticipation
new beginnings
but I am entranced, by the window
lost in the Orphic ballet
of countless crystalline nonpareils
dancing gracefully down
to alight on white obscurity
and I find myself imploring the wind
keep them aloft
just a little longer

About the Author:

John Casey grew up in New Hampshire and graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1992. He earned an MA in International Affairs from Florida State University in 1994, then began his flying career as a tactical airlift and developmental test pilot. Casey left the cockpit in 2005 to work as an international affairs strategist and diplomat at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., embassies in Germany and Ethiopia, and at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, where he retired in 2015. Since then, he has focused on his writing. His work has appeared in numerous literary journals, magazines and online blogs. Raw Thoughts is Casey’s first book, and he is currently working on his upcoming novel, Devolution. He is passionate about racquetball and fitness, music, travel and nature, and the human spirit. His writing is inspired by the incredible spectrum of people, places and cultures he has experienced throughout his life.