The poem that follows has been selected for a prestigious national publication, but it needs tightening. It is long, very long, but I would be most appreciative if you could lend your talents to helping me tighten this up with some suggestions. I don't have thin skin. I am interested in excellence. Without belaboring the point--here it is. ST. THOMAS, ST. LOUIS BRIDGE Around every corner it waits-silent, never making its presence known. Its clothes are plain and unimpressive, a clever disguise for irresistible power. There are no advertisements. No trumpets herald. No "X" marks the spot. From a distance, it is clearly visible, but indistinct, as morning's unfocused eyes, but upon closer examination, clarity's illusion gives way to multi-faceted reality and-the truth. Truth is a thing of beauty unsurpassed, a dazzling find for assiduous searchers but when the truth reveals concealed imperfection, it is ugly and hideous; nonetheless, it is the truth, the same truth that is beautiful viewed from another perspective. Grounded hearts know it to be so, yet, society's vain artifice and egotism often blind its abundant light crystal view, without ambiguity and startling lucidity, but made minds surrender uneasily; they have decided not to see, and therefore, they are blind in ignorance. Knowing the truth and facing that truth, distinctly differ as plainly as water and ice, molecularly, they are much the same but ice makes for a tougher reality. Unhidden beneath formula or fantastic fable the truth only reveals itself to changeful minds unafraid of bright lights required by thought and insight. Search is the fuel, which powers tireless thinking that is the genesis of knowledge and wisdom's font. Without thinking, death awaits surely as loss of breath. Indolence and idleness excuse acceptance of blinded history without stirring the mind's sense of urgency and outrage. Search hones minds, toll gates to thoroughfares to thought when literal sense finally fails, oblivious that living requires veering off course to examine even rumors of knowledge or truth. Comfort assumes sameness when reality shows conceptions more numerous than grains of sand, various as infinity's gaseous galaxies. Literal thought conceal an unchallenged mind, accepting on faith, ignoring realty's fervent call. Intellectual dishonesty disregard reality's world; substituting fiction and fable, easing flaccid minds. Yet, degrees of difference twixt fact and fiction are infinitesimally small like the distant blink of a star, but nearness reveals the glowing reality and the vast chasm difference between reality and contrived propaganda. Mental in-breeding blooms from the bud of unwillingness; while dishonest assessment weeds distort differing opinions and beliefs, prevent accumulated of knowledge, ensure loss of understanding, while clarity and wisdom are forfeit. Knowledge and understanding are wisdom's children, unharmful nor mean, but avoided with studied prejudice. Knowledge's perspective tilted by source, adopt who listens, and what is understood truly. Understanding voids bigotry and intolerance making prejudice and hatred precarious pillars leaving sole choice as the lone arbiter of the truth, leaving wan ignorance to alter intent, fitting frivolous need and bias. Understanding's denial births the ignorant, intolerant and superficial; sprinkling fallow fields with terrified cowardice and shallow intellects, clay beyond the harrow of reason. Condemnation without understanding is the tyranny of totalitarian dictators and despots. Any quest for truth requires willing undertaking pushing toward internal perfection through keen knowledge. Searching and understanding open the world, tweaking the nostrils of the conventional status quo, fully knowing truth aborts erroneous knowledge, beckoning curiosity to bore deeper, refuting misguided and misleading gossip, thwarting sand arguments which hold no water and revealing agendas hidden under fictitious words. Diets of misinformation fed by society's blind, not out of human hostility, but from fear, misunderstanding and unwillingness to swim the waters of reality. Haughty self-deception thrives on inexperience and ignorance, providing blind men to describe the tiger's stripe through touch, comprising premeditated dishonesty and intellectual avoidance. Intellectual activity, misunderstood and even subversive, frightens. Having the temerity to ask "why" blasphemes those who holy rain has touched with all the answers. Once were all were intellectuals and "why" was a favorite word in young vocabularies. Early instinct allowed answers not apparent to be sought without reprisal, constraint or fear. That we are not meant to know everything-is hearsay; more of a medieval excuse than honest assessment. I search because I seek answers, though my search is often disheartening and dull. Still, it unceasingly enlightens and instructs, saying, "avoid answers sleeping on selected judgment. Trek toward the truth, greeting reality boldly, as the sun seeks to light the dark. From the mirror, the view is unpleasant; it reveals truth and me, stripping back protective and exposing my untruthful skin. It has always been there, hidden by me from myself. Now, I am asea on a raft of self-pity made of my own dark folly. All are fools at one time and so it is with me. Before the world, I am naked, there is no interest in the folly of fools. Self-revelation shows I own this terrible truth, And I wince as it cuts like a knife, fresh alcohol to an open wound. I must accept its familiar embrace, feel its honesty and candor. In the full daylight, I will not mount my eyes with tinted lenses as the truth is real, no feeble attempts to block it will ever hold. I will realign to the truth, set my sights to the horizon, bend my knees to the winds and follow the blazing beam of truth, letting it shine into the dark corners of my soul. With bricks and mortar build a fortress strong and solid, open to heavenly rains and sunshine, a safe haven for truth and understanding. From a tiny seed it grows to surpass even the mighty Redwood sending roots so deep, that when withered, broken or bent-it survives the storm. Unlike that tree, I am tired and broken. I have tarried in the storm too long. Yet, I hold the truth tightly to myself, winning honesty's strong resolve. In my slight victory, the sting of defeat still singes my tongue, and parches my silent throat. A hollow victory for I saved only myself. My soul still writhes in the netherworld caught in dark flames of ego and artifice. Compromise heals the laceration while pragmatic reality removes my feet from pudding to mount them firmly in clay recognizing the unlearned among the educated. Where are the teachers whose only axe was the truth? Replaced by preachers and sermons from guilded booths, speaking of things unknown, but wildly guessed and speculated. When did this happen? Why did it come about? Where to start, where to begin, from the chastisers of doubt and the makers of myth, the original creators of sin. Just wish to make it so, ignore all thought and reason, forget truth and fact for strange hunting is never out of season. Matched against clear-eyed vision, there is no equivocation or doubt, no discounting of reality even under mountains of myth, the truth will always out. Barely an eighth of an inch sits between me and martyrdom. Yet, I speed along life's journey in dark lenses, ignoring the signs signaling disaster, hoping to arrive at the truth before god drives up in his golden Rolls Royce, dripping with monied promises, erasing reality and leaving the popes of power to lead lemmings to the deep recesses of fiction. Daring driving and daredevil stunts bring me closer, but I see the followers nod, unaware as the shackles of ignorance slip about their minds, my mind accelerates, V-8 synapses and receptors rapid-fire, stoking fires of indignation and disbelief, but arriving too late. My vehicle is winded and worn, nervous tension generates faints impulses but not enough. Divided and conquered they are happy as I drive past, I see the glee in their eyes, oblivious of embracing the divide, contented that they chose ignorance as shade from reality's long shadow. Joyous that they are prejudiced with pride. Smiling, that they have reason for hatred and avoidance of harmony, again the deceptive triad anoints all with avarice and blindness, passing along holy writ wrung from the pockets of faithful consumers of mendacious fables. Though we walk in the valley of shadows, only that which surrounds us is dim. Our inner luminosity shines forth illuminating all with its honest radiance. No dark touches an illuminated mind. It fears neither difference nor change and leaves preposterous superstition far behind. The same knowledge brought the gods from the heavens and deposited them ungently on reality's ground, gasping as men and women of whom they were born, erasing covered clouds and golden gates where their kingdoms could not be found. Enlightenment and wisdom grow from reality's rational thought while illiterate superstition is cast among fish baited by the narcotics of future promise and tradition unconcerned for the light of the truth, nor the revealed precision of common sense mathematics. Walk no longer in the darkness of ignorance. Thinking individuals; fully sentient and wide awake comprehend fairy tales and fables are fiction, simply constructs of man's vivid inventive imagination, untrue despite copious words otherwise. Know that nature follows a regular cadence, like string to a bow, it bends not to mystic ideology or wishful thinking, nor hedges its bets in Pascal's Wager for safety and security, because if we do, then we are no better than the ancients we ridicule. Lift the darkness from our eyes and let us see clearly that the benign weight of truth tips the measure off center, while ignorance perjures itself with volumes of corroboration constructing houses of kindling waiting for the spark of knowledge. Truth sprouts inquiry and doubt, unbalancing the scales of reason, as untarried thought seeks its own level. Glacier like, it slides carving reality from mountains of dogma and rhetoric, while carbon-dated granite catechisms fall under the shattering sledge of logic and unforgiving reality. Stripped bare, naked reality does not hide in the garden for it knows it is naked and is unashamed, asking boldly, "who dares to call my name from darkness of the valley?" Knowledge then realizes the truth has no cost. It is free. Only the search asks a price. Ra thanks each and all for your continued support and creativity.