POEMS - The Koinonia Era - 1970-1974

by: Paul E. Schoen

updated 9/12/98


Soft moist leaves gently cushioning the path,
Fields of bright flowers with fragrances sweet.
Slippery rocks in a never-ending bath,
Natural cobblestones for the stream's feet.

Paul E. Schoen, February 14, 1970

This poem illustrates my love of the outdoors and nature, early in the year I came to Koinonia


Heavily plodding the young man walked on,
Through the dense forest and nature's calm scene.
In his right hand he clutched tightly his gun,
Taking a drink from his handy canteen.

Nature's strange stillness now caused him to halt,
Fears multiplied as he dropped to the ground.
Somehow he pictured the coming assault;
Terror now caused his whole being to pound.

Action came swiftly and rifles rang out,
Bullets whizzed by him but nothing seemed real.
All of his thoughts were filled only with doubt;
Past events flashed by as if on a wheel.

Now he remembered his days back at home;
Sweet recollections of every detail,
Fondly recalling the forests he'd roam,
Chasing his dog up a mountainous trail.

Then he remembered that one awful day,
Called into service, and trained just to fight.
Told of his duty, that he must obey;
Never to question if fighting was right.

During the battle the young man was killed.
Vainly, he died for a national sin.
Sadly, I ask you, why must blood be spilled,
Fighting a war that should never have been?

Paul E. Schoen, February 14, 1970

This poem was an expression of my Vietnam War sentiments


The icy, swiftly moving waters
Powerfully racing past
Toward the thunderous falls ahead.
Life is like the river.

Small chunks of ice splash through the rapids
And oblivious to their fate
Soon dash down the watery wall.
We are like the ice.

The warming sun melts ice to water
Thus it joins the river's flow
And continues to the falls.
God is like the sun.

Paul E. Schoen, March 11, 1971

This poem was inspired by Niagara Falls, and I later used it in one of my alternative worships at Koinonia


The morning's sweet coolness entices me on;
My breath forms small clouds that drift lightly away.
The moon's fading beams glisten softly on dew,
As the sun's first weak shine marks the dawn of the day.

The glow in the east silhouettes the dark trees,
While the moist earth reflects the sun's first rays of light.
A few magic moments as dawn turns to day,
And the sun's cheerful warmth lifts the gray shrouds of night.

I follow the trail through the towering trees,
And I hear the sweet singing of songbirds above.
Their music reminds me to open my ears,
So I pause and I listen to God's song of love.

Paul E. Schoen, March 16, 1971

As I became more interested in the spiritual side of life and its connection with nature


Whistling through the cracks in the door,
Singing softly in the night,
Playfully tossing piles of gray leaves;
The wind, my joyful spirit.

Banging the shutters hard on the wall,
Bending trees and blades of grass,
Angrily breaking things in its path;
The wind, my evil nature.

Turning the windmills on prairie farms,
Billowing a small boat's sail,
Moving the rainclouds over the fields;
The wind, my life of service.

Keeping aloft the birds in the air,
Cooling sandy ocean shores,
Carrying seeds to places afar;
The wind, my way of worship.

Paul E. Schoen, March 16, 1971

I was continuing my theme of nature and spirituality.


I sadly listen to the music
Even when the songs are light.
My mind reflects the sad experience,
Long ago, one summer night.

The guitar sounds with chords of laughter,
As the people sing with cheer.
It echoes through my tortured being,
As I think of wasted years.

I sense my days too quickly passing,
With my future thoughts unclear.
Through timeless nights I've let my thoughts run,
With no light to give me cheer.

The closing chords are strummed with fervor,
But they hold no joy for me.
Their sound reminds me of my failings,
And I yearn to soon be free.

Although my heart seems sad and heavy,
I will strive to make it glad.
These songs I hear will soon ring joyful,
When my soul is freed from Sad.

PAUL E. SCHOEN, October 25, 1971

I can almost visualize the event that elicited this emotion. It shows my profound loneliness.


Sitting, sucking sensual suds
Rapping, ranting, reticence.
Hollow laughter empties minds -
Endless talk makes way for more.

Lonely people in a crowd,
Haunting kitchen, rooms and chairs,
Finding fault with all the world.
Then, alone, we go to bed.

Paul E. Schoen, 15 Dec 1971 (2:30 AM)

This was my definitive poem of the late-night contingent of which I would long be a part


Catch a fleeting breeze,
Or make one,
With your motion.

Fly beneath the sun,
And feel
Life within you.

Silent strokes of power
Take you
Over mountainous hills.

Feel a country road:
Flashes past your feet.

Breathe and fill your lungs
With sweetness,
Unspoiled by wasted fuel.

Follow any whim:
Hit the road,
Or, make your own at will.

Watch the miles go by;
Feel them
Challenging your strength.

Reach your destination, (or, a place to rest)
But strengthened in your spirit.

Paul E. Schoen, 3/28/72 (10:30 PM)

I wrote this for a poetry class at Koinonia, and I closely identified with the physical experience

66: A ROCK

I sense my Self,
A single rock;
Hard, cold, isolated.
As if...dead!

I could remain here,
Inert, insensitive,
An appendage of a mountain,

But, deep within me,
There is a crack:
My heart, being filled
With raindrops.

With each season,
Changes from without
Cause within
Expansion and contraction.

Some time, perhaps soon,
This force,
Deep within my heart,
Will split me into pieces.

But then I will become
A force unto myself,
Covering the mountain
With my being.

Paul E. Schoen, 3/6/72 (7:30 PM)

Some of us had gone hiking on Sugarloaf Mountain, and the rocks were my inspiration


A night finely fashioned
For silence,
And seclusion.

Far-reaching foggy fingers,
From a sky deep, beyond the stars,
Float down to touch my soul.

Footsteps echo silently,
In the hollow cloud,
Of feeling.

Motion, never ceasing,
Slicing through, and being,

Paul E. Schoen, 4/15/72 (11:30 PM)

At this time, I was again a visitor at Koinonia, and often roamed there at night

73: 23

Another year has passed,
And my life continues on;
Yet there is little change,
And my soul seems further torn.

This year began with hope,
And my life seemed full of force;
But something brought me down,
And I must get to the source.

I cried out loud for help,
But no one came to my aid;
I need a loving friend,
To fulfill my aching need.

As time moves swiftly by,
I look back and see the past;
My needs seem more intense,
But relief seems near at last.

I see mistakes I've made;
They are far behind me now.
I've life anew to live,
Though it's hard not knowing how.

I seek the light within,
For it's faded from my sight;
In Nature I see hope,
If I find Thoreau was right.

Yet people are my goal,
And I need to make it known;
When I find peace with God,
I will never be alone!

Paul E. Schoen, 5/1/72 (2:45 AM)

The reference to Thoreau shows my continued reliance on Nature during my depressions. This was written a few days after my 23d birthday.

82: 12:50 AM

My room Stares at me;
Glares through my thoughts.
Disorder Becomes a way of life,
And crushes thoughts of love.

Yet Nature,
Without a thought of neatness,
Is unsurpassed in beauty.

Paul E. Schoen, 8/6/72

A comment on my sloppiness and despair, but still with admiration for Nature.

83: 12:55 AM

Rare and jewel-like,
Seems to come
When it cannot be used.

Paul E. Schoen 8/6/72

The second in this rapid-fire sequence of expression of despair

84: 1:05 AM

Racing through my head,
Thoughts and ideas
Scatter themselves,
And are dashed to pieces
In their confusion.

Bruised and broken,
They vainly attempt
To fit themselves together,
And are disarrayed
By the debris of others.

Never-ending turmoil
Rarely at rest;
A Brownian motion
Of ideas
Too random to express.

In constant agony,
A mind torments itself;
and cries within,
To be heard,
and understood.

The peak of loneliness,
Where words cannot reveal
The depths of emptiness,
Felt constantly,
By an overflowing mind.

Paul E. Schoen, 8/6/72

The third and final in this group, written within the space of fifteen minutes


A gentle hand,
Comes to rest
on another being.

Clouded over
And drowned
By over-thought.

Of rejection,
Or mere tolerance.

With emotions;
Of results
Obtained before.

A fragile being
To limits;
And yearning
For a guide.

Paul E. Schoen, 8/30/72 (12:50 PM)

A fairly literal expression of my feelings of longing for close human companionship.


Deep within my being,
I sense a growing need;
Still, I can't express it,
Or make it come to end.

Now my mind has freedom
From all instinctual drive;
But I think I've chained up
The force that lets it live!

Being in control now
Is quite a heavy thing;
All spontaneous action
Seems to be held within.

Every forward motion
is now a plodding step,
Since each must be thought out,
And planned just like a trip.

Can I now release it,
And let my thoughts run free?
Or is it a monster
That will devour me?

Paul E. Schoen, 8/30/72 (1:15 PM)

A more forceful poem, showing how I tried to plan and think my way out of my problem


Crisp Summer daylight,
Playing among the living leaves;
A play repeated tirelessly,
Throughout the world,

Friendships quickly formed,
Through a Summer's life,
Are soon to be tested
Against the rending forces
Of separation.

People, God and Nature,
Merging and expanding;
Total community,
Totally communing
With Life.

Paul E. Schoen, 8/30/72 (2 PM)

Written at the end of a very intense Summer Alternative Semester, and planning to leave.


As thoughts are scattered
Through the random universe
Existing in my head,
I grasp at fleeting words,
Passing in confusion.

My pen is marking
A discontinuous path
Of complex crossing curls,
Expressing thoughts
Of similar construction.

Paul E. Schoen, 8/31/72 (2:10 AM)

Another late night expression of the pain of separation and uncertainty


Summer ages unexpectedly,
And we are here,
As for but a moment.

Marks our premature demise,
As community.

Of time, or space, or thought,
Will prove the final test
Of our enduring togetherness.

Paul E. Schoen, 8/31/72 (2:15 AM)

An attempt to create a positive feeling about my experiences and hope for the future


A word
By a poet in his work

And left
In ignorance
Or hasty carelessness

Can mean
A poem's death
or birth of a profundity.

Paul E. Schoen, 8/31/72 (2:45 AM)

Just one more quick poem in a late night fueled by conflicting emotions


Living is easy
For some,
For a while;

If you can cope,
Or forget,
Or ignore.

I am aware,

Living hurts
When you can feel.

It hurts me
Just as much,
Or even more,
When I cannot feel.

Feeling is
A part of life,
And Life itself.

I exist
To feel.

It hurts to live.

Paul E. Schoen, 9/16/72 (9:50 PM)

The start of another series of quickly written poems in an evening of depression


I am surrounded by life,
On many levels.

I feel at ease
With all forms of life
But my own

Paul E. Schoen, 9/16/72 (10:30 PM)

At this time I had few friends, but I enjoyed the company of one or two cats

98: WINE

Alcoholic tingles,
On my tongue.

One of countless flavors,
And fading,
Through my body;
And echoing
In my mind.

A deafening roar
Of unknown numbers
Of dying thoughts
Puts my mind at ease,
And gnaws
at my being

Paul E. Schoen, 9/16/72 (9:50 PM)

This third of the series shows my use of alcohol to try to ease my pain.


My hand extends in your direction;
I hesitate to touch.
Fears built through a lifetime,
Multiply as I grow closer,
And grow,
As a parasitic army,
In the caverns of my soul.

My mind interprets subtle feelings,
Seemingly expressed,
Sensed constantly,
Always the same.
Misinterpreting my love,
And leaving me with nothing.

Paul E. Schoen, 11/8/72 (3 AM)

Similar to a previous poem, it illustrates my repeated failed attempts and rejections


Dark massive tree-shapes
Groan woodenly
As they bend
To the leafless breezes.

Pulsing brilliant stars
Weave among the branches;
Deeply set
In their gray inverted bowl.

Nature's Winter fingers
Caress my tired body
While giving calm
To my screaming soul.

The tiny eyes of heaven
Wink down at me
In complete knowledge
And silent wisdom.

A single meteor
Flashes from the flock
Compelling me
To contemplate its message.

Fleeting beastly shadows
Move silently about me;
A gentle fear
Hurries me on.

A final ugly thought
Flashes through my mind
And vanishes
In calm reflection.

Paul E. Schoen, 2/11/73 (6 AM)

At this time I was no longer an official part of Koinonia, but I often wandered around there. In this instance, I was probably up all night, and had to write this poem before I could sleep.


Silently within,
A tense muscular hand
Grasps an iron hammer,
And smashes pebbles
Into sand.

Quietly without,
A tense muscular hand
Grasps a plastic pen,
And forces words
Into poems.

Paul E. Schoen, 2/11/73 (6:30 AM)

This was a time of great frustration, as I tried to find a place where I felt I belonged


Confusion prances about
In my stubborn psyche.

Dancing through my life,
Touch my soul;
And slip away
To play

Cling relentlessly
To my awareness,
And chain me
To exist
In their shadow.

Extends my being,
And creates
More memories
To crowd
My life.

Prances about
In my stubborn psyche,
And hope
Seems to lie
Just out of reach.

Paul E. Schoen, 2/11/73 (6:40 AM)

This third poem in this series illustrates the strength of my emotions at that time


A tree dissolves into the weeping sky,
Bushes melt into the floating lawn,
The road seems wider than the distance to its end;
And I must keep on moving slow.

My headlights are swallowed by the space straight ahead,
I hear my tires rolling on the road I cannot see,
The signs to the left and right are jumping out at me;
And I must keep on moving slow.

I hear the muffled roar of things I never heard before,
My eyes are softly blinded by a passing pair of lights,
Then there's no guide left but knowing where I should be going to;
And I must keep on moving slow.

An old familiar mailbox dimly shines out from the night,
As I shift the gears to second and take the well-known right,
And the ruts massage my tires as they guide me to the door;
Now I'm home, and I can't stop moving slow.

Paul E. Schoen, 3/11/73 (4:45 AM)

This poem was inspired by my trip back from a late night at Koinonia to my brief residence at a boarding house on a hill in Cockeysville. At this time I was active in the "hard core" underground at Koinonia, and I was also working at building a small business of my own. Overall, things were better.


Teddy Bear.
My own sits miserably,
Crushed by piles of whatever,
Smothered in the back seat
Of my decaying car.

Teddy Bear.
To so many their secret friend;
An absorbent pillow,
A portable shoulder,
To cry upon.

Teddy Bear.
My own entered my life,
When rescued,
From a gravel parking lot,
By one
Who calls me by its name.

An enduring symbol,
One self among many;
And one
Well practiced.

Paul E. Schoen, 5/8/73 (1:30 AM)

This bittersweet poem was inspired by having found an actual Teddy Bear in the Koinonia parking lot, and also refers to a young woman who liked to call me "Teddy", in reference to her comfortably platonic relationship with me, that was often very frustrating.


The night air
Imprints its stillness
Upon the clouds
And the stars.

Creeps among us,
As we yearn
For a direction.

The lure of music
Mixes with us,
And stirs us
To move.

Frees our footsteps,
And we dance
To the sounds.

A space of silence
Takes us within,
And we take
A new direction.

Paul E. Schoen, 5/14/73 (1:20 AM)

I wrote this after going to an outdoor dance at Goucher College, and being once again frustrated about my inability to find suitable female companionship.


Alas, that it seems
One can never
Find one's dreams,
After many tries,
And countless times
Of hope.

And with every endless day,
I can sense
Another way
That my dreams
Have changed their substance
Into smoke.

It is easier to climb
To each pinnacle
Of my mind,
Than to search its depths
With painful steps
Of memories
By grace of time.

And I'm sure that I will never
Find an answer,
Or recover
From the sadness
And the emptiness
Through my psyche
Like a chime.

Paul E. Schoen, 11/2/73 (2:20AM)

This was written after my return from a very intense summer with my friend Jay in Ohio, and by this time I was working full time in a job that would become my career, but I was still hounded by loneliness and despair.


Hearing familiar songs from the past,
Unearthing memories long hid away,
Plunges me into nostalgia's misery,
As each refrain recalls bits of my life.

Alone with my loneliness, sipping on wine,
My mind wanders freely through its own dark crevices,
Pulling me back into forgotten places,
And spaces in time, while my feelings run wild.

It bares my emotions; I yearn for a friend
To share my experience now, just as then.
But still I find no one, and cry to myself,
Waiting in unending meadows of thought.

Slowly my mind returns to the cold present,
And nostalgic pangs die their incomplete death;
But always I seek to return to their wellspring,
To extract their meanings and complete my past.

Paul E. Schoen, 12/28/73 (9:30 PM)

Written during the Christmas holidays, when loneliness can become intense


There is ice in the trees;
I look through frozen rain.
Reflections of life
Come to me once again.

Dancing sparkles of light
Are playing with my mind,
And a sharp flash of life
Hits like a drop of rain.

Misty drops wet the earth
In splashes without sound,
While my mind hears the noise
Of every pain I've known.

Icy winds chill my face;
My clothes are very wet.
So I seek out the warmth
That helps me to forget.

Paul E. Schoen, 1/4/74 (2 AM)

At this time, I am probably still haunting the grounds of Koinonia


A being walking
With only himself
And his thoughts
At night.

The cold ground shudders,
And ice
Cracks under his steps,
With the sound
Of death.

The dull red moonlight
Glows through
The trees in the distance,
As he turns
The bend.

An orange magnet,
It pulls
Him with its dim light,
And controls
His thoughts.

The dark horizon
Grows close,
And hides the moon's glow;
So he turns

Paul E. Schoen, 1/13/74 (12:15 AM)

Sometimes, I actually enjoyed these late night prowls at Koinonia, because they allowed me time to do some hard thinking and be close to the natural elements I enjoyed, but always with the possibility of contact with other people.


I walk in the dark
And expect to see no one,
But then I see lights
Of a car coming by.

I hide by a tree,
And stand very stiffly,
And watch as the car
Travels past on the road.

I walk on ahead,
But I watch with much caution,
And hear the approach
Of the car once again.

I crouch in the bushes,
And watch with detachment,
As someone unknown
Drives back out in the night.

I wonder in silence,
As I watch their tail-lights,
What they are thinking
About their short drive.

I think to myself
That they are like the people
I've seen in my life,
But have let slip away.

Paul E. Schoen, 1/13/74 (12:30 AM)

These late night walks were sometimes inspirational, by stirring the imagination and providing a mysterious, surreal setting.


Intense silence
Pummels my ears;
Relentless nothingness
Seeks to be my master,
While I resist,
In seeming defeat.

Hollow beings
Occupy my life;
Frames and shells
Appear before me
As mirrors
Of my soul.

Mindless thoughts
Not quite my own
Darkly guide my way;
But unseen walls
Of reality
Harshly block my travels.

Arctic winds
Whistle cruelly through me;
The cobweb of my body
Yields sadly,
And is forever lost
In their fury.

Blinding sunshine rays
Destroy me;
My own feeble light
Is drowned
In the deluge
Of brilliance.

Paul E. Schoen, 3/7/74 (1:30 AM)

I continued these nocturnal visits through the end of the winter.


I feel kinship with the stars
And the finely ordered universe,
While peacefully I sleep
In moonlit meadow.

I am wedded to the grass
Gently cushioning my body,
While my soul is calmed by sounds
And whispering breezes.

I take comfort in the trees
Darkly towering about me,
And I feel their silent strength:
Their solid being.

I find peace within myself
As I meditate in solitude,
And wish I had a friend
With whom to share it.

Paul E. Schoen, 8/15/74 (11:30 PM)

During the Summer, I would often pitch my tent in the woods, and spend the night with my beloved Nature at Koinonia, after a hard night of TV watching and boozing with the gang.


Life drags on with its many agonies;
Confusion reigns supreme as I try to find myself.
I hold onto the past as nothing else seems quite as real,
And I cry inside my being as I find I am alone.

Life drags me with it as I grow in passing time;
Years seem to slip by without compassion for my soul.
I think about my growing past and wonder what I've done,
And I see my future shrinking as frustration clouds my mind.

Now I'm sitting in my truck under trees atop a hill;
The radio is playing songs that echo through my past.
I hang on to a bit of me that loves the simple life,
And I wonder how to keep it as my life continues on.

I look back and find much better times,
When people were my friends, and I was loved;
But now I find uncertainty in everyone I meet,
And nowhere am I free to be myself.

So I'm sitting in my truck as I contemplate the past;
I'll hang on to the bits of life that were a part of me.
And now I'll live another day to see what it may bring,
But always I must look behind to see how things once were.

If only there were something now that I could fully trust,
I would invest my life in it, and find a lasting peace.
But now I see that there is nothing...
So I'll go on, with sadness, as I am.

Paul E. Schoen, 8/31/74 (Midnight)

This poem, amazingly, is the last one I ever wrote. After that time, I became increasingly involved with work, and I found social activity with other groups such as the Sierra Club. The deep sadness and loneliness were still there, but were not as deep, and I no longer felt the intense need to express my feelings through poetry.

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