Chess Gambit

If you're going to try, 
Go all the way
In time and space
Make a choice
You started the game
Leveled the field
According to strategy
Made your move
Telling me to go all the way.
On a warm summer night
Our stars forever aligned
Crossed for a moment
And I chose.
But it wasn't the choice you wanted me to make.

(C) Colleen Yorke. All rights reserved.


If we're on thin ice, we might as well dance.

You say I touched your soul
Believe me, in my darkest dreams
I would have liked that role.
But nothing is what it seems.
All the ways we keep
Everything you would like it to be 
But that is not me.
If we are on thin ice, we might as well dance.

(C) Colleen Yorke.

Boxenhagener Platz

Can you hear the ghost
Wandering through collapsing corridors 
And bewildered strips of land?
Totting its feet across the Boxhagener Platz, 
Leafing through the dog-eared books 
Outside antique shops, 
Trying to find her social agenda? 
Calling out to the youngsters on their skateboards, 
Ripping up the pavement ahead. 
"Hey you!"
They are too busy to notice.
Finally whispering
In a voice that nobody hears, 
"Has anyone seen Father Time?"

 © Colleen Yorke. All rights reserved.

Shooting Star

Like Ikarus she flew way up high in the sky.
She chased the wind and the stars at night
Unfazed, she saw the heavens ablaze
Some say her laughter sounded like silver bells.
But, she ignored the warning signs, 
Trusted somebody else.
She risked it all for a stunning and fast fall.
A child looked up and pulling his mother's hand,
He said: "Look, mom, a shooting star!"

(C) Colleen Yorke.

Two Weeks Notice

The clock strikes once
The clock strikes twice
The echo of words
And the shadows
Flickers of cuneiform
Spanning thousands of years
Panorama of a day 
Whispers of a heart
Vacuum of time
Holding you and me
The fleeting moment 
Of love.
Eyes of a storm
Faux pas
The lost spark
Of an illusion?

© Colleen Yorke.

A Millennium in a Smile

Every day he enters a war zone
Fighting the fight no one wants to go alone.
Gazing on many truths
From a thousand prisms and mirrors
A millennium in a smile,
Tiny heart beats when he walks into the room.
A small hand in his.
Butterflies are free, and so they fly away.
He lives his life that way.

© Colleen Yorke. All rights reserved.

Private Property

This is the city
Of angels and broken wings.
Lost souls and too many things.
There is no world
With windows wide enough
For what they see.
There is no future good enough
For what they can be. 
A crumpled piece on the streets
This is private property
Do not trespass
This niche in between
Worlds of what is and what can be.
A heap of a life
Folded underneath.
Every day they are trying
To beat the odds.
Looking for shelter
Underneath the tree of gods.
 Lost souls holding on
To what is already gone
Finding a place
They can call home
A space amidst
The cracks
They can't walk back.
Finding comfort
In what they are afraid of
They go and live there.

© Colleen Yorke. All rights reserved.

Like East and West

Like east and west
Together things seem impossible
And without each other even more.
The wind tugs from both sides
Sometimes more on one
Sometimes more on the other.
And when the wall falls
The west has to let the east go
Although the east never leaves.

© Colleen Yorke. All rights reserved.

Ignis aurum probat

I keep coming back to you.
And it seems that you do too.
That’s the easy part
Ignis aurum probat
Take the moment as it comes.
The souls we freed
In a single whisper.
The fire we keep between us
We got history
And we got now.
We both know
The roads may close
Between your life and mine
At least to say we tried
And yet
My heart won’t shut that door
We got history
And we got now
Life’s edge
Dancing on a ledge
The heart does not forget.
We're older but none the wiser
The dreams are still the same.
I keep coming back to you.
And it seems that you do too.

© Colleen Yorke.

The Door in the Floor

There is a road.
It carries quite a load.
Some have traveled here before
Hoping to find the blue door.
She is all the great heroines
Of the world in one.
She holds the secret of their lives,
Vivid and obscure at once.
They are smitten
Something lives there
Their story is written
But nobody knows where.
Somebody got close.
He claims he saw his soul.
How far do you want to go?
The young man  - although
He was close
He was not ready
To let go.
Could he give up
Everything he knows
To see what the blue door shows?
And what would happen 
If he got back on the road?
Most have lost their way. 
So close!
But for what price?
She smiled as you smile now
They have gone down into the depths
You led them there.
The door in the floor
Shows herself to only a few.

© Colleen Yorke. All rights reserved.


There was a stranger without a name
Cramped between the pages 23 and 24,
He was quite aware
He harbored feelings of something more.
He tried to reason with the author,
Even told him he would play the engaged protagonist.
He said it in French and shook his wrist.
The author stared,
And then the corners of his mouth formed a grin:
“Being engaged is out of fashion, I am afraid.
Your place is amidst 23 and 24.”
The author had just crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s
And went to drink a beer, get maybe even some pie.
The stranger without a name didn’t wait,
He grabbed his one line on the fly,
Took the ‘c’ for a hat, added more as he hurried out
As fast as his little legs could carry him without a sound.
Surely, there was another novel around. 

© Colleen Yorke. All rights reserved.

Way North

Ultraviolet, red, green all these years
And the answer couldn't be more clear
"The soul would have no rainbow
Had the eyes no tears."
A thousand white doves in the sky
Back and forth they fly
Which way is north?
Fluttering wings, a lot of noise
They settle on the wire with poise.
One giant moving force 
We can't balance or test
Is what ultimately decide
How the heart beats best.
So many gods, so many creeds
And the weight of centuries
When just the touch of one
Is what the heart needs.
Walking the full circle
Dancing on the edge of time 
Some things get under your skin
In the end, we are
Back to where we begin.

© Colleen Yorke. All rights reserved.

The Night Belongs to Someone Else

I was up all night last night
Looking for the man in the funny hat
I asked him to give me back my dreams
He looked at me intensely.
You're mistaken, he said softly,
For they are no longer yours.
Vandalized castles in the sky,
A question mark on a calendar,
An empty seat on the long divide,
A foreign language on the screen.
Your soul is on fire,
A drawbridge closing in,
Narrowing the gap of two points
You believed in.
Change has come and gone.
Do you still believe in the midnight sun?
A shimmer beyond the lake.
I can not let you keep your dreams,
When you awake.
The night belongs to someone else.
You saw the ending,
When they turned the page.

© Colleen Yorke. All rights reserved

Hairy Issues

I have always wanted to write about hair. Tales, myths and legends have been spun about hair. They are trademark of rebellious children's heroes such as Pippi Longstocking, the Red Zora or Struwwelpeter, inspirations for songs and fairy tales such as the golden hair of Raputzel, the red glowing hair of Ariel the Mermaid and the black, shiny hair of Desdemona or document social upheavals such as the bob or the long hippie hair.

Hair shapes and transforms us, gives us reassurance and the feeling of being in the “in crowd.” Anything is possible, anything goes: Nowadays, men wear their hair short or long; they have a pony tail, some are bald. The spike of punk scene crowns the heads of office employees. Hair trends establish social conventions: African-American rap stars cultivate their iconic dreadlocks, some Japanese youngsters wear wigs, dye their hair pink or bleach-blond. There is probably no culture that is completely indifferent towards hair.

Those with straight hair want curls, the color gray triggers a mid-life crisis. And what about people who have natural curly hair? When I wake up in the morning and moan about my disheveled and shaggy lion's mane, my sister shakes her head. Her smooth hair, carefully combed and fixed into position each morning, does not fare well with wind or rain. The visit to the hairdresser, a thorny issue: Only one person is allowed near Vanessa’s hair, and every move is watched through the salon mirror. For me, however - whether rain, sun or snow - my hair is dancing in smooth curls around my head. Even the hairdresser is looking forward to cut my curly hair, he proudly presents his work to his colleagues: "This is how a perm should look, but never does."

© Colleen Yorke. All rights reserved.

Cute Meet

I am sitting in a cozy theater café on Santa Monica Boulevard, drinking coffee and writing reflections in my journal. The door flies open, and in marches a colorful and cheery fellow wearing a Hawaiian shirt, beige shorts, sneakers and a matching crème colored hat. His blue eyes scan the room, taking in the vibrant murals and decorative accessories before curiously settling onto me. “Are you a writer?” 

I tell him I keep a daily journal just for fun, dabbling in observations of life. He gently takes the book out of my hands and admires my cursive handwriting. “I want to hear something you have written. Read it to me.” So I do. He looks at me, his eyes are soft and full of emotion. “That was beautiful. Can you please write it down? I want to frame it.” Surprised and flattered, I copy down my little paragraph on the back of his program, signing it with my name. He grips my hand firmly: “I will treasure this, Colleen.” 

Later I see him again. Seated in the front row of a black box theater, he excitingly points at me and exclaims: ”This is Colleen. This is the gal, I told you about, she wrote the poem.” Around me, heads turn. The lights go out, and I sit down. If you are reading this, Richard, thank you for making my day and night.

Here is what I wrote on the back of a program today:
On the road of life, every once in awhile
You meet a stranger who asks to walk with you.
He doesn’t want to know where you have been,
What you do or where you are going;
He doesn’t want directions,
A commitment or a place to stay…
Go on, you are in
For maybe the best conversation of your life.

© Colleen Yorke. All rights reserved.


Growing up, my parents read the story of Frederick, the mouse, to me.

Winter is near and all the field mice are busy preparing and gathering food for the cold months ahead - all except for Frederick. Always the daydreamer, Frederick sits on a rock soaking up the sun rays, much to the dismay of his fellow mice. However, as it turns out, when darkness sets in and winter has come, Frederick has stored enough sunlight to warm the hearts and feed the spirits of his fellow mice.  His radiance carries them through a dark and cold winter.

While I am certainly not a daydreamer, I aspired to be Frederick, full of light and radiance.  I studied film and moved to Germany to direct theater plays. Today, as I drove home from a long workday, I thought about Frederick, the mouse.  I reflected that the one thing those hard-working mice do not realize is that artists wake up to a blank canvas every day. By evening, there is the expectation that it is filled. The artist goes to bed and wakes up to a white canvas again 24 hours later, week after week, year after year, however long they manage to color in the void. A decade of highs and lows, I certainly had my share of vacuums. 

The few occasions I did complain about not being valued adequately (as in not getting paid for the work), or described how I had lived in the basement of a theater for three months, the general response was the same: “Some of us have to do real work.  I wish I had the time to write poetry and make movies like you.”

The fear of losing our moxie, the loneliness and the isolation become a part of life. Some of my friends reached for the stars and actually caught one.  They live their dreams and trust that when the dream fades away, they will find another one.  But for the majority of us the dream factory Hollywood is exactly that, a factory with assembly lines. Cast and crews work together side by side, contributing their part.  Day after day, these dream workers check back in.  They take pride in the fact that their contribution is an important, essential part of the whole. 

As for me, I consider myself lucky to have seen both sides, and blessed to have found my dream along the way.  Someday I hope to be the lawyer, who can shine her light on others and help those in need to find justice.

Making art is a job, and an important one.  And until we have been there and done that, we should be grateful for the Fredricks in the world who warm our hearts and rekindle our spirits.

So Many Miles From Home

What kind of life
Is it in a war zone?
What kind of life
Is it so many miles from home?
What kind of life
Is it alone with so many demands?
What kind of life
Is it when no one understands?
The person I met, 
The person I can't forget
Is living without a net.
The person is not a myth,
Somewhere below hidden
Lies a beautiful soul
I know he exists.
What kind of life
Is it in a war zone?
What kind of life
Is it when he comes home?
Will he come home? 

© Colleen Yorke. All rights reserved.

A, B, C - Always Be Closing

Death visited Irene last night and took her swiftly, without warning or as much as a whisper.  News of the passing of a loved one travels fast in today’s global world.  I feel vulnerable. Devastated.  I suppose in the grand scheme of things we all think we are doing what we should do and can do and then when tragedy strikes, wonder if we really did. What are we doing?  We spent a lifetime trying to define the purpose and meaning of a life, but what is the purpose of death?  And why does not everyone get the same amount of time to live?  It is dark, and all things seem distorted in the shadows of the night. In the morning when daylight breaks, perhaps the light will make things a bit clearer - and things easier to understand. Death is as much a part of life as birth - but right now, it is impossible for me to understand.

Yet, the show must go on.  The world keeps turning. Bills come in like clockwork.  Deadlines still stand. And we make it through our day, physically present and mentally somewhere else.  I thought about a 9/11 call I listened to.  I reflected on the clarity, the tone, the seemingly tranquility of that incredible Georgian elementary school accountant who talked a gunman who “was willing to kill” and “that he knew he was going to die” into disarming and getting on the floor.  She certainly did not plan on coming to school that day to make a 9/11 call while being held hostage at gunpoint. She never mediated before.  How did she build “rapport” with the troubled 20-year old man, and what did she do or say to talk him into surrendering? She talked about her divorce after 33 years of marriage, and the “roller coaster” of opening her own business.  She told him that he was going to be okay. If she could recover, he could, too. 

Those of us with some mediation experience and training know that everything we do in mediation is tactical. We are intuitively aware of our surroundings, pick up on things seen, and on things unseen. We monitor the conversation closely with the goal in our mind. ABC.  Always Be Closing.  We are in charge.  We probably took on the case voluntarily and/or received compensation for our time.  Ms. Tuff did not.  She followed some 900 people fleeing the gunman when he took her and another administrator hostage.  

We talk about maintaining a sense of self in conflict.  We all had our share of mediating ‘silly’ disputes as well as unusual or even oddly foreign ones.  We have feelings and emotions too, but for the purpose of mediation, we are careful to share them.  But what about those days where we are grieving? How do we conduct a joint session or caucus, actively listen, validate the parties’ respective positions and focus on closing the deal?  Do we react differently? Are the stages of grieving different for some of us? 

When we look at other people’s lives – how do we stay positive? Through life’s struggles? Trials and errors? Can we find strategies? I imagine that if I were to have a mediation today after hearing about Irene,  I would not be able to push thoughts about her out of my mind.  Yet, I would not share my emotions with the parties to the mediation.  Why would I? To garner their sympathy? Or make them uncomfortable? Or both?  It is not about me.  My job is to close. 

Sincerely, yours.

He wrote a letter to explain. 
He wrote he wanted to explain but explained that 
Explaining it would not explain it at all
And that things were better left unexplained.

© Colleen Yorke,

The only way out is -- in

Seen a lot of ghosts sailing by
Phantom islands lost at sea
One of them was mine.
An empty house is not a home.
We cannot do it alone.
A love that cannot be taken
Memories that cannot be forsaken
By ration or reason
Storm or season.
And when darkness sets in
For better and worse 
The only way out is -- in.

Colleen Yorke. All right reserved.

Jack, where have all the flowers gone?

Jack, where have all the flowers gone?
There is a patch of grass
With the most exquisite flowers
That I know one can grow.
They are exotic, their smell tropic.
The colors hypnotic
The array without logic, but definitely erotic.
I stood there awed
When Jack said
They are all flawed
They are too much work
He would smirk
And cut down two,
They were too blue.
He picks up more seeds to plant
He has a good, steady hand.
He gets them all to grow
Just below the meadow.
I am delighted,
But Jack is frightened.
You can't trust any
They are all alike, and there is plenty.
They are beautiful, but empty.
He tramples across the field
With a shield.
One by one they fall
He kills them all.
Now the patch is flat and bare
The grass beyond repair.
Jack, Jack
Where have all the flowers gone?

© Colleen Yorke. All right reserved.

It is a Chase With No End

Published in the 2010 Anthology of Poems:

It is a chase with no end.
He is faster than she.
And she is tired of running.
He runs on, faster and faster.
Feet pounding in the sand.
Not looking back-
She becomes smaller and smaller.
The distance larger and larger.
And when he does turn around,
When he is out of breath,
She will catch up and
She will outrun him.
The rules always change.
And suddenly before he realizes
He is chasing her.
But she doesn’t stop running.

© Colleen Yorke. All rights reserved.

Between the Doors

"There are things known, and things unknown, and in between are the Doors."
-Jim Morrison
At the beginning of this year, I saw how seemingly solid plans can disperse in the wind in matters of seconds. Over the course of the next months, working through hills of pain, I've learned that in my personal life I am not someone who embraces uncertainty. I like things to be in order. But in my professional life, I have learned to accept and adapt to uncertainty. 

Kafka wrote a parable "Before the law" about a man who waited a lifetime in front of a door, hoping to gain entrance. Right before his death, he questions the guard why although everyone seeks the law, no one has come in all the years. To which the guard answers: "This gate was made only for you. No one else could ever be admitted here. I am now going to shut it." Too often we wait in front of doors, thinking someone else surely will take the lead. For the last few months I found myself stuck with what probably will be a life-changing decision. Flip-flopping, probably tugging on some heart strings too much, and hoping that a previously formed plan will be back in play, it was a close friend who finally persuaded me. "Colleen, for as long as I have known you, you never let an open door close on you, without walking through it." 

The shift from thinking "I'm not ready to do that" to thinking "I want to do that - and I'll learn by doing it" takes us to new doors. We meet it with some measure of trepidation, some fear. Are we on target? Do we have what it takes to finish strong? Will our training be sufficient? Are we prepared for the obstacles? Maybe part of why I run is to find out what I am up against.

I love new beginnings, second chances, springing forward and falling back on the clock, accepted apologies, personal records, and journals full of blank pages. I love not knowing and the curiosity of wanting to find out: Moments that change a finish line into a starting line. 

Butterfly dreams

Dreams are butterflies
Floating the skies
She's been collecting all her life.
From close and from afar 
Pressed into words they are
He wants to know where they go.
What if someone only dreams of you?
I know I do. 
She holds another butterfly
In the palm of her hand
Someday you'll understand
We both already are 
Pressed words.
Two names, two lives
Floating high in the skies.

© Colleen Yorke. All rights reserved.

Meeting Point of the World

Sparkling high risers made of glass, steel and reflections of concrete:  Is this New York? Downtown LA? No, it is Frankfurt on the Main, meeting point of bankers, lawyers, brokers and traders. With the exceptions of the few tourists strewn here and there, conversations circulate around equity markets, banking and capital investment.  Since Brexit, foreign banks have relocated Frankfurt.  Compared to London, the city reminds one of a provincial outpost.  The license to operate in Germany (and elsewhere in the European Union), is attractive to non-European banks: Instead of negotiating 27 bilateral agreements to do business in Europe, they would only have to negotiate one. 

Engulfing the main train station is the Bahnhofsviertel.  It is by far the most diverse district in the country.  About 58% of the population are migrants from other cultural backgrounds and upbringings. 156 nationalities live here side by side.  Yesterday I wandered through the streets, lost somehow, but also open eyed towards the life around me.  One discovers the Persian grocery store, the African hair dresser, or an Indian cleaning lady at the Turkish bakery, chatting to the owner about her family in German. 

Creative Commons License ©2019.
In the city center, a Syrian family sings a song from their old homeland with joyful and resounding energy.  Their journey was a remarkable one.  Like many others, they made it to Germany by bus, train, ferry, but mostly by foot.  When they arrived in Munich, they were greeted warmly and ushered to Frankfurt, the meeting point of the world.   

There are problems here - as there are everywhere in the world - but Germany's approach is not to isolate people, but to toss them right into the colorful life. Yes, we can say plenty about the German rules and laws, the petty bourgeoisie and the narrow-mindedness, but I also feel a certain pride... Germany like no other country in the world has accepted more than a million of refugees and is working hard to integrate its new citizens into society.  (Source: Amnesty International)

Germany certainly has its dark sides, but if you look closely you can see humanity - once lost during the Second World War - sprouting from the cracks of the past.

All names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this blog are fictitious. No identification with actual persons, places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred. © All rights reserved.