for Leonard


Ghost dog dreams

Chasing / being chased

The old demons


Last / lost hours

Agitation and fear


Haunted by

Old dreams / nightmares

Not crazy but insane enough

Terror in an old dog’s eye

As in life – so in death

No going out gently

Midnight at 3 pm

Old dog terrors

Ghosts returning

100 unfinished dreams

1000 unfinished thoughts

10000 unformed words

You face the end


The last rattling breath


No grand ideals left

Only the growing cold

The room filling with

A slow creeping fog

Moments / memories winking out

Madness takes the wheel

You veer off the main road

Heading off into the undiscovered country

No one can go with you this time

Your vision clouds over

Your words undone


A rippling image of the moon

In a leaky old bucket

A painful cry of a distant animal

A sudden cold wind rises from the land

You turning to face creation

The image of the moon

Suddenly stilled

The bucket empty


Yesterday, without knowing how close the end was for my friend, I posted Leonard Cirino’s poem Forty Years of Nightmares as a final tribute to his approaching final days. Sometime during the day, Leonard passed away. I found out as I was wrapping up for the night, a last check of the email before going to bed…the truth sinking in as I drifted off to sleep.

Then this morning, early, as the full moon topped the trees, another shift ending as mine began, I lay in bed thinking about Leonard and these images began to appear…the images listed above: Ghost dreams…10000 words undone…on and on, not trying to imagine Leonard’s last moments but merely opening myself, plugging into a great cosmology…the vast and unlimited “HUH”…the collected unconscious…the original “cloud”.

Finally, the last part of the poem…what I believe is the essence, what it comes down to: “A leaky old bucket”. To be filled or emptied as many times as fate desires…to be left alone to slowly decay or to be kicked across the yard by unseen forces. Not glamorous. No fancy slogans or ideals. I leave that up to the eulogizers and the speech makers.

Goodbye Leonard…so long, it’s been good to know you.

RD Armstrong

  1. susan supley says:

    So poignant and moving. A lovely, loving tribute. I have not known Leo long. We were put in touch with one another through a fellow poet and mutual friend. This only a short time before his diagnosis. In this short time I learned much about the dignity and bravery of Leonard. We shared our poetry and I shall miss his missives a great deal, for they did make me think, laugh and cry and through his work, although we never met I do feel I have grown to know him in a small way. I am grateful for this.

    Susan Supley

  2. Amelia Raymond says:


    I appreciate your poem and thoughts; last night I had a similar feeling as I sat quietly with a candle glowing, of sudden emptiness, not exactly loss but more like freedom. it was sensual, in a non-physical way, the sense of a connection to that which the mind cannot grasp–and L.’s poems do grasp…in the preface to “Tenebrion”‘s first section “At Sixty-Five’ he writes “The ghost of one’s God/a gift of intangible worth./ Measure it breath by breath, not inch by inch/ Fill your heart with emptiness…”


  3. Don says:


    So very sorry to hear of the loss of your friend. Leonard over the years sent me some incredible work – lyrical, imagistic, philosophic, poignant, and real.

    Your poem is fine tribute to your feeling and a man. I was struck by your phrase in the accompanying paragraph …

    “another shift ending as mine began”

    The very stuff of our lives, measured in the diminishing returns of a leaky bucket, seen by the light of the wondrous moon.

    Don, Lilliput Review

  4. Tom Vawter says:

    Friends of Leonard Cirino,

    Leonard and I have been friends since our pre-teen year, which now were very, very long ago. We have shared each other’s lives through more cycles than one can count, and, of course Leonard’s cycles were larger than most. I have honored his abiding friendship, even though physical distance has separated us for decades–we have been together physically only twice since the 60s. Nonetheless, I will miss him and the knowledge of his creative presence as though we had been neighbors for these many years. I’m enriched by having known and loved you, poet and friend.

    Tom Vawter

  5. Valerie Polichar says:

    So hard, after 24 years of Leonard’s letters, friendship, poetry and support, to face the fact that he’s gone. Thanks for posting your lovely poem. I know we’re all holding Leo in our hearts now and he continues to burn brightly there.

  6. Donald O'Donovan says:

    I was sorry to hear of Leo’s passing. Although we never met in person we exchanged emails and he sent me bits and pieces of his work in progress. I was and am an admirer of Leonard Cirino’s work and of his inspiring life journey from darkness to light. Vita brevis ars longa.

    Donald O’Donovan

  7. Ava Hayes says:

    A beautiful tribute, RD. He would love it.

    I’ve read hundreds, if not thousands, of Leonard’s poems in the ten years we’ve been together. Some of them are difficult to understand.

    Once, when my oldest son (who also has mental illness) was very ill and had been sent to the state hospital, I distracted myself by editing one of L’s mss., as I so often did.

    Suddenly, poems that I’d never understood before seemed effortless to me. I was reading them with my heart, not my head, and knew then more than ever why he referred to himself as an “essentialist.”

    Leonard knew what was important. I will miss him until the day I die.

    Much love, RD.


  8. Robert Vaughn says:

    As Leonard Cirino one of the greatest poets ever prepared
    to enter eternity He drifted off into a mystical state .
    Which fit Leonard . He was a man of suffering
    and of great love in action ! Far more than
    most know .

    Leonard’s web site is .
    I urge people to read a review of Leonard’s many books
    which are His living legacy .

    Robert Vaughn , Senior

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