Archive | December 2011

The Long Dark

I want to understand
His habit,
His instinct –
How he can sense
The sun’s shifting
Point of view,
And whether
He has learned
To adapt,
To flex
Into these wheeling changes.

These little curiosities
Stacked one upon the other
Take a lifetime –
Or longer –
To satisfy.
And someday,
Maybe we will get to see
The shining everything
Or the dark nothing
That awaits
On the other side
Of the high wall.

For now,
Let each brick
Be a beauty unto itself:
The sunrise blessing,
Deer in the woods,
A rattling breath,
Crooked eye,
Slow water, frozen at the edges,
His voice,
His fingers and what they have known,
Words cleverly arranged
And cautiously spoken,
And that great blue heron –
Inexplicable in the hardening winter —
Swooping low over the highway
As I speed
Past the place where we meet.

These whispering mysteries –
Let them continue to descend.
Though I can feel
Time’s toothed gear in the bone,
The coiled springs,
And how they require a steady hand –
Give them the windings they need.
None of this is disposable.
And I am not yet ready
For the answers.

Thirsty

There are all these
Interruptions, intrusions
Casting shadows
On branching lines of thought.

But the compressing insulation
Of blue-gray fog
Frees us for a moment
From the all-too-much.

These seasons speed
Shorter increments of time,
And it is never enough
For this:

A wooden bucket,
Worn smooth
By so many
Centuries and hands;

A sharpness on the tongue,
Clarity of thirst —
Cold water,
Words from the wire.

But know:
Though, through circumstance
Or willingness,
We may linger in stolen seconds,

Gazing, desperate,
Haunted,
To where it waits
Upon the shelf,

If our faith
In its usefulness —
Its presence —
Does not falter,

Stretching fingertips of thought
Might reach it.
Feathers gather –
A wing to brush away busy dust.

In remembering
To seek it,
We can quench
This thirst again.

Collected

Guards relieved of duty,
The gates were thrown wide.
A multitude found the way in.

And now?
And now?
And now I’ve gone —
A fool again.

On the first,
Willing, and anyhow,
He had a way with words.

But now the others,
Awkwardly engendering
This need to enfold,
Have followed.

There must be something
More than the collecting of loves,
The wanting of wives.
So here, let’s unravel
Common threads.

Driven to compose
With a composure
That suffers
When the next is forgotten.

Critical solitude –
Its nature twofold:
Both need
And the dysfunctional
Analysis that eclipses conformation.

Secrets kept close,
And the worry,
And the worry,
And the worry,
And the worry
At the laughter,
Voices in the head.

Moon-worshipping
Chanters of birdsong
And heathen prayers.
Gatherers of the misplaced and forgotten.

Makers and singers,
Fakers who linger
On doorsteps,
Afraid of the crowd.

And, too,
The safety of spotlights and stages,
Or a soapbox
Built of wires and torn pages.

Collect these clues
In a pictured oak box,
A little moonshine
In a jar on the dusty shelf,
And know
That the alarms
Were always destined
To fail.

Because these –
Unknown and unseen loves –
Are essential –

A splintering ice
That collects in cycles
Of freezing and thawing
‘Round the heaving roots –
Inevitable companions
Of the turning season.

Chanticleer

All up in time,
Bearing witness
To the beauty of uncleared snow –
We can sense the sun’s approach.

Intone the morning mantra –
Percussive click of needles
A chatty bobbin on the wheel.
A winter-shaded finch plays in the hedgerow.

We creatures of instinct
Bless the morning
In somnambulant pastime,
Broken by brash hymns only a mother could love.

Timing is everything,
But this strutter has no sense of it —
Always barging in
With an incessant, arrogant crowing.

First once, then twice his voice breaks.
On the third, trains jump the tracks –
A wilderness strewn with debris
And murderous, predatory intent.

Driven to distraction,
The rail-rhythm breaks.
Bootstomp, mad-eye, a hammering at the door.
“Just eat the damn bastard, already!”

Fools’ Rush

“We are idiots, babe —
It’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves.”

–Bob Dylan

We were at the mall.
We were in the shops and the streets.
We were glued to the screen.
We were blowing it up in life’s cradle.
We were talking on phones.
We were driving to work on reality TV.
We were wiring gone wrong and disconnected.
We were forgetting the meanings of words
When it happened.

We were distracted by angels imagined.
We were watching pornography.
We were worshipping a hunger
We would never impose upon ourselves.
We were drinking whiskey and wine.
We were nursing our wounds.
We were losing memories, forgetting histories.
We were anticipating repercussions.
We were lost in the labyrinthine passages of time,
Caught in meaningless moments made momentous
By circuits gone haywire,
When the strings and souls sang out.

We were wasting our time.
We were watching the clock.
We were counting the seconds.
We were engaged in the futile dance.
We were fucking and fighting
And feeding the beast.
We were screening for intentions, for weapons,
Or submitting to the eyes of the watchers.
We were moving but dead.
We were buying and selling.
We were caught in a game that we did not create.
We were building a city.
We were laying down concrete.
We were mourning cultures cast aside.
We were purchasing packaged flesh with crumpled bits of paper.
We were choking on fresh air
And drinking the poisoned potion of industry,
When their song played for the few.

We were lazy.
We were sleeping.
We were waiting in line.
We were sinking under the weight of the unending circus.
We were borrowing and spending.
We were spending and borrowing.
We were talking of nothing.
We were nothing and everything.
We were enraptured by the minutiae of lives unlived.
We were entranced and sickened
By the madness of marketing.
We were ho-humming the wild wood.
We were selling our children.
We were laughing at the old and the wizened.
We were creating cancers and conspiracies.
We were courting or casting out demons.
We were embodied – the original sin –
As a generation
Of minstrels, misfits and magicians,
Mired in our madness,
Imbued it with meaning
And slipped,
Quietly,
Forgotten,
To the inescapable void.

Offered up for Open Link Night over at dVerse Poets.

I was musing on the passing of Howard Tate, and of so many other musicians, writers, thinkers and artists of that era. Where will we be when they’re all gone?

Courting Winter

These two guitars —
Juxtaposed —
Waxing eloquent
Under red and blue lights —
Long-known and newfound —
Pull me back down
From the thin air
Where I danced,
Like a bird,
Unaware.
I do not know how
To reconcile these,
And, sure the blue
Will give it away,
I hide my gaze
And anchor myself
In the red shoes.

Let us pause to ponder
The inclinations
Of a solitary heart —
The footstomp joy,
The scraped sole and shadows
Cast by these minstrels.
They are fragile
In the broken light,
But we cling to them,
Lest we drown
Or become the thing
That we dread.

Send it up to the gods —
The unfeeling overseers —
In sweat,
In sex,
In the wild ululations
Of night’s freedom —
But then,
Make your way back out
Of that stifling presence.
Follow the deer tracks
That lead away
From the noise,
The strings,
The wires and membranes.
Out here —
Where the slow change
Births simpler,
More honest feelings —
There might be an escape hatch.

Long ago,
I fell in love
With a summer-skinned
Midnight stalker
Who smelled of the unseen sea
And stilled my wings
With a soft brown eye.
And for a time,
The burning was
Well controlled —
A prairie made free and fertile.
But futile —
The light and the heat
Were too much.
Now I sit
Among blackened grasses.
The ice-edged water paths,
Worrying these burns and bruises.
Wait for the hidden order —
Nature’s law
And the rules of the living
To reassert some sense.

But as the low light turns,
Color collects more meaning,
Even though it merely punctuates
An unending brown-gray horizon.
And I have always had this,
Long-abiding.
I can wait out
That quieter presence,
There in the glare
Of stagelights.
I can take the time
To untangle this.
And in the quiet,
I grow still,
And patient —
A collector of breaths —
And find new truths.
The longer you look at
And live with
A winter,
The less stark
And simple
It seems.