“Mayflowers.”

This poem is based on true events…

On Saturday, April 18th, 2020, someone went on a killing spree in rural Nova Scotia, and killed 19 or more people…including a Mountie — a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (the elite corps of Canadian police). The regular cops still don’t know the motive. And the coronavirus makes it worse…so that became part of my processing.
These tragic events necessitated a response…and this sonnet is the beginning of that response. “Portapique” and “Enfield” are communities in Nova Scotia.

Mayflowers

I dig the sweet dark chocolate from the drain,

And feel the fires of fury in my bones.

How could someone inflict such senseless pain,

And leave so many families alone?

 

I sit at table, and I try to write,

But all my words turn back. I’m cold and void.

I know that many will lose sleep tonight

Because their fragile peace has been destroyed.

 

Their movements are constrained; they still must mourn.

Enfield and Portapique feel insecure.

Each day brings back to them the killer’s scorn,

And springtime brings them little that is sure…

 

Perhaps the spring will give their fears surcease,

And mayflowers offer them some gentle peace.

“Green World.”

I wrote this one last night, after I came in from a walk in the rain. I hope you like it!


Green World

The rain laughs softly at the things we build,

For rain will humble steel and lift up clay;

The April rain restores the plants we’ve killed.

The green world survives into another day.

The snare-drum rain recalls eternity

And that sweet love that waits beyond our death.

Staccato raindrops speak integrity

To the green world that lets us catch our breath.

The wind still whistles its cold lullaby

And lulls the earth to sleep beneath the moon –

Reminding us that, though green life must die,

Still, April pays its muddy debts in June.

The world is full of sordid grief and pain;

Our aching wounds are bound up by the rain.

“Lockdowns and Longboards.”

Hi there! It’s been a little while. Part of that, of course, is due to COVID-19, our current pandemic of a communicable respiratory illness…

In light of which, after a couple weeks of relative panic and confusion, I wrote this. I hope you like it. 🙂


Lockdowns and Longboards

The geese will not become carnivorous,

Although the wind should wail and gnash its teeth.

We can still reach towards the silver stars,

Encouraging each other with emails,

And managing anxiety with memes.

Someday, I know, we’ll walk in groups again,

And linger on our longboards in the parks.

 

We’re less bewildered by the vampire plague,

And stock our cupboards with our fragile hope –

As perishable as produce, as green as Excel graphs –

To wait until our streets are safe again.

We wash our reddened hands, and mark our days

With gourmet cups of coffee, or with kale,

That best and sturdiest of vegetables.

 

We sing our plaintive songs to rouse the dawn,

Still blazing, fiery red, beyond our reach.

Our silent cities are a testament

To industry’s strict clockwork winding down,

That everyone might catch their ragged breath

And hear the whispered songs of seraphim

Reverberating in the power-lines.

 

This wretched lockdown isn’t over yet,

But green and growing truth will set us free:

If we can take the time to gather stones,

And sing songs as we scatter them again,

We may relearn the patience of the tide,

Absorbing sand by inches every year

And making strides in ages, not in days.

We will yet know the peace of summer nights.

“All the Silent Hours: for Séamus Egan and His Band.”

Last night, I went to Lincoln Square, and saw Séamus Egan, with his band, at the Old Town School of Folk Music. It was a fantastic experience! The highlights made it into this poem, which follows… I hope you like it. 🙂


All the Silent Hours: for Séamus Egan and His Band

We won’t be very quiet anymore;

Our hearts pound and resound throughout the hall.

The bleak and blinding snow doesn’t block our way,

And hope still rises through the shaking floorboards.

 

We travel from our seats in wintry Lincoln Square

To many far-off places, far from snow:

We’re in the shadowed mines of Irish Butte,

And spinning through the dervish whirlwinds of English storm-clouds —

A cloud, a cloud, by any other blessed name —

Into the sacred space where silence meets sound,

And where the rhythm is our only sense of time.

 

With humour and harmonium, all our heartaches fade away.

We hear all the silent hours in a cabin in Vermont,

And all the rowdy years meandering up and down County Mayo

With only a mandolin for company.

Of course, we know that every song sounds better with banjo,

And that no one writes to the colonel in his choler.

 

It’s surprising what can happen in an hour.

We can whisk the banjo player out of Tomah,

Reputedly the coldest place on Earth,

And prod him gently to the Windy City,

Where he will play a symphony with string and steel guitar,

And flourish with his long tin flute,

And vanish with a wink at close of day,

To duck back into the faded hallway with the hippie banners.

 

We exit into the frozen February night,

And stumble into the warmest doorways we can find,

Our ears still ringing with the music of the heart,

Our hearts still buoyant with the sunlight sown by silence.

We cannot take much with us when we go,

But we can say we heard a banjo played

With warm abandon and with gentleness.

We can recall the halting, partial peace

Descending on our souls from all around,

And decking all our faltering steps with joy.

“Intuition.”

I wrote this last night, after a couple days of sleep deprivation. I thought you folks might want to read it.

– – –

Intuition

I slump awake from vales of sleeplessness

And cast my weary eye about my room.

My heart bears wounds no sunlight can address.

The early-winter sun accents the gloom;

It causes me to moan, and to confess

My arrogance into the waiting air.

In my frenetic hustle for success,

I give my inner life so little care…

 

Who am I when the students go away,

Or when our well-wrought words fail to inspire?

What grounds me on a grey and snowy day

And gives my mission all its motive fire?

What fiery rainbows penetrate the grey,

And light my spirit with their fierce desire?

Which stellar beings lend a kindly ray

To guide me through the January mire?

 

One guide is intuition; feelings blaze

Up from their whirling well, and bid me choose.

The poet’s star still lights my inner haze,

Though poetry now burns with darker hues.

Kaleidoscopic affect fills my gaze:

Deep scarlets bear away my sullen blues.

Sweet symphonies fill out my frantic days

As I put on my coat and lace my shoes.

 

My heart still gives me nascent form and name,

And ancient intuition lights my flame.

“Dragon Run: a Meditation.”

I wrote this one this evening. I thought I’d use sledding as a metaphor…

I hope you like it!

– – –

Dragon Run: a Meditation

Tonight, my mind is glacial, like the green

And turbid Chicago River beneath the ice.

I peer into the darkness, and I feel

The whisper of the ever-present doubt that steals my breath,

That prevents the sudden rush of joy

As I embrace the dragon run, and careen down the hill.

 

It doesn’t matter if I belly-flop,

Or if I sit in a constrained lotus-position

Upon the tiny child’s inner tube…

It matters not, because the speed’s the same.

It just affects my fragile body differently:

I either wipe out in the larger drifts of snow

Before I reach the greying bottom of the hill,

Or I spin chaotically all the way down…

And either way, we laugh, and dust ourselves off,

And call the dog, and hike back to the car.

 

The air around our cheery sledding run

Is charged with midday winter possibility.

The deep blue sky and crunchy crystal snow

Can help us capitalize on camaraderie,

And call us back into our truest selves.

 

The swift adrenaline rush that lights your face,

The dog’s joyous sprint through miles of trackless snow,

The snowman who may live without a nose,

All tell us who we are, and how we got here.

 

Our sled becomes the world’s centrifuge,

And I climb up the hill for one more run.

I cross my legs, and inch toward the hill’s slight grade…

And then I swirl downwards with the snow,

Alighting where I know I’m meant to be –

Limbs sprawled within a snowdrift of my choice.

If only all our choices were this clear,

And every path we took brought this much joy.

“Cinnamon and Chocolate.”

I started this one last Monday, and finished it this evening. It’s (sort of) about Advent. I hope you like it! 🙂

– – –

Cinnamon and Chocolate

They say the light outshines the frigid dark;

They don’t tell you where the light comes from…

The light is liquid and liminal and licentious;

It pours in from outside our petty paradigms of productivity,

And shows itself in all our crevices.

The light is born in fraught fragility,

Tended by tender hands, wakened by woundedness,

And helped by nature’s verdant healing arts.

 

The star that guides the Magi is no signpost;

It’s the symbol of a fierce and boundless love…

The star is righteousness going nova,

The coalescing of apocalyptic anger and lavish love.

That love rains down upon the burning Amazon,

And silences the heavy chatter in the perfunctory halls of power.

It dances in Hong Kong’s still-harried streets,

Says yes to every ravished soul in Yemen,

And affirms the peacemakers in Aleppo

And every other place upon this fragile globe…

 

The love still rains upon us in gentler ways,

Through honest conversations where

We scale the sordid walls of sorrow together…

And through lit starburst moments of joy,

Where Mendelssohn breaks upon us like a wave,

And every scent is cinnamon and chocolate,

And all the lights align, and it all makes sense.

Then we can feel the presence of the One,

The heart that beats within the verdant world,

The angel wing that covers all our griefs,

The peaceful sea that holds our every care…

 

Although we may need space to know ourselves,

That love still holds us, in our hardened hearts,

And coaxes us (like steady tom-tom drums)

Towards the harmonies of fallen snow,

The synergy that it alone contains.

 

It beckons us in lighted Lincoln Square,

And intercedes in lonely Christie Pits.

Each lake’s a conduit for lavish love –

Bright Michigan, or summer-sweet Superior,

Or red-tailed Erie, home of many birds.

That fierce and faithful love still cascades down

And cuts across the arch Experience.

We enter, singing, through prismatic gates,

Proceed through haunts of pleasure and of pain,

And pass into the throne-room of the stars,

The room where Sister Silence waits for us.

Her joyful finger’s ever at her lips

Until she beckons us into her room

Where lush green candles light our way to bed.

“Immersion / Imagination.”

I wrote this one last night. I hope you like it. 🙂


Immersion / Imagination

Cataracts of consciousness stream down into my soul,

Refreshing my dry, desiccated designs

And pouring over me like a deity’s tears,

Like the arpeggios of a 1978 Stratocaster.

Immersed in imagination, I dive for air,

And feel my spirit grasp its life of possibility.

 

It starts with a rivulet of reverie,

A molecule of meaning or memory,

And ends up flowing like the Jordan –

Like Amos’ raging river of righteousness –

Through rationalistic, rigid infrastructure,

Across the porous bounds of time and space,

Into the garment-folds of Mystery,

Into the flaming, laughing halls of Love.

 

At the end of the long, drear downpour days,

I feel the vigour of hope in the deep, dark water.

It motivates me to buy chickpeas and rice,

To pour my energy into lecture and application,

To advise, to pray, to eat, to dance,

To listen to Kendrick with my eyes shut.

I’m buoyed by the long redemption of my body,

By hours with the unforgiving iron bar,

And poured into the roaring kiln of capital

Like molten steel about to be shaped…

 

I’m poured out, like ten cups of green mint tea,

Into the waiting world, where my sterling flame

Will cascade through the dark of bigotry,

And shower down upon the lotus flowers

In that new plane where our every crying need is met,

Where all who love the circling earth are one.

“Soft Certainty.”

I wrote this one earlier tonight. I hope you like it. 🙂


Soft Certainty

Vanilla’s sacred scent hits me right between the eyes

As I scurry through my snappy routines

And speed outside to soak up soft, sweet sunlight.

Today feels good, and I collapse into

The chaos of confidence and soft certainty.

 

Two hours later, when I hit the unfeeling hardwood floor,

I feel the crack of calm catastrophe

And inch my way towards the intuition

That this time isn’t as bad as times before.

I feel the pain, but it doesn’t master me.

I carry it with me, but I still feel the strength

That radiates from five years on the sturdy chin-up bar.

I sought the Iron Mind, and – seeking – I have found

The soft certainty of rigour, of resistance to my plans.

 

My plans may be foolish, and my hopes all in vain –

Indeed, the earth is burning from our greed,

And smoke and ash obscure the brown life-giving seeds –

But as I wrestle with my ancient pains,

I may find my virtues changed to meet my ills.

That is, the sullen shadow proves the laughing sun:

Our pains, including those we cause ourselves,

May not redeem, but they may yet refine.

My actions cannot change my aching past,

But I don’t have to limp from every wound

Because I know I’ve faced them all before.

Integrity arises from the infirm limb, the keening soul.

 

My pain’s a mirror, and a lyric poem.

My grief might be a stirring warning sign,

An aid to stiff reflection with tomorrow’s sun;

It could be, and it is, a call to prayer,

A cry to step inside and still the noise;

My yearning beckons me to feel the sun,

To hear the soft vibrations of the steel guitar,

The certainty of staccato raindrops on the roof,

The dull roar of the lowing autumn wind.