“Unstrung.”

I wrote this one at the Anglican convent in North York on Saturday afternoon, while I was depressed and frustrated with job-hunting…

I hope you like it!


Unstrung

My wrists still hurt; I feel my listless eyes closing,

And pry my gaze away from glowing serpent screens

To seek out silent snow and buried stones.

I feel like withered Sisyphus; each day’s a stone

That I must roll uphill, to no avail,

Because the smallest stress will send it down,

Still rolling past my frantic tired grasp.

I’m unstrung, like a broken Fender bass

And out of tune, like some ancient woodwind,

Dissonant from years of stern misuse.

 

Oh, you who lives in silence, come to me!

I beckon you from every far-flung star

To shine your endless light upon my path,

To beckon me to claim my destiny

(If “destiny” is not too strong a term).

Reveal me to myself in white-hot light,

And show me what this path is that I walk!

 

My path is made by walking through the snow,

And over every jagged, broken stone.

My wrists still hurt. At times, my feet may bleed,

Preventing me from seeing all the flowers

And floods of verdant grass that make my way.

Sometimes I smell the coffee, sometimes not;

At other times, I catch the stench of weed.

Sometimes, I taste the softest olive bread,

While some loaves turn to ashes in my mouth.

 

I wake, and taste the loamy soils of the grave;

I know no joy in greetings from the dawn.

Instead, I forge ahead with aching limbs,

As though I cut through thickets with a blade

Or strike my oar in dark and stormy seas.

Come, be my anchor in this life’s new storm,

And redirect my fragile, failing craft;

Come, realign my sullen iron strings,

And let me sing your fulsome melodies

In every open, vaulted concert hall,

In every strained and straitened prison-cell.

Come, show yourself to me in fallen snow,

And let me hear you in the boles of trees.

Come. Let me drink your wine of ageless joy

And taste the fruits of heaven’s apple-trees.

 

You come to me in dark-brown cups of tea,

And whisper softly in my silent soul.

We sing together in the frosty air

Of rainbows made of endless neon city lights,

Of crosses in the empty desert spaces,

And unmarked cairns beneath the snowy hill.

My wrists still hurt, but now I know you’re here.

I wait for you to turn and speak my name.

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“Refraction.”

I cut myself as I clipped my nails last night, and bled pretty profusely! That served as the catalyst for this poem, which concerns my frustrations on the job-hunt.

I hope that you like this. 🙂


Refraction

Today, the blood is dry. The snow still falls

Upon the empty, ardent, trash-filled streets,

Upon my wounded heart, still gushing blood.

I yearn for meaning in the morning light,

For pleasant walks with lattes in the sun.

My yearning for fulfillment gnaws at me;

I feel a void where pride and joy should be,

An emptiness that swallows each fleck of tasty chourizo,

And gulps down whole each tender sky-bright note

From post-punk or meandering blues guitar.

 

I do not feel the whimsy of a summer’s day;

Instead, my desires are concrete and dense.

I ache for solace from the slowly-drying blood,

For gentle touch to soothe my anxious, twitching limbs,

A lover’s kiss to wash my sullen aches away.

 

Although my scarlet blood still dries upon the page,

And even though my trembling hand still fights

To write the next line, to fill the space,

I hear the winter wind; the snow still falls,

Encompassing everything in penitent white.

Does darkened snowfall call me to repentance?

Is there some errant path I’ve walked these days

From which I must turn, like a slowly-moving train?

My fretful question whistles in the wind.

 

It doesn’t matter now; how could it matter now?

My emptiness and longing are my own.

They’ll still be there tomorrow, when I run

From bus to snow-slick steps to chapel’s warmth;

They’ll dog my soft, determined pace from Bloor

And Dufferin to Dupont, and be where I go.

I hear depression’s soft descending bass,

And sing the melody of faith and fear.

 

In sleep and wakefulness, I’ll hold the line,

Embracing all that darkness gives to me.

I feel the snow overwhelming the old world,

And whispering all the little birds to sleep.

The dawn will come, with its still-nascent fire,

To light my heavy soul upon its way,

To help me to refract the light of stars.

“The Archer’s Kiss.”

I wrote this on New Year’s Eve. It’s deliberately allusive, rather than pointed. I hope you like it! 🙂


The Archer’s Kiss

I’m past the drama of the firefight.

I ponder moonlight and the sullied, greyish snow.

My fearful thoughts, like flunkies, careen from left to right;

Some keep their peace, and some will see the light.

No matter where I turn, my fury starts to grow.

 

Even in my rage and reticence, I dream,

And all my dreams involve a sort of fear;

I mop and vacuum till the floors all gleam,

And mount the chin-up bar to let off steam,

But everything is slowly coming clear.

 

What is my fear? I fear the quiet most of all,

The silence that still echoes through each room.

Each book and picture from before the fall

Speaks to the whisper’s dreadful, aching, thoughtless pall;

These memories fill me with sorrow, angst, and gloom.

 

I hear unspoken words, and mouth unanswered prayers,

Still sitting at the table in my grief.

Each spotless dish reflects a world of cares.

Each sitcom’s a reminder. No one shares

My pain. The world can give us no relief.

 

And yet, I cry in pain, and you still hear my cries.

You take my calls; you fill my life with song.

You help me dry my failing, tear-filled eyes,

And offer me both wonder and surprise.

You help me to redress the ancient wrong.

 

What can I do, and who should I now be,

To quell my aging fear, and glimpse again the bliss

That filled me with June’s sunlight, pure and free?

The moonlight, and my memories, sing to me,

And offer me Apollo’s lingering kiss.

 

His soft quicksilver lips fill me with light,

And clear the clouds of doubt and rage away.

His kisses warm me on this winter night,

And help me know my suffering aright…

And thus, December is a summer’s day.

 

The archer’s kiss fills me with soft, poetic peace,

Surrounding me, just like December snow.

My thoughts of grief and sorrow crowd, then cease,

As wine and music give my seraph soul release.

Now I’m unsure, but someday soon I’ll know.

“Navigator: an Elegy for Gord Downie.”

On Tuesday night, Gordon Edgar Downie died. Gord was the lead singer of the Tragically Hip, Canada’s house band; he had had a severe form of brain cancer; he was fifty-three. The Hip’s lyrics and music changed my life, so I had to respond.

So, I won’t tell you “what the poets are doing, on the street in the epitome of Vague; I won’t tell you how the universe gets altered when you find out how he gets paid…”

Instead, I will tell you this: yesterday afternoon, I grieved for Gord Downie, who–more than any other music icon, Bono excepted–contributed to my formation as a person, by both helping me to deal with anger and sadness, and empowering me to embrace my true self.

I hope you like this.

Navigator: an Elegy for Gord Downie

I want to thank you for the things you said.
They saved my life each night for ten long years;
They spoke to me in valleys and on hills.
From you, I learned to tame the holy fire
Of anger, to turn it into reasoned righteousness.
I’m thirty-three, and I have kissed a woman,
And your words partly helped me take that step.
Moreover, Bono need not sing a broken elegy
To lay my lifeless body to rest on the East Coast,
Because you helped me to know and love myself.

You helped me hear the poetry of city streets,
To find my way in Riverdale, at busy Yonge and Bloor,
On Ward’s Island in the smiling sun of July.
You helped me hear the songs in seaborne silence, too;
In Charlottetown and blessed Summerside, your poems
Helped me to count the stones. You built my heart
Anew, so that the thin glass wall
Between me and the yearning of the world
Lay shattered, next to endless cups of tea.

You built a pigeon camera for our lives;
You carefully crafted the lens of Stanley Cups
And years of pent-up hockey songs
And quiet smells of coffee. You trained
Your careful lens on us throughout your life,
Empowering us to feel our grief and joy
Through endless rants and stark, dark dervish wails.
You broke down all the forests of Kadesh;
You clear-cut them with riffs of bright guitar.
You dragged them off to build a stately house for us,
So spacious it could harbour a whole nation
Amidst the storms of sorrow and of rage.

Thanks, man. And no, you never let us down.
The only disappointment lies with us,
Because we didn’t listen carefully enough.
Your baritone’s still necessary to guide our ship,
To sing us to a higher, joyous state
Where all those in our home on native land
Will live in equity, in heart and hand.

 

“Wild Raspberries.”

I wrote this one last night, as I was feeling sad about the changes in my church community. I hope you appreciate it.


Wild Raspberries

The blue sky’s empty, and the world contains no sound.

The beauty of the day courses through me like water,

And leaves me drifting on the river Memory.

I see the children playing in the park, years ago;

I see my friend in her bright bandana on the rock,

Sitting more silently than summer stars above the bay.

I shut my eyes against my silver tears,

Still feeling all the ecstasy of embrace cloaked in candlelight’s soft glow,

And the flame of righteousness still lit by wine and bread.

 

Some days, I can only sit in silence and cry,

Feeling the loss of gentle hands, the forgetfulness of eyes,

The death of every Parkdale roti shop.

My faithful friend who calls me every week,

My loved ones who will buy a pint of Wellington,

Can share, but cannot grasp, my agony.

I lapse into the stillness of a tree

Stripped bare of all its gold and scarlet leaves;

I know the silence born of mournful prayer.

 

Some days, the world’s still bright and sharp and clear;

I whistle as I walk on sunlit streets,

And feel the eros of existence in the sun.

I’ll buy a cup of coffee, and I’ll smile,

And sing Steve Bell’s sweet Sanctus to myself

To bless a meal of pasta, cheese, and wine.

Some days, the aching world is not so hard.

 

How can I vacillate between these poles?

These memories are wild raspberries:

They taste so sweet upon the waiting tongue,

But soon dissolve in bitterness and woe.

The sorrow blends so sweetly into tenderness,

Into a longing for the meals we had,

The soon-abandoned games of Scrabble, and the raucous songs

We drilled into our group’s long memory.

The woe still turns to laughing, leaping joy

When all the mustard-seeds we planted here

Spring up like blessed rosebuds and vines.

We do not build, or work, or walk, alone,

But feel the acrid sweetness born again

Each time we eat out at the Skyline, or

Each time we sing our yearning Taize songs.

 

The seeds of Love will live forever now,

Though every street and alleyway should change and fall away,

Though all our sorrows drown in amber ale.

Our paths still meet in song, in soup, in silent prayer.

We go out weeping, but our constant memories

Still bring us harvests of the fruits of joy.

“Fierce Desire.”

I wrote this one last night under the influence of a can of  Boneshaker. It concerns my decompression from my thesis. I hope you like it! 🙂


Fierce Desire

I feel a quietness suffuse my soul,

A calm that rolls through me like seaward tide.

I feel the gentle loss of stern control

That comes on me when I let go of pride.

It doesn’t matter what the page will say;

It matters little where the footnotes fall.

I wrote a cogent text, in my own way,

Because I felt its urgent, whispered call:

I can live out the joy, the vibrant grace

That is my birthright from the holy flames;

I must discern a loving, welcome space

Where all my friends can hear Love speak their names.

My text is holy, full of living fire,

Because it joins true love to fierce desire.

“Shadow-song.”

I wrote this l ast night; I’ve been thinking about it for six days…

And I hope I don’t have to explain it more than that. 🙂


Shadow-song: a Sonnet for Chris Cornell

Your liquid melodies are tidal waves,

Embracing us and drowning all our pain,

But there’s no lifeline; there’s no hand that saves.

Your beauty crashes into us again.

Your voice still melts away anxiety,

Both scarred by cigarettes and smooth as skin.

Its angel notes caress infinity;

We stand in awe; with you, we cannot sin.

You call to us from fear and helplessness;

You sing of shadow through your aching heart.

You offer honesty and sweet redress,

Though loneliness and loss obscure your art.

Your longing tones still echo through the sky.

Your music feeds us still, and does not die.