“Sometimes Fear.”

This poem is sort of like a found object. I was depressed when I wrote the first part, last fall; I was depressed again when I finished it last night. So…it’s a chronicle of depression? I hope you like it.


Sometimes Fear

Some days, I feel ahead, and full of joy;

I fly around the worlds in my mind,

And map their verdant contours with an eye

That sees into the turquoise mystery.

I’ll taste a sweetened mocha on my tongue

And feel the gentle touch of soft white hands.

Some days, I scurry down a terraced hill

Into the waiting arms of those I love,

And find my laughter and my solace there.

 

On other days, I’m dogged by whispered fears—

The fear that I am never good enough,

That no part of my work is valuable,

That nothing that I see will ever change.

Will they befriend me, just to run away?

Is there a cell at Sinai just for me,

Beside the other empty, angry ones?

I fear that I’ll be emptied of my love—

Or worse, that all my noble words are vain,

For people are not saintly after all.

I am afraid to name my selfishness,

To wonder at the hardness of my heart.

 

I feel afraid to offer you my hand,

Because a gentle handshake hurts too much;

Sometimes when we’re together, I can’t speak,

Because I cannot know what you might say…

 

What can I call my soft timidity?

What name describes my fearful reticence?

Sometimes I call it sadness, sometimes fear;

Sometimes it blends with ancient pent-up wrath

And all my anger spills across the page

In scarlet, searing bursts of imagery,

In words as hot as arid desert sand.

I hope, one day, the rage will go away,

And leave me with the greening pulse of joy.

 

I hope to paint that joyous scene again,

The quick, effusive dance of laughing eyes;

I want to feel the sunlight in my veins,

Suffusing all my deeds with unity

And giving substance to my narrative.

I’ll see my sorrows bound with silver cords,

And feel anew the pulse of agency.

 

“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.

“The Reckless Ones.”

I wrote this on Friday night, to get out my very-messy feelings about Trump’s inauguration. Content / trigger warning: image of rape.


The Reckless Ones

The fear feels like a thousand swirling clouds;

It flows across my waiting, naive skin

And marks me as its own. In terror’s court,

The reckless ones are always kings and queens.

Thus every lizard vaunts his copper scales

And hisses, “I’m the best. I’m not afraid!”

He stands alone in his misogyny,

And rapes each docile female with his tongue.

 

My terror rushes over me like waves,

Engulfing me in chilly navy foam,

And forcing me to breathe in desperate gulps.

My fear will waterboard me till I drown,

Till I can scream no more from aching lungs…

 

Till suddenly, I wake up on the shore

Of empty grief and moaning, gaunt despair.

I need to be alone, to feel the void.

The hollow silence fills my vacant soul

And sweeps me up as though I’ve never been.

Then I am gone, and no one hears the waves

Still lapping on the shores of the abyss.

“Fire and Clay.”

I wrote this one yesterday morning, during a very-necessary break from work. I hope you like it!


Fire and Clay

I feel the white flag flying in my heart,

The banner of our frail integrity.

With every touch, and every helpful word,

We tear down ancient walls of bias and hate,

And sow the seeds of love where stones have been.

Each time I hear your gentle, whispered peace,

I feel the warmth of sunlight flood my heart,

And know the quiet of your steady hand.

 

Although my anger keeps me warm and bright,

I just can’t hold it in. It’s too intense.

It must pour out in song and poetry

From deep within the chalice of my soul,

From my poor fragile cup of fire and clay.

My wrath will turn to joy, and fill my heart

With images of concrete loneliness,

Of yearning hearts in towers of glass and steel,

Of lovers’ walks beside the eastern sea.

 

The thunder of the waves on Venice Beach

Still fills my iron core with liquid peace,

And herons’ cries still speak to me of grace…

So even when the shadow steals my joy,

Absconding with the light that gave me birth,

I feel the hope in every reddened leaf,

And smell the smoke of sage and lavender,

And hear the silver songs of waking stars.

“Windowpanes.”

….and here is tonight’s poetic contribution. 🙂 It owes a little to Homer, and a little (in the first line) to Radiohead. Happy Saturday!


Windowpanes

I am not bullet-proof, or comatose;

I still respond to all these stimuli.

Although I block my ears, I hear the lash

Of racist discourse on the public’s back;

Nor can the choicest cuts from R.E.M.

Drown out the shells that blast Aleppo’s streets…

And lightning-bolt guitars can’t still my fears,

My fear of failure, or of penury;

My terror that I’ll be exposed one day,

My bright words thinner than a pane of glass.

 

My poetry can make us stop and think,

But does it realize my inner self?

Can any winged words, with crowing voice,

Express the moments when my soul takes flight—

The dance and laughter of a Zeppelin song,

The steady pressure of a longing kiss?

Conversely, can my broken words convey

The stern realities of grief and pain,

Those moments when I can’t get out of bed,

When I will read the B.B.C. and cry?

 

I know my words have substance, but they’re frail.

I am authentic, but I cannot be

Unless I know the limit of my flesh,

Unless I hold myself with all my fear

And turn my searching inner eye upon

The pain and joy that I can always feel.

I can befriend the darkness, and I must;

I always love the light, and I still do,

But I can see it best through panes of glass.

“Phosphorus.”

Yesterday, after I finished with another portion of a draft of my thesis, I was feeling burnt-out…

This is the result. 🙂 I hope you like it!


Phosphorus

There’s power in my pen that helps me heal,

That concentrates my flagging energy;

Sometimes, fatigue is all my soul can feel,

And I’m adrift upon a formless sea.

Its frigid vacuum drains my joy away.

Sometimes, my spirit’s coloured wan and grey,

And all my flames will light, but never catch.

 

I need the phosphorescence of a match

To light me through the deep opacity

That covers what has been, and what will be.

My beacon is the touch of hand and eye;

A major figure, strummed acoustically,

Unites me with the choir of the sky.

A gentle smile’s like the nights in June

When all the stars bow low before the moon.

 

Although, sometimes, I’m outside looking in—

Although, sometimes, I only stand and watch—

I find the spaces where the world is thin,

The holes in vast and bright eternity.

I fill in all the holes with lighted words

Whose flaming plumes ignite the space, like birds

In Argentina, or in Tuscany.

The words are ladders to infinity.

“Twelve Bars.”

I wrote this one on Good Friday. It sorta set the tone for Easter for me. 🙂

Twelve Bars

Bright keyboards drive away the agony:

Although I’ve felt depressed for fourteen months,

I find some solace in a major key,

And simple chords restore my errant soul.

The darkness cannot be my only friend

Because it has no substance of its own.

The shadow can’t create; it imitates.

It stoops to flattery, the lowest art,

And cloaks itself in sweet superlatives.

 

Today, two thousand dreary years ago,

The linen house that held the shekinah,

Exhausted, found itself all torn to shreds.

The Tyrian-purple robe that Jesus wore

Was grasped by several greedy Latin hands;

It couldn’t stanch the blood of Golgotha.

 

Today, our sullen shirts are much the same:

They cannot catch the blood that fills the seas,

Or drown the widespread cries of rioters

Where people have more guns than they have bread,

Where human bones still glare by city walls.

Poor Brussels wails in keen, embittered grief,

And bright Ankara wears a mourning shawl.

These darkened days, our grief will grind us down

As pigeons cry before the flying leaves,

And sullen ice still masks the fallow ground.

 

Where is the hope that marks our sunlit days?

Where is the light and music that we seek?

It waits within a sleek Italian wine,

And crouches in the soft glissando notes;

It travels through two lovers’ soft embrace,

And echoes through the navy concert hall

Where beefy men still sit to play-guitar,

Describing all their sorrows in a lick,

And playing through twelve bars of every joy.

 

It’s Friday. Sunday comes, but not just yet.

We can’t yet see the green trees for our grief,

The dull despair that lengthens every road,

And makes a chore of pulling on our clogs

To walk for seven miles with our friends,

To break our sorry bread in simple feast,

To taste anew Isaiah’s promises

That we will drink the lees of jars of wine

Where every tree bears leaves of health and grace,

Where Keith Moon sits behind the manic kit,

Where Jimi sets his new guitar aflame.