“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.

“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.