“My Near Horizon.”

I started this one three weeks ago, and just finished it tonight. I hope you like it!


My Near Horizon

The robin sky can still inflate my soul,

Collecting all the pent-up, aching energies

From every noisome night I roll around alone,

And focusing the deadened disciplines

Of one more round upon the chin-up bar,

Of swimming through a tidal bore of lies

To find the embers of the camp-fire Truth

With bits of broiled fish just lying there.

I’m not sure where I get the aimless angst

That yearns for pleasure’s rolling hills and vales,

That turns a smile into a gracious nod,

A nod into the fiery orbit of the dance.

 

I’m glad I’m here. I’ve made it just this far,

So…where am I? I see the golden, toasted crescent moon

Obscuring every star that’s near its light.

I hear the calls of geese and mating crows,

And see the stalking ire of cats in spring.

I don’t know my location, but my speed

Is like the blue electron zipping through

Each full-moon orbit, like a charioteer

Engulfed in fear because his car’s in flames.

 

I joined the circus sixteen months ago,

And I’m still learning everything I can about

The flips and tricks to stay on the trapeze,

And how to make the elephants sit down.

I never see old Barnum’s withered face, but I hear

His hoarse and yodeled shouts. They entertain,

But do they edify? I mean…what’s solid anymore?

My near horizon shines, inviting blue,

But here beneath the big white tent, it’s dark,

Or only lit by lanterns (when they’re lit,

And ice-storms don’t play havoc with the power).

The vendors’ cries, and solemn animal howls,

Still turn me from my stately drudgery,

Entrancing me with lures of opulence,

Like vegetables upon a golden skewer

Or brass knuckles hid by soothing silver gleams.

 

I turn away, and closed my wearied, calloused ear

To all the shadowed cries of penury and want,

To blustered threats of fire and flood and war.

Sometimes, the sunset flaring through the trees

Restores my pensive joy in all its pacing moods.

The sun will send my aching back a soothing pulse

That can correct my spine like archer’s bow.

It doesn’t matter if the elephants sit down;

I’m still the blue electron, but I feel

The nearness of my azure destiny.

It sits and waits below Orion’s belt,

And bids me on, beyond the furthest moon.

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“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.

“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 World in a Drop of Rain.”

I wrote this one this evening, in response to world events. I hope you like it. 🙂


The World in a Drop of Rain

I sit here, in my slowly lowering chair,

And dream of summer, with all its sultry Sixties grooves.

The bitter winds and slush all fall away,

Leaving me with the world in a drop of rain,

And verdant dreams as green as grass in June.

 

Why do the nations rage, like winter winds,

Still howling threats of thermonuclear war?

Why do we bluster, in our nagging fear and pain,

And hound each other with the threat of force?

A great stone wall, a guarded parapet,

Can keep hate out, but still locks stern fear in,

And fear makes everyone a prisoner.

We amble all around the prism, staring out,

And watch our fears reflected in the glass.

We check ourselves with prejudice and pride.

 

Unless all countries come from the same muck—

And rest assured, they do—no one’s a shithole,

And we cannot cast our stones so easily,

Because we sit inside the prism fear.

We all come from the same dark, ancient dust,

The same primordial plasm beneath an African sun…

One mote of dust cannot judge another,

And we can’t see each other for the specks

Of hurt and hatred lodged within each eye.

 

I mean, the world’s too cold and dark to throw more shade;

Each gentle word’s a soft, subtle, solar ray,

And every smile’s alight with possibility:

We reach across the aisle to join our hands;

We knead the dough, and cut the peppers up,

And toss them in the scarlet aromatic sauce.

We snap the beans, and husk the waiting corn,

And break the bows, and shatter all the spears.

We follow all the errant shooting stars

Along their splendid cosmic arc of love.

“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.

“The Climate of Conversation.”

On Monday afternoon, I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation, and am now a doctor of theology! I’m a bit confused about that, going forward, but it feels important. 🙂

I sort of came to view my thesis as self-talk, the kind of motivational discourse with myself that empowers me to act in the world. When this poem talks about language, that’s what it’s talking about. I hope you like this. 🙂


The Climate of Conversation

It’s difficult to learn to live again,

To dwell within the silence as a friend.

I poured my grief and joy into a conversation,

Into a mode of discourse with myself

Where I embrace the Word that shapes my life.

 

What is that Word, still hanging on my lips?

Can I not now record it for the world to hear?

How does it sound? Is it a Hebrew phrase,

A lyrical line, like laughter in the wind?

Or is it Scots Gaelic, roughened with a burr?

What language holds the word of ontic power?

 

I can’t be sure if earthly language holds the key

To all the power that I unlocked yesterday.

That doesn’t really matter; I think the point

Lies in the dialogue of sheer delight,

The discourse that lays claim to all my flesh.

My body’s captivated by the holy word,

Enjoined to sing in its discursive chains.

 

Where can I find the joy of conversation?

I find it on the iron chin-up bar

Where my synapses talk to each other,

Sending soft messages of strength and love;

I find it in a raucous Springsteen song,

And in the gentle groove of Sixties soul…

I find it in the touch of loving hands,

And in a slowly-steeping cup of tea.

 

What is the end of dialogue? So what?

I think the point is living, growing action.

We do not simply speak of love and hate,

But live them out in gardens and dark hotel rooms.

The dogged seeds of love will bloom, with time,

Into the joyful flowers and foods of generous hearts,

While anything that grows in cold and callous climes

Will wither with the coming of the sun.

 

The someday of our love is not far off,

Though nascent hatreds stoke our latent fears,

And fierce floods strip Houston of security.

It’s just beyond the threshold; through the clouds,

We’ll see it in the fiery setting sun.

“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.