Categories
Poems

Passion

Passion is a short poem in free verse.

It is a request that passion teach no more hard lessons.  No broken hearts, no scars or scabs, just love.

IMG_7088
Jacaranda blossom, Guadalajara, Mexico.  March 29th, 2019

Passion, amid that fair skulduggery that is Time,
Teach me no more hard lessons;
I need no more legions of tormenting lesions.
Leave me only love—soft as a pheasant,
Enduring as space—until my passing.

Categories
Limericks Poems

Sunday Limericks

NUL14127
Jakob Bogdani – Scarlet Macaw in a Landscape

A Sea of Trees
There once was a fabulous sea
Whose waves looked like summery trees
There were breakers like ash
Whose foamy leaves fell with a crash
Amid a forest that ebbed and flowed mistily

The Scarlet Macaw
There once was a scarlet macaw
Who had but a single real flaw
It became the happiest bird
When it would shout a curse word
And leave the polite people in awe.

The Lazy Artist
There once was an artist from Chartres
Who loved but one thing more than fine art
And that was to be as lazy as hell
And for that he slept long and well
So his magnum opus he never did start.

Categories
Poems

Coming Home

A rancher is lost in the Wyoming mountains.  One evening, as his wife is looking through the windows, she spies him coming down the mountains.  She hurries out and meets him beneath a lodgepole pine.

The poem is written in blank verse.

Albert Bierstadt
Albert Bierstadt – Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Trail; c. 1873.

She is a woman, auburn haired,
With eyes of green and careful mind.
She looks through windows onto snow,
To mountain ranges, crisp and clear.
She’s as tough as stone, as rough as cordage,
Supple as a rope or birch.
And in that cold Wyoming evening
Where the mountains meet the sky,
The clouds are forming, an airy meadow,
Like fields of mushrooms or beds of scallops
That grow up and white in course of time.

And coming down from that mountain,
With broken shoulder and riding slow,
Is a tall man of her age
One she’s bound herself to love.
And like Penelope she’s been watching
That rocky chine for hopeful sign,
And now at last her man’s come riding
Down the slope, back into life
To make again the old ranch whole.

So the woman, standing slowly,
Slips out through the cabin door
Into the air that’s crisp with autumn,
Chill and fair, suggesting snow.
She saddles up and rides to meet him;
She finds him ’neath a lodgepole pine,
And there the two dismount and embrace
Relieved to learn their hearts will mend.
For above the firs the birds are flying
Vultures, condors: the carrion pair,
And how they’d love a crippled cowpoke
Lost amidst the mountains there.
Now she and he are hugging fiercely
As the sun sinks behind the stone
And though Death is hungry
And impatient it must find another time
For tonight these two are coming home.

Categories
Poems

The Grandmaster

“The Grandmaster” describes a very old and very successful painter who gives insight into his philosophy on art.
It is written in free verse.

Jan_Vermeer_-_The_Art_of_Painting_-_Google_Art_Project
Jan Vermeer – The Art of Painting, 1666 – 1688.

The old man was paralyzed from the waist down,
But from there up, he was perfectly spry.
His words flowed like water;
his thoughts were as pure as bees’ honey.
And what kind of a man was he?
He was insubordinate, obstinate,
Clever, and polite. They said he was a kind man,
A kind and gentle man, even if
He didn’t follow orders.
He was dominant at chess,
Where he sat at the table in his wheelchair,
While a longcase clock ticked behind him,
And he studied the pawns, the knights, and bishops,
As if he were looking out over a playing field of life.
His old friend, the doctor, would call on him
And bring him suits of charcoal grey,
Shirts of ivory white with soft collars,
And red roses for the boutonnieres.
These the old man would wear,
Dressing up every day, as if for his own wedding,
With a fresh flower pinned in the button hole
And a golden ring upon his finger.
In such dress, he would paint with oils.
He made great canvases of genre scenes:
Men and women at weddings, in funerals,
Sitting by lakes, and along beaches
With a range of magnificent mountains behind.
“I expect more from art than I do from life,”
He would say. “And I am apt to be more
Critical of a fine painting than of a life poorly lived.
For there is but one thing that the artist should focus on,
And in his pursuit of perfection, he must neglect all else.
While in life, a man must focus on many things,
And neglect nothing. Such is the paradox of the grandmasters,
That they must neglect life to reproduce faithfully
Its finest imitations.”

Categories
Poems

The Monster, Malgremir

In this Gothic, fairy tale poem, a monster, Malgremir, wakes from an enchanted slumber and begins slaying children one snowy Christmas eve.  Over the years, the monster ruins the small town.

The church organist, Horace Anderson, attempts to stop the monster, and his journeys lead him to a desert labyrinth where he is met with a burning brazier and a strange surprise.

The rhyme scheme is abab.

IMG_9330 (1)
This is a brazier I made from rebar, steel, and expanded metal that I cut up then welded back together.  It works very well, puts out a lot of heat and light, and was very popular with friends and neighbors.  In “The Monster, Malgremir”, Horace Anderson finds a brazier that was inspired by this one.  I built the brazier during the last week of November in 2018.  Photo: December 6th, 2018.  The poem was written in a single day, my first day of writing in Mexico, December 17th, 2018.


The Old Railroad Track

An old railroad track arches over a dark, cold river
Whose banks are enveloped in glittering white snow.
A rumbling, screeching train barrels forth; the tracks shiver;
The falling flakes are illuminated in the headlight’s brash glow,
Sparkling, glistering for an instant, then moonlit and dim again.
The light catches the river, whose eddies spangle in yellow light,
Then the water, too, is cast back into darkness.
The locomotive plows on, its cattleguard hurling snow in its flight,
Leaving the old, arching track quiet once more, muffled and sparkless.
And still the river ripples unflaggingly on, rounding stones, carving banks.
The creaking pines stand still and portentous.
There then stirs a creature with ram’s horns and silvered flanks,
With scarlet eyes lambent in ursine skull, white and horrendous,
With muscular arms ’neath its glossy pelt,
And a long fleecéd tail finishing in the form of a spade.
That creature lugs itself from where it dwelt,
Long dreaming and woolgathering and artfully stayed,
Thrall to a woven spell, one gathered and cast in times forgotten and past,
By a profound sorcerer who fathomed that creature’s dark power.
And through seasons beginning and seasons last,
Age to age, plot to plot, sifting sands, hour upon hour,
The evil lay dormant. Time destroyed the mage.
But the spell remained, growing weaker as mountains grew,
Lessening in strength as the earth did age,
While the restful creature struggled with dreamy thews
And cloudy powers ’gainst that dwindling charm,
Until on the night before Christmas, when the town was aslumber,
The ancient abomination stirred and raised its arm.
Then its lucent, igneous eyes blazed, and it stood in wonder
To look about the snow-swept forest and peaceful star-washed night.

A Christmas Surprise

In the valley, white smoke billows sleepily from chimneys;
Snow lies pleasantly banked on quiet street corners.
Streetlamps cast their lemony glow on leafless, slim trees.
The quiet churchyard with its stones is absent mourners.
And as pearly clouds scud across the crescent mooned sky,
All is calm, all is bright.
Atop a hill stands a home in whose yard a quivering, lone leaf
Trembles in the cold night’s breeze, fixed by its thin stem
To an icy branch. Blustered and gusted in autumn’s withering fief,
And, having borne with silent fortitude the rain and wind,
The dead brown leaf at last releases its clinging grip.
The leaf floats past a lightless window, shaded by heavy sash,
On whose far side sleeps a child, fair of hair, soft of lip,
With dreams of peppermint, gifts, and seasonal Christmas hash.
A cloud sails away from the moon’s sickle shape;
Soft moonbeams filter onto the glittering snow,
As the hellish creature, prowling like some eerie ape,
Steals across the snowy lawn to the lulled child’s window.
And there, with its incandescent eyes shining redly,
It raises the unfastened glass, creeps into the room,
And with movements soft, practiced, and deadly,
Metes out to the sleeping child his untimely doom.
This ancient evil leaves only bones and blood
From its foul feast: pelvis and femur, ribs and skull.
That child, that dream-full spark, is permuted to an eternity of mud:
Far too calm, far too constant, far too distant, far too dull.
Then as the monster entered, so the monster leaves.
Thus it is that on the morning of gleeful anticipation,
The soul that is happy becomes the soul that grieves,
As Mother and Father scream for their lost creation.

The Monster in the Cathedral

It is a cold, sunny morning, remarkable for its shining snow.
Parishioners pass the church’s crooked wrought-iron fence,
Past the gravestones which a child, yesterday, dipped below,
And through the heavy, wooden double-doors of the entrance.
Sunlight filters through the cathedral’s stained glass,
Tinting pews and aisle in colored light thick with dust.
A polished family of four, dressed smartly for mass,
Amble down the aisle in pacific, heavenly trust.
There is a brown-haired boy and a brunette girl,
And it is the boy, who, peering amongst the rafters and eaves,
Sees hanging, its arms ’round its chest in batlike curl
And warily alert of the oppugnant congregation it perceives,
That self-same creature whose dark deeds blasted the town,
And threw its calm citizens into fiery, disconsolate animosity.
“There!” cries the boy, “Look there! Hanging upside-down!
There’s a beast! It’s some kind of monstrosity!”
And his sister, looking upward, screams at the sight,
For there is the creature, tense at being seen,
Now suddenly scuttling in furious, fearful flight
Across the nave’s ceiling, as, in one voice, the two children scream.
Strange it is to see, however, that the confused parents
See nothing of the fell creature that climbs on the ceiling
And so they hush their children with hisses and unfair comments,
Til other children take up the cry. They also see the monster.
The children all gesture, point, and howl,
But the parents see an empty nave, rafters, eaves, balusters,
Nothing that skitters, scuttles, or moves. Not a thing that prowls.
And, looking at the curious scene, of many children screaming,
And of many blank-faced parents searching with their eyes and ears,
The church’s organist, his hands full of sheet music, wonders what he’s seeing.
This man, Mr. Horace Anderson, a bespectacled, retiring gentleman far gone in years,
Considers a moment the strange spectacle, watching with some inkling,
And looks in vain toward the ceiling to find a creature there.
But, like other adults, he sees nothing, yet he sets himself to thinking,
As the creature passes out the nave, towards its belfry lair.

An Ancient Tome

Mr. Anderson, driving home, takes a bridge over a cold dark river,
Whose banks are enveloped in glittering white snow.
Plunged in deep consideration of an antique scrivener,
Mr. Anderson circles up an icy mountain to his home on a windswept, wet plateau,
While the details of an elusive passage frustrate Mr. Anderson’s recall.
Thus it is with furrowed brow that he pulls into his drive
enters his house, and makes for the books near the wall.
Fingering each spine, he mutters and feels his mind revive
As he pulls a book off the shelf and sweeps cobwebs from its cover.
He blows dust off its pale and tattered binding,
turns its brittle yellow pages, and there discovers
the fell description of a child-eating thing,
cast into somnolence by an itinerant wizard
then left to rot in a solemn forest uncolonized by man,
through seasons of sweltering sun and gelid blizzards.
This arcane chronicle details how the child-eating thing
Was invisible to adults but well-seen by children.
The text tells how the evil slept inverted in lofty places, wherever it could cling,
And how, when it devoured a child, it left but bones and patches of skin.
Mr. Anderson read on into the bitter night,
His brow furrowed, and his lips drawn tight and severe.
Behind the twisted yellow moon, stars lay spangled with dull, cold light.
Then Mr. Anderson starts suddenly as he learns the monster’s hateful name, Malgremir.

Seven Years Later

Seven years later, the quaint town lies abandoned.
Centipedes crawl fearlessly on homes’ stairs; mice inhabit dining rooms.
The cathedral, and particularly the belfry, is well shunned.
In the churchyard, in the cracks of the headstones, are dandelion blooms.
The cemetery gates swing creakily; a gentle wind rustles peeling paint;
The church door’s hinges are broken; the great Gothic door lies ajar and crooked.
Inside, mold grows behind a dusty portraiture of a haloed saint,
While the nave appears washed in hues of rose and blood and red,
For of the stained glass panes only the red remain unbroken.
The pews are covered in a thick layer of dust,
In which an occasional, devilish footprint is imprinted as a token
Of Malgremir, who remains in the belfry as still and as silent as a bust.
Only his brilliant eyes, vivid crimson, are visible in the darkness.
Malgremir hangs batlike from a rafter in the darkest, most shadowed corner.
His mind is as patient as a serpent’s, his behavior as indefatigable as a shark’s address.
Since that first Christmas night, he has made many more mourners
From the families of the staid and respectable parishioners.
He brought the strongest men limitless grief as their children were devoured,
And he bore comfortless heartbreak to loving mothers who fell, as wailing petitioners,
To their knees, beseeching mercy from that almighty heavenly power.
Searches for the monster were inaugurated, but they proved fruitless.
Children were consulted, and they pointed, quavering, at the ghastly thing.
Men fired guns at the points the children marked, their efforts bootless.
Malgremir could not be harmed by steel, lead, or matter made for firing.
Prayers were said against the creature, but they were ineffectual.
A Voodoo priestess was brought from the bayous south of New Orleans.
She brought garlic and woundwort, conducted exorcisms oral and textual.
Her incantations were for naught. That night, during her dreams,
A girl with a kind nature and gentle hand was consumed by Malgremir.
The townspeople sent the priestess away. The church was abandoned; still the wrongs kept on.
Children saw the monster in the night; street jokes grew black with fear.
More children were devoured; men mourned; women wept on.
School classes were cancelled, and the city council voted to desert.
Malgremir, placidly vicious, made a last raid, drinking drop by drop,
The lifeblood of sons and daughters, cracking and sucking their bones, savoring their hurt,
Until the townspeople vacated, and the demon-storm did stop.

The Labyrinth

Mr. Anderson left town in the fifth year of Malgremir’s ascendancy.
The erudite man left not for evasion, but to learn the solution to this fey riddle,
Searching far for a missive that would, for Malgremir, signal death’s embassy.
Long studied Anderson the lore housed in the fabled Alexandrian Library and the Bam Citadel,
But therein he found only hints and clues, trifling gestures as to the secret’s key.
Traveled he thence to the Beineke library of rare books and singular scripts.
Discovering there, at most, vague descriptions and veiled references to the monstrosity—
Yet also mention of a secret library whose doors open only during a total lunar eclipse.
A weathered volume, whose yellow parchment was delicate and cracking,
Told of doors in a Badakshan mountain that were fastened by a genius of the Dark Age
And which led a doughty traveler into an antique wasteland beyond all mapping.
The library, called Maktaba Ghazni al-Khan, lay at a desert’s edge,
And held within its labyrinthine shelves the scrolls of necromancy and power
That did at one time summon djinni, influence sprites, and banish Shayṭān.
And in the center of the Maktaba’s labyrinth was a glass for counting the hour;
Through its glass globes poured the very measurement of Time, in form of falling sand.
Deep study takes time. Seven years had passed since the monster’s ascendancy,
And again Mr. Anderson set out, now from Yale, now to Afghanistan,
For the matter that would snuff the fell creature’s lambency,
And restore fairness and order to the bedeviled land.
From Kabul he traveled the Hindu Kush road through cracking Soviet tunnels;
Thence from Fayzabad, Mr. Anderson set out by donkey,
With a guide promising to take him but halfway, to where the river funnels
Out past the old capital of Wakhan, Qila-e Panj, deep in the Wakhan Valley.
When the guide left Mr. Anderson, he had been traveling for a week.
He was tired, but he felt that his journey had barely begun.
He looked out of his spectacles, down his long nose, and he rubbed his cheek,
Taking in his surroundings. Tall, craggy mountains blotted out the sun.
The gorge that he was left in held nothing but sparse vegetation,
And the way forward appeared both trackless and treacherous.
He found himself longing for his music, his pleasant church, his former station,
And he had no desire to continue upon a path so adventurous.
Mr. Anderson made a few notes in his daily diary, then he laid out his bedroll and slept.
The stars wheeled magnificently above him; a snow leopard peered down on him,
While through the jagged peaks, the Persian wind galloped and swept,
And Mr. Anderson dreamt of caravanserai and carpets, shorn and silken.
In the morning, the sun illuminated the valley, and Mr. Anderson set forth.
He traveled for four nights through chancy mountain passes,
His faith in the book oft-times wavering, his compass steering him further north,
Until in the midst of his dangerous isolation, he came upon weirdly formed crevasses,
Whose lines of cleavage seemed symbolic or runic in nature,
As if fashioned by man rather than nature, and Mr. Anderson, studying the stone,
Noted how the shape of an arcade appeared within the granite architecture,
And that in the stony portal’s area there was a nearly seamless fault, thin as a crack in bone.
Here Mr. Anderson consulted his almanac, reassured himself of the upcoming syzygy,
And did then encamp before the fractured crag. There he remained for six nights.
On the seventh night, the lunar eclipse induced the nearby mountain creek to froth fizzily
And queer characters to luminesce in the adamant stone in tints of radiant blueish-white.
The fracture in the cloven stone did shine with that same color,
While strange shapes as of astrolabes, sextants, gnomonic sundials, and stars appeared.
Mr. Anderson—caught between exhilaration, hope, and dolor—
Observed the glow strengthen into an aura. And the night grew weird.
A flash of light. A purple fire. All at once, a door materialized.
Taking his water and his pack, Mr. Anderson stepped through the door,
And he found himself, quite suddenly, with the sun blinding his eyes,
For he was on reddish desert stone, swept as flat and clean as a palace floor.
Around him, in all directions, was a labyrinth of pathlessness.
There were no mountains to guide his way, no points of any kind.
The place was bleak and flat, dry and severe, wrathful and boundless.
Yet the learning from the Beineke manuscript sprang to his mind,
For its contents directed the traveler due west, two hundred-seventy degrees,
Until, it said, one meets “the fire in the desert”.
Ancient texts being mistily allusive by nature, Mr. Anderson had not fretted,
But now he wondered if greater consideration would have been wise.
But, he thought, it was not a mistake to be greatly regretted,
There being no other texts, to his knowledge, on the subject anyway.
So to the place where there was fire in the desert he bound himself,
Adjusting his pack’s straps, tightening his belt, setting out on his way,
And wondering, with black humor, of the feasibility of diagnosing insanity in oneself.
The thought preoccupied him as the miles turned to leagues under his feet,
And there was no change to the dullish red landscape
And only the compass’ needle to guide him as he crossed this desert sheet,
For he felt that certainly no other explorer could have survived this barren land, this plane shape,
For had another explorer gone but a degree astray in any direction,
Then assuredly death would have risen to meet them.
The wayward traveler would have, step-by-step, separated further from the connection
Until in the name of starvation or thirst, Death would greet them.
Yet Mr. Anderson found himself wondering if the desert were also a labyrinth for the mind,
Whether he truly was insane, for who had heard of such travelers, such places?
And he wondered how to test his insanity, for if the mind were cracked and brined,
How then to know the sanest of its many faces?
Doggedly, and by dint, Mr. Anderson continued onward.
The desert floor remained as flat as a chessboard, and he was its only wanderer.
The sky above was as blue as the sea, and the land as red as dried blood upon a sword.
For three days did Mr. Anderson continue on this path, as worried a ponderer
As ever there has been, nearly freezing in the desert night, doubting his sanity by day,
Until, at last, on that flat and featureless horizon that ringed ’round him,
There appeared to be a spark flickering in the distance.
Another day passed, and Mr. Anderson kept onwards, hopes now slim,
For his water had been used, and of more there was not a trace.
But the spark in the distance grew in size as he drew near,
Until he found himself standing before a hanging fire basket made of steel.
The fire basket hung from a chain that was supported by three legs welded to a sphere.
Inside the basket were logs that burned but did not diminish, crack, or peel.
Mr. Anderson, reaching out to warm his hand upon the flame,
And looking around the desert in some confusion and no little concern,
Then saw the sand beneath the brazier suddenly shape itself into a sandy lane.
On either side of this new path and at regular intervals torches did burn,
And so, ducking his head beneath the fire in the desert, Mr. Anderson descended.
The path was narrow, soft, and mellow, and it soon gave away to a spiral staircase made of sand.
The recessed sconces lit the vertical passage with soft, flickering light, and, as he wended,
he saw that, at the foot of the stairs, the shaft did expand.
When he reached the bottom of the sand-stair, Mr. Anderson found himself in a chamber.
The walls, ceiling, and floor were constructed entirely of sand,
And the room appeared to be round like a wheel laid upon its side.
A single shelf, stocked with ancient books, circled the room like a band,
And, at the center of the room stood another hanging fire basket, six feet tall, two feet wide.
Of the fabled hourglass of time there was no trace,
So Mr. Anderson wondered if there were yet more secrets within the labyrinth,
And whether those secrets held the hourglass in a hidden space.
There was, too, in the room, a kind of plinth,
And upon that plinth stood an unmelting block of ice.
The place held the mysterious air of an enigma;
Thus Mr. Anderson, feeling strange forces at work, was at the books in a trice,
Finding one leathery tome with the inscription, Mælgrymyr, beneath a lunate sigma—
Or perhaps a crescent moon—and, opening the book,
The learned scholar saw an illustration of that thing the children had limned.
As Mr. Anderson took a steady and careful look,
A grain of sand, then another, fell from the ceiling onto the open volume.
Rapidly then did he scan that venerable text for clues on how to slay the beast,
As his mind, able in reckoning, leapt at once to the affairs as they had come to pass:
That, surrounded by fire and ice and texts, he himself was in Time’s frothy yeast,
The room was but a chamber, a globe in Time’s hourglass,
And as the hidden library slowly disintegrated,
Mr. Anderson felt his reasoning fragment,
And the ice, dripping water, did at that time ablate
While the fire did flicker, sputter, and stagnate.
As Mr. Anderson gained more knowledge, the labyrinth crumbled.
Sand poured from the ceiling, onto the book, as Mr. Anderson lifted it vertically to read,
And, reading still, he made for the sandy staircase, reading as he stumbled.
Until at last, at the start of a paragraph, he saw the Latin lead,

“Ab extra, ab initio, ad astra.  The Monster, Mælgrymyr, having been called thusly, is not, in fact, named Mælgrymyr, and has only been so denominated by monks of the Apostolic order who follow His footsteps in the heavenly name of the Divine, and by servants of the Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him, and by those laypeople who speak of the Monster and know It by Its fiendish work. The true name of Mælgrymyr is a closely guarded secret, and it is thanks to anonymous, esoteric scholars—whose sedulous work and whose study of the arcane glyphs and ciphers found carved into long-buried ruins—that we of the Brotherhood at last learnt the true name of the Beast.

As Mr. Anderson read on, the sandy chamber, already deteriorating,
Gave way faster and faster, ’til he wondered how much time had elapsed.

Scholars now know the true name of the Beast, which, by saying its name, will spell the end of the Beast, and bring about Its sudden and immediate end. The Beast’s name is ‘Horace Anderson’.  Ab extra, ab initio, ad astra.”

“Horace Anderson!” he said, aghast, his frisson of horror accelerating,
Then the ice evaporated, the fire extinguished, and the chamber of sand collapsed.

Fin.

Categories
Poems Limericks

Sunday Limericks

the-persistence-of-memory-1931.jpg!Large
Salvador Dalí – The Persistence of Memory

The Golden Bear
There once was a bear made of gold
Who lived amongst the snow and the cold
Each time he stepped the gold shone
Like a king’s royal throne
This rare bear was a fine sight to behold!

The Pious Moralist
There once was a pious moralist
Who condemned even the most virtuous kiss
She screamed at the children who played
And castigated her maid
And when she dies she’s one no one will miss!

Killing Time
There once was a man with a skill:
Everything he touched he would kill
So when he put his thumb on a clock
It became as dead as a rock
And thus he made Time stand still!

Categories
Poems

An Old Green Bottle

An old green glass bottle is opened at a lakeside party. Fireworks burst in the night. Above the revelers, a good spirit sits upon the clouds, fishing for kind deeds and words.
The poem is written in free verse.

Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin - Still Life with Plums

An old olive green bottle with its label faded and worn
Is shaken by its neck. Its contents churn and whisk.
Its settlings rise up and whirl in the heaving swirl.
There’s a sharp pop as its cork is unstoppered,
Then an eddying flow as the amber liquid is poured.
From out its mouth comes a dear beverage
That fills the glasses which are toasted
To fireworks in the night sky and which set to riot
The lakeside revelers who dance beneath
Moonsilvered racks of billowing clouds.
Up above them, a good spirit is fishing.
He’s dropped his line from the sky to earth.
His beard is of curled cloud, and his eyes are twinkling stars.
His body is made of mist.
From time to time he catches, from the people below,
What he’s fishing for:
A kind word, a bit of hope,
Something to lead another
Through dark days.
He reels up such a catch, this kind spirit, and he
Observes what he’s got, there on the end of the line.
It glimmers, gleams, and shines.
When he laughs, he laughs with joy,
And all go running to get out the coming rain,
For they can hear the thunder rumbling
High above.

Categories
Poems

Sea Haikus

These are three haikus which observe a syllable count of 5 – 7 – 5 in their lines.  They follow a tradition of using clear language to describe nature, then bridging to a related image.

Claude Lorrain - Seaport at Sunset
Claude Lorrain – Seaport at Sunset, 1639.

Pearl Morning of Mist
Pearl morning of mist
Clipper ships in the harbor:
Undressing lover.

The Harbor Air
Rough, coarse, salty air,
A fragrance smelled from far-off.
Hot stew in kitchens.

Under the Sea
Undersea lie ships,
Sunken and decomposing:
A bottle’s settlings.

Categories
Poems

The Luthier Alone in His Workshop

The Luthier Alone in His Workshop tells the story of a solitary old violin maker who, when he is fixing a violin, suddenly decides to play it in his shop.  He plays a song by Johan Sebastian Bach.  The music fills the room, and when he stops, there is an echo, then silence.

The poem’s written in free verse.

IMG_2577
David Murphy – Dahlia.  Point Defiance Rose Garden, Tacoma, Washington.  2016.

Amid vacuousness,
vagueness, silence

ear to horsehair strings
(pluck, pluck, twing)

The luthier: polar, hoary hair
rivuleted, waxen face

planes, calipers, chisels
ebony bench

Sigggggghhhhhhh…..
stands, nestles, adjusts, lifts

bow strikes strings
(saw, pling, pling)

tattoo of sound
exequy of hush

a roaring, a splendor!
a workshop suffused.

(pling, saw saw, rush, whine orble, fade, seern, seeOyurn)
(pluck, pluck) hearken (saw) hearken (pluck, pluck) tune
(saw, neeor, seeor, zhhhh)

inhale
exhale
inhale
exhale

J.S. Bach
Partita No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006: VII.
Gigue.

Resonance, reverberation decamp
ultimate echo.

Categories
Limericks Poems

Sunday Limericks

Edward Gorey - Irontonic
Edward Gorey – Illustration from The Iron Tonic, 1969.

The Witch’s Coven
There once was a foul witchy coven
Which met in the shire of Devon
They had cauldrons that boiled
And snakes that were coiled
And they baked small children in ovens!

The Cannibal Feast
There once was a cannibal feast
At which ten people were present, at least,
Although there may have been more
It’s quite hard to be sure
After they’ve been chopped and rolled in the grease!

The Woman from Marseille
A woman once lived in Marseille
Beneath the floor of the city ballet
The dancing went to her brain
And slowly drove her insane
Now she waltzes through graveyards for play!

Categories
Poems

The Riddler in the Labyrinth

“The Riddler in the Labyrinth” tells the tale of a strange man with the head of a crow who is chained to a wall at the top of a mountain in the center of a spiraling labyrinth. One day, a woman, a weary traveler, reaches the mountain peak, and the strange man asks her three riddles.

The style is like that of an old fairy tale, and the rhyme scheme is abab.

Arthur Rackham - The Old Woman in the Wood
Arthur Rackham – The Old Woman in the Wood, 1917.

There once was a man with the head of a crow
He had the feet of an ostrich and a lion’s torso
He had snakes for his arms that ended in fangs
He wore a torturous yoke like the Medieval cangues
In which a chain ran from an eyebolt to a brick wall
And kept the man from moving too far at all.
He was chained like a dragon or a king to his throne
In the heart of a labyrinth made of wood and of stone.
The labyrinth was a spiral; it was weathered, antique—
It began at the foot of a mountain and wound to its peak.
And there at the top, amidst the ice and the snow
Was this man with the snake arms and the head of a crow.
And to the weary traveler who reaches this labyrinthine lair
This man gives a riddle, at once puzzling yet fair:

What is fairly yellow but can be fairly black—
It shows its face with artful grace and then it turns its back?

The wily traveler laughs and says, I can answer this one soon,
The answer that you seek, strange friend, is the orbiting moon.
So the man with the crow’s head puts another question forth
To test the mettle of the one who is establishing her worth.

What is hard to swallow but impossible to choke—
It makes us, dear, each lend an ear with the feelings it evokes?
It can feel as captivating as the heaviest chain may be,
Yet it is at once so liberating that it can set us free!

The clever traveler laughs and says, I can answer this one too!
The thing you see, that we all seek, is everything that’s true.
The Truth! It is the answer, nods the strange and riddling man,
Now listen again to what I say and answer if you can.

What seems fairly simple, yet is always so complex
That no one’s yet succeeded in predicting its effects?
It’s not glowing like a rainbow, nor shining like the stars,
And yet it lights our lives and makes humanity be ours?

There’s just one peerless answer to this mystery thereof,
Says the savvy traveler, What you’re talking of is Love!

And at that very moment, the strange and patchwork man,
Turned into a handsome prince at the top of that mountain.
And the weary traveler, she cried out with delight,
At the quick reshaping, at the splendid sight.
For this, at last, was her prince, whom she long had sought to see
And traveled over many land leagues, and across stormy seas.
For a witch had cast her spell upon this handsome prince
And chained him in the labyrinth where he’s been waiting ever since.
And it took his true love who had journeyed all this time,
To free him with her courage, and her answers to each rhyme.

Categories
Poems

The Stone Man, the Fire Woman, The Flower Man, and the Bird-Hearted Woman

This poem is written for those shy people who have a great deal of thought and a great deal of talent and imagination, but who do not express what is beautiful that is inside them.

Darger 3
Henry Darger – Untitled work from The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What Is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion.  c. 1940s

I see this man he’s made of stone
His mind’s a steel trap, his heart’s of bone,
His eyes are granite, grey and deep,
He works without end, he does not sleep.

I’ve seen this woman, she’s made of fire,
With a mind as brilliant as a pyre,
Her memory is perfect, like licking flames,
She forgets nothing, no one’s names.

I’ve seen them both: the stone, the blaze;
They both impress me, they both amaze.
We celebrate them and set them high
On plinths to be watched by every eye.

I see this man he’s all alone
His heart’s of flowers, his mind’s of brome,
His eyes are blue, his hands are weak,
There’s a voice in his heart that cannot speak.

I see this woman, she’s huddled there,
Her clothes are tatters, her feet are bare
In her heart are larks that sing
While outside her is a cold that stings.

I’ve seen them both: the bloom, the bird;
They hide their minds, conceal the word,
Their eyes they seem to have lost their gleam,
But in their hearts beats the human dream.

Categories
Poems

Bouquet

The Bouquet is written as a tippler’s lament.  It’s a poem imagined from the perspective of a man caught between earthly drink and the heavenly Holy Spirit.

The poem gives his thoughts as he looks out onto the world and wonders and marvels at all that goes on.

IMG_8693
David Murphy – St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Rome.

There’re engines roaring in the street
loud and angry as a fire;
I am drunk, and I am thirsty,
and I’m feeling tight as wire
cause one spirit’s got me woozy,
and the other makes me pray,
but neither makes me holy
in any elemental way,
but they leave me lacking, thirsty,
with the dawn of each new day.
I have already begun to wonder
what price I have to pay
for an experience so vital
that I’ll never lose my way,
for I’m lost and I am hopeless,
and I always feel astray,
so I shut my ears to street sounds
and I let the liquor say,
Is this a comedy or a tragedy,
this inscrutable human play?
What of life does really matter:
Wealth… or appreciation of a day?
And which will make me stronger:
Affection… or a nuclear array?
I ain’t askin anybody particular
cause I don’t want to be betrayed,
but with every drink I swallow
I feel a little more afraid,
and with every hour that passes by
I feel my understanding further stray
as I draw closer to a cold truth
that – no matter how much I pay,
and despite which side I take –
there will always be this fray
between the open-hearted folk
and citizens who recite clichés.
So I guess I must do something
cause I don’t think we’re all okay,
and it don’t seem to help much
to keep drinkin or to pray:
one spirit’s in the bottle
the other’s too far away…
It’s like knowing you can’t catch
but still hoping for the bouquet.

Categories
Limericks Poems

Sunday Limericks

lossy-page1-800px-Vertumnus_årstidernas_gud_målad_av_Giuseppe_Arcimboldo_1591_-_Skoklosters_slott_-_91503.tiff
Giuseppe Arcimboldo – Vertumnus, c. 1590 – 1591.

The Man Made of Fruits
There once was a man made of fruits
And his feet were bananas in boots
He had a raspberry nose
And blackberry toes
And his hair was an apple tree’s roots!

The Blinking Boulder
There once was a stone that could blink
It was a boulder that was as sable as ink
It had a white eye
As white as the clouds in the sky
And if you watched it closely it’d wink.

The Walking Dune
There once was a desert dune
That was shaped by the searing simoom
It took on the shape of a Sphinx
When by day it lay like a lynx
Then by night it walked by the light of the moon.

Categories
Poems

Between the Wines and War

A poem about a war that approaches a pair of lovers who live along the coast.

 

Maria Kreyn - Alone Together
Maria Kreyn – Alone Together

What have we here—here between the fine wines and war?
Love. Passion. The sensual and the visceral,
The red drip of the pomegranate, the sweet taste of gold honey.
You touch your slim hand to your angular face once more,
Touching where your red lips are closed and commissural.
We have health, youth, life, tobacco, and wine, but no money.
We have enough. The breeze blows the transparent white curtain
Bringing in the scent of the sea, the jungle’s animals’ cries,
And the faint beams of moonlight, which band the wooden floor.
The outcome of the fight, the approaching war, remains uncertain.
The soldier fights for his country, then his friends, then dies,
As the wine reeks, and our lips meet, and the ocean breaks ashore.

Categories
Poems

April 2020 Poems

In this post are the poems published on my site during April 2020. The most viewed poem of the month was “Sunday Limericks” and the most liked was “Blue.” My own favorite from this month was that Sunday Limericks post.  The three limericks in that post were “An Orgy in Perth,” “A Woman Named Bunny,” and “Anchors Aweigh!”

800px-Les_Très_Riches_Heures_du_duc_de_Berry_avril
Limbourg Brothers – April, a part of The Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry 

Contents
And the Leopards Leap
Aphorism Poem
The Bleak and Wild Desolate Shore
Blue
The Candle from the Cathedral
Circadian Memory
Dessert Storm
The Ghost
The Gift of Flight
Jack Frost Endeavors to Keep Winter
The Place of Man
Slumberjack
What Occurred by the Half-Light

Sunday Limericks for April 2020

April 5th
The Enchanted Tomb
The Blind Witch
The Rainbow’s End

April 12th
Strawberry Rinds
Blueberry Bushes by Night
The Cranberry Bog Ghost

April 19th
∞ Ouroboros ∞

April 26th
An Orgy in Perth
A Woman Named Bunny
Anchors Aweigh!

 

And the Leopards Leap
“And the Leopards Leap” is a poem about an indigenous family passing their day while living in a tropical jungle along the shore of the sea.

The waves come in, and the palm trees wave,
The water laps inside a cave,
From which bats fly each night at dusk,
While coconuts grow ripe inside their husks,
In tropical air laden with musk.
Down the mountain falls a tributary
To greet the ocean in an estuary
Where flamingos dwell and kingbirds sing
And motmots flaunt their coloring.
Houses lie along the coast
With thatched roofs and bamboo posts,
And children playing in the yard
Near a smoking bonfire with embers charred,
Children bright-eyed as young deer,
Who romp with laughs and boundless cheer,
Nowhere here can clocks be found,
Nor men and women cement-bound,
But here we see the lives of men
Lives lived amongst livestock: pigs and hens,
Amongst the pets: the cats and dogs,
Amongst the creatures: jaguars and frogs.
The hot day passes, the cool night comes,
The stars come out, cicadas thrum,
The moon lies brilliant, full and bright,
And brushes the jungle with pearly light.
The kinkajou and tarsier then awake,
As does the eyelash viper, a venomous snake.
Then man and woman and children fair,
Sweep out the scorpions and say their prayers,
Then settle down in their home of reeds
Thankful for the jungle that fills their needs,
And they lie down for a short sleep,
As, without, the tide ebbs and flows,
And the leopards leap.

 

Aphorism Poem
My Oxford New American Dictionary defines an aphorism as, “A pithy observation that contains a general truth, such as, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’” This is a poem comprised of aphorisms, some of which already exist but have been reworded, and others which are of my own invention.

There’s truth in every aphorism
And poetry in those gnomic things:
Like, Time may mend the greatest schism.
And, Chaotic are the ways of kings.

In every mishap, there’s blame to share.
In each home, there’s room to care.
Knowledge is an unquenchable flame.
And, Sarcasm is the crutch of the lame.

Anything can go from bad to worse.
Addiction leaves a lightweight purse.
Every age is made of strange times.
Some men aren’t guilty of their crimes.

Unproveable is faith in the divine.
We oil the wheel that does whine.
All men go inevitably unto death.
Sweetest is the liberated breath.

All those who are poets must be true.
Politicians are wont to misconstrue.
Though in severalty we unite in league.
The true spy makes his own intrigue.

Each maxim among these and many more
Help comprise man’s expressive score.
And although often spoken like a catechism
There’s yet some truth in the aphorism.

 

The Bleak and Wild Desolate Shore
“The Bleak and Wild Desolate Shore” describes a beach along the Olympic Peninsula and tells of the indigenous Makah people whom I took an interest in during 2017.  The free verse poem relies on imagery.  I found the book The Sea Is My Country by Josh Reid and the Makah Cultural and Research Center to be good sources of information about Makah culture.

Along the very tip of the Olympic Peninsula—
harbored by sea stacks,
washed by the ablutions of frequent rain,
and scrutinized by the salmon-keen eyes of fierce eagles
who sit perched with feathers made wet and salty by ocean spray—
lies a beach spliced by piney evergreens and the wintry Pacific Ocean.

It wears as its mantle a cloak of becoming fog:
wide filaments of thick mist wreathe the beach’s shoulders,
narrow wisps tuck into the crevices of teeming pine,
and, like a stole, that pale brume softly embraces
the necks of the majesterial, protruding stones.
The beach’s curvaceous, serene form lies upon its side
with its back to the land, knees tucked up against the tide,
with its stone lips ever kissing the briny, icy waves.
Water is its heart. In the rain, in the sea and spume,
throbs the lifeforce that begets the beach’s growth and decay,
shapes its projecting stone fingers, and creates its austere beauty.

In the night, the wan moon with its grey craters
beams down on sword ferns glowing nearly phosphorescent
and flashes on the bottle-gold eyes of great horned owls.
The moon turns milky the evergreen forest that adorns
the beach’s hips, and the moon tints the bleached driftwood
from day’s ivory to an iridescent alabaster of night.
That moon casts upon the beach’s cliffs a lustre
that speaks of shining rock, and, with its hushing silence,
it seems to make the surf’s voice boom.
With wind, the beach’s trees move sinuously and with susurrant song.
In the moonlight, upon the beach’s damp and footless shore,
lie whips of bull kelp, washed up and drying,
with algae blades like Medusa’s chaotic hair, their origins
in the marine forests of stone mantlepieces and rocky shelves.

The crows cackle madly in their rookery, the wind whishes,
surf roars, eagles scream, seals honk and bark and cry,
clouds morph then rework their hues, tides ebb and rise,
marshy mushrooms rise and rot with the sun’s circling,
the fragrance of evergreen sap freshens the air, salmon run,
gulls bed their island colonies with bones, osprey preen and fish,
glossy baneberries bear fruit like murderous scarlet pearls,
and purple mountain saxifrage color the cliffs.

In antiquity, the Makah resided here
using yarrow for childbirth, red cedar for dugout canoes,
yellow cedar for clothing, spermaceti for candles,
stones buffed by water to high polish and wound
by withy willows for anchor stones, having halibut for dinner,
sea otter teeth and whale fins for art, cherry bark for basketry
which tightens as it dries, and bones for awls and adze handles.
They used tides and stones and fences to catch fish,
laid white clam shells on the tidal floor for better contrast
to see the fish in their traps. On a crisp, windy spring night
six hundred years ago, the tribe gathered on the damp beach
after partaking in a feast of salmon, octupus, and halibut
for a sacred ritual conducted to send its rowers and harpooners offshore
in a twelve-seater canoe to hunt whale. A chief chanted,
sang, worked the crowd into a frenzy before the night fire,
and when the throng felt most animated, the chief
poured whale oil onto the fire, so that it soared, crackling to
a crescendo, rose like the wave of a tsunami, and
in the dark night the bellowing and shrieking
of the Makah were swallowed up by the forest.

Over this desolate beach there is a kind of peacefulness:
gently lapping waves, the soft pattern of rain,
the rustle of a crow’s wings. It appears desolate, Shi Shi,
here in winter.

 

Blue
Blue is a poem about the first time that I ever went abroad.  I went to Malaysia, then put my impressions into couplets.

Along Malaysia’s white sand lies a cerulean ocean,
blue until the water touches the blue sky.

Endless blue: water speared by luminous scales of fish blue;
shoreline women stating fashion, blue silk against brown skin;

and the wiry blue line on the fishing reel: long-sleeve, thin
white shirt, rod held swaying over water on a cobalt night.

Along beaches, at restaurants, folks hawk blue,
so even the paper lanterns glowing yellow seem sapphire.

Night and day stumble blue, snagged between purple and green,
and the sun moon tides roll between cerulean and steel-grey blue,

their waves flecked with white foam,
and even that white tinged ultramarine.

 

The Candle from the Cathedral
The Candle from the Cathedral has a rhyme scheme of abcaabbcbcca, and the poem tells the story of a young man coping with the death of a loved one.

In his memory he saw the old woman sucking her hankerchief in the pew.
The widow wore a funereal black bowler, a starched jib collar,
oval glasses with smoky plastic frames, and her hair spun white and curly.
She held a candle like all the others among the ranks of grievers, not a few,
stretching back to the entrance of the dark, arching cathedral sanctuary under whose
vaulted ceilings the sputtering flames flicked like constellations of stars.
He stood out in the cold and windfilled and trashfilled street filled with cars
and he saw through unfinished iron girders and steel transoms the dreadnought sky.
He saw the low, threatening clouds elbow the skyscraper bazaar.
He put his hand above his eyes and he squinted then he spit deliberately.
There was a punk nearby whom he once saw animaleyed with a switchblade in the alley
and the punk leaned against a building looking at him like a window to be looked through.

In his memory he saw the bell glass half full of the white willow and ethanol tincture,
the color of motor oil, that the old man swallowed as medicine in his last weeks.
The old man had kept the bell glass in his office in a cherry cabinet stained
dark red. It had lain behind handcut glass doors on a pad of velvety fur.
He turned and trotted down the subway tunnel steps into the city under
the city and he boarded the first train that came and stood and heard the car creak.
There were not many people in the car, just a seated woman with an antique
face whose nose was high and pinched and a man who looked insane.
He rode the car until the end of the line then stepped off and stood on the brick
platform waiting for the train to come back again.
A bag lady came up on the platform near him, nodding, chanting a weird refrain.
The train was a long time in coming. As he rode he felt nothing, no hurt or pleasure.

When he arrived back at his apartment he put the key in the lock and let himself in.
He had brought back his candle from the cathedral and he lit it and left it to gutter.
There was only one window in the apartment and rain began to patter against it.
When the flame goes out, he said to the candle, I’ll start to stop grievin.
He went into the bathroom and stripped off his clothes and stood thinking
under the hot shower as the bathroom filled with steam from the water
and he soaked until his fingertips looked like sundried fruit and fog coated the mirror
then he stepped out of the shower and dried and dressed himself and looked to see if the candle was still lit.
He laughed when he saw the flame creeping along the drapes and towards the furniture
and he kept laughing as t
he fire slowly crawled towards a black cabinet.
He debated awhile whether to let the fire burn, but chuckled and smothered it.
The candle he blew out, and it let off a silver stream of smoke snakelike and thin.

 

Circadian Memory
This is a poem about the reflections of a people and their city, both the reflections of their lives and the reflections of their place.

In April when the cherry trees bloom,
City folk are reflected in the spring rain’s puddles,
By water that serves as mirrors for impressions.
Wind whips billowy clouds into an approaching eastern gloom,
While upon the shiny street, a poor wayfarer huddles
Beneath imposing windows that reflect metropolitan professions.
The sunbeams leave long, plum-shaded shadows beyond buildings
Whose western walls are washed by beams in apricot and tangerine
While in this gleaming twilight, a black cat’s lime-gold eyes glint,
And hazy rays catch the rich institutions’ burnished gilding.
Night falls abruptly upon folk fat and merry, lonely and lean.
The cat leaps, and houses’ windows glow with a lemony tint.
People’s reflections disappear.
Darkness washes the edifices in shades of coal and emery.
In the night, people’s luminous private lives appear,
And the recollection of the day disintegrates to circadian memory.

 

Dessert Storm
In this surreal and quirky poem, a young girl named Suzy escapes from her vegetables and runs to the confectionery through a storm of desserts.  In this storm,  marshmallow droplets fall from clouds of meringue, lakes turn to cocoa, and boulders become cake.   When Suzy arrives, the confectioner tells her that his desserts have changed their names to blend with the elements.  Now there are baklavolcanoes, ambrosialanches, tortenados, and much more!

Suzy was just seven, and when vegetables made her sickly
She had to run and race to the confectionery quickly!
Down came rain and hail, and in blew wind and snow,
Near the purple mountains appeared a colorful rainbow!
Then ivory marshmallows fell from the sky like rain,
And all the clouds above were whipped into meringue!
The distant boulders turned to huge crumblings of cake,
While the nearby reservoir became a cocoa lake!
Through the dessert storm, Suzy forged on to the treats,
Where the kind confectioner helped her to the sweets.
“In peculiar times like this,” said he, “A sweet will change its name!
It joins with stormy weather, although its taste remains the same!
Here, my dear, we have cannoliclones and churrocanes!
Sugarsqualls and strudelfalls!
Here the tortenados and tart-typhoons
Surround us like a wild monsoon!
We have ambrosialanches and dangerous fudge slides
That have been tumbled down the mountain sides!
We have coconut cakequakes and chocolate cupquakes
And a tiramisunami that once devastated a land—
With its sweet coffee flavor and its ladyfingery savor
There was no end to the mascarpone demand!
We have solar éclairs that will brighten a day
And a dust-devil’s food cake to blow you away!
We have erupting baklavolcanoes and a shaved ice storm,
A maple barrage and a torrential sundaeluge—
Still the dessert that you want, my dear, depends upon you!”
“I think,” said Suzy, as outside, honey drops began to fall,
“I think, that I would like to have just one of them all!”

 

The Ghost
A poem about lovemaking, which is like a ghost that lives in a home.

Lovemaking haunts our spirits,
The way a phantom inhabits a home.
The sex is at first tormenting,
A rattling of the pots and cabinet doors of our hearts.
What could cause our bodies to shake so?
We curse, not knowing quite what shakes us.
Then when the lovemaking, the phantom, is gone—
We miss it, we desire it.
We silently invite it back.
We miss the banging, the crashing, the confusion,
The chaos—all that the ghost, the sex, has brought.
Where could that spirit have gone?
We wonder, arbitrarily, if the ghost, the lovemaking,
Has gone to inhabit someone else’s home.
We shiver, thinking, “Someone else is fucking—and it’s not me!”
Jealousy invades our hearts,
Then we whisk the jealousy away again.
We think, “It is not productive to have such thoughts.
Not when there is work to be done—
There are chores to be attended to,
Families to be raised, and
Things to do. There’s no time to be thinking about sex.”
But still, like the phantom in our homes,
Unseen, the lovemaking anguishes our spirits.
Where could that ghost of lovemaking have gone?
And when at last we find it again,
We are soothed, for a brief moment,
And we leave our suffering, for a while,
Abandoned next to our clothes,
And we embrace the spirit, the lovemaking,
In an exultation of joy and delight.

 

The Gift of Flight
In “The Gift of Flight,” a few children around the world begin to float.  They float up and up and away.

“Good night, Danny. Sleep tight.”

Mr. Dawson kissed his son’s forehead and tucked the covers under his chin. Then Daniel’s father left the second story room of the family barn, since converted into their home.

Violet, velveteen night enveloped the bedroom. The feeling of the kiss—damp, with a slight itchiness from the flaxen mustache’s bristley brush—lingered until Danny drew his purple pajama sleeve across his forehead. Danny shut his eyes, his fingers gripping the edge of the turned-down sheet.

He waited for piscine Slumber to gently nibble, bite, then swallow him whole. After a few fishlike nibbles from Sleep, Daniel felt himself fade away and float upwards. He opened his eyes.

He was hovering above the bed.

*****

In London, close enough to Big Ben that Kate could hear its bass toll, see its dull and colossal shape, its peering face, and its aging splendor, Kate listened to the high music of her mother scraping away at the violin. Her mother was playing Bach, a gigue, from partita number three, in E major. She was sitting at the window in the next room. Kate’s mother tended to get drawn away into a ruminative reverence, touching bow to strings with Chagallian fluidity and grace; she dove into the instrument until the music enveloped her, stripped her nearly bare, like a woman swimming undersea in a thin white gown. The sound was so lush, so liquid, that Kate could feel herself gradually falling into it, swaying her head in pleasant reverie, like a pearl diver dropping into sunlit coral depths.

The apartment was simply furnished: unscrolled wooden chairs, a white cloth sofa, a black and white photograph of Kate’s grandmother—her mother’s mother. Kate stared at the photograph for a moment: at the woman’s mesmerizing eyes, grim mouth, conservative collar, and wrist-length, lace sleeves. When Kate turned to look out the window, into winter’s night, she found that she was floating in air.

*****

The gift of flight was bestowed upon very, very few children. One in ten million. Perhaps fewer. That night in December, ten year old Hans—in northern Norway, drinking a cup of hot chocolate and looking out across the fields of twinkling, glittering snow, into the forest of black pines that lay lit by the waving, emerald contours of the aurora borealis—drifted upwards.

Mikael Proudhom—born in France, raised in Russia by a French mother and a Russian father—glided over his town: a living ghost, a silent, warm specter. He glided across the fallow wheat fields, swathed in snow. He sailed toward St. Peter’s basilica, one child pointing at him—wordless in surprise—as Mikael obscured the moon, ah what a gorgeous photograph that might have been, and swept northwest.

*****

And what was the reaction of the people? That is the natural question. The dreamers, who have minds like Italo Calvino or Borges or whom-have-you, contemplated the spectacle of flying children with delight and wonder. The children’s flight may have been excessively romantic, an immoderate venture into the sentimental. But, what to do? The flight was as natural as a rainbow. It was not the stringed stage flight of a Broadway artist. The dreamers mused and appreciated. Hunters, of course, joked about shooting the children down, like ducks. Ten points. Twenty points. The priests, as you might expect, chattered worriedly about the rapture, the Muslims called it Haram, and the Buddhists said Live and let live. In short, the people acted according to their natures.

There was only one thing that was beyond-a-doubt baffling, and that was that the children could not seem to come down.

*****

In the case of Kutu Boro, a Masai child, he floated off into the clouds, then higher and higher.  He finally grew so cold that he shivered, shook, then he suffocated from lack of oxygen. His body continued to rise. When he reached the exosphere, his body heated, until it caught fire and was incinerated, then his remains drifted to terra firma. Ashes to ashes.

Daniel’s flaxen haired father, a very practical man, tossed a bedsheet up to his son, who was floating against the roof of the converted barn. Using the sheet, Mr. Dawson pulled Daniel down. The father then looped a belt around the son’s waist, and he attached a carabiner to a line that he strung throughout the barn. Now Daniel could move like a mountain climber, hand-over-hand, from one room to the next.

Kate’s mother didn’t have ingenuity like Daniel’s father, nor did she have carabiners. So poor Kate just bumped repeatedly against the ceiling.

*****

The marvel turned into quite a disaster. In the first twenty-four hours—while statisticians attempted to determine how many Floaters there were, while scientists tried to determine what had relaxed gravity’s laws for some but not for others, and while people who wished to fly muttered, “What the hell? That’s not fair!”—the vast majority of the floating children perished horribly, in the same way as Kuto Boro.

Hans, from northern Norway, was let outdoors by his brother, Samuel. Samuel and Hans wished to see how high Hans could fly. The last that Samuel saw of Hans, he was vanishing like a helium balloon, albeit like a balloon that waved and shouted frantically.

Mikael Proudhom, very fortuitously, got his belt stuck on the steeple of the basilica. After the citizenry calmed enough to credit his predicament, they proclaimed that he was in a dilemma. The citizens, accordingly, dispatched firemen to the rooftop and charged them with getting the boy safely down. Thirty anxious minutes later, Mikael was safe and sound.

As for Kate, the joys of flight wore off quickly, as she felt herself being gently pressed by a reverse gravity against the ceiling.

Danny, attached to carabiners, felt delighted.

*****

Heaven only knows how statisticians do their jobs, and the devil only knows how accurate their numbers are, but twenty-four hours after the children first took flight, the figures were in. Of the estimated 248 children worldwide, 231 of them had floated into outer space and been suffocated, and one had floated upwards only to be sucked—like some otherworldly or ungainly goose—into the turboprop of a passenger aircraft. That left an estimated 16 children. Sixteen very unlucky—or very lucky, depending on how you look at it—children.

*****

A few theories began to circulate about what to do with the floating children. The first was that the children should be given time, and that they would come down on their own. This was, as you might expect, answered with the question, “Well, what if they don’t (come down)?”

The second theory involved the addition of weight. Those advocating this theory suggested that the children could walk around with a backpack of full of lead weights and water, and, much like a hot air balloon with ballast, the weight would keep the kids at equilibrium. Those people against this solution asked, “What if the children, by accident, don’t carry enough weight? They will zip up into the atmosphere, and we know what happens then!”

The final prevalent theory (there were many minor theories), was that a medical procedure could be performed on the floating children, so that they could be cured. This was advanced with much of the same pseudo-science as the theory of curing homosexuals with electro-shock therapy. In other words, there were some very confident, very determined predictions, but there was not one iota of actual evidence that this procedure would work.

The gist of this last idea was that the children would benefit from a small surgical incision in the belly, and that, much like the deflating of a helium balloon, they (the children) would return gently to earth. The children’s parents balked at this idea, and, because the scientists had no rats with this particular floating syndrome, no lab trials could be conducted.

The long and the short of the problem was that nobody knew what to do.

*****

Daniel’s father, recognizing no quick solution to the problem, chose to bolt steel plates with eyelets to the barn walls, with the idea of permanently anchoring the carabiner lines. His plan worked out flawlessly for his marvelous son.

Mikael Proudhom’s mother, who was more practical than the father, permitted a team of government-endorsed doctors to perform psychological tests upon her child, at the rate of 55,000 rubles, or $23,000, per test. Five tests were scheduled, and by the time that the doctors were finished (one shudders to report honestly, but accuracy is the name of the game), Mikael was blind in both eyes, and his brain had been reduced nearly to cinders.

Still, he floated.

Kate’s sensible mother, knowing that the press would hear of Kate, first changed her floating daughter out of a skirt and into a pair of jeans.

“The first thing those pigs at the Daily Mail will do is take prurient pictures of my daughter,” Kate’s mother muttered.

Indeed, it was only a matter of time before the men in the media stormed their quiet apartment, and, when they did, Kate was front page news in denim.

But stories must have legs, or they will cease to run. So, after a month without developments, even the story of the floating children was relegated to the back page. After still more time, the story vacated the newspapers entirely.

*****

On the one year anniversary of the day that the children were given flight, the floaters descended to earth. Each of the children drifted slowly back down.

Mikael Proudhom, who had the brain of an infant, could not walk, and he never would walk again.

Kate, who would go on to become a botanist, described the experience in her artful way, “I was, for awhile, but a bird.”

Daniel told the story to his friends with a great deal of glee, and, later on, he married a sturdy Nebraskan wife, and together they farmed wheat.

The doctors scratched their heads, the carrion eaters circled once more with their microphones and cameras, and the statisticians sent up a final tally. Of the original 256 children (the number had been adjusted throughout the year), 250 had died; one (Mikael) had suffered mental incapacitation; two more had suffered physical incapacitation; and that left Kate, Daniel, and another girl named Azahara.

It was Azahara who created the works that you can see today in the Prada Museum in Madrid; they are the wonderful oil paintings of flying women. And it was she who, in her black-and-white photographic studies, captured the intimate daily life of Catalonians. Finally, it was she who became world renowned for her impersonal literary diaries, of which this shall be her final entry.

 

Jack Frost Endeavors to Keep Winter
Jack Frost, the personification of winter, speeds forth in an icicle train to the north pole to stop spring from coming. To stop spring, Frost must keep winter’s candle lit.
Its rhyme scheme is abab.

Through the snowy passes
Hurtles an old and hoary train.
It dashes past crevasses
Along the cold moraines.

Its transit is annuary—
Only once in ice and snow—
Only deep in January
Is the Icicle Train prepared to go.

And how extraordinary
This Icicle Train is to see
It seems imaginary
As it curves ’round glaciers and the scree.

Its locomotive is wrought of iron,
Embellished with curls and coils
With raveled figurines of wire on
Its smokestack, which blows and boils.

Its cars are made of stained glass
Each are as vitreous as the sea
The glass is mullioned in fine brass
With designs of spruce and cedar trees.

The conductor is an old man
Jack Frost is his true name
For longer than mankind’s lifespan
He has steered this venerable train.

He wears a jester’s cap of black and white
With five points that have five bells
And he wears a cloak that’s black as night
With gloves and shoes as white as shells.

He drives the train into the north
Where the bears and walrus live
Into dark lands where few rove forth,
Where the cold does not forgive.

What does the conductor seek there?
It’s a secret you should know.
He is searching with intent care
For a faint and feeble glow.

He seeks the flame of winter
Which gutters night by night,
The flame lies furthest hinter
Beneath dancing aurora light.

The flame of winter shudders
With each approaching spring
And when at last it gutters
The earth begins to green.

But Frost wants winter eternal—
A world of snow and ice—
So he strives to cease the vernal
Tidings by this particular device.

For if he can keep that cold flame
Burning in the north
Then he will meet his own aim
And spring shall not come forth.

So the Icicle Train speeds onwards
Through the snow and ice and frost
To thwart the coming season
And to render summer lost.

Frost stokes the boiler’s fire
He throws in wood and coal
So the flames in it lick higher
As he steams on toward his goal.

But the winter’s flame has dwindled so far
Even as he comes
The fire flickers beneath a bell jar
As the locomotive hums.

Jack Frost speeds across a prairie
Of flat ice and winter’s snow
Across dazzling ice that’s glary
Toward the paltry distant glow.

Now he’s very near it
And Frost will fan its flame
But the candle is but half-lit,
Or half-dead to say the same.

And then the fire does choke
And a tragedy strikes for him
The fire becomes a feathered smoke
The flame dies within the glim.

And although no word is spoken
There comes a thundering crack of ice
As winter’s spell is broken
And spring is taken from its glacial vise.

The Icicle Train must go back
For another long, green year
And Jack Frost with his coat black
Must take his bow and disappear.

But this is not forever—
Every year he tries his worth—
And in eras when Frost was quick and clever
We’ve had a snowball earth.

But this year he’s been frustrated
And the north sounds with his rage
For Frost will never be placated
Till we live in a perpetual ice age.

 

The Place of Man
“The Place of Man” tells how a man and a woman talk through the night and make love. The man listens to his partner, thinks of what she says, and lies awake at night while she sleeps by his side. He thinks of the injustices of the world, and how they are mankind’s wrongs to be righted—no one else’s.  Its rhyme scheme is simply abab.

There are moths circling the patio light
As she talks to him of justice and love.
His drink is sweating in the warm night,
And his skin is cool beneath the stars above.

She talks of rats in the WFP food, of dogs behind doors.
She speaks of fake soldiers in military dress,
And of real, live, wretched, short-skirted whores.
She talks, and he listens with no feeling or stress.

Somewhere, somewhere, she is telling him,
There ought to be virtue and decency.
Somewhere, here perhaps, she says again,
There ought to be a merciful society.

Still the moon shines high up in the sky.
He thinks that it’s a quarter of a million miles away.
There the stars tremble before his very eyes,
So far off that they’ll be lost come day.

And, of course, she’s right. So very right.
And if he could take all the world’s ills
And burn them, in a blaze to light the night,
Then he would, and damn the stars, the moon, the night’s chills.

For just a single night, if he could, he’d turn it all to day,
And like some great seething god, set the world aright,
And leave the good folk in a better way,
Then so he would. But no one has such might.

Late that night, they fall to making love.
And after it is over, and she lies curled,
He thinks that it is not the role of god above,
But man’s sole sphere, to better rule this world.

 

Slumberjack
For those people who still lie awake after counting sheep, a visit from the make-believe slumberjack may put you to sleep.  Its rhyme scheme is aabb.

Counting trees is like counting sheep:
Each will make you fall asleep.
One-by-one as you count the sheep
You wait and wait till you drift to sleep.
But if by chance you cannot sleep
You must forbear from counting sheep.
Bring in your mind the felling of trees
By a man with a saw like the buzzing of bees.
He dwells deep in a forest of spruce trees and snow
For the taiga’s the biome where dreams like to go.
He is a slumberjack, and with every tree that he fells
Down you shall go down sleep’s bottomless wells.
Falling and falling you’ll have no bird’s wings,
Deeper and deeper you’ll sink in your dreams.
Drop and drop into the black
In the dark frosty forest of the sleep slumberjack.

What Happened by the Half-Light
This poem tells of a woman in her doorway at sunset, watching the field workers come in from an autumn day’s work.
The rhyme scheme is abcabcdefdefghgh.

For but a short while has she lingered in the gloaming
Standing careless by the blooming hyacinths
Whose delicate petals sway in the easy wind by the door.
The filtered air and haze of autumn twilight
Send warm zephyrs to churn the crinkling leaves
And rustle the golden wheat in the harvest store
While her soul rests easy in the faltering marbled light
And the men and women make their labored ways slowly home
Through clusters of fragrant lilacs and fields of ocher brome.

 

Sunday Limericks

April 5th

The Enchanted Tomb
There once was an enchanted tomb
Which rose from a graveyard’s gloom
And it caused great delight
When it flew through the night
Before the bright shining white moon.

The Blind Witch
There once was a witch who could fly
But she was blind in both of her eyes
She flew with a cane made of bone
That was as white as sea foam
And she was at ease in the darkest of skies.

The Rainbow’s End
There once was a rainbow’s end
Which leprechauns did diligently tend
They planted a garden of gold coins
That any man could purloin
If they could but find where that colored light did descend.

 

April 12th

Strawberry Rinds
There once was a strawberry field
Which had a surreal yield
For in summer and spring
It would blossom and bring
Strawberries that had to be peeled.

Blueberry Bushes by Night
There once was a blueberry bush
With twigs, like hands, that could push
Against a man’s face in the night
To give his heart a great fright
And turn his knees to nothing but mush.

The Cranberry Bog Ghost
There once was a cranberry bog
In sap country in the midst of a fog
From off the bog came a smoke,
That wreathed ’round a maple and oak
Then took the form of a devilish dog.

 

April 19th

∞ Ouroboros ∞
There once was a warbling bird
Whose song was the sweetest heard
It would brighten the day
In its melodious way
Till it was devoured by a cat who purred.

There once was a tender cat
Who was petted wherever he sat
He purred and meowed
And was often quite loud
Till he was killed by a child with a bat.

There once was a man at his ease
Who was as generous as you could please
He made a better place
For our human race
Till he was killed by disease.

There once was a fertile earth
With life and much of great worth
With each generation that passed
She produced a progeny vast
In ever-evolving hale yonic birth.
∞ Ouroboros ∞

 

April 26th

An Orgy in Perth
There once was a huge orgy in Perth
That befell with cavorting and mirth
There were hot tubs and steam
There were bananas and cream
And after nine months there were a ton of new births!

A Woman Named Bunny
There once was a woman named Bunny
Who covered her ass with honey
She said, I’ll take my boyfriend who’s blind
And have him lick my behind
And if he asks I’ll just laugh cause it’s funny.

Anchors Aweigh!
There once was a woman named May
Who loved to screw night and day
So she found a strong sailor
To rattle and rail her
Now when she dreams she cries, Anchors aweigh!

Categories
Poems

Dessert Storm

In this surreal and quirky poem, a young girl named Suzy escapes from her vegetables and runs to the confectionery through a storm of desserts.  In this storm,  marshmallow droplets fall from clouds of meringue, lakes turn to cocoa, and boulders become cake.   When Suzy arrives, the confectioner tells her that his desserts have changed their names to blend with the elements.  Now there are baklavolcanoes, ambrosialanches, tortenados, and much more!

Sarah Lamb - Chocolate Mousse
Sarah Lamb – Chocolate Mousse, 2015.   www.sarahlamb.com

Suzy was just seven, and when vegetables made her sickly
She had to run and race to the confectionery quickly!
Down came rain and hail, and in blew wind and snow,
Near the purple mountains appeared a colorful rainbow!
Then ivory marshmallows fell from the sky like rain,
And all the clouds above were whipped into meringue!
The distant boulders turned to huge crumblings of cake,
While the nearby reservoir became a cocoa lake!
Through the dessert storm, Suzy forged on to the treats,
Where the kind confectioner helped her to the sweets.
“In peculiar times like this,” said he, “A sweet will change its name!
It joins with stormy weather, although its taste remains the same!
Here, my dear, we have cannoliclones and churrocanes!
Sugarsqualls and strudelfalls!
Here the tortenados and tart-typhoons
Surround us like a wild monsoon!
We have ambrosialanches and dangerous fudge slides
That have been tumbled down the mountain sides!
We have coconut cakequakes and chocolate cupquakes
And a tiramisunami that once devastated a land—
With its sweet coffee flavor and its ladyfingery savor
There was no end to the mascarpone demand!
We have solar éclairs that will brighten a day
And a dust-devil’s food cake to blow you away!
We have erupting baklavolcanoes and a shaved ice storm,
A maple barrage and a torrential sundaeluge—
Still the dessert that you want, my dear, depends upon you!”
“I think,” said Suzy, as outside, honey drops began to fall,
“I think, that I would like to have just one of them all!”

Categories
Poems

Blue

Blue is a poem about the first time that I ever went abroad.  I went to Malaysia, then put my impressions into couplets.

IMG_9455
Lamu, Kenya.  November 2014

Along Malaysia’s white sand lies a cerulean ocean,
blue until the water touches the blue sky.

Endless blue: water speared by luminous scales of fish blue;
shoreline women stating fashion, blue silk against brown skin;

and the wiry blue line on the fishing reel: long-sleeve, thin
white shirt, rod held swaying over water on a cobalt night.

Along beaches, at restaurants, folks hawk blue,
so even the paper lanterns glowing yellow seem sapphire.

Night and day stumble blue, snagged between purple and green,
and the sun moon tides roll between cerulean and steel-grey blue,

their waves flecked with white foam,
and even that white tinged ultramarine.

Categories
Limericks Poems

Sunday Limericks

Today’s edition of Sunday Limericks features three lewd limericks: An Orgy in Perth, A Woman Named Bunny, and Anchors Aweigh!

Garden of Earthly Delights - Bosch - Detail
Hieronymus Bosch – The Garden of Earthly Delights (detail, center panel), 1490 – 1510.

An Orgy in Perth
There once was a huge orgy in Perth
That befell with cavorting and mirth
There were hot tubs and steam
There were bananas and cream
And after nine months there were a ton of new births!

A Woman Named Bunny
There once was a woman named Bunny
Who covered her ass with honey
She said, I’ll take my boyfriend who’s blind
And have him lick my behind
And if he asks I’ll just laugh cause it’s funny.

Anchors Aweigh!
There once was a woman named May
Who loved to screw night and day
So she found a strong sailor
To rattle and rail her
Now when she dreams she cries, Anchors aweigh!

Categories
Poems

Circadian Memory

This is a poem about the reflections of a people and their city, both the reflections of their lives and the reflections of their place.

Luminous
Gaston Petridis – Asian Rainy Day

In April when the cherry trees bloom,
City folk are reflected in the spring rain’s puddles,
By water that serves as mirrors for impressions.
Wind whips billowy clouds into an approaching eastern gloom,
While upon the shiny street, a poor wayfarer huddles
Beneath imposing windows that reflect metropolitan professions.
The sunbeams leave long, plum-shaded shadows beyond buildings
Whose western walls are washed by beams in apricot and tangerine
While in this gleaming twilight, a black cat’s lime-gold eyes glint,
And hazy rays catch the rich institutions’ burnished gilding.
Night falls abruptly upon folk fat and merry, lonely and lean.
The cat leaps, and houses’ windows glow with a lemony tint.
People’s reflections disappear.
Darkness washes the edifices in shades of coal and emery.
In the night, people’s luminous private lives appear,
And the recollection of the day disintegrates to circadian memory.

Categories
Poems

What Happened by the Half-Light

This poem tells of a woman in her doorway at sunset, watching the field workers come in from an autumn day’s work.
The rhyme scheme is abcabcdefdefghgh.

Van Gogh - The Sower
Vincent Van Gogh – The Sower.  Arles, June 1888

For but a short while has she lingered in the gloaming
Standing careless by the blooming hyacinths
Whose delicate petals sway in the easy wind by the door.
The filtered air and haze of autumn twilight
Send warm zephyrs to churn the crinkling leaves
And rustle the golden wheat in the harvest store
While her soul rests easy in the faltering marbled light
And the men and women make their labored ways slowly home
Through clusters of fragrant lilacs and fields of ocher brome.

Categories
Poems

The Bleak and Wild Desolate Shore

“The Bleak and Wild Desolate Shore” describes a beach along the Olympic Peninsula and tells of the indigenous Makah people whom I took an interest in during 2017.  The free verse poem relies on imagery.  I found the book The Sea Is My Country by Josh Reid and the Makah Cultural and Research Center to be good sources of information about Makah culture.

Shi Shi Beach
Shi Shi Beach, Washington, 2017.  Photo by David Murphy.

Along the very tip of the Olympic Peninsula—
harbored by sea stacks,
washed by the ablutions of frequent rain,
and scrutinized by the salmon-keen eyes of fierce eagles
who sit perched with feathers made wet and salty by ocean spray—
lies a beach spliced by piney evergreens and the wintry Pacific Ocean.

It wears as its mantle a cloak of becoming fog:
wide filaments of thick mist wreathe the beach’s shoulders,
narrow wisps tuck into the crevices of teeming pine,
and, like a stole, that pale brume softly embraces
the necks of the majesterial, protruding stones.
The beach’s curvaceous, serene form lies upon its side
with its back to the land, knees tucked up against the tide,
with its stone lips ever kissing the briny, icy waves.
Water is its heart. In the rain, in the sea and spume,
throbs the lifeforce that begets the beach’s growth and decay,
shapes its projecting stone fingers, and creates its austere beauty.

In the night, the wan moon with its grey craters
beams down on sword ferns glowing nearly phosphorescent
and flashes on the bottle-gold eyes of great horned owls.
The moon turns milky the evergreen forest that adorns
the beach’s hips, and the moon tints the bleached driftwood
from day’s ivory to an iridescent alabaster of night.
That moon casts upon the beach’s cliffs a lustre
that speaks of shining rock, and, with its hushing silence,
it seems to make the surf’s voice boom.
With wind, the beach’s trees move sinuously and with susurrant song.
In the moonlight, upon the beach’s damp and footless shore,
lie whips of bull kelp, washed up and drying,
with algae blades like Medusa’s chaotic hair, their origins
in the marine forests of stone mantlepieces and rocky shelves.

The crows cackle madly in their rookery, the wind whishes,
surf roars, eagles scream, seals honk and bark and cry,
clouds morph then rework their hues, tides ebb and rise,
marshy mushrooms rise and rot with the sun’s circling,
the fragrance of evergreen sap freshens the air, salmon run,
gulls bed their island colonies with bones, osprey preen and fish,
glossy baneberries bear fruit like murderous scarlet pearls,
and purple mountain saxifrage color the cliffs.

In antiquity, the Makah resided here
using yarrow for childbirth, red cedar for dugout canoes,
yellow cedar for clothing, spermaceti for candles,
stones buffed by water to high polish and wound
by withy willows for anchor stones, having halibut for dinner,
sea otter teeth and whale fins for art, cherry bark for basketry
which tightens as it dries, and bones for awls and adze handles.
They used tides and stones and fences to catch fish,
laid white clam shells on the tidal floor for better contrast
to see the fish in their traps. On a crisp, windy spring night
six hundred years ago, the tribe gathered on the damp beach
after partaking in a feast of salmon, octupus, and halibut
for a sacred ritual conducted to send its rowers and harpooners offshore
in a twelve-seater canoe to hunt whale. A chief chanted,
sang, worked the crowd into a frenzy before the night fire,
and when the throng felt most animated, the chief
poured whale oil onto the fire, so that it soared, crackling to
a crescendo, rose like the wave of a tsunami, and
in the dark night the bellowing and shrieking
of the Makah were swallowed up by the forest.

Over this desolate beach there is a kind of peacefulness:
gently lapping waves, the soft pattern of rain,
the rustle of a crow’s wings. It appears desolate, Shi Shi,
here in winter.

Categories
Limericks Poems

Sunday Limericks

The ouroboros is an ancient depiction (often of a dragon or snake eating its tail) which represents circular motion, completeness, or infinity—particularly with regard to the cycle of life and death.

Serpiente_alquimica
In 1478, Theodoros Pelecanos produced a copy of a medieval texts and illustrations.  One of these illustrations was the ouroboros above, whose actual origin is of unknown provenance.

∞ Ouroboros ∞
There once was a warbling bird
Whose song was the sweetest heard
It would brighten the day
In its melodious way
Till it was devoured by a cat who purred.

There once was a tender cat
Who was petted wherever he sat
He purred and meowed
And was often quite loud
Till he was killed by a child with a bat.

There once was a man at his ease
Who was as generous as you could please
He made a better place
For our human race
Till he was killed by disease.

There once was a fertile earth
With life and much of great worth
With each generation that passed
She produced a progeny vast
In ever-evolving hale yonic birth.
∞ Ouroboros ∞

Categories
Poems

The Ghost

A poem about lovemaking, which is like a ghost that lives in a home.

Maria Kreyn - Ghosts
Maria Kreyn – Ghosts

Lovemaking haunts our spirits,
The way a phantom inhabits a home.
The sex is at first tormenting,
A rattling of the pots and cabinet doors of our hearts.
What could cause our bodies to shake so?
We curse, not knowing quite what shakes us.
Then when the lovemaking, the phantom, is gone—
We miss it, we desire it.
We silently invite it back.
We miss the banging, the crashing, the confusion,
The chaos—all that the ghost, the sex, has brought.
Where could that spirit have gone?
We wonder, arbitrarily, if the ghost, the lovemaking,
Has gone to inhabit someone else’s home.
We shiver, thinking, “Someone else is fucking—and it’s not me!”
Jealousy invades our hearts,
Then we whisk the jealousy away again.
We think, “It is not productive to have such thoughts.
Not when there is work to be done—
There are chores to be attended to,
Families to be raised, and
Things to do. There’s no time to be thinking about sex.”
But still, like the phantom in our homes,
Unseen, the lovemaking anguishes our spirits.
Where could that ghost of lovemaking have gone?
And when at last we find it again,
We are soothed, for a brief moment,
And we leave our suffering, for a while,
Abandoned next to our clothes,
And we embrace the spirit, the lovemaking,
In an exultation of joy and delight.

 

Categories
Poems

Aphorism Poem

My Oxford New American Dictionary defines an aphorism as, “A pithy observation that contains a general truth, such as, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’” This is a poem comprised of aphorisms, some of which already exist but have been reworded, and others which are of my own invention.

St Jerome
Caravaggio – Saint Jerome, 1605-1606

There’s truth in every aphorism
And poetry in those gnomic things:
Like, Time may mend the greatest schism.
And, Chaotic are the ways of kings.

In every mishap, there’s blame to share.
In each home, there’s room to care.
Knowledge is an unquenchable flame.
And, Sarcasm is the crutch of the lame.

Anything can go from bad to worse.
Addiction leaves a lightweight purse.
Every age is made of strange times.
Some men aren’t guilty of their crimes.

Unproveable is faith in the divine.
We oil the wheel that does whine.
All men go inevitably unto death.
Sweetest is the liberated breath.

All those who are poets must be true.
Politicians are wont to misconstrue.
Though in severalty we unite in league.
The true spy makes his own intrigue.

Each maxim among these and many more
Help comprise man’s expressive score.
And although often spoken like a catechism
There’s yet some truth in the aphorism.

Categories
Poems

The Candle from the Cathedral

The Candle from the Cathedral has a rhyme scheme of ABCAABBCBCCA, and the poem tells the story of a young man coping with the death of a loved one.

IMG_5922

In his memory he saw the old woman sucking her hankerchief in the pew.
The widow wore a funereal black bowler, a starched jib collar,
oval glasses with smoky plastic frames, and her hair spun white and curly.
She held a candle like all the others among the ranks of grievers, not a few,
stretching back to the entrance of the dark, arching cathedral sanctuary under whose
vaulted ceilings the sputtering flames flicked like constellations of stars.
He stood out in the cold and windfilled and trashfilled street filled with cars
and he saw through unfinished iron girders and steel transoms the dreadnought sky.
He saw the low, threatening clouds elbow the skyscraper bazaar.
He put his hand above his eyes and he squinted then he spit deliberately.
There was a punk nearby whom he once saw animaleyed with a switchblade in the alley
and the punk leaned against a building looking at him like a window to be looked through.

In his memory he saw the bell glass half full of the white willow and ethanol tincture,
the color of motor oil, that the old man swallowed as medicine in his last weeks.
The old man had kept the bell glass in his office in a cherry cabinet stained
dark red. It had lain behind handcut glass doors on a pad of velvety fur.
He turned and trotted down the subway tunnel steps into the city under
the city and he boarded the first train that came and stood and heard the car creak.
There were not many people in the car, just a seated woman with an antique
face whose nose was high and pinched and a man who looked insane.
He rode the car until the end of the line then stepped off and stood on the brick
platform waiting for the train to come back again.
A bag lady came up on the platform near him, nodding, chanting a weird refrain.
The train was a long time in coming. As he rode he felt nothing, no hurt or pleasure.

When he arrived back at his apartment he put the key in the lock and let himself in.
He had brought back his candle from the cathedral and he lit it and left it to gutter.
There was only one window in the apartment and rain began to patter against it.
When the flame goes out, he said to the candle, I’ll start to stop grievin.
He went into the bathroom and stripped off his clothes and stood thinking
under the hot shower as the bathroom filled with steam from the water
and he soaked until his fingertips looked like sundried fruit and fog coated the mirror
then he stepped out of the shower and dried and dressed himself and looked to see if the candle was still lit.
He laughed when he saw the flame creeping along the drapes and towards the furniture
and he kept laughing as the fire slowly crawled towards a black cabinet.
He debated awhile whether to let the fire burn, but chuckled and smothered it.
The candle he blew out, and it let off a silver stream of smoke snakelike and thin.

Categories
Limericks Poems

Sunday Limericks

basket_with_wild_st
Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin – Basket with Wild Strawberries, c. 1761

Strawberry Rinds
There once was a strawberry field
Which had a surreal yield
For in summer and spring
It would blossom and bring
Strawberries that had to be peeled.

Blueberry Bushes by Night
There once was a blueberry bush
With twigs, like hands, that could push
Against a man’s face in the night
To give his heart a great fright
And turn his knees to nothing but mush.

The Cranberry Bog Ghost
There once was a cranberry bog
In sap country in the midst of a fog
From off the bog came a smoke,
That wreathed ’round a maple and oak
Then took the form of a devilish dog.

Categories
Poems

Slumberjack

For those people who still lie awake after counting sheep, a visit from the make-believe slumberjack may put you to sleep.

Harry Hoffman - James
Harry Hoffman – James

Counting trees is like counting sheep:
Each will make you fall asleep.
One-by-one as you count the sheep
You wait and wait till you drift to sleep.
But if by chance you cannot sleep
You must forbear from counting sheep.
Bring in your mind the felling of trees
By a man with a saw like the buzzing of bees.
He dwells deep in a forest of spruce trees and snow
For the taiga’s the biome where dreams like to go.
He is a slumberjack, and with every tree that he fells
Down you shall go down sleep’s bottomless wells.
Falling and falling you’ll have no bird’s wings,
Deeper and deeper you’ll sink in your dreams.
Drop and drop into the black
In the dark frosty forest of the sleep slumberjack.

Categories
Poems

Jack Frost Endeavors to Keep Winter

Jack Frost, the personification of winter, speeds forth in an icicle train to the north pole to stop spring from coming. To stop spring, Frost must keep winter’s candle lit.

Frederic Edward Church - Red and Green Northern Lights Over Seascape
Frederick Edwin Church – Aurora Borealis, 1865

Through the snowy passes
Hurtles an old and hoary train.
It dashes past crevasses
Along the cold moraines.

Its transit is annuary—
Only once in ice and snow—
Only deep in January
Is the Icicle Train prepared to go.

And how extraordinary
This Icicle Train is to see
It seems imaginary
As it curves ’round glaciers and the scree.

Its locomotive is wrought of iron,
Embellished with curls and coils
With raveled figurines of wire on
Its smokestack, which blows and boils.

Its cars are made of stained glass
Each are as vitreous as the sea
The glass is mullioned in fine brass
With designs of spruce and cedar trees.

The conductor is an old man
Jack Frost is his true name
For longer than mankind’s lifespan
He has steered this venerable train.

He wears a jester’s cap of black and white
With five points that have five bells
And he wears a cloak that’s black as night
With gloves and shoes as white as shells.

He drives the train into the north
Where the bears and walrus live
Into dark lands where few rove forth,
Where the cold does not forgive.

What does the conductor seek there?
It’s a secret you should know.
He is searching with intent care
For a faint and feeble glow.

He seeks the flame of winter
Which gutters night by night,
The flame lies furthest hinter
Beneath dancing aurora light.

The flame of winter shudders
With each approaching spring
And when at last it gutters
The earth begins to green.

But Frost wants winter eternal—
A world of snow and ice—
So he strives to cease the vernal
Tidings by this particular device.

For if he can keep that cold flame
Burning in the north
Then he will meet his own aim
And spring shall not come forth.

So the Icicle Train speeds onwards
Through the snow and ice and frost
To thwart the coming season
And to render summer lost.

Frost stokes the boiler’s fire
He throws in wood and coal
So the flames in it lick higher
As he steams on toward his goal.

But the winter’s flame has dwindled so far
Even as he comes
The fire flickers beneath a bell jar
As the locomotive hums.

Jack Frost speeds across a prairie
Of flat ice and winter’s snow
Across dazzling ice that’s glary
Toward the paltry distant glow.

Now he’s very near it
And Frost will fan its flame
But the candle is but half-lit,
Or half-dead to say the same.

And then the fire does choke
And a tragedy strikes for him
The fire becomes a feathered smoke
The flame dies within the glim.

And although no word is spoken
There comes a thundering crack of ice
As winter’s spell is broken
And spring is taken from its glacial vise.

The Icicle Train must go back
For another long, green year
And Jack Frost with his coat black
Must take his bow and disappear.

But this is not forever—
Every year he tries his worth—
And in eras when Frost was quick and clever
We’ve had a snowball earth.

But this year he’s been frustrated
And the north sounds with his rage
For Frost will never be placated
Till we live in a perpetual ice age.

Categories
Stories

The Gift of Flight

In “The Gift of Flight,” a few children around the world begin to float.  They float up and up and away.

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“Good night, Danny. Sleep tight.”

Mr. Dawson kissed his son’s forehead and tucked the covers under his chin. Then Daniel’s father left the second story room of the family barn, since converted into their home.

Violet, velveteen night enveloped the bedroom. The feeling of the kiss—damp, with a slight itchiness from the flaxen mustache’s bristley brush—lingered until Danny drew his purple pajama sleeve across his forehead. Danny shut his eyes, his fingers gripping the edge of the turned-down sheet.

He waited for piscine Slumber to gently nibble, bite, then swallow him whole. After a few fishlike nibbles from Sleep, Daniel felt himself fade away and float upwards. He opened his eyes.

He was hovering above the bed.

*****

In London, close enough to Big Ben that Kate could hear its bass toll, see its dull and colossal shape, its peering face, and its aging splendor, Kate listened to the high music of her mother scraping away at the violin. Her mother was playing Bach, a gigue, from partita number three, in E major. She was sitting at the window in the next room. Kate’s mother tended to get drawn away into a ruminative reverence, touching bow to strings with Chagallian fluidity and grace; she dove into the instrument until the music enveloped her, stripped her nearly bare, like a woman swimming undersea in a thin white gown. The sound was so lush, so liquid, that Kate could feel herself gradually falling into it, swaying her head in pleasant reverie, like a pearl diver dropping into sunlit coral depths.

The apartment was simply furnished: unscrolled wooden chairs, a white cloth sofa, a black and white photograph of Kate’s grandmother—her mother’s mother. Kate stared at the photograph for a moment: at the woman’s mesmerizing eyes, grim mouth, conservative collar, and wrist-length, lace sleeves. When Kate turned to look out the window, into winter’s night, she found that she was floating in air.

*****

The gift of flight was bestowed upon very, very few children. One in ten million. Perhaps fewer. That night in December, ten year old Hans—in northern Norway, drinking a cup of hot chocolate and looking out across the fields of twinkling, glittering snow, into the forest of black pines that lay lit by the waving, emerald contours of the aurora borealis—drifted upwards.

Mikael Proudhom—born in France, raised in Russia by a French mother and a Russian father—glided over his town: a living ghost, a silent, warm specter. He glided across the fallow wheat fields, swathed in snow. He sailed toward St. Peter’s basilica, one child pointing at him—wordless in surprise—as Mikael obscured the moon, ah what a gorgeous photograph that might have been, and swept northwest.

*****

And what was the reaction of the people? That is the natural question. The dreamers, who have minds like Italo Calvino or Borges or whom-have-you, contemplated the spectacle of flying children with delight and wonder. The children’s flight may have been excessively romantic, an immoderate venture into the sentimental. But, what to do? The flight was as natural as a rainbow. It was not the stringed stage flight of a Broadway artist. The dreamers mused and appreciated. Hunters, of course, joked about shooting the children down, like ducks. Ten points. Twenty points. The priests, as you might expect, chattered worriedly about the rapture, the Muslims called it Haram, and the Buddhists said Live and let live. In short, the people acted according to their natures.

There was only one thing that was beyond-a-doubt baffling, and that was that the children could not seem to come down.

*****

In the case of Kutu Boro, a Masai child, he floated off into the clouds, then higher and higher.  He finally grew so cold that he shivered, shook, then he suffocated from lack of oxygen. His body continued to rise. When he reached the exosphere, his body heated, until it caught fire and was incinerated, then his remains drifted to terra firma. Ashes to ashes.

Daniel’s flaxen haired father, a very practical man, tossed a bedsheet up to his son, who was floating against the roof of the converted barn. Using the sheet, Mr. Dawson pulled Daniel down. The father then looped a belt around the son’s waist, and he attached a carabiner to a line that he strung throughout the barn. Now Daniel could move like a mountain climber, hand-over-hand, from one room to the next.

Kate’s mother didn’t have ingenuity like Daniel’s father, nor did she have carabiners. So poor Kate just bumped repeatedly against the ceiling.

*****

The marvel turned into quite a disaster. In the first twenty-four hours—while statisticians attempted to determine how many Floaters there were, while scientists tried to determine what had relaxed gravity’s laws for some but not for others, and while people who wished to fly muttered, “What the hell? That’s not fair!”—the vast majority of the floating children perished horribly, in the same way as Kuto Boro.

Hans, from northern Norway, was let outdoors by his brother, Samuel. Samuel and Hans wished to see how high Hans could fly. The last that Samuel saw of Hans, he was vanishing like a helium balloon, albeit like a balloon that waved and shouted frantically.

Mikael Proudhom, very fortuitously, got his belt stuck on the steeple of the basilica. After the citizenry calmed enough to credit his predicament, they proclaimed that he was in a dilemma. The citizens, accordingly, dispatched firemen to the rooftop and charged them with getting the boy safely down. Thirty anxious minutes later, Mikael was safe and sound.

As for Kate, the joys of flight wore off quickly, as she felt herself being gently pressed by a reverse gravity against the ceiling.

Danny, attached to carabiners, felt delighted.

*****

Heaven only knows how statisticians do their jobs, and the devil only knows how accurate their numbers are, but twenty-four hours after the children first took flight, the figures were in. Of the estimated 248 children worldwide, 231 of them had floated into outer space and been suffocated, and one had floated upwards only to be sucked—like some otherworldly or ungainly goose—into the turboprop of a passenger aircraft. That left an estimated 16 children. Sixteen very unlucky—or very lucky, depending on how you look at it—children.

*****

A few theories began to circulate about what to do with the floating children. The first was that the children should be given time, and that they would come down on their own. This was, as you might expect, answered with the question, “Well, what if they don’t (come down)?”

The second theory involved the addition of weight. Those advocating this theory suggested that the children could walk around with a backpack of full of lead weights and water, and, much like a hot air balloon with ballast, the weight would keep the kids at equilibrium. Those people against this solution asked, “What if the children, by accident, don’t carry enough weight? They will zip up into the atmosphere, and we know what happens then!”

The final prevalent theory (there were many minor theories), was that a medical procedure could be performed on the floating children, so that they could be cured. This was advanced with much of the same pseudo-science as the theory of curing homosexuals with electro-shock therapy. In other words, there were some very confident, very determined predictions, but there was not one iota of actual evidence that this procedure would work.

The gist of this last idea was that the children would benefit from a small surgical incision in the belly, and that, much like the deflating of a helium balloon, they (the children) would return gently to earth. The children’s parents balked at this idea, and, because the scientists had no rats with this particular floating syndrome, no lab trials could be conducted.

The long and the short of the problem was that nobody knew what to do.

*****

Daniel’s father, recognizing no quick solution to the problem, chose to bolt steel plates with eyelets to the barn walls, with the idea of permanently anchoring the carabiner lines. His plan worked out flawlessly for his marvelous son.

Mikael Proudhom’s mother, who was more practical than the father, permitted a team of government-endorsed doctors to perform psychological tests upon her child, at the rate of 55,000 rubles, or $23,000, per test. Five tests were scheduled, and by the time that the doctors were finished (one shudders to report honestly, but accuracy is the name of the game), Mikael was blind in both eyes, and his brain had been reduced nearly to cinders.

Still, he floated.

Kate’s sensible mother, knowing that the press would hear of Kate, first changed her floating daughter out of a skirt and into a pair of jeans.

“The first thing those pigs at the Daily Mail will do is take prurient pictures of my daughter,” Kate’s mother muttered.

Indeed, it was only a matter of time before the men in the media stormed their quiet apartment, and, when they did, Kate was front page news in denim.

But stories must have legs, or they will cease to run. So, after a month without developments, even the story of the floating children was relegated to the back page. After still more time, the story vacated the newspapers entirely.

*****

On the one year anniversary of the day that the children were given flight, the floaters descended to earth. Each of the children drifted slowly back down.

Mikael Proudhom, who had the brain of an infant, could not walk, and he never would walk again.

Kate, who would go on to become a botanist, described the experience in her artful way, “I was, for awhile, but a bird.”

Daniel told the story to his friends with a great deal of glee, and, later on, he married a sturdy Nebraskan wife, and together they farmed wheat.

The doctors scratched their heads, the carrion eaters circled once more with their microphones and cameras, and the statisticians sent up a final tally. Of the original 256 children (the number had been adjusted throughout the year), 250 had died; one (Mikael) had suffered mental incapacitation; two more had suffered physical incapacitation; and that left Kate, Daniel, and another girl named Azahara.

It was Azahara who created the works that you can see today in the Prada Museum in Madrid; they are the wonderful oil paintings of flying women. And it was she who, in her black-and-white photographic studies, captured the intimate daily life of Catalonians. Finally, it was she who became world renowned for her impersonal literary diaries, of which this shall be her final entry.