Monthly Archives: April 2013

Mere Words

Are they still weapons, these mere words
we use to crystallize what thoughts
may form at random in our heads
or like to squeeze out for some end,
a worthy cause we would advance,
a blessing, curse or snare of love,
some cleverness sure to impress
or at least baffle for a time?
How everyone is armed these days!
It takes so little effort now
to build an arsenal behind
a screen of anonymity.

There are more poets, it would seem,
than there are fishes in the sea,
more than the stars out there in space,
more now than ever were before,
and each would wield a sacred sword
to cut away the rotted flesh
and free the suffocating soul
so it may somehow serve the world;
and everyone assumes their blade
will make the most important cut,
remove the cancer, scour the wound
and make the body pure again.

There is no end to such deceit:
that words alone can change the world,
that careless phrases in the void
transform some evil into good
by virtue of their worth alone,
or by some miracle subdue
the brute force that enslaves the world
and makes it blind and deaf;
while everyone pretends they hear,
that they are the sole conduit
by which the universe declares
itself, and by that act, survives.

They may be weapons, but what use
are words in such unthinking hands
that would destroy to somehow build
a world that values their intent.
Just how will some mere phrases turn
the tide of angry sentiment
that grows against the use of thought
and would devour diversity,
while everyone, in pantomime,
acts out some peaceful, loving role
without believing it themselves?
What good can such words do?

30 APR 2013

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A flame in darkness

It does no good to mourn one candle
when its flame goes out;
nor to try to keep it lit
when its wax melts away.

It does no good to sit in darkness
thinking of past light;
nor to imagine some bright place
where bulbs go to retire.

Each source is only one of many;
when one flame expires,
you must tend to the others
if you would have light at all.

The memory of dead lights won’t fade,
if they were truly yours;
they burn somewhere for someone else
if they once burned at all.

But those lights that are left behind
will fade out, if ignored;
if you would truly fight the darkness,
feed what fires remain.

29 APR 2013

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The shadow knows

It ought to be a simple thing:
you spend years looking for just what
inspires you, makes you realize
exactly how to become you,
to finally be satisfied
with who the mirror shows you back,
and make the bold choice to refuse
your past to close you in.

It ought to be a simple thing;
and yet, once that thing is achieved,
and all the hours and pointless days
up to that point are washed away,
the wounds from battles long forgot
all healed, their scars in slow retreat,
a shadow still remains behind
and finds you unaware.

It ought to be a simple thing:
a shoulder’s shrug should send it off,
that careless smile you’ve learned to wear
to keep your thoughts close to the vest,
and yet, despite a new-found strength
spurred by convictions now secured,
the darkness creeps in with the night
to hide you from yourself.

28 APR 2013

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P.S., T.S.

My idol was once Eliot:
I sought out stranger words
that seemed so erudite and suave.
I leaked philosophy
through lengthy quotes in native tongues;
with long, ecstatic notes
I piled up paraphrases,
odd translations and asides.

The simpler the subject,
the more complex the form required,
until it took a thousand lines
of interlocking verse
to demonstrate with certainty
a great command of thought;
to fill a bookshelf with such tomes
became life’s sole desire.

My readers, those who stayed the course,
at length just were bemused;
they thought themselves, like me, elite,
and with great dragon hoards
stored up minutiae by the pound
in some great thought Bastille,
imagining the world outside
looked up at us in awe.

And then one day, a prison break:
when that grand intellect
seemed no more than some prison slang
used to intimidate
and beat into submission
lesser minds and weaker souls,
who never heard of Eliot
nor cared what they had missed.

Epiphany! Enlightenment!
In freedom from the phrase,
unloosed from literary chains
and jumbled metaphor,
I found a simpler way to write
beyond mere show not tell,
past all that posturing and such:
just speak your mind, and quit.

27 APR 2013

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America is Still: an erasure exercise

America, as Whitman wrote,
is fading low;
her heartbeat, a sour note.
Her voice blows sadness,
and one can hear her weep.
Her voice
resonates inside the bones,
reminding of truth,
your own.
Her war machines
songs of might.
Her technologies
keep hope alive
of should or could.

Across the age
times are lean,
echo songs that
America still sings,
sadly led astray by fools
who sing as others do.
America, they cry,
’tis treason to
keep this deadly pace;
grey and die.

And a dirge
echoes in the
as hope sickens and
tune is fading.

The lifeforce beats strong
out in the wild;
but urban adult and child
recognize the rhythm is wrong.
The arteries swell
the weary head;
circulation is
sent off-course.
While doctors
sing of operations yet untried,
freedom varies;
avoiding blame,
they sew prejudice inside,
and her heartbeat is slow.

Who are the great?
What works?
The grand and strange,
is the rage.

Her story must be
in jokes
to be
the common folk,
America’s juke-box
hit parade, unsung,
memorized by rote;
her Music faded,
the piano
a frequent sour note
and her song of hope,
a new way
will join the fray,
and fight for dignity
but her
vulgar selfish lot
enter the ring
to entertain
yet she cheers,
hoping their valor will prevail,
the cause will win.

America sings a
song of travail;
Her voice shouting in the wind.
Out in the night
turn this great gold
and reap nature’s plight.
This diversity of
pay the cost.
She sings for
for the forlorn,
crying out in pain,
that still defy
the song that sells the future.
Where triumphs and ideals
spurned a nation to believe,
to grieve –
and turn the wheel.

With funeral songs
she celebrates
memory gone wrong,
the dregs of misery.
Those who listen
with deaf ears –
faces in the rain,
are called deranged,
and must abandon careers;
there is a sadness.

She cries out for the
sculptor and newsboy;
they pursue another dream,
and silence is the song.
In that chasm her dreams
heed and follow
in shadows,
with strength to give.
Before the dawn, some fools
grasp at them before
drink the mead that fills,
in spite of
others’ dreams, cheaply made
now and again.

26 APR 2013

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was creating an erasure, in essence a rewrite of a longer poem by eliminating words or even whole sentences from the original resulting in a new and potentially drastically different poem, in both form and meaning. While this kind of exercise is often done using a “famous” long poem, like “Howl” or “The Raven”, “Evangeline” or “Paradise Lost”, I decided to apply this idea to one of my own longer poems, an envelope sonnet inspired by Whitman and intended as a song of hope. The original can be found here: America is Still Singing: an envelope sonnet. The result, I think, is not so hopeful and slightly more dire in its outlook. Maybe.

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The Ballad of St. Orwell

It might seem uncommon, to some passing strange,
that your life some others would like to arrange,
to limit your options, your sights and your range;
a preposterous thought, you’ll agree.

It might seem presumptuous, to say the least,
to let someone else say who starves and who feasts,
and draw a hard line between layman and priest;
yes, it feels overzealous to me.

It might seem unusual, in point of fact,
that those who have plenty despise those who lack,
yet build their great empires on those same poor backs;
an unsettling picture to see.

They might seem in error, such customs as these,
that lift a few up but leave most on their knees,
though the difference between them is but small degrees;
yes, a puzzling dichotomy.

It might seem quite curious, given some thought,
that some will complain, while most others stay bought,
and give up those precious gifts so dearly bought;
a great mystery, oh yes, indeed.

It might be for nothing, this musing of mine,
some light entertainment served with bread and wine,
but into each darkness surely, some light must shine;
while I’ve breath in me, so it will be.

25 APR 2013

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Some music must be free

All music cannot be contained
in simple structures, common forms,
by formulaic skeletons
that would restrict the way it’s made;
it reaches out beyond those lines,
a crayon in untutored hands
that blurs the edges in between
the guidelines of a thing.

Some music, yes, belongs inside
of metered time and measured space
to ground us in the here and now,
to mold from chaos grand designs;
without such structure, we might fail
to understand in order’s calm
the limits of what is right here,
constructed on our yesterdays.

But other songs burst free those chains;
they must, else we could scarcely breathe,
and would attempt constant escape
from ordinary life, or worse,
might find a way to shade in grays
without a trace of brighter hues,
and silent, shuffle off to death
without a word but still in step.

24 APR 2013

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