Tonight the veil between the worlds wears thin
and feels as sheer as gossamer. To touch
its fabric is to let the shadows in,
to find one’s means of light only a crutch
that guides us, just a mere footstep beyond
the circle we imagine with our eyes,
a stick with which we try to sound the pond
and find no bottom. There is no disguise
tonight to startle demons from the door,
nor simple ruse to mime behind in fear.
These clever gadgets, tools and such are poor
defense against the truths this night makes clear.
On Hallow’s Eve, we each get what we’ve asked.
For some, reward is only one more task.
30 OCT 2005
Watch the eyes: they reflect scars
that long since faded from the flesh
still mark the hard survivor’s face
with phantom traces, and though less
pronounced with each new moment’s span
can in some lights, and moods, reveal
the inner content of the heart
that needs no words to speak its pain.
Watch the eyes: in caverns not
so deep or treacherous, the lives
of countless treasure-seeking men
have been cut short, or been sold cheap,
their worth exchanged for one more breath,
a single ray of hopeful light,
the trickle of a hidden stream
to quench some secret, speechless thirst.
Watch the eyes: they can reveal
some lost agenda of the damned
that waits in infinite repose
for hapless fools to seek its depth,
and for an instant, finding bliss,
to think it some eternal shore
where ships with ancient tattered sails
find moorage from the wrathful storm.
Watch the eyes: their surface shines
with the mad heart’s reflected wish,
and can reveal to those who look
what purpose drives the mind to live.
24 AUG 2005
With what will you refill the well
once there is nothing left to seep
through the rough stones and hardened clay
and they are dry and filmed with dust?
And the great thirst that must be slaked
else inspiration, too, is parched
and turned to brittle bones whose marrow
marks their grave with pale, red powder,
how with your pail, now of no purpose,
will you draw that quenching liquid
when the rope down in the dark hole
has succumbed as well to dry rot?
With what will you refill the well
once the dry clods you’ve cast into it
have absorbed what little moisture
might remain from dew’s departure?
Without strength from this well’s water
you cannot dare dig another;
why then waste its precious cargo
in such stiff and cracked canteens?
27 May 2005
One of the biggest personal challenges I face as a poet is striking a balance between form and function, or between pose and purpose.
What I mean by this is that as an artist progresses in their technical ability, in their experience with the creative process, and in the journey of self-discovery that ultimately results in maturity (or vintage) as an artist, we often say they have found “their voice”. To experience someone who has found their voice is to listen to the sound of a tree, to know that what sound comes from them originates from unseen roots in the soles of their feet and radiates upward and outward. Such voices rumble with a kind of authority that masterfully, yet without effort, blends the personal and the universal into a single stream of consciousness that, even if you don’t agree with the flow, you cannot help but be affected by when you hear it. Some artists never quite achieve that level of sophistication (although sophistication is not exactly the right word here), and you can sense it. They put on a great show, and to most observers they appear to be something quite special. But to other poets, I think, the distinction between a Voice and a Stage Whisper is apparent. A lot of people sham at having a Voice. They speak as if they had one, or as if trying to convince others they are someplace at which they have not yet arrived.
The problem is, of course, that the destination changes. And like any relationship, the voice and the words it finds to speak are often troubled by the little things. The two questions, “where am I going?” and “who am I going with?” always seem to be asked in the wrong order. As a result, the line between message and medium is often blurred, or lost altogether. I don’t think, for example, that Sylvia Plath’s intention was to inspire legions of pale, depressed, overwrought and hyper-sensitive ingenues who dwelt forever in the house of sadness and tragedy. Or that TS Eliot really wished for everyone who followed in his footsteps to mimic his worst traits (overbearing and perhaps a bit poncy and academic) and somehow forget his playful side. But that’s the way it goes, particularly when those who TEACH poetry approach it from an academic standpoint and by necessity must focus on only a small part of an entire persona in order to come up with a punchline for their Doctoral theses.
More to come later.