A crimson leaf, high-hoped, leapt heavenward,
but autumn’s failing breath sustained it not;
with dew-teared face it kissed its dreams goodbye
and fell, and sank, to wither and to rot.
He watched the half-black skies that drowned the day,
his azure Eden hidden from his sight.
As crimson turned to earth, he whispered soft,
“Stay not long hidden, bringer of the light,”
’til just before the earth was tucked within
its blanket, resurrection to await,
with broken brethren he was gathered in,
a child’s exuberance to satiate.
First child, then leaf, leapt heavenward aglow,
and fell with breezy laughter back below.
What fools are we, inheritors of grace
and singers of th’eternal song. We string
our beads of love at someone else’s pace
and find our good intentions shattering.
We proudly stitch our garments, ’til the seams
are torn by lazy hands and frail remorse,
and carry tinder-boxes full of dreams
but hide the flint, and halt conversion’s course.
A fellowship of fools are we who swing
from Calvary into Eternity;
in foolish love our empty hands we bring.
Beloved, broken jesters all are we.
The greatest of all follies rescues us:
the shadow of the folly of the cross.
Make me unknown to me, myself, and I,
may self-pitying tow’rs that fight the sky
collapse upon my ego, laying bare.
O Mother, sweet and blessed, wholly pure,
within whose tender mantle now I lie,
make me unknown.
Slow, slouched, I wait for pity as I try
to battle inner wars. Oh let me die
to self, this secret pride. These shadows lure
me to demise. While I yet stir,
make me unknown.
Impetuous, my lately love, am I
in letting love this fragile frame imbibe;
your sapphire eyes are water to these dry
and burning bones. I wish I could inscribe
your name upon my heart eternally,
but nay, ’tis not to be. You? I? My dear,
the love I wish for us can never be–
love? Nay, nay, but mere passion…fierce, I fear.
Dear one, may I yet stay, and love thee true,
with kindness, care, and groaning heart? Though strung
like harp strings, heart aflame, my song to you
shall be restrained, with few notes ever sung.
Unbridled though my yearning ever be,
I shall but love and let thy heart by free.
Recall the day the Tree of Life was shorn
of verdant life and pierced by iron nails,
when darkness, groaning, veiled the dying morn
while stones took up the trembling and wails.
Recall the day when earth and sky screamed out,
“Creator scorned, O creatures!, whence thy hope?”
Remember blood of God-Made-Man, the shout
of stone-cold tomb, salvation’s envelope.
Recall, recall, sweet soul, how blood gave birth
to sons and daughters from a granite womb,
Creation’s moans now sprung from fruitful girth
while souls by flood are washed into the tomb;
once more recall: as old life’s morning dies,
creation new from sepulchre will rise.
Sweet welcome to you, oh burdensome trial,
And may your sweet barbs yet tarry awhile.
An earth more fallow for growth you’ll not find,
For it’s fertilized full with the corpses of your kind.
Yes, welcome to your sanctuary and death;
Though root you take, vain is your poisonous breath.
Your pain is but passage to courage and grace
And the One ever smiling from His bloodied face.
So unsheathe your sword and sharpen your lance–
The longer I cry, the harder I dance.
You’ve homed with a Gael, and all the world knows
That the greater our sorrow, the more our joy grows.
So welcome to rebellious fires, my friend.
My strength is your solace; His freedom, your end.
Speak no more, no more, I beg thee;
another weighty word,
another vessel of steel-cased emotion,
and the scales shall tip to fear,
Grant me a moment more
in this comforting caress
of unspoken words, dreams unimagined,
a stream of potentiality on a canvass of silence
painted in tears of love and loss.
Take me not from this sweet hollow
this forgotten corner of creation
that hums yet faintly
with the musical silence of Eden.
I see through the mist
in the panes to your stricken heart.
There is a longing,
a cry to balance the scales
as the words begin to spill from your lips
and down your cheeks.
the words cannot touch my fragile mind;
no, they sink
with heavy weight
to my heart,
and I find there an endless vestibule,
a deep chasm waiting for your words
as they pour but a drop
into the infinite awaiting.
It is no longer mine to listen,
nor was it ever mine to heal.
All falls into the mantle,
and carried to the heart of Christ.
O Mother of Sorrows,
Victorious Queen robed in Eden’s silence,
take me over.
My frail spirit is so little prepared
for all that I must take in.
Take these hands,
take this heart.
Let your Spouse
breathe in me His peace,
that this shuddering frame
may come as Simon to the crosses of others
in holy fear
and loving confidence.
A phoenix asked the flames, “Do you delight,
Oh fiery fiend, to lick my chest, to sear
through flesh and bone, to boil blood? Does the light
inside your tendrils glow with pride? A tear
of pain, a mournful torrent–no respite
they offer from your suffocating fumes.
What mortal sin, what monstrous err made I,
to merit burning scarlet for a tomb?”
The blushing flames replied, “If you could see,
Oh tender chick, beyond my ruby walls
into the light which all-envelopes me,
‘twould send thy soul aflight. For shining halls
of resurrection, little is the price
of pain. Let faith be stirred, and hope suffice.”
O how long will I watch?
When will I hold in my hands
this precious universal something
that somehow missed my cradle?
Stupid wretch. He thinks himself now alive.
What living thing e’er sat like silent stone
as life was wrung from him by Life’s cruel claws?
I hold joy inside.
Or perhaps it’s insanity.
This strange desire to laugh and cry and moan
at this stupid,
thing called “life”.
Oh, hush. Leave the air you fill with folly
for others to breathe. Stay down. Be silent.
Be still, my heart; o will you ne’er be still?
When, when, oh soul, will you your moanings cease?
Again, fool? Bite your tongue and bleed, wretch! Bleed!
Put down your fists, vile thoughts! Away, away,
and leave me! Peace, I beg! Peace! Filthy self,
show your featureless face for beating! PEACE!
Where!? Show me peace and I will yield! Show me!
WOULD YOU PLEASE SPEAK TO ME!?
I loathe you.
Because I want so badly to love you.
Maybe then I could let you believe it
when they speak the word
and act it for you…
But when will you be who you must be?
And who must I be?
Tell me this, and I will yield.
You can say nothing.
Because you know nothing.
Nothing of me.
Nothing of the world
you claim would like to snuff me out.
I know not.
And so I act not.
This is my most honest poem to date. And I think the only one where I acknowledge that I hate myself…and the only one where I acknowledge that somewhere in my heart, God tells me exactly what to do with what I’m feeling. And it wasn’t just the last few words.
It was the pauses, the silences. Where I could just be. And not torture myself with my thoughts.
I guess the super-perfectionist part of me just isn’t ever gonna be satisfied. I’m never going to be perfect, or exactly who I want to be. I’m never going to know everything that everyone else seems to know so easily. There’s no point in beating myself up and trying to shove in everything I can as quickly as possible. I can’t take life as if I’m playing catch-up. Because I’ll be playing on the losing side the rest of my life. And life isn’t a game.
It’s an opportunity. Not to be perfect. Not to be great. Not to take the world by storm. It’s just an opportunity to live and to love. That’s all. That’s it.
And that’s awesome.
Sunsets paint in citrus
hues the bellies of the clouds
coming home to sleep.
Rise, my prayer, above
the mere mumblings of my lips
and bow before God.
Slumber, petty fears,
and tumble down the chasms
you scaled to chain me.
Burn, bright fire of love.
Where else shall I find the light
to take me inward?
Come quickly, courage,
come quickly to the weary
laying in the trench.
It’s been a long time since I tried my hand at short stories, and I’ve never really tried one in such a poetic style. But I kind of liked writing it, so I guess that’s all that matters.
Under normal circumstances (if there could be any such thing) Connely would have just raised his shield. But there was something that fought back, something that fell like an anvil between one side of his lifelong rut and the other. Something not quite like the other times.
Slowly, he lifted his shaded eyes to steal a glance at this passer-by. He had to make sure this time; there could be no mad rush, no clattering headlong, arms flailing and heart flying; the meeting of worlds was too austere for such behavior, he’d learned that (finally). If, of course, such a meeting was about to take place. There could be no certainty of that anymore, not now that his own world was buried somewhere in the shifting sands of his consciousness.
The glance was enough to confirm his anticipations and fears: their guards had come down, their eyes turned in at least a hint of interest at his own shadowy figure. He thought for a moment he saw a gleam, a spark, like the light he had so often heard of–what was it again? a star, a sun? something like that–but he couldn’t be sure; his shades had slowly grown darker over the years. It wasn’t wear and tear so much as the slow and deliberate hand of bitterness, wielding a pitch-black paintbrush in deadly strokes.
There wasn’t much use in walking on now–they’d seen him, and they knew he saw them too. He could try putting up his shield, maybe then he could–
No, it was too late now; his arm had gone all limp and tingly again. It looked bad enough from the outside, and the quivering shield left more than a few bruises. It had taken Connely years to put that shield together, forging it from broken ships that had wrecked on the outer reaches of his world and painting it carefully in the style of the day. But he’d never been trained in metalwork, and his hand was always too shaky to get the colors within the lines.
Not to mention he distrusted the thing, just like he distrusted everything else.
So he walked slowly to the group of faces now locked on him, trying to keep his cool. The usual introductions, the ceremonial lifting of the shades–
Connely reeled back, gasping, hands groping at his eyes. It was as if a billion lights had pierced his lungs and snatched away the mist hanging over his heart, like a thousand suns suddenly piercing the clouds and burning up the oceans.
They had looked on his world. Not just the stiff and proper outskirts–they had dared to look into the skylines, the slums, the steeples, the very streets themselves, teeming with life that was crying to be let outside the city walls. And yet it was so sudden that every last pulse, every internal tick, had fled deeper within to some ancient stronghold, long littered with broken memories and echoing with fearful whispers of phantoms that refused to die.
But they had seen his world.
For a moment, for once, he had a clear black-and-white choice: drop the shield and the shades and dive into their worlds as they dove into his, or stay safe behind his self-made walls and various defenses.
But he didn’t want to be safe anymore. Someone had dared to look into his soul the way he looked into theirs. Something about that was worth the fear of destruction.
So he lowered his shades and shook himself. “Sorry, the sun caught my eyes. What are your names again?”
The work of any writer, as Stephen King tells us in On Writing, is telepathy. It’s transmitting the world as seen through the mind of one man into the mind of another across time and space. Think about it: when we read Shakespeare, Dickens, or Chesterton, we are seeing through their eyes by the magic which their words breath into our psyche.
Yet here, he speaks mainly of novelists.
What of poets?
Samuel Taylor Coleridge gives the following “homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose–words in their best order; poetry–the best words in their best order.” True enough, if seen through the correct lens: the work of a novelist is to convey entire worlds and characters across an unlimited expanse of paper; the poet is forced to choose those fragments which are most vital, most potent, and pack them together into a rhythmic flow.
Plato argues the work of any artist stems from divine inspiration. I’m inclined to agree; why else are only some gifted with such skill at wordcraft as Tolkein, Frost, or Dickinson? (Keeping in mind, please, that I DO NOT AND WILL NEVER equate myself with these poets; I’m only in the class of capable or good poets, at best; being a great is only an aspiration) Sometimes, though, the inspiration doesn’t hit right away, at least not for me; it’s planted somewhere in my consciousness, as if He planted the seeds in my head when I was born, and when I catch a glimpse of a bud I have to tear through the weeds that have grown with it until it is uncovered.
My favorite way to do this is simply wordplay, sticking words together that have a nice poetic weight, finding something that strikes me, even if it makes no logical sense in my head. My notebooks are filled with strange and wonderful fragments, like “surly rumble”, “the crust of the earth between your fingernails”, “tourmaline ellipse”, and the like. I think the strangest one I ever wrote was “leopardine breath of rubies”; who knows what it means, but it just hangs sweet and heavy in your mouth as you think it, like the meaning is just slightly leaking out of the shell.
Then there’s giving it the proper care, helping it grow. Mulling over words, fitting it to different forms, trying to draw out the meaning–
It hits like a nuclear bomb.
And you just keep writing, forcing your brain to speak in rhyme and rhythm as the fever of writing pulses back and forth between your fingers and your brain until both shake too violently to continue or the poem stands before you, complete.
Yeah. I love being a poet. Not much else to say.
Well, this has been quite the 30 days, to say the very least.
I feel as if every last metaphor has been sucked from my fingertips, every alliteration pounded from my skull, every monotonous rhyme spilled from my lips.
And somehow, I still want to write more.
I’d forgotten what poetry really can do, what a powerful medium it can become when it’s no longer about anything but what’s deepest and closest to you. I’d forgotten what it feels like to have the words rush out of your mind as your fingers struggle to keep up and the keyboard pounds madly. I’d forgotten what “inspiration” really is, and even though I still can’t define it, I know I’ve touched it by forcing myself forward into the poetry that is this life with pen and paper in hand, ready for the moment the first glimmer of an idea strikes.
It’s been an awesome, exhausting process.
Now excuse me while I see if I can mop up the remains of my melted brains.
The fragments of my heart are scattered now
across a lifetime spent in loneliness,
in twilight painted by the broken vows
of countless criminals. This sorry mess
of me is stretched across my memories
until the very fabric of my soul
Dragged through pools of tears
and left out to dry
in reality’s scorching light.
It’s hard to believe anymore,
hard to see outstretched arms
without waiting to be shoved away.
to see, somehow, what everyone else sees,
to take back what those times and traitors stole.
These chains cry out; my mind screams for relief.
You speak your peace, a peace now still and brief,
a strength enough to breathe another breath
and whisper soft surrender to this death
of ages past. The memories die hard,
so save me, Savior, from each piercing shard.