LOVE POEM #60 – BLINDED

I’m told that love is blind,

but having 20/200 vision

I know that nowadays being blind

can be corrected with a good pair of glasses.

 

The dense world of fog that seeped in

through these tired, aging eyes

made it impossible to see the problems

that were just a few paces in front of me.

 

Which is why, after the break up, I took a trip

down to the nearest Ross or Sears or Target

to try a few pairs on,

and share some laughs with my reflection.

 

But as the shadows grew longer,

I realized that my own vision

wasn’t actually so bad.

The midnight trees shading the sidewalk

weren’t quite the monsters

that my youth had cowered in fear of,

and the distance sadness of the moon

no longer seemed to hide behind blurred eyes.

And suddenly I wondered

if I really needed those glasses to begin with

 

until I looked in the mirror

and realized that my blindness

wasn’t due to my impair vision,

but instead impaired by the blindness in my heart.

——

 

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THE LAST SIP

I always loved looking in the sinister whisky glasses, with two clear, fat ice cubes barely contained within the small, cylindrical walls of the cup. The satisfying pop of the stopper, pulled from an equally extravagant crystal decanter, builds the anticipation of the moment. The first splash or two of the amber-gold liquid sets the tone of the pour. If the ice is cold enough, it will crack in half with a satisfying crunch, then those shallow splashes create tiny arcs off of the ice, until they eventually settle into the base of the glass.

I always prefer the glass left half empty, especially to start the day. Any day like today is full of wonder, tranquility, and anger. Whisky will pull in a similar sense of self-hatred. Strong, powerful, and above all else, contained. The first sip always stings, which is why I swallow it along with the second and third all at once. It slinks through the throat, like magma through the canyon—burning and renewing the land in one fatal swoop.

But it’s always the last sip that always gets me. Most often, people forget the last sip. They see a fleeting ounce left in the glass, and down it quick, like an actor in an old western film. They typically follow it with a satisfied Ah, and perhaps even a quick wipe of the chin to catch any excess the slipped through their lips. It’s dignified, hearty, and full of meaning. But the last sip still clings to the sides of the glass, drifting back into the base of the glass, forgotten beneath the melting cubes inside.

The bartender will pick the glass up, throw the residue to melt away into the sink, along with all the other forgotten memories. Quite the waste of perfectly good booze. One that, after many downed glasses and agonizing headaches later, I have learned never to miss.

The last sip is watery and cold. I like to catch each ice cube in my mouth, lick it clean, then spit it back out. If they split clean apart when the glass was poured, I might even chew one down to cleanse the palate. Catch the glass in your lips, and tilt your head back. The little droplets will form together, then slide down the side as a team, like a group of fish joined to impede the approach of a predator. In excitement, you might lift the glass in the air, as if to say to the onlookers “this moment is mine.”

And the drop will dangle, afraid, or perhaps teasing you there to build anticipation, before falling for ages in those inches between the glass and your outstretched tongue. Your throat might feel dry, as though this were the last drop of water on Earth, until it coats your mouth with the strength of a thousand oceans. Then finally, your glass is empty, and you might realize you’ve become an alcoholic.

——

 

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FLY AWAY (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Cats at Play

Diving after strings

with the same ferocity

as a great lion.

 

Unpaired

Dazzled by the pair

of dancers in the moonlight,

I walked home alone.

 

Fly Away

The old, dead leaves fall,

but before they hit the ground

wind flies them away.

 

Leaves in the Pool

Debris from the trees

float, tentative as a fly

waiting to be struck.

 

Outdoor Mornings

Waking to a kiss

of sunlight and waterfalls;

lost in the stillness.

——

 

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OUR AMERICA

So I mentioned last week that Tuesdays would be about dreams from now on, but after the travesty in Las Vegas yesterday, I couldn’t in my right mind not say how horrible I feel over the subject. So I did what I often do in that circumstance and wrote a poem about it. Before reading it, please consider donating to Las Vegas. Here’s a link to a GoFundMe. Ok, here’s the poem. Feel free to comment:

Our America

We may not be slaves

to the sins of our fathers,

but we are certainly born

out of the wombs of their actions.

 

And while we may not bear the chains

that granted them power over men,

the scars they inflicted are still fresh

on the skins of our history.

 

The flesh of this America

still burns with the toil of war,

where brother fought brother

so that our brethren could be free.

 

The first tears broke over the face

of the American Dream in 1830

when Jackson uprooted the free

in the name of freedom.

 

And again we see the strength of arms

spattering our lands red with blood,

to protect the egos of the fearful.

 

From Orlando to Las Vegas,

that river runs deeper than the oil pipelines

those dream eaters feast their pocketbooks on.

 

Well I say to them:

We do not like your America.

 

Your America is not

the land of the free

and the home of the brave,

but the land of greed

and home to the slave.

 

So we have come to take it back.

With pitchforks and torches,

with iron and steel,

with the bodies of our comrades

gunned down by the bullets

of your deranged militia laws:

we are coming.

 

Like the beating heart of the mountain

and the roaring calls of the ocean:

we are coming.

 

Like the lionhearts of Europe

come to claim their throne from John:

we are coming.

 

For this is our America.

 

Not a land of destiny and perfection

but nonetheless a home

to those who would strive

to see a more perfect union.

 

Not a country unsullied by pride,

but nonetheless a home

to those who would strive

to see the error in their ways.

 

Yes, this is our America.

An America where men can be queer.

An America where women can dream.

An America where blacks do not fear.

 

This is our America,

an America that has never been,

and yet I swear this oath again—

our America it will be.

——

 

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WORDS AND IRONWORKS

I wasn’t born to be a poet.

With a name like “Smith,” one is only fit

to work over a hot fire with iron and steel,

and yet somehow the words chiseled their way

into the forge of my life.

 

The sound of my pen spattering paper

rung out like an imagined hammer,

shaping the letters of Apollo

into a work more spectacular

than those creations I’d made for Vulcan.

 

For though the glint of the ironworks

could be heard throughout the village,

it was the letters sung between drinks

that filled it with happiness

and when the time came for another pair of sons

to be whisked away on bloodied spikes

the solace of words meant more to the mothers

than the stained return of mail

to be buried with the bodies.

——

 

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LOVE POEM #59 – THE APPROACHING NIGHT

Falling in love with you was like

listening to The Approaching Night

beneath an outstretched tree branch

in the backyard of my childhood home

while the yellow-orange sun glimmered

between sunset and nightfall.

 

In that short moment of reverence

it felt as though the great chariot

road across the sky just for you;

as perfectly balanced as a tightrope walker

so that neither of us were burned.

 

And yet looking at you tonight,

I can see that the approach of night

has long since passed us into the smaller hours.

Where the piano music twinkles

with the starlight; eternal

impassioned, and beloved.

 

Even though the lines of age

have filled your face with wisdom,

and bones once strong as the mighty oak

have grown flaccid and weary,

I see in you now the nova of life

burning more brightly than ever before,

having accepted that the inevitable extinguishing

is best enjoyed while living in the apex of the sun.

——

 

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NIGHT ON THE BARE MOUNTAIN

When I finally reached the flat top of the mountain, I was greeted by a flatland that was more the top of a hill than a mountain—so green and grassy I could hardly believe myself. I took a nap for a while, and when I awoke the sun had been falling.

The sudden rush of cold air had taken me by surprise, marking the end of the day. Nightfall was setting in, and the air had taken a dramatic turn from the comforts of that afternoon. I had spent the day hiking to the top of the bald mountain. It had been a beautiful hike to the top. The sky had been a clear blue, with sky shrouds only at the edges of the world view.

But it had also been quite treacherous. There were many places where the rocks threatened to give way, and the way down was no easier. Each step felt like I was trudging through the snow, hoping not to fall into some unseen depths. I turned a corner on the main path, and was blown by a powerful gust, which knocked me on my backside and rolled me toward the edge of a cliff. My legs were dangling over the side when I finally got control again, and the wind subsided. I looked down at the eons of space beneath me, like a vast mouth of darkness, threatening to swallow me up like Jonah. Grasping for the strands of ground, I managed to scramble back to my feet, and continue down.

I was given a brief respite for most of the rest of the way down, and eventually grew accustomed to the treacherous ground and chill air. The clouds had rolled in in droves, like a pack of beasts descending in the night, and when the first crack on lightning shot through the sky, it sounded almost like they had made the call for pursuit. The rains fell then, hard. Each drop was a rock, and blurred my vision. But I was getting close to the bottom.

The tempest was in full throttle then. It felt as though it were sent there, just to trap me. I had begun running, though I couldn’t remember when. I hopped over bushes, between fallen branches, and across small gaps in the path, emboldened and afraid of what would come next. I wanted to get away before more went wrong. The trees were shaking; rattling like snakes coiled, and the path had grown thick with mud. Many steps became more like surfing through waves of mud than stepping through them.

Until finally, I broke out from behind the last tree, and the world grew quiet. I looked back at the bald mountain, which looked like Sisyphus trapped in his own hell then. But I had escaped. I walked over to my car and drove home, though I kept my eye on the mountain as it grew more distant, just to make sure the storm stayed with it.

——

 

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THREADS (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Threads

One thread cannot hold

the weight of a broken tree,

no matter its strength.

 

Up Late

The sun is up high

yet my eyes have just opened

in a groggy haze.

 

Dish Mountain

The pots suspended,

precarious as climbers

hanging without ropes.

 

Lying Beneath Trees

Trees look like angels

silhouetted in sunlight;

their leaves are their wings.

 

Five O’Clock

Shadows on my chin

feel like dry blades of grass

before they brittle.

——

 

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BARN FIRE DREAMS

For the past while I have been recording my dreams, either in a mental log or on actual paper, and you may have notice I’ve been talking about dreams a lot over the past few weeks. That’s because I wanted to change up my Tuesday slot, because I’m struggling more and more not to be redundant with my concepts. I mean, you can skin a cat multiple ways…but at the end of it, all you’ve done is a bunch of skin cats. And it really isn’t in my interest to have people saying something like “Yeah I get it” when I talk about my ideas. So, instead, let me describe a short dream to you that I had the other day:

 

The world began with the light from a rotting wooden roof. Sunbeams looked down on me from the rectangular holes of missing roof tiles, and the interior of the barn had grown over with moss and various other plants. But the hay was still comfortable—at least, as I realized my arm was trapped beneath a woman, it had been for the half the night we had slept. I didn’t know her name, but she look familiar, like the friend of a friend. As I rubbed my eyes and rose, stumbling, I saw that the place really was run down. The walls looked like they might give out any time, and the color of the wood was so grey with rot that it scarcely looked a color at all.

And then I was outside, almost more suddenly than my mind could keep pace with. The air was fresh like the morning after a heavy rain, though the ground gave no hint that there had been so much as a drop recently. There were a great many trees around us, though there were other small cabins mixed in as well. It looked like a world stuck out of time to my mind’s eye, yet my body felt perfectly at home.

Until, of course, a young woman rounded the corner and ran up to me. Her hair was a vibrant red, and when she approached me it was clear she had been running for a great long while.

“Fire,” She gasped, pointing back the way she came, “help.” Without a moment’s hesitation, we were off running again. I can’t say how long we ran for, nor how I got my hands on a massive hose, but there we were, spraying down the side of another barn. Everything was going according to plan, until the faint cries of “help” rose up through the barn window, and we realized someone was inside. I handed the youth the hose, and ran toward the half open door. The heat inside singed my face, but I continued inward. It was as though the world itself had been immersed in flame. The Earth, the walls, and the roof all burned heavily. Even the faint view of the light seen from the shattered window in the loft looked redder than it had outside.

I looked around, and saw a pair of children standing at the center of the room, paralyzed with fear. It looked like they had found the only place without fire, though the circle around them was growing ever smaller. There was no way to get to them, save through the flames. Somehow, I found an area where the fire was less fierce, and took a few quick steps across the flames to them. I scooped them up in my arms, then looked for the door. In all the movement I had lost my bearings. It seemed so much farther than before.

Wood crashed around us as the roof began to shatter, shooting sparks through the air. The flames fed on the fallen wood like wolves on their prey, and grew all the fiercer. There would be no making it back to the door the way I had came. I looked around for another way to cross, but there was none. The flames crept closer, so close the children had to huddle against me tight. My mind raced, until it came to me that I’d have to toss them. They might break an arm in the landing, but it was better than being burned alive.

I did it one at a time. The boy went through first. His body soared over the tips of the flames, which in that moment looked more like the finger of Hell. He crashed through the door, rolling a few times before struggling to his feet. The girl was next. She was heavier than he was, and the tips of her skirt caught fire as she passed over the wall before us, but in landing she rolled and they were put out. The wall of fire screamed before me, enraged I had taken it’s prey from it. There was a huge crack, and I saw the ceiling finally give way. Then everything went dark.

 

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DOGGED

Behind the dirty glass window panes

of the scratched French doors

are two pairs of vacant, lonely eyes

staring back with child-like wonder

 

and looking into their eyes, I find the darkness

ethereal, as if I had fallen through endless stars

into the deep plane of non-existence

hiding behind a black hole, to a time

 

where the only words that mattered were

sit, stay, come, treat, and good boy.

 

where the only worries in our brief life

were whether our family would make it home.

 

where the outside world was left behind

and we lived in the sanctity of our four walls.

 

To run free again, with the wind pulsing

like the hot breaths of a lover

through strands of golden hair.

 

And I wonder if, staring back at me,

they can see the light of our city on a hill,

shining bright with beacons of false hope

for the rest of the galaxy to see,

 

or perhaps they just see me,

their loyal friend,

stepping away from the window now,

not knowing whether I will come back.

——

 

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