Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sonnet: To Death

However often I have sewn my heart,
Enwrapped my flesh within the shroud you spread,
Like breath at birth is every needle’s dart,
Like birth is breathing till the nerves are dead.
Inside the veil, the warp and woof of steel
Secure me, soothing me to smooth my fears,
While binding those it cannot quite conceal
Into this web-work dulled by time and tears.
These threads have wound and woven with my veins,
However fast my blood can flee away;
Immersed, they wear my life like fading stains,
No dyes absorbing, never more to fray.
     My pulse: the dangling thread that pulls me on,

     Entwining me until the thread is gone.

Monday, December 22, 2014

There Is No Happiness in Things

There is no happiness in things,
Image credit:
No lasting beauty, peace, or joy,
Except in spells poor bards deploy.
The world’s a song the thrasher sings:
All improv with no melody,
A tune that holds our hearts in thrall
And that our minds cannot recall
But try—and only parody.

A bubble rides upon the stream
Of mind from peak to valley floor
Then bursts, released to rise once more
Into the airy realms of dream.
Just so, whatever can be got,
Perceived, or else believed can be
No more than desert nomads see:
Oases born when brains get hot.

So sweet the springtime breezes blow
Like leaf-clad revelers made drunk
By nectar sipped from blossoms sunk
Into the sparkling dew below.
They twirl and raise the summer’s fire,
Which stokes the seeds to bear their fruits
Till harvest time, so too the roots
To gather strength for winter’s ire.

The seasons’ magic circle spins,
Not halting once to catch its breath;
Since any pause would bring its death,
It only ends where it begins.
And round about the new year’s birth,
When winter tucks its tail to run
And green grows gold beneath the sun,
New life peeps out from frozen earth.

But ever after snow must come,
And frost must nip the boldest bud,
And northern winds must chill the blood
Till bones are ice and flesh goes numb.
Remembered warmth becomes a sin
Indulged in secret, shadowed cells
As devils watch from flaming hells
To see how many souls they’ll win.

This sin, which tears the tender hearts,
Must be the first of mortal kind:
The wish for simple peace of mind
Though sorrow comes, though peace departs.
This stain cannot be cleansed by tears,
By bless├ęd waters washed away:
The mark passed on from day to day
Through thoughts and feelings, loves and fears.

Thus bittersweet is every bliss
(Though pure ambrosia on the tongue),
And on and on the lips are stung
By thorns within the softest kiss.
These pains, borne on in hopes they’ll ease
And somehow make their victims whole,
Reveal that no one can control
What next may come, and nothing please.

A faith will crumble, touched by doubt;
Perfection fall to chaos, too,
If something shifts the well-known view
Or closes off the normal route
One walks each day through wood and field;
And safety turn to utter war
Despite the blood shed long before
From wounds reopened, never healed.

The knotted scars that ever burn
With every pulse’s steady beat
May be at once the great defeat
And final triumph left to earn:
The bearer’s choice alone can change
A self-made curse to saving grace
And greet the world with smiling face
In vibrant, natural exchange.

Alas, for any gain is loss
Within the tightly binding chain
Both forged and worn by every brain,
And each a nail within the cross
Of molded dust and skulls that glow
So pale beneath the setting sun
That sinks to sleep, its journey done,
In dreams its earthen sheets bestow.

But here the waking watch and fret
For light to lift its head and shine
While shadows creeping close confine
Their thoughts to dwell in dark regret
Until, at last, their watchman wakes,
Relights his lamp, repels the night,
And makes the caverns fully bright
Till every gladdened heart partakes.

Then all upon the Earth rejoice
To feel their burdens slightly lift
And think their lives a precious gift;
Unnumbered lives unite to voice
Their praises—and the Earth replies
In birdsong, thunder, waterfall!
Now every life, from large to small,
Inspired by breath that never dies,

Arises to the clearing skies
On wings of pinions gilded gold
To soar with glee no fears withhold
And view the world with newborn’s eyes.
At times it seems the cosmos rings
With angels striking fairy strings—
But still the pensive wood thrush sings:
There is no happiness in things.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hymn to a Dying Sun

O fiery father:
Take your burning brand
From off my back.

No longer can I see the sky,
No longer feel the Earth--
The two old gods who
Hold me here,
These elements and familiars,
Who are scorched
And turning into ash,
Beneath the torch of your touch--

Like me: bent beneath
Your burden, your mass,
Like me bent lower
By your light.

For fire brings no forgiveness:
The forests are healed
By the scorched Earth's sadness
And the sky's sorrowful tears.
Never by you, your fury,
Your old man's clinging force
Grasping with blazing fingers
Of bitter, lonely possessiveness.

O fiery father:
Your blood has slowed
But still your face is blinding.

Like me: blind and blazing,
Like a broken sunflower
Bent to the ground
But always with my face to yours--
Even while I wither,
Even while my seeds dry up--
And always anxious for the dusk
That will not have a dawn.

So fire has no forgiveness:
But time knows not of mercy,
And light years have an end
Like embers dying, dark and cold.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Moon and Stars: A Hymn

Another post with Kabbalistic imagery and inspiration.

Moon and Stars

A Hymn

The diamond of the universe
Was shattered in the distant past
And scattered through the dreary void
    To liven up the space.

It broke apart like hand-blown glass
That falls upon a cobbled floor
Or like a lonely human heart
    That loves too much to rest.

But now the moon, a polished pearl,
Is smiling down to draw the tides,
The ebb and flow and wax and wane
    Of water, blood, and time.

Its gravely steady lunar force
(The parent and the child)
Is reaching out, as mothers would
    To stroke a baby’s cheek,

To seek the shards that lie about
Wherever chance has tossed them out
Like seeds of light upon the soil
    That spring will call to sprout.

Extending through the infinite,
Collecting them with tireless care,
It turns and turns to look about
    Till every sliver’s found.

And now this polished pearl the moon
Is dangling on a silver chain,
The priceless centerpiece that shines
    When set amongst the stars.

Monday, December 9, 2013

No, Time

No, Time

The ticking clock has a terrible sound:
The death screams of flickering moments
That are born and then suddenly gone
As echoes that slip into silence and sleep.

The shallow breaths and steady beat
Of Time’s unwavering heart are hard
To bear, and their stubborn insistence
Will wear away walls made of stone

In the heart and the gut stiff with sorrow
As the mind struggles blindly to grasp
The fading shadows of memories
And the ghosts of the moments long past

That were lived and were shared then forgotten
In a wrinkle or fold of the brain
Until tragedy dusts off the cobwebs
To show us the faces again,

Though changed, like a wispy reflection
Of sunlight in smoke in a mirror
That dances but cannot take shape
Before sunset steals it away...

The moments are dying and slipping away,
The memories sink into darkness and sleep,
The ticking clock has a terrible sound,
And I can but sit and stare in the deep.

Time is not a healer of wounds,
And time speaks no comforting spell.
Time is but a rambling fool
Who whistles while wandering to Hell.

Marah, Sea of Tears

There was a time in which the majority of my intellectual energy was devoted to researching, pondering, and writing about mystical and occult traditions. Foremost amongst these was Kabbalah, both in its Jewish and Western manifestations. While I do not believe in these systems, their beautiful imagery and symbolism and ontology still pluck a few nerves. This poem dives into Binah, one of the sephirot in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life...

Marah, Sea of Tears

How have I peered into those shadowed depths
And seen the world's demise?
   Can this same sorrow that she breeds
   Be where this serpentine path leads?
Are these same tears that swallow up my eyes
The resting-place of dreams?
Or shining seeds of vile destruction, each
Born from her darker side?

Engraved upon the blackness of her calm,
Smooth surface, still as Death,
   I see reflected many things,
   Foremost amongst them Saturn's rings;
Bewitched, I gaze and fall under the spell
Of ancient Father Time
Who, filled with vengeance, tells me mortal life
Is finite, futile dream.

And so I feed with my despair young twins,
The children of this Sea:
   For she is Mother, Dark and Light,
   Whose womb gives birth to Day and Night.
Full-grown, up from the softly crashing surf
The Son and Daughter spring,
Both born, like Aphrodite, from the foam
That breaks upon the sand.

Her name is Understanding to the brave
Ones who have felt her Love.
   While drowning all to purify,
   She strengthens as we pass her by.
I fear that, unlike Noah's guiding dove,
I have no hope of land:
Have I been left, forgotten, lying at
The Gateway of the Soul?

Yet while I drown so slowly, softly, drunk
Upon her salty wine,
   I ponder: Do her waters feed?
   Or, overbearing, drown the seed
Of Life's own Rose that has been placed with Love
Into the heart of Man?
And then with tenderness she shows me that
In truth there's naught to fear:

   Our greatest joys are sorrow-born;
   True Heaven lies past lands forlorn;
   In demon's shrouds is God adorned.