You say: Wrong place—wrong time,
Maybe: Wrong place—not right time,
Not right place—but wrong time?
I say: This's right place—right time,
In times and places,
What is the time?
Where is the place
For right not wrong?
Is this like signs
Tearing up the scenery;
What about my mind?
Don't what? I can read the sign!
Oh—Signs of the time?
What’s wrong is not right,
Lord, I will sing this song!
Fight for what’s right
Correct what's wrong!
In all times and places
Please, be alright,
And make it—
© Joseph, October 11, 2008
© All Rights Reserved
Joseph S. Spence, Sr., is the author of "The Awakened One Poetics" (2009), which is
published in seven different languages. He invented the Epulaeryu poetry form, which
focuses on succulent cuisines and drinks. He is published in various forums, including the
World Haiku Association; Poetinis Druskininku, Milwaukee Area College, Phoenix Magazine;
Möbius Poetry, and Taj Mahal Review to name a few. Joseph is a Goodwill Ambassador for
the state of Arkansas, USA, a college faculty, and a military veteran.
Silent in its violence, the sun
lays its ancient fire hand on the heat-scoured
concrete of the promenade,
the boxy seafront chalets tilting and creaking at angles,
the scorched, salt-stiffened gardens,
sand dunes, the screaming blue sea.
It is so difficult to accept a loss, a deprivation.
Innocence flaps its winding sheet behind me,
its mummy cloth of myth.
As from an isolated moon I see
the first cold breaker rush to engulf me:
an underwater undulance,
undercurrents of menace, of malice.
The sand-strewn strand stretches into infinity,
shimmering with the visions, the voices, the echoes,
the faceless departments of government and society.
I watch the insouciant people around me,
they possess a flatness, like blank paper.
They hump and lug plastic picnic paraphernalia,
ridiculously, all beach grime and blistered backs,
reduced to a red cindery glow.
Ice creams, scooped from the freezers
in trinkety seashore shops,
are clutched in sunburned hands.
They are spreading striped sunbathing mats,
snide and smiling slyly.
Is it a mirage, a delusion,
plucked from the desert-dry air?
The air snags in my throat: the flat summer stench
of warm wood, sun lotion, billowing cotton -
blank but expansive; the creaking, the flapping.
A strange wind howls and banters in my ear.
And the train shrieks through its station -
the station of my brain -
a riddled red abyss, poker-hot.
The sun is sinking:
a disc of fire, a blood clot.
Water floods the ridgy shallows,
eddying into treacherous pits.
The black gun muzzle of my mouth
flays the oxygen from the air.
My nerves a hive of wires suffering
the scarlet atrocities.
Pokers put out my eyes.
Squeezed by the forceps of agony
I see nothing, nothing
but a mirage of wavering dunes closing in
and the sea splintering; a multitude of glass glittering.
Driving down the street,
sweet suburbia exhales,
scents of butter pecans
and apple blossoms penetrate the wind,
but secrets hide behind this serene atmosphere.
Momma's passed out on the couch,
Jack's become her best friend.
She has numbed out the pain around her,
rejects the truth.
Bobby loves his gun,
he knows how to make it all come to an end.
One day he'll have the courage,
and take everyone else with him.
Suzy hides in her closet,
she doesn't want daddy to find her,
have his ways like he does.
She just wants to fade away and die.
Papa's working late,
thinking of his sweet desert,
no one knows the world he creates,
while he pushes reality away.
Mittens sits in the windowsill,
watches the strangers pass by,
his tail twitching back and forth,
the only thing that knows the truth behind the doors.
While the house silently cries,
the world will still drive by.
Smell the sweetness in the wind,
by a sweet suburban lie.
I want to wear a djellabas.
Blackness engulfing me in its tentlike refuge
veiled in gauze.
Or a burkha of blue with a screen
over my face to hide
I want to wear rope sandals
down a dusty Afghan road on
the warmest of days
with the wind whistling
through the Khyber Pass.
I want to know the language,
taste the food,
gaze at the bearded men I pass
who will not know
I am looking at them.
They are handsome and brave in Kabul.
I want to hear the children
reciting the Koran
in their Pushtu cadence
and play upon a tabir
with a beat of
Dawn too short and a baby sun
is grown to womanhood within an hour
and sends the Tablelands the sweeping gesture
of her fiery arms.
Further out, explosions of dry Spinifex grass;
the distant desert's oily ticking bomb.
Black smoke rolls on the breeze
above the ribbon of the red blaze line.
The clanks of the metal mill man
draw life from the deep down artery,
the hot wind his assistant,
goads the blade into rotation.
Droughtmaster chews on churlish Mitchell grass
and salt bush watered by the moonlight dew.
Wandering, blinking in the dust
along the wire on the Forty Mile Fence.
Relentless women sigh in torpid dreams.
Moist fishtail ferns fan out around the tank,
soft drips; the hard water of little tears
on to the hallowed garden.
They grow like ragged wildflowers;
the sun burned clay plains men
far out in the fade of the red twilight.
Her shadowy cloud-cloaked figures are reaching,
clustering at the creaking bridge end,
waiting for me, beckoning silently,
fitting their footsteps to mine.
Russet rust dots the ground like blood spots -
maroon flakes flecking the quiet earth.
The gaping church mouth
has swallowed too many blood-soaked sunsets,
girning and regurgitating the red.
The Gothic spire of the yew keeps its churchyard vigil,
overshadowing the elm's distress -
troubled trees that bleed through the sigils of her desk.
Each ancient taproot sprawls to the grinning maw
of a corpse, kissing this quiet necropolis.
It is too still, too silent,
not a breath, a whisper, or a flicker.
On a green hill faraway narcissi raise white faces;
they nod and bob above an echo chamber of old cogs,
ancient wires snaking from walls,
ivy ropes strangling worn wooden doors,
softly rotting boards, shifting floors.
Slow sun on moss-smothered walls,
turning and churning amber and gold.
Her history haunts here, hanging like a pall.
Old memories snag between slats of sunlight;
vaporous spirits stirring, rising before me
like a heat haze in the sweltering, melting air.
Cubed cottages line the lane in spun sugar pastels.
What is that sickly odour throat-choking me
in the sultry air? Is it only the saccharine stench
of the lace-capped cow parsley? Cautiously I place each foot
amongst sodden sod clods dark as blood clots
and a snare of plant roots, the throttle-web nets
of Queen Anne's lace. Wending a winding pathway
through weed-choked abandoned allotments
shimmering green as the sea; the sun funnelling
its suffocating heat to me, the sick hawthorns
sweating a feverish odour of malady.
Bean flowers peer meanly from their cages of canes -
little hostile black eyes following me.
A murder of crows converges, blackening the hot blue -
bits of scorched paper soaring near the sun's searing inferno -
squawking souls immolating; a panicked flutter of sky cries.
And at the end of it all, this sinking into sunken soil
as the cloud-cloaked shadows lengthen to swallow me whole.
*Court Green is the name of the house where poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes lived in the village of North Tawton, Devon. The 'abandoned allotments' in North Tawton were the setting for Plath's poem 'The Bee Meeting'.
Wrapped in fog, in a reservoir of dreams
She has weathered each season, with a mystical scheme …
On a wind-swept shelf, silently sleeping
Where secrets are guarded and are hers for the keeping
Looking out at the tide, where the white gulls are sweeping
In her moldering courtyard, where quadrivial paths meld,
Among ancient arches of an old Spanish style
Names locked in history, many stories revealed
Etched in the headstones, where angels have dwelled
The cracked marble fountain with polished ligures,
Above the church doorway, vines are withering, bare
Aloft from the steeple, are the four watchful eyes
Looking out to the sea, and the deep crimson tide
Three vestige bells dangle from loft, overhead
Their voices are quiet, with pericopes spoken
Soft hymns of doves, fill the rafters, instead
From crumbling ruins, bricks humbly laid
There are shadows of saints...and moss covered jade
A weeping old willow, with leaves crackling dry
I drink with my ears, and listen with an eye
Of all those who prayed, for those who passed by
Unbelievable echoes, the tolling of the bells
Making sense of the senseless, I can hear what it tells
Giving voice to my feelings, and new hope to my eyes
A peace in my heart, where the holy grail lies
Are heard in the voice, in the church of blue tides
For The Contest Sponsored By Shadow Hamilton "Any Subject"
Using Words: unbelievable, mystical, ligure, pericope, reservoir, quadrivial,
Once more I'm dazzled by the glare
Reflections from a sea
The shimmering sand, the salty air
The windswept grass and trees
Restless eucalyptus leaves
So scattered in the wind
Like all my memories...where do they begin?
Those precious days, when I was young
Kites sailed in ocean skies
Where childhood days were fair and long
Sand castles grew in fantasy...
Lone barefoot walks, and hearts were free
Today I climb the winding path
That lingers with sweet aftermath
Such memories are mine
Of days beneath the sun
The joy that I still can find
Though days have come and gone
The gulls still sing their song
They circle round me, yet above
Reminding me of days so loved
Where castles made of sand were found
Until the waves came crashing down
This place I knew when summer came
Now warms my heart from winter's game
Where blooming lilacs danced a tune
And summer's end still comes too soon
For this desire
to someday be accommodated,
we shall sit in front of the fire,
lodge chairs at angles akin to talking low,
honey cognac thick,
whispers even thicker,
and you will tell me life.
From the moment your memory begins
you will unravel the senses in dark licorice words
by crackling light.
We will throw lithium on the fire
and watch the shadows turn red
in our laughter
...just children, really, despite our age...
The night will wane as good nights always do,
and we'll sleep on and off in the chairs,
in the midst of the other's story.
It won't matter, as it all becomes a dream anyway
and we'll never tend the fire till it gives up it's coal.
At 5 am our voices will be hoarse
and our legs will be angry at us for pretzeling them,
so we will rise to make strong coffee.
You, grinding powder brown beans,
and me finding two perfect cups for hand holding,
brushing past you electric in the process.
After the brew, after our lives have been told,
at the precise red photograph of sunrise,
we will sleep.
My head will fall sullen on your shoulder,
angry at my inability to control my eyes to stay with you a moment more,
and this new world, which has spun at twice it's
normal speed since meeting you,
Pubescent class trip,
and I became enamored with impossibility
Vanishing verdigris yet cosseted
the L’Auberge de la Paix,* a work-in-progress
Floorboards slowed gawky treads with furrows.
Ten feet above, death-row cherubs
surrendered frail wings, a plaster molting
advanced by workmen too eager for the plucking
(the curse of romanticism
is to perceive the imperceptible)
Home was a bungalow with suburb secrets,
while the hostel’s curving staircase
openly tattled on former hosts
and guests who had perfumed stale conversations
while carrying dance cards.
I could almost hear each half-note baluster
and that treble clef handrail, so smooth,
orchestrating encounters by the front door,
Bonne nuit, mon amour
Once, a Grande Maison owned by une l’artiste,
then, a hostel for students in the core of Quebec City,
the building charmed with its soft dishabille,
stripped layers of faded wallpaper, pooling;
the pong of fresh paint and sanded wood
hustled the dame into the times
with ever-going modernization
Dorm rooms pouted
I was not interested in the tours
with their corpses of cannon balls,
toy soldiers arranged on miniature plains of Abraham,
narrow streets echoing with battle cries,
remnants of a lost sovereignty...
the war of 1759
those thousand phantom pleasantries,
dusty sofas and freedom halls,
air hockey and air guitar,
new parlour games
Upstairs, bunk beds awaited roommates
and creaked somewhat like nagging history
But romance was a trompe l’oile,
a fading fleur de lys,
and I can easily recall the coy throes
of noisy pipes, closet confessions,
and giggling, blameless nights
when ghosts dusted every shifting wall,
altering even moonlight
* Written Aug 24, 2014
*The Peace Hostel, Quebec City
31 rue Couillard, Latin Quarter, Quebec City
Grande Maison – estate
Une l’artiste – an artist