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Scent Of Paddy Flower
By Goutam Hazra
My father told me
I was just a boy then,
“Follow the scent of paddy flower
move with the wind it carries,
surely you will go to heaven.”
he would catch
fistful of wind
bring near to my face
“Isn’t it godly!”
Magically, opened his hand
but I never felt
what scent he meant.
Days of kind rain
“Son, see the misty wind
rushing all over the paddy field
comes every year
to drink the scent of paddy flower.”
Mere as a boy
I could see only
tides of a green plane
touching my little finger
and racing far… too far.
I would ask
“Where have they gone?”
Smiled my father
“Did not you listen,
they are going to heaven,
call the goddess then,
‘come goddess dear’
we all are ready with paddy flower.”
Curious was my face,
“Goddess will arrive smiling
her feet will be here
Seeing a pot in her hand
all those paddy flowers
delighted, will open their mouth more wider
and life will be poured…”
“Where these flowers come from?”
Remained my father smiling
speaking all his mind
looking high at sky
asked me to see there
spoke he again.
“Rain, rain, kind monsoon rain
on the first day of its shower
kind rain would ask me to come here
with bagful of paddy seeds,
‘let seeds be spread all over,
let its eternal relation with soil
be the fertilizer’
when all said is done
starts showering its kind
make visible hiding life in the abyss of seed.
Happy wind changes color
being green all around
waits for the day
when the wind would smell the scent of paddy flower.”
Days passed by,
kind rain was still in waiting
sometimes hidden beyond horizon
or simply making sun blind with its smoky face
and whenever wind said,
‘Dry I’m now’
quenched the thirst.
Someday wind played naughty with sun
asked kind rain to make it misty
and with brushes of sun rays
painted a rainbow on the face of east sky.
Wait was over
green field blossomed with flowers
and wind said,
“Fill in my heart
with scent of flower
I shall bring life…”
Happy was my father’s voice
“Rain, rain, kind monsoon rain
green wind brining life
scent of paddy flower
is made so.
Bare footed be here
print your soul
in the dust of this soil
kind rain will come
green wind being there
life will be yours
with the scent of paddy flower.”
How old was I then
nine or ten
my father looked up
up to the sky
again and again
for a month long
only to see
change of sky’s color
from the color of a summer day to a long humid night.
Dry wind cried at last
over my father’s sweating body
“Rain, rain O kind rain, where have you gone.”
One day sudden
kind rain came again.
Cried to my father
“Why no green wind came this year
to bring me here.
Desert wind why
dry my breath
seeds you have sown
how could I then
enliven with my rain.”
my father had asked the rain.
Short-lived, hurried rain could spell its last breath,
“I am not that rain
as was your friend,
I am the curse of dying forest
I am the ghost of all pollution
I am born out of acid weather…”
Who knew, it left for where?
My father cried
As kind rain left him alone
hiding in a dry wind’s bone.
My father was still
going every morning
asking the soil
if soil could alone
make the paddy flowers to be born.
Year passed by,
came back the time,
for green wind to bring kind rain.
Rain came one day.
as a cloudburst
like an unkind monster
in the life of a simple farmer?
Dumb remained my father
for days together
sad was his voice at last,
“Run away, son, run away from here,
sky rain wind
river village land;
thread of this garland
who cuts it
go, stop now there hand.”
Draught and flood,
uncertainty of life
changed my mind
as of a farmer’s son.
Books, studies and education
reasons, truth and compassion
might have had fulfilled my father’s mission.
Does not this civilization
as the products to do more production.
Run, run and run
run ahead of time
let be it, at the cost of inhaling killer tension,
stress taking over your life.
Insomnia, cholesterol or cynicism
is our success’s companion?
‘A’ is shaped as ‘B’
and ‘B’ is sold as ‘C’.
but I found the basic
what it remain
as life’s supreme conviction
‘simply a fist full of paddy
and its grain’.
Scent of life
So here, I am again
standing in front of this green plane
searching for the shadow of my father.
Green wind surrounds my existence
I can see the dance of those bunches.
My mind whispers to my ear
echoes those words of my father,
“Bare footed be here
print your soul
in the dust of this soil
rain will come
green wind being there
life will be yours
with the scent of paddy flower.”
I never felt so,
what I smell now
is the scent of paddy flower.
The Earth dry and bare; waiting eagerly for the drops of care;
Caught in the hot, steaming summer’s snare;
The flowers and creepers decorating window sills; all look desolate and ill;
As the nature withers away in the sun’s merciless glare.
The men and the wives; the kids and the wild;
All are enduring the summer’s waterless exile;
They are waiting for the rain; to relieve them of the heat pain;
And of that life which has become a sweaty turmoil.
The wind strong and gusty; makes the roads yellow and dusty;
And the air around becomes suffocating and musty;
The birds forget to sing; their lilting, musical thing;
Even as the tree leaves wristle and make noise so husky.
Then come the Monsoon showers; falling first on boughs and flowers;
Making the trees and plants glisten and glower;
So the monsoon comes in grace; driving away summer’s trace;
Lashing at window-panes with its all-reigning power.
As the monsoon drives away the summer heat; with its raining rhythm off-beat;
And the flower buds open up to return it’s greet;
And as the water seeps in soil; a refreshing fragrance arise;
While the rain continuous to cool down hot gardens and streets.
The Earth grows green; and water droplets gleam;
On the smooth, waxy surfaces of the leaves;
Everywhere the flowers grow; in pink, red, white or yellow;
While buds make their way blushingly between tendrils.
The wet and soft soil; now grows fertile;
And tender green plantlets push through the Earth in style;
Through soil the tiny saplings peep; as their sown seeds begin to reap;
And the plants and crops shake off the Earth’s temporary curse sterile.
As the raindrops go pitter-patter; water in puddles begins to gather;
And the little birds begin to chirp, twitter and chatter;
The insects begin to hum along; their irritating and happy song;
While due to rain and wind the roofs on houses begin to chatter.
As the showers for some moments cease; after giving Earth life’s new lease;
And the pitter-patter of rain is gently appeased;
The sun coyly shines; a cloud it half hides behind;
While the fluffy clouds move along with the cool breeze.
The fields now green and bright; are an artist’s sheer delight;
Pleasing to the senses of smell and sight;
The fresh air so sweet to breathe; that with pleasure the body writhes;
In the newly born rainy sunlight.
But this sunlight so quickly goes; as thunderstorms blow to and fro;
And Earth engulfs in darkness that now grows;
The wind rises and howls; with a voice that trembles all souls;
And day and night this gale roars.
The trees in fear tremble and shake; as leaves, twigs and branches break;
And the life of these trees is put up at stake;
Birds in nests cower with fright; and due to cold shiver with all their might;
And live in fearful anticipation of what else the storm may rake.
The monsoon now shows its ugly face; gone are its days of grace;
Rainy calamities take its place;
Cyclones and floods destruct worldwide; the raging sea throws up its tide;
“Nature reigns supreme”, we are forced to say.
Same is the life of man; may he do what he can;
But destiny will always play a hand;
What all will man control? So he should let destiny play its role;
And enjoy life and act as the situation will demand.
Somedays will shine the sun; those days life will be fun;
And work will be successful how much ever it’s done;
Somedays by the fun you will tire; and will long to get back into the attire;
Of normal life, however boring or glum.
Sometimes hope will come out; like a tiny plant sprouts;
And will remove from your mind every shade of doubt;
It will be a bright, hopeful ray; but for long it may not stay;
So we must make most of it when hope sprouts.
Just as the shower of joy; after summer comes out shy;
So shower of success will come when you have almost given up the try;
It will wash away your helpless sigh; and will give you a new will to try;
Which will help you succeed by-and-by.
Just as the sun goes behind the cloud; when thunder is heard aloud;
And darkness suddenly falls on Earth all around;
So also failure will touch you once; its upto you to prevent its repeated occurrence;
Or due to failure remain depression bound.
Sometimes through demotivation you will go; sometimes loads of success you'll know;
For we need all types of experience to make us grow;
Like some days it is wet; some days the sun for long doesn’t set;
But then it needs both the rain and the sun to make a RAINBOW…
Again the alarm is set.
Strawberries, date squares…Yum, Yum.
The alarm rings again. The tea party is over.
She returns to her perch where her wings are immediately clipped by the Bald Eagle who informs her that a bird doesn’t chirp when her poem is being critiqued, that a bird just listens.
“I didn’t know this was a critiquing session,” she chirps.
I thought it was an afternoon of poetry reading.
“Bring two poems”, is all that the Raven requested.
God! What does she know about critiquing? Everything she knows about poetry, she has learned from a website. She still hasn’t really grasped the meaning of Iambic Tetrameter.
The scar beneath her ring, feels as if it might explode as what remains of her Revlon mask begins to melt under the heat of her humiliation.
God! Please don’t let them see I am a fraud, she prays, as she desperately tries in vain to regain their acceptance, as if there was any in the first place; her being such a sparrow.
The Bald Eagle twitters a poem about her battle with cancer, which brings her to tears. Again, she dares to dream she can be one of this flock as she too is a cancer survivor. It is decided the Bald Eagle’s poem needs punctuation.
Again, still daring to dream of acceptance, she chirps that most of her poetry is also written with very little or no punctuation.
“Well,” the Raven caws, “your poem in comparison is child’s play,” and with those words, breaks the strings of her ‘Violin’.
As the afternoon wears on, the Crow caws for her to be quiet as she can’t hear. Visions of Vultures begin to fly in her head.
Later the old Crow caws that the bird she is addressing as a Blue Bird is not a Bluebird and that the only Bluebird is the Raven’s wife and that the bird she is addressing is a Turkey.
Even, while responding to something the Turkey has chirped to her, the Turkey gobbles for her to be quiet because the Crow is cawing.
The scar beneath her ring now feels like it is splitting apart. Again, all she can see is red. The Vultures are circling now.
Her second poem, ’The Rise and fall of An Empire, is received with little pecking, other than ‘Well it’s poetic.’
The Raven caws, “If he were to be cruel, he would say it contains a cliché,” (a cardinal sin in poetry) as he caws an excerpt from her poem (as the sea grasses sing).
The Turkey, demurely and with a gobble of sarcasm, inquires if everything she writes is in rhyme, as she casts a disdainful glance at her book of poetry.
At 4 p.m., when the final alarm has gone off, the Turkey announces that the next meeting will be at her Nest.
The Raven caws, “The sparrow doesn’t know where you live.”
The Turkey then asks her for her email address, but doesn’t write it down and gobbles she will email her, her address before the next meeting.
“Don’t hold your breath,” cackles the Sparrow’s little voice inside.
The Turkey then drops a book on the coffee table.
Still foolishly seeking acceptance, the Sparrow chirps, “Is that your book of poetry?”
“No, it is ‘Descant’, and I have a poem published in this edition,” she gobbles.
“Yes!” the Crane pipes up. “It’s the only book that REALLY matters, the BOOK that all birds want to be published in,” ruffling her feathers with her innuendo. What? The pitiful Sparrow doesn’t even know what Descant is, she with her self-published book of poetry.
Then the flock gathers together, chirping amongst themselves, and begin to fly away without a single chirp to her, like “Nice to have met you.” “Hope you will come to our next meeting.”
No! They simply leave her there with her wings clipped and her veil removed, having been incinerated by their hot air.
They leave her there with her Revlon mask melting like candle wax, sliding down her face, all their black barbs having finally penetrated her thin skin, exposing her for who she really is.
Not an intellect, not a fraud, just a Sparrow, now in the autumn of her life; a Sparrow who at the age of 16 dared to dream beautiful dreams while living in a nightmare.
A Sparrow, who had many years ago seen an old broken violin in a junk shop and was so moved by its haunting beauty she was inspired to write a poem.
A Sparrow, who as a chick, with her brother, on a summer day, built an Empire made of sand, in a land where sea grasses sang—A Sparrow who knew why violins and willows weep.
A Sparrow who knew she would never be one of them.
Yet she was grateful!
Grateful she had survived the Ides of March, and on this day was left wondering how something so ugly could have grown from something as beautiful as poetry.
"It is a sin to kill a Mockingbird.
When playing games with rocks or guns, defray,
them, please, ...shoot old tin cans!" "Whispered words
of Mockingbirds, only heal wounds of the day"
Virtues are cultivated, children are weeds,
exploring a small southern town. Seeds, so rare,
spread moral ivy, filling knotholes, threading trees,
lining streets, during mad-dog summers.
Scout, one sprout with solid roots, sifts wrong from right
in spite of bull-headed pride. Stirring
up dust, where resistance incites,
although, brother, Jem, gently, grows more reserved.
Scout, Jem, ...best bud, "Dill", are bronzed by summer's sky
Moral's compass guides them home, as night returns
Moral's compass guides them home, as night returns
yet challenged, the precocious child
making assumptions. Folks would confound her!
Some people were an oddity and quite beguiling
Summer would sigh with ceiling fans, softly purring,
people napping, long afternoons. Wilted yawns
of a lethargic town, might seem undisturbed,
with complacency, behind pruned shrubs, tall grass, mowed.
Yet stilted air, would suffocate, with racial slurs
and secret hate. Some hid by day, and spending
their nights in masquerade, while crosses burned.
We'd see a face, pretentious smile, falsely blend
Integrity, at bitter cost, split wide the seams
in 1930. Civil rights were just a dream
In 1930, civil rights were just a dream,
and motherless children were coming of age.
Bare feet were swift. Bandaged knees and hands unclean,
would slam old screen doors, to seek lemonade.
A ghost, they feared, in the raw sided house,
watched close. A tree in his yard, hid treasures he stashed.
The three Musketeers, upon discovering, shout!
Armed by bravado, they are ready to dash.
Putting yourself into another man's shoes,
is a lesson, soon learned by Scout and Jem.
They've faced their fear, and will make a friend. "Boo",
the 'phantom', a new best friend left trinkets and gems.
Kindness learned, role model intact, was Atticus Finch.
A measure of integrity, inch by inch.
A measure of integrity, inch by inch,
advocate for those who won't stand a chance.
Folks down on their luck, where dollars won't stretch
in a depression full blown. Money is scant.
Fighting for the underdog, who have no paycheck.
What's right is right. What's wrong, is wrong.
Someone must stand at the end of the day,
where flies fill a courtroom and tempers grow stronger.
Regardless of skin, be it black, be it white
Unfit, by standards of talcum shaved chins,
if injustice is war, he'll give his lot.
The falsely accused, he'll defend, to the end
Those who wallow in mud, eventually sling lies
when honor goes to hell, and folks sit idle
When honor goes to hell, and folks sit idle,
false accusations can simmer, slowly inciting
bigoted people, into mobs, spewing cries
of hate. Screaming "rape" into the night.
Ignorance and prejudice, are all of one stuff
with corn-likker sauce and gravy mentality,
amphibian worms, as if from a trough,
gorging on mania. They covet brutality.
Led by Bob Ewell, with arrogance oozing.
Clan- fed, tantrums squirming out of control.
Small minded men, choosing squalor, alluding
the truth. Some would sell their mother's soul.
They have lied on the stand, where justice treaded thin.
Where white man's word, over a black, always wins.
Where a white man's word, over black, always wins,
was a rule of the thumb, during those years...
The innocent man, Tom, shackled, condemned,
taken away and waits to die, and endure
With Indian summer, waxing and waning,
Atticus chooses the simplest words.
His children need, wisdom, and calm understanding,
in trying to explain, that most men are good.
He tells them, gently, how someone so crude,
even Bob Ewell, no matter how evil
perhaps in his life, was misunderstood.
The hellish of summers begins to unravel.
But another ill wind, would brew up a storm,
to bring more than a flurry, into their home.
To bring more than a flurry into their home,
burnt embers of color, drift down, red and yellow.
Carved pumpkins, and a grieving autumn, looms
in the night. Roaches encroach, deep in the shadows
As Scout rushes homeward, behind her on the trail,
a whiskey-breath nightmare, with evil intentions
Then, someone appears! Halts this devil,...,Ewell
is not immortal! .....as we come to conclusion.
A guardian presence, waiting to rally
has kept a vigil, guarding children who run,
swiftly through thickets. Lonely Boo Radley,
appeared like an angel, a bird seeking the sun
So pure of heart, and a thing so rare
It is a sin to kill a mockingbird
We have been observing the expanse of the parched land for many years, a land that stood the test of time and captivated by myriad dreams unfolding through the footsteps of the ages thus penetrating our lives. We gazed at the vast mountains and high lands with its luscious vegetation stretching thousands of miles from across them, Autumn on one side, Summer on the other, and Spring reluctantly emerging from a gruesome Winter that paralyzed the inhabitance of nature, stripping it from its wholesome prominence while it convalesce from the battered and bruised earth.
We languished at the sudden disappearance of the water valley and the vast landscape around it. As far as our mind could reach, and as far as our feet could travel we trod upon the visible land within our reach. Land that has never been inhabited stared at us; land that has never been farmed is waiting to be ploughed. I could hear my great, great, grandfather and my grandfather before him shouting at the boys to get out of bed, harnessed the horses and start plowing the land again.
We reminisce over acres of lands that our ancestors have fought for, land that spilled blood and claim the lives of innocent souls and fearless warriors, land that expands from ten generation, stood before us bare and empty, weeping for the souls who have fought furiously to preserve them.
This land that has fed us for more than a hundred years lay waste before our naked eyes, the land that God gave us to feed the next generation has been sold out to strangers. The land is infested with dilapidated old building and at the whistle of the wind they are destined to collapse. They spread out all around the city and is inhabited by ruthless strangers and priced high despite their aging structure.
We lament the days spent on this land but foresee hope for the future. We searched for the farms, but they have disappeared, we look for the streams but they have dried up. Our bodies are polluted with toxic substance from contaminated food washing up on our shores from the other side of the globe, food unfit for human consumption have replaced the natural food on our grandfather's farm.
Oh great God that watches from every corner of the earth, extend your mercies and cause the land to flourish once more. You have given us land so that we can eat; you have given us land so that we can have enough in time of drought. You hold the universe securely in the palm of your hand and expand it so that it can reach everyone. The land is precious in your hand, no one can bargain for it and no price can be paid for it.
When everything is stripped away, and the money diminishes, when our strength fails the land is here to stay. This is the land that will feed the younger generation; this is the land that will produce our crops. Powerful God, proliferate the land once again, mend the broken edges, and rescue your children who have been doped with hatred, intoxicated with bitterness and sedated with evil desires. Empower them and eradicate the poisonous substance from their perishing souls.
We gazed at the vastness penetrating the earth, and see land waiting to be occupied exposed to brutality, exasperate with atrocities and evil works. Great big God, save your children from the open gutters and trenches that awaits them, save the mothers, their suckling and toddlers who have been ravished from their homes and recruited into ruthless activities to torment and demoralize innocent people’s minds. Save them from the snares that await them, the tribulations surrounding their homes and the pestilence that seeks after their souls.
We traveled the entire land, and hear you calling out the young men to till the ground. We can hear you beckoning the young men to throw down their weapons, clean up the garbage and farm on their grandfather’s land. They can hear you but they are too fragile to comply; they have weakened themselves with substances that make them vulnerable and unreliable. Emerge you powerless youth, transpire from your defenseless state, purge your body with clean drinking water and start cultivating the land again.
What else do we have but the land that you have given us? No one can take it away from us because it belongs to you. Strengthen the young men to till the land again and plant on fruitful ground. Bless the earth, and endorse it with your favor, thank you for this journey you are a mighty savior.
©2014 Christine Phillips
PART 1: THE MEETING
Alone one night neath lantern light, I trudged a weary mile.
Forlorn, I went with shoulders bent (the storms around me howled)
until I met a Silhouette behind a sultry smile –
She gazed with eyes that mesmerize (Her body caped and cowled)
and stayed my way with question fey... ‘Why don’t you while awhile?’
The churchyard groaned, an organ moaned, the bells of midnight chimed
as wanton winds awoke and dinned, and mistrals multiplied.
A prostitute – not shrill but mute, with gestures pantomimed –
snuck by in haste, with tracks untraced, beneath the evening tide.
The Persian moon, like arced harpoon, arose and slowly climbed.
The Silhouette (a pale brunette) arched eyebrows meant to please,
and down the lanes, twixt windowpanes, the shadows danced and sighed.
A meadowlark within the dark, somewhere beyond the breeze,
embellished Her with wisps of myrrh while deigning to confide
to nightingales the whispered tales of human vanities.
She doffed her cloak before She spoke with tunes of sorrow sung
(like mandolins, as night begins, when mourning day’s demise)
and spun Her tale of grim travail and tears She'd shed when young.
As jagged volts of thunderbolts lit up the dismal skies,
the creeping fog concealed a bog in coils of curling tongues.
Through summer vales and winter gales Her secret thoughts were voiced.
Midst storms so cruel (neath lightning’s jewel that glistered on the ridge)
She reminisced, She touched... we kissed... Her lips were wet and moist.
A lighthouse dimmed, while moonbeams skimmed across a distant bridge
to avenues where residues of shallow shades rejoiced.
PART 2: HER TRAGIC TALE
“Midst sweet perfume of youthful bloom, the lonely spirit braves
and often cries and sometimes dies in quest of her amour.”
While starry-eyed, a ship I spied, a’ sail upon the waves –
The galleon docked, the seagulls flocked, the Captain swept ashore
where, debonair with gypsy flair, he led his salty knaves.
While passing by, he caught my eye – I tried to hide a blush,
for ambiance of innocence leaves fire’s ice congealed.
His gaze (defined by eyes that shined) beheld my cheek a’ flush.
I bowed my head while caution fled, I felt my fate was sealed
– a bird in spring with fledgling wing – he’d snared a falling thrush.
He said ‘Hello’ – I answered ‘No’ and yet before he’d gone
said I, ‘I’ll wait at Heaven’s Gate not far beyond the Pale’.
At dusk he came neath moon aflame, and left before the dawn
just humming tunes along the dunes that lined the sandy trail
beside a pond where morning yawned, where swam an ebon swan.
We met again, and once again, and once again, again
entangled in a love called sin, in whirls of make-believe.
While in my arms, with voice that charms, said he ‘I must explain –
the tide awaits at morning’s gates and I must take my leave’.
Then tempests formed and vapors swarmed in ardor’s hurricane.
‘Forsake your home and we may roam’ he smiled as if to tease
and still naive, said I ‘I’ll leave, in silver buckled shoes’.
He took the helm in search of realms, before the morning breeze –
with tearful eyes, I bade goodbyes with fare-thee-well adieus
and sailed above a wave of love across the seven seas.
We swept one morn around Cape Horn and sped for Gold Coast Bay.
With naught to reck, I strolled on deck, a baby at my breast,
while zephyrs blew and seagulls flew above the ocean’s spray.
Our ship soon moored, we went ashore and off to Fortune’s Quest –
with gold doubloons which shone like moons, he gambled through the day.
Two deuces wild... he thinly smiled... another card was drawn –
he called and raised with eyes half glazed, was dealt a dismal three.
With betting tight throughout the night, the final ace was gone
and so he lost... at what a cost... alas the prize was me –
with empty bag and pauper’s swag, he left me doomed at dawn.
A buccaneer with ring in ear sneered ‘now, my dear, you’re mine’.
He held my wrists to thwart my fists and then... my honor stained.
In midnight’s swash, the sky awash with tiny tears of brine,
I broke his clutch with nothing much of me that still remained:
a residue when he was through, left clinging to a vine.
In morning dew, the good folks knew, and spurned me in my plight.
The preacher man pronounced a ban and wouldn’t condescend,
ignored my pleas on bended knees and prayers by candlelight.
While cast aside, my baby died... my world was at an end.
Until this day, I’ve made my way beneath the shades of night.
Continued in Part 3
i miss the affect and effect
my father's experiences
of mindless mass destruction
that had me pinned to every word
as moonlight on each
shone down on their dugout
'johnny, got a light'
dad lit his zippo
and eric was gone
he didn't hear a thing
no bullet whirr
not even the 'tink' of his helmet
and i think how good it is
to smell life
to sniff an ambush of the heart
under heavy fire as he
forced to headlong a ditch
on the bloated green remains
of the enemy
and promptly puked over its putrid face
and shat himself
he'd not hear the next 'tink'
six hour he laid there
six ****ing hours
and i '****' and carp
as my oh-so convenient
worldwide walkie-talkie bill
dollops the coconut footwipe
and curse the dog crapped patio
can you imagine
i can feel the ****
the blink last glance in the mirror
reflecting how lucky i am
to breathe this chink of words
for your pleasure
tear or revulsion
your notions of a small constellation
and how good it is to eye
those chinks in the dark
that effeminate uncle john
may have faced
but for happenstance
his brother donald being short-fused
had stuck his cornea with scissors
which saw him stage
his most memorable performance
tending the testosterone of gold braid
for the duration
down the salt-watered south
others committed harakiri
for such failing the flag
for humility's sake
or the drip drip drip
of a tortuous rising sun
or the footrot thunder of a flemish field
or sodden wood where
on a sudden an adolescent fritz
no more summers than fifteen
crossed hairs in his eye
and dad sighted
his mutter at home
worried for the safe return of her joy
and her heart broken
by the black edged letter
as he triggered his brain
to a million specks of red
and wept uncontrollably
for an age
the futility and long awaited remembrance
of all those poor bastards whose heroics
led them insane
and blindfolded by their own waste
but it's dog eat dog
someone has to helm the hounds
be the master of bloodshed
suicide dead or alive
when demons rise
and i think of the insomnia
souls nightmared by hazard
horror lost hope
and the monsters that hatched
and slithered rope tricks
to mangoes pineapples
and hog plums
yet how good
to bite the sinful fruit
to feel the thunder of a storm
the cosiness of chintzy-chintzy
chinwags and muffled naughtiness
secreted beneath blankets
amid the cramped inconveniences
of smells and belly rumbles
and the weather speaks gales
blowing from the north
as on the day he reached
a small homestead
somewhere in belgium
a one room
one door where a woman hung
from a knife through the throat
her mammaries and genitalia
ripped from her red
and her daughter
of a few million breaths
swung in the chilled air
from a meathook in a beam
while a sepia'd loved one
stood by and smiled
and i think of the propaganda
the espionage and intrigue
the red herrings meticulously cast
for the irony of a pretend war
enduring the stark misery
but lies can be a bonus
in extreme circumstances
to assuage the inevitable hurricane
in the apple of its eye
and how good it is
to feel the skin and wetness
of gooseflesh giggling
to laugh a moment's relief
as father's platoon
in a lull from fear and sunshine
as they smoked and dusted their boots
through the ardenne forest
hundreds of them
when a whistle shellshocked the blood
pumping from the neck of
a glaswegian from peckham
who loved his potatoes greasy
after several headless footfalls
they never found his looks
and dad hungered how good
another chance of roast pork
and a handshake would be
and i think of the logistics
that beggars belief
and how much better equipped
to manage death than life
with all the fields that have harvested
bones of memories
blood rusted metal
medals hung from heroes
and arseholes alike
and i think of the what ifs
had little maria schicklgruber
drowned in a viennese lake
had hitler a bullet with his name
in world war one
the lives that would have had
their due iceblink of this gift
this diamond moment
to experience sunups
of love as i've been blessed
because an austrian megalomaniac
choreographed my parents footsteps
affecting and effecting your life
with my words
My father died prematurely while away on
a business trip from a rogue blood clot to the heart
I never doubted he loved me, would have liked me,
(not the same thing), adult to adult, provided I
was not too strong a woman for him. He was difficult--
a Henry VIII of the times, two divorces, a first wife
we never knew, one from my mother when I was six,
then heated voices from their bedroom with a third,
heard in darkness beyond my door, hands over my ears.
But, he was DADDY. the god-like person who emceed
his daughter's birthdays, planned games, gave out prizes,
while a backstage stepmom provided cake. Cake
mistress, fond father. Thus, I learned to turn to men.
Tennessee Williams wrote, "My sister was quicker
at everything than I." I was like that, maybe not quicker
than my brothers, but quick to fall in love with cities,
objects, water anywhere: tide pools, oceans, rivers,
mountain streams, stately geese, lake ducks in queues,
the vermillion of winter sunsets, purity of cumulus
in a summer sky, the scarlet flash of a cardinal from tree
to tree. Good luck, always, but with bad luck, I always
fell in love with impossible men, ones who left me, or I left
them. The husband who stayed? He was the true one.
Then, there was Mr. K, my high school principal, a dead ringer
for Thomas Wolfe, with whom the girl I was must have
thought she could go home again. His costume
"de rigueur" was a rumpled white shirt, black trousers
splayed with chalk dust, coal black hair, and an imposing
presence no one took issue with, maybe not even his
British wife, teaching English in the same school.
I sent him my poems by a classmate to his office, too shy
to deliver them myself. Years later, "Poetry mash notes,"
a colleague said, inciting laughter in a poetry audience with
whom I shared my youthful infatuation, the energy lingering
long after he signed my graduation diploma, because Yes,
he read my poems, and Yes, I sat dazzled in his English Lit
class to "Beowulf," "Chaucer," and the Shakespeare plays we
took turns reading aloud. When he chose another to read
Portia instead of me, "for her gentle voice," I was devastated,
yet when a boy spoke out in class to criticize my poems:
"No one can understand what she writes," Mr. K. replied
"On the contrary, she writes about very complex things with
very simple language." This praise never left me.
Years after, moving to Atlanta with my husband and small
children, our paths crossed again. Living there
at the same time, Mr. K. and I found each other in an
Episcopal parish, its satisfying high-church "smells and bells"
the only show in town, "Spiky," his wife said. There, our
friendship deepened, until Mr. K. moved to England with his wife,
she returning home to complete the cycle, finish out the years
at point of origin. We do go home again, Thomas Wolfe not-
withstanding, as did I, seeking toward close of life
the comfort and substance of birthplace.
Mr. K. returned occasionally to Atlanta for a visit with his son.
He would call me, and it was then that we met for dinner,
most often at Zazu's an intimate bar and restaurant on Peachtree.
What did we talk about sitting across a table from each other?
I do not now remember, but once I observed him glancing at
his aging hands and comparing them to mine, younger by a few,
completely irrelevant years. I once asked him as he entered
his later years if he ever felt "old." He said No, he felt the same
as he always had. This was a revelation: I imagined people
felt as old inside as they looked. This is not the case, as
I was to discover in my own lifetime.
On one evening I did not know would be the last time, Mr. K.
and I sat in my car in darkness after dinner in front of his son's
house. As he prepared to leave, he said, "I don't know how I shall
get along without you, though I've been without you all these
years. We never touched, save in the bond of friendship, and more's
the pity. Some time passed. I wrote a letter to Mr. K.and his wife.
It was returned unopened with a message on the envelope,
"Both deceased." In my car, then, that last night, it was Adieu --
To God, not Au Revoir. Now, with "All time, all attitudes washing
away," as I wrote in a poem called "Fernandina," he lives
in the room in the heart where no one enters but me.
No need for a phone call. I hold the key.
What's that in your hand?. Let me see.. He said.
It's a picture; that`s Chuck; he is my friend... I said.
You pick your friends kinda young, don't you?... He said.
No, that was a long time ago. We were in college... I said.
I'd like to hear more about your pal Chuck... He said.
Okay... I met Chuck in New Paltz in `74... I said.
Oh, that's the pot smoking college, isn't it... He said.
Don't generalize, everyone's not the same... I said.
You're right. So tell me some more about Chuck... He said.
Okay, so you want the short version, or long one ... I said.
Whatever you like, I have plenty of time ... He said.
Well, this guy Chuck approaches me; he looks perplexed... I said.
So what was his issue. Why that look on his face... He said.
Chuck tells me "No one will stay with me in the room."... I said.
How odd is that? That doesn't make sense... He said.
You and I swing one way, Chuck swings the other. ... I said.
Now I see what the problem was; What did you do?... He said.
What do you think ? That doesn't bother me.... I said.
Hey, you want to hear a funny story? It's a side splitter... I said.
I've got time. I could use a good laugh right about now... He said.
Chuck had a 53 Schwinn bicycle, all chrome, red and white... I said.
You've got to be kidding me. I haven't seen one in years.... He said.
I'd hop on back. We`d go to town and chug down a few together... I said.
That's not funny. Where's the punchline? So what happened?... He said.
Well, one day Chuck failed a test and got super pissed off.... I said.
That's not funny either. You've got to do better than that.... He said.
He yanked on the handlebar so hard, he busted it clean in half... I said.
Wow ! Did they have "Funniest Home Videos" back then?... He said.
That's not all. We had so much fun together. There's more... I said.
Don't keep me in suspense. Lay it on me..... He said
There was this girl; unique with a special attribute.... I said.
What was so special? Three breasts instead of two?... He said.
No joke, her name was Madam Clittora! Enough said... I said.
I can't believe that. You gonna leave me hanging?... He said.
Anyway, shortly after that, I graduated. Chuck was younger.... I said.
So what happened to Chuck? Good friends keep in touch... He said.
We saw him two years later. We visited With his family, was nice... I said.
Ever see them again? You shouldn't desert a friend.... He said.
You're right. But things don't always pan out... I said.
So what does that mean? You both seemed quite close.... He said.
I was married at the time with a lot of responsibilities... I said.
So that's no excuse. You should've kept in touch... He said.
After that, I didn't. Time changes things. Wasn't intentional.... I said.
So is there more to this story? There's got to be more... He said.
Oh, there is. Time moves on. 35 years later... I said.
It's 2010 and out of the blue, I think of my old pal Chuck... I said.
So you didn't forget him after all, but almost... He said.
It's a gamble, Chuck Drzal was in the phonebook; I called... I said.
Good for you. You took a chance, renewed a friendship... He said.
You're right. Just like old times. `74 again. What a feeling... I said.
So what happened next. Tell me quick, can't wait... He said.
We talked off and on, old times and new things; it was good... I said.
So it sounds like things are really working out for you guys... He said.
We saw Chuck, in the summertime; looked good for 52... I said.
Hey that's great news; Is there more to the story?... He said.
A little more... His friend died the day after we saw him... I said.
Oh, bummer. Sorry to hear that. How`s Chuck now?... He said.
Called him in November. His diamond ring was stolen... I said.
Wow ! That's a real downer. Did they catch the bastard?... He said
No !... I said.
There's got to be more than that. Call him since then?... He said..
Yeah... but... I called twice... he never answered the phone... I said.
Well, I hope you find out how he is doing?... He said.
I did. Saw his obit a few days ago. He died November 17th... I said.
He looked at me. A tear rolled down his cheek... He said nothing..
I looked at him. Couldn't speak, all choked up.... I said nothing.
He looked at me. Gave me a hug, turned and walked away.
I yelled to the universe... "That's Chuck, he's my friend!"
like a Renaissance baby born of man and woman
to a fatherless mother without hope for a
future worth passing on or an inheritance
worth inheriting at all in its own debt
that truth to life which breathes so hard
cancerous lungs and a diseased heart
that beats to the vanity of its own blood
a suffering sound does it make like a
thief running on a watery sunbathed street
the falsity of all of the jewels in his hands
that shine so bright diamonds and pearls
glimmer glimmer so they glimmer they
shimmer they shimmer a cold winter
does it snow in the summer does it
rain in that place called hell I can’t imagine
a break from the heat this year it’s
been quite the year as to this point
soot sits silently on the hill of shadows
oh does it sit so very solemnly sometimes
ashes ashes we all fall down the corpse
of Mary’s little lamb rotted away to nothing
but dust and sin and maggots and grit
wonder do I now of all times where
that burnished throne of Eliot does sit
so I might plant myself upon it and
bloom a song of myself and sing the body
electric until maybe it comes back to life
perhaps the winter is too harsh for roses
this year and the summer too hot
but the frost told me the trail was rough
so I perhaps of all should think not
tears of a better day cried for tomorrow
as though the sand should fall up
but it will never come again for us
we only have the present to live
not a minute more than the second
we’re given when we think just now
do you see do you see do you see
it’s quite a remarkable thing to think
and know that for just now this very moment
you’re capable of saying you have life
but in a flash it could all be gone
like the last note of some forgotten and
overly played and out of tune song
do you sing my friend oh ever
should you sing a song to me
would I smile so bright and laugh
so long into the midnight where
the moon beats red against the dead sky
a light over the world where corpses
walk and humans die pathetic
remembrances of who they once were
you can look and you can cry but
the photographic tears will never dry
and they’ll water your soul until
it blooms a subtle dead thing
you might ask Simon what he sees
if the Lord of the Flies is real or
if maybe the body of war is just
another nightmare of the raped thing
we so call a home or a country or
whatever we choose to label it
in these malicious and malignant
times and yet I wonder if maybe
hope can be found in the rotten
flesh of some selfish soul
tis I that is nobody but myself
a worthless man behind the face
of another dead and delinquent one
a mask is only a mask until you
give it the presence of animation
a mask becomes a face when
you let it become one it’s a thing
called freedom or liberation or choice
never perceive the American dream
as something that it isn’t because
those great donators those ejaculators
of emancipation want you free
they want you to choose the oppression
that you so crave and desire
only you can light your flesh on fire
burn baby burn baby burn
let that great wheel turn and turn and turn
until it’s fully satisfied with itself
and all of the things it’s done in its life
some great and liberated idea
that a woman’s body is a man’s toy
but who should I see but a woman
carry the child that he kills with
a flick of his alcoholic wrist
this thing called love is cruel
to those who believe in it
maybe that’s why God is love
because both are cruel and both
cross out their own ideas with nothing
but the idea of their own ideas
you can’t live a life in a book
you can’t live a life in hope that
someday you’ll live a different life
streets of gold are great and heaven is okay
but what does that matter in terms of today
when you can die before you
even comprehend what I’m telling you
so what’s the point then
why am I doing this
why am I even an artist at all
when my portraits of life reflect nothing
but the opaque things in the human soul
you don’t even care so I think I’m done now
see you some other time friend
I hope you don’t let them hurt
you like they hurt me
I hope you don’t hurt yourself
like I hurt me
I hope you don’t become an