Saturday, October 23, 2010

All Hallow's Eve

The end of October has been associated with change and passage--from one season to another, from one state of life to another--across many centuries and cultures. Whether called Samhain, All Saint's Day, Halloween, or the Day of the Dead, whether celebrated with commercialized frivolity, harvest gratitude, resignation or a darker emotion, it evokes the death of summer and the feelings that accompany it. So, in recognition of that passage from a rich autumn world to a bleaker winterscape, a new Off the Shelf selection from Stephen Crane, and also the poem below,  from 1991.

Photo by Ansel Adams, Church, Taos Pueblo, 1942



The cool breath of the dead sighs down the hall.
It peels my soul like an old potato,
thick slices of skin and soft woody flesh
dropping in a spiral on the kitchen table of this
tired life.

A speaking shadow stands at the door,
an empty replicant.
A grey curse hangs over him
like the sullenness of unshed rain
blowing past a withering crop.

Huddled in the closed grave of my bed
I compose my bones in paleolithic repose
with dry flowers, an awl of horn,
a broken string of red beads 
       drifted with earth,
waiting for the ending of that next birth.

O I hear you out there,
rapping, knocking, calling
with a mute vibration
begging to come in and have me.

O yes I answered last time and see
See me now.

Roll the rock and stop the door.
Put the holy symbol round my neck.
Only keep
    the shadow

March 1991

Illustration: The Vampire, by Philip Burne-Jones  (1861-1926)
Philip Burne-Jones [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Song of the Lithophyte

Song of the Lithophyte

As the heavy centuries have passed
their light repeating strokes across creation,
flowing the veils of earth at last
from a millennium’s striation
yet working only on the surface of the whole,

so, subtle tireless and remote
the long years have washed you,
put here a line upon your curving throat,
there in your dark hair a mica hue,
but pause now as the work draws near your soul.

A green airy growth lives inside each crack
the weathered rock turns upward to the sun.
The rain that slices inward to the bone
reveals its solemn involuted knack
of being rich in what all else may shun,
thriving on the rind of true alone.

As the hand of man has served
to carve a quicker gore than windblown sand
toward the ore the hillside hides reserved,
so your face is mined by your own hand.
The channels there were cut by salted tears,
and not the wayward miners of the years.

Your face was markless once beside the river
where we lay in harmony of mind.
Downstream the nuclear fire could not deliver
half the power there for us to find.

Firefly light made weedy shadows vast
where the vapor of the meadow burned
with heatless fire.
In the timestream’s flux we put a mast,
round which the planetary sails billowed and turned
at our desire.

As the wheel of centuries has made
chaos out of order, life from death;
as the crags and peaks where Moses prayed
were once the ballroom where the breath
that cuts them now to dust and ruin
was only known as seaweed’s dancing tune,

so now upon your face old thoughts parade
that I would sink deep roots in if I could
and end this lithophytic serenade
with soft sleep together in the green wood
and above us put the timeless firmament
at one with time’s and nature’s own intent.

June 1986

You can find some additional information about some of the elements in this poem here

Remarks:Song of the Lithophyte

Song of the Lithophyte  was written in June of 1986, when I was 37 years old. A lithophyte, according to wikipedia, is ".. a type of plant that grows in or on rocks. Lithophytes feed off moss, nutrients in rain water, litter, and even their own dead tissue." The 'nuclear fire' referred to is a nuclear power plant located on the Connecticut River that has since been decommissioned, rather appropriately.

Image: Old postcard, public domain

Saturday, October 16, 2010

At Teotihuacan

Piramide de la Luna 072006

At Teotihuacan

Dipping in and out of sleep
like a duck grazing under ruffled water,
nodding back and forth
in the space between two worlds.

A line beneath two dots is the number seven;
a wall of stone skulls records the passing of years.
Down twining runs of brick the effluvium of a great city
circles outward and away.

Snakes and feathers
are beauty and eternity.
Circles are mountains, and
the serpent’s head may speak
when the fires burn again.

A square headed figure like a bench
holds in thick fingers
a bowl for the god to drink
a sip of blood.

Skulls ridiculous and grave,
skulls to make Hamlet think again,
skulls mounted on rods
for storage.
Skulls crushed and painstakingly reassembled
for our edification.
All empty bottles, bent cans,
rotting in the great temporal gutter.

The gods are not upright
but crouched like stumps,
fat half-melted beings immutable and complex,
full of killing detail and dangerous eyes.
One can offend them merely by living,
leaving only one recourse.

January, 1988

Teotihuacan " an enormous archaeological site in the Basin of Mexico, just 30 miles northeast of Mexico City, containing some of the largest pyramidal structures built in the pre-Columbian Americas. Apart from the pyramidal structures, Teotihuacan is also known for its large residential complexes, the Avenue of the Dead, and numerous colorful, well-preserved murals..The city is thought to have been established around 100 BC and...may have lasted until sometime between the 7th and 8th centuries AD. At its zenith, perhaps in the first half of the 1st millennium AD, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas. At this time it may have had more than 200,000 inhabitants, placing it among the largest cities of the world in this period..."~wikipedia

Header photo: Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan, Mexico, 
By Gorgo  [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Entry Level Announcement

Welcome to Verse Escape. It's a textual mindscape of the past and possibly the present and future where I intend to dredge up poems and written reflections from the sludge of decaying notebooks and let them see the light of electronic display.

I have a bad habit of writing at length on the flimsiest of pretexts, and may be unable to resist so doing from time to time, but the main purpose of this blog is to scissor out past poems and occasional journalizing from dozens of musty, disintegrating notebooks ranging over a thirty year period and slap them into one spot. If you don't like reading poetry, you may be in the wrong place. If you do,or if you're curious to see if you might, I hope you'll find something of at least passing interest here.

Final Caveat: Verse Escape is an attempt on  my part to create a spot where I can preserve things I've written in the past that would otherwise be lost on my death. It's not an attempt to surprise the world with any new thing, or intended to generate any particular reward other than the act itself. In that spirit, literary critiques are not solicited, but serious comments of impression and reaction, positive or negative, will always be welcome.