Steven's Poetry/Writing: October 2002 Archives

Make That Two Poems


Make That Two Poems

Another poem, more recent vintage (only just slightly) from the working files, so expect the occasional clinker.

Sinner's Song
A Journey from near Repentance to (self) Justification

I have so long annihilated self
on the altar of self,
so often sacrificed myself to myself--
the God of my own body,
tastebuds, passion, blood.

I have sought to forget myself
in self, to hide from
who I am in what I do.
So long have I fled myself
I have come not to know
Him whom I flee.

I have cut off offending
hands, plucked out offending
eyes to find they
hydra-like return, now
twice as active.

I have hidden from the truth
and marred the truth
beyond hope of recognition.
I have a pretended virginity
that I use to seduce
those so sure of themselves.

I have spoken to God, to myself,
wondering always if it
is to Him or to me all homage
is due. I have taken
His tribute upon me and
returned nothing.

Will God ever cut me loose
say, "Begone sinner from
my sight?" Does His patience
last forever, does His
mercy endure beyond knowing?

I live only because He gives
thought to me, to the atoms
that move through me. I draw
breath by His sweet will
and I move at His command.
So I must conclude that He
keeps me, no matter how far
I am from Him.

And I resent His care
with the resentment of one
poor offered charity unasked for.
I resent his love as a man
resents the wife of his youth
who he hopes will let go
and give him back
new vistas of women.

I am lost in God
without a compass, drowned
in love, and thrashing.
I sin and sin again, and marvel
as He stays His hand.
And taunt Him--what kind
of king are you who
offers me everything that does
not matter here on Earth?
Come down from that cross
and give me something
that matters.

I don't want redemption
and joy, I want only
the freedom to be me
and to find myself
in all my revels and my
dreams, in all the things
that now only taunt me
with pale hints of freedom.

I do not ask for Mercy,
nor for love, nor passion,
nor any distant spiritual
thing. I ask only for the
reality that is me. I ask only
the favor of being
who I am and knowing
it for the first time.
I ask only for the freedom
to ask no more and make
my path MY path.
I ask only for the reign of the
simple hell of self rather
than perpetual bondage to those
who do not love me.

Give me all the world, I do not
as for more.

I do not ask for all the worlds,
for dead eternity.

Only for the light I am.

© 2002, Steven Riddle

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Another Day, Another Poem


Another Day, Another Poem

A reply, after a fashion, to the contentions of the murderer in Name of the Rose.

The Wedding
Do you suppose at Cana Jesus frowned
at all the guests? Scowled at every request
from host and hostess, mother and all? Droned
endlessly about Himself and suggested
ways each person could improve his life and
then stormed away like a prima donna
when they were far too drunk to understand
a word He said? Or do you think He laughed
and sang and wished the couple joy, and ate
and danced and showed all there how to live well?
Do you suppose he stood away, now quiet
distant and removed? Or did Jesus tell
a joke and talk to everyone?

© 2002, Steven Riddle

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A Different Kind of Poem


A different kind of offering:

Shimmering Ridge

They tore down the firetower on Shimmering Ridge,
or so my grandmother told me last night.
Somehow, I can't imagine it.

She said some person bought the land,
thought the tower a threat
to children (more likely he thought it
a place to attract visitors--and rightfully so).

From the height of the tower
(even though you could not get
into the grey painted house itself,
you could stand on a landing
just below it and look)

what you would see...
it's hard to say,
the ridge changed in a hour
so in a day, month or year,
a thousand, a million pictures of what
is and what is to come, what was,
and what will be again.

So he tore it down.

Every Shimmering Ridge has its tower
and children have climbed them for ages.
When I went, I could see the ghostly
guards in green who chased children
away from the dangerous heights,
the perilous, life-changing sights.

But, when it closed down
parents were still there,
underneath, telling their children
to be careful
to take it easy
the platform is high,
they might fall.

And, of course, it never occurred
to the children that they might fall too.
No, they would drift, a softest
flailing drift and land
as autumn leaves at its base.

The tower held no terror
for those whose eyes were set on
the Shimmering Ridge,
no fear for those who fell
into the rich foliage of fall.

And now, it is no more,
but must always be, a way of
seeing beyond sight, a way of
being beyond mere construction.

The firetower is no more
and stands still on the ridge,
looking out as it always did,
shimmering with the ridge itself.

© 2002 Steven Riddle

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Okay Celtiphiles, see how many of the following references you can identify clearly and place in Irish Folklore/Poetry. (Note: all spellings anglicized--even then--good luck pronouncing them. Irish orthography and phonemics, fundamental contradictions in terminology) Good luck.

Battle Song of the Sons of Cuchulain
Ta na la the trumpets sound to         herald day from her sweet rest
even now the bird calls throng,         boring through the darkened forest.
Of heroes old and days of deeds        only ancients can remember,
knolls of Fay, the Sidhe of Dannan        Oisin and his fated family,
fireside stories for the evening when         the slaughter will be over.
Hence now for the frosty fields where        Emer wandered all alone, where the
Druid sought out Fergus, and where        Ulster won their battles.
Not for such as Maeve's beauty        can we stay our swords much longer,
Only now we seek our vengeance        where our fathers died in battle.

© 2002, Steven Riddle

Note, these are supposed to be two approximately equal half-lines on the same level--many browsers will not display them that way. Sorry.

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Dedicated with great admiration and gratitude to those in the forefront of those who support the sanctity of human life.


Soon they all say.
It is so soon too.

Soon say the doctors
with the big spoons.
Soon momma says.
They nod their heads.
Smoothely the mound of her
belly moves--so slowly.

Is the music playing
says momma.
The music is playing.

The doctors play
with the shiny spoons.
The light
inside is warm
and dark.

Soon the slide will speed me
out to momma. Soon in
all the quiet.

Momma's belly

O momma, I say
as the slide moves me.
Is the music playing
momma. Inside
she says, soon soon.

© 2002, Steven Riddle

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For a Fellow-Traveler, a Fragment


This poem is not completely ready for prime-time. Something is missing and I'm uncertain where to take it or how to go. But I'm convinced that this fragment was given me to address a specific misconception that many may secretly hold.

What a narrow hardened place, the human heart
where you have deigned to have your home,
where wizened walls would squeeze you out,
and we would live, imperious, alone.

Locked outside this chamber sere and harsh,
the hardest place that God has ever known--
You who came in love to die for all beg leave
to change to flesh this heart of stone.

You ask the master of this desert place
if you might enter and start to sweep it clean,
an indifferent shrug the single silent reply
and a door left ajar that could only mean

come in and be about your business now,
before I have a chance to change my mind.

© 2002, Steven Riddle

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Une Piece Surrealiste


I may have complained publicly about so-called surrealist poetry that consists largely of strings of words that together mean nothing. The following, imperfect though it may be, gets at what i would like surrealist poetry to be. So, maybe it's just a different brand of poetry entirely and I'm arguing semantics.

at a lecture

Do we need a synthesis? Sometimes
my ears cannot hear
words and must hear past
words. Then you
wonder which way.
Too much, too often,
and speaking up, the small man said,
"Black please," but they spilled
the milk. And served it
black anayway. It was swept away on the
shoestring of an
old woman's sneakers
as she was shopping through
bin after bin for bargain shoes.
The salesman thought it best to pass
on the bootblack, the season being warm
and the weather turning wet.
Don't you wander where you're going
sometimes, she said, he said, but they doubted both,
and listened to the minister himself.
Where do you find remainders after division has healed
the multiplication of ills? Not as easily
the blacksmith would reply were
he not a

© 2002 Steven Riddle

To paraphrase Eugene Ionesco, from one of the most amusing plays I have read--"Have a lovely cartesian quarter of an hour with it."

Later in the same play, a conversation overheard,

"What about the Bald Soprano?" (La Cantatrice Chauve)

"I love the way she does her hair."

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Work in Progress I wanted


Work in Progress

I wanted to share this for any comments or reactions. There are two points that I am a bit concerned about. First, I realized the title is suggestive of Vachel Lindsay's magnificent "General Booth Enters Heaven." It is not intended to refer to that poem, nor is the content even remotely similar. The second is that it may seem to approach universalism by implication. I am not a universalist, largely because the Church has put the whole idea under Anathema. But let me say that my approach is very similar to what I understand of both Hans Balthasar and, more recently, Richard John Neuhaus. I am somewhat concerned about Jesus saying, "Judge not lest ye be judged." Here I hope I have not judged, but only played out a scenario both possible, and it is my prayer, probable for all us weak mortals.

Jesus Greets Sir Richard Rich

My perjurer,
My chancellor,
my saint-maker,
my conniving fool,
my puppet,
my liar,
my escapee.

Your fine clothes
betray you,
lock you up
again and again.

You ask no
quarter, gave
none. You gave
me a martyr,
and helped to slay
the conscience
of a king
far gone along
that way.

Oh my fellow,
what shall I
do to you?
But for the
prayers of
that merry
one, who twists
words with the rest
of the puzzlers--
with Good Robert
of the Canon Code,
and Jerome
who made me
known to all.
With Thomas
who loved me
with words all straw,
and Francis
who laughs them all
to silliness.
That man, good
friend, has bent
my ear for
year upon year.

So though your case
was perilous
close, my father's
Grace, through my
mother's hands
brought me yet
another bought
with my own blood.

Oh my perjurer,
meet him whom
you doomed and be
welcomed through
his love to
this heaven, though
it be hell
your actions earned.

© 2002 Steven Riddle

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Camera Obscura Literally. And Like


Camera Obscura


And Like Shadows, Flow Away

Meet me on a plain
of glass.
Fly to me there
we are the only monuments.

Come to me
                        across the water
chasing your reflection
until you fall
                       in love
with a shadow

twin. Together
we will bind
our reflections,
the shadows that chase
us.          And flow away.

© 2002, Steven Riddle

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Poetry Offering


Here's my offering for the day. Duck everyone!


Chains bind
and part. They close,
in fences they unite.

My chains burn,

they freeze
and I am part of them,
unwilling to part.

So I wake from darkness
and fall to darkness.
Unclear eyes

refuse to focus
on the world around me.

Seeking to rip
the veils,
I slip on the chains
that bind me.

© 2002, Steven Riddle

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We Are All Passersby


We Are All Passersby

We are a pilgrim people, set on Earth with Heaven at the end. I do not claim to understand this, but the knowledge is burned deep into my bones and as much as I set my mind to deny it, I cannot do so and remain rational. Though I have spent a great deal of my journey wandering down side paths and into alley-ways, I have never once been tempted with the thought that there is no God. Now when I say tempted, I mean not that the thought hasn't crossed my mind, because it has, but that the thought had absolutely no weight in crossing and left no mark. I have never once in my life doubted the existence of God, but I have doubted, and continue to doubt my ability to recognize. Him. Even if I cannot see Him, I will love Him nevertheless by proclaiming to any who will listen that He cannot be doubted without a serious compromise of our ability to operate intellectually and emotionally in the real world. And thus--this imperfect poem--about a pilgrim people.

Finding the Way
Steven Riddle

Pilgrim feet wear flat the coldest cobbles
of a country lane. Bare feet have long trod
and worked the way of water on these bold
markers. Once white, now mottled blue, the veins
of Earth rise with wear. Off this path weary
travelers have rutted clotted red clay
roads to runnels, ditches, paths and dreary
dead ends. An Absolute balm--endless day
lilies embedded in the banks wave heads
heavy with bowing blossom, salute those
who pass but once and walk straight, scent the thread
of people who weave to and fro, who choose
not one step, but a warp and weft--going
and coming, not certain of direction.
These poor souls who wander without knowing
destination, look for benediction
in their motion. Some day these feet will wear
away any sign of stone, and yet they will
not know which way to go--never nearing
the end of the journey because they still
seek the assurance that comes only from
taking one step at a time in the dark,
not seeking light, not trying to see. Home
is as foreign as this unknown, this stark
reality some embrace. Cold stone chills bone
but the dark-opened heart is never alone.

© 2002, Steven Riddle

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Another--The Space Between


The Space Between
More often than not,
the space between
dominates. You cannot be
closer if there
is no distance
to begin.

More simply:
the space between seconds
makes time flow evenly.
Measure it down to
size unimaginable

        there is a break
when one second spills
over into the next.

More importantly:
the breathing
spaces, the living

     never/always filled,
the space where
I wait

for you. Because some

places were made to be
filled. You complete
the pattern as
no other.

The frozen instants
when nothing is
and one second flashes
over into another.
Those strained spaces
flash on and off
with passing time
so fast no one can see.

I say
say you love me
in the space between
the soup and meat
between myself
and the cool sheets.
I say show me
as space turns on
and off. I'm sure
you can't

        fill the space
between us.

So I'm surprised
again and again
as you never fail to
fill the empty spaces
your lips against mine,
our bodies bending
the space between.

© 2002 Steven Riddle

Sorry, can't get the spacing exactly right--proportional font with exact spacing just doesn't work out and I don't want to put this in some ugly courier face.

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Poem Appropriate for October


As with many this is old and needs a bit more shaping than the swift brush up it is getting in retyping, but, all of that said, it seemed particularly apropos to October. The poem is build on productive ambiguity of phrase that helps by resonance to expand the poem.

Ars Poetica
Steven Riddle

Let's not talk words
though I am armed
in this escalating race

with books that tell
me how to pull shape
from shapelessness

and how to tell the sound
of a silver bell from a brass.

Sharp words slice the enveloping
sac and lay bare fragile flesh
to scouring sand, wind, and sun.

Words turn on those who utter them
and exact vengeance
for being loose and free

in a world that scarcely
notices a cyclone of them.

Words wrap around the blasted heath
descending to the body of the poet
spent with rage
and hope and feed there.

Promethean in their vengeance
eumenidic in their exactions

they rest forever
outside once uttered always
eating a way in.

©2002 Steven Riddle

The two lines that begin with Greek references seem somewhat weak to me, so abstract as to be flabby and unnecessary, so likely in subsequent renditions they will either be cut or transmuted. I hesitate to bore you with the details, on the other hand, some find the process of growth and revision, particularly of a type of writing they are less familiar with, to be of interest. I'm sure, all of you being quite courteous, I sha'n't hear any complaints, but if you would prefer to hear only perfect and polished gems, drop me a line. I am certain that I can find some somewhere in the works of the 16th-17th century! :-)

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Here is one that I have wrestled with a great deal and still am not certain about some of the decisions made.

Evening Gown
Steven Riddle

Her shoulders
white against
starkest black--
a velvet

black promise,
the plump breasts
perfumed, ask
no questions,
and yet are
soft and wise
as eggs

as salmon
in the stream.
Rounded now
hidden now
revealed, seen
anew by
icy eyes.
senses now
perfect, now
and alone.

Forlorn and
neither speak
nor know the truth.

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I was going to post a little ditty called "Sybaritic Luxuries," influenced by imagist and symbolist schools of poets, but I fear that doing so would make already similar sites almost indistinguishable. So, enjoy the wonderful, exotic, almost overripe offering chez La Vita Nuova and then return for the following non-symbolist, non-imagist (well, at least nearly so) poem:

Evening Conversation
Steven Riddle

The chill evening--the conversation a grey fruit
gravid--with what seed and
future generation--
nightshade, hollyhock, belladonna, yew--
this ghost-breath filled nursery
is silent.

Not until the tick-tick-ticking of the cooling engine
plucks gently and asks,
"Where now, how far, where should we go?"
do you remember how dangerous the prospect
of transplanting any growth, and question
the wisdom of planting at this time
when the workers for the harvest are so uncertain.

But the spell of things now possible hangs thick
in that silver air, and the conversation
coils around again to separate the space from the silence.

©2002 Steven Riddle

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Steven's Poetry/Writing category from October 2002.

Steven's Poetry/Writing: September 2002 is the previous archive.

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