Steven's Poetry/Writing: September 2006 Archives

A Taste of Heaven


from Hammer and Fire
Fr. Raphael Simon, OCSO

As human beings we are a composite of body and soul. Our heats will be captivated by the sweetness of the society of Jesus and Mary, our eyes by the loveliness of their countenances, our ears by their voices. In their company we will be at home at last.

There will be the joy of the companionship of the saints, including relatives, friends, and intercessors.

No one will be lost in this multitude, no one unknown, no one neglected. Each will be, as it were, the center of attraction of all, of all-embracing love and amiable companionship, without trace of discord.

In heaven's ballroom there are no wallflowers,
no last-chosen left standing
for long hours
as the teams are formed.

In heaven's throne room, every child is
an only child with the full
attention of every person in the room.

God loves each as though
each one were His only child.

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An Invitation to Versify

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The haiku below serves as the blog invitation to linked-verse:

Fall fell in one night
cold crept in, painting the sky,
summer's cessation

To help in the project, use the comments box to complete the haiku above by adding two seven syllable lines to form a tanka and then adding a haiku (5-7-5) for the next contributor to complete. I'll leave this open for a couple of days to give us a chance to generate some responses. The theme is autumn wherever you happen to be--which may mean spring for those of you down-under.

I'll take one or two of the ones that appeal to me and continue. But if there are other entries and other people would like to continue them at their own blogs, I am open to that as well. The object here is not high literature, but an enjoyable exercise that everyone can engage in and begin to discovery the intricacies and beauties that are Poetry first hand. So please contribute!

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There Is Comfort in the Thunder

Comfort in the Thunder

In the dark of dawn
the double thunder signals
they are safely home.

Okay a bad haiku, but being awakened at 6:21 by the double sonic boom of the returning shuttle provides some small comfort to those of us who live nearby. Or perhaps, for some, just a momentary annoyance. I can only speak for myself.

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Hear, O Israel
the Lord your God--
the Lord is One.

There is no seam or division,
His will is one will, His direction is one direction
with no shadow of turning.
He is the eternal ascendant.

He is the garment of hope and love,
the prop and the mainstay
at the center of life
with Him life is hollow
with Him there is only
one way, eternally homeward.
Love Him
and you lean on Him.
Turn away from Him
and still he hold the place at the center,
eternally patient,
ever-loving and kind.
He knows no deceit--
He is all love.

(from 17 November 1991)

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A Repeat

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A repeat, one of my more deliberately Carmelite poems--but I needed the reminder. Written in a form of japanese linked verse, often used as a court game--I had wondered at its structure when I read it again because it was so regular and then I realized where the form came from. Sometimes I surprise myself with the influences that have taken so firm a hold without real consciousness. And what a pleasure such surprises are.

Chains of Desire

of heaven painted on things
as we see them now.

Object of desire--sure sign
of its maker--Lord of life.

In not holding on
to things we know, need, and love,
we grow heavenward.

The sky is His-promise-blue--
beyond blue--no clouds--no rain.

Learn now how to be--
see--autumn sky, fall leaves--cool
promise of winter.

Desire--good as it seeks He
who is end of all desire.

Desire--ill wind that
keeps blowing as it is fed--
seeking self alone.

Desire teaches us good, shows
us how to see, be, and want.

I want the ocean
broad salt, the great rivers, I
want and do not need.

Desire stretches want into
need. It doesn't know its end.

Stalk the white egret
for its plumage finery
for a woman's hat

whatever we want becomes
the end to which we will go.

The heart's home, the warmth
of the breath breathed at the start,
Holy Spirit's flame.

How then can we know the line--
want and need, shadow and light?

Seek first the kingdom
and His righteousness, all else
comes to you through these.

But the human heart is trained
to want far beyond its means.

Trained to desire, chained
to desire--the will gives way
in the face of it.

So we must learn to not want
to have without having now.

To enjoy all things
both for themselves as they are
God's own goodly work.

But also to see within
them God's shadow. Taste God there.

Desire would hold you
bound, pining, dying not
for itself but for want.

Desire is the spur, the goad, God's
direction arrow pointed home.

Love without keeping,
take without taking, gold chips
in the chilly stream.

Glint for those who come after,
for you, the moment God spoke.

Hear Him in every word,
see in every motion, not one
thing is without Him.

Desire calls us home-answer
and discover where home is.

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A Poem of Parting


Don't know where this came from (in terms of inspiration), but rereading it, I like it.

Green and White

I dream of a green room
where all is painted white;
of rivers in wheels that roll
like a wisdom of wild-cast weeds.

I swim to the surface
of bubble-white air.
And inhale the green scent
of milk-fresh peonies.

Where are you, the one
I have never loved?
Never have I dallied
in your langorous embraces,

Never smelled the green apple smell
of your pearl-white hair.

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Some of this Summer's Stock


Attempting to take Mir's advice in the comment's yesterday, I came upon a couple of things I thought worth sharing. What may be worth noting here is that the poem is written in slant rhyme/imperfectly rhymed couplets, for the most part. Imperfect spacing in html does not allow me to set it exactly as it appears on paper. Where you see two very short lines together, think of the second of those lines starting a new poetic paragraph immediately beneath the space after the end-stop of the line above.

Ruins Awaiting the Tide

What seems solid is shifting-- waterside
shapes that stand in heaps and mounds between tides.
Castle and moat, mere sand, but the solid
matter of dream. Inner life now amid
the salt and sand and sun. Green water now
blue, now darkened by clouds, all serves to show
the limits of this light-brown world--alone.

Whose inner life is here displayed? No one
remains, no one lingers nearby, the beach
is empty. And yet these lone ruins seek
a ruler, a Lord, a central being
whose breath and life and vision give meaning
to laying lonely in the wash--to here
and now.
Five mounds--towers against the fear
that made them tall, that tears this uncanny
place each day. A world now water, now land,
never even momentarily the same.

These ruins stand for now, awaiting rain,
portended in the clouds, awaiting tide
to wash away the memory, to slide
into the sea without a trace. Ruins
that crumble with a breeze, and vanish in
salt spray and morning rime stand for a time,
the lesser mirror of not-yet-ruins
that glower down the beach-front, challenging
the elements to find them so wanting
as these small sand mounds. Sheer hubris, in less
time than tide would take to take away these
idle thoughts, monuments to a beach-trip
the wind and waves and sand and sun could rip
calm disdain apart and spread its remains
as far as sea stretches and tide touches
the land.What thought itself grand is made less
by nature and by One at whose command
nature takes its form.
This castle now stands,
or slumps the perfect monument to this
morning's moment of thoughtlessness, a space
that brings light and shape and meaning to this place.

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Ukiyo-e as of Yesterday

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As you could tell, the piece needs work, and I'm not certain that even at this it is finished. There may be other pieces to add. The chief difficulty is to express what I meant to say for part V. Another difficulty is a certain vagueness of language in some parts that may not be something I can overcome due to the subject matter. For example, what is the proper word for the part of a bottle that has a twist-top cap where the threads run? And what is the name for the little piece of remnant metal left on after the twist-top is removed?

Anyway, it is a work in progress, and it may be a much larger work by the time I'm done. The point is the poetry need not be about matters poetic, nor prose about matters prosaic. Ukiyo-e, "Pictures of the Floating World" are images out of daily life that help to expand the meaning of the everyday when looked at closely enough.

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Ukiyo-e As of Today


Ukiyo-e I--Before Bed

Blue shadows spill from the unseen new moon. The eaves etch navy ridges against the milk-lit stucco walls and the thick grass is no-color-at-all.

Three lights flashing, an airplane lumbers across the field of pinpoint white stars. The warmth of the summer night fills my lungs with each breath. If only I smoked or drank or took interest in women other than my wife I could be standing here in my boxers in my screened porch cradling a world-weary scotch, or stirring my Sangria with a finger, or puffing away on my little black filterless belgians, or lightly rolling my Ybor City mock Cuban between thumb and forefinger, or stroking the taut but silky smooth stomach and lower breasts of this week's love while waiting for my dog to do his business. But I'm not. I'm standing here thinking how wet this heat feels, and watching the plane vanish across the sky above the pink sodium lights of the neighborhood pool.

Ukiyo-e II--Arriving

Sun-faded pink fabric walls catch the trickle of sunlight that passes mylar shade and mini-blind. Dusty rose makes so much more pleasant a cell compared to the gray walls of just a few years back.

The windows drip with the dew of too cold a building just emerging from Florida night, blurring the figures of the live oak, hedge, elephant-ear philodendron, and the gray strip of pavement that through the crawl of countless cars separates us from the dolphin-pools and tourists that throng in these summer months.

Ukiyo-e III--Junk Mail

Yellow and black, bright red, Sale! Sale! Sale! Letters fan out in stationery blue, clear plastic windows crinkling as the mail is sifted. Two tan envelops fall, the paper equivalent of a rock slide, as they tumble toward the black mouth of the abyss that yawns wide to receive all that falls, or is hurled into it.

A brick of a book of beads, bright beryl and malachite and hematite and onyx, rolled out against a calla-white cover. And here a craft catalogue, a litany of linen, threads and yarn.

The chunk, chunk, chunk of paper fall, the dark pull of the black.

Ukiyo-e IV--Clouds

The eye of Horus, huge and blank and blue stares down at me from between two banks of cloud-blanched sky. The eye of the son of the sun reminds me just in time that providence rewards the wise eye and I tap on my brakes to avoid the bumper of the car driving free-form in planck-space.

Waiting now in the slow-crawl-stop of the turn lane. Trees, wires, telephone poles, ibis-necked street lamps transform the eye from merely blank to baleful or beautiful. I make my turn.

Have you ever stood connected to the sky watching the convecting clouds? The boundless yearning upward surge, the penetration of deepest blue by rising white. The cloud cap expands and then subsides, vanishing entirely into the growing bank.

You expected the water to be blue, but nothing had prepared you for this shade. You had expected sapphire but had no idea that the sun off the sand in the shallows yields turquoise. In fact, when you first see it it is so gorgeous you're certain that only terrible chemical pollution could have resulted in such a color.

Ukiyo-e V--The Trip to Lover's Key

Another beach I have not seen on a thread-thin barrier island that connects Bonita Beach to Fort Myers and Sanibel.

Ukiyo-e VI--The God-Shaped Hole
I got back to filling the God-shaped hole today. I can't tell you what a nuisance it has been, what with people and things falling in all the time. Last week two vintage Ferraris, the week before my mother and my aunt. And the hole keeps growing.

When I first found it, a smoldering pit in the middle of my best field, I called the fire department and paid to have sea-water helicoptered in to fill it. Thought perhaps I could make a pond of it. But the water just kept on running and the hole got no fuller and no cooler.

So then I realized that I needed to line it. Started with quikcrete and figured I cover it with gunite smooth it out and line it with white Carrera marble, from that quarry that gave us David and Moses. It's a good thing I'm a man of means because six million cubic yards of quikcrete later and still no sign of an end.

If I couldn't fill it up, perhaps I could cover it over. That's what we're trying today. Three different ways. I figured I could span it with chicken wire and then plaster it over. When that's done, we'll drape it with crêpe de chîne and silk streamers--make it at kind of neo-Cristo pavilion type experience.

So we'll see. One way or the other, we'll find a way to fill it. With rocks and sand, with books and paper, with long dark alcoholic nights, with prada shoes and Givenchy and Chanel, with polo clubs and yachts, with coq au vin and curry poulet vindaloo with a Dom Perignon '65, with Picasso and Matisse and Gaugin and Brancusi. Cover it up, fill it in, one way or another we'll close that gap and I'll feel whole again, my perfect field restored.

Ukiyo-e VII--Rashomon

A-Two Older Women in a Corner Booth
Look at that man, a book and all alone. Where's his wife? How do you know he has one? He's wearing a ring. But is it on the right hand? It's been so long I don't know. Look at that, he's reading while eating, not even looking around..Oh dear. Look at that. What? What he's reading. What is it, how do you know? Sh. . . I saw it on the suggestion shelf. Well, what is it? Breakfast at Tiffanies. Ohhhhh. Yes. Yes. Well we know why there's no wife.

B- Two..Men of a Kind at a. Center Table
I don't care what he's reading--he's gay like I'm getting married. Just look at that shirt. When was the last time that shirt saw an iron? And who told him he could wear either silk or yellow? And those shoes! Can we say lumberjack? I've known a few lumberjacks and they wouldn't be caught dead in those, what, two years ago Rockport knockoffs.. But it's Holly Golightly. I don't care if he walked through the door with Madonna, Barbra, and Cher. He's just not one of us.

C- The Man Himself-Window Table
This has to be the longest book ever written. I've been reading it forever. Where's the fabled charm?

Ukiyo-e VIII-Centerpiece

A spray of Dendrobium in a stocky blue-glass bottle that yields a stroboscopic flash of bright blue light where the sun alternately shown and hidden by overhead fan blades stir the light, all this at the point where smooth bottle joins twist-top neck. Velvet purple petals shade to magenta throats and fade to white where white and lavender stem join the blossom to the green mainline of the spray.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Steven's Poetry/Writing category from September 2006.

Steven's Poetry/Writing: August 2006 is the previous archive.

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