Skip to content

poems by Joneve McCormick ©

 

 

 

Beginnings and Endings

Thor’s forearm and fist, archetypal hammer,
diaphanous rosy maidens glide by;
a voice on my left whispers
‘Those aren’t born of Reasoning’
Thor and the maidens signal no endings

People sublimate to build a nation
and realize a vision;
when their wills become feeble
they make hammers with alloys
and built-in obsolescence

Choosing to be true
then opting out of life in prison,
Joan of Arc chose death by fire
and Garcia Lorca was shot dead;
both showed what mattered to them

Garcia Lorca’s voice lives on,
his laurel wreath glowing in eternal light
and Joan of Arc communes with her God

 

Who are you?

You, behind dark and light forms here and there,
Behind mirrors and doors,


Behind thoughts and their frames,

Behind this versus that,
Behind angels and demons,
Behind my desires and fears …

Who are you

Who teaches that the less space there is between us

The higher I can fly on my own wings?

 

Metaphors

They reveal how we create our worlds
from memories made long ago
like those of a clam and its surf
on a wild and pristine beach

becoming bony jaws and frothy milk,
irritations overcome turning into pearly teeth,
on to a mercedes with a roaring motor
we’ve quieted down, opening its hood …

we catch ourselves in our dramas.

 

I am

In the leaves
and between
I flicker across trunks
weave ribbons of light
slither up bark
swing branch to branch
flatten and fade
gleam, upright
eternally
nothing and everything.

 

Back to the sea

I want to go back to the sea
where light and dark are one,
where I come from.

Back to sea waits and wiggles
where the will to be
(not greed) trumps right and wrong.

I would be a tiny fish, alive one marvelous moment

or a big one, snapping up the little.
The sea sings, ‘the one who doesn’t know me is an orphan.’

I will go to the deepest spaces,
listen to those sounds and find my wings
where they formed.

 

Brown Pelican

Winged dinosaur, master fisher
I like to think you are my ancestor
and that I wear still your eyes and wings.
I watch you ride deep waves with your mate

and high over their crests circle your domain –
spear first, you dive on your wide-eyed meal
and pare the space between us.

 

The King of Siam

My betta fish is emerald blue
with a mouth wide as his head
and great thin billowy fins

When I come close
he darts to the top of his world to dance,
hungry or not

and expands like a haiku
far beyond his lines
in a space now named Siam

I turn into an ancient warrior
under his spell
- wild, cold, artful -

listening for the first sounds ever made
beyond ocean floors
and glittering stars

 

Self Image Is Destiny

There was a little girl
with shining curls,
not one in the middle
of her forehead;
daily she was told
they were beautiful;
they grew thicker, shinier
like the coat of a young alpha wolf.

As the girl grew older
she began to hear she’d caused
the hair of her friends
to be thin and limp
because she was claiming
the most care and attention
and she caved in, shrank from view;
her hair dulled, turned limp, fell out.

Then the hair of her friends
didn’t look so bad.
(It’s lonely at the top.)

 

Reflections (after Rumi)

A cloud passes unseen,
you see the shadow it casts

Pulled from your source
you long to go back

Desire makes your heart skip a beat,
in the lock of your fear a key turns

In time all images are spent
like gold plucked from a sleeve

While you sleep in darkness
something within you shines

You deem yourself a donkey’s slave
yet ride a magical horse

While your body fades to dust
you hop from roof to star

Your body is but a shadow
of a shadow of your love

 

A Reflection (after Rumi)

How does softness leave a petal,
or hardness a stone?
But the parts, when lost bless,
bring you to all there is,
the Friend you seek beyond them.

 

Killing the Christ within

(written after reading comments by Benny Morris on ethnic cleansing)

Ethnic cleansing is sometimes justified
he tells the crowd
which roars approval
claps and shouts
believing
what goes around
doesn’t come around
when you’re armed to the teeth,
and special.

St. Peter isn’t there this time,
just an old man
sucking on an empty pipe.
A cock crows twice
and keels over.

He sees the cock drop
and tells the crowd he’s had a sign
- it’s up to them, self-chosen,
to kill the Christ within
- the Beast is still set to rise,
pitiless as a second sun,
at its appointed hour.

 

Orange Cord
(a suicide bomber foresees her death)

dynamite strapped across her chest
dark hair covered, soft brown eyes,
she walks past raw sewage

down torn up streets, across fields
and into a shop
busy with affluent citizens

her veiled purpose to blow apart
those who drove her family
from their land and lives

who degrade without a rest,
stealing mind and body
like festive vampires dining

the world watching,
she will light a fire of hope
she will not be broken

a martyr opening the gates of hell
and heaven with the orange cord
she holds to her heart.

suicide bombers in Palestine

 

divinely endowed
(an affirmation)

Rivers pool in our hearts
before their vapors rise
to rest between us …
you are life
holding on to a body
for a time, and so am I

Let not fear blind us to what we are
and where we’re going
or to the worth of others ascending;
let’s simply live
listening each to his own still voice
and do what is right in the moment.

 

It’s Said…

(short poems and sayings)

It’s said, ‘You have to kiss a lot of frogs,’
wet ones, eyes bulging.
Many do, yet never find a prince;
find grinning frogs in their mirrors instead.

***

A green fish, nearly too old to breathe, rests
under October’s thin ice. Early snowflakes
melt above him. Soon fish and flakes will
leave the viewer, who says he owns them.

***

Some have said that Sound and Picture
are more fundamental than the Word, better
vessels for magic, superior tools for the artist;
but, like fire, language is a gift from the gods;
words can create both sounds and pictures
and turn them into poetry. Words are wands.

***

Words are matter
bound to sound;
truth rings or not
between their lines.

***

A bowl of cherries is just a bowl of cherries.
A hawk circles over a farmer’s hens
while the farmer plucks cherries for his pies,
pops one into his chin.

***

Knowing one can have something
doesn’t mean one knows the cost

***

‘Impulsive’ is said to be
eager without looking
then – surprised!
Some with that habit
age to ‘old and wise’;
others turn old
with a vengeance.

***

Dancer and red fish dream,
one under satin,
one under stone;
glide like fireflies
from their covers.

***

It is said that those who’ve usurped
the throne of their god
still worship their golden calf.

***

His poem about a perfect lover
is well-crafted, but no one lives there.

***

In the east the color red
promises new beginnings and prosperity,
brighter versions energetic,
darker ones elegant and powerful.

***

What is permitted may not be forgiven:
listen to the still voice within
if you would walk scathless through your days,
your own master, blameless.

 

For David, the Painter

‘Sometimes I want to paint
something as corny
as a sunset,’ he said.
‘Why don’t you,’ I asked.

‘Maybe you could paint it
like no one else has.’
But he shook his head,
‘I have an image to think of.’

He paints abstractly
and, instead of things, an idea
that life is an unending plateau.
His paintings remind me of sunsets.

 

Some New Scholars
(verse commentary, after Yeats’ “The Scholars”)

The Scholars
by William Butler Yeats

Bald heads forgetful of their sins,
Old, learned, respectable bald heads
Edit and annotate the lines
That young men, tossing on their beds,
Rhymed out in love’s despair
To flatter beauty’s ignorant ear.

All shuffle there; all cough in ink;
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbour knows.
Lord, what would they say
Did their Catullus walk that way?

They used to be forgetful of their sins,
now they seduce their students, pretend they’re
young themselves, but can’t remember when they
felt love’s emotion without self-consciousness;
believe beauty is clever, not ignorant.

The older ones vacation in exotic places, the
younger wear disdain and good will; all wear
the carpet with their shoes; all think aloud
in the same domain of political correctness.
Few in the humanities or social sciences dare
have an original thought that works (I recall
one: “pecked to death by doves”; its source
was speaking of her friends).

All know the members of their crowd; it’s still
important to know the right thinkers. In a town
I passed through, those teaching for the local
college bought their uniforms at Sears; the one
with pecky friends asked if Catullus was an
astronaut, then confessed she’d mostly read
classic comics, adding that her specialty was
something else.

 

As a child…

I learned to hold spiders, snakes, toads and lizards, 

the feel of life, stroking their small bodies with care.

Years later at an inland college I saw a teacher in the faculty lounge

kicking a cricket side to side, enjoying its terror.


I dodged his shoe and picked it up; a scream from across the room

whipped deep into my back — other teachers had been watching 

(and crickets didn’t belong except in poems).

I took it outside and put it on the grass, faded, its presence scattered,

but still beautiful and black.

(Childhood learning was at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.)

 

for John Milton

When we’re young, arrogant lambs
with heart and wool
the world lusts after
we preen and swagger
all the way to hell
(called ‘the
fortunate fall’
by a poet)

change radically -
willing, totally -
crawl from the fire,
rise to the light
(called by the same poet
‘Paradise Regained’)

Those who stayed home
ask, ‘why look for trouble?’
and ‘who needs to be a hero?’
as though they have little
left to discover

but you reached
into hell and heaven
for secrets of the journey,
show Him planting His apple seed
that holds the fruit
of divine Knowing
in our Garden

then creating us
His chosen seekers and finders
of Knowledge.

The Works of John Milton

 

Friendships

I’ve wondered more than once
which friends serve me best,
those who stand by me
or those who exploit my weaknesses.

The first offer love;
the second, loss
followed by opportunities
I wouldn’t have sought directly.

Wanting to know my world
and to find what’s hidden in it
what can I honestly say
other than I’ve been lucky?

 

only caught

He plays on rims of chaos
testing his intent to live
and disciplines self
by choosing not to obliterate
certain foes and faithless friends,

remembering his drive to kill
before being killed must be on edge
– else he could forget, grow helpless
and life be lost — maybe his;
he’s come close when playing
with all he’s got for a good cause

not certain if he’s right or not
which doesn’t make him wrong
for being how he is – he’s only caught

 

Thanksgiving 2006

I’m not the body
I move, own, am tied to
giving thanks today
as I consume the flesh
of friends Tom Turkey,
plants I love,
along with air and water…
What is this communion,
one form devouring others,
transforming, mind giving credit
for the privilege
to a god?

 

Gandhi

“The only tyrant I bow to
is the still voice within.”

Knowing the difference,
he chose between dying and living.

 

Regarding Van Gogh’s Advice
Not to Be Afraid and Not to Try
to Make a Painting Pretty

It takes courage not to try
to make a painting pretty.
Few souls can resist,
the desire to please requiring
that ugliness be hidden.

Tell it like it is,
beautiful and ugly,
the best you are able -
serve no other master!
Was that commandment made for man
who has so much to worship, and forget?

A Van Gogh baby is big,
drooling, eternal -
a fat promise
held by a vigilant mother,
her apron wrapped tightly
over simian bones like a second skin,
strings hanging like tails.

It is in related gestures too -
their straight backs,
a jutting hip,
a small leg dangling
and hands ready to reach -
that love and attitude
raise immortal heads.

 

Winning
(prose poem)

In first grade, I learned long fingers indicate aesthetic bent and
vision. Felt discouraged, until I saw pictures of chimpanzees
with very long fingers, long arms too, especially adapted for
grasping and swinging.

One of my professors remarked that in his experience people with wide
triangular eyes have benevolent souls and those with round eyes evil ones;
his own eyes were remarkably wide and triangular, and when he saw me
looking, noting their glint too, he frowned. Every time he heard his round-eyed
dog bark, he put it in a closet on a vegetarian diet; it lived five years.

And so it goes: white, brown, short, tall, plump, thin, old, young;
we make one better than another because someone has to lose, we think,
so why not play more games like who can be truly kinder?

 

Ideal world

Many have longed for a world
ruled by wise women and unselfish men,
a civilized, lovely space
where every being is free,
finds his own place
and is understood,

a heaven on earth.

Plato planned an ideal realm
resembling the one longed for above;

he said poets would not be allowed,
were hard to control and told stories

of gods and goddesses, how they lived

before, some say, man fell to earth.

 

New York City (1996)

In touch
with the heartbeat
of the world
we have a sense
of action snowballing,
of impending upheaval.

In my neighborhood
a darkness beyond the ordinary
has been settling in
for a long while.
It penetrates the daylight,
walls of buildings,
pores of faces.

We know it is never too late,
but is there a future here?
That is the incredible question
in this City of high energy
where people of every kind
live together in a harmony
unheard of elsewhere.

We play out our dramas
deep in the womb
of a sleeping volcano,
await the purifying fire.

 

6 haiku

big white fish hiding
under red October leaves
closes, opens lips

***

brief as a firefly
a goldfish glides under weeds
in dusky water

***

carp swims up my scroll,
turns into silver crescent
predicting long life

***

elegant bamboo,
the lucky kind, curls 3 times;
yellow base means death

***

my boots sometimes sink
climbing over a snow bank,
ice cream cone steady

 

The gnostic

To follow the Christ spirit
manifest in that one
who was a son of God and knew it
even in the bloody eye of his storm

allowing truth
open to what the winds would bring
trusting
open to dying, to being born
is too difficult for me

I opened all the doors once
and turned my life authentic
but love won’t bear another undergoing
I think, looking back -
still, today appeared a hurricane
and I am walking in it upright

Don’t call me christian though,
a follower of doctrines;
I’m a co-creator, in alignment.

 

The agnostic

The agnostic is caught in his mind
by his god and by his devil
to be and not to be:
maybe devil and god exist; maybe neither
maybe mist was always rain
and rain a shining river.
There are no answers, he believes,
but the questions are eternal.

 

Shoes

Feet flatten,
holes grow,
a push and pull
wearing down concrete,
leather and bone.
Like wind and roses,
stone and sun,
like us,
each shoe’s life
depends on crafting,
what it is made of
and what it rubs.

 

The magic footprint

Whoever puts his foot in the side of the cliff
where a giant footprint is stamped
will be granted the wish he makes while his foot is there.
In our town, this is a living myth.
Over the past 30 years, four have tried;
one fell into the sea and broke her hip,
the others say their wishes have come true.

I decide, without any reservation,
what will have come to pass –
un fait accompli already.
It manifests in its time like magic.

 

Not easy to forget

Lights in many shades of blue
dance through corridors,
around corners in his sleepy eyes
playing find and lose
with the timing of a master,
the power of a magnet.

He was irresistible, a drummer
who kissed runes of wisdom and wit,
understood in depth
and found the rhythms in my marrow.
Then he sank our float, saying
“I’ve enjoyed this intermission.”

 

sign of the tiger

Though often alone, I’m seldom lonely.
Born under the Sign of the Tiger,
I can spot a demon or thief miles away
but do not close in
unless loneliness holds sway

 

You and I

I know, from dreams, we played with Minos,
ran in Minoan marathons
and later met on Everest,
spying for different queens.

When did we first meet?
It was yesterday, this life;
you harpooned me from across another room,
love and lust penetrating in equal measure.
You wait now for me to do your will,
then go about your business.

Again you tell me not to dream,
you need your freedom.
I can give that now before you need it,
skipping all that was in-between.
I love freedom too, in my nest as well as out.

We have said hello-goodbye many times.
When the untold suffering to come
propels humankind-in-need to find new ways,
maybe you will see me whole
when we meet up.

 

The Future’s DNA

The future unfolds
the intent of living things
to die and to be born.

The caterpillar inches towards death
spinning its cocoon
willing to grow wings.

 

Chalk and Board
(or Cheek and Tongue)

Vice makes virtue possible to know,
like white chalk on black or green,
thus there is no role I would not play -
sage, madman, robber, king -
changing skin and gait
on a Shakespearean stage;
the more identities I can have,
the more knowledgeable I can be,
act deliberately,
not re-act mechanically,
or let myself be led by Loki spirits
hovering near.

This reminds me of a dream
in which a traveler lost his way

but that was before I found the devil
(though it took some million years)
who kept me hopping leg to leg,
loss to gain and back,
self to self, parts missing:
the one with a stash of scalps
who told me I’d been chosen
and others hadn’t.

 

Plea to a friend, to act wisely

When have you or I
stopped pursuing folly
before many falls?

There is a Zen saying
that some horses only need
to feel a whip lightly,
others in the marrow of their bones.

 

Questions Emerging From A Dream About Eating A Pet

Does all food, including medicine,
heal separation?

when we eat we make what is
not us, our own?

is eating, like touching, a way to know
the illusionary nature of form?

are rules made to be broken
in ways that work

like – bite off more than chewable
if very hungry (and learn what you learn)?

 

Meditation Poetry

I AM OM

Lord of Heaven
give me your blessing.
Color me with your light.

No other can purify
like You, the Ocean.
You make me light.

You are mother, father,
sister, brother,
child, friend, companion.

Satguru, Lord of Heaven
show me what I am,
what I am becoming.

You are the Star guiding
me home, the Lover
who inspires me to transform.

I belong to Light.
I am Om, Om Shanti.

(Satguru means “the true teacher”; Om Shanti means “I am a peaceful soul.”)

 

Child of God, do you know who you are?

Do you know who you are?
Is your self-esteem high?
Deep is the ocean
of unlimited love,
the Mother.
The child who knows her
is not an orphan.

Child of God,
do you know who you are?

 

From Small Bird Bones
(Published by The New Press, December, 1993.)

My Daughter’s Footsteps

Snowflake footsteps
drop at my door and fade.
I wonder, then know
what she wants to hear…
my daughter
who I’ve ignored
all day, again
(having other things
to do)
asks with her
snowflake footsteps
that I tell her I love her.

 

Small Bird Bones

My cat’s eyes
shine with tenderness,
his tail furls
and curls with intention.
Soon he will meow long
and scratch the screen door
until he’s too tired
to see the fallen sparrow.

I want to let him go,
see his black body fly
like an elegant arrow -
have it over with -
but hear my first cat
high in a tree,
small bird bones
caught in his throat.

 

à la Baudelaire
L’Invitation au Voyage

Allons en voyage, mon frère
mon amant

où ensemble nous nagerons
à travers les sauvages rayons

de la lune, à travers
les mers violettes, en fleur

où il n’importe que tu m’es menti
mon cher, où le soleil

brille quand nous voulons
et nous nous aimons.

J’aime que tu existe.

 

The Misogynist

(for Jack Noyes, who hunted butterflies and black widow spiders)

He told me what he did
to women and animals
was unfeeling
rather than consciously cruel.

He said all men kill
the things they love
and find their joy there,
that I would understand,
being a woman.

 

Child with a Shell

He touches its teeth
fingers its inner ear, smoothly glazed
like a pink fish-belly.
As he feels further,
whiter, smoother,
echoing sounds from the center -

Broken open,
he holds the empty hull
wondering where the sound has gone
and looks for another shell.

 

The arrowhead maker

Does he know
how to make his heads
from living
as a clam in sand
where relentless surf
pounded his shell
and sharp beaks
found their mark?

 

Invocation to the White Goddess
(The Celtic Muse)

Isis of water, earth,
Fire and air,
Hear my prayer.
See with me,
Touch my tongue.
Let me speak to pierce the hearts
Of all who worship you.
Hold me as your child,
That I may know
What is real.

(Ref. Robert Graves, The White Goddess)

 

Various:

My teacher
(for Minoru Kawabata)

He taught painting in Manhattan,
a wisp of a man, almost transparent,
who knew his world within
and what he intended came about.
He didn’t seem to know
or care that he was famous.

He showed us what is possible,
finding living seeds of promise
on each student’s canvas
and ways to coax forth their powers;
in his care we grew as artists.

Beyond wisdom, missing nothing,
he found exact gestures and words
to calm the space and lift our spirits.
Though he spoke little English,
he touched our hearts with such elegance
that we outdid ourselves.

 

Manhattan, I’ve loved you…

from the moment I arrived,
I knew I’d been chosen.

I love your love, your savoire faire,
your wider skies,

your lights, theaters, fruitstands, harbors,
smells of perfume and salt water,

the magic of your ships and towers,
your tales of freedom and tomorrows,

the tongues and colors of your people,
all your styles,

your open eyes,
all that you make possible.

 

Knocking on heaven’s door

Those who knock on heaven’s door
know Who opens it,

playing, building in that space,
painting, weaving, singing, healing

In that place Spirit turns
words into wands,

water into wine, crosses oceans,
rockets to the moon and other universes

Some call their knocking change of heart
and what comes forth, amazing grace

Some drum up sacred sounds,
dance on them and grow a world

There is no limit to what can be,
knocking on heaven’s door

 

The fairies

They study with Merlin’s coterie
and honor desires
like their cousins, the angels,
waiting only for belief.

Knowledge keeps them light
and their wings brightly rainbow,
though much they do be hidden,
and they still appear fully-formed
when today’s reality experts
go on their paid vacations.

Some believe the fairies have migrated,
for security reasons, to other planets.

 

My friend tells me...

my short poems are my best.
I start with the wind at my back
and get scared
shut and bolt the door
ramble on
and on and on
as though the wind
is still there

 

Questions Emerging From A Dream About Eating A Pet

Does all food, including medicine,
heal separation?
when we eat we make what is
not us, our own?

is eating, like touching, a way to know
the illusionary nature of form?

are rules made to be broken
in ways that work

like – bite off more than chewable
if very hungry (and learn what you learn)?

 

(regarding “short vs. long” poems:
The Poetic Principle by Edgar Allan Poe).

 

The poet

is a misfit
disaffecting
those who would control her
she’s trouble
like plato’s escaped prisoner
delights in discovery
in seeing
and seeing further
though she may be
blind like homer
and when her faith
wiggles out of its cocoon
into a poem
it sometimes has wings

 

My Father

Compassionate warrior, philosopher, poet,
my father showed chivalry to women
and good will to all

I learned from him what is possible,
not what is common now;
he chose to be guided by honor

When I need to discover higher ground
within myself, and hold it,
he is my beckoning star.

 

6 short poems:

Sun

soft and warm
reminds me of you
touching my arm.
.
.

New day
(for Oedipus)

The blind king no longer hides and by midday light finds every corner.
Perceiving players and plots unite, the inevitability of truth,
at sundown the king declares all is well and vanishes.
.
.

erotic tingles

I squeeze your hands
and run my fingertips
across the tips of yours
then between your fingers, up and down,
then all my tips against your palms.

You shiver; life is good.
.
.

Communion

Come to me in the night,
your body off, soul to soul;
we will fill the space,
move without moving, making love.
.
.

Poetry, Dance and Music

Without these three wise men leading
we are not living, but trudging
through the mire of a base existence.

We need the sounds and sights within
before us, making magic happen
singing: this is what we are.
.
.

After all controversy surrounding Christmas …

there is a winter solstice
carrying the promise
of another spring
and a Christ within
wiling to be born.

 

Warmth Enough

The blue spruce was white against the sky
and clumps of shadows frozen gray that March,
a pale year, our coldest month in many winters.
My uncle’s beard glittered with crystals,
he said a mackinaw was not enough
or the fur-lined boots he wore;
the cold paralyzed his fingertips
through fur-lined gloves; still,
he was hunting because he liked to hunt,
and his fingers curled with warmth enough
to pull the trigger. A squirrel fell from a branch,
flickering crimson across the snow.
Then another. He said we had our dinner
and floundered through the drifts
to pick up the bodies.
He said he wasn’t dependent for his meat
on any city’s butcher.

 

Aunt Heather

A black and white snapshot shows
aunt Heather, six years old, seated at a piano
staring hopefully at a page of music.
Short sleeves puff near her pinafore straps,
plaid ribbons tie back her braids.
Her third, right finger is on a key,
those on each side point upward like a spatula.

Though Heather had a teacher,
she learned to read numbers instead of notes -
that seemed easier, she said, but
only notes were in the second book.
(Her teacher said she lacked interest.)
Heather made me promise, on principle,
not to depend on teachers
and to keep to difficult paths.

 

C’est à l’intérieur...

Le soleil brille
sur tout le monde,
sans juger, mais
c’est à l’intérieur
que je suis heureuse,
ou non.

Où es Tu, mon Dieu?
Où suis-je? C’est moi-même
que je dois retrouver,
comme toujours,
pour sentir Ta chaleur.

***

It Is Inside…

The sun shines on all
without judging,
but it is inside
I am happy, or not.

Where are You, my God?
Where am I?
It is myself I must find again,
as always,
to feel Your warmth.

 

Letting Go

Out of the cave I called my home,
beyond the mere life of this body
the universe is disrobed.
There is no place now to fall,
no desire to shrink.

I see myself burrow into earth,
hover over the sun
or walk down a street –
I can see everything I’ve done,
pretending many roles.
I can transform into a living cross
or a mummy wrapped in white
spiraling in space
if I choose,
as I’ve chosen before.

Beyond this mere life
I’ve traveled many roads
in the all-seeing eye
creating the world;
I was with Homer and Aesop,
in the water Christ walks on,
in hurricanes and harvests.

Don’t say it cannot be,
that these and other things
don’t or didn’t happen;
I know what I know.

And here is my test for truth –
the exact consideration,
and what works:
beyond this body’s walls
where I live
the machinery of bondage
in heaven and on earth
is vanishing.

 

Life digs itself

Following Ayn Rand, some critic claims
an avatar only has power
to the extent he is believed,
without considering this might be true of Ayn

And so the eternal game continues:
life digs itself

eggs hatch
bees make honey
thunder breaks

All of us have been in places
no sane person would choose;
mystics say life experiencing itself
is the purpose

And that the avatar is born,
or becomes, so empathetic
he is able to dig anything
and transform it, mind or matter,
bring forth life from death

Critics secretly believe he negates
their own discoveries;
they protest, watching from a raft
at risk of flooding

From mist to shining river,
egg to feathers
flying with power,
seed to ancient stick:
life digs itself

The poet Rumi calls it creation dancing,
passionate for God

 

Pegasus Dreaming

An eyelid rises
in the middle of his forehead
and Pegasus gallops forth;
the drums of time
beat on heaven’s door:

rum a tum, om ta rum
rum a tum, om ta rum

While Pegasus dreams
his playground forms,
a watery mirror
Narcissus runs toward, knowing
a god will meet him.

rum a tum, om ta rum
rum a tum, om ta rum

He watches in a trance
the wings below
shining with light
not knowing how to let go
of what is drowning.

rum a tum, om ta rum
rum a tum, om ta rum

 

I had

I had exotic plumage once
soft, brilliant green, gold, red

I turned into a swallow
frail and lice-ridden

What was I thinking?

 

Lucky Penny

Its head was bright and new
its tail stuck in a concrete wall.
When I gave up trying to pry it loose
the penny quickly faded
and its space expanded a thousand-fold
on to a lane of soft spring colors
in early 19th century France
where carriages rolled over cobblestones
and elegant ladies strolled
in high-waist gowns and bonnets.

All I had to do was take the step
but knew I might not have the power
to come back, being ambivalent
about changing habitat and habits.
Remembering the maxim
“better safe than sorry,”
made to order for such occasions,
I walked away, looking back to see
the wall close up without the penny
and another chance.

 

The Saint

Like a tree whipped by winds
a saint leads a twisted life,
turning time and again
towards light to straighten
until, beyond the pull of opposites,
she glows like a sun.

 

The Visitor

Like rain dropping into the sea
like mist evaporating
when boundaries disappear
I grow larger and larger

***

The shape-shifter that sets me free
unveils what I hold too tightly,
lives behind my masks and in them,
in stones too, and mere words

***

Faithful as a rising sun
love appears dressed in light
to unite with me, to create new life,
when I am willing.

 

Mummy Rest

I spend my nights
in a case grown large,
watch serpents in the noon sun
swallow their tails,
at dusk
glide into river reeds.

Nefertiti will bring a womb
for me, soon to be her son,
hoping I will not blame
this time
but remember
the small thought
that begins
life in death
death in life.

Everything that is
vanishes; after sensation
that most delights me.

We sat on thrones
built by slaves,
their songs
captured in the stones,
found, whether king or footstool,
man does nothing
he does not choose –
but much he will deny.

An old woman
inches through the drizzle,
taps her stick
along the foggy shore
looking for something washed up.

We will begin again –
new, transformed

 

Middle Way

I have found my middle way,
coming round full circle
after touring the world
in many pieces
and putting them together.

I can see truth and wisdom
on paths I believed
opposed my own;
what seemed contrary
belongs now in my larger world.
And almost suddenly
I find myself centered.

 

must and should

A book must be an axe for the frozen sea inside us… (Franz Kafka)

How does one come to write with the power to melt a frozen sea?
With force, daggers invade at large;
flowers penetrate our timid hearts less than they should.

 

It is better to live one day as a tiger,
than for a thousand years as a sheep
. (Tibetan Proverb)

I agree but would prefer to be
anything I choose
neither trapped nor fleeced
captured only while I’m willing.

 

I am Kali from the West

I came into this world
as much from Spirit as any male deity
but am often perceived by the fearful
to be less holy.

In my mortal form, men believe I am flattered by propositions
and pleased when they tell me what to do, who and what to love.
They think I am fulfilled when they try to force obedience,
saying that what they want is what I must want –
like those they hold in thrall.

Few in this drama guess the rage in my heart
and the secret plotting I do to render the bullies harmless,
fighting each other to mutual defeat, shorn of luck.
I drink their blood afterwards, wear their teeth in my necklaces.

Here is my story in a myth:
In a time out of mind a Spirit visited earth
to destroy what is decayed and corrupt;
She carries a snake for a staff, dancing East to West and back.
Between one noon and the next many mortals fall into Her crypt
and all become slaves who would enslave Her.

 

On the Road

rocks turn to dust, seeds are barren,
a tail of greed wags the dog
(the one who kills
the goose with the golden eggs)

half beasts slouch
toward succor and safety,
fall into fires
with withering angels

never say die
whose path is holy

***

not wanting to end up on his horns
she refused his friendship
and ended on a sword

some approach suing for redress
and soon find weakness
with their arrows

in a world ruled by struggle
there are choosers and the chosen,
each depending on the other

***

young girls, coatless in winter,
pull in eyes;
the big fish don’t always
catch the little

wolves dine on fresh lambs
until the lambs turn into tigers
(the tigers into saviours)

one with great love and knowledge
walked on water
beckoning others to follow
and they still believed in death

 

Attention

I’ve looked at moonless waters, treading them
burned and frightened,
and I’ve looked from high places
in the light where love rules.

I listen to the still voice within
which knows without thinking,
correct myself as needed,
pay attention.
 
©


 

Read two interviews here.

Please visit Poets International for more poets on WordPress.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.