Ignitio

The poet said the world would end again in ice,
But I believe its destiny will be the fire.
When all the stars go singly to their dark defeat,
And nebulae, undone by entropy’s deceit,
No more to light’s creation can aspire,
And last among the heaven’s arched and soaring heights
Fair Sol, that bloodied giant, falls upon our sphere,
We’ll recall among ourselves the wrathful Flood
Ancient counterpart, deep quenching of our sins.
The world once burned with scorching guilt, but now begins
The final forging, metal bought with Lordly blood;
The fire summons all to judgement and to fear.

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Abortion

The decision was made quite simply,
In a simple waiting room,
The obligatory magazines lounging on the table,
And floral patterns melting into the light blue wallpaper.
The operation was neat and tidy:
(Carefully supervised of course by gentle nurses,
Following rules the beaurocrats kindly assented to.)
And the only black in the room
Was the quiet that filled her belly,
And even then the white penetrated there
To absolve her of inconvenient conception.
The vacuum was plied with expert hands,
And a guilt-bladed knife worked things of horror.
The remains of a torn life were quietly taken away to market,
While sorrow struggled to enter, kept at bay
By the lying calm on the face of the eyeless nurses.
The book I wanted to read is locked,
No infant cry to sever those bonds and tell me the story
Of following life.
Only a single, questing, bloody hand reaching, seeking
Out of the smothering white plastic bag.

Rest

A friend of mine who was a very gifted singer and musician passed away quite suddenly a day ago in a motorcycle accident. This poem is for him.

Though the melody stops suddenly,
Brought a grief to me,
The only way to rejoin the song
Is to count the measures of rest.
Against God, who will protest?
The Singer of all right will not sing wrong.
Those who would find harmony
Must bow their knee;
No suspension remains unresolved.
Although our own resolve might fail
Our voices weak, and bruised reeds be frail,
A tear is not a sin, and grief’s absolved.

Running, Rowing

A sonnet. The rhythm breaks are deliberate.

I will not row my boat as though asleep,
Or gently drift with man’s unconscious tide.
My life is no dream, nor held so cheap:
I never had a dream in which I died.
Say rather: life is but a game, one played
Against the world, and pain, and dark, and death.
A victory is only a loss delayed:
A drowner’s lungs still hold a single breath.
I know I’ll lose one day. But laughter hides
Behind my teeth, prepared against defeat.
I do not cling. Death will not break my stride,
For home comes after game, and rest is sweet.
I will not grudge the match when death has won:
The race is ended soon, and then it’s run.

A Paraphrase of Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale

I am sad at heart, and numb to the world,
Like Socrates who drank hemlock,
Or as if I drank laudanum (like Coleridge)
Recently, and sank into forgetfulness:
Not because I envy you,
But because I am too happy for you,
That you, nightingale of the forest,
In some beautiful copse
Of shadowy beeches
Sing carelessly of summer.

Oh for a taste of really well-aged wine, that has been
Stored and cooled in deep earthen cellar,
Tasting of the Goddess of Spring, and greenery,
And dance, and folk tunes, and a hot day at the fair!
Oh, I wish I had some southern wine in a glass,
The good stuff, dark crimson, Continue reading

Coals

(This is a tribute to Dostoevky’s novel Crime and Punishment. For those who have not read the work, this man Raskolnikov is a murderer who has killed an old moneylender, and is suffering from guilt. He is being investigated by Porfiry, the astute and worringly intelligent police detective. Raskolnikov has a tendency to talk to himself, and frequently drifts off into philosophy. His whole goal was to transcend the laws of ordinary men by getting away with murder, and thus become extraordinary, but he has failed, for his conscience will give him no peace. We enter the story several nights after the murder.)

Raskolnikov was walking during the night. He was wearing a yellow coat, not the one from that night. This one he had borrowed from Razumikhin. The night was cold against his feverous forehead. He was talking to himself. The memory of the money which he had given away to that poor family for the funeral grated on him. Didn’t he have need for that money just as much as them? How would a truly extraordinary man do anything without the power, not even power, the basic necessity, of money? The cobblestone under his thin boots was cold and hard. He reflected on his own conscience. His heart was not like this cobblestone, was it? Or rather, was it not becoming like a cobblestone? He had murdered two women in cold blood, and that cold blood flowed through his heart this very moment. Could all the remorse in the world warm that cold-hearted moment again? “But what am I saying?” he exclaimed to himself. “What happened to my resolve? Am I truly planning on turning myself in? If anything could take away my cold heart it would be that. But that is the one thing I cannot do. No, I must stick to my resolve. But this misery…it is not to be borne. There must be an escape… a release for the man who thought himself extraordinary and broke himself over the laws of the ordinary man. For that is it! I am an ordinary man.” And he despised himself. But his thoughts fell around his mind like a cold twilight.

Suddenly Raskolnikov became aware that he was lost. Where had his thoughts led him so blindly? It was no part of the town that he frequented, but his stomach tightened and bile burned in his throat when he realized that he was only a short way from her house…what devil had drawn him so blindly towards the open grave of his guilt?…His guilt should have died with the old woman, but instead it rose again with blood on its head, and stalked behind him in the empty streets. He looked around himself and found that although it must have been past midnight at this point, there was a glow on the horizon. “Could it be the sun?” he asked in confusion. But that would be impossible: it must rather be some large fire that was giving off this light. The cold of the night and the shapelessness of his own musings pushed him towards the fire, like a moth to a candle flame that is sure to scorch it in the end. As he drew nearer, he could hear a hubbub rising over the rooftops and winding its way down the streets towards him. There were cries, and shouts of directions: plainly the fire had struck a house, and men were attempting to put it out. As he rounded a final corner, he saw that his deductions were correct. A large and rich-looking house was flaming like a star in the night. Its beams were blazing with a fierce flame, withering in the tumultuous destruction. The surrounding houses were in danger of catching fire, and men were dashing buckets of water over their walls, attempting to shield them from the destructive lashes of flame that burst out from the house frequently, as some wall or other collapsed inside. The wind was blowing the flames away from the rest of the house, so that it burned quite slowly. Continue reading