Poetry Today: Trends and Traditions 11
Compiled and critiqued by Anthony Servante
This is Ms. Barrett's first appearance in Poetry Today. She chose the graphics that accompany her poems. She has a flair for mixing concrete and abstract concepts to create that elusive third element, the poem. In her poem, "Progress", she urges the reader to forget the bad things in the past to move ahead, ironically echoing the very antithesis: If we forget the past, we are doomed to repeat it. When we seek nostalgia, we find tragedy, but the advice sounds so optimistic, we sometimes succumb to facing the horrors of tomorrow with a smile on our faces. I look forward to more visits from Brande, as I'm sure you will as well.
If there were only one way
past the thistled path we chose
So many years flow
under the raft
False security in a chaotic reality
hollow wishes unfulfilled
Toppled walls of avoidance
narrowing the path
Feet unsure after years of practice
navigating the dark familiar
Awaiting kind reward
jealous lovers embrace withheld
gives no mind the holes-punched fabric
of lives unloved
Over time meandering lost
an unresolved potential
of sweet retreats and passion
and left longing
by Brande Barrett
Boards crack and bend
Under the weight of elements
Chipping away at the
Rusting hinges, creaking floors
Lock away the memories
Weathered and sun streaked
Only a small window
In the corner
Lets light enter
For no one
Abandoned in a field
Along the freeway
A relic from the good old days
Pushed aside by progress
Convenient and fast
We have no time
Things left in the past
Michael H. Hanson
Mr. Hanson has a flop-room here on the blog where he writes and crashes for the night. He has become a welcomed guest here because he loves his craft. He plays with the language the way a butcher finds culinary materials for the master chef. Michael's side of beef is Beauty itself, and he's not afraid to dissect it for his readers, whether it derives from a dancer or a homeless man. So, don't be afraid to get your hands a bit bloody to reach the finer cuts of the Sublime, all to be found here in Mr. Hanson's exquisite presentation.
Come Back To The Forest
by Michael H. Hanson
Come back to the forest, come back to the trees,
unlearn all the mores of modern modesty.
Strip off your concrete shoes and long iron sleeves,
invoke every forbidden frivolity.
Remember the branches, remember the leaves.
Forget the flawed lessons of literacy.
Shed your wheels, watches, and man-made machinery,
embrace all your earthy sensuality.
Come back to the forest, come back to the trees
remember the branches, remember the leaves...
The Odissi Dancer
by Michael H. Hanson
Floating work of art on temple canvas,
hypnotic like a slowly spinning top,
intention coils in jeweled Kajal eyes;
the early grace and joy of the Alap.
Jasmine and champa bloom on Makhoot crown,
saree ripples gently in red and gold,
Tarakasi jewelry accentuates
rhythmic waves as head, chest, and pelvis fold
into the convoluted tribhangi,
wondrous explosions in this ancient dance,
and Jimkis bells dangle from dainty ears,
balance centered in the square Chauka stance.
Her spell, a dream elegant and fragile
animates the shy Bindi of her smile.
Like Robert Frost
by Michael H. Hanson
If I wrote poems like Robert Frost
would I see life differently,
depicting trees as nature’s glost,
likening strolls to fate’s coin toss
and piled stones to polite boundaries?
If I composed like Robert Frost
would it really fulfill my needs,
remunerating long nights’ cost,
restoring winter evenings lost --
granting birch-like resiliency?
If I penned verse like Robert Frost
would I find my heart’s paramour,
window flow’r with apple lip-gloss,
a rose-red bride ‘neath berry cross
breaching my aged and lockless door?
And at the end of this auctorial;
not fire, nor ice, just a home burial.
Black Forest Blues
by Michael H. Hanson
I find myself remembering
I was a child in Germany
a U.S. brat of humble means
who lived amidst the evergreens.
Among the conifers we staged
prodigious games of hide and seek
and scaled branches like pale monkeys
we rough and tumble brothers three.
One winter sledding between trees
my reckless sibling broke his arm
which I thought was a gift from God
as Wayne threw snowballs really hard.
On Saturdays we played army
with weapons raised we’d hunt and seek
or days when walking home from school
the perfect place to take a leak.
Surprised one chill Sunday morning
I stumbled on a homeless man
within a small Perlacher copse
shivering in his sleeping bag.
My father chased him out of there
now over forty years ago,
and I find myself wondering
what happened to that cold hobo?
Mr. Blacet is the raw talent of the 21st Century. He will be studied into the 22nd Century if I have my way. Talent agents seek future stars in sports, entertainment, art and theater. I found Andrew on Facebook. He and I share music appreciation. Little did I realize until one day he posted a poem "for fun" on his timeline. I've studied poetry and literature for over thirty years. A.D. is the real deal. What he does "for fun" is what Poets (with a capital P) did for a living in the Romantic, Victorian, and Modern Ages. Now that we've entered a new millennium, we are fortunate to witness the growth and maturity of a raw talent. Do not be afraid to be awed.
At midnight the black frost dangled overhead
Its strange constellations; breaking from the mulberries
I weaved through sandstone rills, weather-wearied
Earth slumbering in dark and dreamless beds
While under the moon’s misty breath I scurried
Over rocks and logs and brambles to the trailhead
By fairy light to gain the wild cove’s lee;
At the summit of a cliff above the trembling sea
I gasped at sight of you scrambling over stones,
Marveled at your miraculous recrudescence,
Green flames furling banderoles from sodden bones
To the thud of waves and fanning blades of opalescence
I wrung the foul water from your ruins as we kissed
While above us the stars quivered, below us the surf hissed.
David S. Pointer
Mr. Pointer is a new guest to the Poetry Today column. His specialty is the poetry of the Weird Western. Here we find no white hats on heroes and black hats on villains. David mines the ore of folklore and fable in the dirt of the Old West and sifts for nuggets of the supernatural in that dirt. He has a firm understanding of the unsanitary dusty trails and primitive towns on the frontier of the wild and the civilized. But don't be fooled, for the wild and the civilized can be one beast, as we see in his Werewolf Sheriff. The saloon doors are never closed to this new guest at the Servante of Darkness Saloon. Come again, amigo.
Steam Era Sideshow
After the range war
around the Gold Rush
Hotel, the mud was like
rancid mule meat, yet
an airship captain and
whaling crew followed
posted playbills down,
watching autopsy sink
sex monsters made to
fornicate for public
rebutted them to
Petri dish team
as the skin trade
Space Drifter Lands
Skin like a horse hair blanket
hair sharp as feathered hatpins
holding a big ram horn flask
holding an appaloosa’s reins,
Chisholm trail raiders plan
to kill him, his trail coat full
of open opium bottles and
bullet holes as he pulls his
belt ax out of sky history
Long Arm of the Law
The cattle baron’s trophy head
collection had no werecreature
taxidermied beside elephants,
so he drew down on the newly
re-elected werewolf sheriff
whose hide-away gun was a
custom set of retractable metal
claws swatting the baron’s head
to field easy as a tennis ball or
badminton float soon covered
with blue bottle flies as the
sheriff straightened his string
tie by the bunkhouse mirror,
and drank all the mare’s milk
before enjoying half the herd
Mr. Cook has an affinity with poetry. It is his second tongue, and he speaks it fluently. We don't just read his words; we are transported to a dimension via the gateways he calls poems. I do not exaggerate. Brian Eno said perfect music is a place. We do not hear it; we visit it. With William's "places", however, it is best to savor your visits slowly and carefully. "Encaenia" is a perfect example of Mr. Cook's capacity for dimensional travel. You won't walk away untouched. This is no mere carnival ride. This is a trip down a familiar street where you are the foreigner. Don't get lost here, or you'll never want to leave. So, pull up a chair and visit the concrete world of "perfect poetry", if I may paraphrase Mr. Eno.
The Black Gate
This is no ‘Black Dog’; such an animal
Does not exist. This curse names of itself
The Black Gate – it’s mind is all of its own
A sentry of pain guards one’s mental health
Permitting entry to none but the self
Once inside, the gate is closed until death –
Comes calling, or the night grants some respite
As black mists swallow the heart’s shallow breath
And the dark veil envelopes the sick mind
Shutting out the world’s grim realities,
And once again the Black Gate covets time;
Imprisoned life, jailed so mercilessly.
Deep inside, the mind heals slowly ‘til inured
out the Black Gate goes, sanity, degrees secured.
Secrets of the orchard killer
The elucidation is imminent
while the sun still reigns supreme.
The secrets of my pastures plowed . . .
are an echo of my dreams.
The silent sounds of breathing underfoot,
The soil is a product of my tools
and the screams . . .
conformity to my laws.
Drug-stores. Dust. Spades. Rum.
Blood. Death. Sex.
Guns . . .
I breathe this air to feel the day die.
Rain is blood and my crops
grow strong this drought filled summer.
Beneath my feet
blood and bone,
corpses curl and swim with the worms.
I can almost hear the brittle bones
as the cadavers claw for freedom.
The body walked beside a cobalt stream.
Wrapped in its arms — white veil of rags,
limp wire frame:
two lumps of red-hot coal
and the moon burned
— in slow refrain. A Crow wings
its way past the effigy
beside and across the slick creek
in savage, gliding, silence.
The pit is greased obsidian,
comes into itself — retreating.
Heaping turds of rock — granite.
Sharp clusters of pain — grinding,
then the body leaps languidly
head level, hovering like
coiled, swaying, deadly Cobra.
Snap! Pummel the Princess down
into crumpled mass — bludgeoned.
Crimson clothed, the night tucks her in
covers her with delicate fire,
then spews her into cold day-break.
She glows paler than blue.
Spiral staircase inside a white concrete tower
climbs the sky to black crow’s home
— belfry bower.
The wind clangs.
— morose and somber sing.
The flat land prone
like a dead sea sprawls around the cone
— chameleonic core.
Sky reflects in misty precision
the whole thing . . .
my cigarettes cost six dollars and fifteen cents from the store
in front of the old flour mill
it rained on the way home
and I remembered that I forgot to get a paper
to look at the classifieds
— I remembered Dad again
he had got me that job at the mill
and he was dead now.
Our house looked like the mill
— falling down
— birds all over
— transparent . . .
There is a spiral staircase in our place,
leads to the roof, where the black birds roost.
The memory of your smile.
Judging this town of sleep
I found it had already been judged
the Lord on his axe-cut cross of cypress
he is an incurable domestic bore
a family man, who never swore a word
An only child with a hollow mother
full with the carved cares of a household
wearing his poverty as a coat of arms
for eyes to look upon that beheld no bravura of vision.
The crisp grass rattles and shakes dryly
and all of this in fidelity to death
it was the same old same old, the hard husk of the ego
won’t ever resolve, yet grinds down hard internally
into the swill, the wine bitter-soaked seed
laboring lie – vice is kindled, burned in loins that melt
peculiar smiles alive, of all hope
gone to explore the forlorn desert all alone
far away from the security of grim towns
where a girl is safe, searching numbly
in the comfort of a deep, dark, fear.
You have gone or strayed away, never to be found
I sit and hear the sour hiss of traffic calling
this burned and gutted ghost, vague semblance of time
on and off like one long sick light-switch
electric dream/confused state of whatthefuck?
Greedy for dead love, drain her life, her soul
from every side for me. Greatest dribbling cannibal
tired Bolshie future, sleep . . . with disease.
Torn in two, I stand between, the idol and the grave
I do not know anything, I do not know. I do not
of this world, know anything – nor do I want to
but I have misled the past and will do so again
bring the teachers to the fore, let them stand
and be accounted as emperors of their own disease
and demise. As the sky claps the earth – wrings blood
from all rocks and far away I fly, every other day
from the storm in the brain. The science of the mind
corroded the body, blinded every mile I ever burnt
in this life and the next, if there ever were such a thing.
This commemoration of the divine passion was held once a year
You eclipse me and I have stained the Sun with black love . . .
death from a bottle cools my ardor
for a while, until I see you again.
The damp distance is bleached
then blackened with shadows
and flocks of shrill birds, screaming for my blood
Bound hands grow swelled and blooded
body – silently numbed
you set fire to the bed I laid upon
now reddened with burning life
In these blistered hours of insomnia
objects are like lead
I believe they are other things and less than they are
as if fewer of them — would create such a
stillness like sleep — if only to dream of you again
The cushions beckon in the mirror
white and summoning, a little bit
the bed reflected in that fantasy land,
that round pool of hope
Why stir dust on a sacred tomb?
as I lay down with a prayer for darkness
a snowflake melts on her virgin eyelids
somewhere and now together again
we drink every breath of poisoned air
she asleep, I awake . . .
Not believing in resurrection —
I stroll through cemeteries
looking for your name, yet not wanting to see it
the damp brown earth everywhere
reminds me that every hour we breathe,
is our last
Victims don’t want blind skies
their toil and consistency as mortals
are truer religions than faith itself
so welcome me as one of them — into your house.
The last star’s neon spark will be dissolved painlessly
morning will knock on the window, still —
like a grey wet wind
slow day will begin to stir
— like sheep in the cold dawn
of a slaughterhouse
Awakened from a long dark dream,
I thought I saw you somewhere in there
the awesome force of sleep’s return
shut me down like wild song
like black amphibious wine
a hollow ghost —
peering senselessly through the cold
window of every lost night
This morning I am on motionless ground,
and along with it
I drink the cold mountain air outside
refined air, once yours and mine air . . .
Across the crisp cool valley — white snow
blue mountains of decrepit glass and dream
dissolve, in this fresh green brocade
Hope sparkles in the diamond dew
that mirrors the sun
for a minute
while across the way, beyond this place
despair draws its dark curtain of cloud
over the broken road
of another day done.
A special thanks to William Cook for use of the graphics accompanying his poetry this month. He holds all copyrights to the images. For more information about hiring Mr. Cook for graphics for your book or such, he can be reached here:
Lori R. Lopez
Ms. Lopez is a myth-maker. She is also a Renaissance Woman. She can create new worlds, expand on existing worlds, and destroy old worlds as well. Here in her latest batch of poems, she teases the readers' perceptions of the conventional. She entices you to look at old things in a new way. Death can be jovial, while life can be sinister. It's all part of Lori's stock and trade. Look forward to Lori R. Lopez: An Appreciation, coming soon, where Lori will expand on these thoughts, share some poetry and accompanying graphics. See you there. Meanwhile, enjoy Lori's visit today.
by Lori R. Lopez
Is there any emotion colder than stone?
How it permeates to the bitter bone
Sprawled limply wracked with shivers of dread
Lifting tremulous fingers to touch a damp head
Crimson-smeared the shaky hand beheld
A victim of malice, so randomly felled
Mind cracked like a nut for the searing ache
While lips pray no devil this soul to take
An abysmal regret knowing what fear means
Much sharper than any horror-film scenes
The anxious anticipation of shock
That flash of pain when it lands like a rock
Delivered with nary a crystal-ball cue
Unglimpsed the arrival like morning dew
At the hour of justice, the stroke of chance
When the Reaper grips one's hand to dance
Pallid eyelids lower for the longest wink
In a cavernous void of eternal blink
Ere the cosmos reclaims each wisp of matter
By death from disease, old age or splatter
The last breath sighed or gasped or screamed
Yields the same conclusion of darkness dreamed
As life drifts away down a winding river
Peeling flesh from bone in the width of a sliver
My eyes transfixed upon the face
Of a senseless attacker so lacking grace
With not a thought for who I may be
The triumphs and virtues of a bright destiny
And here I lie over an expanding stain
'Pon the marbled floor of a public plane
While the world keeps spinning as I melt to dust
'Neath the graven words IN GOD WE TRUST
A bullet launched from a mad man's rage
Like a horror story that has left the page
Of terrors and bombings and shooting sprees
The war-murder-suicide of casualties
Blood feuds and fugues, vendettas and hate
Serial stalkers who believe they're the hand of Fate
In one tiny instant, the most precious is lost . . .
Death without meaning, but a very high cost.
by Lori R. Lopez
Outlined within a lunar glint
He slirks enshrouded by the dark
Too horrid of a countenance
To stroll the sunlit park
Existing far and yet so near
Beside the cultured and genteel
His social graces too uncouth
We think he does not feel
This wretch we shun with hearts so weak
Disgust upon our faces
Who frightens those that notice him
On the earth, though, leaves few traces
An outcast and a monster, he
May seem beneath our trust
As he loots the lofty refuse heaps
And collects a pile of rust
Upsprung from shady poisonings
A too-grim imagination
Some potion, notion, ocean deep
Has spawned this malcreation
Who creeps about in dusken gloam
Amidst the markers of the dead
In fog, the bog, through murk and grog
Duck the bristles of his head
Tiptoeing past our windowed pains
He stalks the night in wretchedry
His poor lost soul engulfed in shame
His life a killing spree
The victim of revulsion
Reacting to their taunts and blows
He lashes out in self-defense
For wrath is all he knows.
The Rooster Crow
by Lori R. Lopez
Have you ever heard a rooster crow
Or seen the oddity with your eyes?
I believe I glimpsed one long ago
To my terribly small surprise
Scarcely larger than the average songbird
And making a most raucous call
It caw-cadoodled right at me
Which isn't strange at all
But then the funny little black bird
With a red crest risen from its brow
Squawking like a ruffled goose
Made me utter "Wow!"
Keening like a cracked teapot
At a fruitcake party for a mixed bag of nuts
In pointy hats of foil, giggling inanely —
The dark-quilled rooster crow morphed to a futz
It had orange fur and yellow stripes
A bushy tail with polka-dots
Ears that flopped, a spiral snout
And could even change its spots
Tiny black wings, the red comb above
Chicken legs with knobby knees
Strutting audaciously nevertheless
It woke the dead at dawn by a sneeze
For crows are heralds of the nether reaches
Like morbid sentinels from the other side
That part of it wasn't lost in translation
Though the rooster crow had a turkey's pride
And loved to gobble potato chips
While juggling butterflies without a net
It joined a zoo for awkward creatures
And was the owner's pet
Hybrid and scrambled in peculiar ways
Like a turtle cow, a cat canary, a dragon fly
The bird beast rolled its peepers like marbles
And paced because it couldn't fly
The zookeeper kept it in a cage
But the futz could squeeze between the bars
And roam dusty lanes in search of roots
Wondering if it came from Mars
As with most riddles, the uncommon critter
Did not find answers upon the street
At last it met a fortuneteller
Who revealed it had a pair of crow's feet
The fowl thing's quest led to a ship
Where once it was hatched in the lookout's nest
The mascot had been a bird of feather
And a comet shower did the rest.
Thank you for joining us for Poetry Today. I hope you like the new graphic approach with the introductions. I still plan to add a "Critique" section after the "graphic" section for selected poems. Remember, for next month's column, limit your submissions to two poems accompanied by your own graphics or photos. If you prefer I find the graphic for your poem, please state so in your submission. Until next month, donate what you can to keep the Servante of Darkness Blog free, share the link, and visit the archives. It's been a pleasure being your host today.