by James Stout
I. Collective Arms
Her back wears lines of flesh-risen scars.
Her face a hidden mask of filth and smeared grease.
A muddy path of tears runs over her sooty cheek,
To tightly stretched lips
Which silently mouth, “I hate you!”
Over and over to the human race.
She bore us. Birthed us. Nursed us in our infancy.
Look at the gratitude for her Gift of life—
Ravaged by vicious machines and explosives.
I swallow my rage. Piss lines to squelch the flames.
Why does she lay still and mute through it all?
She will die the silent sufferer and wait us out.
Our fate is hers, only we are too stupid to admit it.
Mankind’s collapse is fire and she, the phoenix.
Go, pick up her broken Body in collective arms.
Hold her. Clean and bandage her. Arraign her in fine garments.
Place her on the throne of honor she deserves and worship.
Do not passively watch while we defile our mother earth.
December 6, 2003
II. Time Enough For Us
There’s a scarcity of love in the world.
A shortage of caring, an abundance of hate.
So I’ll lift your face to my lips,
Wrap you tightly to me.
Press you in my arms.
I’ll taste your lips and eyes,
Savoring each delicate drop.
But I’ll tell you a joke for a smile.
There’s meanness in money and daily pursuits,
A shallow pool of meaning, an ocean of nonsense.
Apathy led to this moment
Of urgency and terror,
I’ll do what I can to comfort you.
This, our final meeting.
But we’ll find the answer together.
August 19, 2009
III. Drip, Drip, Down the Drain
Possibility abounds in almost everything.
As I stay down on my knees, eyes shut tight each day
Apollo makes his rounds lines deepen on my face
With each passage choices diminish and opportunities decrease
I can always look back wistfully or ahead with Hope
Here, now—whoops, already gone and too late
Ephemeral contentment eludes every grasp
Goes drip, drip, through my fingers
And down the drain
Drip, drip, down
June 3, 2009
IV. Just A Moment—Please?
His youthful hands held gingerly in aged, wrinkled ones;
The hopeful face stares up to generations gone by.
She tries to give the reassurance so desperately sought
And wonders how good her acting is—it seems to work.
Unclasping hands, she scoops him to her lap;
Her hug carries love—so much love. It is all she can offer.
Her wish is to shield him from the harsh, cold cage of this world—
The knife of her knowledge cuts her deep—her heart feels weak.
Her blood runs from the open wound. She puts the child down,
“Chase the sunshine. Go ahead.”
His gleeful energy leaves the room as the door shuts.
She sits back, stares up at the ceiling fan.
It spins. She dreams.
The boy’s cheerful voice comes through the walls.
She’ll keep the knife hidden from him as long as she can.
July 19, 2009
V. Archetypical You
A digital camera captures your image in 10.0 mega pixels
Your face attempts to conceal years of mutilated memories
A mask to try and hide between molecules and mind.
As they travel through lenses, betraying your secrets on a photograph,
That character you play falls away—briefly—but long enough
Your lip curls into a sneer.
Now you want to explain, give reason for this sui generis
Not necessary—you cannot change anything before now
Your parents? Your town and country? The universe is a sad place
And you are who you are.
June 23, 2009
Trees sway and Dance to windful melodies.
I see heavy fruit hanging from verdant vines,
And taste the sorrow of opportunities lost.
Always behind me trapped.
Take me back—back to the dances with trees.
June 10, 2009
VII. Beginning and End
Condensed like squeezed oranges in a frozen canister
Or diluted Ouzo—cloudy licorice in my glass.
All things come to an end or go on forever.
Dearly beloved, we reflect on life today—
To gather our bones and the air we breathe,
Feel the heartbeat of ingenuity—
Particles mixing and mingling, condensing and diluting—
Sink into primordial soups and float with blowing ashes
Tomorrow’s another day, yesterday’s a curse.
Does consciousness separate us from beasts?
A pity. In the silence now of this square, dimly lit room.
The hum and whir of a computer as a bird chirps outside my window
It marks the time with perpetuity like an exercise of Paganini’s—
My breath holds the stale air of encapsulated comfort
Divorced of my primitive origins in a self-imposed prison
When fires were magic and stars told stories.
At last disenthralled, I take my fingers from the plastic keys
Grab hold of the glowing red mouse and click save document
Condensed like thoughts in a poem on a glowing screen
Or diluted like my documents—thousands of words no one will read?
I too could come to an end or go on forever—right?
June 24, 2009
VIII. Contemplative Repose
Stillness and silence beget antithetical feelings
Born of contagion that is our world’s quickening pace—
Where chaos is a melted crayon in my parked car, mounded and staining the back seat.
The engine hums as colors explode.
Blasted air conditioning hits my face—
While thoughts of Euclid, Pythagorus, Kurt Cobain, and Elvis.
Ether and needles and light blue masks.
Wrinkles and canes of metal.
Polished hallways with orderlies hustling past me.
They carry clipboards while brushing by on wheels.
A mother gives birth past the doorway to the left.
A middle aged man kisses his father’s cold and lifeless forehead.
The street beyond the parking lot leads to a planet of slums—
Places where Poverty has its niche and nature’s its bitch.
I put the car in neutral and rev the accelerator, vroom, vroom.
It is control: Potential energy realized. Accelerating nowhere.
I chuckle at all the incomplete poems—
Heroes in disguise, journeys not taken.
They fill my shelves and languish in layers of dust
Like sprinkled holy water on the brow of a babe.
Or powdered sugar on baked goods at La Patisserie
I contemplate pure hearts and shift into drive.
To will one thing or burn in the pale fire of universals,
A prince for one hour, concise in my divine machinations and power
Elusive, that feeling, my grasp emptily swipes at ecology and a balance.
I wish to be ring bearer at the union of roses and skyscrapers;
To watch as Machiavelli carries Dickinson across the threshold.
All until the car rolls to a stop, and then my entrance—I embrace restoration
Blue, crystalline orbs stare in wonder at my soul rejoicing.
This passage upon calm shores to an eternity of love.
June 1, 2009
IX. Damsels in Distress and Knights in Shining Armor
Passé notions of romance are summed up in ‘ever after.’
Who wants weak women or polished debutants?
And for the fairer sex (don’t get me started)
What would shining armor tell you?
Why he’s lazy, unchallenged, untested.
I demand truth in our fairy tales.
Give us knights in torn and tattered armor
And ladies with strong voices and muscles
Are more fitting for a true and valiant hero
How much more romantic that together,
The two go slay a dragon and rescue villagers?
Man and woman, lances in hand at the ready,
Striking from both sides, the dragon has no chance
No more ‘once upon a time’ and ‘happily ever after,’
Instead, it’s now and happily we are together.
Her strength and courageous bearing
Coupled with his daring and relentless onslaught,
That is the stuff of legends worth hearing.
September 20, 2009
Between Black and White
Mixtures on a pallets
Help one, hurt the other:
Pulled betwixt and between
Objectivity is a delusion
Only uniform ironed
Flesh not words for framing
My friend, you’re for life
XI. All Poets
If only we were all poets
It’s certain we would see
The senselessness of war and strife
How bright the world could be
To dwell on metaphors sublime
Conjured images come to mind
With words so carefully chosen
That make tears or a smile
Then we’d see our true potential
Not history to repeat
Come grab a pad and paper now
And join earth’s heartbeat.
I am sure an end to the machinery of despair—
Such sumptuous wonder when all do agree—
Within reach like so many fireflies alight in the air
Make love not war and end age-old misery.
June 14, 2009
XII. Intellectual Curiosity
He sits at his mahogany desk and writes,
Dust settled on every surface. Specks of it dance in the sunlight.
Keys click beneath his fingers, firing like toy machine guns
Papers everywhere; some stacked in a box next to the type writer.
He tells me the stack is his manuscript—that word, manuscript.
Melodic mystery, deep with importance;
Still, it drips into my ear like Claudius’s liquid menace.
I, in awe of the man, stand transfixed, vying for his attention, intimidated.
A sheet of paper is balled up and tossed into his trashcan.
The crumpled white bolder swishes through the net
Of the tiny red basketball hoop attached to the can’s edge.
The same miniature fixture I once gave him for father’s day.
“Do you want to kick the soccer ball?”
“Go ahead, I’ll be out there soon.”
I go out. I see my neighborhood friends and move on
Later, I see my father in the bushes, smoking a cigarette, trying hard to go unnoticed.
Doesn’t he know I see everything he does?
Memorizing every movement.
Later, still I look at the manuscript, but it makes no sense:
Letters, words, raised numbers and quotation marks.
But the weight of it…I place it back into the cardboard box.
I read its title: The New England Soul.
I want so badly to know what that is. I’ve heard of souls and know I have one.
I know New England is where we live. I know that much anyway.
I turn out the light and look at the vacated desk and inhale the fragrant remains of his wool, elbow-patched sweater, tobacco and books, basement musk and humidity.
May 13, 2009
XIII. John Chapman
Remembered for your conservation efforts,
You were a pioneer nurseryman who spread apple seeds
Like knowledge to the flatlands of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois
With a pot on your head, comical and jesterlike,
But you were serious, a missionary whose message contained life
A new Jerusalem fruit for the soul:
Plant, water, prune, and harvest.
What is more American than apple pie and the orchard?
Your kind generous ways, leadership and dedication—
Your subsistence living, barefoot feet to save leather,
And sermons in Mansfield against extravagance like store-bought tea.
The primitive Christian with his gospel of growth and prodigious harvest,
Focusing on food and survival, fellowship and animal husbandry.
He died in the 1840s,
His legacy continues in 1200 hundred acres of nurseries
And countless plots scattered over the surface of our world.
There is a Song about this American God
It is red and crisp, juicy and sweet; on the tip of my tongue it tingles
Just a couple of weeks ago I learned of apple jack and the frontier
I learned that Chapman gave spitters to make crab apples—
Terrible to eat of the tree, fine for making liquor.
May 10, 2009
XIV. Leadership’s Price—A Sonnet
The circus master looks jovial enough during the shows
But the elephants and clowns know better
They lose their heads when the strong wind blows
Striped tents upon the wind, earth no longer a fetter.
Now the trapeze artist stares at the master with disdain
And the lion tamer waits his turn to crack the whip
Stretcher bearers rush out, the circus clerk hobbles on his cane
After the show and the monkey’s last flip
There lies the circus master paid for all that he built
A murmur among the circus girls and the wagons all packed
The motorcycle daredevil or the beardy lady’s guilt
“Take down the signs; the show is over, wherever they are tacked.”
And all wonder who will replace the man who was so loathed
Woe to you if in the ringleader’s black suit you are clothed.
June 23, 2009
XV. Love’s Desiderata
The oracle bespoke this melancholy moment in stately lines
Of four-four measures and a final variation in contrast to the pattern.
Somewhere south of the equator lies Flora with her purse full.
While here the joylessness of fate falls heavily on my brow
You, a rare tulip of monochromatic extravagance and exquisite lines
Draw my eyes to the wayward splatter of color blossoming on your lips—
To taste again—Eros’s special domain repossessed—ah, one taste.
So my treasure, my soul, out somewhere on a boat, or a distant train.
And I to carry life’s objects whose unbearable weight fill my vision.
I search—I search for the caesura, or the coda to this piece.
Why must soothsayers always be right? They are you know.
I guess it is their topic. Such harmony: future and pain.
For now I abide, the hourglass seems broken, and his scythe grown dull.
That petal, that blossom, that pale beauty with dark red lips.
Somewhere south of the equator is my goddess of flowers lost to my senses.
June 21, 2009
XVI. My Son, My Image
Today is your Birthday
Four years are gone away
I remember your arrival
Red flesh, calm survival
Today you turn four
I wish I could do more
I see me in your face
And try to retrace
We give presents to you
Toy soldiers and a choo-choo
Raising you above it all
Protecting you from any fall.
I love you, my only son.
Your journey’s just begun
Daddy’s hand inside yours
Hope to you—in you—endures.
June 13, 2009
XVII. Pain in my Heart
We must meet apart
My name once always—now
forever never upon your lips.
Beauteous yesterday fails now
Stirring flames to burn me
You lean in and say—
You wave good-bye.
I would paint a picture
Arrest on canvas upon some wall
A bird, a feather,
A champion, a stag.
I was a poet who leapt and cried.
My soul on a ship in print
You, inscribed on my page,
Triumph over the tomb
And stare down a thousand guns.
I crouch down, Pain in my heart.
And crumple to the hard ground.
June 13, 2009
In the beginning that never was
A predicted end to our histories
Into the brightness of your eyes
For love so gave up the world
To return to Eden’s vast verdure
A mythological time before souls
Mere manikins behind glass, clothed.
Mother, my mother, can you see
How hate’s murder of Night conjures day?
Hide away professors and politicians
They’re false as serpents in trees.
Go your own way—no need for acceptance.
Forbid the seas a Song so foam-filled and strong
Where every little sadness and brief smile
Might drown man’s mighty deeds in salty wetness.
Those pinhole stars that twinkle down like rain
And the light which drops on upward turned faces
Whose mouths are agape, screaming in Pain
While a new Caesar cheers his gladiator’s kill.
Take this damned world with its millstone around its neck—
I’m dissected and labeled, every mountain, every speck.
June 3, 2009
XIX. Potential and Promise
The most profound thing I know is to be a writer—
To tap that inner vein and bleed for others.
If not for this, my days would be oh so long.
My nights would be but feverish slumber
Full of meaningless dreams and visions;
Tossing about, staring at the ceiling.
Or up at a sky with no stars nor moon.
It will remain my passion for life.
For it is the deepest thing I know—
It is the most meaningful thing I know.
Even so, I must remind myself,
over and over again to keep at it.
I have to move the pen across the page—
Press the keys and release the magic.
XX. Bones of Being
Friends upon bookshelves I once built,
Made of trees but covered in black not red,
Possessing the dreams and ideas of men and women.
I delve into you and draw nourishment and inspiration.
How many titles and colored spines call out to me?
I have forgotten as much as I hoped to ascertain.
My wheels spun, yet the glee in acceleration
Took away all notions of direction or destination.
All is enlightenment and acceptance of what is—
My mind like Buddha’s under the bodhi tree.
Authors thousands of years dead or animated still
Sound barbaric yawps and whisper spears like icicles
That pierce my heart and leave me teetering over a pit.
Keep all words flowing, as inexorable as a waterfall,
Niagra Falls, falling from my consciousness onto rocks.
Like capillaries from my heart to my brain,
To my feet and the stain from that prick on my finger
When we became brothers and sisters
Swearing our most awful and sacred vows
Eat the body, drink the wine, say the words
That make you mine. I no longer hear bombs
Or see broken Children on streets of cobble stone
Holding disfigured limbs above protruding stomachs/
I hardly think about laughing politicians in their limos
Sucking the marrow of other lives to their own great amusement.
In tandem with my forgetfulness is want for memories.
I desire to sit with Thoreau beside his pond.
Not the trumped up tourist attraction it is today.
The one where ants fight wars and neighbors stop by for chats.
Or to watch daffodils with Wordsworth along an English shoreline.
Irreconcilable with the wish to forget that crying,
Anything but those screams, lamentations—she pulls her hair—
Beats her breast, her wet, contorted face raised skywards.
Someday soon the posture and breathing, the contemplation
And emptying of consciousness, will—I hope—set me free.
August 7, 2009
XXI. The Dream
Bad writing is easy like coasting downhill on a bike
To try and grab meaning from the air takes so much
Language-crafting and world-making take godly might
I don’t possess such divine inclinations
Yet I keep trying for a relic of creative genious,
A kernel or grain that possesses creative potential
To grow, take shape, become a thing greater,
A thing more perfect than its flawed creator
A friend asked me why I write—I said I have to
But it is more. I like the challenge.
I Hope to climb the Pyrenees with speed
Like bikers on the sixth stage of the Tour de France
I want to pump my legs furiously and race
To greater heights with words that seem to flow
As effortlessly as the many pages of bad writing
I throw, crumpled, piling into waste baskets.
July 10, 2009
XXII. The Long, Lonely Night
You convince yourself lies are truth and dance.
You believe there is meaning and are happy.
Together with the other self-hypnotized masses,
You scamper about your affairs with joy.
You complete chores and accomplish goals.
Then Night comes. Uncertainty creeps in.
You stare at a dark ceiling, shadows on walls.
A prayer dies, stuck on your lips;
You try to plead, voice your misgivings and needs.
You plead with yourself to make it true—
Make it real; summon an ear that will listen.
A headlight shines through closed shades,
Frogs and insects make their own senseless cries.
You try and join the chorus; weave your sounds
Into theirs but you know better and clutch your pillow.
These are the times when you want a graven image,
A little gold statue or Mother Mary’s dowie eyes—
Ask for answers, meaning, a reason…
Yet the Night continues, long and longer still.
Morning finally comes and your eyes dark with circles
Stares, haunted from a mirror, between stubble and messy hair.
Today might be different; you might Dance and be happy.
How convincing a liar can you be?
June 17, 2009
XXIII. Lost Girl’s Ghost
Where’s your Gabriel?
Sitting at the base of a slide,
You sip your bottle of water,
Thinking of loss.
Your father’s ghost watches over you—
You who lost so much.
Too young, so frail—
Does he visit you often?
The sun above your dark, glistening hair
Shadows beneath your dark eyes
Reveal hurt beyond your years
So long, so long you sit there
Is the slide’s joy lost to you?
I see you questioning why—
Why he had to die.
You see me through a glass door
Helplessly wishing to help
Other Children run and play
You just sit there
Cry. Would you?
Let the tears flow.
Please don’t tell me you can’t.
Don’t tell me your tears are gone,
Dried like a river entering the desert
Take the moisture from my veins
A donor for you, if I thought it would help.
November 13, 2007
XXIV. Material Waste
Everything fades and breaks down in time
That’s true and grows clearer to me each day—
My clothing fades and tears
faster than ever
My car’s components consist of mostly plastic,
Needing constant repairs and new parts.
Nothing’s made to last.
Planned obsolescence is the new normal.
Money buys more crap than ever
It grows harder to find anything worth a squat
Landfills grow into mountains of old shoes, telephones, computers, and yesterday’s candy wrappers.
We can no longer afford to view the material world as disposable, opposable, and consumable.
Instead seek ways to rebuild and recreate.
Or just make the damn thing right the first time.
Rummage through dumpsters and garbage cans.
Sift through dusty, decrepit Books with ancient lore and remedies.
Our trash and discarded knowledge are the new mines
And like prospectors of old, with our pickaxes and shovels, we will find rocks that glitter gold.
January 17, 2010
I meditate beside a fresh flowing stream
And hear water falling faithfully over rocks
I cup water into my hand and drink.
A winged rainbow flutters by
Alighting onto an allium flower,
Above the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains.
The water speaks of its voyage.
Endless tales of coming and going
From clouds to mountaintops, through passages.
I quench my metaphysical thirst.
Contemplating multiple sinuous sources of energy
Several interconnecting streams meander.
The bedrock river is absent of alluvium mantling
And my reflection ripples pensively
Grinning…no, not quite.
I look downstream between ancient banks
Glistening jewels of sunlight
Dapple the streams’ surface
Riches… treasure chests
Causing my eyes to tear in the cold mountain air.
Reminding me in my silence to do my work
With mastery like the water cycle,
Purifying… ever flowing.
The ephemeral significance evaporates in time.
If you fall from the sky, do so with courage.
If you rise from the sea, do so with love.
Last updated May 10, 2011