Gratitude

It’s been in the 50s lately, and our snow is almost gone. Everything thawing reminded me of “Gratitude,” one of the poems in my recently released chapbook, The State of Mercury.

Sometimes I don’t know why one thing makes me think of another. “Gratitude” depicts a thaw and change of seasons but I’m not totally sure why these connect in my mind. If you readers have any thoughts on how these are alike, leave a comment 😊

Gratitude

With defibrillating percussion,
ice cracks and gives way
to the river’s viscera
beneath glazed trees 
that weep morning stars of spring.

Listening to the Dark

Fairly often, odd thoughts stroll through my mind, and sometimes, those odd thoughts find their way into poems.

“Listening to the Dark” is one such poem. When I get up in the middle of the night, I often find myself stopping in the dark and listening. Whoever coined the phrase, “pregnant silence” was so right. I never feel silence is empty. It always seems full, bursting, but held in.

“Listening to the Dark” is from my second book Event Horizon (2022)

Listening to the Dark

In the middle of the night,
I listen to the dark
not saying all it knows
of days and days and days on end
since before
there were days.

Conscience

Last week, I announced my first chapbook, The State of Mercury is now available on Amazon. My first review—3 stars—was underwhelming but that’s how it goes; some like your work, some don’t, and some like it sixty percentish 😆 If you’ve read anything I’ve offered on Amazon and like it better than 3 stars, I would be grateful for ratings and/or reviews 😊

Ratings aside, I hold with Dylan Thomas who said “In My Craft or Sullen Art” that he didn’t write for ambition or bread but for the lovers who “lie abed / With all their griefs in their arms”. Poetry is such a niche interest that if you write it for accolades, you’ll probably never write.

“Conscience” is a poem that appears in The State of Mercury and also in my full length book Event Horizon. This poem grew out of some political angst I was feeling but has broader application. Tests of conscience don’t belong just to our time or to the political realm only. Because of that, I didn’t use contemporary issues or imagery. I wanted to treat the idea of conscience more universally. My hope was to deliver something thought provoking that transcends particular situations.

Conscience

Decide now

before freight cars
barrel through the night 
to where the climbing sun
bloodies razor wire;

before the hurled brick
lies with shards of spirit 
in the moonlight;

before myna birds roost
over every shoulder
to repeat
what they hear;

before the fences around what’s yours
are shoved all the way back
into your skull.

Decide 

whether conscience is a toothpick

or a stake to burn on.

The State of Mercury Now Available!

Last week, I said my first chapbook would be out in a week or so. I’m happy to announce that The State of Mercury is now available on Amazon! This chapbook has a nice sampling of poems from both my books and explores the many moods or states of mind people move through. In addition, about 1/3 of the poems are new and give a foretaste of my next book, Shadow and Memory.

I hope you’ll check out The State of Mercury, which is available in Kindle format. I’ll close this post by sharing the second to last poem, “Love.” I’m especially excited about this poem. Why? Let me share a brief story: As of two days before publishing, I still had no poem about love. This really bothered me. How could I release a chapbook about human moods and states and not have a poem about love, which most people value above all?

As I began setting up The State of Mercury up for digital publishing, I talked with the Lord. Given that scripture says, “God is love,” I felt my chapbook would be especially incomplete if it didn’t have a poem about love (1 John 4:16). So I asked God if He would give me one. Not long after, an idea came to me. By the next day, I had the poem below 😊 Many thanks to God for giving it!

Love

Petals open wide
to sunlight’s cleaving sword

defenseless bloom

bleeding color

breathing out
perfume

Hope—The State of Mercury

In a previous post, I mentioned I’m working on my first chapbook: The State of Mercury. This week, I am working on the final steps to self-publish it! I expect it to come out on Amazon in the next week or so.

All the poems in The State of Mercury will explore the mercurial or changeable nature of people. These poems have an emotion or state of mind as their title. Most of them appeared in one of my two books, The Wind and the Shadows or Event Horizon. However, there are a handful of new poems, which will be included in my third book, Shadow and Memory, slated for release later this year.

This close to self-publishing, I thought it apropos to share a new poem from The State of Mercury entitled “Hope.”

Hope

The seed in the ground—
dirt-blind and stone deaf—
feels in itself
the gripping roots,
unmoving trunk,
limbs flung into the sun, 
and leaves
whispering the wind’s
oracles.

Down from Heaven

One of the central beliefs of Christianity is that people couldn’t reach high enough (so to speak) to touch God so God became human in the person of Jesus. Christmas is a time when we especially remember God becoming human in Jesus as the focus is Jesus’s birth.

Below is a sonnet I wrote a number of years ago that parallels the course of a snowflake with the course of Jesus’s life. The inspiration for this poem was Isaiah 55:10-11–“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish…so is my word that goes out from my mouth….”

The first two stanzas of my poem imagine Jesus becoming flesh—the divine spirit “crystalizing” into a body—and coming to earth. The third stanza compares the snowflake landing on a grass blade to Jesus being hung on the cross and dying. The final couplet uses the imagery of spring to suggest that Jesus’s death brought new life to everything through His resurrection from the dead. This fact makes Christmas very merry indeed 😊

“Down from Heaven” appeared in my first book of poetry, The Wind and the Shadows.

Down from Heaven

In grayish convolutions being stirred
by currents that converged from every side,
in mysteries and mist it crystallized,
like language from meditation’s vapor.

And from the folded curtain of the clouds
It pirouetted, leaped, and lilted down,
tracing cursive paths across the sky,
a signature, a witness for all eyes.

Then softly, as when death comes during sleep,
it laid its lacy frost upon a blade
of grass, to melt, to trickle, and to seep
away, like words do after one has prayed.

No sign of it remained, but tender shoots
rose from the ground and burst in fragrant blooms.

Christmas Tree

Tonight, we decorated our Christmas tree as a family. Carols played from another room as we talked, laughed, and enjoyed adorning branches. But Christmas trees remind me of another tree, and the deeper meaning of Christmas: “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). Last year, I tried to capture this juxtaposition in a poem called “Christmas Tree,” which appeared in my second book Event Horizon.

Christmas Tree

This year’s tree
stands at the picture window.

Overcast skies
give their pallor
to the window-facing 
side of the tree.

Shadows from the unlit room
reach and drape across
the tree’s back
as I think about
a baby born to die,
and the tree waits
to be hung 
with garland and lights.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

In my last post, I mentioned the snow is flying where I live. It snowed most of last night, and we woke to 5 or 6 inches of fresh, powdery snow. Keeping with the theme of snow, I thought I’d post a favorite Robert Frost poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

This poem has an interlocking Rubaiyat form, which I’ve described in another post. The narrative of Frost’s poem is simple: the speaker is on his way home and pauses with his horse to watch the snow fall in woods owned by an acquaintance. Given this mundane scene, the almost confessional reflection of the speaker in the last stanza is abrupt and striking:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

The beauty of the scene seems to evoke longing in the speaker: longing for rest and release from the day’s obligations. The longing might also be more existential than that—a longing for release from the burdens of this life and for final rest.

While it isn’t completely clear what the speaker is feeling, he only indulges it for a moment before (reluctantly) putting his hand back to the plow of the day’s work and life itself.

“Stopping by Woods on a Snow Evening” is a short poem of four stanzas and well worth a minute to read. (Though thinking about it might last more than a minute!) If you read it and have any thoughts of your own about Frost’s imagery, please comment below.

Hourglass

Winter is officially here and, where I live, we have snow. In my house, it’s not uncommon to hear people break out in their own rendition of “Snow” from White Christmas. Anti-snow factions hate us 😆

A number of my poems are meditations on falling snow, something I never tire of watching. Last winter, we ended up with two feet or more! One slow morning I sat sipping coffee as the snow built up and “Hourglass” was born. If you don’t like snow, I just use it as an image; I hope you won’t just toss this poem with your proverbial shovel 😉

If readers have thoughts about what the image of snow suggests, please comment below! “Hourglass” is available in my second book, Event Horizon.

Hourglass

Sitting at breakfast,
looking out the window,
I am in an hourglass of snow,
which deepens
a nanometer at a time

burying the world
quietly

as the greying of my hair.

Your Penney-Ante Speeches

Every so often, I just get in a mood and write a quirky poem whose origin even I don’t really understand. “Your Penney-Ante Speeches” is one such poem and appears in my first book of poems, The Wind and the Shadows. Even if I don’t know where it came from exactly, it’s blunt playfulness makes me smile and does make a point.

Your Penney-Ante Speeches

DON’T GIMME
YOUR PENNEY-ANTE SPEECHES
DON’T GIMME
YOUR THEORETICKLE MY
THUS
TEENY WEENY
SPLEENY
YOUR MOUSTACHE DAUBING
EMPTINESS
YOUR SPIRITUAL
ELECTURE CHAIR
GIMME SOME BLOOD
GIMME SOME GUTS
GIMME SOME
PIN PULLIN’
PLANK WALKIN’
FUNDAMENTALS
GIMME SOME ULTIMATUMS
C’MON
LEMME SEE YUH SWEAT
BIG GUY
LEMME SEE YUH 
RIP YOUR HEART OUT
AN’ LEMME WATCH IT
BEAT
IN THE OPEN AIR

IF YOU
GOT 
ONE