A Christmas Terza Rima Sonnet

You’d think, in forty-four Decembers’ span
Accumulated gloom would leave its stamp
And render me a melancholy man

In every heart I’ve known, grief makes its camp
It pounds its drum and hisses, “I’m the truth!”
And yet, a wick still burns in hope’s frail lamp

If anyone emerges from her youth
Still cradling that pale light within her chest
What secret keeps her safe from sorrow’s tooth?

The key comes in two parts (so I’d suggest):
Share beauty, love, and justice – bold and free
And notice how, despite your pain, you’re blest

And Christmastime? It’s opportunity
To practice both, to marvelous degree!

“Clarity” is (after Emily Dickinson)

“Clarity” is
after Emily Dickinson

“Clarity” is a mirror –
Reflecting back at me –
And shows my soul particular –
Yet never separately –

And underneath – the Clouds – is seen –
And dense must be the mist –
That could obscure the Echo pure
that promises us bliss –

I’ve seen it in the darkest night –
And in the strangest Land –
Yet – never – in the midst of Loss
It made the least – demand.

inside the clock tower

behind the perfect
circle of his face
i am reduced

and through his eyes
i condescend
to gaze upon

the vital city
smaller still than i
but more alive

this does not matter
does not modify
the work that i must do

his face is blemished
only i can rectify
this indignity

his noble surface
shall be whole again
while i diminish

descend and
disappear
leaving him to reign

ode to the table – day one

uneven and paint-splotched
    knobbly     wobbly
you’d teeter like the tippling pals
you held upright the night before
except for the wadded-up napkins
someone jammed beneath your toes

this is no place for flawlessness
yet your mighty central pillar
elevates your broad circular surface
    welcoming     balancing
high enough above the filthy floor
to ground my nervous drumming fingers

it’s dark in this stranger-full room
and i’m sharing you with two women
    not-yet-kate    not-yet-erin
who aren’t talking to me
because although this is a sort of church
my saint/sinner status is yet unknown

so i stare down at you instead
studying your lavish ornamentation
of gum-wads and peeling/curling stickers
until the indescribable commences
    uncontainable    untameable
and i am beguiled for good

Terzanelle of the Elephant

Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion depicts the subconscious mind as an elephant, with the conscious mind as its rider. The elephant – that great big bundle of emotions, fears, neuroses, cultural conditioning, etc., – is nearly always the one who makes the decisions about where it and its rider actually go, due to its size, its strength, its intelligence, and the fact that it’s the one with its feet on the ground. The rider is then left to come up with “rational” justifications for the decisions made by the elephant, which helps him maintain the illusion that he is actually the one in charge.

He’s not.

Terzanelle of the Elephant

I see you, elephant – you cannot hide.
I know your ways. You want to be unseen.
Between my mindful moments you would slide.

My subjugation’s your banal routine,
but every now and then I catch a flash.
I know your ways. You want to be unseen.

I drive; you tell me, “Probably, you’ll crash.”
I search for courage in a land of fear,
and every now and then I catch a flash.

I see your dominance and shed a tear
for my delusions of autonomy.
I search for courage in a land of fear.

I recognize there is no solid “me”.
I mourn for my belief in virtue, and
for my delusions of autonomy.

I know now – I was never in command.
I see you, elephant. You cannot hide.
My efforts at control are built on sand.
Between my mindful moments you will slide.

Entering the Stream

(three versions)

 

entering the stream

perhaps
i’ll wade in
despite
my flaws

perhaps
i’ll swim

 

Entering the Stream

I’m not ready.
I’m not worthy.
I’m a fraud.

Surely the rush of
clear, cool water
will reject me –
vomit me out.

Or maybe I do not need
to be enlightened first
before I dip in a toe.

Maybe I can wade in,
imperfect as I am –
just up to my ankles.

And then, perhaps I can
continue walking,
until the stream comes up
to my thighs,
to my belly,
to my chest…
over my head.

Until I must learn
to breathe
underwater.

Or maybe
simply
learn to swim.

 

Entering the Stream

I’m not prepared to wade in here.
My worth is much in doubt.
My fraudulence is all too clear.
This stream will spew me out.

Unless – perhaps I need not know
enlightenment at first.
What if I may dip in a toe?
(I’ll try…I haven’t burst!)

Now ankle-deep I venture in,
now thigh, now gut, now breast.
And now, two feet above my chin…
and terror grips my chest!

I need to learn to breathe the stream
and bear this state most grim.
Or else…perhaps a simpler scheme:
I’ll merely learn to swim.

fourfold

called to embrace life
though permeated by suffering
it’s dappled with beauty
this is all real

empowered to release reactions
watching clouds take shape
letting them drift away
they don’t snag me

delighted to glimpse clarity
seeing beyond habitual responses
compassionate freedom opens wide
ah, clear blue sky!

prepared to journey onward
twisting path conceals much
that is tomorrow’s business
here is step one

listening

it doesn’t matter if i listen
i said to her

if i listen
or if i do not listen
when my body has something to say to me
it will certainly make itself heard

if my body wants to convey ANXIETY
then my chest will clench
as if the teenage iguana
that lives inside it
woke up and uncurled
stretched out its spikey legs
and bit down on my esophagus
hard

if my body wishes to say DESIRE
then it will vanish all my ambivalence
about my maleness
in a coup of utter control
directing my eyes
and other parts
toward the object of its infatuation

if my body would communicate DESPAIR
it will do so
and my face and shoulders and heart
will all follow its lead
drooping and sliding
into the deep

so you see
it doesn’t matter if i listen
or not

Underneath

I know it’s not real.
I know.
My father told me so,
and I believe him.

He always tells the truth.

So I know
that when my father
turns off the light,
and it’s quiet
(at first)
and then I hear the scritch,
       scritch,
               scritching,
I know
that it’s all in my head.

And I know
that when I call out,
“Stop!
Stop scritch,
        scritch,
                scritching
underneath my bed!”

and I hear in reply,
       no, little poppet
       you do not want me
           to stop
       because if I stop
           scritching
       then I will begin
           chewing
I know
that too
is all in my head.

My head
is clearly not right,
but I do not want it
to be chewed
off my neck.

So I don’t try to stop
the scritching
anymore.

It has been
one hundred and eight days
since I last slept.

And now,
because my nails
have grown
so fine and sharp,
and my teeth
       all in my head
       all in my head
have become
so long and cruel,

I know that
it is time for me to leave.
It is time for me to go
and find another child’s bed
to scritch
        scritch
                scritch
underneath.