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David Adamson Jun 2019
I stand at the flagstone fountain in the park and gaze across the street at the red brick bungalow where I lived as a child. Am I supposed to intone something? Summon a spirit? Or perhaps I’m the one who’s been summoned? Ghost of myself.

Set into the steep hillside, the house faces west. A boarded-up plate glass window makes it blind in one eye. In the summer, from that window, I watched postcard sunsets. I also learned watching there that the world was TV.  You watched it. It didn’t see you.

On the opposite wall, on a sofa, our family watched on a 15 inch portable Sears black and white with the collapsible rabbit ears men first walk on the moon.  We welled with pride in the space program. I ate Space Food Sticks and drank Tang.

Around to the side, behind the rose bushes, through that small basement window was my bedroom when I was 10. A tiny square of sun on the brightest summer day was all the daylight that ever got in.  There I first felt inside the base of my spine a small hard coldness. The night before, my three best friends had slept over to celebrate my 11th birthday.  Tonight I was alone.  The coldness grew.  It tendril’d into an icy tingle that radiated up my spine and through my arms like a metal cage of disappointment.  

Years later I learned the name of depression. But then it was just  cold inside my spine. And the cold spoke to me. “Davy, this is how it’s gonna be. It’s just you and me. Make room.” “You’re wrong,” I said.  “You’ll see. I’ll meet Ruby Tuesday.” I turned up the transistor radio and pulled the music close to me.

Through that bay window just above, the dining room table, my father and draft-age brother late on summer nights had it out over Vietnam.  

“Immoral, unnecessary, we should not be there,” my brother said.
“You know what happens if we’re not there?” says dad. I was in Korea. When the communists took over, in came the guys with the clipboards. Anyone who spoke English or taught school or owned a business was lined up against a wall and shot.
Yeah, well, we should not be … dying … bombs…bloodbath…reds.

Drowsing I no longer heard the words, only rising and falling pitch, a duet of bitterness, anger, wistfulness, probing for connection And into the night as darkness took hold and the voices merged with the rising and falling rhythm of cricket sounds, harmonizing like sleep.
Jun 2019 · 366
Accidental Love Poem
David Adamson Jun 2019
A long time ago I tried to write
A love poem to a girl of my dreams.
I was burning and I was burning
For her. Instead, it seems

I wrote something about amnesia
And forgetting how to feel.
I wanted to win a dark mistress’s heart
Only the burning was real.

Or a different story:
The gulf between objects and desire.
Like the soul in Emerson’s tale,
We can never touch our beloved with fire.

Or loss. A long-legged beauty
Disappeared into echoes that I can’t explain.
Still burning with thirst
I wrote about ashes and pain.

Then I met you on a blooming campus path.
You had sinewy curves and a powerful flame
In your eyes that left me burning
To give your pleasure a secret name.

But it turned into a different plot.
You told me I set something inside you free.
It was new and I was still learning.
I told you, “Come burn with me.”

I think I know what the problem was.
I needed to learn a language from you,
The wordless speech that tongue teaches tongue,
Eye glints to eye, that skin lets through.

And our bodies coiled together
And your brown skin and my pale skin
Entangled in the heat of unity.
The burning flowed from outside to in.

There has to be a word for this,
Something enduring, strong.
Come close, I’ll try to whisper it.
Though I might get it wrong.
Dedicated to my wonderful wife, Vickie.
May 2019 · 284
A Wanderer at the End
David Adamson May 2019
We are travelers all our lives.
Like the sun and moon, never come to rest.
When the body stops, the motion survives.

Time twists inside me.  I buried two wives,
their love spent on an endless road.  My quest  
consumed them, traveling all their lives.

Profligate summer mocks my waning drives.
Riddles of the road languish here, unguessed,
where my body stops. The motion survives

In my art’s vigor, you say, derives
force from what now seems the bitter  jest
that we are travelers all our lives.

My friend, before the end arrives
There must be time to seek again the west
beyond the sunset, where motion survives

in the dying sun, blazing, as it revives  
inhuman tongues that said it best
that we are travelers all our lives.
When the body stops, the motion survives.
May 2019 · 2.9k
Photo Op
David Adamson May 2019
Patiently waiting for the perfect light.
Glassy lake, wind, clouds, perfection’s near
as the moment dwindles into night.

Captured moments prove that you’re alive, a height
of feeling between depths of time and fear
that living casts only imperfect light.

But the moment missed is like a face out of sight
that against all logic you hope will appear
from around a corner, framed by the night.

Technology offers consolation in its sleight
of hand:  Digitally correct the analog here
and now, counterfeit the perfect light.

Yet you want more than the remastered byte.
You want the flash between waiting and souvenir,
Self and spectacle fused, reality felt right.

And so you wait for what’s passing out of sight,
the collision between soon and too late, sheer
threads connecting to the perfect light
before the moment dwindles into night.
Apr 2019 · 345
David Adamson Apr 2019
A man in a field walks through a storm.
Snowflakes on his eyelashes blur his vision.
A man in a study believes in snow,
believes in the truth of snow.

A man leaves traces as he walks.
His tracks ornament the field’s blank.
He meanders, doubles back, evading,
leaves imprints that the snow erases.
A man walks. The snow falls.  

In a study, a man devotes himself to snow.
He reads from the book of snow.
He composes wintry axioms.
“Snow:  Atmospheric water vapor frozen into ice crystals
that drop on a walking man’s eyelashes
or lie blank in an unwritten field.

“Snow is a conflict,
a confusion, a yearning.
Letters are desire.
Margins are melancholy.”

The storm disappears.
A man squints at blurred words,
Resumes writing,
Shaking snow from the page.
Mar 2019 · 325
Language lessons
David Adamson Mar 2019
The language I learned from you
was the wordless speech
that tongue teaches tongue
that eye flicks to eye
that skin lets through
Mar 2019 · 4.6k
Medical Alphabet
David Adamson Mar 2019
N.  N is for neurologist.  
What does the neurologist say?
“Nothing seems to be wrong.
Your net recall seems normal.
You seem to remember most nouns and the news.
Nothing serious,
No need to worry.”

I don’t quite remember driving here.
This is Bethesda, right?
And your name is…?

P.  P is for psychologist.
The P. is silent.
So is the psychologist.
I talk and talk.
My energy level is high today,
even though I got no sleep last night.  
I want to write a poem and run a partial marathon.
I love people.
People are so beautiful.
“Only connect,” said E.M. Forster.
Am I talking too much?
How does that make me feel?
Just great!  Not like yesterday,
when I wanted to jump into the Potomac
from Key Bridge.
P is also for Potomac.
The psychologist speaks.
I need a new pill.

E. E is for endocrinologist.
What does the endocrinologist say?
“Eat. You’re an enigma.
You are losing weight.
We don’t know why.
We’ve checked everything
and can’t find evidence
of enemies in your endocrine system.
Enjoy some eclairs, eggplant, eggs benedict.
Life is short, endulge!  
Hopefully not too short.

O. O is for oncologist.
Oh oh.
Feb 2019 · 241
Against Forgetting
David Adamson Feb 2019
My skin remembers your fingers.
My calm remembers your care.
I loved once and was loved.
Read this to me when I'm not there.
Feb 2019 · 14.0k
Tragic Pizza (prose poem)
David Adamson Feb 2019
The place smells the same. Garlic, undergraduate angst, oven flame.  The menu hasn’t changed. The Antony and Cleopatra.  Italian sausage and snake meat. The Macbeth. Cooked in a cauldron.  Blood sauce won’t wash off. The Julius Caesar.  Served bottom side up.  You have to knife it from the back. The Timon of Athens. Only bitter, separate ingredients, overcooked to black. The Frankenstein.  Assembled from ingredients at hand.  Served smoking from a jolt of high voltage. The Dramatic Irony. It’s a surprise.  Everyone at your table knows what you’re getting while you cover your eyes.

You said tragedy means playing out a ****** hand. The game has to end badly. Bigger Thomas. Joe Christmas.  Hamlet.  Everybody dies.  No choices. The end. I said, no, it means you have a fatal flaw.  Macbeth and Ted Kennedy—ruthless ambition.  Gatsby—pride. Lear—vanity. Richard Nixon—douchebaggery, deep-fried. Bad choices.  

“Can’t be both,” you said.  “One is character, the other one’s fate.” “What if character is fate?” I asked smugly. “Then we’re *******, Heraclitus. It’s late.”

I smoked a pipe.  You wore a beret and severely bobbed hair. I wrote sarcastic love letters to the universe. You wrote hate lyrics to Ted Hughes, love notes to Jane Eyre. We kept relations on an intellectual plane. You had a set of big firm ideas, dark-eyed principles, and a dimpled scorn of life’s surly crap. My eloquence was tall, square-jawed, curly, tan.  Together we solved the world’s big problems as only undergraduates can.

“Can pizza be tragic; or is it merely postponed farce?” I wondered. “Here it is clearly both, though not at the same time,” you said. “Does tragedy plus time equal comedy?” “Sounds right.” “No, tragedy plus time is any order in this place on a Saturday night.” After what seems like decades our orders finally arrive.  

“What did you get?” I asked.  “Looks like the Double Tragic,” you replied. “Flawed choices and fate. I leave you. You were unfaithful to every love sonnet you ever wrote.  Yet you are the first man who makes me feel loved, the only one who ever will.  I strain for that feeling again and again but it becomes a boulder that keeps rolling back down the hill. And fate—my beautiful ******* that got so much attention from men will **** me.  The only thing they will ever nurse is a cancerous seed. You?”

“The Too-Many-Choices, done to perfection. Choosing everything means choosing nothing. Loving too many women, I love none.  I follow a simple path home but try to stay lost. Living in the space between lost and found has a cost.  My life becomes a solitary pilgrimage to no place.”

“Let’s not reduce our lives to a Harry Chapin song,” we agreed. So we toasted the beauty of what never was. I went back to my hotel to write, found my way to a few easy truths, and called it a night.
Feb 2019 · 809
Brutal Mercies
David Adamson Feb 2019
I met a woman
brutal in her mercy.

Her embrace was a clinch
to prevent hard blows.
She pulled me close to push me away.
Seeing my nakedness
she leant me a dream
of chainmail and shield.
Taking love from me she gave a reprieve
to a mind resigned to the slow death of feeling.

Ignoring my words she heard
my faint silent heartbeat and
understood that it was music
too quiet for the world to hear
and turned it up louder
than I could stand.
I wept in my deafness
as she danced.
Feb 2019 · 355
David Adamson Feb 2019
Dance was the shape her body gave to music.
Feb 2019 · 616
To the Muse of Forgetting
David Adamson Feb 2019
“Forgetting is the purest form of clarity.”

And so ended the unquiet dreams
awkward reunions with the dead
wandering the halls of sleep,
the bodies of others’ loss.
Ghosts gone from the gazebo.
No laments in the lowering sun.

She woke. Blue sky blinked into her eyes.  
The room’s climate began to clear.
The familiar path from bed to door
curled into a stone staircase.
When did that get there?  
There was writing on the wall
near a waterfall.

She climbed. She soared.  
She leant a myth to god.
She stood in a garden with five black stones.
She foretold an eclipse,
Burned the witch of winter,
Stepped in the same river twice.

The moon shrank into the alarm clock’s face.
Her breath brewed clouds above her forehead.
She sat aloof in the empty air,
Alone in the immense morning,
At rest in clear, cold perfection.
David Adamson Feb 2019
1.  Learn forgiveness.  Then withhold it from everyone.
2. Avoid making enemies. Leave it to your friends to find you insufferable.
3. There is good in everyone. The trick is not to let it out.
4. Expect the worst. You’ll be right.
5. Never hurt anyone’s feelings.  Unintentionally.
6. Command an audience.  Then who cares if you loathe mankind?
7. Self-sacrifice ennobles the spirit.  But someone still has to clean up the blood.
8. Don’t dance.  Then no one will watch.
9. Don’t envy others’ success.  Intervene more forcefully to prevent it.
10. Life is short, but otherwise lousy.
Jan 2019 · 182
The Fable of the Butterfly
David Adamson Jan 2019
A butterfly landed nearby.
It had auburn wings
and azure circles on each,
like a pair of eyes
that looked through me.

“Butterfly, you are beautiful!” I cried.
“You give me pleasure.
I love you.”

“Love is a beautiful thing,” said the butterfly.
“I need food. You have flowers.
Can I drink from them?”

“Of course,” I said.  
“But aren’t you going to love me back?
I am a butterfly just like you.
Tell me that you see it!”

“Nothing that I say,”
she said, “can make you a butterfly.”
“If you want to be a butterfly,
be one.”
Jan 2019 · 153
Some Uses of Song
David Adamson Jan 2019
To suspend
A summer day in glass.
Complaisant green,
This blade of grass.

To give away
Grief, unfeel a caress,
Nourish a hunger
For emptiness.

To insinuate
to love’s unanswered skin
syllables of desire
pricking in.

To build
a terrace of form,
inside the weather of confusion,
a private storm.

To wander
through rooms of the mind
searching for enchanted objects.
What do I have to find?

To mark
against the slippage
of another year
that we are here.
David Adamson Jan 2019
Last year's version of the mind-body problem:
my mind gives orders that my body won’t obey.
It’s a problem.

The body’s warranty has expired and
spare parts are scarce.  Plastic tubes
To help me drain have become part of my day.
So there’s still a will.  But sometimes no way.

I am now my sister’s age when she died.  
And some nights
as I lie down in darkness
there’s a moment of wondering
could this be the night
of the Great Reckoning
when everything I’ve said and done
goes mute and I am gone.

And crawling over me like a slow stain
is dread that everything important in life
has already happened. I remember some days  
less than my dreams.

But friend, not this tone!
Let us write a history of now.
Body and soul, stand up and shout
“Baseball road trip!”

Car:  check.  Best friend:  check.  Nostalgia for a simpler
time.  We can fake that one.
The red zigzags on our map turn into places:
Six ballparks in a week.
Detroit haze, gasping Chicago wind,
Milwaukee self-serve micro brew
Cincinnati chili and watering eyes,
Cleveland’s defiant self-love,
Pittsburgh’s Primanti brothers monstrosity sandwich—
Burger, coleslaw, and fries on toast.

The American dream tastes like fast food,
But the mystery lives between the lines.
Thwack of fastball into catcher’s glove,
Whock! of line drive into the gap,
Ball rolling free across the green
While the runner speeds for home.

Let’s keep going, friend.
There’s another bridge up ahead and
a ballpark’s lights shining somewhere in the dusk
of the upper Midwest and the open road
unrolls toward the setting sun.
Jan 2019 · 133
Reclamation project
David Adamson Jan 2019
1.  Lying in the Dark

I stare toward empty heaven
which darkness fills
and I lie down,
become the horizon,
axis for the night to spin.  
The past was worse than you thought,
voices say, and poetry won’t keep us quiet.
I float toward sleep
on a tide of loss,
drifting toward morning,
beached by sunrise,
stranded in the empty skin of another day.

2. The Reappearing World

New light assembles the same objects
and forgives mere longing
in ordinary darkness.
Gloom is porous.
Dawn seeps in.
Things of the world resist
but return to radiance.
There are voices, laughter, faint at first.
Love like laughter comes when it will.
Warm flecks of morning dance in a square of sunlight.
Jan 2019 · 1.3k
David Adamson Jan 2019
In this place
The air is so dry that water sulks.
The sky is a viscous brown mosaic.
The sulfurous fumes of old suffering linger.

A woman stares as if trying to unsee creation.
Words on a man’s tongue sound
like rhythmic coughing.
At the only stoplight
the crosswalk sign flashes “Don’t waltz.”

Strangers recoil from me
as if from an embarrassing stain.

People stream to the town square
for some indecipherable ritual.
Probably a funeral for the sun
or a snake oil sale.

Welcome to humankind’s true garden.
Not paradise but a place of desolation,
and what comes after is not exile but striving
and getting the hell out.

So long, mom and dad.
Jan 2019 · 8.1k
Social Self 2.0
David Adamson Jan 2019
A landscape devoid of transparent eyeballs.
When did we all become photographers?
Freeze fleeting things,
filter clouds, endless beauty a simple effect.

Funny how enclosures feel obsolete—
the graves, the houses, three-sided mornings—
when I am a share, a like,
self-simulacrum selfie.
I stand on a fascinating algorithm,
Below that it’s reposts all the way down.

Share, share a like,
share a googol of happy lives
better than yours.

Are we saying yes  
to starting off yet again,
absent this time?
Jan 2019 · 1.1k
In the Palace of Art
David Adamson Jan 2019
She invited me into her palace of art,
Where everything signified something else.
She wore a silvery gown,
Covered with a million miniature mirrors.
I was badly dressed.

“Beautiful lady, be my love
and heal my soul.
My life is fragments.
Make me whole.”

“I made this place to stand apart,
A window to a world purer, deeply felt.
Everything here is for you but my heart.
Don’t get the idea that it’s going to melt

Later on.”  Music played.
Nirvana. Or maybe it was “Deacon Blues.”
Twisted letters carved
On doorknobs offered clues
To someone else’s mystery.

“Then be my muse,
Teach me the language of clouds
The coded words on the ceiling’s vault.”

A digital river flowed beneath
A winding stair down to an analog sea.
I asked “Are these ‘caverns measureless to man’?”
“Yes,” she said, “But not to woman.”

I wandered through room after room,
One printed, one painted, one sculpted, one
Paneled with friezes like the blazing tomb
Of an epic queen deified by the sun.

I saw a near-empty room with a single chair.
The light defined its form,
its form escaping into light.
“Is this real or a photo?”
“Yes,” she serenely replied.

I came to two doors.  One said Discipline,
One Desire. “How can I possibly choose?”
“They lead to the same place,” she said.

What was real and what wasn’t flowed together
“You’re starting to figure it out.”

The innocence of a woman’s arched back,
And the wisdom of children.  
The solitude of a lonely pier.

I knelt and I thanked her “Was all this for me?”
“I made this to give away. Not just for you.
What have you learned?  Let’s review.

“Art is a shield
Against falling glass. Art healed
My divided mind, which used to devour
Itself, giving away its power.

Art is hunger, a piercing lack.
Art is a ride on a gull’s back.

Art is a dodge, the as of the mirror.
Art destroys, callous clearer
Of old order.  Art is a dance,
a surrender to chance.

Art is not all seduction and fire
Or tethered to your desire
(Except when it is).  
Beyond the dazzle of you and me,
Art is a failing light for learning how to see.”

I said “Now I understand less than before.”
“Then you’re ready.  
Imagine starry ways beyond these walls.
Use an innocent eye.  
Confusion calls.”

I never saw her again.
But it was enough
to start small.  

She tempted me like an empty page.
From this immense vacuum, I write.
May 2017 · 825
Under Pale Starlight
David Adamson May 2017
In daylight he was a realist,
Anchored in a world of objects.
But under pale starlight,
Apparitions of her kisses
Danced across his skin

Desire for her, he told himself,
was a craving for form,
a way to fill the night
with soothing fiction.
But the truth was that he could no longer tell
love from addiction.
Apr 2017 · 518
A View of Los Angeles
David Adamson Apr 2017
The first time I saw Los Angeles,
it was after midnight.
Descending from Cajon pass and
entering the chaos of light and
the formless poetry of traffic,
I thought of Ezra Pound’s line from near the end of the Cantos:
“I cannot make it cohere.”
“It” is the most important word in that sentence.
In language we can conjure wholes too big for us to comprehend.
Push hard enough, and names fade and pronouns are all we have left.
So what is this place?
#urbansprawl #citylights
Oct 2016 · 1.0k
Old House
David Adamson Oct 2016
Salt Lake City, 2015*

Like a tourist in my own childhood,
I wander the neighborhood of my youth.
It’s not quite a pilgrimage, as
pilgrims know what they’re looking for.

I stand at the flagstone fountain in the park
and gaze across the street
at the red brick bungalow
where my family lived until I was 13.

Am I supposed to intone something?
Summon a spirit? Or perhaps I’m the one
who’s been summoned. Ghost of myself.

On this spot, there’s the illusion of level ground,
but here at the northwest corner of this Victorian
mountain city, the ground slopes in every direction
if you walk a few yards. North up to the Wasatch,
east up to the Wasatch, south more gently but up again,
to the Wasatch, and west sharply down to the valley floor.

Set into the hillside, the house faces west.
A boarded-up plate glass window
makes it blind in one eye.
In the summer, from that window,
we could see postcard sunsets,  
fiery light sinking into the Great Salt Lake.
In winter the gray stasis of inversion.

The old brass address plate—61—still hangs
Slightly crooked on the molding below the attic dormer.
The steep cement steps to the wide front porch
look worn by nostalgia.

My grandparents bought this house in 1938,
and sold it to my parents in 1957, so dad,
the English professor, could walk to work
at the U., a half block away.  I was 1.

Double exposure.  I can’t separate this view
From old photos and recollections.

There to the right on the parking strip,
I once hid under a giant cardboard box
when I knew my sister was walking back from campus.  
As she got close, I jumped out,
causing a satisfyingly chilling scream.  
She tried her best to be furious at me,
but we were both laughing too hard.

1946:  Dad in black and white stands
to the left of the porch’s north column in his graduation gown,
his bachelor’s degree delayed seven years
by a Mormon mission to Scotland and World War II.

1955: all my siblings and all the children
of my mother’s sisters posed on the sweeping cement stairs
for an iconic black and white portrait. Only one missing:
Me.  Not born yet.  All those cousins
Sitting on my steps before I existed.  
There must be a word in some language
for the feeling that gave me. I never could name it.

I start up the alley to the north side
to take a lap around the place.
The brick’s discolored and damaged
from a half-century’s growth of ivy,
recently stripped away, like skin where a tattoo’s been removed.
A picture I took in 1985 shows ivy completely covering the dim brick.

At night, a car turning up this alley would cast crazily
dancing lights  on the ceiling
of my pitch-dark basement bedroom,
through this little porthole-size window.
My heart  would race, knowing it meant my parents were home.

The cement walk alongside the house is crumbling
and has started to melt into the wild grass.

The next window, at the landing of the basement stairs
is where a black widow lived, encased in the space between
inner and outer panes. I used to study the red hourglass
on its abdomen, and tried to draw it.
Couldn’t get it right. Was better at artillery.

In the back, against this wall, an old radiator was standing, waiting for removal  after home improvements.
It toppled over and landed on my brother’s foot.
Crutches for weeks.  Bad luck, but maybe it inoculated
him.  He’s still never had a broken bone.

Here behind the garage, the old crabapple tree still stands,
nurturing its sour but highly flingable fruit.
At its base a hamster lies buried.

The little side yard on the south looks the same,
though the old white trellis that I used to climb
when I was so tiny it would support my weight is gone.

Back to the ***** at the front of the house.
Leaving for school in the morning I would
leap this ***** in a single bound.

The old place looks creased and sleepy.
It doesn’t remember who I am,
is starting to fade into the past.
It’s only about half here.
The rest is memory and desire.
I know this is a bit long and discursive, but I hope you'll stay with it! If you want to see a photo of the house, go to the tumblr address on my home page.
Oct 2016 · 1.9k
Rejection Letter
David Adamson Oct 2016
Dear David:

We are deeply gratified that you gave us the opportunity
to read your poems.  Notice that we say “opportunity”
rather than “submission,” for truly you graced us with works
of such enduring power, so sublime, so transcendent,
that our humble words scarce can adequately praise
the sacred privilege of reading them.

Seldom, no, never has human experience been so distilled,
so purified, so exalted, yet so exposed
in all its paradox, its shades and sunbursts,
shouts and silences, the hiding places redolent of inner light,
as in these timeless works.  

A calm breeze from the desert’s edge at dusk,
the chatter of a mockingbird at dawn,
the rumble and crash of a hidden waterfall,
the laughter of a child unseen in a cool wood’s shade,
emanate so intensely from the shapes of these letters
that our faith in the power of language to evoke reality
has been nourished and restored to its proper place.

However, we regret to inform you
that your poems do not meet our needs at this time,
which are for relevant poems for the upcoming
theme issue on Hammer Toes.

We hope you will consider us for future opportunities.


The editors of ******* Quarterly
Have been collecting a lot of rejection letters lately.  Here's my interpretation.
David Adamson Jul 2016
Summer morning.
Recrossing the borderline from the afterlife,
the dreamer is expelled from sleep, the dream lost.
I am a dream’s shadow,
heavy with transition, jagged from sleep.
Light gathers me from every room I have ever slept in
onto the shrinking island of the bed.

Someone cues the poetry. Unquiet lines.
The past was worse than you thought,
voices say.  Your life is a weighted skin.
Stop swimming against the tide of loss.

Yet gloom is porous.
From the sky’s cracked mosaic,
Daybreak seeps in.
The light reassembles familiar objects,
which replace mere longing in ordinary darkness.

The things of the world resist but return
to radiance, resume the work of existing.
We are all day laborers.
It's my shift. Summon the coffee.
The world yawns before me.
And I am, therefore (I think).
Jul 2016 · 3.6k
David Adamson Jul 2016
The story began one night in the dark
when most curious minds were asleep.
Sitting silently, only fingers tapping the keys,

“You tempted me like an empty page,” he wrote,
longing for a response of immediacy
that would fill his mind with more words,
the only thing he took comfort in.

She stepped aside from the voices
at her gathering to read his message.
“Emptiness,” she wrote back, “lives in the mind,
the habit of looking for what’s lost.

There is no zero in nature.
Let me tempt you with fullness instead.
Come and see what I see, and share what is there.”

As she sent the message, she swallowed deeply
knowing that what she offered was not quite a lie
but more of an unfulfilled desire.

“I can give you what I never had,” she thought.
Her mind wandered, filling
with all the ways that only emptiness can.

He wasn’t sure what she was offering him.
Whatever it was, he longed for it.
Her words flooded him with a feeling he couldn’t name.
Love? Desire?  Intoxication? Yes.

As the sun rose, he took no notice of fatigue, thirst, hunger.
He forgot the empty days,
the time spent looking in the mirror,
counting the lost years.
He began again to write.
A collaboration with my friend Candace Smith.
David Adamson Jul 2016
“Up above my head
I hear music in the air
I really do believe
I really do believe
there's a Heaven somewhere”
--Rhiannon Giddens

“Is that all there is?”
--Peggy Lee*

An old philosopher told me this:

“About heaven.
Let’s say there’s more than one.
There’s the one where souls
are lurid with perfection,
piled into bliss,
dreaming of change.

“There’s the one people search for
to fit the story they tell themselves.
I looked for it.  I watched the sky.
I found only words.  Blue sky is
a blank page.  Clouds are garish metaphors.

“Then there’s one that follows you.
Don’t look for it. You can’t find it.
It’s not a place or a path.
It dances at the edge of things
like old photos or a young face
that lives remembered in its older one,
an eternal moment always at hand
trailing like a thought balloon,
a shadow cast by nothing,
forever unfolding, never now.”
Jun 2016 · 17.7k
Glasses of Wine
David Adamson Jun 2016
The table was set.
The morning was fine.
The world lay reflected
in two glasses of wine.

An empty plate
reflected sunshine,
The morning compressed
in two glasses of wine.

What did she see
in undulations of wine?
Were the shapes a portent?
Was there a design?

Were the glasses a mirror
or shadowy sign?
Perhaps they were more
than just glasses of wine.

She and a friend
sat down to dine.
Their reflections drank deeply
from two glasses of wine.
This was inspired by a gorgeous photo that I wish I could post on HP.
Here's the link on Instagram.
Jun 2016 · 2.2k
A Day of Forgetting
David Adamson Jun 2016
Forgetting is the only clarity.*

It was a day of forgetting.
No unquiet dreams or
casual reunions with the dead
who wander the halls of sleep,
the bodies of someone else’s loss.
No ghosts in the gazebo.
No echoes in the fading light.

Exiting sleep’s empty waiting room,
She woke. Blue sky blinked into her eyes.  
The room’s climate began to clear.
There was writing on the wall.
Old fragments came to closure.
The windows slowly turned to mirrors.

She fiddled. She soared.  
She played with her ancestors’ building blocks.
She lent a myth to god.
She stood in a garden with five black stones.
She foretold an eclipse,
Burned the witch of winter,
Stepped in the same river twice.

The moment froze.
Then there it was.
The compound inviolate paradox
at the heart of things,
the answer flickering in light and shade,
to the sound of a child’s voice,
then the roaring wind.
She chuckled as it faded to a point of light
then vanished, like the picture on an old TV,
Like the moon shrinking into the alarm clock’s face.

Her breath brewed clouds above her forehead.
She sat aloof in the empty air,
Alone in the immense morning,
At rest in this inviolable disconnection,
the clear cold innocence of now.
May 2016 · 1.3k
Life Is the Story of Life
David Adamson May 2016
for Richard, the boy who narrated life*

Today, leaves are falling.
“One day Aaron will watch the falling leaves.”
The first day of school arrives.  
“One day Champ’s mom will take him to school.”

Life is the story of life, says the narrator.

Life expands. The story lengthens.
The intertwined threads begin to pull apart.

Life is surface and sheen,
laughter, tears, opaque signs.
The story strains after fictive frames,
the hero’s epiphany, the villain’s inner pain,
and undreamt creatures beyond human sense.

And so myth and magic
give form to stories
that we no longer star in.  
New worlds take shape
where the story creates its own life,
an escape from "the shock of recognition."

In time the threads converge again.  
Life’s pattern breaks and needs a new plot.
The stories yield their human meaning—
maybe we were in them all along.

The story ends and life goes on.
Life ends and the story goes on.
"The shock of recognition" is a phrase that I have lifted from an essay by Herman Melville.
Apr 2016 · 1.3k
Some Varieties of Silence
David Adamson Apr 2016
Swarming:  bees above a skylight.
Breath forming:  a child asleep in fading light.

Innuendo:  eyes when a kiss ends.
Before crescendo:  the audience as the curtain descends.  

Age:  a handwritten journal from a wandering liar.
Exhausted rage: Slauson Avenue after the Rodney King fire.

Utility: a brown wooden desk with empty drawers.
Apostrophe: an oration delivered near crashing shores.

A life destroyed:  an Olympia typewriter covered since 1975.
The void: a poem read aloud, addressee not alive.
David Adamson Apr 2016
I thought this park would stay the same
since I first set foot in its early green,
when it was new.  I didn’t know its name.  

Now the baseball diamond’s seen its last game.
They sodded the basepaths and took out the screen.
A field without a backstop just isn't the same.

The stone fountain sits dry in its frame
of red cement.  Once water gurgled clean,
and tasted new like a secret name.

This sloping dirt path was how I came
Home from school.  It was paved by a machine
When I thought this park would stay the same.

The box elder with the split trunk’s now maimed.
Half of it’s gone. I used to hide between
Its arms. It gave refuge I could not name.

Yet the vision of a place time can’t claim--
Spared in a quiet corner, unseen--
Persists.  So I dream this park stayed the same,
Though now it no longer remembers my name.
Reservoir Park is a one-square city block park across the street from my childhood home (mentioned in another poem, "A Summer Evening on University Street").  Just playing with form here.  Villanelles are always fun to try
Mar 2016 · 1.7k
Old Selves
David Adamson Mar 2016
Old selves die easily.
They whine their superseded demands
And the winds of change
Blow buildings down on them.

Or slide into a warm bath of contentment
And gasp out their last as the water drains,
Marooning them like bathtoys of despair.

One has expired in my arms.
His face turns to smoke
Like a ghost beginning to form.

Tenderly, I drag him to the backyard
To hide him with the others.
I mark where they’re buried
So oblivion knows where to find them.
David Adamson Jan 2016

In the garden hard with frost
sits an old man with furrowed eyes
staring at old decorations
dangling from branches
overhung with snow.

His forced breath sinks into fog.
He cannot feel
the rising of a warmer wind
or the furrowed ground
beneath his feet
poised to ooze life.

I am afraid of his eyes.
I turn away when he looks up
at the waves of geese returning,
thawing the ground with their shadows.
David Adamson Dec 2015
The course of a cloud is not my course.
The void of the sky is not my void.
The shifting wind’s not blowing in my direction.
Life is no longer up in the air.

Today the lines in my hand are my map.
All roads lead everywhere.
Today there is no walking away,
Only walking.
Merry Christmas, fellow poets!
David Adamson Dec 2015
You dance with me
While the wind gathers
In the portrait where you
Fix your hair in a bun,

Your back arched to the camera,
Your clothes on the floor
Where you dance with me
While the wind gathers.

You watch the sky
As you dance with me
While the gathering wind
Tears holes in the clouds.

We hear something final
In the gathering wind
Rushing through tall trees
As you dance with me.

Wherever you are
The wind gathers
While a dance goes on.
I still hear the music.
Nov 2015 · 516
Moving Pictures
David Adamson Nov 2015
Hardened to experience
Like gum beneath a chair,
I cannot explain
This lasting hunger for simple fictions.

Yet prompt me as you tried so long ago
To imitate the joker in the balcony
Who shouts “I’m gonna be sick!”
And launches a bucketful of mushroom soup
Over the railing,
To this day I forget my only line.  
The gestures, too.  
And the sound effects?  
The mind’s ear can’t hear them anymore,
Let alone vibrate to them in Sensurround.

But I’m still slouching down in familiar dark,
Feet stuck to the floor, waiting for the previews to end,
Hoping that a moving picture conjures
Something whose absence has become
So powerful that I begin to think
It’s really the presence of something else.

The aroma of our time together
So many years ago lingers
Like the faint odor of mushroom soup.
David Adamson Nov 2015
After the casseroles from anxious neighbors
And the flowers stopped arriving
And a last aging aunt blubbered goodbye,
I left the silent house,
Drove to the foothills
And began to climb.
Atop your favorite peak,
I opened the urn
And gave your ashes to the sky.
Will I ever stop wondering where you’ve gone?
The light was changing
As I descended into
The mountain's immense shadow.
Thanks for hanging with me on these sky poems...have almost exhausted all possible reasons for looking skyward.
David Adamson Nov 2015
Beneath a solitary cloud,
I try to imagine
Its hunger for solid form.
It is trapped in its becoming,
Blown along in a captivity of chaos.
I weigh the blessings of confinement
Inside the body’s slower entropy.
Posted earlier, but somehow not appearing in newsfeeds.  Reposting.
David Adamson Nov 2015
The poet frames the void.
The critic voids the frame.
And the psychologist Freuds the blame?
Oct 2015 · 831
One Definition of Poetry
David Adamson Oct 2015
A form of alchemy
By which
Emotional pain
Is transmuted
Into verbal pleasure.
David Adamson Oct 2015
Through pinpricks
In the vault of night,
The desires of sleeping souls
Seep upward into a second sky
Where they flare into infinitude
Like our longing for God.
Oct 2015 · 975
David Adamson Oct 2015
At night rise, to the buzz of my son’s blood,
I wake and blow aboriginal dust from my lungs,
Get up and take a turn around the house.

The place has gotten cold.
This ****-eyed family – good God, they are helpless.
I tried to help by leaving things behind,
Like this prayer on the wall
About the timelessness of beauty.
And did you find the poem
About Freud and mountain climbing?
All they do is wail privately
And try to pass it off as singing.

My son sleeps like a chessmaster,
Shocked into resignation.
He dreams about me,
And his dreams are riddled with light
And longing for the past.
Such nocturnal naiveté.

But he knows the stars
And because, like the ancient Greeks,
He can follow them home,
He will leave this place before it leaves him.

This house gets smaller all the time.
Still, the furniture breathes quietly,
And the dancers in the tapestry sway
Though faded by the sun.

The dust from my breath settles down in layers.
Pale light silvers the living room mirror.
My steps leave footprints before each foot falls.
The footprints lead back to my door.

It is time to lie down.
Soon my son will wake up,
And shake off the ashes of sleep.
I don't live here any more.
My death will begin again.
Sep 2015 · 785
Random Consolations
David Adamson Sep 2015
“We make our meek adjustments,
    Contented with such random consolations
    As the wind deposits in slithered and too ample pockets.”

               Hart Crane, “Chaplinesque”

A footstool in the desert.
A napkin in the netherworld.
A coffee stain in the margin.
Perfumed remains.
Systematic garnish.
Dorothy Stratten climbing Mt. Suribachi.
My late father’s toenail clippers.
Pale clouds over Slauson Avenue on the day after the L.A. riots.
A rhetoric of purpose.
A philosophy of decay.
A poem written to an audience of one.

©David Adamson 2015
David Adamson Sep 2015
Mountains swell, knuckle, roll.
Foothills ***** and slide.
Canyons fold, streams bend,
Salt marshes wrinkle and sink.
These pagan forms alone gave shape  
To this valley before God’s people arrived.    

Not until the Saints brought  
Rectilinear rectitude
And wrote a grid into this arid soil
Did this place become the land of God.  

My parallel brethren,
North Temple, First South,
We will meet in eternity.

And now do I sustain the men
Who bear the Logos
From the mountain to the desert,
Past Saint and Mason, Catholic and Jew
And, unbending, reveal
That the straight line is an act of God.

©David Adamson 2015
This poem is likely to make sense only to Mormons, ex-Mormons, or students of Mormonism.  South Temple is a main street in Salt Lake City, Utah--the first street south of the LDS (Mormon) temple, and perhaps the major east-west street in the city.  North Temple and First South are streets that run parallel to South Temple. The poem is about the early settlers' obsession with imposing a grid on the landscape they had come to inhabit.  The poem is neither mocking nor celebratory, merely making an observation.
David Adamson Sep 2015
Shrouded in the night’s thick fabric,
Some who fear infinity
Believe a dark door
In the sky will open
And heaven will empty itself
And everything they have ever lost
Will come back to them.
David Adamson Sep 2015
Ancient farmers in dry places
Watched the clouds.
Clouds mean rain.
Rain means life.
And so they discovered
That human fate falls from the sky
And rises from the ground.
This is the source of all mystery.
David Adamson Sep 2015
The sky is not a barrier but a portal.
Study carefully.  
It may be your only way out.
Sep 2015 · 1.5k
Submitting to the Muse
David Adamson Sep 2015
Freely accepted, constraints that bind
The senses can free the mind.

And so I knelt before her latitude.
Her choker became the horizon,
The light from her eyes a silent beatitude.

“What do you feel?” asked the voice of the wind.
I tried to answer, lips rapt and spellbound,
Eyes questing, but made no sound.

Enlarged by desire, encircled by pain,
I felt the fire and the rain.

I watched the walls of the room
Dissolve into clouds
As a crack in the sky beckoned,
Opening wide.

I was pulled upward into a swelling storm
And watched all around as I climbed
A mirror world form,
Like the universe rhymed.

Then calm.  I found myself at a steely gate.
A sign read “The Labyrinth of Language.”
The path began straight
Then forked into uncountable branches.

Words took shape and tried to dance
But hung
Captive on my soundless tongue.
They have remained there ever since.

Free them, goddess,
Let these words find flight.
Take them from the shadow of my tongue.
Release them into your luminous night.
Aug 2015 · 740
Prayer for My Mother
David Adamson Aug 2015
(for Peggy, with Alzheimer’s, 1996)*

Absent spirit:
Soothe our hunger for consolation
In the presence of this woman
Who asks for none.

May the colored shapes we have become
Stand apart from these walls--
Where sun after sun has tiled
A catacomb of days--
Distinctly enough to radiate our love.

Banish our loss.
Dissolve the bitter mystery of why.
Forgive our numb embrace
That enfolds this slumping body
Whose eyes reflect glass,
Whose mind quests beyond a dark door
Searching for a land of lost names.

Give words to her passage.
Resolve the twisted path she must follow alone,
The cratered wastes she calls across,
Seeking a land of kindred beings with cognate powers
That name her as their own and exult.
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