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the lady has me temporarily off the bottle
and now the pecker stands up
better.
however, things change overnight--
instead of listening to Shostakovich and
Mozart through a smeared haze of smoke
the nights change, new
complexities:
we drive to Baskin-Robbins,
31 flavors:
Rocky Road, Bubble Gum, Apricot Ice, Strawberry
Cheesecake, Chocolate Mint...

we park outside and look at icecream
people
a very healthy and satisfied people,
nary a potential suicide in sight
(they probably even vote)
and I tell her
"what if the boys saw me go in there? suppose they
find out I'm going in for a walnut peach sundae?"
"come on, chicken," she laughs and we go in
and stand with the icecream people.
none of them are cursing or threatening
the clerks.
there seem to be no hangovers or
grievances.
I am alarmed at the placid and calm wave
that flows about. I feel like a ***** in a
beauty contest. we finally get our sundaes and
sit in the car and eat them.

I must admit they are quite good. a curious new
world. (all my friends tell me I am looking
better. "you're looking good, man, we thought you
were going to die there for a while...")
--those 4,500 dark nights, the jails, the
hospitals...

and later that night
there is use for the pecker, use for
love, and it is glorious,
long and true,
and afterwards we speak of easy things;
our heads by the open window with the moonlight
looking through, we sleep in each other's
arms.

the icecream people make me feel good,
inside and out.
'Perspective betrays with its dichotomy:
train tracks always meet, not here, but only
    in the impossible mind's eye;
horizons beat a retreat as we embark
on sophist seas to overtake that mark
    where wave pretends to drench real sky.'

'Well then, if we agree, it is not odd
that one man's devil is another's god
    or that the solar spectrum is
a multitude of shaded grays; suspense
on the quicksands of ambivalence
    is our life's whole nemesis.

So we could rave on, darling, you and I,
until the stars tick out a lullaby
    about each cosmic pro and con;
nothing changes, for all the blazing of
our drastic jargon, but clock hands that move
    implacably from twelve to one.

We raise our arguments like sitting ducks
to knock them down with logic or with luck
    and contradict ourselves for fun;
the waitress holds our coats and we put on
the raw wind like a scarf; love is a faun
    who insists his playmates run.

Now you, my intellectual leprechaun,
would have me swallow the entire sun
    like an enormous oyster, down
the ocean in one gulp: you say a mark
of comet hara-kiri through the dark
    should inflame the sleeping town.

So kiss: the drunks upon the curb and dames
in dubious doorways forget their monday names,
    caper with candles in their heads;
the leaves applaud, and santa claus flies in
scattering candy from a zeppelin,
    playing his prodigal charades.

The moon leans down to took; the tilting fish
in the rare river wink and laugh; we lavish
    blessings right and left and cry
hello, and then hello again in deaf
churchyard ears until the starlit stiff
    graves all carol in reply.

Now kiss again: till our strict father leans
to call for curtain on our thousand scenes;
    brazen actors mock at him,
multiply pink harlequins and sing
in gay ventriloquy from wing to wing
    while footlights flare and houselights dim.

Tell now, we taunq where black or white begins
and separate the flutes from violins:
    the algebra of absolutes
explodes in a kaleidoscope of shapes
that jar, while each polemic jackanapes
    joins his enemies' recruits.

The paradox is that 'the play's the thing':
though prima donna pouts and critic stings,
    there burns throughout the line of words,
the cultivated act, a fierce brief fusion
which dreamers call real, and realists, illusion:
    an insight like the flight of birds:

Arrows that lacerate the sky, while knowing
the secret of their ecstasy's in going;
    some day, moving, one will drop,
and, dropping, die, to trace a wound that heals
only to reopen as flesh congeals:
    cycling phoenix never stops.

So we shall walk barefoot on walnut shells
of withered worlds, and stamp out puny hells
    and heavens till the spirits squeak
surrender: to build our bed as high as jack's
bold beanstalk; lie and love till sharp scythe hacks
    away our rationed days and weeks.

Then jet the blue tent topple, stars rain down,
and god or void appall us till we drown
    in our own tears: today we start
to pay the piper with each breath, yet love
knows not of death nor calculus above
    the simple sum of heart plus heart.
The oxygen secreted from the walnut tree,
the snap-pole green beans growing
up the side of the rusty garden fence, and
bags of aluminum cans stored  in the shed
with the old cash registers from the antique store.
These are the golden frames caught and
edited onto organic film, etched into grey matter,
projected from a foggy lens onto reflective marble.

We abandoned the clubhouse because of spiders;
they took the place for themselves after a storm.
Our new abode was the patch of grass between the
walnut tree and the fence in the back corner of the yard;
shady, rough terrain from fallen walnuts, and
the grass always had a slight dew in places.
"The place where the snakes live" is what we called it
when we were sprouts; now we could catch them in both hands.

One night, the wind blew over the shed doors;
flimsy, sliding rail, aluminum thing.
We slinked in and got to play with the old adding machines,
foreign tools, jars full of door hinges, and
rusty hand-crank egg beaters.
Eventually, the roof of the shed collected so many years
of twigs, walnut husks, and foliage fallen that
tiny trees began to pop their heads up from the clutter.

Crickets underneath the gutter guards-
two types; the black singers and the
ones you have to dig for that will draw blood
if they get a hold of one of your fingers.
Sometimes, if bravery was roused and boiling,
we would drift closer to the railroad tracks
in attempts to catch yellow jackets, or even hornets.
One popped their stinger into the back of my neck.
tlp
C Davis Jun 2014
There is something so grounding about the rumbling of a train going by,
   And then the soothing, settling of the surroundings as it runs off into a whisper, escaping the reaches of your eye.
I sigh.
   Another train, in opposite direction sliding by.
   I see in it the line drawing my potential demise and simultaneously untangling my turmoil inside.
I am fried.
I am fine.
   I am so drawn to these tracks where the machine-cars glide,
   A deep-seated need to witness
Their Force, their Direction, to Feel Alive.
(5/30/14)
attempting to make tangible sense of my obsession with trains
Curtis Lindsay Jan 2012
See here, the dark oasis
   beneath the blinding noon—
the slenderest of spaces,
   and it will vanish soon.

Our shaded refuge lingers
   where bright eyes cannot pry.
Those searching, scorching fingers
   still daily pass it by.

A breeze hums through this walnut
   we scaled with childish cheer.
The sign we carved was small, but
   it still would show the year.

Time hisses as she passes,
   and flicks her eager tongue,
hunting through groves and grasses
   we used to laugh among.
I hear stories of an ancient land so pure.
I see photographs of bluer than blue skies
over a lake of molten gold.

I drink kahwa flavoured with almond and saffron
and add honey, sweetened by bees from the valley,
my hips swaying in a crewel work on wool skirt.

I hear songs of freedom, I know people who fled.
The muezzin prays for peace over bloodstains and tears
while children still play under walnut trees.

Clouds gather to pray at Shankaracharya Temple
on a mountain dipping its toes into water
while empty shikaras speak of visiting ghosts.

Mothers whose eyes never tire, looking over the sunset
for long lost sons; wives who still lay out their husband’s
slippers on a carpet with frayed edges.

Postmen deliver letters to addresses long abandoned;
a generation of elders, eyes of agate, gnarled fingers, brew tea
surrounded by memories of children killed, daughters *****.

I write for all people who live in war.
I write for the age of innocence to return.
I write for soft rain to wash away sin.

I write for the return to reason.
I write for peace to flutter gently through groves
of apricot, almond, apple and walnut.

Feel the pain. Hear the refrain. Smell the emptiness.
This is now. This is now. This is not in the pages
of a fading history text. This is now. This is now.
SøułSurvivør Sep 2015
---

I've done some research
On cancer's cause
Western medicine, Dr Oz.

They don't have answers, I'm afraid.
And the cure is in what GOD made.

Cancer's vector? A simple virus.
A parasite and a fungus.

Candida overgrowth.
Radiation. Stress.
We all face this in the West.

So are there answers? Well. Let's see.
Tell me if you don't agree.

Sodas should go down the drain
They have sugar or aspertame.

Sugar feeds cancer. Cut it out!
I KNOW that this will make you pout
But you can find nuts a tasty treat
Find some that you like to eat!

Say NO to coffee. All caffeine.
Eat kale and other leafy greens.

If you want nutrition saved
Cut the cord on your microwave!
They watered plants
with water nuked
They died. Nutrition down the tubes.
So no TV dinners. Processed foods.

No fruits or veggies grown GMOs.
WHEAT is bad! And on it goes.

So it may cost a little more?
Shop your local health food store!

What does it matter?
What's cancer's cost?
And your life will not be lost!

If you tire of reading this
There may be important
things you miss... READ ON!

NATURAL REMEDIES FOR CANCER

Blackstrap molasses. 1 tablespoon
Baking soda. 1 teaspoon
Mix with a glass of water and drink.
(Baking soda should be found at
a health food store)
Blackstrap molasses can also be used
topically for skin cancer.

Tincture of the husk of the
Black walnut nut. 2 drops
Tincture of clove. 2 drops
Tincture of wormwood. 2 drops
Mix in a glass of water and drink. Add lemon and honey.
It'll taste better.

IMPORTANT!
DO NOT USE TAP
OR BOTTLED WATER!
Get distilled water and add
Minerals in liquid form.
Your health food store will have this.

There are many herbs and spices
Which help.
There's iodine in common kelp.
Turmeric
Cucumin
etc.

VERY POWERFUL
Soursop tea. Green tea sans caffeine
Fresh vegetables of the rainbow...
Colors are viamins!

Vitamin supplements
Especially B-17

If you can't find these in your
Health food store ask them to order.
Or go on Amazon and order.
I spent a lot of time researching this.
If you have any questions please contact me via the site message system.

I know that there are some who
Can use this information.

There is a Talkshoe program that
Discusses natural remedies.
724 444 7444
Wednesday 9pm eastern time
43503#  1#
Host: BadBaby
Charise Clarke Jun 2010
Your huge hands,
a pool champion’s sausage fingers
carving roast dinners.

I rarely think of you now
but memory lingers.

It’s leaves return every year;
they rustle in the rain.

The walnut tree
with the swing.

You’d push me so high
rush of wind and air,
chunks of cherry bough
caught in my hair
and I thought I would never come down.
Your skin wrinkled in the sun
like an apricot.
And me and Elisha would run
and race electrical jeeps
in the garden fetching you walnuts.

I was afraid of your pond,
you said there was a shark in it,
dangerous like the
cancer in your body,
I was afraid of
the pig skin patch on your arm.

Considered too young for the funeral,
my memories look like the photos I look at afterwards.
ConnectHook Feb 2016
by John Greenleaf Whittier  (1807 – 1892)

“As the Spirits of Darkness be stronger in the dark, so Good Spirits which be Angels of Light are augmented not only by the Divine Light of the Sun, but also by our common Wood fire: and as the celestial Fire drives away dark spirits, so also this our Fire of Wood doth the same.”

COR. AGRIPPA, Occult Philosophy, Book I. chap. v.

“Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow; and, driving o’er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight; the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river and the heaven,
And veils the farm-house at the garden’s end.
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier’s feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.”


EMERSON

The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.
Slow tracing down the thickening sky
Its mute and ominous prophecy,
A portent seeming less than threat,
It sank from sight before it set.
A chill no coat, however stout,
Of homespun stuff could quite shut out,
A hard, dull bitterness of cold,
That checked, mid-vein, the circling race
Of life-blood in the sharpened face,
The coming of the snow-storm told.
The wind blew east; we heard the roar
Of Ocean on his wintry shore,
And felt the strong pulse throbbing there
Beat with low rhythm our inland air.

Meanwhile we did our nightly chores, —
Brought in the wood from out of doors,
Littered the stalls, and from the mows
Raked down the herd’s-grass for the cows;
Heard the horse whinnying for his corn;
And, sharply clashing horn on horn,
Impatient down the stanchion rows
The cattle shake their walnut bows;
While, peering from his early perch
Upon the scaffold’s pole of birch,
The **** his crested helmet bent
And down his querulous challenge sent.

Unwarmed by any sunset light
The gray day darkened into night,
A night made hoary with the swarm
And whirl-dance of the blinding storm,
As zigzag, wavering to and fro,
Crossed and recrossed the wingàd snow:
And ere the early bedtime came
The white drift piled the window-frame,
And through the glass the clothes-line posts
Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts.

So all night long the storm roared on:
The morning broke without a sun;
In tiny spherule traced with lines
Of Nature’s geometric signs,
And, when the second morning shone,
We looked upon a world unknown,
On nothing we could call our own.
Around the glistening wonder bent
The blue walls of the firmament,
No cloud above, no earth below, —
A universe of sky and snow!
The old familiar sights of ours
Took marvellous shapes; strange domes and towers
Rose up where sty or corn-crib stood,
Or garden-wall, or belt of wood;
A smooth white mound the brush-pile showed,
A fenceless drift what once was road;
The bridle-post an old man sat
With loose-flung coat and high cocked hat;
The well-curb had a Chinese roof;
And even the long sweep, high aloof,
In its slant spendor, seemed to tell
Of Pisa’s leaning miracle.

A prompt, decisive man, no breath
Our father wasted: “Boys, a path!”
Well pleased, (for when did farmer boy
Count such a summons less than joy?)
Our buskins on our feet we drew;
With mittened hands, and caps drawn low,
To guard our necks and ears from snow,
We cut the solid whiteness through.
And, where the drift was deepest, made
A tunnel walled and overlaid
With dazzling crystal: we had read
Of rare Aladdin’s wondrous cave,
And to our own his name we gave,
With many a wish the luck were ours
To test his lamp’s supernal powers.
We reached the barn with merry din,
And roused the prisoned brutes within.
The old horse ****** his long head out,
And grave with wonder gazed about;
The **** his ***** greeting said,
And forth his speckled harem led;
The oxen lashed their tails, and hooked,
And mild reproach of hunger looked;
The hornëd patriarch of the sheep,
Like Egypt’s Amun roused from sleep,
Shook his sage head with gesture mute,
And emphasized with stamp of foot.

All day the gusty north-wind bore
The loosening drift its breath before;
Low circling round its southern zone,
The sun through dazzling snow-mist shone.
No church-bell lent its Christian tone
To the savage air, no social smoke
Curled over woods of snow-hung oak.
A solitude made more intense
By dreary-voicëd elements,
The shrieking of the mindless wind,
The moaning tree-boughs swaying blind,
And on the glass the unmeaning beat
Of ghostly finger-tips of sleet.
Beyond the circle of our hearth
No welcome sound of toil or mirth
Unbound the spell, and testified
Of human life and thought outside.
We minded that the sharpest ear
The buried brooklet could not hear,
The music of whose liquid lip
Had been to us companionship,
And, in our lonely life, had grown
To have an almost human tone.

As night drew on, and, from the crest
Of wooded knolls that ridged the west,
The sun, a snow-blown traveller, sank
From sight beneath the smothering bank,
We piled, with care, our nightly stack
Of wood against the chimney-back, —
The oaken log, green, huge, and thick,
And on its top the stout back-stick;
The knotty forestick laid apart,
And filled between with curious art

The ragged brush; then, hovering near,
We watched the first red blaze appear,
Heard the sharp crackle, caught the gleam
On whitewashed wall and sagging beam,
Until the old, rude-furnished room
Burst, flower-like, into rosy bloom;
While radiant with a mimic flame
Outside the sparkling drift became,
And through the bare-boughed lilac-tree
Our own warm hearth seemed blazing free.
The crane and pendent trammels showed,
The Turks’ heads on the andirons glowed;
While childish fancy, prompt to tell
The meaning of the miracle,
Whispered the old rhyme: “Under the tree,
When fire outdoors burns merrily,
There the witches are making tea.”

The moon above the eastern wood
Shone at its full; the hill-range stood
Transfigured in the silver flood,
Its blown snows flashing cold and keen,
Dead white, save where some sharp ravine
Took shadow, or the sombre green
Of hemlocks turned to pitchy black
Against the whiteness at their back.
For such a world and such a night
Most fitting that unwarming light,
Which only seemed where’er it fell
To make the coldness visible.

Shut in from all the world without,
We sat the clean-winged hearth about,
Content to let the north-wind roar
In baffled rage at pane and door,
While the red logs before us beat
The frost-line back with tropic heat;
And ever, when a louder blast
Shook beam and rafter as it passed,
The merrier up its roaring draught
The great throat of the chimney laughed;
The house-dog on his paws outspread
Laid to the fire his drowsy head,
The cat’s dark silhouette on the wall
A couchant tiger’s seemed to fall;
And, for the winter fireside meet,
Between the andirons’ straddling feet,
The mug of cider simmered slow,
The apples sputtered in a row,
And, close at hand, the basket stood
With nuts from brown October’s wood.

What matter how the night behaved?
What matter how the north-wind raved?
Blow high, blow low, not all its snow
Could quench our hearth-fire’s ruddy glow.
O Time and Change! — with hair as gray
As was my sire’s that winter day,
How strange it seems, with so much gone
Of life and love, to still live on!
Ah, brother! only I and thou
Are left of all that circle now, —
The dear home faces whereupon
That fitful firelight paled and shone.
Henceforward, listen as we will,
The voices of that hearth are still;
Look where we may, the wide earth o’er,
Those lighted faces smile no more.

We tread the paths their feet have worn,
We sit beneath their orchard trees,
We hear, like them, the hum of bees
And rustle of the bladed corn;
We turn the pages that they read,
Their written words we linger o’er,
But in the sun they cast no shade,
No voice is heard, no sign is made,
No step is on the conscious floor!
Yet Love will dream, and Faith will trust,
(Since He who knows our need is just,)
That somehow, somewhere, meet we must.
Alas for him who never sees
The stars shine through his cypress-trees!
Who, hopeless, lays his dead away,
Nor looks to see the breaking day
Across the mournful marbles play!
Who hath not learned, in hours of faith,
The truth to flesh and sense unknown,
That Life is ever lord of Death,
And Love can never lose its own!

We sped the time with stories old,
Wrought puzzles out, and riddles told,
Or stammered from our school-book lore
“The Chief of Gambia’s golden shore.”
How often since, when all the land
Was clay in Slavery’s shaping hand,
As if a far-blown trumpet stirred
Dame Mercy Warren’s rousing word:
“Does not the voice of reason cry,
Claim the first right which Nature gave,
From the red scourge of ******* to fly,
Nor deign to live a burdened slave!”
Our father rode again his ride
On Memphremagog’s wooded side;
Sat down again to moose and samp
In trapper’s hut and Indian camp;
Lived o’er the old idyllic ease
Beneath St. François’ hemlock-trees;
Again for him the moonlight shone
On Norman cap and bodiced zone;
Again he heard the violin play
Which led the village dance away.
And mingled in its merry whirl
The grandam and the laughing girl.
Or, nearer home, our steps he led
Where Salisbury’s level marshes spread
Mile-wide as flies the laden bee;
Where merry mowers, hale and strong,
Swept, scythe on scythe, their swaths along
The low green prairies of the sea.
We shared the fishing off Boar’s Head,
And round the rocky Isles of Shoals
The hake-broil on the drift-wood coals;
The chowder on the sand-beach made,
Dipped by the hungry, steaming hot,
With spoons of clam-shell from the ***.
We heard the tales of witchcraft old,
And dream and sign and marvel told
To sleepy listeners as they lay
Stretched idly on the salted hay,
Adrift along the winding shores,
When favoring breezes deigned to blow
The square sail of the gundelow
And idle lay the useless oars.

Our mother, while she turned her wheel
Or run the new-knit stocking-heel,
Told how the Indian hordes came down
At midnight on Concheco town,
And how her own great-uncle bore
His cruel scalp-mark to fourscore.
Recalling, in her fitting phrase,
So rich and picturesque and free
(The common unrhymed poetry
Of simple life and country ways,)
The story of her early days, —
She made us welcome to her home;
Old hearths grew wide to give us room;
We stole with her a frightened look
At the gray wizard’s conjuring-book,
The fame whereof went far and wide
Through all the simple country side;
We heard the hawks at twilight play,
The boat-horn on Piscataqua,
The loon’s weird laughter far away;
We fished her little trout-brook, knew
What flowers in wood and meadow grew,
What sunny hillsides autumn-brown
She climbed to shake the ripe nuts down,
Saw where in sheltered cove and bay,
The ducks’ black squadron anchored lay,
And heard the wild-geese calling loud
Beneath the gray November cloud.
Then, haply, with a look more grave,
And soberer tone, some tale she gave
From painful Sewel’s ancient tome,
Beloved in every Quaker home,
Of faith fire-winged by martyrdom,
Or Chalkley’s Journal, old and quaint, —
Gentlest of skippers, rare sea-saint! —
Who, when the dreary calms prevailed,
And water-**** and bread-cask failed,
And cruel, hungry eyes pursued
His portly presence mad for food,
With dark hints muttered under breath
Of casting lots for life or death,

Offered, if Heaven withheld supplies,
To be himself the sacrifice.
Then, suddenly, as if to save
The good man from his living grave,
A ripple on the water grew,
A school of porpoise flashed in view.
“Take, eat,” he said, “and be content;
These fishes in my stead are sent
By Him who gave the tangled ram
To spare the child of Abraham.”
Our uncle, innocent of books,
Was rich in lore of fields and brooks,
The ancient teachers never dumb
Of Nature’s unhoused lyceum.
In moons and tides and weather wise,
He read the clouds as prophecies,
And foul or fair could well divine,
By many an occult hint and sign,
Holding the cunning-warded keys
To all the woodcraft mysteries;
Himself to Nature’s heart so near
v That all her voices in his ear
Of beast or bird had meanings clear,
Like Apollonius of old,
Who knew the tales the sparrows told,
Or Hermes, who interpreted
What the sage cranes of Nilus said;
A simple, guileless, childlike man,
Content to live where life began;
Strong only on his native grounds,
The little world of sights and sounds
Whose girdle was the parish bounds,
Whereof his fondly partial pride
The common features magnified,
As Surrey hills to mountains grew
In White of Selborne’s loving view, —
He told how teal and loon he shot,
And how the eagle’s eggs he got,
The feats on pond and river done,
The prodigies of rod and gun;
Till, warming with the tales he told,
Forgotten was the outside cold,
The bitter wind unheeded blew,
From ripening corn the pigeons flew,
The partridge drummed i’ the wood, the mink
Went fishing down the river-brink.
In fields with bean or clover gay,
The woodchuck, like a hermit gray,
Peered from the doorway of his cell;
The muskrat plied the mason’s trade,
And tier by tier his mud-walls laid;
And from the shagbark overhead
The grizzled squirrel dropped his shell.

Next, the dear aunt, whose smile of cheer
And voice in dreams I see and hear, —
The sweetest woman ever Fate
Perverse denied a household mate,
Who, lonely, homeless, not the less
Found peace in love’s unselfishness,
And welcome wheresoe’er she went,
A calm and gracious element,
Whose presence seemed the sweet income
And womanly atmosphere of home, —
Called up her girlhood memories,
The huskings and the apple-bees,
The sleigh-rides and the summer sails,
Weaving through all the poor details
And homespun warp of circumstance
A golden woof-thread of romance.
For well she kept her genial mood
And simple faith of maidenhood;
Before her still a cloud-land lay,
The mirage loomed across her way;
The morning dew, that dries so soon
With others, glistened at her noon;
Through years of toil and soil and care,
From glossy tress to thin gray hair,
All unprofaned she held apart
The ****** fancies of the heart.
Be shame to him of woman born
Who hath for such but thought of scorn.
There, too, our elder sister plied
Her evening task the stand beside;
A full, rich nature, free to trust,
Truthful and almost sternly just,
Impulsive, earnest, prompt to act,
And make her generous thought a fact,
Keeping with many a light disguise
The secret of self-sacrifice.

O heart sore-tried! thou hast the best
That Heaven itself could give thee, — rest,
Rest from all bitter thoughts and things!
How many a poor one’s blessing went
With thee beneath the low green tent
Whose curtain never outward swings!

As one who held herself a part
Of all she saw, and let her heart
Against the household ***** lean,
Upon the motley-braided mat
Our youngest and our dearest sat,
Lifting her large, sweet, asking eyes,
Now bathed in the unfading green
And holy peace of Paradise.
Oh, looking from some heavenly hill,
Or from the shade of saintly palms,
Or silver reach of river calms,
Do those large eyes behold me still?
With me one little year ago: —
The chill weight of the winter snow
For months upon her grave has lain;
And now, when summer south-winds blow
And brier and harebell bloom again,
I tread the pleasant paths we trod,
I see the violet-sprinkled sod
Whereon she leaned, too frail and weak
The hillside flowers she loved to seek,
Yet following me where’er I went
With dark eyes full of love’s content.
The birds are glad; the brier-rose fills
The air with sweetness; all the hills
Stretch green to June’s unclouded sky;
But still I wait with ear and eye
For something gone which should be nigh,
A loss in all familiar things,
In flower that blooms, and bird that sings.
And yet, dear heart! remembering thee,
Am I not richer than of old?
Safe in thy immortality,
What change can reach the wealth I hold?
What chance can mar the pearl and gold
Thy love hath left in trust with me?
And while in life’s late afternoon,
Where cool and long the shadows grow,
I walk to meet the night that soon
Shall shape and shadow overflow,
I cannot feel that thou art far,
Since near at need the angels are;
And when the sunset gates unbar,
Shall I not see thee waiting stand,
And, white against the evening star,
The welcome of thy beckoning hand?

Brisk wielder of the birch and rule,
The master of the district school
Held at the fire his favored place,
Its warm glow lit a laughing face
Fresh-hued and fair, where scarce appeared
The uncertain prophecy of beard.
He teased the mitten-blinded cat,
Played cross-pins on my uncle’s hat,
Sang songs, and told us what befalls
In classic Dartmouth’s college halls.
Born the wild Northern hills among,
From whence his yeoman father wrung
By patient toil subsistence scant,
Not competence and yet not want,
He early gained the power to pay
His cheerful, self-reliant way;
Could doff at ease his scholar’s gown
To peddle wares from town to town;
Or through the long vacation’s reach
In lonely lowland districts teach,
Where all the droll experience found
At stranger hearths in boarding round,
The moonlit skater’s keen delight,
The sleigh-drive through the frosty night,
The rustic party, with its rough
Accompaniment of blind-man’s-buff,
And whirling-plate, and forfeits paid,
His winter task a pastime made.
Happy the snow-locked homes wherein
He tuned his merry violin,

Or played the athlete in the barn,
Or held the good dame’s winding-yarn,
Or mirth-provoking versions told
Of classic legends rare and old,
Wherein the scenes of Greece and Rome
Had all the commonplace of home,
And little seemed at best the odds
‘Twixt Yankee pedlers and old gods;
Where Pindus-born Arachthus took
The guise of any grist-mill brook,
And dread Olympus at his will
Became a huckleberry hill.

A careless boy that night he seemed;
But at his desk he had the look
And air of one who wisely schemed,
And hostage from the future took
In trainëd thought and lore of book.
Large-brained, clear-eyed, of such as he
Shall Freedom’s young apostles be,
Who, following in War’s ****** trail,
Shall every lingering wrong assail;
All chains from limb and spirit strike,
Uplift the black and white alike;
Scatter before their swift advance
The darkness and the ignorance,
The pride, the lust, the squalid sloth,
Which nurtured Treason’s monstrous growth,
Made ****** pastime, and the hell
Of prison-torture possible;
The cruel lie of caste refute,
Old forms remould, and substitute
For Slavery’s lash the freeman’s will,
For blind routine, wise-handed skill;
A school-house plant on every hill,
Stretching in radiate nerve-lines thence
The quick wires of intelligence;
Till North and South together brought
Shall own the same electric thought,
In peace a common flag salute,
And, side by side in labor’s free
And unresentful rivalry,
Harvest the fields wherein they fought.

Another guest that winter night
Flashed back from lustrous eyes the light.
Unmarked by time, and yet not young,
The honeyed music of her tongue
And words of meekness scarcely told
A nature passionate and bold,

Strong, self-concentred, spurning guide,
Its milder features dwarfed beside
Her unbent will’s majestic pride.
She sat among us, at the best,
A not unfeared, half-welcome guest,
Rebuking with her cultured phrase
Our homeliness of words and ways.
A certain pard-like, treacherous grace
Swayed the lithe limbs and drooped the lash,
Lent the white teeth their dazzling flash;
And under low brows, black with night,
Rayed out at times a dangerous light;
The sharp heat-lightnings of her face
Presaging ill to him whom Fate
Condemned to share her love or hate.
A woman tropical, intense
In thought and act, in soul and sense,
She blended in a like degree
The ***** and the devotee,
Revealing with each freak or feint
The temper of Petruchio’s Kate,
The raptures of Siena’s saint.
Her tapering hand and rounded wrist
Had facile power to form a fist;
The warm, dark languish of her eyes
Was never safe from wrath’s surprise.
Brows saintly calm and lips devout
Knew every change of scowl and pout;
And the sweet voice had notes more high
And shrill for social battle-cry.

Since then what old cathedral town
Has missed her pilgrim staff and gown,
What convent-gate has held its lock
Against the challenge of her knock!
Through Smyrna’s plague-hushed thoroughfares,
Up sea-set Malta’s rocky stairs,
Gray olive slopes of hills that hem
Thy tombs and shrines, Jerusalem,
Or startling on her desert throne
The crazy Queen of Lebanon
With claims fantastic as her own,
Her tireless feet have held their way;
And still, unrestful, bowed, and gray,
She watches under Eastern skies,
With hope each day renewed and fresh,
The Lord’s quick coming in the flesh,
Whereof she dreams and prophesies!
Where’er her troubled path may be,
The Lord’s sweet pity with her go!
The outward wayward life we see,
The hidden springs we may not know.
Nor is it given us to discern
What threads the fatal sisters spun,
Through what ancestral years has run
The sorrow with the woman born,
What forged her cruel chain of moods,
What set her feet in solitudes,
And held the love within her mute,
What mingled madness in the blood,
A life-long discord and annoy,
Water of tears with oil of joy,
And hid within the folded bud
Perversities of flower and fruit.
It is not ours to separate
The tangled skein of will and fate,
To show what metes and bounds should stand
Upon the soul’s debatable land,
And between choice and Providence
Divide the circle of events;
But He who knows our frame is just,
Merciful and compassionate,
And full of sweet assurances
And hope for all the language is,
That He remembereth we are dust!

At last the great logs, crumbling low,
Sent out a dull and duller glow,
The bull’s-eye watch that hung in view,
Ticking its weary circuit through,
Pointed with mutely warning sign
Its black hand to the hour of nine.
That sign the pleasant circle broke:
My uncle ceased his pipe to smoke,
Knocked from its bowl the refuse gray,
And laid it tenderly away;
Then roused himself to safely cover
The dull red brands with ashes over.
And while, with care, our mother laid
The work aside, her steps she stayed
One moment, seeking to express
Her grateful sense of happiness
For food and shelter, warmth and health,
And love’s contentment more than wealth,
With simple wishes (not the weak,
Vain prayers which no fulfilment seek,
But such as warm the generous heart,
O’er-prompt to do with Heaven its part)
That none might lack, that bitter night,
For bread and clothing, warmth and light.

Within our beds awhile we heard
The wind that round the gables roared,
With now and then a ruder shock,
Which made our very bedsteads rock.
We heard the loosened clapboards tost,
The board-nails snapping in the frost;
And on us, through the unplastered wall,
Felt the light sifted snow-flakes fall.
But sleep stole on, as sleep will do
When hearts are light and life is new;
Faint and more faint the murmurs grew,
Till in the summer-land of dreams
They softened to the sound of streams,
Low stir of leaves, and dip of oars,
And lapsing waves on quiet shores.
Of merry voices high and clear;
And saw the teamsters drawing near
To break the drifted highways out.
Down the long hillside treading slow
We saw the half-buried oxen go,
Shaking the snow from heads uptost,
Their straining nostrils white with frost.
Before our door the straggling train
Drew up, an added team to gain.
The elders threshed their hands a-cold,
Passed, with the cider-mug, their jokes
From lip to lip; the younger folks
Down the loose snow-banks, wrestling, rolled,
Then toiled again the cavalcade
O’er windy hill, through clogged ravine,
And woodland paths that wound between
Low drooping pine-boughs winter-weighed.
From every barn a team afoot,
At every house a new recruit,
Where, drawn by Nature’s subtlest law,
Haply the watchful young men saw
Sweet doorway pictures of the curls
And curious eyes of merry girls,
Lifting their hands in mock defence
Against the snow-ball’s compliments,
And reading in each missive tost
The charm with Eden never lost.
We heard once more the sleigh-bells’ sound;
And, following where the teamsters led,
The wise old Doctor went his round,
Just pausing at our door to say,
In the brief autocratic way
Of one who, prompt at Duty’s call,
Was free to urge her claim on all,
That some poor neighbor sick abed
At night our mother’s aid would need.
For, one in generous thought and deed,
What mattered in the sufferer’s sight
The Quaker matron’s inward light,
The Doctor’s mail of Calvin’s creed?
All hearts confess the saints elect
Who, twain in faith, in love agree,
And melt not in an acid sect
The Christian pearl of charity!

So days went on: a week had passed
Since the great world was heard from last.
The Almanac we studied o’er,
Read and reread our little store
Of books and pamphlets, scarce a score;
One harmless novel, mostly hid
From younger eyes, a book forbid,
And poetry, (or good or bad,
A single book was all we had,)
Where Ellwood’s meek, drab-skirted Muse,
A stranger to the heathen Nine,
Sang, with a somewhat nasal whine,
The wars of David and the Jews.
At last the floundering carrier bore
The village paper to our door.
Lo! broadening outward as we read,
To warmer zones the horizon spread
In panoramic length unrolled
We saw the marvels that it told.
Before us passed the painted Creeks,
A   nd daft McGregor on his raids
In Costa Rica’s everglades.
And up Taygetos winding slow
Rode Ypsilanti’s Mainote Greeks,
A Turk’s head at each saddle-bow!
Welcome to us its week-old news,
Its corner for the rustic Muse,
Its monthly gauge of snow and rain,
Its record, mingling in a breath
The wedding bell and dirge of death:
Jest, anecdote, and love-lorn tale,
The latest culprit sent to jail;
Its hue and cry of stolen and lost,
Its vendue sales and goods at cost,
And traffic calling loud for gain.
We felt the stir of hall and street,
The pulse of life that round us beat;
The chill embargo of the snow
Was melted in the genial glow;
Wide swung again our ice-locked door,
And all the world was ours once more!

Clasp, Angel of the backword look
And folded wings of ashen gray
And voice of echoes far away,
The brazen covers of thy book;
The weird palimpsest old and vast,
Wherein thou hid’st the spectral past;
Where, closely mingling, pale and glow
The characters of joy and woe;
The monographs of outlived years,
Or smile-illumed or dim with tears,
Green hills of life that ***** to death,
And haunts of home, whose vistaed trees
Shade off to mournful cypresses
With the white amaranths underneath.
Even while I look, I can but heed
The restless sands’ incessant fall,
Importunate hours that hours succeed,
Each clamorous with its own sharp need,
And duty keeping pace with all.
Shut down and clasp with heavy lids;
I hear again the voice that bids
The dreamer leave his dream midway
For larger hopes and graver fears:
Life greatens in these later years,
The century’s aloe flowers to-day!

Yet, haply, in some lull of life,
Some Truce of God which breaks its strife,
The worldling’s eyes shall gather dew,
Dreaming in throngful city ways
Of winter joys his boyhood knew;
And dear and early friends — the few
Who yet remain — shall pause to view
These Flemish pictures of old days;
Sit with me by the homestead hearth,
And stretch the hands of memory forth
To warm them at the wood-fire’s blaze!
And thanks untraced to lips unknown
Shall greet me like the odors blown
From unseen meadows newly mown,
Wood-fringed, the wayside gaze beyond;
The traveller owns the grateful sense
Of sweetness near, he knows not whence,
And, pausing, takes with forehead bare
The benediction of the air.

Written in  1865
In its day, 'twas a best-seller and earned significant income for Whittier
Smith Oct 2013
In the cool night of childhood
I saw the heavenly glass
Through flecks in the dusty sky
Wandered in the vast, wild wood

Climbing in the walnut tree
Lolling on the dawn's dew grass
Cloud coverings shifting by
Prayer budding from out of me

I dozed unanswerable and free
Weary, glad, and wholly good.
betterdays Mar 2014
watching the rain,
river flood,
down the steamy,
windows.
my mind jumps back...
...back to those sweet
and careless days,
of a country chilhood.

when we made boats.
of  halved walnut shells,
with toothpick masts
and fantail sails,
then sailed them
in kerbside regattas.

when marbles were worlds.
fought for,
in hand drawn,
colleseum-like circles
on  dusty driveways and paths.

when we folded and flew,
the news of the day,
on strings,
high, to the sky and beyond.

when we made castles.
of sand and mud,
we were, then,
childish royalty,
the back yard our kingdom.

as the water sheets,
down the window panes.
i hope,
these creative joys and victories,
will not be lost to my son.

in this age of technology,
where, leapads and xbox'
kindles and webgames,
tempt them,
to play in a world,
of pre-created splendour.

looking through the water,
i am reassured this will not
be the case, by the sight,
of father and son,
in yellow macs,
stomping puddles,
for the splash.
At the beginning the oldest man sat on the corner
      of the garden wall by the road under a vast
walnut tree known to have been there always
      he came back in the afternoon to the cave of shade
in his broad black hat black jacket the striped gray
      wool trousers once worn only to church in winter
with a cane on either side resting against the stones
      he said when your legs have gone all you can do
is to sit this way and be useless I believe God
he said that is what I am doing I am thinking
      and things come to me now when nobody else knows them
he was visited by the dazzling of accidents the boy
      who caught his hand in the trip hammer and it came out
like cigarette paper the man with both crushed legs
      dangling and the woman murdered and his father the blacksmith
forging the iron fence to put around the place
      out on the bare ***** where she had fallen I could never
be the smith my father was as he always told me
      I was good enough you know but I never had
the taste needed for scythe blades sickles kitchen knives
      we preferred to use carriage springs to make them from
in the forge outside the barn there and his were sought after
      oh when he had sold all he took to the fair the others
could begin I still have the die for stamping the name
      of the village in the blade at the end so you could be sure
Nat Lipstadt Jun 2014
Lord:

no bequest requested.
no grant, no teach,,
no need or greed asked
just a hey listen up,
if your attention is elsewhere

this is an
all-on-my-own
prayer that
my eyes utter,
my tongue,
now silenced,
can only watch
and must approve

in fact,
this is more
of a post
than a prayer,
updating you
on the state
of what we Earth temporaries
call the heart, mind, soul
and even their,
your-designed
crafted carrier,
my body

Mine enemies call me
cursed, embittered,
they are right but fools,
they are
so much more wrong
for in this they err grievous,
for they cannot see their own
bile provisioning their end

ask for no interference
from the sidelines
neither from the
sapphire mother sky
that raised me up gloriously
this morning

nor the emerald earth
that this day
both gives and gets
common bounty
gives me sustenance,
as much spiritual
as grained cereal delights

lest you think this
just one more
me-centric rants,
let us recall this prayer,
is his very own,
prayer of
gratitude

woman's head
rests on my chest,
her blonde highlights,
highlight our bed
and our
life

take and tuck her tresses
from eyes and forehead,
gentle them into place,
behind her ear,
and my hand journeys on
to the skin,
flesh of her backbone,
where my fingers
spread wide,
five messengers unique,
advising all of the 120 provinces of her
heart, mind, soul and body,
she is my beloved,
and I pray,
I am hers

learning still to
live with my means,
such as they are,
sometime mean,
sometimes extraordinaire

even this skill,
to express,

is a gratitude
that though
comes and goes
like summer breezes
that as now we pray,
cools my AM coffee
while studying the
patterned mystery
of the bay's
Ave Maria waves
from that
dock-by-his-name

where my heart, mind, soul
drink wet inspiration
from the still-oak-tree'd-strong-surfaced waters,
the blue glue of
our common delighted,
uncommon existence

this skill,
at this moment mine,
to share and
not to keep,
for have I not,
been blessed,
by comrades-in-arms
that kneel beside me,
asking, imploring
to be stronger yet,
for their sakes,
for them!
I pray for
best they-can-muster
sustenance of peace
of heart, mind, soul
and body

here now,
my shills,
my failing skills
cannot help express
in new ways,
a gratitude
that has a shapeless shape,
no measurement app enabled
for their comfort,
our comfort,
best grasped as
an unbounded divinity,
how so I wish I could pray for them better

focus this prayer
on the good ones,
who so greatly honor us
with a greater-than-a-creator,
gift glorious of
friendship

this walnut crack'd shell,
this container ship of
heart, mind, soul,
here there,
a few leaks sprung,
no nicotine patches
to cover

this dented car,
this dented body,
new one every day
from only-you-know-where
still gets me there,

but
other than taking care better,
it plods along and houses
the rearrangement of this prayer's words,
and that is what is called
plenty good enough,
self-sufficient

*prayers that are too long
go to the back of line,
so here we be,
but here we do not wait!

for prayers of gratitude
are instantaneous fulfilled,
and thus granted even before
they are completed
the love I feel for all of the people, friends and poets in my life that give me
their best, their perspective...they know who they are..
7:32am on the dock by the bay, another blessing for which I don't have the words but keep on trying...they are..see below...
PostScript -  the pleasure of your affection for this writ, palpable and heart pounding but it only reflects the spirit that working wordsmiths share in loving camaraderie so deep in the hidden roots of this place. For which I swear I will never to cease to write upon this favorite optic topic a loving challenge...very humbly do I thank you
Nigel Morgan May 2015
In a distant land, far beyond the time we know now, there lived an ancient people who knew in their bones of a past outside memory. Things happened over and over; as day became night night became day, spring followed winter, summer followed spring, autumn followed summer and then, and then as autumn came, at least the well-known ordered days passed full of preparation for the transhumance, that great movement of flocks and herds from the summer mountains to the winter pastures. But in the great oak woods of this region the leaves seemed reluctant to fall. Even after the first frosts when the trees glimmered with rime as the sun rose. Even when winter’s cousin, the great wind from the west, ravaged the conical roofs of the shepherds’ huts. The leaves did not fall.

For Lucila, searching for leaves as she climbed each day higher and higher through the parched undergrowth under the most ancient oaks, there were only acorns, slews of acorns at her feet. There were no leaves, or rather no leaves that might be gathered as newly fallen. Only the faint husks of leaves of the previous autumn, leaves of provenance already gathered before she left the mountains last year for the winter plains, leaves she had placed into her deep sleeves, into her voluminous apron, into the large pockets of her vlaterz, the ornate felt jacket of the married woman.

Since her childhood she had picked and pocketed these oaken leaves, felt their thin, veined, patterned forms, felt, followed, caressed them between her finger tips. It was as though her pockets were full of the hands of children, seven-fingered hands, stroking her fingers with their pointed tips when her fingers were pocketed.

She would find private places to lay out her gathered leaves. She wanted none to know or touch or speak of these her children of the oak forest. She had waited all summer, as she had done since a child, watching them bud and grow on the branch, and then, with the frosts and winds of autumn, fall, fall, fall to the ground, but best of all fall into her small hands, every leaf there to be caught, fallen into the bowl of her cupped hands. And for every leaf caught, a wish.

Her autumn days became full of wishes. She would lie awake on her straw mattress after Mikas had risen for the night milking, that time when the rustling bells of the goats had no accompaniment from the birds. She would assemble her lists of wishes, wishes ready for leaves not yet fallen into the bowl of her cupped hands. May the toes of my baby be perfectly formed? May his hair fall straight without a single curl? May I know only the pain I can bear when he comes? May the mother of Mikas love this child?

As the fine autumn days moved towards the feast day of St Anolysius, the traditional day of departure of the winter transhumance, there was, this season, an unspoken tension present in the still, dry air. Already preparations were being made for the long journey to the winter plains. There was soon to be a wedding now three days away, of the Phatos boy to the Tamosel girl. The boy was from an adjoining summer pasture and had travelled during the summer months with an itinerant uncle, a pedlar of sorts and beggar of repute. So he had seen something of the world beyond those of the herds and flocks can expect to see. He was rightly-made and fit to marry, although, of course, the girl was to be well-kept secret until the day itself.

Lucila remembered those wedding days, her wedding days, those anxious days of waiting when encased in her finery, in her seemingly impenetrable and voluminous wedding clothes she had remained all but hidden from view. While around her the revelling came and went, the drunkenness, the feasting, the riotous eruptions of noise and movement, the sudden visitations of relatives she did not know, the fierce instructions of women who spoke to her now as a woman no longer a young girl or a dear child, women she knew as silent, shy and respectful who were now loud and lewd, who told her things she could hardly believe, what a man might do, what a man might be, what a woman had to suffer - all these things happening at the same time. And then her soon-to-be husband’s drunk-beyond-reason friends had carried off the basket with her trousseau and dressed themselves riotously in her finest embroidered blouses, her intricate layered skirts, her petticoats, even the nightdress deemed the one to be worn when eventually, after three days revelry, she would be visited by a man, now more goat than man, sodden with drink, insensible to what little she understood as human passion beyond the coupling of goats. Of course Semisar had prepared the bright blood for the bridesbed sheet, the necessary evidence, and as Mikas lay sprawled unconscious at the foot of the marriage bed she had allowed herself to be dishevelled, to feign the aftermath of the act he was supposed to have committed upon her. That would, she knew, come later . . .

It was then, in those terrible days and after, she took comfort from her silent, private stitching into leaves, the darning of acorns, the spinning of skeins of goats’ wool she would walnut-dye and weave around stones and pieces of glass. She would bring together leaves bound into tiny books, volumes containing for her a language of leaves, the signs and symbols of nature she had named, that only she knew. She could not read the words of the priest’s book but was fluent in the script of veins and ribs and patterning that every leaf owned. When autumn came she could hardly move a step for picking up a fallen leaf, reading its story, learning of its history. But this autumn now, at the time of leaf fall, the fall of the leaf did not happen and those leaves of last year at her feet were ready to disintegrate at her touch. She was filled with dread. She knew she could not leave the mountains without a collection of leaves to stitch and weave through the shorter days and long, long winter nights. She had imagined sharing with her infant child this language she had learnt, had stitched into her daily life.

It was Semisar of course, who voiced it first. Semisar, the self-appointed weather ears and horizon eyes of the community, who followed her into the woods, who had forced Lucila against a tree holding one broad arm and her body’s weight like a bar from which Lucila could not escape, and with the other arm and hand rifled the broad pockets of Lucila’s apron. Semisar tossed the delicate chicken bone needles to the ground, unravelled the bobbins of walnut-stained yarn, crumpled the delicately folded and stitched, but yet to be finished, constructions of leaves . . . And spewed forth a torrent of terrible words. Already the men knew that the lack of leaf fall was peculiar only to the woods above and around their village. Over the other side of the mountain Telgatho had said this was not so. Was Lucila a Magnelz? Perhaps a Cutvlael? This baby she carried, a girl of course, was already making evil. Semisar placed her hand over and around the ripe hard form of the unborn child, feeling for its shape, its elbows and knees, the spine. And from there, with a vicelike grip on the wrist, Semisar dragged Lucila up and far into the woods to where the mountain with its caves and rocks touched the last trees, and from there to the cave where she seemed to know Lucila’s treasures lay, her treasures from childhood. Semisar would destroy everything, then the leaves would surely fall.

When Lucila did not return to prepare the evening meal Mikas was to learn all. Should he leave her be? He had been told women had these times of strange behaviour before childbirth. The wedding of the Phatos boy was almost upon them and the young men were already behaving like goats before the rut. The festive candles and tinselled wedding crowns had been fetched from the nearest town two days ride distant, the decoration of the tiny mountain basilica and the accommodation for the priest was in hand. The women were busy with the making of sweets and treats to be thrown at the wedding pair by guests and well-wishers. Later, the same women would prepare the dough for the millstones of bread that would be baked in the stone ovens. The men had already chosen the finest lambs to spit-roast for the feast.

She will return, Semisar had said after waiting by the fold where Mikas flocks, now gathered from the heights, awaited their journey south. All will be well, Mikas, never fear. The infant, a girl, may not last its birth, Semisar warned, but seeing the shocked face of Mikas, explained a still-birth might be providential for all. Know this time will pass, she said, and you can still be blessed with many sons. We are forever in the hands of the spirit, she said, leaving without the customary salutation of farewell.
                                               
However different the lives of man and woman may by tradition and circumstance become, those who share the ways and rites of marriage are inextricably linked by fate’s own hand and purpose. Mikas has come to know his once-bride, the child become woman in his clumsy embrace, the girl of perhaps fifteen summers fulfilling now his mother’s previous role, who speaks little but watches and listens, is unfailingly attentive to his needs and demands, and who now carries his child ( it can only be a boy), carries this boy high in her womb and with a confidence his family has already remarked upon.

After their wedding he had often returned home to Lucila at the time of the sun’s zenith when it is customary for the village women to seek the shade of their huts and sleep. It was an unwritten rite due to a newly-wed husband to feign the sudden need for a forgotten tool or seek to examine a sick animal in the home fold. After several fruitless visits when he found their hut empty he timed his visit earlier to see her black-scarfed figure disappear into the oak woods.  He followed her secretively, and had observed her seated beneath an ancient warrior of a tree, had watched over her intricate making. Furthermore and later he came to know where she hid the results of this often fevered stitching of things from nature’s store and stash, though an supernatural fear forbade him to enter the cleft between rocks into which she would disappear. He began to know how times and turns of the days affected her actions, but had left her be. She would usually return bright-eyed and with a quiet wonder, of what he did not know, but she carried something back within her that gave her a peculiar peace and beauty. It seemed akin to the well-being Mikas knew from handling a fine ewe from his flock . . .

And she would sometimes allow herself to be handled thus. She let him place his hands over her in that joyful ownership and command of a man whose life is wholly bound up with flocks and herds and the well-being of the female species. He would come from the evening watch with the ever-constant count of his flock still on his lips, and by a mixture of accident and stealth touch her wholly-clothed body, sometimes needing his fingers into the thick wool of her stockings, stroking the chestnut silken hairs that he found above her bare wrists, marvelling at her small hands with their perfect nails. He knew from the ribaldry of men that women were trained from childhood to display to men as little as possible of their intimate selves. But alone and apart all day on a remote hillside, alone save for several hundred sheep, brought to Mikas in his solitary state wild and conjured thoughts of feminine spirits, unencumbered by clothes, brighter and more various than any night-time dream. And he had succumbed to the pleasure of such thoughts times beyond reason, finding himself imagining Lucila as he knew she was unlikely ever to allow herself to be. But even in the single winter and summer of their life together there had been moments of surprise and revelation, and accompanied by these precious thoughts he went in search of her in the darkness of a three-quarter moon, into the stillness of the night-time wood.

Ah Lucilla. We might think that after the scourge of Semisar, the physical outrage of her baby’s forced examination, and finally the destruction of her treasures, this child-wife herself with child would be desolate with grief at what had come about. She had not been forced to follow Semisar into the small cave where wrapped in woven blankets her treasures lay between the thinnest sheets of impure and rejected parchment gleaned surreptitiously after shearing, but holding each and every treasure distinct and detached. There was enough light for Semisar to pause in wonder at the intricate constructions, bright with the aura of extreme fragility owned by many of the smaller makings. And not just the leaves of the oak were here, but of the mastic, the walnut, the flaky-barked strawberry and its smoothed barked cousin. There were leaves and sheaves of bark from lowland trees of the winter sojourn, there were dried fruits mysteriously arranged, constructions of acorns threaded with the dark madder-red yarn, even acorns cracked and damaged from their tree fall had been ‘mended’ with thread.

Semisar was to open some of the tiny books of leaved pages where she witnessed a form of writing she did not recognise (she could not read but had seen the priest’s writing and the print of the holy books). This she wondered at, as surely Lucila had only the education of the home? Such symbols must belong to the spirit world. Another sign that Lucila had infringed order and disturbed custom. It would take but a matter of minutes to turn such makings into little more than a layer of dust on the floor.

With her bare hands Semisar ground together these elaborate confections, these lovingly-made conjunctions of needle’s art with nature’s purpose and accidental beauty. She ground them together until they were dust.

When Semisar returned into the pale afternoon light it seemed Lucila had remained as she had been left: motionless, and without expression. If Semisar had known the phenomenon of shock, Lucila was in that condition. But, in the manner of a woman preparing to grieve for the dead she had removed her black scarf and unwound the long dark chestnut plaits that flowed down her back. But there were no tears. only a dumb silence but for the heavy exhalation of breath. It seemed that she looked beyond Semisar into the world of spirits invoking perhaps their aid, their comfort.

What happened had neither invoked sadness nor grief. It was as if it had been ordained in the elusive pattern of things. It felt like the clearing of the summer hut before the final departure for the long journey to the winter world. The hut, Lucila had been taught, was to be left spotless, every item put in its rightful place ready to be taken up again on the return to the summer life, exactly as if it had been undisturbed by absence . Not a crumb would remain before the rugs and coverings were rolled and removed, summer clothes hard washed and tightly mended, to be folded then wrapped between sprigs of aromatic herbs.

Lucila would go now and collect her precious but scattered needles from beneath the ancient oak. She would begin again - only to make and embroider garments for her daughter. It was as though, despite this ‘loss’, she had retained within her physical self the memory of every stitch driven into nature’s fabric.

Suddenly Lucila remembered that saints’ day which had sanctioned a winter’s walk with her mother, a day when her eyes had been drawn to a world of patterns and objects at her feet: the damaged acorn, the fractured leaf, the broken berried branch, the wisp of wool left impaled upon a stub of thorns. She had been five, maybe six summers old. She had already known the comforting action of the needle’s press again the felted cloth, but then, as if impelled by some force quite outside herself, had ‘borrowed’ one of her mother’s needles and begun her odyssey of darning, mending, stitching, enduring her mother’s censure - a waste of good thread, little one - until her skill became obvious and one of delight, but a private delight her mother hid from all and sundry, and then pressed upon her ‘proper’ work with needle and thread. But the damage had been done, the dye cast. She became nature’s needle slave and quartered those personal but often invisible
Timothy Oct 2012
Blessings on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!
With thy turned-up pantaloons,
And thy merry whistled tunes;
With thy red lip, redder still
Kissed by strawberries on the hill;
With the sunshine on thy face,
Through thy torn brim's jaunty grace;
From my heart I give thee joy, -
I was once a barefoot boy!
Prince thou art, - the grown-up man
Only is republican.
Let the million-dollared ride!
Barefoot, trudging at his side,
Thou hast more than he can buy
In the reach of ear and eye, -
Outward sunshine, inward joy:
Blessings on thee, barefoot boy!

Oh for boyhood's painless play,
Sleep that wakes in laughing day,
Health that mocks the doctor's rules,
Knowledge never learned of schools,
Of the wild bee's morning chase,
Of the wild-flower's time and place,
Flight of fowl and habitude
Of the tenants of the wood;
How the tortoise bears his shell,
How the woodchuck digs his cell,
And the ground-mole sinks his well;
How the robin feeds her young,
How the oriole's nest is hung;
Where the whitest lilies blow,
Where the freshest berries grow,
Where the ground-nut trails its vine,
Where the wood-grape's clusters shine;
Of the black wasp's cunning way,
Mason of his walls of clay,
And the architectural plans
Of gray hornet artisans!
For, eschewing books and tasks,
Nature answers all he asks;
Hand in hand with her he walks,
Face to face with her he talks,
Part and parcel of her joy, -
Blessings on the barefoot boy!

Oh for boyhood's time of June,
Crowding years in one brief moon,
When all things I heard or saw,
Me, their master, waited for.
I was rich in flowers and trees,
Humming-birds and honey-bees;
For my sport the squirrel played,
Plied the snouted mole his *****;
For my taste the blackberry cone
Purpled over hedge and stone;
Laughed the brook for my delight
Through the day and through the night,
Whispering at the garden wall,
Talked with me from fall to fall;
Mine the sand-rimmed pickerel pond,
Mine the walnut slopes beyond,
Mine, on bending orchard trees,
Apples of Hesperides!
Still as my horizon grew,
Larger grew my riches too;
All the world I saw or knew
Seemed a complex Chinese toy,
Fashioned for a barefoot boy!

Oh for festal dainties spread,
Like my bowl of milk and bread;
Pewter spoon and bowl of wood,
On the door-stone, gray and rude!
O'er me, like a regal tent,
Cloudy-ribbed, the sunset bent,
Purple-curtained, fringed with gold,
Looped in many a wind-swung fold;
While for music came the play
Of the pied frogs' orchestra;
And, to light the noisy choir,
Lit the fly his lamp of fire.
I was monarch: pomp and joy
Waited on the barefoot boy!

Cheerily, then, my little man,
Live and laugh, as boyhood can!
Though the flinty slopes be hard,
Stubble-speared the new-mown sward,
Every morn shall lead thee through
Fresh baptisms of the dew;
Every evening from thy feet
Shall the cool wind kiss the heat:
All too soon these feet must hide
In the prison cells of pride,
Lose the freedom of the sod,
Like a colt's for work be shod,
Made to tread the mills of toil,
Up and down in ceaseless moil:
Happy if their track be found
Never on forbidden ground;
Happy if they sink not in
Quick and treacherous sands of sin.
Ah! that thou couldst know thy joy,
Ere it passes, barefoot boy!

**~John Greenleaf Whittier 1807—1892~
Pauline Morris May 2016
I wish I was a big fat brown furry squirrel
Up in the walnut trees I'd scamper and twirl
Collect my delicious nuts for the frigid winter time
Invite squirrl friends over to party and dine
Take sweltering summer days to run, jump and play
Frighten some silly song birds along the way
No worries of the coming days
No bill collectors at the door to pay
To just live wildly free
Like nature was ment to be
Live out my life in a comfy hole I made in that old walnut tree
That tree was here in my grandpa's days, it's as sturdy as can be
In the winter curl into a warm ball and try to remember
Of where I hid my stash of nuts,  come December
I want to be a big fat happy squirrel
Never angain a sad woman-girl
Brandon Webb Nov 2012
1
she taps he hand, twice.
across the room,
he stares, thinking
into empty air.
others, scattered
tap pencils or fingers
on desktops, booktops
and phone keyboards

the balding man
with black hair:
combed backward
and to differing angles
so that his head is split
vertically-
stands, above the room
his back turned

his words,
meant for the crowd
reverberate only
along classes fringe
but still take precedence
over nothing
even to them-
academics, outcasts


2
back of the room
reveals everything
to the observer
trying to see

blue-eyed brunette
glares vengefully
at no one,
just to glare

he looks up once
to watch
as another
pulls up
drooping jeans.
she laughs
at conversation
unmeant for,
and inaudible
to her


3
today, she smiles
and lets her lip fall
begging, like a puppy
But when they
lose eye contact,
she glares, again

he leaves footprints
on parallel desk
from lounging
then fires himself
to his feet
using stored energy,
and sugar from gum

words bounce along
the walls in the back,
and isolated eyes peer
towards the screen
but hide the fact
that they care


4
two week vacation
has left their minds
full of everything
except math,
so they listen
to him, while he speaks

but travel backward
in time, with
those closest them
while he creeps,
silent, around the room

she concentrates hard,
on her work
glaring at the page.
he sits a desk forward
feet on floor
neighboring desk full
today, but only physically

blue hat rests
on sketchbook,
its border
barely covering
closed eyes

blond head
implants itself
jokingly, into
smooth shining
white wall
with enough force
to collapse
accidental target

a hand raises
attracting gazes,
awestruck,
at her interest
in forgotten
material
of future tests


5
only a few eyes wander
from blue lined notebooks
though the left flank
still chatters, embodying
either a secretive chipmunk
or the breeze which starts the storm

storm clouds appear slowly
in sketchbook, blue hat bobbing
rhythmically in response to active pen

perched above the flock
reminiscent, split headed
papa bird scans the masks
of his shockingly silent chicks

random lecture breaks the silence.
Her eyes aren’t the only ones
Fixed into a steel laden glare
But the chipmunk wind ceases


6
his questioning glance lands
on uninhabited space,
exhibiting a yawn
which traverses through,
and twists, the faces of
those otherwise engaged

lecture ends with a question,
the scent of nuts blows through
mentally empty classroom
turning desks to predetermined
positions and swiftly inhabiting
three-quarters of the physical class

his steel glare has replaced hers
the latter’s eyes now soft as an infants

within five minutes, his voice
undergoes  a brutal, complete cycle
pleading, congratulating, yelling
and as always, lecturing


7
pre-test:

preparations for misery-
mundane chipmunk chattering,
jokes and laughs from random
oddities appearing everywhere

blue hat rests in intervals.
Blue coat rearranges
essay for another class

The girl in the sunny plaid
Rolls an orange along her hand

He points at nothing and asks
Nobody something without answer

The left flank, as always
Is turned away, conversing

A sigh rings outward loudly
Everyone glares, nervously,
Everywhere, reward of concentration


After my test:

First paper in, he scans lightly
Sets it down with a scowl
and yawns, twice, breaking the
silent shroud of heavy fog
which is hanging overhead

wandering free eyes witness
down-turned heads concentrating
as much on tests  as on moving
their hands wildly, excitedly
trying to communicate non-vocally

others have yet to detach themselves
from their seats and stride upward,
hopefully more triumphantly
than their sole predecessor

one shuffles now, slowly toward him
his hand shaking as he releases
that  paper, he turns away as it flutters
onto the desk- he replants himself in his

twelve others walk forward
smiling, shrinking, sometimes speaking
and always he glares, triumphant
knowing his success at our failure


later:

his near-sleeping form            
finds distraction, in waking
dreams, jumping back suddenly
breaking from his plank-like state
without speaking. excitement
for approaching weekend is
communicated in the left flank

two girls break the silence
running in from outside            
he glares at them, but laughs

everyone breaks into groups
after the conversation about
mysteriously nutty discarded sock

he runs to the forefront
forehead folded, finger on mouth
no-one notices, but still he glares

8
he smiles and glares at the floor
his legs swinging back and forth            
tan slacks rustling softly

exaggerated scores bubble in ears            
as they search for their destroyer

in front of forgotten faces falls
the page of a forgotten tome

several yawn, hoping, understandably
that their stretched lips
will pull themselves far enough
to barricade ears from his droning

he kills himself, twice, bumbling
into half-thought chastisements
of the  flittingly flirtatious students
intermingling hoping behind him
causing waves of whispers, laughter
and slightly strengthened chatter

he re-aligns his thoughts quickly
and rambles on again, always

9
he speaks to her softly
from across a sea of desks
she looks up, panicking calmly
distracted from distraction

in silence, blank eyes turn
surprised at the non-withering
state of her barely living corpse

he asks a question, looking up
a single answer is given
unemotional and short, buy ending
heavy hanging awkward silence

how talented the teacher
who gives his lecture while
still addressing unrelated
student self lectures

the still silence given
in his questioning lull
hangs so loudly the whispers
traversing the classroom appear
silent as finger wiggle
and pencils trace zeros

his extrication, caused by
distractingly thunderous voice
is met with a comment
causing a wave of laughter
starting at his mouth
and extending to inhabit everything

10
half the time gives
twice the attention
as they concentrate
on keeping him on
the undying topic
of the work we
have already done

they admit defeat
as dusty tome opens
spreading a nutty cloud
causing heads to turn
and words to leap.

from opens lips,
mischievous gremlins
sprout, dancing on
tables and chuckling
away from the sigh
of his down-turned, split
shining, globular mind

he scratches pink ear
with bone pale finger
reading unrelated words

in the center of the room
both mentally and physically
he sits, momentarily quiet
as dark eyes glare past
rumpled pink nose,
concentrating

blue hat rests on open palms
above dust covered open page
he slips into sleeping state
but picks himself up
and stares though thin borderline
toward shiny rambling forehead

a shutter cord flies forward
the hand at the end pulling hard
but with no affect to the shutters
neither lowering the physical
or raising the mental

the color of non-color pencils
interrupts the class momentarily
as she strides forward to compare
and then criticizes his care

he just sits, smiles and stares

11
eleven desks lie empty
of one form more than usual
amplifying the arm movements
of the ever ticking seconds

his obscured mouth flings seeds
which sprout into words
before even meeting the worn
blood-colored carpet below

in the main room, sixteen
sit silent, sketching, sleeping
or siphoning the last minute

12
those left awake, and alive
have come to understand
the numbers on the screen
this being their specialty
in a nutty shell, of course
splitting, as we are, large
crowds of numbers, and us
being teenagers, isn’t that
how we think, in numbers
and ratings of everything
and, sitting in the central
crowd are the talented
crowd-splitters
flattery-spitters

13
the silence of half absence
is pierced, as always by vocal
anomaly, centered around
rows of shining wood
bookrests, but only one
set of hollow, dark-rimmed
vacant eyeballs watches
well-welcomed interruption

he lets us work, standing.
Someone somewhere opens
A large container of nuts
Entire class starts stuffing
Handfuls into puffy cheeks
Absorbing sensations into
Eternally ravenous minds

The apocalyptic mix of noises
Is split again by central
Nutcracker, and those in corners
Glare, smiling, rubbing shadowed
Acne scarred faces
with raw-bitten nails

14
balding papa bird speaks loudly
transforming his voice, becoming
vocally legendary cartoon duck

the wave of resulting laughter
ends in un-given nut-break
spreading, without speech
the understanding that his
comedic digression will not
meet a quick extinction

we greet the weekend
by rising early
our excuse: competition
to devour the worm

15
three heads are downturned
peering into textbooks
as the tsunami breaks

the days end starts
and beady eyes peer
in the direction of his
moving head, colored
gothic gargoyle in the
dim cloudlight streaming
through dust coated
slit windows

the room transforms
becoming triumphantly,
grumpily, repeatedly
conversational

artificial silence
spreads like a wave
from right back corner
to left front corner
leaving behind
the half of the room
hidden behind the wall
of troublemakers
who will eventually
cause the wall to topple
with the sheer force
of assorted nuts

16
blue hat is scrunched
under the of a fist
pounding on his head,
result of the decibels
consumed, and produced
by the embodiment
of the thoughts around him
which fall from stuffed
cheeks. Bounce off tables
and spread a sickening aroma
as their shells split
exposing, revealing
nothing

17
red face glances upward
as harsh words split
the widening sea of snickers
his words stop, first time today
as whispers spread wildly
of his speed in delivering answers
seconds later, room is silent
as statement ends and lecturer
turns back to him, offering
as always, another wave
of deep felt, anger hardened
quietly whispered, criticisms

thunderous-rush-voice leads
out of habit and necessity
the minutes following
his behavioral digression
each word stabbing split-headed
pointy-nosed papa bird, their
form a walnut-wood spear
crafted from drifted thoughts
of those sitting nearest him

18
on his back lies a pile of nuts
professor’s earthquake
shoulder shaking causes
eyes to open, back to rise
and with a tremendous roar
both physical and meta-physical,
it topples to worn carpet
and the laugh-track plays on

19
silence- pierced into being
by shrill, violent, mountainous
rise, and fall, of thunderous decibels-
hangs, heavier, louder than
the quick gone loudness replaced
or, in all actuality, displaced
mere seconds before being scrawled
into eternal memory
of those whose noses
sniff, daily, nutty clusters
of letters, which exclude
always, the ever-present x
the destructive π
and that y, which of course
flies as high as forgetful
nut-bearers




©Brandon Webb
2012
This is a series of observations, and. collectively, is the longest thing i've ever written, at 8847 words
Anna Jul 2017
a tough nut to crack
but to get the softer centre,
you must break him apart.
020617
Kelly Landis Oct 2012
i.
when she asked how we met,
we glanced sideways at one another,
smirking to ourselves,
only we know the secret,
and wouldn't she love to know?
"we met at the circus,
no, but really..."

ii.
when in fact, we met by chance,
by accident, but doesn't fate always
have the last word?
we sat side-by-side, touching
and spoke gentle stories to
one another
all night
and in the crowded dive bar,
music blaring, and
drunk people chattering,
i heard every word perfectly

iii.
she seemed surprised that we had
just met,
a blind date,
and yet, i was blinder even still
she excused herself right away,
an intruder on our inside joke
and any judgement was dismissed
we had created something
far more important
far more than intended

iv.
i keep expectations low on all things
if you build a wall, how do
you ever expect to climb over
without falling?
he kept reminding me of my smile,
and so i smiled some more,
until the blush was creeping all over my cheeks,
my face glowing with acceptance
from
this
stranger
Stephen E Yocum Sep 2013
Returned flush with excitement,
From a ten mile bike ride,
On a day near perfect,
Out along the river,

Temp in mid seventy's
not a cloud in the sky.

Beside the river I ride,
the water summer calm flat,
Scents of wet mossy rocks,
and dogwood trees non relenting.
The perfume of the Valley,
the River damp, sweet and pure.

Ride as I did the trails,
some on paved surface.
most on wood chips and dirt.

Shifting gears to suit the,
changing terrain and the
resources within my aged knees.  

The wind from my speed,
blows refreshingly in my face,
Dark glasses slipping down my nose,
yet keeping sun glare from blinding.

I pass some people,
I smile and wave,
they reply in kind,
Maybe we even
exchange brief
verbal greetings,
Some lost in a blur
of movement.

Easy for us all to smile,
we are happy in our work.

Half way there,
I stop for a drink,
Ease my burning legs.
The spot I pick is under  
cover of a huge old walnut tree.
It's massive umbrella shade
like an embracing sanctuary.

Across the way, a little lake,
once the old path of the river.
On the far bank there stands the
metal skeleton outline of three
buildings that once stood there.
This recreated site of the first
white settlement in Oregon ever,
Clear back in the year of 1837.

Methodist Missionaries they were,
came overland West,
from North East by wagon.
Bringing so they thought,
Needed "Civilization" to the
poor "heathens" here about.
Almost as always a very,
mistaken, arrogant notion.

There effort here lasted
four years, but the locals
responding not so well to
their well intending invitation.

In historical retrospect,
one can not but applaud
their self scarifies, hardship
and strife, some of them even
died still trying.

However they did open
the door, to a new beginning,
And soon other settlers
made the long journey.
It became "Oregon Or Bust" for many.  

As I reflect sitting neath
This tree those early people
no doubt planted,
from seed or sapling
brought so far to this
new land of beginning.
It stands here still,
176 years later,
a wonderful living,
still growing testament
to there efforts of trying.

The breeze livens,
stures sweet pungent
smells of brackish water,
forest, and Valley,
Hints of crocus,
Ripe black berries and
summer flowers blooming,
All these scents mingle,
and grow ever stronger.

Off in the near distance,
a strengthening breeze sounds,
Approaching through forest tree
coming ever closer and nearer.
Reaching me in a refreshing
gust that lasts for only a minute.
The sweat upon my face,
cools at it's touch. And I smile,
in grateful acknowledgement.

I have seen this day,
two kinds of squirrels
one red, one grey colored.
Coveys' of doves taking flight,
from my approaching bike,
And birds of many description,
A Red Tailed Hawk on wing,
Harassed by two small pursuit birds
protecting their nests from him.
A huge Bald Eagle diving for fish.
And one of my very favorites,
a spindly legged Blue Heron.
Standing in mud, fishing.
Even a smart fox,
scurrying back to hide
in the foliage, too shy
and too fast to be viewed
for too long by a human.

Thankful as I am,
for this one more
glorious day of living,
In the ***** of nature
so inspiring, so splendid.
I embrace Life and in return,
it grants me, continuation.

I plan on returning tomorrow.
To those new agers, young hip and maybe even a little
judgmental friends out there. I'm a plain simple old guy,
not word fancy, I write pretty much like I speak, a little
old fashion but straight from the hip and heart. No pandering,
no pretense, no ******* and surely no apologies intended.
It's not pure, maybe not even poetry, but what I guess I'm
saying is consider the source and take it or leave it.
It was written and intended all for me, from the beginning.
Which is what all writer's and poets should always do,
write for themselves not a Jury. There is a real freedom in that.
This is the easy time, there is nothing doing.
I have whirled the midwife's extractor,
I have my honey,
Six jars of it,
Six cat's eyes in the wine cellar,

Wintering in a dark without window
At the heart of the house
Next to the last tenant's rancid jam
and the bottles of empty glitters ----
Sir So-and-so's gin.

This is the room I have never been in
This is the room I could never breathe in.
The black bunched in there like a bat,
No light
But the torch and its faint

Chinese yellow on appalling objects ----
Black asininity. Decay.
Possession.
It is they who own me.
Neither cruel nor indifferent,

Only ignorant.
This is the time of hanging on for the bees--the bees
So slow I hardly know them,
Filing like soldiers
To the syrup tin

To make up for the honey I've taken.
Tate and Lyle keeps them going,
The refined snow.
It is Tate and Lyle they live on, instead of flowers.
They take it. The cold sets in.

Now they ball in a mass,
Black
Mind against all that white.
The smile of the snow is white.
It spreads itself out, a mile-long body of Meissen,

Into which, on warm days,
They can only carry their dead.
The bees are all women,
Maids and the long royal lady.
They have got rid of the men,

The blunt, clumsy stumblers, the boors.
Winter is for women ----
The woman, still at her knitting,
At the cradle of Spanis walnut,
Her body a bulb in the cold and too dumb to think.

Will the hive survive, will the gladiolas
Succeed in banking their fires
To enter another year?
What will they taste of, the Christmas roses?
The bees are flying. They taste the spring.
Mark Tilford Nov 2015
They walk up to me
I let them take the lead
They undo my belt
My **** starts to rise
Look out!!  your in for a very big surprise
Pulling my shorts down
I see their eyes are amazed at what they see
Yes baby, it's all me
They look up and say
I think that thing just might be to wide
To funny to me
It's still kind of limp you see
With a smile on their face they drop to their knees
And ready that mouth for me
Their knees planted firmly on the floor
and docked
It's time to **** this ten inch ****
They taste the tip of the head
with the tip of their tongue
They grab the shaft
and open wide
finally it's inside
Oh!! how moist
I am so glad I was their choice
I grab the back of their head and
gently pump back and forth
They stop me to taste that wonderful pre-***
and lick my walnut size *****
Then back in their mouth
They stroke my shaft to match their ****
I can feel it's starting to build
it's not going to be a small yield
They blow and blow
I pull out and I unload and unload and unload
sure was not no little specks
WOW!!
How I love
Oral ***

"NEXT"!!
I am a walnut
A hard outer shell

Keeping my secrets within

Few bother to crack me
It takes too much effort
for such an unappetizing morsel

But those who do take the time
Find that once I am open
All of me has been spilled out to them

And I cannot uncrack


But he is a pumpkin
He opens for you

But you have to pull his secrets out of him
Bit by slimy bit
Until you have them laid out on a
table
and still you must sort through his insides
to find who he really is

And when you think you know
There is another secret
That he won't explain

He doesn't want you to know him
I have given myself to him, but he hides himself from me
nuts high in protein
the black gold of Missouri
prized wood, black walnut
Joe Cottonwood May 2016
From this tree, they lynched John T,
for the crime of speaking
against slavery. Dead now, this spar
stands among Holsteins
in the pasture of a man
who figures we’re cousins somehow.
He, a midwestern farmer,
me, a California craftsman,
political poles apart
but blood is thicker than geography.

Ancient black walnut
hollowed by rot is tough to salvage.
Working together with chain saw
and wrecking bar we find a section
of solid core, and on the surface
a scar like a grinning face
where the branch broke off,
long gone one hundred fifty years,
the branch that held the rope
that swung John T’s three hundred and fifty
pounds of muscle and fat and bluster
until it snapped.

John T, who was the grandfather
of my grandfather, ran into the forest
where his best friend rescued him,
a man named, ironically, Lynch,
grandfather of the grandfather
of the man with whom I speak.
Thus, cousins — in the country way.

I’ll make salad bowls, I say,
wooden forks and tongs,
walnut plates, maybe even a tea set
for your daughter
who seems so outspoken,
so feisty and strong.
Tea set? he says, she needs a lectern!

So here it is.
The grinning knot on the surface.
Those holes in the side, from bullets.
Lead slugs. I dug them out.
Here, this cloth sack.
May she heft them in her fist.
May her words
fire like cannons
for freedom.
I had to delete this from Hello Poetry while a journal published it. The journal, an anthology called Dove Tales, is out now, so here's the poem back where it first appeared.
amidst Jeffersonian opulence
the Prez broke bread with his
GOP poker face friends
to solve government gridlock
and sequester predicament trends

citizens of the republic
hopeful for nonsense to cease
sat at the table asking

“would you pass
the biscuits please?”

Obama perused the wine list
boldly choosing a luscious Merlot
senators ordered the finest hors d'oeuvres
the guests were all aglow

numerous delectable dishes
were liberally splayed on the table
revelers sipped flowing vintages
wine a surefire icebreaker

sparkling crystal Lennox flutes
tinkled with convivial release
while America’s disenfranchised
voices ask

“would you pass
the biscuits please?”

chutney meat, curried hens and
sweet walnut rainbow trout
the table a horn a plenty
the guests gorged on fine cuisine
a blessed nations bounty

the feast consumed
the Senators sated
said it was some
of the finest ever served
but the taxpayers only
got a peak of the banquet  
a whiff of senators nerve
and asked

“would you pass
the biscuits please?”

the dessert cart was rolled in
with custards, cakes, creme brulee
cordials, cognac and VSOP tastes
rounded out the wholesome feast

when the check was presented
for payment all guests headed
for the door with haste
they told the waiter the bill of fare
was covered
by the guy asking...

“would you pass
the biscuits please?”

Music Selection:

Andre Williams:
Pass The Biscuits Please

jbm
Oakland
3/7/13
SB Stokes Apr 2015
You’re like Chinese food

for my ****

dropped off in a

slightly soggy box

hidden wrapped

in brown paper

like you’re ashamed

***** secret fortune cookie

cracking up at the bottom

slurping you already

I pay the man
What can you say about Pennsylvania
in regard to New England except that
it is slightly less cold, and less rocky,
or rather that the rocks are different?
Redder, and gritty, and piled up here and there,
whether as glacial moraine or collapsed springhouse
is not easy to tell, so quickly
are human efforts bundled back into nature.

In fall, the trees turn yellower-
hard maple, hickory, and oak
give way to tulip poplar, black walnut,
and locust. The woods are overgrown
with wild-grape vines, and with greenbrier
spreading its low net of anxious small claws.
In warm November, the mulching forest floor
smells like a rotting animal.

A genial pulpiness, in short: the sky
is soft with haze and paper-gray
even as the sun shines, and the rain
falls soft on the shoulders of farmers
while the children keep on playing,
their heads of hair beaded like spider webs.
A deep-dyed blur softens the bleak cities
whose people palaver in prolonged vowels.

There is a secret here, some death-defying joke
the eyes, the knuckles, the bellies imply-
a suet of consolation fetched straight
from the slaughterhouse and hung out
for chickadees to peck in the lee of the spruce,
where the husks of sunflower seeds
and the peace-signs of bird feet crowd
the snow that barely masks the still-green grass.

I knew that secret once, and have forgotten.
The death-defying secret-it rises
toward me like a dog's gaze, loving
but bewildered. When winter sits cold and black
slumped between its two polluted rivers,
warmth's shadow leans close to the wall
and gets the cement to deliver a kiss.
Once upon a time a long way away
The Prince married the Wizard's daughter
Within the Queen's garden they said their vows
Wonderful day in the land of Stohyer

Then came the black witch and let it be known
Her pale white skin sent shivers through the crowd
Her voice cackled making the guests tremble
Thy firstborns blood will make my skin shine proud

To the Wizard's cave they sought his advice
There his red haired daughter told of their plight
Then with dagger he cut each of their hair
Mingled hair in cauldron opened the sight

The clear water began to boil and churn
When it calmed down it was like a birds eye view
This sight was flying fast over the land
To the far corners of the land they flew

Then the sight did still, showing a great bear
The bear looked up at them giving a growl
Come ask me kindly as he showed loose claws
The King understood the bears words in growl

Then sight flew to show an old grand dragon
The dragon saw them and bellowed great flame
Come ask me kindly showing pile of scales
The Prince understood the words from the flame

Then the Queens garden to a strong old tree
The tree swayed and the wind rustled the leaves
Come ask me kindly showing huge walnut
The Queen understood rustling of the leaves

Leaving Wizard and daughter safe in cave
The king rode hard and fast to see the bear
The Prince climbed up high to meet the dragon
The Queen to her garden asked tree to share

Once returned they gave the gifts to Wizard
The bear gave claw of a great warrior
Dragon gave the scale of the first dragon
Placed in walnut shell to protect Stohyer

Wizard sealed the shell and gave to daughter
Keep warm and with you always my daughter
When you are with child it will crack open
Revealing a protector of Stohyer

The red haired Princess took care of the shell
The Princess kept it with her everywhere
Then one morning she awoke to cracking
With husband they watched a hatching to share

It cracked a little here and then more there
Revealing something they had never seen
A bearlike furry ball with a long tail
Stretching out little horns could now be seen

The eyes of the Prince and Princess went wide
Something beautiful and new was now there
Looking up at them with green dragon eyes
The Princess cuddled Teddy Dragon Bear
Second poem of the Black Witch Saga
Nigel Morgan Nov 2012
A thousand peaks: no more birds in flight.
Ten thousand paths: all trace of people gone.

In a lone boat, rain cloak and hat of reeds.
An old man’s fishing the cold river snow.

I am alone in this mountain fastness, on a steep downward path in the deepest shadow. I play with the twelve characters of Lui Tsung-yaun’s poem. How few poems tell of the desolation of winter. The coming of Spring, the passing of Autumn? Yes. But the onset of Winter? Even my sharp memory only recalls a meagre handful of poems to this season: the time of the first snows. Against all good sense I set out from Stone Village too late in the year: now I search for comforting word images to accompany me on this journey. Just below the snowline I pass through a stunted forest of ancient walnut trees almost leafless; the unrelenting wind has dispatched them crinkled brown into the valley below. I see there a winding river. I see its distant lake. I think of this poem known since my teenage years, puzzled over that one could see in one sweep of the horizon a thousand peaks. Here are that thousand and more if the ranks of limestone pillars in these mountains can be counted as peaks. I count them as peaks. And those thousand paths? At every turn there is some fresh way falling into the valley, or a faint trail rising to the heights. But this path I tread asserts itself on the traveller. Its stones are worn and the excrement of passing pack animals sticks to my boots.

Last night a cave, tonight I will reach the village of Psnumako. My former guide provided its name with a disdain he could not hide. When questioned he warned me not to enter without a stout staff against the mastiffs that guard each house, supposedly ******* during the day but apt to break their bonds at the smell of a stranger.

The steep and ever steeper descent brings pain to my knees. At this hour of the day my body would prefer to climb to the heights, but descend I must. The cold, the damp cold begins to stiffen weary limbs. I am tired from a day’s travel, tired from three hard climbs, two descents and this, my third, to complete before nightfall. I enter a narrow gorge loud with clamour of running water, cascade upon cascade flowing from the heights, falling fast to the river soon to interrupt my path. I shall have to force a crossing. What passed for a bridge were two fallen pines lashed together.  Now they lie akimbo a little distant, thrown apart like sticks by the spring flood as the deep snows melt. I must divest myself of boots and lower garments and wade across, stumbling on stones up to my waist in swift waters, terrified under the weight of my pack that I will fall and be swept under and along. To travel alone at such moments is foolhardy, but on this cold afternoon I have no choice.

I am so intent on preparing for this crossing it is only when I reach the end of the path that I notice snow is falling, its flakes sharp and white against the dark-water flow. The whirl and turn of the water mesmerises. Fatigue, fatigue embraces me, a day’s fatigue holds me fast on the river’s stony side. I close my eyes and hear the water rush and place myself into the protection of a mountain charm learnt from a passing traveller. Dwarfed by the size of his burden I see him negotiate a narrow path high above a chasm; he walked trance-like to the intoning of this charm.

It is soon done, the cold crossing, and with a lighter step I walk the remaining leagues to the lake-side and sight of the village. There are the faintest sparks of light amongst the silhouettes of houses. Animals are being brought in from the home fields against the night. A sudden shout, the barking of dogs, and now the snow falls thick and fast.

The guttural dialect here is barely discernable as speech. We are from different worlds this shepherd and I who meet at the stupa guarding the village entrance. This is not a Buddhist shrine but an acknowledgement of some mountain giant of terrifying aspect. The shepherd sees my official insignia and nods, knowing I will require shelter. He utters what may be a welcome, but could be a warning, and leads me forth. The mastiffs leap and bay as I pass between the primitive two-storey houses, animals below, humankind above. He disappears. I stop and wait. He returns with a woman who beckons me to climb the ladder to what may be her home. A widow perhaps? She is alone unless the rank darkness hides a man or child. But there is none. I hear animals move and grunt under the floor, a mat of dirt and straw. There is a sleeping loft, a cooking corner. I can see little else. But I am out of the snow, the biting wind, the cold. She pulls at my cloak, wet and caked with ice. There is a bowl placed in my hands; a rough tea. I speak a greeting, but there is no reply just a rustle of straw as she moves across the room.

The stupor of a journey’s pause is upon me. After three days on the trail to the heights I am numb with fatigue. I need food and sleep. I need rest before a final trek into the wilderness. Beyond Psnumako Lake known paths end. Except for the tracks used by shepherds to move their flocks to different seasonal pastures, there is wilderness. I hope for guidance, for the whereabouts of the sages who, in the winter months I am told, leave their reed huts on the heights for caves in the lower valleys. I shall be patient, remain here a little while. I am now immune to the discomfort and dirt of travel. That is how it is. That is how is must be. I miss only the mental absorption of writing, the caress of the brush on a scroll. In my home in Louyang I keep brush and paper close to hand; wherever I may be I can write, even in, especially in, the privy. If a line comes to me I can write it down. Here there is only the comfort of memory.

To think that in the past I wrote of this mountain wilderness out of my imagination and the descriptions of others. I once thought of these remote places as havens of spiritual liberation.

In the hills there is the sound of zither.
White clouds stay over shaded peaks,
Red flowers shine in the sunlit woods
Rocks are washed in the stream like jade;

How very different is the reality of it all; in this emerging winter world of mist, where the sun rarely visits and most living things have departed, where wind colours silence and one’s footfall becomes consolation. The sound of stone rubbing stone on the path is the eternal present. There have been days when only a distant crow moves in the landscape. Lammergeyers are known in these parts, but I have yet to see one. If there are wild beasts, they shun me.

As this bowl of tea cools in my hands but warms my frozen fingers I form pictures of the past day on its dark surface. Before dawn from the mouth of a river cave I sensed changes in the qualities of darkness that have hidden the heights above me. Then a perceptible line appeared and divided the mountain from the sky. That line became variegated; there were trees bristling on the highest rocks. It appears that at this hour the prevalent mist settles in the valleys leaving the sky clear.

The woman comes to me. She kneels to untie my boots. She looks with a curious innocence at my strangeness, the distortion of my face, the cleft palette, the deformed upper lip, the squint of my left eye. She is kindly as I give her my best smile though my face seems frozen still. There is a whisper, a prayer of welcome possibly. Then she bows her head, unravels a long scarf to reveal a mane of oiled hair, and sets about removing my boots. I see only the top of her head, a severe parting, hair held tightly in wooden combs. I close my eyes to bring to mind the image of Xaoli, so slight in comparison, her butterfly hands flittering into and around my sleeves, her seeing touch mapping out the extent of me, each piece of clothing, only later my face.

My reverie is broken by the entrance of two men. They squat behind the woman and, after taking in my ugliness and my hairpins of office, patiently wait for her to finish and retire. We stand and bow, then sit again amongst the straw.

‘Honoured Lord, I am Yun. You have travelled from Stone Village? And beyond?’

I pass him the Emperor’s seal he cannot read, but remain silent.

‘You are seeking those who live in the heights? The village only sees their servants, young boys sent for a goat or flasks of barley spirit. They bring herbs our women favour. Some have seen their huts when seeking lost animals. Now it is said they are gathered in the caves like animals waiting for the spring moon.’

‘When was the village last visited by their kind?’

‘ Hanlu, my Lord, the time of cold dew, two boys appeared with a pony. There was trading. They brought Chrysanthemum flowers and herbs for two geese and wine. They left scrolls for passage to Stone Village. Now the snows fall we may not see them until the Spring’

‘How far are your summer pastures? Have you any who would guide me there ?’

‘We do not seek these places after the first snows. The sages haunt the region beyond Chang Mountain. Before the 11th moon you might pass into the valley of Lidong where it is believed their caves lie, but to return before the Spring will not be possible.’

‘How many days there?’

‘Allow four. A difficult way, unmarked, rarely trodden, much climbing. There is one here who we could send with you – part of the way, and at a price, My Lord. Dahan travelled two seasons since as groom to a party of six with ponies, but then in late Spring.’

‘I will stay three days.’

‘Just so My Lord. Xiu Li will see to your wishes.’

And they depart, Yun’s companion has remained silent throughout, though searched my face continually. By the door he places his hand against the stout bag that carries my lute. ‘Guqin’, he says tenderly.

This instrument is my pass to the community of the reclusive. I am renown for my songs and their singing. My third-best guqin has not left its bag since Stone Village and I fear damage despite all my care on the path.

Later, as the village mastiffs gradually cease their baying as the quarter moon rises I take this instrument and place it across my lap. Its seven silk strings I wipe with a cloth and gently tune with its tasselled pegs. I then prepare myself through meditation to avoid the intrusion of distracting thoughts. With my eyes closed I allow my hands to seek out and name each part of guqin: from the Forehead of the Top Board, to the String Eyes, the Dew Collector, The Mountain, Shoulder and Phoenix Wings, past the Waist, the Hat Lines and the Dragon’s Beard, to the Dragon’s Gums and thence to the Inner Top Board. I can feel the Pillar of Heaven – the sound post – has moved a little in my recent travels. So too the Pillar of Earth – but with care I move both to their rightful positions. And so on naming the inner and outer parts of each of the two boards that make up the guqin. I begin to regulate my breathing and allow the fingers of my left hand to stroke and touch, to press and oscillate in the manner of vibrato. Zhoa Wenji describes twenty-three kinds of vibrato. I feel in turn each of the hui, the thirteen gold studs that mark the harmonic nodes and allow me to play the guqin by touch alone. In these moments of preparation I hear the words of my teacher: a good player makes sounds that are plentiful but not confused. As the moon reflecting on water, so the sounds are together but not combined. Like wind in the pines, they are combined but also spread out. Such sounds are valued for their lightness. Avoid the addition of inappropriate  "guest" sounds. This is the refined theory of the guqin. To be knowledgeable about music, one must seek this, then one can realize its beauty.

I have tuned to the Huangzhong mode. The song *Amidst Mountains Thinking of an Old Friend
I have brought to mind. I recall the words of The Slender Hermit who says of this piece that its interest lies in holding cherished thoughts, but having no way to tell these to anyone. There are emotions about the present time, longings and laments for the past, but there is no way to express any of this. And so this piece.

In this poor reed hut the room is filled with mist and haze,
how far away are the things I love;
the old plum tree seems exhausted, its flowers about to die,
the mountains are lonely and I am nostalgic for past times.
The moon shines brightly on this lovely evening,
from this distance I think of my old friend and wonder where he is.
The green of the mountains never fades,
but before I know it my hair will turn white;
the moon is waning and flowers wither,
Old friend, I dream constantly of meeting you.
How hard it is to recall the joy of our last meeting!
With the many mountain ranges,
and its hidden tigers and coiled dragons,
I am unable return to you in Chang An.
The road is distant, the tall trees make the road dark,
and the world is vast.

I mourn Aquila and Lyra
separated by the Milky Way like the cowherd and weaving girl,
on the ground we are separated by 1,000 li
in the sky we are each in a separate place,
though our passions remain strong
There has been no warm correspondence,
there is restraint to the bright harmony,
and the flowing streams are swallowed by the setting sun.


The thought of this song of mid autumn touches me before its words have issued from my lips. I play the last two lines in harmonics and sing.
Zuo Si was the brother of the courtesan and poet Zuo Fen. This short story is based on a chapter from my novel Summoning the Recluse. The opening poem appears in a translation by David Hinton from his collection Mountain Home.
Martin Narrod May 2014
The clock gets me.
It comes to me in the middle of the night
Pulls back the sheets and says, "Hey fucko."
Then it lifts open my sobby wet sand-encrusted lids,
It knows when I'm trying at sleep, pumping quarters
Like I was swallowing yawns, sometimes I try to squint
Harder and take a dream to the next level, whatever
The next level is. It's like Friday night when I wanted to go
Out to do something, whatever something is.
Because I know that if I don't I'll miss that thing that's so
Important that if I were to miss it the clock wouldn't come for me

Again.
And on Tuesday's when I'm knotting a dream around 2 o' clock
In the morning, my web-footed adventure, say, killing your

Boyfriend, say
Fighting the Nazis, say,
Rediscovering that you sent nudie pics to
That rando guy we met in that club that lives
in Prague-
I throw the clock at the ******* wall.

Because who knows, I make the bed wrong
Or maybe I don't cook right, or look right, or
Smile the right way at the right

Time. And you start thinking that I have to die.
The bane of my existence is an imagined feat in your
Walnut-sized brain, slowly numbing us while we're
Supposed to be, say

Listening to the rich, Oxford voice of
David Attenborough.

Instead you're thumbing through that index
of CVS cashiers, just trying to find a scruffy face
To flip your digits to, your homemade justification. It becomes
A feat, an unjust cause of mine to

Get it right, that imaginative and artificial bit you've
Been sewing up Monday twilight.

That's when I go out and jaw your sister, somewhere between
A smirk on your face and a bit of anger at the end of your sentences.
come mu-khee mu-khee!
where is the walnut?
squirrel's paw - my palm.
Imagined by
Impeccable Space
Poetic beauty
I

In the depths of the Greyhound Terminal
sitting dumbly on a baggage truck looking at the sky
        waiting for the Los Angeles Express to depart
worrying about eternity over the Post Office roof in
        the night-time red downtown heaven
staring through my eyeglasses I realized shuddering
        these thoughts were not eternity, nor the poverty
        of our lives, irritable baggage clerks,
nor the millions of weeping relatives surrounding the
        buses waving goodbye,
nor other millions of the poor rushing around from
        city to city to see their loved ones,
nor an indian dead with fright talking to a huge cop
        by the Coke machine,
nor this trembling old lady with a cane taking the last
        trip of her life,
nor the red-capped cynical porter collecting his quar-
        ters and smiling over the smashed baggage,
nor me looking around at the horrible dream,
nor mustached ***** Operating Clerk named *****,
        dealing out with his marvelous long hand the
        fate of thousands of express packages,
nor fairy Sam in the basement limping from leaden
        trunk to trunk,
nor Joe at the counter with his nervous breakdown
        smiling cowardly at the customers,
nor the grayish-green whale's stomach interior loft
        where we keep the baggage in hideous racks,
hundreds of suitcases full of tragedy rocking back and
        forth waiting to be opened,
nor the baggage that's lost, nor damaged handles,
        nameplates vanished, busted wires & broken
        ropes, whole trunks exploding on the concrete
        floor,
nor seabags emptied into the night in the final
        warehouse.

                II

Yet ***** reminded me of Angel, unloading a bus,
dressed in blue overalls black face official Angel's work-
        man cap,
pushing with his belly a huge tin horse piled high with
        black baggage,
looking up as he passed the yellow light bulb of the loft
and holding high on his arm an iron shepherd's crook.

                III

It was the racks, I realized, sitting myself on top of
        them now as is my wont at lunchtime to rest
        my tired foot,
it was the racks, great wooden shelves and stanchions
        posts and beams assembled floor to roof jumbled
        with baggage,
--the Japanese white metal postwar trunk gaudily
        flowered & headed for Fort Bragg,
one Mexican green paper package in purple rope
        adorned with names for Nogales,
hundreds of radiators all at once for Eureka,
crates of Hawaiian underwear,
rolls of posters scattered over the Peninsula, nuts to
        Sacramento,
one human eye for Napa,
an aluminum box of human blood for Stockton
and a little red package of teeth for Calistoga-
it was the racks and these on the racks I saw naked
        in electric light the night before I quit,
the racks were created to hang our possessions, to keep
        us together, a temporary shift in space,
God's only way of building the rickety structure of
        Time,
to hold the bags to send on the roads, to carry our
        luggage from place to place
looking for a bus to ride us back home to Eternity
        where the heart was left and farewell tears
        began.

                IV

A swarm of baggage sitting by the counter as the trans-
        continental bus pulls in.
The clock registering 12:15 A.M., May 9, 1956, the
        second hand moving forward, red.
Getting ready to load my last bus.-Farewell, Walnut
        Creek Richmond Vallejo Portland Pacific
        Highway
Fleet-footed Quicksilver, God of transience.
One last package sits lone at midnight sticking up out
        of the Coast rack high as the dusty fluorescent
        light.
        
The wage they pay us is too low to live on. Tragedy
        reduced to numbers.
This for the poor shepherds. I am a communist.
Farewell ye Greyhound where I suffered so much,
        hurt my knee and scraped my hand and built
        my pectoral muscles big as a ******.

                             May 9, 1956
brooke Jun 2016
I recently unearthed old photos of me
with a mop of scraggly black hair and
a ***** smile on my face, the kind of
smile I used to give before sinking into
myself, twisting my face up to disappear
and reassess my insides, how was that heart
workin' out for you, sweetheart?

And years later I still feel the familiar jolt,
manage to think that I am too sloppy for
loving, I've always been a pallet of nudes
a swarthy child waiting to be as blue as
the sky, holding myself to a standard
physically impossible, people tell me
I'm beautiful and I still wonder why
if this is as easy as loving myself then
I want to know how,  I say thank you
with a hand over my heart to hold in
the little girls, who still wait in the middle
of empty classrooms for a partner, who still
envy the women that grew fox-glove petals
in the golden hour while I crouched in the
curly willow branches, semi-dormant
perpetually brown with too much skin
standing off the side because I was too
afraid to touch others,

too afraid of an olive complexion. Too afraid of being in this body.


When someone loves you, how will you know?
what will they do when they see my scars, the ones that only
show at certain times in certain ways? Under hot water and at
noonday? when will I be okay with a broken heritage, with a mexican
daddy who cut the ropes back to the village where I was supposed to
return to? And why do I feel like the winds and hot sands when boys hold my hands? Like I am burning up the rivers or smoldering beneath
the dry autumn brush in San Isabel, where only beetles and lizards congregate, a backboard baby with
an overprotective mother, carrying the strings I've tried to tie to others--

direct me home, sir.
direct me home, ma'am.

Tell me who I am.
tell me who i am
(c) Brooke Otto 2016


Draft dump. Written May 15th.
--To Elizabeth Robins Pennell


'O mes cheres Mille et Une Nuits!'--Fantasio.

Once on a time
There was a little boy:  a master-mage
By virtue of a Book
Of magic--O, so magical it filled
His life with visionary pomps
Processional!  And Powers
Passed with him where he passed.  And Thrones
And Dominations, glaived and plumed and mailed,
Thronged in the criss-cross streets,
The palaces pell-mell with playing-fields,
Domes, cloisters, dungeons, caverns, tents, arcades,
Of the unseen, silent City, in his soul
Pavilioned jealously, and hid
As in the dusk, profound,
Green stillnesses of some enchanted mere.--

I shut mine eyes . . . And lo!
A flickering ****** of memory that floats
Upon the face of a pool of darkness five
And thirty dead years deep,
Antic in girlish broideries
And skirts and silly shoes with straps
And a broad-ribanded leghorn, he walks
Plain in the shadow of a church
(St. Michael's:  in whose brazen call
To curfew his first wails of wrath were whelmed),
Sedate for all his haste
To be at home; and, nestled in his arm,
Inciting still to quiet and solitude,
Boarded in sober drab,
With small, square, agitating cuts
Let in a-top of the double-columned, close,
Quakerlike print, a Book! . . .
What but that blessed brief
Of what is gallantest and best
In all the full-shelved Libraries of Romance?
The Book of rocs,
Sandalwood, ivory, turbans, ambergris,
Cream-tarts, and lettered apes, and calendars,
And ghouls, and genies--O, so huge
They might have overed the tall Minster Tower
Hands down, as schoolboys take a post!
In truth, the Book of Camaralzaman,
Schemselnihar and Sindbad, Scheherezade
The peerless, Bedreddin, Badroulbadour,
Cairo and Serendib and Candahar,
And Caspian, and the dim, terrific bulk--
Ice-ribbed, fiend-visited, isled in spells and storms--
Of Kaf! . . . That centre of miracles,
The sole, unparalleled Arabian Nights!

Old friends I had a-many--kindly and grim
Familiars, cronies quaint
And goblin!  Never a Wood but housed
Some morrice of dainty dapperlings.  No Brook
But had his nunnery
Of green-haired, silvry-curving sprites,
To cabin in his grots, and pace
His lilied margents.  Every lone Hillside
Might open upon Elf-Land.  Every Stalk
That curled about a Bean-stick was of the breed
Of that live ladder by whose delicate rungs
You climbed beyond the clouds, and found
The Farm-House where the Ogre, gorged
And drowsy, from his great oak chair,
Among the flitches and pewters at the fire,
Called for his Faery Harp.  And in it flew,
And, perching on the kitchen table, sang
Jocund and jubilant, with a sound
Of those gay, golden-vowered madrigals
The shy thrush at mid-May
Flutes from wet orchards flushed with the triumphing dawn;
Or blackbirds rioting as they listened still,
In old-world woodlands rapt with an old-world spring,
For Pan's own whistle, savage and rich and lewd,
And mocked him call for call!

I could not pass
The half-door where the cobbler sat in view
Nor figure me the wizen Leprechaun,
In square-cut, faded reds and buckle-shoes,
Bent at his work in the hedge-side, and know
Just how he tapped his brogue, and twitched
His wax-end this and that way, both with wrists
And elbows.  In the rich June fields,
Where the ripe clover drew the bees,
And the tall quakers trembled, and the West Wind
Lolled his half-holiday away
Beside me lolling and lounging through my own,
'Twas good to follow the Miller's Youngest Son
On his white horse along the leafy lanes;
For at his stirrup linked and ran,
Not cynical and trapesing, as he loped
From wall to wall above the espaliers,
But in the bravest tops
That market-town, a town of tops, could show:
Bold, subtle, adventurous, his tail
A banner flaunted in disdain
Of human stratagems and shifts:
King over All the Catlands, present and past
And future, that moustached
Artificer of fortunes, ****-in-Boots!
Or Bluebeard's Closet, with its plenishing
Of meat-hooks, sawdust, blood,
And wives that hung like fresh-dressed carcases--
Odd-fangled, most a butcher's, part
A faery chamber hazily seen
And hazily figured--on dark afternoons
And windy nights was visiting of the best.
Then, too, the pelt of hoofs
Out in the roaring darkness told
Of Herne the Hunter in his antlered helm
Galloping, as with despatches from the Pit,
Between his hell-born Hounds.
And Rip Van Winkle . . . often I lurked to hear,
Outside the long, low timbered, tarry wall,
The mutter and rumble of the trolling bowls
Down the lean plank, before they fluttered the pins;
For, listening, I could help him play
His wonderful game,
In those blue, booming hills, with Mariners
Refreshed from kegs not coopered in this our world.

But what were these so near,
So neighbourly fancies to the spell that brought
The run of Ali Baba's Cave
Just for the saying 'Open Sesame,'
With gold to measure, peck by peck,
In round, brown wooden stoups
You borrowed at the chandler's? . . . Or one time
Made you Aladdin's friend at school,
Free of his Garden of Jewels, Ring and Lamp
In perfect trim? . . . Or Ladies, fair
For all the embrowning scars in their white *******
Went labouring under some dread ordinance,
Which made them whip, and bitterly cry the while,
Strange Curs that cried as they,
Till there was never a Black ***** of all
Your consorting but might have gone
Spell-driven miserably for crimes
Done in the pride of womanhood and desire . . .
Or at the ghostliest altitudes of night,
While you lay wondering and acold,
Your sense was fearfully purged; and soon
Queen Labe, abominable and dear,
Rose from your side, opened the Box of Doom,
Scattered the yellow powder (which I saw
Like sulphur at the Docks in bulk),
And muttered certain words you could not hear;
And there! a living stream,
The brook you bathed in, with its weeds and flags
And cresses, glittered and sang
Out of the hearthrug over the nakedness,
Fair-scrubbed and decent, of your bedroom floor! . . .

I was--how many a time!--
That Second Calendar, Son of a King,
On whom 'twas vehemently enjoined,
Pausing at one mysterious door,
To pry no closer, but content his soul
With his kind Forty.  Yet I could not rest
For idleness and ungovernable Fate.
And the Black Horse, which fed on sesame
(That wonder-working word!),
Vouchsafed his back to me, and spread his vans,
And soaring, soaring on
From air to air, came charging to the ground
Sheer, like a lark from the midsummer clouds,
And, shaking me out of the saddle, where I sprawled
Flicked at me with his tail,
And left me blinded, miserable, distraught
(Even as I was in deed,
When doctors came, and odious things were done
On my poor tortured eyes
With lancets; or some evil acid stung
And wrung them like hot sand,
And desperately from room to room
Fumble I must my dark, disconsolate way),
To get to Bagdad how I might.  But there
I met with Merry Ladies.  O you three--
Safie, Amine, Zobeide--when my heart
Forgets you all shall be forgot!
And so we supped, we and the rest,
On wine and roasted lamb, rose-water, dates,
Almonds, pistachios, citrons.  And Haroun
Laughed out of his lordly beard
On Giaffar and Mesrour (I knew the Three
For all their Mossoul habits).  And outside
The Tigris, flowing swift
Like Severn bend for bend, twinkled and gleamed
With broken and wavering shapes of stranger stars;
The vast, blue night
Was murmurous with peris' plumes
And the leathern wings of genies; words of power
Were whispering; and old fishermen,
Casting their nets with prayer, might draw to shore
Dead loveliness:  or a prodigy in scales
Worth in the Caliph's Kitchen pieces of gold:
Or copper vessels, stopped with lead,
Wherein some Squire of Eblis watched and railed,
In durance under potent charactry
Graven by the seal of Solomon the King . . .

Then, as the Book was glassed
In Life as in some olden mirror's quaint,
Bewildering angles, so would Life
Flash light on light back on the Book; and both
Were changed.  Once in a house decayed
From better days, harbouring an errant show
(For all its stories of dry-rot
Were filled with gruesome visitants in wax,
Inhuman, hushed, ghastly with Painted Eyes),
I wandered; and no living soul
Was nearer than the pay-box; and I stared
Upon them staring--staring.  Till at last,
Three sets of rafters from the streets,
I strayed upon a mildewed, rat-run room,
With the two Dancers, horrible and obscene,
Guarding the door:  and there, in a bedroom-set,
Behind a fence of faded crimson cords,
With an aspect of frills
And dimities and dishonoured privacy
That made you hanker and hesitate to look,
A Woman with her litter of Babes--all slain,
All in their nightgowns, all with Painted Eyes
Staring--still staring; so that I turned and ran
As for my neck, but in the street
Took breath.  The same, it seemed,
And yet not all the same, I was to find,
As I went up!  For afterwards,
Whenas I went my round alone--
All day alone--in long, stern, silent streets,
Where I might stretch my hand and take
Whatever I would:  still there were Shapes of Stone,
Motionless, lifelike, frightening--for the Wrath
Had smitten them; but they watched,
This by her melons and figs, that by his rings
And chains and watches, with the hideous gaze,
The Painted Eyes insufferable,
Now, of those grisly images; and I
Pursued my best-beloved quest,
Thrilled with a novel and delicious fear.
So the night fell--with never a lamplighter;
And through the Palace of the King
I groped among the echoes, and I felt
That they were there,
Dreadfully there, the Painted staring Eyes,
Hall after hall . . . Till lo! from far
A Voice!  And in a little while
Two tapers burning!  And the Voice,
Heard in the wondrous Word of God, was--whose?
Whose but Zobeide's,
The lady of my heart, like me
A True Believer, and like me
An outcast thousands of leagues beyond the pale! . . .

Or, sailing to the Isles
Of Khaledan, I spied one evenfall
A black blotch in the sunset; and it grew
Swiftly . . . and grew.  Tearing their beards,
The sailors wept and prayed; but the grave ship,
Deep laden with spiceries and pearls, went mad,
Wrenched the long tiller out of the steersman's hand,
And, turning broadside on,
As the most iron would, was haled and ******
Nearer, and nearer yet;
And, all awash, with horrible lurching leaps
Rushed at that Portent, casting a shadow now
That swallowed sea and sky; and then,
Anchors and nails and bolts
Flew screaming out of her, and with clang on clang,
A noise of fifty stithies, caught at the sides
Of the Magnetic Mountain; and she lay,
A broken bundle of firewood, strown piecemeal
About the waters; and her crew
Passed shrieking, one by one; and I was left
To drown.  All the long night I swam;
But in the morning, O, the smiling coast
Tufted with date-trees, meadowlike,
Skirted with shelving sands!  And a great wave
Cast me ashore; and I was saved alive.
So, giving thanks to God, I dried my clothes,
And, faring inland, in a desert place
I stumbled on an iron ring--
The fellow of fifty built into the Quays:
When, scenting a trap-door,
I dug, and dug; until my biggest blade
Stuck into wood.  And then,
The flight of smooth-hewn, easy-falling stairs,
Sunk in the naked rock!  The cool, clean vault,
So neat with niche on niche it might have been
Our beer-cellar but for the rows
Of brazen urns (like monstrous chemist's jars)
Full to the wide, squat throats
With gold-dust, but a-top
A layer of pickled-walnut-looking things
I knew for olives!  And far, O, far away,
The Princess of China languished!  Far away
Was marriage, with a Vizier and a Chief
Of Eunuchs and the privilege
Of going out at night
To play--unkenned, majestical, secure--
Where the old, brown, friendly river shaped
Like Tigris shore for shore!  Haply a Ghoul
Sat in the churchyard under a frightened moon,
A thighbone in his fist, and glared
At supper with a Lady:  she who took
Her rice with tweezers grain by grain.
Or you might stumble--there by the iron gates
Of the Pump Room--underneath the limes--
Upon Bedreddin in his shirt and drawers,
Just as the civil Genie laid him down.
Or those red-curtained panes,
Whence a tame cornet tenored it throatily
Of beer-pots and spittoons and new long pipes,
Might turn a caravansery's, wherein
You found Noureddin Ali, loftily drunk,
And that fair Persian, bathed in tears,
You'd not have given away
For all the diamonds in the Vale Perilous
You had that dark and disleaved afternoon
Escaped on a roc's claw,
Disguised like Sindbad--but in Christmas beef!
And all the blissful while
The schoolboy satchel at your hip
Was such a bulse of gems as should amaze
Grey-whiskered chapmen drawn
From over Caspian:  yea, the Chief Jewellers
Of Tartary and the bazaars,
Seething with traffic, of enormous Ind.--

Thus cried, thus called aloud, to the child heart
The magian East:  thus the child eyes
Spelled out the wizard message by the light
Of the sober, workaday hours
They saw, week in week out, pass, and still pass
In the sleepy Minster City, folded kind
In ancient Severn's arm,
Amongst her water-meadows and her docks,
Whose floating populace of ships--
Galliots and luggers, light-heeled brigantines,
Bluff barques and rake-hell fore-and-afters--brought
To her very doorsteps and geraniums
The scents of the World's End; the calls
That may not be gainsaid to rise and ride
Like fire on some high errand of the race;
The irresistible appeals
For comradeship that sound
Steadily from the irresistible sea.
Thus the East laughed and whispered, and the tale,
Telling itself anew
In terms of living, labouring life,
Took on the colours, busked it in the wear
Of life that lived and laboured; and Romance,
The Angel-Playmate, raining down
His golden influences
On all I saw, and all I dreamed and did,
Walked with me arm in arm,
Or left me, as one bediademed with straws
And bits of glass, to gladden at my heart
Who had the gift to seek and feel and find
His fiery-hearted presence everywhere.
Even so dear Hesper, bringer of all good things,
Sends the same silver dews
Of happiness down her dim, delighted skies
On some poor collier-hamlet--(mound on mound
Of sifted squalor; here a soot-throated stalk
Sullenly smoking over a row
Of flat-faced hovels; black in the gritty air
A web of rails and wheels and beams; with strings
Of hurtling, tipping trams)--
As on the amorous nightingales
And roses of Shiraz, or the walls and towers
Of Samarcand--the Ineffable--whence you espy
The splendour of Ginnistan's embattled spears,
Like listed lightnings.
Samarcand!
That name of names!  That star-vaned belvedere
Builded against the Chambers of the South!
That outpost on the Infinite!
And behold!
Questing therefrom, you knew not what wild tide
Might overtake you:  for one fringe,
One suburb, is stablished on firm earth; but one
Floats founded vague
In lubberlands delectable--isles of palm
And lotus, fortunate mains, far-shimmering seas,
The promise of wistful hills--
The shining, shifting Sovranties of Dream.

— The End —