The work of any writer, as Stephen King tells us in On Writing, is telepathy. It’s transmitting the world as seen through the mind of one man into the mind of another across time and space. Think about it: when we read Shakespeare, Dickens, or Chesterton, we are seeing through their eyes by the magic which their words breath into our psyche.
Yet here, he speaks mainly of novelists.
What of poets?
Samuel Taylor Coleridge gives the following “homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose–words in their best order; poetry–the best words in their best order.” True enough, if seen through the correct lens: the work of a novelist is to convey entire worlds and characters across an unlimited expanse of paper; the poet is forced to choose those fragments which are most vital, most potent, and pack them together into a rhythmic flow.
Plato argues the work of any artist stems from divine inspiration. I’m inclined to agree; why else are only some gifted with such skill at wordcraft as Tolkein, Frost, or Dickinson? (Keeping in mind, please, that I DO NOT AND WILL NEVER equate myself with these poets; I’m only in the class of capable or good poets, at best; being a great is only an aspiration) Sometimes, though, the inspiration doesn’t hit right away, at least not for me; it’s planted somewhere in my consciousness, as if He planted the seeds in my head when I was born, and when I catch a glimpse of a bud I have to tear through the weeds that have grown with it until it is uncovered.
My favorite way to do this is simply wordplay, sticking words together that have a nice poetic weight, finding something that strikes me, even if it makes no logical sense in my head. My notebooks are filled with strange and wonderful fragments, like “surly rumble”, “the crust of the earth between your fingernails”, “tourmaline ellipse”, and the like. I think the strangest one I ever wrote was “leopardine breath of rubies”; who knows what it means, but it just hangs sweet and heavy in your mouth as you think it, like the meaning is just slightly leaking out of the shell.
Then there’s giving it the proper care, helping it grow. Mulling over words, fitting it to different forms, trying to draw out the meaning–
It hits like a nuclear bomb.
And you just keep writing, forcing your brain to speak in rhyme and rhythm as the fever of writing pulses back and forth between your fingers and your brain until both shake too violently to continue or the poem stands before you, complete.
Yeah. I love being a poet. Not much else to say.
Well, this has been quite the 30 days, to say the very least.
I feel as if every last metaphor has been sucked from my fingertips, every alliteration pounded from my skull, every monotonous rhyme spilled from my lips.
And somehow, I still want to write more.
I’d forgotten what poetry really can do, what a powerful medium it can become when it’s no longer about anything but what’s deepest and closest to you. I’d forgotten what it feels like to have the words rush out of your mind as your fingers struggle to keep up and the keyboard pounds madly. I’d forgotten what “inspiration” really is, and even though I still can’t define it, I know I’ve touched it by forcing myself forward into the poetry that is this life with pen and paper in hand, ready for the moment the first glimmer of an idea strikes.
It’s been an awesome, exhausting process.
Now excuse me while I see if I can mop up the remains of my melted brains.
The fragments of my heart are scattered now
across a lifetime spent in loneliness,
in twilight painted by the broken vows
of countless criminals. This sorry mess
of me is stretched across my memories
until the very fabric of my soul
Dragged through pools of tears
and left out to dry
in reality’s scorching light.
It’s hard to believe anymore,
hard to see outstretched arms
without waiting to be shoved away.
to see, somehow, what everyone else sees,
to take back what those times and traitors stole.
These chains cry out; my mind screams for relief.
You speak your peace, a peace now still and brief,
a strength enough to breathe another breath
and whisper soft surrender to this death
of ages past. The memories die hard,
so save me, Savior, from each piercing shard.
Color me sapphire
for the pool of broken dreams
screaming in my soul.
Just one more, just one more…
In gentle, nimble loops and spirals, bound
in hoops of golden light and rusted chains,
I take my place upon the soggy ground
and, slowly, start the waltzing of my pains.
This strange and slow revolving through the years
is slowly tearing out my heart and soul
until the earth is flooded with my tears
and all I quickly shattered is made whole.
The beauty of eternity cries out
through life’s slow hardships. I shall dance
with tear-stained, smiling eyes and hopeful shout
until I rest in sweet Divine Romance.
I dance til chains of memories shall die,
til I at last in peaceful slumber lie.
Knowledge sweeps away
our barriers and bound’ries
til we are exposed.
Yeah, I’m a tad behind. Patience, please.
A trembling troubadour
in a world of lyrical wonder-workers
who speak love to the star-flecked heavens
amidst fields of wild roses,
while the moon falls to meet me
on a lonely hill of daffodils.
A weak-kneed thinker
who longs to lock himself away
in vaults of ethereal wonders
while the world rushes by
in terrifying glory.
A desperate heart
clinging to every drop
dripping from the overflowing bowl
of the table of the world.
yet strangely strong,
as if perpetually held
by the arms
of an Unseen Romancer.
of what I have done
to deserve what I have received:
slowly and surely
as the bright wanderer above,
looking ever forward to the day
can stand with those he loves,
upheld by grace and redemption,
The kiss of eternity comes on bleeding lips,
embracing time and space
with arms torn by foul acts and fierce pleasures.
stumbling to our salvation
with our burdens laid upon his broken back.
Every tear shed across the generations
tumbles down His scarred body,
scorching his open wounds
How dare I,
crying out for refuge
in the wounds I forged in sinful night?
He turns his sacred head
to cast His love upon my soul.
I cast my pennies at Your feet,
these feeble fingers bent
with withheld offerings
and broken promises.
As they clatter upon the hard earth,
I cannot help but moan
at my pathetic plea,
my poor offering.
How is it,
Master of Creation,
that still you bend Your head,
stretch out Your bleeding arms,
hold me in the heart I broke,
Clouded shadows brimming crimson foam
and golden gush through melancholic eyes,
through winding labyrinth and catacomb
of ancient curses, phobias, and lies
to penetrate the heart–an easy task
on one so scarred and scared of His romance,
the hand that peels back my iron mask
and guides my feeble feet into His dance
of sacrifice and love. I slowly choke
on my own breath until He meets me here,
our secret place where first my spirit broke,
and stitches up my soul, and draws me near.
With stitched-up soul I’ll take each soft surprise
serenely in through melancholic eyes.
The title came from an anagram of my full name. Shocking how well it brought out the way I see things.
The angels walk the clouds on high;
their spinning-wheels in full-tilt spin
the sapphire highway of the sky
the angels walk. The clouds on high
make melody with angry cry
that bursts in peals of mirth within
while angels walk the clouds on high,
their spinning-wheels in full-tilt-spin.
My fingers tremble as they grip the quill
of ebony and sapphire, depth and dark,
with traces of vermilion instilled.
The inkwell of my memories, so stark
and yet so frail and fuzzy, slowly boils
from years of frenzy never channeled. Now
the vellum seems to scream, and all my toils
will never tell me why I write, or how.
It pierces me until my fingers weep
and makes no promise to repay my pains.
Yet still, the truth, the beauty, dark and deep,
with flames of joy–I know these are my gains.
The ecstasy is slow, the labor long,
but still I write, and sing Creation’s song.
The broken memories lay deep,
embedded like broken glass in the earth
moistened by the rain of tears.
It will take something more than rain
to break up the bedrock
long hardened by years
encapsulated in mere moments
It will take a moment of light,
a shaft piercing through the soul’s caverns
whose echoes will all but stifle
that still small voice.
A curious beauty,
the moment everything falls apart
and the shattered heart
has a chance to fall together
better than before.
Fear not your tears, your life. Expose the night
inside to grace’s ever-present light.
When time seemed timeless, and the world looked young
from where we stood, our vision intertwined
like hands embraced in longing–there hope sprung,
the hope that healed my soul with wrinkles lined.
When Spring came nigh, so too the time to part
and string our memories across the stars
that guided us, and so we took our hearts
and took our paths along this life bizarre.
Our time is gone, a season ‘neath the moon
that smiled to see us smile in her light
as soul met soul in words sung to her tune–
a time now whispered by the candlelight.
We walk apart, yet we shall meet again,
and say with peace, “Do you remember when…”