Elohim Creating Adam
by William Blake, 1795
Sometimes, like right now,
I find myself imagining
what it would be like
to die in this seat.
I’d be biding my time,
thinking how easy this was
not so long ago. Like breathing.
I’d turn words into living things,
as if they rose from some kind
of primordial ick to stick
to my mind’s wall, where I’d
shape them into Adams or Orcs.
Maybe you’d invite some
into your home, if they promised
to wipe their trochaic feet.
Tonight I’m biding my time,
waiting for any words to bubble up,
but fearing they’re in league
with some dark spirit,
who’s waiting for unholy sacrifices
I’d make on this QWERTY altar
for even fifty of his minion.
Instead, I just sigh in this guilty ooze
with nothing to show for my efforts
but white space smeared with gook
of the gobbledy kind, imagining
part of me has died already.
I was asked to write a story using the following words: die, ago, seat, time, imagining, even, making, league, sacrifices, and rose. But I can’t write anymore. Too much pain of various kinds crippling me. So instead you get this desperate fling of muddy verse upon your computer screens. That is if more than one of you still cares to read after this achy absence. The title is a quote from William Blake.
Sorry if you never heard me
thank you, but if I did,
I’d have nothing to thank you for.
You were the one who helped me
find the voice you hear
from this side of your door.
It’s why you see me limping along
these days, leaving a trail
with this inky crutch.
It’s supported my now silent self,
who discovered this gift when
I lost what once meant so much.
So I wrote this Thank You note,
to hang on the imaginary wall
in the virtual square.
I hope you hear my old voice
in it, as if from me here
to you there.
Thanks for helping me speak
to so many people, with nary
a shriek or bellow.
Rather poetic I found it when you
said goodbye, since it was born
when you first said hello.
Sorry I’ve been gone so long. I’ve been dealing some angels and demons. Most of my own construction. This is a little right-out-of-bed writer’s block breaker that I hope will get me back in the saddle again for the long haul. Perhaps even with some joy.
Maybe they’re like notes
I tied to doves I’ve tossed
to the air, hoping one’ll
light outside your window
and you’d see what I had to say.
Or perhaps I wrote these words
on blue-lined yellow paper,
folded them just so to slip
them under your door.
For sure I’ve penned
more than a thousand such
things, expressing doubts,
affection, hopes aborning
and dashed, telling lies
based in ironclad truth and
truths steeped in my wildest
imaginings, hung them
in this public square,
hoping perhaps you’d recognize
one as you passed and consider
turning it over to write back.
Edward Jean Steichen, Carl Sandburg, photographic montage, 1936. © Joanna T. Steichen – National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
I wish I had hair like Carl Sandburg,
silver and smooth, with a near-center part
from which would curl horns of cool
hirsute parentheses that would occasionally
encapsulate the brown and gold irises
of my poetic vision.
I wouldn’t like hair like Walt Whitman
or even Ezra Pound, though, all kind of
wind-wild and wiry. Sure, damned
arty-looking, best kept under wide-brimmed
slouches, but probably troublesome
containing beneath a baseball cap.
Robert Frost’s hair, silver like Carl’s
and mine, just seemed as weedy as
a New England pasture, unfettered by
the neighborly fence of brush or comb.
Emily’s, while smooth as a Berkshire pond,
never made it to silver.
I didn’t slick it back like Stafford when
I had enough to slick, nor even now when
it borders the vacant shores of Lake Roethke.
No, I want Carl’s hair with its quotation mark
cowlicks speaking louder than little cat feet,
as big-shouldered American as the prairie.
Dewdrop diamonds glitter
in the brush of a lawn that
gave up its grass majority years ago.
But it’s greener than ever.
As far as I can see.
The housetops across the road
wear halos brassy as church bells
this Sunday dawn. The sun’s probably
as bright as it was when I was a kid,
but I can’t say that for a fact.
Now it filters into my eyes past
progressive lenses, gestating cataracts
and glaucoma’s shrinking field
of left-right and up-down.
But I notice so much more of its
intrinsic glory now then I did then.
It means more to me now, as I write
each day’s biography from my obsolescent
point of view. Probably why I wake
so early and go to sleep so late.
Sight might be leaving me with each
sunset, but more vision comes with
the next dawn.
As far as I can see.
I wondered if you’d ever ask if,
in these cryptic columns of words,
I’ve drawn portraits of you.
No, I’d say, adding some gibberish
about craft and imagination,
sounding as pretentious as me
in a Bond St. suit and silk cravat.
But I pulled out some of these
heart-stained Rorschach blots,
turning each 360 degrees,
like scanning the whole horizon,
squinting to muddy the bloody,
searching for an expression of you.
Failing, I tossed each to scatter
in an array of wounds, of joys,
of so many of my life’s
moments I’d all but forgotten.
In a momentary glance across
the topography of them upon my desk,
one overlapping another, piles of
disparate drops coagulating into one,
I saw your face in a moment of grace,
and each time I blinked, I saw another.
Once, even my own. So, in answer
to your question, I can only say…
So goddamn complicated I can only
do it with my eyes closed and
consciousness tied behind my back.
This time it’s for you,
about you, because of you.
You who bumped my skiff
of folded paper into the
heartbeat rapids swirling
and crashing over
unknown emotional rocks.
I who became captive to
the eddies of obsessive stasis,
grip on my oars lost,
forced to paddle my way out
with these ink-stained hands.
The scenery’s still a blur.
Then, because it all
moved so fast in rosy hues past
my infatuation-blinded eyes.
Now, because my memory
fails but for those
too-close instances to
the falls and the too-long
from the thrill of dropping
into certain oblivion.