We are kindled when born, small fires, if lucky,
cupped by the gentle hands of loving parents,
a tinder box full of innocence that gives light.
But innocence is a soft wood, easily consumed.
It blazes unevenly, a green wood flaring with the wet sap
of adolescence. The good of the world is still inside us
but a thousand sparks rush upward like stars, blinding us
with their brightness. We become what we see, a fire burning
with the boldness of new desires as we consume more
than we need. It’s then our innocence is spent
in what we call the awakening, the first chill
of a perverse disappointment seeping through our universe,
the cinders cooling. Decades pass until rediscovered
0ur dreams preserved in the amber of our youth.
Lying near the surf, on a crowded beach, their bodies
strewn like stones, I found one I placed in my heart
to better see its features clearly. It’s creases softened
inside my skin, its life renewed from the distillations
of my searching alembic. I saw tears beneath familiar
eyes seeking safety. I dried its cheeks with my hand
and felt its skin warm. Though at first inanimate to me,
it now seemed like a child I once knew. It was hungry,
so I fed the face grown old like mine and saw a smile.
When I turned away from my reflection I saw the beach
again a finite space filled with countless refugees,
their needs no larger than the hearts of those more fortunate.
From stars far removed, in time and space but no more,
vast waves arrive, with powers still that stir the air to move us.
But bound by data to our screens, the blinding lights
and antic motions, we can’t hear the harmony. An inquisitor
raps against my walls of feigned indifference – insouciance,
I call it – my own fingers accuse me in my laptop speculation.
Sweet drinks and rhapsodies, sit-coms and journeys to far away islands
cannot support the foundations of our imaginary lives – we disappear.
The revelations I sought in the music of the arts cools:
the words have lost their meaning, the melodies
their natural syncopation, and my portrait its sunny disposition
– or haven’t you noticed? So content in your quest for happiness.
Beneath the bright, shiny songs of the angels we’ve adored,
whose voices rise and fall contained; whose scoured images
of perfection radiate with the plucked plumage of innocent birds,
our consumption of matter can not support this artifice of joy.
The vital signs of our purpose, once found in the heartbeat
of the living, the pulse of the old and the laughter of the young
is swallowed by their all around suffering; admit, we fear
the loss of our meaning – the inquisitor lurks inside our voice.
But from the edge of everything the once upon a time still
calls us, hear it, make time for a better world for all things!
All of us hate something, or other, at one time
or another: the day, the dog, the chair
in the middle of the room. Some of us hate them,
but for different reasons: they love the wrong god,
or love the wrong person, or love the wrong color
of skin! But today I fear I hate the species
that forgot love. Such lack of love is suicide,
a migrant drowning in a sea of manic turbulence;
a refugee lost in a desert of moral counterfeits,
every border a barrier, every country my hopeless state.
God “. . . loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye therefore
the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
King James translation
Time, that mysterious movement issuing from the indefinable, filling the vacuous dimensions men chose to call days, months, years. . . With his marker, he would regulate its motion, crossing each day off the calendar, replacing it with another, which, because it possessed the same characteristics, caused him to see in every passing day but one eternal day. But Time, despite his efforts, continued passing through the four walls of his room, in a succession of nights and days, of days growing shorter and nights growing longer, accumulating in the great reservoirs of days, weeks and months. It would flow forth interminably from a corner of the universe, a bottomless font; and it had been silly of him to have believed he had discovered a means of halting its motion, of paralyzing it, even for the moment. What he had done, perhaps no man had ever done before, not here in this country. In the east, the far east, men had probably seen what he had seen, the timeless tranquility of paradise. But even that now was a memory, since he had not possessed, nor understood the motion itself.
Continue reading “VELLUM’S PARADISE, PART IV”
Summertime. Sunshine and stillness. A timeless composition wrought by the gilded fingers of the sun. The fluid moments of morning, of transition, the give and take, the push and pull of many colors have given way to the present moment. Continue reading “VELLUM’S PARADISE, PART III”
The shop door was locked. He rang the bell once more and waited. No one came. Despite the reflections of the street in the window, he could see, beyond the scrambling pedestrians late for work and the ramshackle townhouses on the opposite side of the street where he lived, the dusky interior. He couldn’t see it and he alone was to blame. The man probably sold it. Vellum had quibbled over details, had vacillated over the cost. Still, there was a possibility the man had only moved it to another corner of the shop. He followed the advancing light, became fascinated with its progress through the interior of the shop. A glimmer of hope charged his despair. He watched the light probing the interstices between the large pieces of dark wood furniture. Glass glittered in the passing light. In chiffoniers and commodes the light revealed small enameled pillboxes. Shelves appeared lined with odd sorts of bric-a-brac. Beneath the shining intruder, etageres and cabinets were forced to display their holdings. Vials, flasks and flagons, decanters and demijohns, capsules and canisters, all seemed uplifted and overturned. Then, near a point where the light dissolved in the reflections in a mirror, he distinguished the veiled crags, pinnacles, the entire landscape in the print he wanted.
Continue reading “VELLUM’S PARADISE, PART II”
One late November day, Thomas Vellum sat by the window watching the families gathering in the portal of the church across the street. Tears formed and all hope dissolved in the flow down his cheeks. He was unemployed. His landlord was raising the rent in January. With the government’s permission the utilities were increasing their rates next month. Once, he was in the habit of turning off his lights when they weren’t needed; despite his frugality, he was paying more. He rarely used the telephone, his bills astounded him.
Continue reading “VELLUM’S PARADISE, PART I”
Here we are again, wading deep in the words,
our smiles perched like houses on stilts,
our serene expressions a temporal shoreline.
For I saw it too, a lucid meaning beneath layers
of reflection, sinking quickly to the bottom
when we kissed. I tried to retrieve it,
our fragile link, so easily cut. These words,
if left misunderstood, twist in the lambent light
of our movements, leading to misgivings.
But we continue anyway, sustained by decorum:
an understanding that comes with many years.
Once upon this shore there is no returning
to before. Love, despite its idyllic description,
is the tension at the surface holding us afloat.
For Lisa Saunders;
For the kids in Columbine and Utoya;
For the kids at Sandy Hook and in Peshawar
And for the kids crossing borders, fleeing the brutality of our kind.
For you and all the other kids abused by our species:
What a pity, our children must grow up!
to struggle through the early movements,
limbs unfolding, limbering; to laugh aloud or cry;
to experience the touch of a stranger’s hand;
to smell the richness of wet earth,
and taste the sun’s light in earth’s greenery
and hear their own voices answering the wind. . .
To articulate these blessings is the miracle of the mind.
A pity, they’ll throw it away as we did in the prime
of our lives, at the height of our abilities when the promise
of success filled our lungs with the sweet air of spring.
A pity, they’ll sow the whispering seed we call truth blown
from our parched lips that will germinate in their innocence
to clamor again in cloudy blooms of grey invective.
And you say, it’s better they be slaughtered by the sword
when young, than become the bearer of the sword searching
for the peacemaker. You say, better they die in their own blood,
than carry in their blood the tragedy of our species.
And I say, a pity, when the world and its endless gifts
are always within our reach, here, in the birth cry of a child.