Avalon

Now spurn the frailties of the human soul,
The grasping weakness, fear of light and living.
Now guide my feet from darkness. Mark the path
And send me off to open eagle’s wings
And find another Avalon beyond
Our shores and time, where sleeping kings do wait.
I do not doubt, but still carry on unwavering.
Hungry, I fast. Though tired, I keep vigil.
The path aethereal extends before me.
Now, at the end, do I still dare take it?

meter: iambic pentameter
form: none

Write Something

Just write some words and put them down the page.
The page is all a stage, like life, so be
A writer and become the page stage sage
Like Dr. Seuss and write some poetry.
Be clever, funny, be original
Whatever that may mean. Be serious,
Be flippant, but not unoriginal,
And not all at once—deleterious.
Talk to yourself or talk to your audience,
Write something, anything, for no one at all.
Try to find words that rhyme with audience.
Don’t force a rhyme when it’s no good. Meatball.
Well, that’s that. What d’you think Shakespeare would say?
Don’t know. Hope I don’t see The Bard today.

meter: iambic pentameter-ish
form: a terrible Shakespearean sonnet
rhyme: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG

Seasons of Now

Autumn frozen by Winter thawed by Spring burnt by Summer

The seasons, plodding, dull, year after year
So slow, too slow for our modernity,
The ancient earth-bound measure of man’s sphere,
Time, time repeating for eternity. 

Summer harvested by Autumn frozen by Winter thawed by Spring

The peasant’s clock, too poor for gears of Progress
But good enough for the poor poet’s pen.
And Progress moves yet faster, fragile process
Dependent on vigilant farmer’s ken.

Spring burnt by Summer harvested by Autumn frozen by Winter

What are the seasons to so many now?
The arbiter of weather: tiresome rain
Of life, the heat that raises wheat from plough’s
Work, and cruel cold that freezes pest of grain.

Winter thawed by Spring burnt by Summer harvested by Autumn

So mark your destination in the sky
But keep your hands in th’earth to work so deep
Lest you then starve along the way and cry
At what impatient haste of time did reap.

Autumn frozen by Winter thawed by Spring burnt by Summer

meter: iambic pentameter
form: something I made up; rhyme ABAB CDCD EFEF GHGH

Winter’s Return

Now is her time to take what once was hers.
Now let revanchist Winter reign and claim
The land made gold by Autumn’s granted gift.
Fair Autumn, golden hair a match for robes
Ripe as the yellow wreath of grain upon
Her head. Her arms are full of ev’ry fruit,
The bounty of the farmer’s labor long.
Now clothed in white disguising golden form
Autumn bows, bent by frost and deadly rime.
And Winter cold, not cruel, her chin uplifts
And smiles: ‘Your time is over sister dear.
Struggle no more. Fear not this change for time’s
Well-trodden path will turn your way again.’
Then Autumn stumbles, falls, and spills the fruits
Of harvest from her arms, so parched and burned
And soon buried beneath the snow and ice.
Winter triumphant stands in raiment white
As earth rises to greet her frigid reign. 

meter: iambic pentameter
form: none

C[u]r[e]ation

What I do is hard. There’s no doubt about it. Oh, I have my critics. But what do critics know about creation? About creating art? About creating something that resonates with people, that people enjoy and from which they derive meaning?

Nothing.

But my audience knows. They understand me and my work. And they are thirsty for more and I come to them as water to a desert. But the water does not simply rain from the sky. I must make it with my hands and my mind in acts of true creation day after day.

For there is no easy way to create. The hard work must be done. I work hard, searching assiduously to discover new art. When I find something that I know will resonate with my audience, or that I feel they simply must see for it speaks Truth, I begin the painstaking task of collecting the art, downloading it, opening it in Photoshop, carefully removing any identifying mark, name, or URL. Then I save a fresh, new, high resolution image to be presented to my audience having been freed from the encumbrances, no, the shackles, of identification: pure art as it is meant to be and as I have created it.

Then, still nervous every time, like a new father sending his child off to school for the first time, I post my work, unsure how my, admittedly adoring, audience will receive it. But it’s always a success. Each work shorn of any base connection to the poor craftsman that shaped it, stamped instead with the mark of the true creator, of me, the curator.

What Hasn’t Been Said

What hasn’t yet been said about one’s true
Love? What remains for me of you to say?
Your glist’ning eyes do pierce my heart right through,
As lashes long upon your cheeks do play.

How lips so delicately flushed 
Are parted by your laugh, revealing teeth
Flashing and white, while hair so dark, smooth brushed,
Does run in rivulets o’er neck beneath.

Your skipping legs do blur through leaf-strewn fields
And down bucolic trails where you call me
With but a look. How winter’s days you shield
Me from the cold and share rough blankets weighty.

But these are all new things to say of course,
For one’s true love is so rarely a horse.

meter: iambic pentameter
form: Shakespearean sonnet ABAB CDCD EFEF GG

A Meeting with Death

David Walters was just sitting down to breakfast, espresso and a croissant, one cool morning in early May. As he perused the paper, The Daily Beacon Chronicle Gazetteer, which featured an article on a string of home invasions in the area, across the table from him appeared a man. The man was nondescript, like someone who works at a gas station or the Department of Motor Vehicles; not tall, not short, not fat, not thin. He had a blank expression on a blank face. 

David looked around. “Where did you come from? Who are you?”   

“Me? I’m Death,” said Death.

“Like the Death?”

“The very same.”

“Why are you here?”

“Everyone asks me that as if the answer isn’t obvious. It’s your time to go.”

David stared blankly. “Go where?”

Death tipped his head up and back, the reverse of a nod, to indicate a spot somewhere over his right shoulder. “Go, pass away, depart, kick the bucket, buy the farm, give up the ghost, meet your maker, shuffle off this mortal coil, become like poor Yorick (I knew him, Horatio, a man of infinite jest). Die.”

A puzzled expression settled on David’s face. “Is this some kind of joke? Are you really Death? You don’t look like Death.”

“No, but you do! Ha ha,” said Death. “God, I love that one. Gets me every time.”

David smiled weakly, then grew serious. “Well how is it supposed to happen?”

Death looked meaningfully at the croissant in front of David.

“I choke on a croissant? Seriously?”

Death shrugged. “Sorry. You don’t get to decide.”

“No, clearly. Look, I don’t mean to be rude but this really isn’t a great time.”

“No?” Death was taken aback. “I’m just doing my job, you know.”

“I know, I know, but I really can’t do this right now. I’m busy at work and I’ve got my kids and my wife to think about. I was planning on living for another thirty or forty years. I mean, I’m only forty-five”

“Hmm, thirty or forty years,” said Death. He leaned back and drummed his fingers on his chin. “I generally run on a pretty tight schedule. I am not sure I can allot another thirty or forty years for you.”

“Really. This is a bit hard. I mean, here I am in the prime of life, or close enough,” said David self-consciously, “and along you come to bring the whole thing crashing down. It’s terribly inconvenient; a real nuisance.”

“I am sorry. But it is our policy.”

“Our?”

“Ah, yes. Me and the other Deaths.”

“There are other Deaths?”

“Of course. There are other people than you dying right now. I can’t be everywhere at once; well, actually I can but not in that sense.” Death stared off in a thoughtful, puzzled manner like he had confused himself.

“Then in what sense do you mean? Are there other copies of you?”

Disgust showed clearly on Death’s face. “Copies? Absolutely not. I am unique. There is only one Death.”

“You said there are other Deaths? How can there be others if you’re unique?”

“You are familiar with quantum mechanics?”

“No,” David said flatly.

“Ugh. Well, in quantum mechanics, particles can be in one place and not be in that place, but rather be in another place altogether, all at the same time. It’s kind of like that.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Jeez. Okay. Take electrons, for example, one of the basic building blocks of atoms with protons and neutrons. They’re particles, right?”

“Yes.”

“Wrong. Electrons, like quarks and gluons, are really fields, continuous fluid-like substances that act like particles only when we take into account the effects of quantum mechanics. Every electron in your body is a field that is a particle only when treated as an excited state of the underlying field.”

David’s head swam and his eyes began to droop. “Science never was my strong suit.”

Death continued, undeterred. “This is of course fundamentally because of particle-wave duality. Like photons, an electron can act as a particle and also as a wave. This wave-like property of a particle can be described mathematically as a wave function and squaring the absolute value of the wave function gives the probability that a particle will be observed near any given location.”

“So you’re a particle and a wave. Here but not here? Elsewhere, with all those other dying people, but not there?”

“Exactly. Now you get it.”

“Do you know everything? I would have thought that Death’s knowledge would be a bit more, Stone Age, if you will.”

“Well, not quite everything, but I’ve picked up a few tidbits over the years.” Death cleared his throat and shifted in his seat. “So, about this pickle.” He trailed off.

“Look, isn’t there anything I can do to put this off? It’s really inconvenient, what with the golf weekend coming up and all.”

Death brightened visibly. “Golf? You play golf? I had literally no idea.”

“Oh yeah; a few pals of mine are coming into town and we’re going to play all weekend; weather should be beautiful. Do you play?”

“Oh, I love the game. I don’t know iron from wood, or a hybrid from a hole in the ground but I love it. Fresh air, clubs, knocking balls, aiming for birds as often as the hole. And I can get a tee time any time I like. Just do that,” Death snapped his fingers, “and oh look, a spot opened up for me. It’s always someone’s time after all.”

The smile faded from David’s face. “I usually just call in advance. I don’t generally have to kill anyone to get a tee time.”

Death shrugged. “To each his own.” He rubbed his hands together. “Well, keeping you from your golf outing is the last thing I’d want to do, especially considering the wife and kids,” Death said with a wink. “I’ve reconsidered. Have your thirty to forty years. Just one condition. I get to play through with you once in a while.”

“Of course; sure, sure. Anything you want. Just join in, no need to ‘free up a spot’ and all that. My friends wouldn’t appreciate that.”

“Ha ha, no, no, of course. Well, I’m off.”

A few moments later David’s wife Rebecca entered the kitchen. She wore a puzzled expression. “David, do you know that man?”

“Oh, you saw him did you?”

“Yes, it’d be hard to miss him. We passed on the front walk.”

David shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “It’s a bit odd, but, well—he said he was Death.”

“Death?” she said incredulously. Her fingers massaged the bridge of her nose. “David, what are you talking about?”

“He said he was Death and it was my time to die. What else can I say? But he let me off, gave me another thirty or forty years like I asked. We found that we have a mutual love of golf.”

“Oh, so golf finally did something for us?”

“Now, Rebecca, don’t be like that.”

“Is that today’s paper?”

“No, yesterday’s. Why?”

Rebecca dropped a newspaper on the table, opened it and pointed. “Look familiar?”

There, staring back at him on page 2A was a nondescript face with a blank expression, like someone who works at a gas station or the Department of Motor Vehicles.

“I don’t understand.”

“He was trying to rob us, David. This is the guy that’s been breaking into houses around here. They identified him yesterday. His name is Thomas Harville. It says he suffered some kind of psychotic break and also became a kleptomaniac.”

“But—but, he said he was Death. He knew all this stuff about electrons and waves; said that’s how he got around. I mean, there’s got to be a scientific explanation somewhere. It can’t just be magic.”

“David, you are so gullible. He’s an out-of-work quantum physicist, and you are a moron.”

David stood up and sniffed, head held high. “I may be a moron but at least I know the difference between an iron and a wood.”

“What does that have to do with—?”

David held up his hand. “If you need me, I’ll be on the links.”

“He stole your golf clubs.”

“I said I’ll be on the links.”

Not Playing Possum

Not quite satisfied with the first version of this, I adapted it to create a rhyme scheme for version 2.

Version 1
A bloody scene all scattered wide, first cold
Then warming in the burning sun. But not
To last, the multitude of worms work quickly.
The possum’s face a lifeless rictus grin,
Eyes open staring fixed and blind in death.
Do not avert your gaze but listen well
For if you give attention, he will speak:
‘You are ever becoming what I am.’

Version 2
A bloody scene all scattered wide, first cold
Then warming in the burning sun, begins
To waste. The multitude of worms fill the mold.
The possum’s face a lifeless rictus grin,
Eyes open staring fixed, a look so fey.
Do not avert your gaze but listen well
For if you give attention, he will say:
‘You too are blood within a brittle shell.’

meter: iambic pentameter
form: Version 1 – blank verse, Version 2 – ABABCDCD

The Sailor’s Lot

The sailor harnesses the wayward winds
To strike out to the deep and catch the West.
A tiresome life of shifts, the sailor’s test,
The wooden world does tie the men as kin.

A world apart, the service and its duty.
The daily scrubbing with the holy stone,
Alert to quarter deck’s call, then up wind-blown
Rigging to set tops’ls all in their beauty.

The ship’s routine, a perfect dance performed,
They run to Neptune’s realm through foam and spray    10
That spatters hawse and bow to seize the trades,
And day by day both sea and wind are warmed.

But fickle wind then fails. Stalled in dead sea,
The doldrums seize the ship. Days wax and wane.
While sun bleaches the sails all set in vain,
Capricious wind ignores the sailor’s plea.

At last the earth exhales its sweet, sweet breath
And grasping royals now begin to fill,
Then speeding toward the Cape, the captain’s will.
South, south away, away from mortal death.            20

Back, back homeward, routine again they sweat.
Decks holystoned, hammocks piped up. At noon
Position made, all hands to dinner soon.
Drummed orders, hammocks down, the watch is set.

A sail on dawn’s horizon. The command
Is ‘Beat to quarters’. Gun crews clear the decks
For action, lest the bulkheads, hammocks vex
The crews, their guns run out, slow match at hand.

And now the men alow are at the ready.
Aloft they tack into the wind to cross                30
The prize’s path. But their hope turns to dross,
The friendly signals shown, its course keeps steady.

The trades are strong. Wind on the beam they race
Toward home. But, sailor’s dread, a gale now drives
The ship headlong. It drifts to lee, no grace
Grants the high cliff. The men yet strive
But she founders. All hands gone with no trace
Down to the bitter depths, a deadly dive.
The sailor’s labor, sweat, and toil erased,
No mem’ry of the sailor now survives.            40

meter: iambic pentameter
form: expanded Petrarchan sonnet with varied rhyme scheme

Chained

Gnawing, biting, bleeding, wounding
Yet not ever killing. Hanging
On, a chained ball dragged, reminder
Constant of what’s undone, ended
That will not return, not ever.
Orpheus walks out from Hell, but
No Eurydice then follows.
Look, or don’t look back, it matters
Not. There’s nothing to regain there.
Gone, gone, never coming back now. 
Forward is the only option,
But it forces him to turn back.
Hold, great singer, hold fast. Forward
Go. Let not its teeth ensnare you.

meter: trochaic tetrameter
form: blank verse