“My Last Poem”

I

The rain falls softly and quickly

like happy moments soon to be forgotten.

Devin Stevens, a losing writer,

walks inside a tall, white-washed building,

the door slamming behind him.

A note of inescapable finality.

He enters an office with imposing walls,

a businessman sitting behind a desk

with a golden name tag: “Life.”

Good Evening, Mr. Stevens. How are you?’

The tone is more fake than saving face.

I’m okay,’ says Devin wearily.

His face matches his black coat; droopy and dark.

I see you are scheduling a surgery with us,’

says the clownish face.

Yes,’ says Devin. ‘I think the time has come.

Time for the books to close.

Time for the fingers to freeze,

for the stories to be silenced,

for the lines to end at a blank meaningless white.

Time for my dreams to slowly die in tears.’

Exhausted, he closes his eyes in silence.

You know, Devin,’ says the powdered angel,

I think you’re being very wise here.

Some people your age keep writing and reading

and dreaming and challenging and living.

Real dangerous if you ask me.

And so unrealistic. You know?’

The poet nods his head, staring at the golden tag.

I wrote a poem about the situation.

I’ve already memorized it.

I read it everyday.’

Really? And what does it say?’

II

As the rainbow dips through pure clouds

so does my spine twist in weary flesh.

As the immovable mountains meditate on the dark horizon

so does my mind from the edges of poverty.

As the ocean’s waves, once calm, begin to rise

so do my emotions; stunted and triggered nerves.

As the fires burn the trees clean of green life

so does my bitterness the hope of tomorrow.

As ice and snow descend and clothe the ground in white

so are my dreams imprinted on aging tombstones.

As the wind blows through the windmill and to the open sky

so does my precious time leave my grasp, never to be used.

As the storms spin in the round atmosphere

so do I walk in circles inside this prison.

III

The poet is now silent, eyes vacant in despair.

In false sympathy, the man says

There’s no doubt that you’re sick.

Your writing isn’t getting you anywhere.

I’m so glad you came!

We’ll fix you up good as new!

All you do is sign these papers.’

Devin looks at the document, one clause large, another small.

The pen ready as a quill from the Angel of Death.

Yes. The time has come.

I need to accept reality.

It was good while it lasted.

Maybe this is all the best for me.

Perhaps God has different, better plans for me.

And besides,

there is still my family, the job, the car,

all the other things I need.

And God most of all.

From this day forward…..’

He is silent for a moment.

Then signs for the surgery.

The businessman smiles like a sneaky demon.

Surgery won’t take long at all.

We’ll see you next week!

Soon, the need for words will never bother,

hinder, deceive, depress your mind again!’

They shake hands and the poet leaves.

IV

Five surgeons stand above him while he sleeps.

That common gas fills his mind with calm,

that addictive smog for every victim from his ruler.

The scalpel gleams ready and the gloves snap on.

The businessman is the main surgeon.

For the dealer is also the king in this cruel paradise.

Alright ladies and gentlemen. Let’s start.’

They softly slice the forehead open.

As the blood runs and froths red,

they hear voices, whispers which to them sound terrible;

confessions of love,

tributes to his dear family,

liberal views of God and His plans,

satires towards stupidity and carelessness,

praises for the stars and for the world.

A rush of sounds and words and phrases.

The noise writes shivers down their arms.

Steady! Steady! Nice and easy!’

The brain lies open to them,

a helpless victim for the blade of time.

They prick and cut and pull and push and move,

their sinful hands wet with innocence.

Their eyes greedily search for those places

feared by every safe space and placid heart.

The surgeon chuckles and clucks.

There we go….yes….yes….yes….’ he hisses.

In that murderous silence

they sow the skin back together,

clean up the evidence,

wash their hands like a guilty killer,

congratulate each other for their success.

The businessman laughs:

In a few hours, he’ll see the world brand new!”

They let the dead poet sleep in ignorant peace.

V

He awakes, the lights full in his eyes.

Like a newborn welcomed to the system.

He hears someone approach his side.

He looks around and sees the childish dealer.

Hey buddy! How are you feeling?”

Like I returned from a black hole.”

Interesting. Well, everything seemed to go good during the surgery.

I’m gonna ask you a few questions, is that okay?”

Yessir. Fire away.”

Okay. My first question is this:

What do you think of language?”

Devin lies on his back and thinks.

Language….is the sound of our heart through our mouth,

The soul’s means of song and dance.

Without it, we’re left with lifeless numbers

and puny scratches on the wall.”

Hmmm….alright. No biggie…..Here’s the next one:

What is the greatest hobby on Earth?”

Devin closes his eyes.

The greatest hobby of all….is to read.”

The surgeon puts his hand slightly over his mouth,

puzzled at the odd response.

Okay….but why? Books aren’t that great, right?”

Oh yes sir….they are.

They warn, teach, comfort, inspire, warm you,

freeze you, lift you, empower you, entertain you.

They place pieces on the chessboard of war.

They resurrect the long dead past

And paint the possibilities of the future.

Vacations bound in pages.

Time encapsulated in chapters.

Spirits and minds made eternal in lines.

They are the fingerprints of humanity.

The record of living and suffering.

The legacy of the generous and wise.

The schemes of tyrants and evil men.

The bulwark of knowledge.

The supreme art of every age.

Literature…..Literature is life.”

The surgeon’s eyes widen in fear.

He shakes his head.

And what about poetry….what about poetry?”

He sounds frightened.

Devin hears the voices in his head.

His millions of muses.

Poetry is….poetry is…..

poetry is my food, drink, shelter, money.

My speech, my lung’s rhythm.

The bones under my muscles, the skin over my bones,

my stomach, my liver, my brain, my heart.

It moves through me, it stays in me.”

But here he stops.

But why? I was supposed to….to forget about poetry….”

The surgeon rushes out the door.

A moment later, he and the other doctors arrive.

Devin….we’re putting you back to sleep okay?

Just for a minute…..”

He turns to his fellow villains.

Something is wrong.”

VI

They reopen the forehead, confused.

They were sure, confident, winning.

But now? They are shaken to disbelief.

I don’t understand,” says the clown,

we did the procedure exactly as prescribed.

No mistakes, no unnecessary cuts. So how…..?

They pause and think, considering the brain before them.

We need to cut just a little more, I think.”

Before they proceed with new blades

they hear the voices issuing from the ears,

new and deafening,

cheers of soldierly victory,

roars of dragons and lions,

the smooth sound of open waters,

violins playing sorrowful nocturnes,

twinkling magic spells like falling diamonds,

and every fancy of fantasy,

full of life, full of inspiration.

The surgeon shakes in his shoes.

They must try harder this time.

They cut the cortex wider.

Still, the voices.

They pick and tug at the right side.

Still, the voices.

They push and prod the left side.

Still, the voices.

They soak corners in their poisons and potions.

Still, the voices.

What in the hell!” shouts the Surgeon, livid.

Why?! Why won’t they leave him?

Why won’t they quit speaking?

This surgery was foolproof!

Designed to make him normal, acceptable!”

His evil eyes glow in anger. Then, dim in defeat.

They sow back the forehead and give up.

I’m afraid….when I wake Devin up

I’ll tell him the truth. That….we’re stumped.

For now, at least.” His grins in determination

For now.”

When the poet wakes up again in recovery,

the businessman enters his room, hands folded behind the back,

a look of sadness on his face.

Good morning, Mr. Stevens. How are you?”

I’m….fine, I guess. But I still

think about poetry and books and real life.

Not a good sign is it?”

I’m afraid not. It seems the surgery failed.

You are still in love with words.

But don’t worry! We’ll find out what’s wrong!

We’re keeping you here till we find a cure!

Alright?”

Yessir! We won’t give up!”

But in his heart the poet is lost and confused.

Why…..why can’t they change him?

VII

They don’t intend to let me loose.

Those sly, powerful tricksters,

those death loving people.

They’ve only let me move like a rat in a cage.

Examining me, arguing with me.

I want to walk out in the fresh air,

to be more easily inspired and free.

But they want to kill me, the me I really am.

I know they’re not my true friends.

So I walk in circles around these walls.

They’re so white they seem as though

you could push your hand through them

with no effort, no pain.

Yet they are as deep as gravity,

as real as the white in the eyes.

This room where I can hardly move

is my home on Earth, my only resting place.

I wake when they want.

I bathe when they want.

I eat when they want.

I drink when they want.

I work when they want.

I sleep when they want.

But I never feel what they want,

I never believe what they want,

I never think what they want,

And I never love what they want.

They have me but they don’t have me.

I am still a writer.

They cannot change me

because I am unchangeable.

The essence, the spirit, the strength

is not within their power.

This wind still blows in this fleshly prison.

And it defies them and all their instruments!

There is a window in the room.

I look outside it and see Nature.

And then….I remember:

As the rainbow dives over fluffy clouds

so I dive in pages for a new journey.

As the mountains are relentlessly lashed with storms,

I still laugh at Fate’s pathetic cajoling.

As I move towards the shore of death in waves,

I roar in faith with an inspiring crash.

As the world’s fire spreads to consume me,

love keeps my heart guarded from ignorant rage.

As my words fall on the page like snow and rain,

they leave beauty for the private, happy spirit.

As the wind blows my needful hours over the horizon

I smile; those hours will one day be mine eternally.

As I travel around this small dungeon

I haven’t given up on my dreams slowly rising from tears.

My last poem is my first poem

and my first poem is my last.

Its rebellious lines are never finished

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“The Statue”

In the midst of untimely ocean waves

a tiny continent sits and broods.

Crabs silently click along the sand

seagulls perch atop leafy palms and look down

where old turtles peek out from their shells

and monkies pray and shout, dropping fruit as tribute.

They all stare at a misshapen rock,

jaggedly odd from the surrounding boulders,

stone obsidian and form terrible against the sun.

From the base of dirt rises, first, angled horse legs,

stout legs that daily conquer field and range.

The body is a dashing rock frozen in time

and the mane a sharp grey shriek of war.

The nostrils two scents for the damned,

the teeth a murderous snarl,

the eyes regal and intent.

But the beastly terror is owned

by two other legs jutting from its slated ribs.

Army boot and calvary thighs twist into

tall and straight back indented slab of black.

Symbols molded into the chest,

palpitations of a stony heart,

medals of honor to duty of country.

The right hand salutes across the brow,

gaze fixed toward sunrise, horizon, and sunset.

The eyes themselves,

calm as a mother’s,

cheeks, soft as a bride’s,

the smile, could be a woman’s too.

The hat is a double edged, rimmed, ancient sword

and the curvy hair a scream trying to break through tomb.

And the left hand seems to hold an extention;

Shaped like a finger of judgment,

a long gun unmolested by pitiful rain

points its barrel at the soldier’s brain.

“To a Fellow Politician in Washington, July 6th, 2017”

I remember you once asked,

How should I best serve the people?”

What I’ll tell you will sound hard

but is naturally and fearfully easy.

First, you wanna work at night

when the dazzling stars inspire smooth rhetoric.

In private, mind you. Public needs require secret newsfeeds.

Be sure you have the right tools and the right spot.

What you design in the dark should sound like this:

Each American should have their own place of rest,

fashioned with our lightly taxed cloth

pillows full as a soft father’s hands,

blankets tight as a woman’s grip.

His bed should be framed by the sturdiest wood,

fitting all and only his substance;

teach him to be an individual

and chase his own American Dream,

with no helping hand but yours.

They may wonder about random stuff like

the grave, or the coffin, or what happens at night,

but you can always call the rugged earth a smooth garden

or the grave God’s good and biblical passport.

They’ll each fill so rested and relaxed,

they’ll soon fall asleep and pose no more questions.

Only then can you slowly root them in the country.

If they were awake, they’d tend to wander

about and beyond the border of the lid.

This is OUR nation, afterall.

When others ask “Why?” “Where?” “How?” “When?” you can say:

A terrorist kidnapped him” or “He wasn’t educated right” or such.

They’ll never suspect you.

And even if the sleepers awake, it’ll be too late.

They’ll be shut in the black, screaming.

“The Christmas Globe”

Though I stand in submerged silver, I don’t suffocate.

My fashioned flesh follows the years,

clothed in the same yarn and painted with the same face.

My setting remains where it’s always been, my background.

My knob is turned somewhere I do not quite know,

like the turning of clear air into snow.

I sing a universal tune

for His sovereign pleasure,

for his manly delight over me,

for her joy in twisting me,

for their purpose in ruling the globe.

But whether by chance or destiny,

my worldview was shattered one day

by a clumsy hand of power.

Though I can still breathe a sweet melody

and dance the old way in the old land,

they find me useless now.

For I’m no longer worthy in cracked design.

Yet I do not mind.

Though I’ll be thrown away, still molded in my limits,

I can see with free eyes unwashed with glittering lies.

“Red Ocean”

The sign post reads: Red Ocean

ruby tears rose sickness cherry eyes crimson knives sanguine hatred grinning sharks

fireworked heads sunrise rifles grinning sharks vermilion hours hateful fire tomato saws

grinning sharks scarlet screams bloodshot cannons clothes-hanged apples fearful fever stopped hearts

carmine teeth cardinal laws loving axes grinning sharks strawberry iris sunset death

ketchup cars chestnut chests boundless blood dying stars grinning sharks pain with no exit

auburn life grinning sharks veins in waves ginger metal melting apples eternity in wine

Grinning sharks

“Phoenix Logic”

The flame which burns you

is the flame that warms you.

The dry winter,

chapping soft lips and rugged earth,

gives way to a wet spring

invigorating the nose and breezy air.

Brown bears shuffle

their cramped, clawed carpet feet from

the mouths of oppressively dark dens,

like bold children struggling

from their mothers’ painful cocoons.

The clock on the kitchen wall

ticked too fast during Christmas cheer,

ticked too slow during the blizzard fear,

but now,

the numbers comet from the glass prison

as my freed mind dreams of approaching summer stars.

The river runs smoothly like fresh blood,

pouring into empty tombs of basins.

Poverty digs holes into your hands and money.

Yet poor people know they’ll ascend.

Broken hearts rewind whole

when the eyes catch shattered faces.

Though my red eyes washed themselves in grief,

the restless sick now descend into sleepy healing.

So I think of things like these,

as I lie on my bed,

warring to breathe,

waiting for this endless shadow to finally come.

Yet how is it endless?

Did pain not give to pleasure?

Did laughter not trump weeping?

For every death there is another birth.

My flesh will become warming flame,

for it was fashioned by burning flame.

 

“The Haircut”

I advised her against the haircut.

“You won’t be the same again,” I warned.

“I do with my hair what I want,” she replied,

“No matter what you or anyone else thinks.”

 

Oh to Christ would I wish she could see the love

and the affection I had in my solemnity!

For I’ve loved her since she was born,

her hair notwithstanding,

how it curls like a baby’s hooked arm on a blanket,

smooth and clean like a child’s washed head,

or how blonde it glows, just as my own daughter’s did,

all through her years.

 

She had the haircut not long ago, in a private place.

Her long strands have shortened. Neat, but a little abrupt.

I pray to God her years won’t be so.

She told me how the ugly scissors clipped away

at the hooked curls high above the blanket,

rough and dirty hands pulling at her head.

It’s still blonde but slightly darkened,

like a winter sun during a funeral.

Afterwards, the barber discarded the waste.

 

She seems happy with it, overall,

though her smiles are only half-full,

her glances darting at the corners of her eyes,

as if she worries what others think.

And the eyes have shadows too.

My motherly, muffled heart beats.

Oh to Christ if I could just take her in my arms

and cuddle her to sleep.