“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 Wizard and the Wrestler”

In the ring is where you’re proven.

You grow up with cheers and boos

Echoeing in yourself

Whilst you climb your way to the title,

The gold all seek.

With such pressure, it helps

To have  an assistant  showcase you to the world,

Before you try and make your name.

 

My assistant is cousin Jamie Robinson.

 

In the days of my training,

When I heard about how hard

the match could be,

He would slam me with his stout muscles for giggles,

On the floor or in the pool,

And smile through a black beard

at my playful struggles.

So much fun we had,

With pizza and championship stars,

I felt secure, ready for the royal rumble.

 

But a time comes when you must, indeed, step into the ring;

An opponent faces you,

One you cannot easily grapple with,

whose strength seems so overwhelming,

It can send you to the hospital for four days,

Trying to get out of the hold

that will tap your life away.

 

The night I learned who the real champion of the world was,

His voice reached me

while the demons shouted ringside:

“I know what you’re going through, buddy.

Just know I love you. You’ll make it.”

 

I did make it.

But not without having my spirit busted open.

 

In the crash and burn,

It helps to have a sage  heal you.

Down a street in Marion lives a wizard,

Simon Elliott,

A fan of Gandalf the Grey.

But this warlock carries a golden wind-waver,

Not a white bushel of hair,

And with his staff, he casts sounds, not spells.

Pretty awesome. Pretty cooooool.

 

One night, while I tried to recover from my title match,

My uncle took me into his magical study,

And we simply relaxed together,

His caring gaze on me,

Like a red haired child who wonders

At the birth of a premie in 1989 Asheville,

Watching orcs and elves clash in Helm’s Deep.

 

Such a furious battle.

Yes,

such a furious life.

 

 

Yet,

Such a furious anchor in a storm

is a family.

“Elliott”

When I wrestled with him one day,
on the ol’ Stevens couch,
I could feel his youth and wisdom and talent
impress my heart,
and I remembered:

He started as a little one
who chased me to a school bus,
in a life-jacket,
believing it to be like his big brother’s bag
so he could be just like his big brother.

We grew up together in Marion,
“a friendly, progresssive city,”
imagining ourselves to be involved
in worlds no man can see as
wrestler announcers,
pokemon characters,
gruesome monsters,
every child’s fancy that seems to grow stale
in our “friendly, progressive” culture;
I swear, you never saw two stranger kids.

But a time came where

Devin played with his pages
and Elliott his notes.
Though Devin isn’t sure he’s a good writer,
he’s certain his little partner can cast notes
like magic spells, enthralling people with the strings
of his dip stained, pot smelling bass:
the greatest musician in Marion.

When I look back,
like Lot’s wife,
I feel a part of me turn to salt, for
I don’t think I was there for him
like a big brother should have been.
I was too busy carrying needless crosses.

It hurts me. Can I chase him in a life jacket?
For I tell you, he has lifted my spirit

from troubled waters
simply with his humor and sympathy,

the way he laughs
when comes home from work,
just like his dad: “Hey, how are you?”
“Aaaahhhh just workin.”

And like his dad, he could kick my ass
with his muscles,
but maybe I can get him back by
telling him he’s getting bald,
just like his dad.

So maybe it is not too late,
maybe I’m carrying another needless cross:

he is always telling me to
look on the brighter side anyway.
I may still have time to watch him play,
to watch him aspire and rise
from the “friendly and progressive” city
and show people that notes can only sound
from one who dreams,
and be there for him

when he comes back from work
(if I’m not swamped in more pages by then)
and give him the life jacket that is my hug.
I love him very much.

Elliott, forever my little brother.