Thursday, December 5, 2013

Haiku 1

Misty cold sunrise
Burns golden dew from white buds
The first of the year

Copyright by Ike Wassom 2009. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A cat, inscrutable, will never tell

A cat, inscrutable, will never tell
Of what befell before you took her in.
Down empty country lanes, through heaven or hell,
You'll never, ever know where she has been.
Her life before she came to you, meowing,
And, seeing your face, began, at once, to purr,
(At which, before her quiet insistence bowing,
You brought her food and fed her, stroked her fur
And loved her, saying she was now your own -
And overlooked her fierce, inhuman mind)
Remains a strange and winding path unknown.
You might as well have tried to own the wind.
Enough to say your lives have intersected
And friendship bloomed in ways most unexpected.

Copyright by Ike Wassom 2010.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Labyrinth: A Nightmare

Dread  Oppressive dread  Again I wake up here
in chambers delved from fear  These winding labyrinths wend
from Hell to Dad's old shed  Through attic boards I peer
from here to yesteryear  Down underneath my bed
I wander wracked with loss through endless whispering darkness
stalked by something unseen  Here dripping walls and moss
there close wood walls and stillness a plastic-faced machine
church-factories overhead  In water cold and clear
there waits a concrete bier  These twisted tunnels thread
from corners in my head down crawlspaces they veer
to spaces wide and sheer cross rivers boiling red
they wind down halls of Chaos through my opened chest
from which grows shoots of green and when I'm gone they'll cast
my deepest thoughts my pathos out on deep serene

Copyright 2013 by Ike Wassom.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Listening to the city sounds on my porch at 3 AM

I step into the night.  The air is cold
And carries in its breeze an awful din.
I-65 is not too far from here,
A metal river of humanity
That runs and hums along an asphalt bed
And carries in itself a twilit host
Encased in glass, illumed in green.  And tires
Squeal, and engines drone, and horns honk.
Beneath it all, somewhere, a gunshot rings.

The silent moonlight pours into my yard;
It fell through space, cascaded through the void,
And traveled through illimitable night
To softly fall on every blade of grass
That casts its dimly-outlined wavering shadow
Onto the waiting earth so brown and soft.

Someone out there, no doubt, is giving birth;
Another breathes his last; his life pours out
Into the dust from which he came.  And I,
I sigh, and step inside, and go to bed.

Copyright by Ike Wassom 2009.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Christmas Card 1

The swirling sleet had frozen in my beard.
A distant memory was the living green
On this, the darkest night I've ever seen.
Through shutters streaming golden light I peered
To glimpse some human warmth.
                                                   "It's as you feared;
The stars are chips of ice lacking in love.
That's all you'll ever get from Up Above.
You've got no kin, no friends, no God,"
                                                             he leered.
That night did not end well for me, I'm afraid.
But God who gives us family and friends,
Although through weary winter nights I've strayed,
Will see that every trial at long last ends,
For on a winter night he came as a lowly child
That he and I - and you - might all be reconciled.

Copyright 2012 by Ike Wassom.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Sonnet for Jerry, a dog

His world is made of smells upon the wind,
A chained-in yard dug down to mud and stones,
The sound of heartbeats, sirens, squirrels, phones,
And human things he cannot comprehend.
Early on, he killed our cat, and grinned,
And sleeping, deep inside his chest, he groans.
He once was wild.  He still is, in his bones:
He knows of prey and pack, but not of friend.
     But though his air is lonely, grim and stark,
     He yips and skips and frolics, joyous when
     We call, and when we take him to the park,
     He's happier than I have ever been:
No sorrow for the savagery he's lost,
No doubts about domestication's cost.

Copyright 2013 by Ike Wassom.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sketch: Molly on the couch

My wife is on the couch, her eyes half-closed.
Her lips are pursed and taut; her head is resting
Upon her outstretched palm; her hair and fingers
Are intertwined; her lidded eyes are flitting
Around some tiny, distant point.
The afternoon has turned her eyes a golden,
Mysterious soft brown, with sunbeams pooling
Within her lap, 'till radiance seems to fill her;
The sun, the room and she are wholly still.
I can't imagine where her mind could be.

Copyright by Ike Wassom 2013.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Outlander at Hafrsfjord

I.  A one-eyed stranger, wandering from afar

From frigid dark and freezing, clinging damp
An outlander came wandering into camp
The night before King Eirik’s lines broke.
He leaned upon a gnarled staff of oak.
His face was hidden underneath the brim
Of his hat but his gait and the set of his shoulders was grim.
His frame was veiled within a woolen robe,
But from his shadowed face a single globe
Glinted as though from deep within a well:
A weary, wild, unfathomable eye.
He looked like he knew secrets he’d never tell.
He looked at you as if he knew how you would die. 

II.  Conditions in King Eirik’s camp of war

The stranger walked unseen among the men
Who sat around the fires with their kin.
Their talk was all about the morning’s fray,
Of all the men of Harald’s they would slay.
They faced away from the surrounding darkness
And boasted of their bloody deeds, their prowess.
But every sudden burst of bawling laughter,
Every hand that twitched at talk of slaughter,
Belied their every grandly drunken boast.
They fought already with a foe whose red
Teeth bit as deep as swords; this howling host
They held confined within their minds was known as Dread.

III.  A man named Bjorn gives hospitality

There was a man who sat apart, called Bjorn,
Who saw their fears and boasts alike with scorn;
This bearlike man who faced against the light,
This silent man who gazed into the night
Alone took note and bade the stranger sit,
To thaw his cloak and drink a little bit.
The old man stopped, and raised his brim, and neared.
As ice upon a cliff-face clings, his beard
From harshly cragged face fell cold and white.
He took a seat, cast of his woolen cloak,
And, taking mead, declined a proffered bite.
He took a sip and curled his lip and, glowering, spoke.

IV.  On warfare and our shared mortality

 “Tomorrow dawns a crimson day, my friend,
A day for men to meet their bloody end,
A day to feed the red-beaked flocks of birds,
To sate the thirst insatiable of swords.
I love to skewer a man, to smell his fear,
And feel his death-throes shiver down my spear.
Tragic, to die beneath your many winters,
But I will die with spear and shield in splinters.
Now, tell me truly, O my gracious host,
Speak truly:  Are you glad of war, as I,
(And don’t think I’ll believe an empty boast)
Or do you cry with fear to think that you may die?”

V.  More joy in the bucolic than the gory

 “Sir, I await my death without much fear,
But nor did love of slaughter bring me here.
The man from whom I took this axe is dead;
His old age took him on the very bed
Where he and Mother first conceived my life
Which I now share with my new son, my wife.
Our house stands in a clearing in a wood.
We’ve barley plots, and hunting there is good.
All we need, we make, or catch, or grow.
I left her weeping, watching from the door,
For towards our home the winds of war now blow.
I stain my hands with blood to save my lands from war.”

VI.  On the rewards of kings; on gold and glory

 “So don’t you love the honor of the kill?
When sword bites flesh, does not your blood then thrill?
Consider, then, the gifts of grateful kings:
Your spear-work earns you twisted silver rings
With gems in intricately worked gold knots,
And slaves to work your sprawling barley plots.
Your former peers will boast of you; they’ll claim
That you were friends.  They’ll seek to share your fame.
Consider, warrior, when you are dead,
Consider, when your head is grey and hoary,
When all that’s left of you is what is said:
Your bloody story then will be your only glory.”

VII.  Family gets more priority

 Bjorn laughed and told him, “Just a single bed
Holds me, my infant son and dearly wed.
What needs have we beyond what we can grow?
Pursuit of gold and glory works but woe.
They only gold for me is my Sif’s hair;
My glory is my firstborn son and heir.
My boy will boast of me when I am gone.
The praise I’ll earn by dying as a pawn
In someone else’s war, sung by a skald,
Means little next to an admiring wife.
I long to live to see my son grow bald,
But for their sakes, I’m here in ranks, and risk my life.” 

VIII.  On justice, peace and strong authority

“Why, then, serve the king of Hordaland?
Don’t think that he will save your precious land.
You’ve followed the wrong man to Hafrsjord
If it’s for love of peace you draw the sword.
It’s Harald that will bring your country peace,
Make safe for trade the North Way and its seas.
His wars will put an end to all this strife,
And end this bloodshed and this waste of life.
He’ll nullify the rulings of the Things
And codify by law both wrong and right.
He’ll crush the armies of the petty kings;
Until he’s king, the steel will sing and flash out bright.”

IX.  Where justice is a mask for mere ambition

 “When Gyda Eirik’s daughter spurned the suit
Of Harald she did not foresee the fruit
Of reckless words:  ‘Before you’re king of all
Of Norway, I will never let you call
Me your queen,’ shaming him with cruel scorn.
He vowed his head, ‘till crowned, would stay unshorn;
For every inch of tangled hair he grew
Since then, a dozen blameless men he slew.
He’d rather see our homeland ravaged, charred
And desolate, than in another’s hands.
He wants to make the world his own backyard,
Then make us pay to stay on what is ours:  Our lands.”

X.  A final chance to come back to the fold

 “Good host, this eye of mine sees very far.
I know the fate of sun and moon and star,
When Naglfar breaks free, and Heimdall’s horn
Is blowing, and the World Tree’s leaves are shorn.
I know that on the morrow, Eirik will fall.
Harald will win the day, and own you all.
Don’t feel bad.  You never had good odds,
Although he weren’t the favored of the gods.
I see through time itself; your bravery
Shines clear; you’re fearless, though you’ll soon be dead.
But why doom wife and son to slavery?
Go bow to Harald.  Vow to fight for him instead.”

XI.  Blasphemy and treason, without contrition

“I will not serve the interests of a king
Or god who for his vanity would bring
Upon mankind the plague of ceaseless warfare,
Who harrows lives like mud on a thoroughfare
Leading to glory.  Warring gods who make
No peace pursue a course whose end will shake
From the face of the earth all clinging, crawling life
As ant-filled rugs are cleaned out by my wife.
Our race deserves a better God than they
Who crave our blood, who, for their sport, have toyed
With us as cats with mice, who haste the day
When the world will burn and then return to trackless void.”

XII.  Death on a battlefield revealed, though left untold

Bjorn’s guest stood up and shrugged, no sign of wrath.
The flames swirled up, sparks tracing out their path
Through stars.  He thanked his kind host, as is right,
Put on his cloak, and left the ring of light.
When he’d walked on a pace he slipped his veil;
Now Bjorn, he took the flash of light for mail
Glinting in firelight.
                                    They found him dead,
His axe haft splintered, the ground beneath him red
With blood from heaps of mangled men he’d slain,
Their flesh and armor hewn and hacked and gashed,
His locks unbound, his features free of pain,
Speared in the side, laying beside an ancient ash.

Copyright 2013 by Ike Wassom.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Reflection on our Own Mortality, Engendered by the Onset of the Autumnal Season

Your dreams are dark, your dormant mind submerged
In oceans black and far from earthly shores.

Wake up, and shower, dress yourself and go.
Step out into the world.  The leaves are falling.
The west wind drives a motley bunch, of red
and yellow, faded from their springtime green.
And time is short before the winter chill
will grind them, brown and soft, into the earth.

The sky is blue, and blank; the air is cold;
you dress yourself against the chill.  The sun
is pale, and yellow, distant, here and gone
             And so this day, empty, shall form,
with many other solemn winter hours
(frosty starlight, by the smoldering fire),
a crumbling bulwark, fencing out the thought:

that thus has stalked you in your bed asleep.
And with each passing breath, you know your head
will shrink, and wrinkle, waxing grey, and then

Copyright 2005 by Ike Wassom.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Remembering the summer of 2008. For Jacob.

As rhythmic as the heartbeat of the world,
Cicadas sing the ceaseless shining light
Of stars who in their joyous dance have twirled
Before our time, above our ken, untouched by blight.
The shadowed treeline, unseen leaves unfurled
Blots out the stars: the sheerest edge of night
Where deepest black of the terrestrial
Abuts against the glory most celestial.

The whisperings of the ancient woods that loom
And bend their creaking, murmuring branches down
Around my father's house, by night, assume
A wind-borne woodland speech that lacks both verb and noun.
The dense and darkly brooding sylvan gloom
Once reached from here to where the breakers sound;
Through open bedroom windows in long-lost springs
It whispered old and wild and long-forgotten things.

I ask myself what rest a buck can find
In those eternities when lightnings crash:
A moment white, electrical and blind
With flailing, dripping foliage frozen in the flash.
Do they lay down on beds of settled pine
While Heaven's cannons boom and pound and smash
The ground, reducing trees to flying splinters,
Casting earthward shadows of their branching antlers?

I faced the trees, and she, the house; we sat
Together on my car and breathed the calm
Night air, and I caressed her, our half-wild cat,
Her feline fur beneath my hairless primate palm.
We hailed from different spheres, and that was that,
And yet we shared a seat without a qualm;
We knew (in different ways) the Up Above,
And shared an understanding, something much like love.

The trees around my building are controlled
From sapling up; they're pruned and trimmed and healed
Of willfulness, roots locked in asphalt's hold,
Beneath the awful gaze of towers of glass and steel.
The rules that govern us have left me cold,
As well, our chase of things that are not real;
Somewhere, the human enterprise went bad.
Long winter months have passed since I have seen my dad.

Copyright 2013 by Ike Wassom.  All rights reserved.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Night Sweats: A Ballad

I thought that I had lost you love
That some years back you'd died
In darkest silence you lay sleeping
And all my tears were cried

I thought the nighttime took you love
The moon flashed bone-white grin
And blew a black wind all around you
That rotted off your skin

It's just a fevered dream my dear
A burning freezing chill
Convulsive shivering pounding head
Close stifled air too still

It's just to be expected dear
Everything must end
For loss is life's eventual cost
My best, my dearest friend

It's just that I can't see you dear
I want to see you so
Roll over let me see your face
Once more before I go

I thought that I had died my love
And left you all alone
I sank into the utter black
Down to the deep unknown
Copyright 2013 by Ike Wassom.  All rights reserved.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Thoughts on Finding an Open Seventh Story Library Window

Rarely are windows open at this height,
For some unwary, grieving soul just might,
When burdened by the hideous human blight,
Attend the whispering, seductive night:
"Come out, my love; I'll make it all, all right.
The summer grass smells sweet; the stars shine bright.
Lean out and let my breeze caress you, light
And soft.  Upon the window sill alight.
Let go.  Come in to me, my love; take flight."
If you give in to this most dire need
To make a life of crushing cares recede,
The wind will sing and soothe you at that speed.
Such kindness.  You'll just about forget to bleed.

Copyright 2013 by Ike Wassom.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Two failures and a minor resolution


Today, I ran the track behind my house.
From jumbled, piled-on, crumbling roofs, the steam
was rising up, was rising through the branches
that chilling wind from blank and pale blue skies
had stripped, made bare and brown and skeletal.
Beyond the crowd of rooftops soars the skyline.
You’ll glimpse it, tenuously, beyond the trees.

The park is hidden in the urban heart
of Louisville. November empties it.

The eye avoids the dead expanse of grass
encircled by the asphalt underfoot.

Air was flowing down my throat to fill
my swelling lungs; from there, the blood, impelled
by frantic, brute contractions of the heart –
its red, wet chambers – to pound and rush and burn
beneath the skin (November air without)
retrieved and by the means of ever-branching
arteries distributed the gasped-in,
gasped-out air to limbs and joints revolving
a wheeling orbit, an economy
of grace, and for a brief, eternal moment,
the body’s fluid motion and the pulsing
in my ears eclipsed all earthly cares.

I hung suspended, touched not ground nor sky,
but flew between them.
Then I crashed and gasped
and trudged a desultory final lap.


The moonlight streaming through my kitchen window
shines cold and bright, so very old and white, and
the night seems vast and strange and black and empty;
a roof is all that hides me from the sky.

As if the human race, as one, cried out,
the wind is groaning around the vinyl siding
of my creaking house; it sounds as though
it blew from out of the inky void above.

I linger over whiskey late at night;
I think, and drink, and listen to the wind.

Now I am a wretched mess, I must confess;
I’m filled with wrenching cosmic vertigo.
Sometimes – what’s this? – while going about my day,
my eyes are wet with tears. I can’t say why.

So. I sit up late and night and listen,
and listen to the huge and roaring darkness,
the huge and roaring darkness that surrounds me.
I listen to the darkness and I know
that moment follows moment ‘till we die.


Moment will follow moment ‘till I die,
Until the roaring darkness overtakes me,
Until, at last, the blank and pale blue sky
At last strips every leaf from every tree.
I'll bleed and gasp and fight and cry and run
Until the pain of living ends my life.
I’ll close my eyes and no more see the sun:
An end to striving and an end to strife.
The universe will also have its turn.
The earth will pass away, the heavens roar;
The seas will boil, the atmosphere will burn,
And the dark will blow out every single star.
And then I’ll awaken from this life, this dream,
And run untiring on unfading green.

Copyright 2013 by Ike Wassom.  All rights reserved.