Saturday, June 18, 2016

To Cease Upon the Midnight

A sudden sliding over feathery snow:
The world goes whirling, noiseless, through the windshield.
This could be it. There's nothing I can do
To stop this now.
                              Bracing, I clench my eyes
Against the swirling glass and cutting snow,
The concrete median, the twisted steel - 
Or bedsheets, twisted in a burning turmoil,
Midnight coffee, lonely cigarettes,
And solitary walks at 6 AM
On grayest city sidewalks in grayest dawn.
'This finally could be it,' I think: 'So be it,'
And, 'Christ, please take me home.'
                                                           In a rush,
The crazy world snaps back to normal speed:
My fillings rattle; snowy-frigid night
Invades my fractured car. I breathe. I breathe.
I run my hands along my limbs and face.
My hair is full of snow and broken glass,
But I'm unhurt, and don't know what to do.

Copyright by Ike Wassom, 2016. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sketch: Black-crowned night heron on Towhead Island

The heron stalks along the river's edge.
Deliberately, it sets its foot among
The twisting roots that rise up through the still,
Half-green, half-muddy surface of the water,
All murky in the hanging treeline's shade.
Dragonflies drift above the sunset glare;
Our heron, meanwhile, scans the water's face,
Intently looking, searching, here, then there,
Its red eyes glinting in the twilight gloom.
I sigh, and lower my binoculars.

Copyright by Ike Wassom, 2015. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Pancosmon Agathon

A is for artifice: for lies, artfully told,
for Adam, for Seth, for Abel - and Cain,

and for aurochs, archeopteryx, and all that is vanished;
B is for the ball of gold, lost in boyhood,
for amber-bright bourbon whiskey,

and fevered brains and brides with secrets.
C is for cares, for worries, unconscious, irrational,

for crustaceans, crawling through depthless caverns,
and Central Park in the celestial city.
D is for the dainty, demeaned dandelion,
for depression: the doorway to a dark wisdom,

and for damaged people - for drifters, for dreamers;
E is for elegance: demure, seductive, and effortless,

for the chilly embers of an early morning,
and earwigs, eggnogs, and epileptics.
F is for a friend, unlooked-for in a foreign land,
for flakes of snow on the first of May,

and for feasting, fighting, and fornication;
G is for geese in the sky, grey and cold,

for wet grass, green with dewdrops,
and the grievers, mistaking Christ for a gardener.
H is for Helios, the sun, hurtling through nothingness,
for the halls of Sheol, horrid and silent,

and the haze in the hills that hangs heavy in June;
I is for icicles, dripping and inching downwards,
for Id: irrational, animal impulses,
and insanity, illness, and isolation;
J is for the jade gate with its hidden jewel,
for arcane jobs and their secret jargons,

and juries and jailors and justice deferred;
K is for the key of life, and its bearded keepers,

for Heaven's high King, for his prey, the Kraken,
and unwelcome kindness from estranged kinsfolk.
L is for yellow lamplight on a lonely evening,
for my ladylove, luminous in starlight,
and for laughter, lust, and grievous longing;
M is for many-tongued mockingbird, knower of mysteries,

for memories, lost in the mind's abyss,
and the milky smell of cuddling mammals.
N is for the nautilus, adrift in nighted deeps,
for that nocturnal nowhere, the interstate netherworld,

and for 'no' and 'not' and 'never-been;'
O is for the twilight opulence of the court of Oberon,

for the far-flung orbs of outer darkness,
and orcas in the ocean shallows;
P is for the penis, honest, direct, and primal,
for the panic of Bacchus: pure madness,

and for poverty, for pain, for plenty;
Q is for the quilled serpent, Quetzalcoatl,
for Qoheleth, the Questioner,
and a querulous heart and a handful of quiet.
R is for the rest of summer's rose-tinged evenings,
for a robin, raging at his reflection,

and earthward rot and whispering rainstorms;
S is for slavery: a violence to the souls of men,
for starlings, nesting inside of streetlamps,
and for squirrels, sex, and seraphim.
T is for testosterone, the tyrant hormone,
for the tick of hands and the toll of hours,

and the taste of tears and tender caresses;
U is for unformed darkness, a universe in utero,

for √úbermensch: for ugly ideas,
and the upward pull of the utter black;
V is far vapors that rise from vents in March,
for luckless Varro's vanished legions,
and the vines on a branch and the veins in your neck;
W is for wood: uncarved, wild, and willful,

for wandering derelicts, windburnt and wizened,
and the human world gone mad: for warfare.
X is for Xanthus, choked by the murderous xenophobe,
for Xochimilco and Xerxes, the Persian,

and ecstasy, frenzy, and excess of wine;
Y is for 'yesses,' achingly yearned for in secret,

for the waste of yesteryears, yawning between us,
and youth - as brilliant as yellowest sunshine;
Z is for Ziz, hidden behind Zephyrus,
for Zebulon, the herdsman, ferocious in zealousness,
and zero: the empty zone of potential.

Copyright by Ike Wassom, 2015.  All rights reserved.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Sleepytime Cuddles

Washed up on murky tides of blood and pain,
From otherworldly, twilight deeps of visceral fear
Where squirming lampreys writhed in nightmare grip,
I ease uneasily into our bed.
I hear the distant, mournful howling of the train.
I trace the ghost-blue outline of your head
Against the streetlamp's glow; stroking your hip,
And drifting off, I nuzzle you behind your ear,
As gentle as the lightest summer rain.

Copyright by Ike Wassom, 2014.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

To the author's wife, on his depression. An apology, of sorts. A sonnet.

The pre-dawn hours are black and smudged as coal,
And, like the wailing of a forpined ghost,
You whistle as you snore.  I can't recall
A time before this grief harrowed my bones.
Skipping from sill to sky, from Earth to nest,
A robin sings the coming of the day:
Mad gibbering from a furnace, deep as night,
That lights the sky with its infernal blaze.
Although for you, my treasure, so serene,
I wish I had it in me to be well,
There's something in this complicated brain
That's bent towards the lonely roads of death.
But when the world is new, and all the sons of God revealed,
I'll drift in seas of light, my fractured personhood now healed.

Copyright by Ike Wassom, 2014.  All rights reserved.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Poem on the Coming Spring

The trees outside my window creak and sigh
Beneath a frigid, black, and starry sky.
When Zephyrus Hurler-of-Rain, rapacious, proud,
Has softened to a gentle, vital breath,
The seeds, now frozen in their stony death,
Will thirst and thrive and drink of sun and cloud.
Feathered sojourners will flock from afar,
Whose flapping whirlings on the swirling wind,
Whose cryptic choreographies, impart
The hidden workings of an eldritch mind.
They'll seek their branches, their domestic spheres;
Perched high among the leafy boughs, they'll found
A thousand tiny kingdoms, free of fears,
Deep-rooted in the life-imparting ground.
From twigs like fingertips, the leaves will grow
Into an overgrowth of verdant green;
The whispering trees will shade the world below
A sighing, swaying, gloomy aquamarine.
Insects lie waiting in their embryonic form
In earthen rooms among the grassy blades,
And when the nights grow purple-sweet and warm,
They'll chant an ancient chant in twilit glades.
Although black ice is mingled with the dirt,
The world seems hushed, expectant, and alert.
Copyright by Ike Wassom 2014. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Christmas Eve Alone

I saw a lady on the street, no shoes,
One cloudy morning.  And what is there to lose
On Christmas Eve, at seventeen degrees?
Lord knows, it's not what any one of us would choose,

But plastic tinsel laid on rubber trees
And snot-nosed kids on shabby velvet knees
Don't quite evoke a desperate birth in straw,
But golden childhood memories of warmth and ease.

It was while coming home from work I saw
That woman.  Her fatalistic set of jaw,
Her stance, suggested a settled solitude.
One man, alone like her, died under Roman law,

Arms open, suffocating, stripped and nude.
Detritus of that life, that death, is strewed
Across the intervening waste of years.
We look away (perhaps for fear of being rude)

From suffering like hers. A clean man fears
The leprosy of secret Christmas tears,
But little guesses he the depths of grace,
For God himself, in lonely hours, bends down and hears

Her voice.  The world that didn't make a place
For him puts up a babe with rosy face,
His plastic likeness, and decries the fall
Of public morals, thinking outrage can replace

The mercy that's implicit in the call
Of him who came to this, this muddy ball
And bore such cruel rejection for the sake
Of homeless outcasts shivering outside the mall.

We throw them useless pity, forced and fake,
But no one holds a funeral or wake
When all their frigid, weary days are done.
Christ died as low a death as theirs, dying to break

Down all the social walls by which we shun
Impoverished men.  No timid hired gun,
He plunged headfirst into our earthly sludge
That he might make our scattered human family one.

He's coming back again, and he will judge
Correctly all our motives, every grudge,
Our every slighting of the Imago Dei.
He'll pardon or condemn.  And then he'll never budge.

Against the awful coming of that day,
The LORD consented that the scourges flay
Christ's back to quivering strips.  This was to bruise
The serpent's head in you.  There is no other way.
Copyright by Ike Wassom 2014.  All rights reserved.