VOL XVIII, Issue 10, Number 210
Editor: Klaus J. Gerken
Production Editor: Heather Ferguson
European Editor: Mois Benarroch
Contributing Editors: Michael Collings; Jack R. Wesdorp; Oswald Le Winter
Previous Associate Editors: Igal Koshevoy; Evan Light; Pedro Sena
Michael R. Collings
Unfurling as You Spoke
To Memory [II]
In a Time of Loss
When Aspens Turn
On Being Treated for Depression
ShadowBox: Pandora Within
On Lady Liberty, Camp Dodge Iowa, 1918
The Wriggling Ocean Sun
An Act of Faith
After the Storms: Wolves’ Light
Michael R. Collings
UNFURLING AS YOU SPOKE
You named your favorite flower--
I knew before breath passed lips
as soft, as fragrant
as the bud you named--
before cheeks deepened to
its richness, elegantly pure--
before forget-me-not eyes glistened
and sweet violet voice brushed my ears--
I knew before thornless touch
reminded me again, and yet again,
how palely, distantly its petal-crown
essays…fails…to echo you
Stretched into diagonals
Imposed on silvered leaves,
Posing over night--
Reflections breathe outward
Into waiting loneliness.
Light inside my study
Glows black roses
Downward twisting calyxes
Upward sweeping petals--
Light fingers blackened glass
The shadow behind the Rose.
TO MEMORY [II]
Nighttime invites somber thoughts--
Stroke of hand on hair shudders fear;
Coffin-sheen beneath a slate-stale sky;
Whispered words across a darkened room;
Rains across a thirsting valley floor;
Napkin held beneath an aging chin;
Blood-spots, birth-pangs coiled tight;
Nighttime invades somber thoughts,
Swells images to memory.
He stands alone in a room of mirrors.
He is flat reflection, silver-backed
Image flicking faster than thought
As he whirls, trying to capture
The one, just beyond the canted corner
Of vision, who will whisper finally
To him and tell him what he wants
He stands alone in a room of mirrors.
He is angled, distorted, twisted
By silver-backed images that
Filter faster than thought through
His mind, shape-shifting, illusory,
Each promising revelations too deep
To comprehend, too painful to
Desire beyond the barrier of breath.
He stands alone in a room of mirrors.
He is future-fragments, particles of
The past: a jut of bone along a cheek,
Twist of muscles from neck to arm,
Arc of eyebrow carried through dim
Generations, ghost of fathers long
Forgotten, hints of hidden sons
Who slip silently into the dark.
He stands alone in a room of mirrors.
He is lost. He is an open scream
Echoing surface to waiting, silvered
Surface. He is remnant breaths
Tossed like storm clouds from
One self to another, from there to yet
Another and another. He is all potential
Energies. He is none.
Back then, when freshet grass grew greener,
Skies rose a clearer, dearer blue--
When sight was bright and hearing keener,
And present pain as plain as dew,
I raced the symbols, nimble, swift,
Sure and pure in what I felt,
Each reveling day at play a lift,
Safe in the giving that living dealt.
But in the now, how much translated,
How strangely dark the marks I read;
Each signal missed, each twist debated,
Each hinted joy a ploy to mislead.
I miss the easy, breezy answers;
Detest the complex, perplexed message,
Each moment’s lack, as black as cancer,
Each numbing stage of age’s presage.
“Where does the white go when the snow melts?”
You can see it,
if you look--
outer arcing apple-blossom buds
reluctant to remove
soft spring-green cloaks;
cunning, arcing tulips crisply furled,
pent before tomorrow’s
shyly flirting-throated violets,
coquettes beneath rich,
darker deep-hued curves;
subtle wink between pale sunrise-pink
and glowing sunset-gold of
Peace Rose petals;
wan September-burst chrysanthemums
showy in smooth presage
flicks of ice;
faint, enduring statice blooms
enfolded in stiff purple,
firmly stolid calyces;
if you look,
you may see it still.
IN A TIME OF LOSS
The time of iris closes slowly, still.
One day they flourish, glossy, fragrant, proud
Behind my home, a vibrant rainbow-cloud--
Flags, varicolored, serried on the hill;
Then gone. A day, no more, and petals twist
To parchment brown, a sullen summer-shroud--
Until next springtime blooms, they will be missed.
In August, when banked roadside roses bloom,
Pale yellow moons in glossy emerald leaves;
When tiger swallowtails alight on eaves
And rest a breath from flight, to groom
Prismatic wings, then, with a swirl, resume
Unhurried flit from uncut phlox to sheaves
Of lilies thrusting from stiff, unfurled sleeves,
Golden splendor from mid-summer’s womb;
Then we shall meet again at the old home park,
Beneath sage cottonwoods and maple trees
Where we, as children, once outsang the lark
And thought we might outwing the solemn bees,
Where I incised your name in livelong bark,
And you repaid my kiss with innocent ease.
WHEN ASPENS TURN
There’s something melancholic in stark crags
Transformed by frost and feverish descent
Something in soft haze that muffles ridge-lines,
Blurring gold with burnished brown, enfolding green
Something in clouds lowering until they rest
In blanket-layers just beyond cold arcs
Something infinite--and finite--in long
Glances cast by distant heights that autumn
In my heart.
light shafts nearly horizontally,
burns under shadows,
of branches twisted as arthritic
limbs and naked, plundered
lit gaze of patient whorlwinds
burst blasts shocks and sheaves,
cants loosely from great
pumpkined porches, serried
squash and purpled
corn; glances warily at wires that
breast shiver thin, icy breath
dance sparkles cold adieu on
sheeted ponds where bleary
geese rest momentarily,
then rise in concert,
daring again the darkened north
dense patterns of forgetfulness
We keep our separate
Motions in celestial dance;
Coifed and elegant, we weep
Our planet-ocean sorrows
Silently, lest interlopers
Penetrate our wards;
In silhouette, we test,
We hoard our consciousness,
Unwilling, even in pirouette,
To reach beyond our
ON BEING TREATED FOR DEPRESSION
It was only a small cocoon--or more
accurately, a chrysalis--gleaned
from rich, damp soil as I
ripped weeds out
I wanted pristine earth to plant my
seeds, where I would have no
worries that stray growth
might stultify, stifle,
But instead of emptiness, I found
a chrysalis, life-hardened
So I placed it in a mason jar half-
filled with moistened dirt,
snugged it deep within
its darkness, waited
And had forgotten it--almost--
when one day passing by
I glanced, unthinking.
The phoenix moth
Words grow hauntingly,
Roll half-tauntingly from the mind
Where once, not long ago,
Image poured and metaphor
Fused meaning with high passion--
And also darkled shadows, fear, and dread.
Instead of rocket highs and
Widely barren plains, unbroken now
By crest or depth, unfurrowed in the
Lassitude of listlessness,
Numbed and dumbed and stilled.
To walk is easier thus.
Each step-by-step level and unruffled.
Horizons no longer loom. Twilights
Linger until the moon herself sleeps settled.
And dawn creeps slowly on until she
Merges unbeknownst with noon.
And thus it is. And is. And is.
And whether that is good,
I do not know.
SHADOWBOX: PANDORA WITHIN
When she reached her hand to touch the box,
A whim, a curiosity to see what gift
Might follow fire, she felt a clutch of fear
As if the gods’ fell decree already
Had the power to quell all hope before
Mortal-kind was forced to cope with ills.
I reach toward my private box of shadows
And feel the premonition shake my core,
Knowing the predestined shocks must come
But feeling still that stillborn quake of hope
She must have felt…the pent-up hitch of breath
Before the flying furies pitch me down.
And for that instant, I would too withdraw,
Live in ignorance of fire if that
Would spare me from the ills pursuing me;
Indeed, withdraw my hand, retire untried,
Within the shadow-box content to live,
And not reveal the furies pent within.
ON LADY LIBERTY, CAMP DODGE IOWA, 1918
I have the postcard. On the back
Scrawled in an eighth-grade hand,
My grandfather’s greetings
To his new-made bride,
Her address (in a town so small
That just her name suffices)
And, unwritten, all their hopes
As he endure the war,
In France, where he would tend
War-horses’ hooves, black-smithing
As was his trade, and in a spare
And silent moment
Forging from an unused shoe
And several square-tipped nails
A picture frame, to send to her,
Where she would fit a lock
Of hair from the son
He had not seen.
I wonder who has the frame,
Still holding the single lock
Of raven hair, and their
I wonder who has the frame.
I have the postcard.
late one afternoon, after slamming though
the front-room door, textbooks jamming
angularities against ribs pain-tight from
racing the last half-block home, head light
with summer heat and thirst crawling
against a throat as dry as snakeskins. First
traceries of sound slide home beneath throbbing
blood, slide with strength of cathedral stone,
carven lucencies defying centuries.
Sounds insinuate, sounds compel, prying
stone-web fingers beneath his skull, lifting
skullcap, engorging mind and soul until full
beyond endurance with insubstantial weight.
Angularities and snakeskin thirst burst--trivial
Soap bubble memories glisten upon
Cathedral stone, tracery-fine, as he listens.
THE WRIGGLING OCEAN SUN
Far now from the sea, from sand verbenas
Sprinkled purple on dunes, from crashing surf
And patient reefs, from far-blue marinas
In wriggling sunset near salt-crusted turf;
Far distant now, I barely miss calm sand
Or crescent cliffs beard-hung with grey-green vines;
Barely wish to hear again gulls’ screech and
Thud-kiss-thud of tides impelled in ragged lines.
Instead, I revel in flat, wide-flung fields
Painted emerald by spring-time storms;
In nascent blossoms bound in snow, revealed
In radiant focus by small crocus corms;
Sunsets burn steady over sprouting grain:
Far from the sea, I find I’m home again.
AN ACT OF FAITH
Oval galaxies float--indeterminate,
distantly distinct--above. They glimmer and
prepare to fade into determinately
Hands outstretched, out-wrenched almost, with strained elbows
knotting against crosspieces feeling roughly
hewn--wood-knot-grained chenille. Warm bands connect to
flesh, connect warm flesh
to colder, harder surfaces, not too tight--
not overtly binding--but solidly firm,
inescapably firm. Another--broader
somewhere between shin and ankle perhaps, or
higher yet, almost knee--I lay quietly
restrained as deaf hands slip garments down, reveal
privates no longer
private, mark with cold black ink, wash with bleakly
orange disinfectant. And I stare, blink once.
The curving cup nestles nose and throat … and I
dream of painlessness.
heavy cold dry northern breath
winding autumn-heavy age-cold
sky-scales balanced scorpion’s sting
archer bow-string-taut black folds
above black melancholy earth
light-white age western blast bitter
chilling sluggish passionless bleak
ecliptic water-bearer fixed spring
capering goat vernal fish streaked
winter-warring solid water
spring-blood flowing southern ire
flowing child-time-scarlet brood
sanguine slaughter-ram bull-king
bi-corn flightly-feathered swan-twins
fluent-winging hot-moist crimson air
summer-kindled eastern flame-tips flared
adolescence xanthic saffron
foot-crushed crab open-clustered-fling
sun-rise-home virginal harvest-siren
chastening effluvial fire
These the four: Earth, Water, Air, Fire:
But beyond…beyond sublunary sphere
Of fundamental weight, of visible,
Of kidneys, liver, lungs, and spleen,
Of tangible, of quaintly risible,
Of elements discretely cold, austere…
There spins Etherium, golden-pure,
Quintessential breath celestial,
Refined, etheric wings of life unseen,
Ćons from thoughts and actions bestial….
There, there alone, perfection must endure.
AFTER THE STORMS: WOLVES’ LIGHT
Dawn splintered, thin yellow
Beneath the dulling grey of snow,
Into silhouetted blue.
That was the world--
Grey and cream and blue
After the storms.
Bare branches thrust upward,
Candelabra without wax;
Yews stood black sentinel
Behind white pickets.
That was the morning--
Black and white
Before the dawn.
At first, the underbellies
Of stiff-whipped clouds flushed
Pink, barely noticeable
Against the lowering darkness
That was night’s farewell--
Against lead black.
Then ruffles caught the pink,
Fractured it to gold and
Red, and flung dawn-light
Piece by piece like gems
That caught on snowdrifts--
And dawn crept up yews,
Look upward on lucid
winter nights--eternity arcs
overhead in bursts of fire
far removed from intellect,
accessible by heart alone;
Across wide-frozen fields
a single light multiplies
through ice-shard window panes,
casts itself as sacrifice
upon bleak entropy;
Roses coped in blanket-snow
hold reverential vigil
over remnant summer stems
and stalks, black holes bored into
vast white counterpanes;
And in the snow-palm of a
four frozen water droplets--
woven in a fibrous galaxy
I cannot see him
elusive and ephemeral,
even though you whisper that
he smiles on us.
I cannot see him, even
at Winter Solstice, when he
longer on this long December night
than any other night.
I cannot see him,
Though you do.
So in this,
as in so much else,
I will see him through
your eyes, blue as midday skies
when he retires,
or hangs, perhaps, the merest
shadow, white on delft,
just beyond periphery.
And you will tell me
that he smiles on us….
And I will believe
and wing in memory back
to that Winter Solstice night
when he gazed silently, without our
seeing him, as we first slept
as one, curved in darkness
like a single winging
in dreaming sleep to savor
curve and vale
arc and angle--
brush tendril-flesh on flesh
to lave cool crescent hip with
hip to thigh to hip again
to raise half-open lips with
shiver satin cheek with heat
to look into rapt waking
eyes and breathe
never-known and never-seen
All Poems copyright (c) 2010 Michael R. Collings
All poems copyrighted by their respective authors. Any reproduction of
these poems, without the express written permission of the authors, is
YGDRASIL: A Journal of the Poetic Arts - Copyright (c) 1993 - 2010 by
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