In the Clouds

Bring yourself, oh mortal, down
from strata high above,
perhaps we should remind you
that attention is not love;
It’s fine to think you’re welcome
here among us in our midst,
still, you might not care to hear
that you’re no better than the rest;

The boldness of your rally is
beyond what some can bear
while your brothers, sisters carry
all the stardust to your hair;
Let it twinkle deep inside you
so you know that you are blest,
while you eat and shit and suffer
in the galleys with the rest;

It gets lonely, I’d imagine,
you unable to decide
if those gathering around you
only jump on for the ride;
still, you yearn for fame and fortune
while the vacuum grows within
even thought at times you wonder
who’s the butterfly or pin;

On you ramble and you roll
exchanging favors for a smile,
and you know the jig gets hard
when you are dancing all the while;
never pausing, rarely stopping,
the insanity goes deep
and it fills you to the eyeballs
spreads like fungus on the creep;

Then the questions do provoke you
with self loathing and a jinx
when it strikes hard with a blight
you can’t endure like desert Sphinx;
that you’re drowning in delusion
feeling worthless to the core,
as your long-sought admiration
has reduced you to a whore;

Still, awash within the knowing
you’ll survive this, will endure
you await the dispensation
like some bounding, drooling cur;
let me say this with compassion
for your ignorance runs deep:
it’s time for pulling back the sword,
that journey is complete.

 

 

Composer

Communication is composition,
ideally orchestrated if fortuitous enough
to grasp one another by our carefully
chosen words;

Yet too often in bright headlamps
of passing thought trains, we stand
transfixed, unable to move forward
or back, confused and confounded,
misconstrued meaning having wrung us
flat through slight inflection, unintended
direction; our own mind grasping
that tempting baton and running directly
to the finish, team long forgotten,
striding solo in self imposed isolation,
owing sadly to misinformation.

Percussion


The grit of metaphor grinds slowly,
chafing the brain until words emerge,
runaway horses on the plains of pages,
hooves pounding sentiments, grafting
meaning onto senselessness resulting,
it is hoped, in broadening context
for eyes to behold, reversing imprints
from the retina, both sides of the story
or facets of the spinning mirror ball
that is existence.

 

charcoal pastel: Alison Johnson

Of Cycles and Metaphors

The waters of birth released me, dolphin-like,
into a realm of wonder and delight, only to realize
I was swimming with sharks; they, friendly enough
when sated, aggressive and dangerous when needy
and I swam for my life, filling lungs and stomach
and for the sheer sensation of viscous water
stroking sleek skin and oh, I kept on moving,
for once out of water I would perish;

The oceans were vast and dark and deep, caverns
and voids, brilliant colors and textures and hooks;
barbs dangling through refracted rays of sunlight,
tiny concentric circlets framing slender drop lines
nearly invisible, a too-tidy meal wrapped sinuously
around each of them, appearing not quite right
this fast food, still I was hungry and sampled the fare
and the hook jerked and jabbed, piercing my flesh,
tearing off bits here and there; it was painful,
yet still I remained at liberty to continue my journey;

On an on I swam, for what else is a dolphin to do;
each day the waters remained the same, each day
they changed, some tinged with toxic debris,
at other times those brilliant hues of turquoise
and indigo were balm to a weary heart and now,
decades later, I discover tiny hooks embedded still.
As I carefully dislodge each barb, there is
searing pain mitigated by relief; I am free,
if scarred. I am free.

Relics

We all die. Relics left behind for others,
once culturally defined, a slurry now
of overcooked vegetables in the melting pot
of what humanity has become;

For better, we are more homogenous,
conferring fewer reasons to hate
that which is and ever was kindred.
Knowing this, do we truly taste the apple
sweetness of experience, or drum up
further excuses to postpone joy?

At worst, we forget our ancestors,
those from whom we inherit genetically,
even behaviorally, perhaps to our peril;
for history, devoid of lessons learned,
proves a hollow saga sucked dry of juice;
a dessicated plum placed primly
alongside a backdrop of ripe peaches,
fruit of our potential
.

What traces will linger
in this adolescent nation whose excesses
are counterpart to senseless severity,
an artistic strangulation where
even the Rubenesque among us
yearn to be thin and dry as wraiths?

A society threatened by hips and thighs
is doomed to infertility of the imagination.

 

Tributaries

Black is the color of undefined space,
of chasms so large many fear to fall,
inky background behind the night rainbow
void of busy-ness of day,
flowing cleanly down the split shaft
of an old quill pen, seeping deeply
into dimples of vellum;

Striking contrast, none or full phases
of lunation, back to black, again
and anon, ebony skin bejeweled
in glorious hues, unruly hair
and wild patterned dress,
cradle of civilization suffused
with damp earthen heat;

Unsterile, untamed, U as in unify, more
like u-turn, what did I miss, back to origins,
basics, unity in community, necessitating
complementarity, muting
blinding tonalities of white;

Born into a dusky womb, darkness follows
into death, settled now into the earth,
home we take for granted
until breath and water are gone.

 

Birthday reflections, 2016

Birthdays and holidays have always been tricky for me. These are occasions where we indulge in the pleasure of being remembered by those we love, times we can feel a bit special and pampered. Or at least that’s true for many women I know, some givers to the point of exhaustion.

But here’s the quandary: for many years, my husband has borne the brunt of my disappointment, whether in him or in others who have occasionally failed to display requisite feedback. While on one hand I love celebrations, when paired with expectations they surely lead to disappointment. Chris is a practical guy, one who demonstrates devotion on a day to day basis. An earnest man, he is quick to assess, slower to process, yet inevitably one who seeks forgiveness when words or actions are out of line with his noble heart.

What my partner grants me every day I draw breath is priceless: the freedom to be, to explore, expand and contract, to write, reflect, take photographs, go back to school and embrace whatever each new day presents. In my personal history, freedom has always arrived with chains around its ankles. Too often it padded in on the heels of betrayal, jealousy and unspoken bargains and entitlement. I hardened myself early on, beginning by telling my father he could stuff his inheritance back into his bank book. I was not for sale, never would be.

Two faithless husbands followed that early family life, along with two blessed daughters. This duality did not escape me, for what was given always seemed to demand equal sacrifice. I worked both inside and outside the home, proving to an oblivious world that I was not a helpless, hapless victim. Still, lessons continued as they will. Clearly relationships were where my mettle was tested, but this did not become summarily obvious until well into my fifties.

Through no calculated means whatsoever, I got lucky. For over twenty years this man has stood by my side, and though our early days were fraught with growing pains, the peace we finally attained is beyond measure. Only in the past year or two have I begun to truly and utterly comprehend the scope and meaning of freedom, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with things money can buy. Which only goes to show that a media-driven society that equates purchases with love is juvenile, piteous and damaging to anything so fragile as the human heart. I wish I had learned this sooner, but am grateful to the core I learned it at all.

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