Poetic Angst

There is an economy in words, blunted
kindergarten shears in the hands
of an earnest student, shaping patterns
already memorized in forest and field;

A poet’s dilemma as nature herself
spreads and grows, chaos becoming her
in forest and glade, streams crashing,
gushing through boulder-encrusted banks
as gnarled roots of trees wrap stones
in a thirsty quest to survive what is
to come, waning light and the crunch
of frost-encrusted gravel underfoot.

All photos taken in Washington State (©Bela Johnson)

 

Confusion

What do I want to
Do with my life?

To explore and explode
a thousand thoughts
and color-filled words
that spill out and scramble
for the page … Confusion!

It’s all I want, and
then the pictures begin
scrolling, rolling on the
insides of my eyelids
and I am dazzled
and amazed and fully
invigorated by those
visions as well;

Then I wonder about focus
and how I could possibly
slice the creative pie
I’ve been eyeing all my
life, drooling until I die
over-stuffed, never
sated.

slice of home ~ bj

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

Ink Blot

Quill pressed to vellum
and the raven liquid bleeds
onto the page, seeping
into parchment as words impress
themselves on minds of those
who seek elucidation;

There is no turning back
save the alchemy of fire,
while a mere century later,
fingers snap plastic keys
as a chosen cypher spins
into centrifuges turning out
multiple languages simultaneously
in a virtual world where assurance
of retrieval is never warranted;

Still we tap away, searing mots
into memories like images
of aging film stars who can never erase
a thirty year-old face from the fantasies
of future generations.

image: Amanda Johnson

written in response to the prompt “quill:” https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/quill/

 

 

Run-on

All my life I’ve struggled with the spoken word. Anytime I engage in conversation, I’ve got a litany of words streaming through my head, Matrix-like, and must sort through them in order to ensure what I’m about to say lends proper weight, meaning, gravitas. At the same time, I’m aware most people couldn’t care less. But I can’t alter who I am at whim. Meanwhile I cringe as others begin drifting away, looking furtively from side to side as though they want to be anywhere but inside of this suddenly far-too-complex interaction.

While making conversation might be easy for some, consider the bane of a thesaurus-like brain. If you really can’t or don’t want to stretch your imagination, simply consider the paradox that is the (American) English language. (This should  be easy for those of you for whom English is your second language.) Although I have passing knowledge of French and Spanish, I lack fluency, though I’d like to believe there are languages out there that make it easier to say what one means and thus to mean what one says. Spoken (American) English seems facile only if one does not seek to use it too creatively.

Take for instance the greeting, How are you? Really, and I’ve found this to be disappointingly true, most folks don’t want to know how I am. Instead they simply desire the briefest of intercourse, want mirrored back to them that all is well in their world. Thus I have discovered the proper answer is simply Great! or Fine! or Fabulous! Or if I haven’t the stomach for perfidy, I can always get away with a simple Okay. (Period. Or dot-dot-dot.) More than the most cursory reply seems to hold little interest, and I can’t bear dismissive looks anyway. The word pleasantries does not really fit and yet its meaning does: inconsequential banter, though I don’t find it pleasant in the least; do forgive my honesty. I find it banal and shallow.

Consider the word discriminate. I do not discriminate based on color, gender, sexual proclivity or religious viewpoint. But I do discriminate when it comes to the quality of my interactions. If I didn’t, I’d ramble on to a four year-old about my future plans for education or my mother’s bad knees. If I did not discriminate, I might find myself in a dangerous situation. Or I might choose eggs when I really wish I would have eaten the chicken instead, though this is purely metaphor, being vegetarian these days. All this before I open my mouth.

While I strive not to judge others knowing it is unfair, if I do not judge anything about them or about myself, if I fail to have opinions about human behavior or with regard to various life situations, I’d never be able to write. Anything. At all. It’s simply the way I’m wired.

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In Your Midst

Each time I am asked, my spirit is willing,
yet somehow I still suffer from a sort of social malaise,
and I cannot name where it comes from,
save enormous overwhelm in situations
where many discover delight.

I know I may fool you, for I genuinely love people,
though I am ill suited to groups and exposure,
small one hiding under desks, trying her damndest
to remain invisible, the observer, the writer,
the introvert shoved onstage, deer in footlights,
yearning only for the quiet of forest and stream
and creatures who do not conclude.

Still I soldier on, tears streaming down weary cheeks,
attempting to share my humanity, my heart;
participating in the human dance
for the first time in over thirty years of isolation;
and when I try and stop the waters,
it’s like imploding on myself, bursts of mortar
and powder, notwithstanding.

This tearing up is not stifled emotion,
decades of mining the depths of my soul; neither is it
a call for sympathy or pity, I cannot imagine
what my own sobs bring up in you, we do not share lives.
Still, despite discomfort, I vibrate to the strings
that tether us, sensing the tremolos of repression,
and perhaps the gods in their eternal quest
for amusement simply interject
this collage of a human, cobbled together
with paste and faded construction paper
into your midst for reasons unfathomable,
especially to her.

 

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Itch

You like it, you do not –
I really don’t care
enough to stop writing
what comes through my hair
straight into my brain,
fixing there.

When shadows collect,
fester under the skin,
they erupt like a boil
leaking poison within.
I would much rather offer
my musings to you –
even have you reject them –
than to cleave self in two.

iu

Perspectives on Truth

I used to be completely committed to telling the truth. In a way, I still am. What the requisites are, however, has changed. It seems the older I get, the more valuable incorporating other viewpoints becomes; for what, ultimately, is The Truth? Perspective must be considered when exploring this in any given situation.

I realize in the past, part of the truth telling was predicated more upon the rightness of my own thinking rather than the ultimate truth in context and content. Defending my claim to rightness was a byproduct of fear, though I wouldn’t have called it that at the time.

For all the good an early religious upbringing may have accomplished, it did no service when it locked me into a belief structure so tightly that I feared anything contradictory. God, as perceived by The Church, might be wrong, and I could not go there. Disentangling myself from a fundamentalist background took many years. I was well into my thirties before I was brave enough to crawl out from under the rock of that crumbling stanchion. The result has been a continuing unfolding of greater universal truths and a more grounded, relaxed state of being. Seeing God in everyone and in every living thing has paradoxically allowed me to actually walk the walk, rather than simply sitting at the feet wishing only to be worthy. Enough.

The longer I live, the more I am aware of what I do not and cannot know. Experience is so objective that I now take a brief mental pause before responding, if needed. There are as many ways of looking at the same issue as facets to a diamond. Pause, reflect, reset. Then write. And write some more.

2014-08-10 10.27.11

 

 

Reciprocity

As a writer and an introvert, I need solitude. Lots of it, every day. Mental, physical, psychic, energetic space in which to recharge and to maintain balance. The older I get, the greater the impulse toward spaciousness, as if somehow my spirit knows that, by the end, I can’t take anything with me but pure consciousness. Where I am at that exit point is the platform from which I will dive into eternity. No deathbed redemption, no excuses. The work, for me, is ongoingly in the here and now.

To clear a path in the wilds requires careful culling. As I continue learning from and rearranging the natural world, it follows that I would, at some point, embrace the concept of complementarity. I wish I’d learned it sooner. Being a giver by nature, I have finally grown weary of users and the disingenuous. I have, at long last, developed discernment between unconditional acceptance and determining who to share the depths of my soul with.

I used to think that cutting the detritus from my life meant throwing others away. Now I realize I am not metaphorically tossing human bodies onto rubbish heaps, I am simply recognizing certain incompatibilities. All beings possess value. Utilizing that concept to lift others up is what I seek to practice more consistently. Thus it is almost imperative to cultivate this trait in those with whom I share quality time; my joys as well as my deepest sorrows. To hold one another dearly requires a depth of genuine, heartfelt expression that mirrors back and forth, encouraging a greater mutual contribution to the whole. To cherish this closeness requires more than concepts and words. Like any good polyculture, it requires the dynamism of reciprocity.