Casting Shadows

What do we do when the words won’t come,
when we stand, stock-still, mouths agape,
dazzled by beauty and wonder and awe,
minds taking snapshots as if we might
capture a moment in time, whatever that is,
perception being everything;

What happens to us when we become unmoored,
tethers fraying, lone boat rocking, gasping
for breath, biting back deductions, holding
reservations, staving off fears of flying
away, over and out, yearning once again
for connection;

How then to manage without language
to provide signposts, a barometer of how
we connect, soul to soul, dot by dot
along an imaginary line drawn cleanly
through this maze of illusions;

When will we arrive at knowing more fully,
if ever, reasons we were drawn into this vortex
called relationship, whether mother or lover,
friend or companion, like spokes on a wheel
turning onto spiral paths to infinity,
diminutive footprints scoring that well-trod
alleyway to nowhere and everything.

all images ©Bela Johnson

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.

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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Poetic Angst

Hearts worn fragile on expectation
can’t survive this world unwhole;
transform stagnant, rout out tension,
shake the body and warm the soul;

Creation seethes with complication,
chase of swordplay-brandished past;
in this age of subtler doings,
heed the chances slipping fast;

Survey all with keen awareness
while the pall around us lurks,
all will perish, none escapes it,
what was valued now seems cursed.

Seed the ground with brief renewal,
dig the holes and plant the trees;
earth births fire as well as water,
brings all structures to their knees;

Since you ask me what I’m feeling,
read these words that conjure depth;
yet instead you crave more banter,
sweet libations on the breath;

While I hunker down with rawness,
speaking seems quite needless then,
knowing well this deep reflection pours
unceasing from the pen.

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Circuitous

How can we hold harmless
the jealousy of poets,
artists of the mind who articulate
where others flounder,
dry-docking on their facts?

Words spoken burn daylight
and time cannot retract itself,
no excusing, bowing out.

Forgive us then, the endless pondering,
refining knee-jerks, transforming;
editing reserved for the pensive
turning corners with phrases,
rounding bends of the imagination.

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