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.

In Two

 

I: The Birds

I wanted to know where birds go in a storm,
how nature battens her dear ones down
in times of necessary turmoil
when she can longer suppress the urge
to discharge and flush herself clean
of burdens borne daily, clearing tangles
of detritus from her moss-laden hair;

Then just as my thoughts transmitted words
through these keys (and believe me,
I was lucid), the mynahs began their scolding,
assuring me they were close, refuge secure
in the backyard I planted for us all
in the lee, and I didn’t see evidence
of shaking heads and ruffled feathers
buffeted by winds and tipped with beads
of cloudburst, but was comforted
in their sheltering.

II: The Lava

I needed to witness molten rock flowing
to the sea, journeyed on further south,
trudging miles upon soles knowing purpose
far better than reason how to keep
this body safe, feet trembling uncontrollably
upon rocks holding fire just beneath crackling surface
while I, partnered up with a zoom, captured
shots just like this as I ached with the knowing
that such miracles and more will soon vanish
from view when my eyes renounce vision
to the nebulous Beyond.

 

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Cawk

One of them chuckles, teeth barely showing,
jaws tight as if guarding unspoken secrets
buried in the throat, while the other throws
back her head and chortles, mouth open
to the heavens as though urging every luminary
to brilliance unseen by spirits of the day;

A stilted gait belies the expansive soul within
the first and the loose-hipped one knows,
provoking by example, not taking life so seriously
after all, it’s okay to meander off-course,
the divergent path of Frost’s two
while a trail opens wild before her
unlike alien glass doors in cities imbued
with roundabout redundancy, not pondering
or questioning why and how
while laughter rings again and is not hollow
but full and deeply throated like the gutteral cry
of ravens relaying messages across the pinons.

 

~ photo of pinons taken with 110 Instamatic film when we lived in the high desert of New Mexico, 1991

 

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Colorwash

As the sun sets through the trees, I realize
another day is done, curtain dropped,
nothing special accomplished, only gratitude
for gardens greening, fruit ripening, flowers turning faces
to greet the dawn, meeting miracle of clean air and rich soil
as we slip in and out of shelter, hearts overflowing;

Home is sanctuary, place of recharge and rest,
restorative tonic healing interface between us
and the chaos outside our gates. At the end of the day,
there is none better; no comparison breeds contentment.
Each evening our gaze is fixed as fire abandons us
to the liquid indigo of night, exit stage left, vanishing
Houdini scattering gifts of glittering starlight
as promise, so we do not forget;

And it flows, glowing orb, down beyond the straight queue
of Norfolk pines, spreading belly like melting butter hitting
hot pan, bleeding into horizons beyond which we might
never venture. No one may beckon him back,
though lives depend upon his return on the morrow;
we must trust and trust again, each evening
of this lifetime and beyond.

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Periscopic

I wish to remember, recall feelings first experienced
when landing on Hawai’ian shores twenty-five years ago;
warm damp breezes on pale skin, imminence
of realities poking threadbare theories full of holes, prodding
into shapes of settle down, learn to receive,
attempt to extend roots into fire-cast soil
and face facts, sooner or later, transitions were being made;

Nose to nose, were it possible, I would not recognize
my own self back then, disconnected, disregarded
by my own standards, confusion and kids in tow,
headed for a new world, a new day, a new life
I had no idea was about to unfold
through glimmering forces refracted
in shadowy slits of unfocused eyes;

All this time later the memory encapsulates,
periscope Down, show over, nothing and all remains;
alone and unafraid, sharing bits of time together,
witness now to Laughing Thrush and Mejiro
fluffing unabashedly in backyard bathing,
maturing well before life removes them
from this perpetually greening world.

 

bj photo: 2016, Melodius Laughing Thrush youth

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Needlepoint

It might as well be my shroud.

Confusion of tapestry woven daily
in knobbly hues, threads pulled straight
when ease marks the course, twisted
and frayed when impaired;

How many acres of worries it covers!
Like prayer beads worn shiny with use,
stitched string upon string
until unnerved, I buckle under its bulk.

I want to conceal every footpath,
leaving no trace, a sandstorm scouring
undulating desert dunes. Instead, tracks
are buried, grooved deep into grey matter,
waiting in the wings, seeking flight
on thermals of my liberation.

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image: 2015, Santa Cruz, CA