Daily Archives: December 22, 2017

The Shapeless Dark Of Joy

— From a prompt by Thea Mann.

Whenever we reach for
peace in the night
and find it, 
whether in the reassurance
of the child still breathing
in the crib
or in the feel of a lover’s skin
still warm to our touch, even
if only when we place one foot
firmly on the floor
to prove to ourselves
that the horror of the dream
has ended, we understand
the shapeless dark of joy —
how it has no form, no
visible face, but instead
settles upon us like warmth
rekindled after a cold wind
has stopped blowing; how
it moves us from fear to comfort
without any apparent effort of its own. 

The Day I Was Born

— From a prompt from Barby Jane Lumb.

The world on the day I was born?

Oh, I can’t recall.

was president. I know that much.
Nixon was looking for his seat,
I know that.  Kennedy wanted it
bad enough to steal it, not knowing
he’d die after getting it. 

Elvis Presley
was in another part of the hospital
I was born in that day, getting some kind
of physical before mustering out
of the service, leaving the building
as I was coming in, haha,
I’ve told that joke forever but
it’s the truth though it’s another thing
I don’t recall.

All this
was coming down — how things
were going to change was in the air —
Elvis about to lose his edge, Kennedy
about to lose his life, Nixon
about to lose — all that was going on

and there I was
squalling like a storm,
like I knew what was coming.

The Heir

— From a prompt by Jeff Stumpo.

in an anteroom the size of
a fairy tale palace

the prince of the moment
eldest son of the king

schemes in stage whispers
to burst out of the door

and tell a little white lie
the size of a gingerbread house

full up with cannibals
and unsuspecting victims

a fatal little story
about the trickle down effects

of shed blood
on dry skin

in hope that he will be
believed just long enough

to get his in the form of
a treasure the size of a dragon’s hoard

and all around
the people fall for it

and fail to notice how
he is as lizard-dry as any dragon

already and sweats not at all
neither water nor blood

as he lies and pontificates
and schemes and swindles

the way he learned to do it
from his father the king

whose wary, puffy eyes
are turned in suspicion upon his son

just as the son’s eyes are turned
upon his father with equal caution

though neither can see the other
through the greed that fills his view

while the world dies
before them in service to a hunger

the size of a mountain perched
on a larger mountain — 

two blind men defending
their precious darknesses

Final Wishes

If at the end of 
a long enough life you find
that there are still stories
you’d rather not tell yourself,

that would be the time
to sit down with your choice
of writing tools and put them
into someone else’s
imaginary mouth.

The storyteller you create
might look like you or not.
Might sound like you
or not. Might have every detail
perfectly recorded for playback,
might not. But the gist of 
what you’ve never said
should come through and
it had damn well better be
true, true enough

that when you listen
to the telling you can say
in utter peace
that you’re free of those tales and

you can feel something charitable for them
now that they’re loosed from prison.
Their new freedom adorns them
the way a cape laid upon
the shoulders of a hero endows them
with a certain energy. 

Listen: there’s so much
that gets left over in each life,
so much that goes to waste.
Do you really want to be a party to that,
to hold inside
what has stunted you and deformed you
until you pass on and it escapes,
snarling, into the dark to grow 
into something beyond all our worst fears?

Let them out.
Prepare to die empty.
Give those rotten fables a voice,
see who they might save.

If nothing else you might find room
for better tales within
before you go.