This is a running list of my own original works that I feel are of sufficient quality to share with my readers. Generally, these are works that I have composed since 2017, however there are a few revised versions of older works dating back to 2001. Anyway, I hope you enjoy.
Note to Self Regarding Old Songs
Say not thou, what is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.
I went mining for memories in music made old by decades and dust,
Only to find yesterday’s songs stuck in yesterday.
There was the ballad that reminded me of her –
The kind of her that can only exist in the past,
In the sort of love can only end in failure,
Like the game of hide-and-seek she lost interest in and walked away
While I was too young to know when to quit looking.
Another song reminded me of that old dream
Now collecting dust on a tapestry whose history would never be woven,
Shrouded behind Arachne’s ghostly webs,
Before anyone told me what we all must learn:
The future is a perfect fiction
We write in our minds when we still haven’t learned to be still.
I said to my soul, be still –
Leave the charge of inescapable vanity
On Qoheleth’s lips and yesterday in yesterday.
The past is never gilded, it was a gut-punch to be endured,
If you endure, it was not in vain.
I said again to my soul, be still, the music never ends
And the only melodies worth losing yourself in are playing here, now;
The only love immune from failure is what you give here, now
When your happiness ceases to matter.
There are only so many notes, do not forget what matters most –
How they are played, and how they are heard.
Every song worth remembering is a variation on a theme
That is playing here, now and will play again.
And, the memories worth remembering
Harmonize here, now, and hereafter
In a future that needs no dreams to exist,
Which is being inexorably shaped
By the very present to which you are present.
The Late Watch
An Advent Poem
The choking smoke loiters through the late watch on the valley floor
As a smoldering parody of Tule Fog
After the fire made cinders of Paradise.
Hark, a chilling voice is sounding, a Second Coming nigh;
At November’s ending the watchman sends his asking –
Is this the hell of fire or
Is this the hell of ice?
Perhaps, the anchorwoman says, a hundred dead,
On the Sacramento evening news,
Perhaps a thousand missing.
And among the singed survivors a groaning
Echoes in every silent tear making a trail
Down ash-caked faces.
The blood sun burns red behind the incense vapors
Cast like a funeral veil across the sky
For the passing of Paradise.
Is this the hell of fire or
Is this the hell of ice?
A chilling voice is sounding, a Second Coming nigh.
So hastens the watchman, his chilling voice resounding –
Every tremor in the earth,
Every sword drawn and redrawn in reply,
Every land wracked with disease
These past twenty centuries lead me to concede,
The end is always beginning, the Second Coming nigh
And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars,
And on the earth the distress of nations.
Every echo of Paradise is a road dusted with ashes,
A trail traced in tears.
The late watch waxes upon history’s rampart
For the Dawn that seems no sooner in the coming.
Still the watchman hastens the day,
While underfoot crunches the cinders of Paradise
With only faith to carry his feet.
Hark, a chilling voice is sounding and faith alone can know
The difference between a dawn erupting
In the dark, but still in time;
And the Dawn irrupting again, at last, from beyond time
That will draw time to its ending.
So waits the watchman, chilled and chilling
For that Dawn whose only whispers
Are wars and rumors of wars
And fires upon the mountain while
The choking smoke loiters through the late watch on the valley floor.
“…there is in all the things of earth a hidden glory waiting to be revealed, more radiant than a million suns…”
– David Bentley Hart, The Doors of the Sea
When you peer into the night
and look upon those ancient lights
that have spanned the void
for untold ages to pour into your eyes,
some having bridged billions of years
since that primordial bang, remember –
you too are a portal to another universe;
fear no darkness, nor chaos, nor crushing cold,
this is the mysterious space
where soon countless suns shall shine.
You are the nexus between unnumbered worlds within
and the bright myriads of worlds without,
remember – so are all your friends
and so are all your enemies,
and every tender word explodes like a quasar
that warms the perplexing vacancy
between one soul and the next.
So turns these cosmic constellations
around the One from whom we all proceed;
whose song is this celestial dance of light and life,
enfolding every distance, every difference
within an everlasting embrace,
dispelling every discordant darkness
into a deeper, brighter melody
while hymning our inexorable return
to the Word that is sung in every star.
Oak of Mamre
When at last I’ve crossed that blessed bar
And my bones are long buried in the dust,
I trust that they will become
The sturdy roots of some ancient oak;
That gives his branches to the birds.
This is the way of things in this becoming world;
Between being and nonbeing,
Between the first breath and the last,
And the long passage to a sudden end –
Life must give itself to life
Beneath the dappled shadows of the oak.
Yet, I trust from this frail beginning
That death’s final goal soars in the heavens
Among those birds born from my bones,
Where light transcends all dappling shade,
And the tears that made this dust fertile will
Deliquesce to grace that ends all ending.
A Lullaby in the Storm
Don’t worry child, the flickers aren’t the
horror film projection of your nightmares,
or the fiery arrows of an intemperate god.
The rumbles aren’t the drumbeat
of giants warring in the sky,
or boulders crashing down the mountain.
The sheets of water that beat the window
beside your bed aren’t a wind-blown flood,
or a wind-tossed sea sent to capsize you.
Remember Mother Mary’s lullabies,
pull them like blankets over your ears.
Don’t fear the storm tonight, look –
look how the dark sky dances alive to the
cadence of water and light and sound.
The downpour will not drown you, no –
no, it will give way to softer showers
and the showers to softer flowers
when the sun returns to kiss the ground.
Don’t worry child the monsters cannot harm you,
they’re only shadows on the wall.
The Aeropagite Upon the Shore
For – Father Kimel
The Beach and I became brothers in blood.
When I was a child I stepped upon a broken bottle –
perhaps it was all that remained of a tide-tossed message
whose words became water.
When I was a child I stepped upon a broken bottle
and my blood became the sand
and my blood became the water
and the scar remains as does the sand
and the Beach became my brother.
The sea-song remains with me and the Sea remains Herself,
refracting a thousand broken shafts of Sunfire.
The Sea remains my Mother,
singing Her song to me and to my brother.
The Sea remains Herself
and her tides proceed toward Her shoreward sons
and we return again, enfolded in Her arms
and the song never ends.
Tears swell along Rio Tijuana’s littered banks
strewn with debris and dreams beyond it’s shore,
for a Liberty whose arms no longer open
to the tired, the hungry, the huddled masses.
A Nation’s soul sours in fear’s ferment
behind a wall built of block and iron
that became our prison.
We cannot countenance a God
who beholds no borders but holds to himself
children in a mother’s embrace, and mourns the world that
rips them from her arms for the sake of law’s cold precision,
as if He has forgotten Maria’s breast that held him near,
and does not cherish the blessed moment
when humanity first cradled Him
in the hope that on some distant day
they might learn to hold each other.
The Journey Below
Go, go on raven wings wafting in the night.
Go where dragon fire flows upon the Acheron,
Where Leviathan lurks in the mingling waters of Phlegethon.
Violent whispers – their only venom
There are no teeth, no claws, only the echoes of desperation,
But the fire is yours until the thoughtless is purged to thought.
Tread, tread with empty hands and fearless feet;
Tread across the hazy moors of Hades,
Where shades haunt the mounds and rocks
All history rests there, and rests in you
All shadows, all fears are yours
And your path alone to tread.
Sail, sail the unknown seas that lap and roil
Sail into the unthinking mind.
Become Magellan drawn by mystery
Into the abysmal fountains,
Where young memories grow old
And time crawls on until the arresting moment
Makes them young again.
Rest, rest upon the wind tossed hills
Rest down in that world below,
And watch the wars that rage
Between saints and monsters
That pull the passions around the impassive flame,
And know the bellicose Alchemy that gives breath to soul
Will lead your weary eyes to rest at last.
Time is our ignorance. – Carlo Rovelli, from Reality Is Not What it Seems
Cotton candy mist hovers over the schoolyard
and dissolves in dawn’s incandescent mouth,
the order of time resolves
in the heat of the moving world.
Sunshine on the sandbox swallows the echoes
of footfall and half-forgotten freedom
before the ringing bell,
before the classroom taught the child to hope for escape,
before the hourglass became his ignorance and his prison.
There is no darkness,
only the quantum flux
all of heaven’s light
like a thousand torches
in the tender arms of night.
A Strip Mall Hymn
The flat-light of an age worn strip mall on the edge of a dying town
An anytown, anywhere and nowhere
of the pharmacy, of the fast-food restaurant
of the supermarket, of the dry cleaner, of the smoke shop;
Calls out in the rain soaked night where streetlight halos
are mirrored on wet asphalt and echo the holy longings
of long-departed saints
Where the storefront’s dim-lit promises
of pills for peace from the storm-tossed bed,
of food empty of the memory of the land that birthed it
or the blood ransom of the slaughterhouse,
of wardrobes undisturbed by the frail fingers
of the overworked child in an overlooked factory
forgotten in some foreign corner,
of carcinogens that make the pain of distraction tolerable –
Still these broken lights pouring out on broken souls
Speak of something sacred, undimmed, unhoped and hoped
Lingering beyond the wet shadows on the eastern horizon.
Beneath the façade and the hidden frauds
That shadow the back alley
And the dumpster, the detritus, the distractions
Lies something precious, hidden
as precious things must be –
Of the self unselfed and selfed in return
and free in the rain
Among the streetlight saints
And the faceless faces full of hope and lost hope,
Full of hope through the empty fullness of the soul –
for the dance
for the hope of the dance
of baptism in the rain-lit night
beneath the broken lights
Where strip mall signs signify sacred longings
that aren’t for sale
that surrender at last to the stillness
and to the dance.
For a young woman killed on the road near my home.
All things return to dust and carry in them
the memory of primordial stars,
Memory of the river pressed through concrete
in the power lines beside the road
Memory of the forest in the telephone pole.
In this world there is no is –
The wind becomes the hawk’s wings
that carries it from the telephone pole on updrafts
descending to the scrub oak shade.
The rattlesnake becomes the hawk
after the deadly dance.
Violence befits the moving world moving to its still end,
when all is well and violence becomes impassible peace.
Youth becomes renewed in the birth of every moment
and passes in the death of the moment
and all pass too soon
and all become memory.
Faded asphalt scarred by sun and wind
and travelers at the intersection
of time and timeless.
Immortality at the roadside memorial
where wind tossed grass and milkweed blossoms dance
in the syncopated draft of passing cars.
The intersection is crowned with a cross
for a daughter to soon in passing,
All things return to dust,
to the memory of stars that still dance in her eyes.
Immemorial mountains cradle the
suburban roads smoldering in the vale,
Summer mirages’ liquid dance,
And rhythmic beating through black arterial lines
In the shadow of sacramental signs of consumptive desire –
empty promises of sexed satisfaction
and satiated hunger on every noisy corner,
That rip like razor-wire through lungs empty of the sacred Breath.
Still the black oak grows in slow-time,
Limbs outstretched in perpetual embrace of heaven,
of the holy Breath respiring the memory of life,
Rooted beside the burning black lines transecting
The vale that has forsaken stillness.
Night descends upon a track-house window
among other flickering windows,
A voice in the darkness –
son of man cry out.
I answer –
what shall I cry?
A whisper in return –
behold the wordless wilderness,
where the endlessly informed
remain ignorant of the word spoken
the word suffuse in the ageless mountain,
in the oak, in the cricket’s nocturne song.
Again I answer,
how long O Lord?
The Voice resounds,
until desolations are wrought upon the earth
and word is restored of meaning.
The voice of rushing waters
poured and flushed from the water-closet,
called forth by the push and pull of levers
Still flow into the susurrant sea-song,
and the word, like water’s liquid meaning,
is pressed through the surface tension,
where apprehension evaporates into mystery;
while that same mystery
pulls the evening vapor onshore
like the silent beat of pelican wings
over the formless void
of flickering windows
of the coastal cityscape.
The whimbrel’s long beak trumpets
a tremulous whistle –
signifying the suffuse word
that fills the updrafts beneath her wings
and binds her to the tidal sands
that cradle the arterial highway –
shaded by signs for donuts and beer
and better mufflers that
mute the mystery of
an unspoken language.
California’s coasts and valleys
are the world and everywhere,
are the formless void where the sacred Breath
hovers upon land and sea
and valley and noisy cityscape
and desolations of deaf hearts
when the word at last reveals
its silent mystery.
On Switchblades and Ax-Handles and Love
Love is a switchblade
between your ribs
late at night
after your third date
when it dawns on you
she’s the last woman you’ll ever take to dinner,
you’ll know you’re a dead man walking
when you see blood on your hand
after pulling it from your chest.
Love is the furious tears
on your child’s hand
you’re holding to your cheek
through the beeps and chatters of a
midnight vigil beside a hospital bed
as you choke on the bitter pill
that you can’t fix him
and that love wasn’t supposed to feel
Love is the echoes
on the back of your retinas
that you can see every time
you close your eyes
long after the darkness
swallowed the fireworks
that keep you stumbling forward
when there’s nothing left
but stubbed toes
and hurt feelings that never seem
to get unhurt.
Love is the boots
that holds your feet fast
to no-man’s land
when your family’s the Bloods
and your family’s the Crips
and you cannot take a side,
all might be fair in love and war
but there aren’t winners in either – only
casualties and survivors,
which are two words for the same truth.
Love is the business-end of an ax handle
thrust in your gut
that robs your breath
that steals your strength
that makes you weak in the knees
and in repayment it gives
sorrow mixed with joy
until every memory is filled with both
and the only way to duck the blow
and escape the pain
is to refuse the precious wounds
only love can give.
Midwinter frost on the predawn window peers out into darkness
through the mists of time to Sinai’s mountain;
where the darkness of God roars from the secret place of thunder,
the sound of boulders crack and tumble over the cobblestones of
a storm-tossed shore.
Moses recalls the consuming Fire of the bush unburned,
awaiting a greater Light to blaze in the darkness.
Lenten snow blankets the pocked mounds and craters
on the field of Verdun,
forgotten bones lay in frozen silence beneath,
their cries unable to break the ground above.
The raven call in the surrounding wood beckons his flock to feed
on the carrion of a nameless beast.
The red dust and blood-stained sepulchers in the Valley of Vision
full of rusting bones that tarry –
watchmen in the long night for dawn’s breaking,
to hear Ezekiel’s divine utterance –
the alchemy of Aionian fire to purge and quicken their frames
with flesh unalloyed, golden, drossless into undying Zion.
Jude, whose brow was crowned with Pentecostal fire,
whose tongue uttered ecstatic songs we long to sing,
remember us who wander lost in the hopeless wastes
perceiving only darkness and thunder on the holy hill,
pining to behold that Fire within.
Origen, who now reclines at the celestial banquet to feast on grace,
help our hearts bear the bitter truth in the wilderness we now trod –
that which is most beautiful is most maligned.
Julian teach us the behovliness of this broken world,
that soon, soon the Aionian fire shall make
all manner of things well
and burn away the rot that wracks all that is wretched within.
Good Shepherd gather your lost on a thousand hills to the lonely peak of
Let us at last hear the seraph’s song that kindles joy in the hearing;
Until at long last all creation is alight with unceasing incandescence of
A Mother Among Saints
The stars peer through tiny holes poked in the black night
to remind you that Light shines beyond the darkness,
upon the dark within,
where the lonely road winds through the
Still, you are graced with quiet motion
and courage in the silent moment,
with outstretched wings to embrace with furious love –
A son with a wounded heart and a tender soul;
A son whose wild fire irradiates a sweet spirit;
A daughter whose eyes dance with precious life.
In the lonely hour you are in the company of saints –
the snow capped peaks of San Gorgonio and San Jacinto,
the green hills of San Marcos that flow into Escondido’s hidden valley,
the shores of San Diego where broken shafts of the westward sun
pour through fire-kissed clouds that bruise the evening sky
and scatter upon the blue Pacific –
You are surrounded by the saints and wrapped in Heaven-shine
that fills your home and reminds you
that the world is full of stillness and motion and light
and so are you.
A River’s Course
be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart – Ranier Rilke
I am a storm-child
born beneath shadows of basalt cliffs
and snow-clad evergreen.
I rage with gin clarity
through the mountains
empty of earth or her stains.
In the slow time of youth
I flee an incomprehensible past
and rush to an unknowable future
not perceiving the cascade
these rapids portend,
until I wake on the flatlands
to learn at last –
I have been falling all along.
I am a wanderer
winding serpentine on the earth
savoring her secrets and sediments
and strange new lands and life
and the mud and mysteries
that abound between my banks.
Time speeds as my waters slow
and in their roll – the sacramental scars
and sweet splendor of a distant youth.
I am a memory
my story is written in water
and sung in the crystalline blue
of the Æonean sea –
where I can flow at last
and at last be lost.
Composed December 2002, Revised January 2018
A Surf Session for Sam
Dear brother –
I’d uncloak the heavens for you tonight
and wrap you in the warmth
of the waning day’s lucid heat,
to watch your dance upon the breakers.
The Pacific longs to hide you
behind her glass curtains
as you caress her cool face,
sharing the secrets of motion and balance
buoyance and baptism.
I’d rob the westward sun
of all his burning gold
and cast it over those waters
graced by your effortless glide.
A generous thief,
his wealth is only precious to me
as a gift for you,
to watch your dance upon the breakers.
Composed November 2002, Revised January 2018
What Lies Between Storm and Shine
I always thought
how light like a pacifist
drifts away on the winds
before the storm conquers the sky
and the sun surrenders its shine
or how barometric conflict
brings such beauty upon the earth.
that on this sphere
of light and shadow and motion
we should chance to live
dare to love
and so soon expire
between the agony
and the ecstasy
lies the stillness
for which we so languish
and so long
that conspires to persist
not in the storm’s absence
but in its midst.
Composed November 2001, Revised December 2017
Zeno’s Nocturne Hymn
The moment freezes the arrow in midair,
the black oak leaves encased in the amber afternoon
remain still while the cold breezes between
autumn and winter blow.
Time and motion cease at the still point
and point to the beginning of motion and time
and their end.
Emptiness and fullness are the child
of the same mother,
who was with the LORD before all worlds
when the Word was spoken in the beginning.
She is ours in fear and the end of fear
when at last fools learn wisdom and renounce
the poisoned fruit of our first garden.
Knowledge is regained in unknowing and
trembling ceases when we learn to tremble.
The autumn rose shrugs off her mysterious bud
at the thorned end of her ascent,
still, ever and always still the blossom lingers
in the eternal moment,
and what is precious is lost upon the frosts of winters morning.
Her petals make the slow descent
to the barren soil and blanket the sepulcher
when time begins again at its Lenten end.
Calm midnight is forever still and
starlight frozen in unceasing circuit.
Orion ceases in the moment
between past and future and forever shines.
The oaken leaves in November’s amber afternoon
are called and recalled into the ceaseless night by memory;
where the past is made immortal in the present,
where future leaves rattle in tomorrow’s breeze
under the same still starlight.
Oak and rose, Advent and Lent
are the same child of the same Mother,
ascending and descending on the still point,
sharing the same seed of Eden and Gethsemane.
The thorned bud ascends from the same Sepulcher.
Midnight and afternoon
stand forever still in the same memory.
In the Beginning – An American Myth
When you’re going to hit something on the nose, hit it hard and fast and often.
— Aristotle… or Confucius (whatever, I found the quote on the internet)
… Only the flicker
Over the strained time-ridden faces
Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies empty of meaning…
— TS Eliot from Burnt Norton, The Four Quartets
In the beginning the American Man created the suburban home. The world was a scary place, full of people who didn’t think or look like him. So, he sat on his La-Z-Boy and brooded over the chaos, thinking on what he might make of it.
Then he said, “Let there be a flickering light that will echo and shout by day and by night; that will tell me what to think, what to drink, and what to buy.” So he divided the noisy light full of pictures and words and sounds into little screens of their own and called it TV. Later that day, Best Buy delivered and installed all his new stuff. Morning and evening passed without notice, and time no longer mattered so long as the TV was on. That was day one.
The next morning, after he checked his emails and Twitter feed he said, “Let there be a white picket fence around my property to let everyone know that this is my stuff, and let it keep the immigrants and weirdos out.” Then he guzzled a six-pack in the mid-afternoon and passed out in his La-Z-Boy. So, his wife went to the Home Depot parking lot and hired some Mexicans to build the fence. That was day two.
Late the next morning, nursing a hangover, he said, “Let there be a cartoon of a ranch home, poorly built and almost identical to fifty other units in this sprawling subdivision where I can eat, sleep, shower, shave, and shit without being disturbed. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, let the best of the farm and the wilderness be combined in the worst way possible and let it be called the yard. And make sure the front-gate stays closed so the neighbor’s stupid dog doesn’t take another steaming turd on the lawn.” That was day three.
The next morning, he awoke in a cross mood and said, “Dammit, the TV’s not enough in this Information Age. Let there be laptops and tablets and smartphones and let their bright screens rule the day and night. Let their noisy speakers fill every room in this house so my family can ignore each other in peace.” Morning and evening were again forgotten as every eye and ear in the house were filled with information and images without ever enduring the nuisance of being informed. That was day four.
The next morning, he said, “This McMansion is the size of a Bronze-Age palace, but it seems empty, what it needs is more stuff. Let there be a fully-furnished dining room that no one will ever use. Let this house teem with marble and granite and hardwood and a wet bar on the patio with a barbecue and an outdoor entertainment system, and let there be a wet bar in the man-cave as well so that there will be nowhere in the house where we can’t try to forget what we refuse to remember. Let us finance an abundance of useless crap that we cannot afford so that we are shackled to debts we can never repay: toys, toys and more toys, gas guzzling SUV’s and jet-skis, and snow-mobiles, and motorcycles so that we can persist in the illusion that usable energy is inexhaustible, and the myth that we are most happy when we cannot be still. The American Man looked at all of his stuff and told himself and everyone else that it was good, and he hoped that this was true. That was day five.
The next morning the American Man ripped a bong-load of legal marijuana, and as he ate his Cap’n Crunch he said, “Let’s have a couple of kids, because I guess that’s what we’re supposed to do now. We’ll pump them full of psychoactive pills and teach them how to navigate the carrots and sticks, the hamster wheels, and the smoke and mirrors of the American Dream so they can feel hollow like everyone else.”
He took another hit and said, “Let us create social-media platforms in our image. Let us post pictures and tweets and thoughts and competitive fantasies to the faces we call friends. Let these friendly abstractions share their perfect fictions with us and let us agree to the delusion that these insecure projections are real. Let us constantly check our feeds for likes and retweets and heart-shaped emojis that mimic significance. Let us cast our glittering icons and endless words into this virtual world that insulates us from a silent universe that screams out to us in a language we refuse to learn.”
The American Man reclined in his chair, uneasy from the sensation of an actual thought. Then he inhaled another bong-load and played video games for the next six hours. Finally, the he rose from his La-Z-Boy and looked at all that he made and spent his life in furious pursuit of and went to the refrigerator for a box of wine and soon forgot what he was thinking about. In no time at all he passed out in his chair with a plate of nachos on his belly. That was day six.
Thus the cosmic suburban bubble was complete and crammed so full of stuff that the American Man could barely perceive the emptiness that filled it all.
By the seventh day the American Man was spent from his toilsome week on his La-Z-Boy. He told himself that he needed time for himself to ‘just chill’. So, he hallowed the seventh day with guacamole, bean dip, and a case of strong ale and watched football from morning to night. The day had ended, and for some reason something in his soul still ached as he staggered to bed, so he resolved to knock himself out and downed a Xanax with a shot of whiskey and drifted into a dreamless sleep.
… then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “all is vanity.”
— Ecclesiastes 12:7-8
The above poems are my own original works. All rights reserved.
© Jedidiah Paschall