Poems

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.

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.

 

September 14, 2018

 

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.

 

September 6, 2018

 

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.

          April 2018

 

Rio Tijuana

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.

June 2018

 

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.

 

          November 2017

 

Lenten Hymn

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

Golgotha;

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

Pentecostal Fire.

February 2018

 

Cotton Candy

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.

May 2018

 

Quantum Night

There is no darkness,

only the quantum flux

of possibility

that cradles

all of heaven’s light

like a thousand torches

in the tender arms of night.

May 2018

 

The Journey Below

I.

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.

 

 

II.

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.

 

III.

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.

 

IV.

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.

June 2018

 

Roadside Memorial

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 –

Only becoming,

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.

April 2018

 

Suburban Requiem

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,

that swallows the echoes of apprehension

then evaporates into mystery,

That 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 –

A wordless song,

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 mysteries 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

awaiting re-creation

When the word at last regains

its silent mystery.

April 2018

 

On Switchblades and Axe-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

this naked

this cold.

 

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 cussing

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 axe 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.

March 2018

 

A Mother Among Saints

For January

 

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

waterless wasteland.

 

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.

February 2018

 

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 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.

Written November 2002, Revised 2018

 

What Lies Between Storm and Shine

So odd

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.

 

Stranger still

that on this sphere

of light and shadow and motion

we should chance to live

dare to love

and so soon expire

knowing somewhere

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.

Written November 2001, Revised 2018

 

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