Helianthus

 

In the dialed face

of the sunflower did rest

a reflection of the sun

light giving the plant

brilliance to digest.

 

Shimmer along yellow

petals gilding the rays

feathered out in fine detail

for the wandering eye

to celebrate.

 

The flower is a palette

contrasting the glance—

light and dark balancing act—

an optic harmony

to a sun-lit dance.

 

Don’t Knock the Vernacular

I read (again) The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams. I was reminded how Williams assembled a small group of simple words. They were just words, but imported great meaning in a brief space. Williams, a pediatrician, became inspired to write the poem while making a house-call for a patient. Did the chickens represent payment for his services? Could payment even be considered as his thoughts also lingered over the condition of his patient? We may never know, but what we can infer, is that nothing in this poem is insignificant. Every word is dependent upon the other, much as the imagery in this piece is so dependent upon what happened that day—the details that none of us will ever totally know.

As a writer, I know at times that I fall short of connecting to my audience through the vernacular of common language. This is the same vernacular that bred me. I’ve experienced the same hardships endured by many other people. It’s what connects us on a human level, and it’s the connection that literature creates between writer and reader. Good writing is not meant to be a mere exhibition of fine-tuned grammar and an assemblage of words that boast of our education and prowess. It is an instrument that gives hope—something that has gone missing in recent time.

Williams’ poem is far more than a simple collection of words. These are words styled with care that demonstrate a dedication to craft tailored to keep the audience in mind. On its face the words of “The Red Wheelbarrow” are simple, but all words when singled out can be described in that way. Williams has taken these words and portrayed a scene that could evoke any emotion, or none at all. In its simplicity lies its complexity, showing that the writer’s gift is making that connection to the reader, whether the metaphor is accepted or portended to be something else.

The vernacular is lost by writers attempting to string words across the page that separate themselves from the world they interpret. It is not the writer’s cause to give meaning or understanding to circumstances, but insight. That is what words do when assembled with care and disseminated for all to appreciate. Word size and counts don’t matter. Substance always takes the prize in the literary arts.

Art can teach or alienate. The writer has failed when their art strays from the point of entertainment or enlightenment and caters only to a small fraction of society. The writer’s purpose is to take their perspective and make it accessible. When that accessibility is denied, the medium falls flat and loses influence and credibility.

We’re at a turning point, a time of great change, in history. Many are anxious, and wake to the fear of what the day will bring; security is escaping from the segments of society that need it most. Recent events have disturbed us from the comforts we knew too well for eight years. Trying as the future may seem, for the writer it is a time of opportunity, a time to connect with readers struggling to come to terms with an uncertain future filled with fear.

These are the times when the written word exerts its utmost power. Sometimes metaphor isn’t necessary, and sometimes a grammatically superior sentence stifles its own message. Simple words, crafted with care, can convey the complexities of emotions being felt across a nation turning its eyes to the future. It’s the vernacular that writers can wield with power and make a connection only few others dare to attempt.

Imagine : 2016

Ballots break the Age of Aquarius
while its perfunctory measures
greet its waiting antithesis
knelling the departure of its heroes;

Struck out was Joe DiMaggio
before a nation’s lonely eyes
raptured through political vertigo
a myth of promises lost their disguise;

Tendering chaos on axes X and Y
a generation lost to cyberspace
booming eyes with false tears cried
over children’s dreams laid to waste;

Bowled over by instant karma
indiscriminate in natural selection
from champagne bubbles’ supernova
sparkling of arrogance brazen;

Hope’s promise devastated
its concept bore suspicion
Cosell’s call unheeded
all remains forsaken—

leaving us,

still,

to Imagine.

choteau

The hills and

their sweet grasses

stood sentry

guarding time

witness to

the changing seasons

and

demolition by mankind

too stoic

to flinch

too passive

to resist

their soils

torn

riding the wind

barren plains

now sown

with

cheat(ing) grasses

purple majesty

running red

no more

does thunder

roll

unless

by

the heavens

called

 

Whispers in the Alders to be published by Blue Deco Publishing

It’s official: Debut Novel, Whispers in the Alders, to be published by Blue Deco Publishing, coming in 2017!

 

catkins-final
The alder catkin, hallowed totem in Whispers in the Alders.

I owe a great deal of thanks to all those who have shown their support throughout the process of writing, querying, and now, publishing. Soon, Whispers in the Alders will be in the hands of readers not just because this writer chose to tell a story, but also because of the interest generated by my closest friends and followers.

In 2017, readers will come to know the characters and events that make Whispers in the Alders an impassioned experience testing the emotions, and a story that will linger with them long after the last page is turned.

 

 

For more information, be sure to follow Blue Deco Publishing:

http://www.bluedecopublishing.com/

Twitter:           @BlueDecoPublish

Facebook:        https://www.facebook.com/BlueDecoPublishing/

 

Sideways

I wrote this poem sideways because I

Couldn’t see straight enough

To know the lines on the page

And if they were running

North, south, east or west;

They turned out to be mere guide-ons

Along this journey in a world

Structured by contradiction

Escape recognized as

Dereliction;

Or maybe I could rhyme

And lay down a beat

In perfect time –

But to do so would recognize

The stricture of my

Education, it’s failure

In my homogeny;

Lay down the sonnets and

villanelles

Forget even the bop –

All are well in time

But tonight…

These lines

they

are Mine.

red and white

I can still smell the red and white

they linger in the air

staining the hand

while its accomplice

on my palate lingers.

 

I choke back the cough-

push down the bile-

it’s all I can do-

minus virtue.

 

A boy among men

five years old

a father’s gift on

his day, to me-

a can of suds

and a pack of reds

teaching me how

to be a man

in the red and white

carton –

and can.

 

Descent

We spiraled down the thousand stairs to the river shore. Our arms floated alongside, separated from our bodies by the currents of air rising from the warm waters below. The air was heavy. It gave lift to our arms but slowed our descent, keeping our feet from escaping us.

Not too fast. We were certain not to make our way too fast. Haste was always met with disdain. But it was something against our will as children—slowing down was antithetical to being a child. Carefree and full of aplomb were our true natures. Still we held our emotions and our raw energy in check, careful not to disturb the peace.

It was a peace that didn’t happen often. But when it did it we were made to abide.

I turned back to see Robert coming down the stairs in unison with my steps. The shaded spiral of stairs was hewn from flagstone slabs shingled like fallen dominoes. On their surfaces colonies of moss crept, claiming squatter’s rights. They defended their territory with ferocity—one misplaced step and the moss would grab the underfoot and push it away, sending its victim tumbling to the rocky shore below.

We were keen to the moss. We tread the stairs by its rules. It slowed us down, maintaining the balance between our world and the adult world: the same world we fled every morning. The stairs were our escape to the one place we were allowed to go and just be kids. As long as we played by the rules—no running, no speaking on the stairs, and return home at our assigned times—it was the only freedom we would know. It was school for the summer, scheduled play to remove us from the adult world, where we were nothing more than in the way.

The moss was quiet. It never spoke, but only listened to our approaching footfalls.

Robert’s stride had a sense of hesitance. On his face was a lack of reassurance with the placement of his steps. Still he continued, not slowing, although it was not of his own will. He did all he was told: he spoke nothing and held his feet in abeyance to his arbitrary speed limit. It was too late to avoid the fall, guided by an unseen hand.

His body sounded off like a balloon releasing its pressure, the wind expelled from his lungs by the hardened stairs. His face was full of fright; it ignored me. I watched as it slid by in slow motion, passing beneath the banister, and fading from memory. He slipped into the darkness below and was swallowed by the maelstrom of waves gnashing at the shore like hungry teeth.

I stopped and planted my foot. The moss caught my sole.

I never saw Robert again.

Reminiscing of Hardy Country

river-frome-dorchester
River Frome, Dorchester.

There is nothing quite like bringing a story to life by walking in the footsteps of its characters, taking in the sights that they too would recognize. I had the fortunate opportunity to do just that not too long ago, touring Hardy Country, the area surrounding Dorchester that English author Thomas Hardy called home. Better known as “Wessex” in his writings, the area provided the back-drop to many of his stories.

hangmans-cottage-dorchester
Hangmans Cottage.

 

 

The literary tour of Dorchester proper highlighted various landmarks used by Hardy. At the site of the old prison, I learned of how a young Hardy witnessed the hanging of a woman. Later, this woman would serve as inspiration for Hardy’s character, Tess, from Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Many other references to Hardy’s works could be seen throughout Dorchester, including the Hangman’s Cottage which appeared in “The Withered Arm.” Viewing these sites was more than a backdrop to the works of Hardy; it gave perspective. In such a bucolic setting, it was hard to imagine the traumatic events often written about by Hardy. This is in part his genius, I suppose, underscoring that beneath the surface there is always a dark side waiting to be exposed.

Nestled in a small valley outside Dorchester, I happened upon the Hardy family cottage where the author spent his youth. The location was remote even by modern standards; in Hardy’s childhood it must have felt as if it were one thousand miles from anywhere. The simple thatched roof structure, with its low ceilings, clung to the valley as a morning fog, melting in with the surroundings. More than just a great example of Hardy’s humble beginnings, it also delineated the progress of technology in his lifetime. From a simple cottage in 1840 to his home at Max Gate, the effects of technological change were very clear. In essence, the trips between Hardy’s childhood cottage and his home at Max Gate showed the dramatic changes in society witnessed by Victorian England.

max-gate-garden-from-hardys-study
Hardy’s study overlooking garden at Max Gate.

My final stop was at St. Michael’s Church in Stinford, where Hardy’s heart (sans body) is interred. The parish graveyard was small; enclosed by a stone wall it was quiet and demanded respect. This old cemetery felt hallowed by the age of the tombs and those buried there, and in some respects has its own Poet’s Corner of sorts – buried within feet of Hardy is Cecil Day Lewis, former Poet Laureate of England and father of Academy Award winning actor Daniel Day Lewis. Hardy chose to be in the same grave as his first wife, and his second wife was later buried atop both of them, an eerie ménage-a-trois for the afterlife.

Dorchester and its surroundings are alive with the life and foils experienced by Hardy and his characters. As I turned my back to the town, I felt a bit of passing nostalgia knowing that I may never return, much as the Mayor of Casterbridge must have felt as he enacted his exile from the town that came to disregard his existence. But a visit there is no further away from the bookshelf. When I read Hardy, I’m taken back to Dorchester, the imagery of his words bringing the town and its people to life again, my memories resuscitated with each turn of the page.

Alder Mystery

With roots entwined in the musty

Earth

a being is brought forth

Breeding

the emotions of humanity

Bleeding

when cut as we

Impervious

to the floods but let to

Rot

when exposed to elemental

Furies

burdening existence upon the

Landscape

that can be raiment and shelter

Nourishing

our physical needs while giving

Homage

to the spirit within that

Subsides

bringing awareness of all we’ve

Rained

upon the land and our kin

Foregoing

religiosity’s dire consequence with

Myth

grounding into our

Conscience

the collective notion of

Responsibility

turning the mind and heart to

Recognition

of a fluted pair bearing

Promise

their golden glory crystallized in

Winter’s

permafrost bearing

Witness

to the eternal hope of

Spring.