Month: August 2016

Fearn – The Alder

Another one of my ogham poems.

With the circling of palms, I guard it —
blade-sides together, a beating heart
the war dance of a band of brothers.
My back your shield, oh! My back your shield.

Can you run featherlight over grass
without stirring the blades? Can you pluck
the thorn from your foot without missing
a stride, each hair of your braid in place?

Can you dodge the speartip while buried
in dirt up to the waist? Can your tongue
sling fire and honey? Do omens call
you, brother? Do you shrug off their webs

for that greater binding? Do you run
with the pack? Do you have the soul of
a poet? A killer? Do you know
them to be one and the same, brother?

O Finn, I am lying on the grass.
My shield splintered, the tusk of the boar
the goad that drove the ox of my fate.
With the circling of palms, I guard it —

But each vow is its own undoing.
A drink from your hands will make it whole,
re-forge the ring of the oath. Fair words
and fair deeds, is that all we aspire?

My back your field, oh! My back your shield.
The hands curved into one heart, holding
the water, our unspoken love, grief.
You part your fingers, freeing the drops

to the foot of the alder. Each one
caught by the light in the act of falling,
dearer than diamonds, scattering wide
to feed the green, and my mouth still dry.

With the circling of palms, I guard it:
the vow of my own undoing.
A drink from your hands will make it whole.
Do you have the soul of a poet?

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Grove Street

Grove Street. Heat haze sparkles the mica.
Snot and tears river down my planed cheeks
as I seek the sanctuary of trees

and shadows, silence — maybe transgression,
a quick hop over the boundary fence
and onto Third Street. Harsh words toll out

in time with my sobs. I am 10 years old,
too old for childhood, too young for escape.
Does that sound pretentious? I palm my tears

and even now, I am on that dead end
street with its quiet trees and tempting fence.
I’ll give you something to cry about.

And I am never enough — not soft,
not loving, that glass-eyed doll with her smile
sculpted, a coquette with ringlets.

Don’t talk about it. Nobody cares.
The heat haze steals the shadows.
Past the white house with its pickets like teeth —

One house to the fence, and to Third Street
and something undefinable. My bangs
sticking to my salty eyes, foot up, now —

and I am caught by that Italian man
whose green shred of lawn I trespass, those steps
that turn a dead end into a life.

Does that sound pretentious? He’s holding
the garden hose, calling my name,noosing
me with it, calling the spirit home.

He’s asking me why I am crying.
I open my mouth and only a sob
chokes out. I turn, under that glaring sun

with its puzzling eyes piercing my back —
and I run and I run, sucking the air
through the drowning, and I run down Grove Street —

the silvered turrets of the yard fence,
the yellow house gleaming like a castle,
the moat of my distance walling me in.

Even now, I am on that dead end street.
I’ll give you something to cry about.
Don’t talk about it. Nobody cares.