Did Anyone Write Poems While We Were Away?

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Landscape

I

The rebels set us free today, some stately dance
involving dams and promises to swing the vote.
They gave us time to call our families, a chance
to bathe and trim our nails before the rescue boat
arrived with senators and diplomats whose hats
sat jaunty on their heads. Hugs all around, and pats.
Good job, you have survived! Now, tell us how you feel.
They fed us well that night, a patriotic meal,
a speech from the new President who’d paved the way.
The shyest of us said to him of our ordeal:
Did anyone write poems while we were away?

II

We meet at noon on Tuesdays in High Park, Bonnechance
and me. I come from a volcanic isle, remote,
a goatherd’s daughter; she, from Port-au-Prince. First glance,
you know the squealing children in our care who float
like seahorses from slide to swing, are sometimes brats,
from our sweet wombs they did not fall. Our little sprats
wear shoes because their Mamas tend to kids well-heeled.
Aunties sing them lullabies. They know us by sealed
envelopes with cash. Tears and necessity pay
their way. One day, Mercy will answer our appeal:
Did anyone write poems while we were away?

III

The virus creeps along, alert to circumstance,
fast wed to civil wars, they clutch at groin and throat,
agreements reached beneath the veil, a small distance
from the mission camp, draped in white. A tattered note
hangs in surgery, a psalm above the reed mats.
The young doctor from Santa Cruz sold river rats
to live; she knows and listens for the subtle wheel.
Though outwardly she treats them equally, the deal
of who survives and who moves on does not dismay
her. All patients dream of home, their favourite meal.
Did anyone write poems while we were away?

IV

The officer in camouflage, he prays to chance,
and sure enough, he finds two kids beside the boat
behind the school. I ought to grab you by the pants
and drag you back. You wanna be like me? A goat
too dumb to read? The girl cowers; the boy, he pats
on the shoulder. We need smart men at the salt flats,
unafraid to fight injustice. They watch him peel
open a pack of smokes. Your Mama, how’s she feel,
you skipping school? The little girl’s too tough to sway.
The boy, scratching words in sand, is easy to steal.
Did anyone write poems while we were away?

V

The President’s daughter texts her cheating ex, stance
on her stilettos wide apart. I burned your coat
and alligator shoes, you pr***, don’t try to prance—
A skinny arm, a pistol at her pretty throat,
a trembling whisper. No quick moves. The rebel that’s
obliged to prove himself throws her into a flat
bed truck, tries not to think of Mama eating veal
off fancy plates. The effing princess liked to squeal,
then caught the virus, botched their Proof of Life display.
A strafe of bombs, the boy’s tattered journal reveals:
Did anyone write poems while we were away?

Envoi

Give up the battle to control what others feel
and say. The greatest war is that which you conceal,
the fear of disrespect distorting hearts by day,
each night dissolves to peace and whispers her appeal.
Did anyone write poems while we were away?

~~~

Some of you will recognize the rhyme scheme and repetition of a Chant Royal in this piece. By dividing the stanzas into cantos, I’ve diluted some of the “chant” experience in favour of the narrative’s underlying thread.

The meter is duodecasyllabic, twelve syllables per line.

© Elaine Stirling, 2014
Image comes from Wikipedia.

Now That I Know

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004

Now that I know the equator is a piece of sticky tape,
I’m nailing shut the door on know-it-alls who wish me to feel
small beside the Universe, who think I ought to scrape
and bow because of all the big-whoop facts they spiel.

Catastrophists, like cuckoo birds, adapt. They steal
from nests of joy, replacing eggs with sour grapes
and asteroids en route. With them, I’ll make no deal,
now that I know the equator is a piece of sticky tape.

Then there’s the godly ones, who think I ought to gape
because they’ve memorized some book. Oh, how they reel
while I am busy thinking of the best ways to escape.
I’m nailing shut the door on know-it-alls who want me to feel

sinful or afraid, ashamed, insisting that I humbly reveal
my flaws. Pshaw, I’m fine! In faith and fashion, I drape
myself with silken happiness. You will not see me kneel
small beside the Universe. Who think I ought to scrape

instead of taking leaps of faith have not seen my cape.
They think my powers are fake because they learned to heel
and forgot to unlearn it. Anger makes such people shake
and bow because of all the big-whoop facts they spiel.

Experts, every day, release new studies that reveal—
that’s nice, it truly is, but I’m too fidgety too wait.
I educate at my own pace, trusting it’s enough to feel
my way, with plenty more to joyfully anticipate,
now that I know.

~~~

This piece is a rondeau redoublé, otherwise known as “poetry that comes to me while dusting.” (After taking the photo, I tore off the rest of the equator, and the world seems to be holding up fine.)

© Elaine Stirling, 2014

Today

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Daras photo

Today I shall endeavour not to fix
a single problem more complex than, shall
I place the vase of peonies here, or
fall asleep while re-watching “Princess Bride”?

Today I shall ignore the mental tricks
of trending news that seek to scale my wall
of being well, content, in love. Scores
elsewhere will somehow sort their shame and pride.

Today I choose to dance, to paint and mix
with wanderers and poets. I’ll stand tall
before the mirror, knowing we have more
to reach and master than we’ve ever tried.

One day, a final word, I’ll breathe my last,
then ride the breeze that smiles upon our past.

~~~
© Elaine Stirling, 2014
Today, Oceantics is honoured to feature the extraordinary photography of Dara Hurt.

Of the Swampy Clans, a Tale

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479

I have gone
to rest awhile
in the arms
of the Council
of the Twisted Hairs
to catch my breath
and learn
a better way of walking
the Good Red Road
that remains to me

mushrooms
sprouting overnight
they glare across
the wrinkled patches
of earth
that gives
them space
shaded by
their own caps
they accuse each other
of blindness

the moving spore
that feels no root
attaches

the silver birch
once girdled
shrugs
and breaks
through canopy
to sky

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2014

We Have No Word In English

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corazon-abstracto-hd

We have no word in English
for corazón
the heorte of Old English
and the kardia of Greek
come nowhere near
the heart
of corazón, that word
the Spanish pulse
holds dear
on this I’d firmly stake
my final versos

While Greco-Roman
arguments and conquests
bleed and leak and drip
through aeons still
to tie and twist
our tongues
lone cor
the whole of courage
pumps and breathes
and flies the power
of archangels winged
by light of paired
and weightless lungs.

Old High Germans
knew this, and the forges
of old Norse drew iron
from the blood of ancient
corazón to gird their
spears with the godlike
spirit of Iberia.

Who can know
the origin of that
which knows no
opposite and no
equivalent, no
beginning and no
end to consonance
and whispers through
the ode to corazón?

~~~

While looking for the etymology of the subject of this poem, I wandered into the fantastic word, logaoedic, which comes from the ancient Greek for singing or ode. It is, apparently, a poetic technical term for the mixture of meters; having a rhythm that uses both dactyls and trochees or anapests and iambs. What that means in simpler terms, I believe, is that certain poems sing themselves into being with no rules or limitations, apart from those that the senses inspire.

Since the age of fifteen, I have been a dyed-in-the-wool aficionada of Latino music, particularly the pop stars of the 70s and 80s. If I were to use one word to describe what I love about it…well, it took me an entire poem, but it’s still one word. The beautiful image of a heart on fire comes from http://www.1lugarparati.wordpress.com.

© Elaine Stirling, 2014

The Hibiscus are Calling You Home

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002

A Rondel

The hibiscus are calling you home
beyond the hurt, beyond the tangled
cords that locked your words in tones
I couldn’t hear, in cells that mangled.

How I wish I could have known
and seen your soul differently angled.
The hibiscus are calling you home
beyond the hurt, beyond the tangled

floating gardens specially grown
by the lords of Xochimilco are spangled
with your name, no more fear to jangle
or confuse. My love accompanies this poem;
the hibiscus are calling you home.

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2014

Time

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Stressed-Business-Woman

I don’t have time.
I don’t have time
to have time.
I don’t know who
took it, but I’m always
in a rush, feeling
on the verge
of being crushed
by forces colder
and meaner
than I, through
lack of time,
am being
forced
to be.

Everything
I do, I try to save
time, so where the hell
has all the time
I’ve saved
gone?

It isn’t here,
so where
is it going?

I don’t know.
I don’t have time
to figure that out.

Right now
is our busy season—

it’s always our busy
season, but this one’s
even worse

—so I’m super
strapped for time,
sending stuff out
as fast as I can
send it, scanning
incomming as fast
as I can scan—
what are these
people talking
about? Does
no one know
how to spell
anymore?

but it’s never
enough. We’re
not making our
numbers

and numbers
are everything

numbers seem
to have become
my reason for being

that doesn’t
feel right, but I
don’t have anyone
to ask about it

and anyway,
who would care?
Everyone’s so busy
moaning, I don’t
dare interrupt.

I barely have
time to moan.

I clearly need
a break, but I’m
decades from
retirement

and I don’t
have time for
holidays

last time
I took a week off
I got so sick when
I got back, I had to
work ten times as hard
to make up for lost time

I don’t know
who keeps
all the saved
time or finds
the lost time

I don’t know
anyone who spends
time responsibly

I think I would like
to know such a person

but they wouldn’t
be real. I don’t think
they exist

they’d probably
be boring. What would
we talk about? All the time
in the world they have…
to do what?

Well, enough
of this. I gotta get
back to what I was
doing. I’m already
past deadline…

no time
no time
no time
no ti—

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2014
Image from http://www.whoisgarybledsoe.com

The Perennial Selfie

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Jeremy_Bentham_Auto-Icon

Behold, friends, my Auto Icon,
perennial display of nattiness and wit.
Reluctant to move wholly on,
I chose to leave for you my bones and choicest bits.

While you across this mortal coil
still shuffle debts, post shots of self while text-obsessed,
believing in the power of toil,
I offer you a fresher choice in form of quest.

I sought through life utility,
maximizing happiness, minimizing pain,
measuring length of amity.
In five million pages or less, I laid it plain.

My felicific calculus
proves truer than it ever has, though the software
has some bugs, I am serious.
The utility of you runs smooth, everywhere.

To the furthest cosmic reaches
you perceive with unerring possibility
all the swells and sandy beaches
of the best alternatives and most variety.

Every grand success rose first
in the imagination of a quicker mind
as a solution from the worst.
The path of least resistance is your greatest find.

Mistake me not! The borderlands
of what will take you and what will leave you behind
are clearly marked with solid bands,
electrified. In every way, they’re well defined.

What you must learn to navigate
is absolute intolerance toward feeling bad,
coupled with refusal to state
in word or thought all that diminishes the glad.

As your numbed senses come to life,
thinking dumbed by needless loyalties will sharpen
and the instant path will flash, rife
with the next best step, to which all aid will hearken.

Your perennial self lives now
for there is nowhere else to expect and receive
the best. Relax your furrowed brow
and forget the dusty bones of us when you leave…

to meet your great acclaim
and grow into the beauty of your name.

~~~

The bones of this poem are inspired by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) whose Auto Icon (his coinage) resides to this day at University College, London. Bentham is remembered, somewhat simplistically, as the father of Utilitarianism, its objective being the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.

The form I’ve employed is called “iambe”, a satirical fixed verse that comes down to us from the Greek poet Archilochus (c. 680-645 BCE). Seventeenth-century French satirists established the meter as octosyllables alternating with alexandrines, eight syllables, then twelve, with a rhyme scheme of abab, cdcd, etc. The quatrains’ awkward swing from long to short works well with a theme intended to stir things up.

© Elaine Stirling, 2014

The Economy of 100 Trillion Friendships

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sunflowers_outdoorphotogearA Sonnet Redoublé

1

All friendship survives. All rivers divert.
Puddles dry up, and I did see the sky
in your eyes for a time, but those notions
of smallness, of rightness and wrongness, can’t
come any further. I’ve worn a hair shirt
and dammed the itch and the dwindling supply
of consent to great things. My emotions
have voted unanimously to grant
full access to prosperity, no dirt
from corruption, regrets, or treachery,
no dreary committees voting motions,
no states to declare, prevent, or pervert.
I am counting by tens the glory days
when the streams that uphold us find new ways.

10

When the streams that uphold us find new ways
to account for impulses beyond mere
addictions, reactions, ho-hum lazy
factions of issues that go round and round,
the dread that passes for cleverness plays
its last notes. I need no protection here
or anywhere. Your sane is my crazy,
vice versa, no fear. I’m standing my ground
when I say adios to a life of grays.
Opposites do not attract; they adhere
like gum to a shoe, dim love to hazy
retractable hues. Jealousies confound
but will never reach the convivial
to wash over beds of alluvial…

100

To wash over beds of alluvial
sex—do I have your attention yet?—means
the either/or gasms of yesteryear have to
go. I don’t care what you did, or how they
all squealed. Your past to me is trivial.
It’s how I feel with you now that demeans
or excites or relaxes. Overdue
IOUs spoil the view, though I must say,
your original testimonial
exceeds by hundreds the usual scenes
and confusions. I sometimes perceive you
without the old placards, free of cliché,
Olympian, indifferent to old
hurt, you and I came together, a gold.

1000

Hurt, you and I came together, a gold
standard for originality, if
not quite paragons of harmony. So
much we could have done, we did.
Biologies and shouting matches sold
a few tickets, but yuck! Too many are stiff
with boredom in search of a…NoGoPro,
some safe tech magic to strap on their head.
10 x 10 x 10 lovers with great bold
outlooks surround me. I’m playing the riff
I was born to hear above not below,
dancing me to new melodies amid
a transcendent running of bulls, a flirt,
rush of sorts, divine, eccentric, alert.

10,000

Rush of sorts, divine, eccentric, alert,
I’m learning a better kind of hurry,
dawn bursting through the starting gate each day
with gentle laughter and magnificence.
Centrifugal forces who are expert
at throwing off wriggly worms of worry
spy with 10,000 eyes the best array
of what I want with sublime common sense.
An Adriatic villa or a yurt
with you and a few dozen friends, merry
are the possibilities when I say
there’s no end to the good, ladies and gents.
For ecstasy’s sake, I’m launching a phase
to new veins untapped since long ago days.

100,000

To new veins untapped since long ago days,
let us raise our glasses and celebrate
who we are: land dwelling, sea diving, sky
flying, fire breathing, fun loving starfish
of the human variety. Unfazed
by grim statistics, let us underrate
death and those who lust for others to die.
Get used to it, friend, that every wish
finds her match, comes home to greet you. Amaze
yourself and me, for once. It’s not too late!
Grow bigger than your grievances. Let lie
the sleeping pups. Be unwilling to dish
anything. Teach love’s grand tutorial,
investing through time immemorial.

1.000,000

Investing through time immemorial,
I’m spending my first million, knowing more
is on its way. You literal thinkers
need to dream subatomic. That sliced pie
of lessening returns is serial
stupidity, so needless and abhorred
by the Mind who imagines you. Blinkers
are for horses and those who never try
to overthrow their own authorial
rebellions. There’s a superior floor
of thought that takes into account stinkers
and lousy worn-out excuses for why
you’re still not rolling in riches untold.
We’re growing sums others scarcely behold.

10,000,000

We’re growing sums others scarcely behold,
which includes greenbackian euro yens.
The buck grows here where wealthy feels at home.
Chuck the shame in all its spots; they’re cheap change.
What use is approval by a glum fold
of disexpectant sheep with their dark lens
and woolly hearts? The CNNs may roam,
but not from here to eternity. Range
expands the instant I choose to uphold
more of the universal market. Friends
who dream of me, we haven’t met…yet. Loam
in the fields of the Lord is rich! Deranged
has always been the mark of a true shirt.
The shell-shocked still wander, rhyming a spurt.

100,000,000

The shell-shocked still wander, rhyming a spurt
when they feel some intestinal upset,
but never ask them to explain—oh, no,
holy writs must not be tampered with! Cheese
and purple prose know their place. Good yogurt
has a culture of its own. I can let
it abso-posi-lutely be, and go
where my gut sings. How lovely not to please
what displeases. It’s easy to subvert
when requirements are nil. A touch of fret,
I know at once that what I used to know
I have outgrown. Sleeker is my new ease
toward life, sweet poetry of these long days,
now and then hints of the epic always.

1,000,000,000

Now and then, hints of the epic always
startle me in the wee hours, choruses
of dead physicists more frisky than ten
herds of Pan’s demonia. Atheists
arm in arm with Dutch reformers, the blaze
of them is something to behold. Isis,
all the pieces of her son whole again
and eager to re-dismember. New trysts
hatching, old wars stirred to sonnetry. Days
of grief embrace relief. Now, realists,
you’ll find me catching, so beware, and when
we get to who sleeps where, bring lotuses.
I do know your shy smile and its special
unfolding, saturnine droughts, jovial.

10,000,000,000

Unfolding saturnine droughts, jovial
excesses, conversations that roll us
across the floor, clutching our bellies. More
of this, please, more! Gladly, says Universe,
who delivers in heaps, a merry ole
supersoul is He/She, an omnibus
who’ll drive us anywhere and not keep score.
I’m in the billions now, here to converse
with peers of agreeability. You’ll
know us by our success, so obvious
with markets in our hands while we explore
what lives under the limitless obverse.
Holy moly, sister, we’ve found pure gold
floods of the heart, penny stocks bought and sold.

100,000,000,000

Floods of the heart, penny stocks bought and sold
like the former wolf of Wall Street knows, brings
the kind of loose and breezy life we came
to live. We came to live, brother! Give up
with the odes to bloody sorrow. They’re old
unwearable hats for shrunken heads. Things
matter as we think, not say them. The fame
you dreaded is a feather bed, so sup
with me tonight. Let’s talk it over. Fold
that army cot; give it some good will. Rings
off the hook clamouring for your name
to spell it right on the victory cup,
enhanced with unforgettable itunes
in the Poets’ Exchange, add to fortunes.

1,000,000,000,000

In the Poets’ Exchange, add to fortunes—
go ahead, no one’s counting. (Yes, we are!)
You’ve reached your first trillion of debt-free joy,
and you’re still just beginning. Genesis
is forever. I’m germinating boons,
and so are you. Step up, please, to the bar
of eternal revelation. Enjoy
the view and the grand reviews. Exstasis
runs the show. There are hot sweet air balloons
with gondolas for two, and lots of bare
back riding, if you know what I mean. Oy
vei, that’s Moses over there! His thesis
on Exodus is done. His arc of runes
we’re holding in trust like pirates’ doubloons.

10,000,000,000,000

We’re holding in trust like pirates’ doubloons
infinite multiples of circular
stances—that’s circumstance to you and me.
Squared off no more, scared off by even less,
I slip into Creator garb. The loons
outside my bedroom cry in jocular
profusion, while fabulously wealthy
settles on my shoulders in soft caress.
I’m off to tango now, the sultry tunes
that I adore play a particular
rhythm just for me—and that gorgeous he.
We’ve all the time we want for happiness.
Outside our door, I post a true advert:
All friendship survives. All rivers divert.

100,000,000,000,000

All friendship survives. All rivers divert
when the streams that uphold us find new ways
to wash over beds of alluvial
hurt. You and I came together, a gold
rush of sorts, divine, eccentric, alert
to new veins untapped since long ago days.
Investing through time immemorial,
we’re growing sums others scarcely behold.
The shell-shocked still wander, rhyming a spurt
now and then, hints of the epic always
unfolding. Saturnine droughts, jovial
floods of the heart, penny stocks bought and sold
in the Poets’ Exchange add to fortunes

we’re holding in trust like pirates’ doubloons.

~~~

Once in a while, the urge hits me to write a sonnet redoublé, also known as a crown of sonnets, or the heroic sonnet. It consists of fifteen stanzas of fourteen lines each, “crowned” by the final stanza. Each line of the final stanza opens and ends the previous fourteen, so you have a sort of step-by-step expansion of the heroic theme.

While my style is conversational, I do pay attention to meter. I’m choosing to call this iambish pentameter. The rhyme scheme is a manageable abcdabcdabcdee.

© Elaine Stirling, 2014
Image of sunflowers comes from http://www.outdoorphotogear.com.

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