Sonnet to the Autumnal Sun

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railway train bridge winding cliff track

railway train bridge winding cliff track

All laud this equinox to Helios,
locomotive engineer whose aeons
of impeccable attention to Earth’s
fine clientele from least to uppermost
has wavered not a jot. His sacred bonds
to cargo in the form of death and birth
hold tight, & yet he’s quick to loose for those
intrepid riders who can see beyond
outdated schedules and rails not worth
pursuing. Cheer him for the way he coasts
into the station of your dawn. Begone,
insipid darkness, to your lower berths!
The greater Sol and I triangulate
to lay new tracks through joy, we luminate.

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2016
Photographer unknown

Glassine

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010

There is a word, glassine
vitreous, pristine
the texture of tranquility
reality beyond the mean.

I run my hands within
my mind along what’s smooth
and hear the gentle commerce
of approaching worlds.

The biofilm that seals us
each within our sequences
and scenes of tenderness
and grief
is pervious, but only on
the surface, dimpled,
and of momentary worth.

It’s when I seek to justify
myself and those around me—
reckless provocation—that
the shattering reduces
to a billion sparks
and thence a billion more.

When I decide,
when I decide and no one else
that chase has lost its savour
and allow the ripples their descent
and play with gravity,
my recollection of the word
I opened with is swift
and all becomes
where I begin again:
glassine.

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2016

Jeb Miller Clancy & the Silk Knitter’s Fancy

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british-pub-inside

This is an ode to Jeb Miller Clancy,
publican of The Silk Knitter’s Fancy.
Rented out rooms by the seat of his pants, he
never saw life as forbidding or chancy.

Night after night in his tavern on Mile Street,
Jeb Miller Clance served his clients a wild streak
of savoury pies and craft beer called Hey, Wheat!
seldom bothered to tally his eat, sleep & play week.

Normally, now, in an ode of this type,
we expect our protagonist living his right
and substantial good life to encounter a fight
with some jerk and his knife, or a moll
with a history of psychos and strife.

But the aim of this verse isn’t what you might think,
for the life of Jeb Clancy, while centered on drink,
food, and bed sheets avoided the brink
of self-pity that wedges us into a chink
like a tiddly wink…

…of belief in a past or a future of doom
with barrages of fact that deny wiggle room,
See, the thing about Jeb and this jiggedy tune
is that death will o’ertake us all, later or soon,

as it did on a cold stormy October night
when Jeb took his sweetie out dancing. The light
of the moon caught them kissing just right—
when the meteor struck with spectacular might.

Today there’s a hole where the publican rests
that’s become what you might call a pilgrimage quest.
All who pay homage insist they feel blessed
by the spirit of Jeb who sees you as his guest

of The Silk Knitter’s Fancy that only admits
patrons with hunger for meat pies and wit
and a pint with good friends who begrudge not a bit
your decision to live with fine humour and grit.

~~~

Author’s Note: I mostly wrote this poem for the opportunity to say tiddly wink.

© Elaine Stirling, 2016

The Long Game

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lighthouse-1

~~a pantoum~~

It’s easy to be easy
to be knowing with the flow
that all is well and getting better
where I focus, there I grow.

To be knowing with the flow
that emotions smoothly navigate
where I focus, there I grow
by ignoring the unwanted, I define above, below.

That emotions smoothly navigate
hand in hand with chosen thoughts
by ignoring the unwanted, I define above, below
as a light beam of affection

hand in hand with chosen thoughts
that all is well and getting better.
As a light beam of affection,
it’s easy to be easy!

© Elaine Stirling, 2016

Never Mind!

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seagull3

~~with thanks, once more, to E.A.P.

Once upon a midday sunny, while I pondered life as funny,
all those tiresome Facebook posts, from priceless to not worth a dime,
while I zoned out, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
an insistent, irksome rapping, “Yo, there, sister, don’t waste time!”
“Tis some bother,” I reflected, “yapping at my weary mind—
only this, so never mind.”

How distinctly I recall this, from the dog days of late August
when silhouettes of perspiration everywhere I left behind.
Eagerly I longed for breezes, dreamed in secret of deep freezes;
with each rolling bead of sweat I lost more vim than I could find.
Farewell, o vast intelligence! I miss you, sleek and noble mind.
Where’d you go? Oh, never mind…

Eventually I couldn’t stand it, listening to that rapping bandit
brandishing his random message, stabbing at my current languish.
I scraped my last of inspiration, dying gasps of motivation.
“I don’t know what you are up to, or by knocking hope to find.
Maybe like the rest of us, you seek relief from living blind
and dreading each new ‘never mind’.”

And so across that screen door peering, I imagined something leering,
scrolling through my vital data, calculating all that mattered,
feeding it to some vast modum, deleterious in motive.
All those things Orwell had warned us. One day, we’ll be in a bind,
trusting less, complaining louder, cursing future humankind—
But wait, just listen! Never mind.

Upon my thoughts there came a squawk, a flap of wings, I thought a hawk
had flown into my dark abode, but no, a different thing had taken hold.
It was a seagull white and gleaming, joking like a banshee screaming:
“Ding-dong, Avian calling!” The gull upon my laptop perched. “What a grind,
getting you to getting out of random people’s mixed-up minds.
You can call me Nevermind.”

I tried to shoo him, reason, threaten, offered proof of Armageddon.
Seagulls, though, you can’t offend them; independent, nothing bends them.
The more I tried to log on Facebook, read my texts or scan the news,
the more he shed and shat and screechéd; wingéd, feathered anti-muse.
“Give it up,” he finally said. “I’m here to get your ducks aligned.
It’s what I do. I’m Nevermind.”

Succumbed, I watched instead of media the gull pontificate
on all that’s tragic, gone and past, then, horror-struck, regurgitate.
I saw how quickly my poor head got stuffed with thoughts of ice cold dread,
which set me scrambling like a rat on drugs in a trial, double blind,
electrodes and thin tubes attached to drain me of my sickening whine.
That’s what I grasped from Nevermind.

The evenings, they grow cooler now. Most mornings start out fresh.
The squawks and chirps of friends and strangers I still read, but less
inclined am I to fashion a reply—or worry what they think of me,
since now I know we mostly don’t reach far outside ourselves. Kind
or silent, either one (and sometimes both) are way more fun, I find,
in keeping peace with Nevermind.

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2016

Advice from Atlas, post-shrug

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atlas_29

~~a pantoum~~

I have flung off the weight of the wordless don’t
do that, they say, you’ll be unloved and sorry.
No one enjoys the ambitious, vainglorious—
and true self-esteem is a virtual meme.

Do that, they say, you’ll be unloved and sorry.
Failure’s the safer likelihood; it’s loyal
and true. Self-esteem is a virtual meme
people like, share and save, seldom mean.

Failure’s the safer likelihood; it’s loyal,
roomy with lots of dark places to hide
people like. Share and save! Seldom mean,
you could take the time to be kind or be quiet

and roomy with lots of dark places to hide.
No one enjoys the ambitious, vain. Glorious,
though, is the one who agrees to succeed!
I have flung off the weight of the wordless don’t.

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2016

In All Things, Calm

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benevolence

Benevolence, you are no stuttering fool.
You are the atmosphere of my content
in all things, like or not, you firmly rule
my pre-congesting state of life well spent.

How peacefully you bask while reflexes
of hate like wooden ducks on springs pop up,
rude opinions quacking at what vexes
overturn, duty-bound the loving cup—

—to spill. I like to think I multi-task
with nyet to this and yes to that, and yet
I sense you, bigger nesting doll: Relax!
What I believe, and more, I’m sure to get.

To see the best in all must, by degrees,
wed eloquence to certainty with ease.

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2016
The sketch inspired by the Kalevala comes
from http://www.deitiesanddemons.tumblr.com.

We are family, Dytiscidae…

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Pond-surface

~~a glosa~~

Alive, we are like a sleek black water beetle
skating across still water in any direction
we choose, and soon to be swallowed
suddenly from beneath.

—“Night”, Robert Bly

~~~

Have you lost count of your senses?
Someone who loves you long ago made certain
you had five on each hand
and five, wiggling, on each prehensile
pinkening foot. Symbolic and prime
you burst from cramped and pensive foetal
with a joyful cry—I am arrived!
And not just to mark time or fulfill
biology. You and I intended joy, full
alive, we are like a sleek black water beetle.

Surface creature, you can smell the deep
and dip your skinny feet wherever taste
and fancies send you, yet a surfeit
skim, some oily practicality, pollutes,
lopping like a fisher’s scaling knife
permitted from forbidden. Vivisection
of the vastness of the sparkling neural
universe within has become the gauge
by which we sniff another’s misattention,
skating across still water in any direction,

frantic, fearing too much clamour and
the probability that all accelerates
toward more of better, more of worse. Appetites
of yesterday, I eschew, convinced through
dimming, wrongly disavowed sixth sense that
someone’s making off with mine & ours. Hollowed
by the scummy years of digging in & digging up,
asphyxiating from de-oxygenated history,
desire, healthy-gilled, moves on. Hallowed
we choose, and soon to be swallowed

this moment and the next, we entertain
dread for sake of conversation. Final breath
the switch that flips dusk to dawn, you and I
enter, one by one, the ark, the mothership.
We all must board that skiff eventually.
Why should I care if the pH of your belief
is pond sludge to my frisky brine? Some
silver, shiny, passing school that’s learned
to count past five will snatch both joy & grief
suddenly from beneath.

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2016

Dytiscadae: predaceous water beetles
The gorgeous image of a pond surface comes
from http://www.miriadna.com.

Wells

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This small hand dug water well is the only source of water for a small village located on the outskirts of Dakar, Senegal. Photograph taken in support of Joint Task Force (JTF) Liberia.

I have lost my map to the well of deep
thoughts. I’m caught up in shallows and crosshairs
reacting to bobbers in barrels where
one wrong emotion or word indiscreet
upsets the precarious balance. Nowhere
in views or remarks of the day can I
track what in dreams leads me straight through the eye
of the storm to the seed. Forget despair
and the voices that choke, outraged by lies
in their fervent belief that keen focus
on desperate acts will stir magnanimous
change. Cast out, flocks of native kindness fly
in search of fields where levity holds camp.
Here, wells of hope replenish through the damp.

~~~

Image of Senegal village well is from Wikimedia Commons.

© Elaine Stirling, 2016

The Chicken State

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Crazy Looking Chickens (12)

~~a pantoum~~

For every point of view there is an audience
a tier of seats with fannies firmly set
and eyes like glue sticks predisposed
to roll, adhere, and plaudit: Just like me!

A tier of seats with fannies firmly set
affirms that I have reached some center stage
to roll, adhere, and plaudit. Just like me
is what my chicken self (cluck-clawk!) aspires for you,

affirms that I have reached some center stage,
a coop d’etat, a free range state with me as head
is what my chicken self (cluck-clawk!) aspires for you…
what’s that you say—I’m cool—steel hatchet?

A coop d’etat, a free range state with me as head
and eyes like glue sticks predisposed…
what’s that you say? I’m cool? Steel hatchet—
For every point of view there is an audience.

~~~

The glorious chicken image comes from http://www.coolanimalspics.blogspot.com.

© Elaine Stirling, 2016