Gaiman on the Beach

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005

Reading “Bitter Grounds” from Fragile Things by
Neil Gaiman on the beach supplies a kind
of tantalizing peace I do not find
by tracking with a realistic eye.

I know the risks. I’ve felt the acrid burn,
the pressures of intelligence contrived
by some base fear of disappointment, tried
to be content with what’s already learned.

I just can’t do it. I choose neverlands.
And if my preference to imagine proves
some chimera to be, I’ll learn new moves
of fantasy until I understand

the axis mundi of the personal:
perceiving one affects the universal.

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2015

Departures

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ghost town

You ask me sometimes
why we couldn’t stay friends
why the taste of your poems
juicy at first like asado con ajo
grew bitter, then stale

but I couldn’t find
the words to describe
you’d been crowded

you’d been crowded
like a pool in the ghetto
in a late August heatwave
all those tangled legs
to swim through

slippery shanks of disillusion
torsos heaving the same poor-me
sighs, how you sing to my soul, guapo

they gnawed you like mongrels loyal
to the meat shop of a ghost town
on bone scraps of metaphor
I’d read a thousand times

day after day, you shook
the same words like an oracle
on payroll, they clattered
from your sack and we learned
to keep score

the clatter I tuned out
it was the keeping score…
I couldn’t stay friends

I couldn’t stay friends
with that.

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2015

déjà vu

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010

The birch of my imagining recalls
a human tide no parchment can record,
no artful rock or shards of pottery

from west to east we tracked the seething falls
from south to icy north our numbers poured
determined to outpace calamity

a curl of floating bark, my reason stalls
and from it spirals, tranquil, new accord
what dies returns. Such is society.

The weightless that surrounds these crumbling walls
is my true providence, with room and board
assigned to how I view prosperity

So, leap from grief to thrill, you’re but a seam
we’ve named as death. The monarch calls you dream.

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2015

Ashley’s Mad Again

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Eric_Ravilious_16

It’s Saturday.
The ravenous are out recruiting;
rays of ultra-violence are hard
to screen. It seems that everywhere
we might be social, we elect
instead to scream, call
out the false.

I wonder, though,
would any of us do
or say a hurtful thing if pain
had not first entered
through an open heart?

Would creeping toward temptation
feel so sweet, if I’d not left the salt
that drew you to me in the rain?

Oh, twisted glee—they call you
schadenfreude—your days grow
short. The stones I threw, the feathers
lobbed at me, and all attempts
at cataloguing misery have packed
their trunks and vanished,
they’ve some train to catch—

and I’m not boarding
now the windows
of my heart take in
a truer scenery.

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2015
Painting by Eric Ravilious (1903-1942)

The House Upon the Hill

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house on a hill_caralee clark

~~a pantoum~~

There is a house upon a hill
we used to visit once a year
where daffatoos and cockadrills
in great profusion sprung with cheer.

We used to visit once a year
with pachyderms. Uncertain terms
in great profusion, sprung with cheer,
to certain joy somehow appeared.

With pachyderms, uncertain terms
must slowly be unraveled.
To certain joy somehow appeared
an appetite for travel.

“Must slowly be unraveled”
is anathema to some.
An appetite for travel
to the fixéd mind feels dumb.

Is anathema to some
an urge? To wallow in the past
to the fixéd mind feels dumb,
can blind. The fact? This too shall pass.

An urge to wallow in the past
where daffatoos and cockadrills
can blind the fact, this too shall pass.
There is a house upon a hill…

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2015
Image by Caralee Clark from http://www.DailyPainters.com

Today I Shall Wear a Green Dress

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008

“There are songs that come free from the blue-eyed grass,
from the dust of a thousand country roads.”

—Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County

~~a rondeau quatrain~~

today I shall wear a green dress
and reread excerpts from Madison County
eat cheese and spinach pie with flaky pastry
paying less attention to the obvious

cholesterol, they say’s the cause of stress
it may be the reverse, a dearth of poetry
today I shall wear a green dress
and reread excerpts from Madison County

the media diet of desperation and duress
I’ve tossed like arsenic. Gentility
I’ll sip instead, chaw down on parody
whatever celebrates our tendency to mess…

…things up

today I shall wear a green dress
and reread excerpts from Madison County
eat cheese and spinach pie with flaky pastry
paying less attention to the obvious

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2015
This genteel snapshot is the view from the reading gardens of our local library.

Anticipating Emerson

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Connecticut house

~~a pantoum~~

I hug the house of stone and memory
who’s emptying her ghosts today
escorting virtue out on teacups
giving vice and sawhorses full rein

who’s emptying her ghosts today?
the fairies at the toadstool ring will help
giving vice and sawhorses full rein
to ride the coach roads once again

the fairies at the toadstool ring will help
they showed me how to dig to China
to ride the coach roads once again
sitting council at the Puritan stone fences

they showed me how to dig to China
on the days I run away between meals
sitting council at the Puritan stone fences
anticipating tramps with Emerson

on the days I run away between meals
escorting virtue out on teacups
anticipating tramps with Emerson
I hug the house of stone and memory

~~~

Only the repeating, interweaving lines of a pantoum can come close to expressing the emotions of saying goodbye to a childhood home where nothing—and everything—seemed possible.

© Elaine Stirling, 2015

If You Were Thinking of Coming Back

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003

You who’ve been compared
to the greatest love poet,
were seen feeding swans
from a green canvas bag
on the jetty where the battle
of San Vicente was lost.

I wonder if you know
that drunks who rhyme badly
are trampling the flowers
we once called snowdrops.

You who’ve been remembered
as philosopher-king,
are heard in the chambers
of an ostracized nation
by cleaning women
whose husbands drowned
for the profit of sea bass.

Every night, they stroke your face
on coins that buy nothing
and tell their children
of the whispers
no senator can hear.

If you were thinking of coming back,
today would be a good day.

You’re strong enough now
to ignore the trampling. Twitches
of the dispossessed are nothing to fear.

The one or two aging cocks
who thought they could supplant you
are down, at last, to their final
grasping syllables.

Holding up a hand
against the sun, I see you,
as I always do,
through my fingers.

Today would be a very good day.

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2015

my love has smuggled honeycomb

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honeycomb-fruit-cheese

~~a zejál~~

my love has smuggled honeycomb
sweet dripping from our ancient home
where cedar breathes on scented loam

he comes to me in waning moon
disguised in pedlar’s rags with broom
and dustbin, clanking knives and spoons
around his head a buzzing drone

I recognize as one who spies
a counterfeit with hungry eyes
who snuffles for some holy prize
denied him all these years alone

my love and I at dawn escape
while disillusioned gravitate
toward dreams that briefly satiate
I draw from him a shuddering moan

our honeyed lips and fingers tease
the bowstrings of new ecstasies
while pollen-gorgéd honeybees
to fecund, waiting queens fly home

excited that my love and I
are firmly reunited by
the downbeat of a butterfly
who drifts across the caliph’s throne

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2015

A Slightly Breathless Love Poem

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030

Reading at the cottage tattered mysteries
in pajamas while I hear you softly
cursing at the shower head that rattles
with metallic celebration, I can
only thank the convoluted histories
that ensured we would not meet until the
hinges of our armour fell, and battles
ran their full and nonessential life span,
which I do, in answer to your queries
on the strong likelihood that you and me
will have many future weekends that’ll
steam the bedroom windows—how such a man
as you could land onto this stratosphere,
I shall not question, only hold you dear.

~~~

If this is your first time at Oceantics, thank you for dropping by. If you’ve been reading my poetry for awhile, I send you a million thanks and would also like to invite you to my beautiful new website at http://www.elainestirling.com. It is a culmination of a lifetime’s love affair with the written word. Wishing you great joy!

© Elaine Stirling, 2015

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