Spindle-Fingered Trees

Winter SkyTrees lurch from an icy wasteland,

their spindle fingers clawing at the sky,

hoping for something to grab hold of,

but there is nothing they can do-I told them so.

Their roots reach too deep into the ground.

There is no way to loosen earth’s grip

unless, of course, I chop them down.

But it strikes me that death is not what they desire.

The poor things are too stupid-they think they can fly.

I can fly-away

-in a plane.

Or, perhaps, not.

Perhaps only in my mind.

But they can’t.

And so I think they are afraid.

I understand.

Sometimes I am afraid too-to be left here.

Sometimes I fear a horrible beast will set fire to this ice-and it will melt

and we will all drown.

flailing and choking on the last of our breaths

until we quiet and sleep

and the ground once again freezes and sprouts trees born of loss

so that they too can reach their spindle fingers into the sky and hope that in the gray nothingness lies

salvation.

 

 

Heels

AutumnDeath&Dreams

I hear the sharp clack of heels upon the floor

and I think of my mother on Sunday morning.

It is not a pleasant sound.

It is the sound of church

and an endless four o’clock when the sun glares low and unrelenting,

insisting that we learn to understand the length of a day,

a day that begins with the clacking of heels and ends in silence

if not for the ringing in the ears and the hum of electric appliances.

 

I hear the sharp clack of heels upon the floor.

I think of my mother.

I am startled the sound is mine.

My heels banging-

banging out the dirge of an eternal Sunday

like an inmate, banging a tin cup upon bars of his prison cell.

There is no sunlight.

He does not know when the day ends and begins

It is one day.

 

It has all been but a day.

It will all be but a day.

One day.

One eternity.

 

The Moon and the Yew Tree by Sylvia Plath

I didn’t plan to discuss poetry on the show, but two weeks ago I listened to a reading of Sylvia Plath’s The Moon and the Yew Tree, a work that is startlingly haunting and beautiful, and I just couldn’t let go of it. This week I talk about not only the poem but the importance of broadening the lens by which we view Plath.

Transcendence

This floor, I do not mind.

It is not impenetrable.

I can still feel the quake beneath my feet.

Despite its lacquer finish that attempts to hide the worm holes,

I can still hear the buzzing

and feel the vibration of insects

swarming underfoot.

I quite like it, really

the sound of all that chaos.

It is a welcome reprieve from the mortuary silence within these clean white walls

and this pretty floor that, try as it might,

cannot hide from me all that clamors for my attention.

But this ceiling

this ceiling is a problem.

It too shines as if no spider ever dare crawl across its surface.

I could lie here naked upon this cool, smooth floor looking up into the eternal void of this antiseptic ceiling.

I could lie here and feel the rumble of armies storming forth from the core.

I could press my back into the wood just to feel the pummels of the invading marauders.

I could enjoy it.

I would enjoy it

if not for this ceiling.

This clean, white ceiling

that keeps me safe,

that keeps me here.

Is It Real?

forest photography

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

I believe that most artists have one question that drives their work. Through their craft they strive to find the answer or explanation to that singular uncertainty which haunts them.

Does God exist?

Does the devil?

Who is my father? My mother?

Am I a monster?

Are you?

What did happen that night?

What is wrong with me?

What is wrong with the world? What did he mean when he said___________?

What did she mean?

Was it all a mistake?

Did I do the wrong thing?

Did I live the wrong life?

For me, I write to find the answer to this question: Is it real?

Is it real? Is his love real? Is her love? Is this person my loved one claims to be real? Was it all real, all those beliefs and principles? Are your feelings, your affections, real? Are mine? Are you real? The person you assure me you are, are you real? Is everything my life is built upon real? Is all I hold dear real? Is the deer I just saw in my lawn real? Is that color of my lawn, the verdant green of the grass, real? Is that black speck I see out of the corner of my eye real? Is something really there? Those voices I hear as I lie in bed, are those real? That person that I see standing in my doorway as I drift off to sleep real, is she real?

Is it real? This is the most terrifying of questions because it is followed by-if it is real, what then? And, if it is not real, what was it?

Is it real? The answer to this question can be the most assuring or terrorizing of responses, but, more frightening than the answer itself is the uncertainty which drives the question. The uncertainty of what truly is. The terror lies in the not knowing.

I wrote Fade Into Another Place as I witnessed my mother succumb to the horrors of dementia-a disease that damns its victims to an eternity unknowns.  An eternity of wondering, is it real?

Fade Into Another Place

Out of the corner of my eye

I spy

a flash.

It is black.

Perhaps a cat?

Not my cat.

He has long since departed.

But another,

I imagine,

who has found his way inside

this place where I reside.

Funny though.

Not too long ago,

I had a visit from a friend

who everyone tells me

has long been dead.

But oh so real

as we sat and had a cup of tea.

“Don’t you see?”

I asked.

“She is here,

as plain as can be.”

Is it something that haunts this place?

I contemplate

as I sit

and wait

for another friend to arrive.

But, I know.

I know.

This is an empty place,

and I must journey alone.

No friends to accompany me

as I make my way

past faceless strangers who talk and whisper.

I listen,

and I try to hear.

Will they confirm my deepest fear?

Their voices rise-

a cacophonous symphony

as they chatter

chatter

chatter

“Stop!”

Silence is what I need

to concentrate and discern

what is real

and what is make believe.

And so I go

and go

and go

until I fade away

into another place

where, perhaps,

I will be young again.

 

 

 

Melancholy, Like an Old Empty House

Two summers ago my daughter, who was almost nine years old at the time, and I visited Edith Wharton’s home, The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts. The house was beautiful and impressive, but my daughter was frightened not only in the house but outside as well, even as we walked through the magnificent gardens that Wharton herself designed. My daughter said the property felt haunted and asked if we could leave.

I later learned that The Mount is in fact rumored to be haunted. Surprisingly, Wharton had a deep fear of ghosts, despite having been a talented ghost story writer. Some of her most popular ghostly tales are Afterward, The Lady Maid’s Bell and The Triumph of Night.

It was our visit to The Mount that inspired this poem, which I originally posted in August 2018.

Melancholy, Like an Old Empty House

So, this is what it feels like

-melancholy.

Like an old, empty house

sitting atop a hill

on a hot summer day.

Inside, it is dead, silent, still.

Like a fever, the heat permeates the walls,

the film covered windows

the narrow stairwell-

meant for the unseen,

like sadness

hiding under smiles.

*

Melancholy, like an old, empty house

where the sun emanates a jaundiced glow

and the dust and ghosts

and memories

sit at the table awaiting tea

to be poured into cups

stained with past regrets.

*

But the time to drink is over

and the thirst that remains

is eternal.

If you want to learn more about Wharton, The Mount and her story Pomegranate Seed, please check out this episode of Strange & Scary Story Talk. Also, please note that while recoding I inadvertently say that The Mount is set upon a 13 acre property rather than 113 acres!

 

The Warden’s House

abandoned ancient antique architecture

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When I was ten years old, my family moved to prison grounds because my father was a warden. There I learned that places have their own energy and, if too many bad things happen in a space, bad things will continue to happen.

On the night of October 22, 2015, nearly twenty-five years after I moved away from prison grounds, I had a dream about that place. When I awoke, I wrote this:

THE WARDEN”S HOUSE

The hill

Four houses

Forest behind

Fields ahead

A dead end

The horizon

A prison

That place

Autumn

Dead leaves

Bare trees

My mother

Speaking in tongues

Secrets and stories

Legends of the dead

Bones in the woods

Sounds in the night

An insomniac child

Wide awake

Midnight rapping on the door

Something crashing to the floor

The dog atop the stairs

Snarling

The house next door

Looming

Once inside

A cavernous red room

A feeling of doom

Something wrong

Innocence knows

A dry fountain in back

Some toads

Chirping of crickets

Honking of geese

The noisy silence of death

and demons

Peaking in windows

Smashing down gates

The song of that place

On the hill

Where the Warden’s house stood.

*

Just the other night

I visited that house

In my dream

The red room

The living room

The basement door

I saw it all

All that dwelled there then

All that dwells there now

In my dreams

Of that house

On that hill

In that place

Where dead leaves fall

in the eerie silence

of a haunted past

 

This poem was originally posted in October 2015.