Category: Poetry

Synapses and Ganglia

Synapses and Ganglia

Wednesday’s poetry rendering

Synapses and Ganglia

What demon incarnation is this

That strides back and forth

Over the world, steps across oceans, 

Traverses mountains and continents, 

Tempts man with gifts, fears, anger, and rage,

Persuades to lust and jealousy, 

To theft and fraud and mendacity,

Who stands bestride the world 

Crowned in cruelty and brutality?

But a brief electrical pulse, 

One signal passed one synapse to another to another

Among millions, billions, trillions of blinks?

Whence comes the hero

Who braves the fire, 

The empathic who cries

For all the lost children she never knew;

How now comes the piano player 

To stage a symphony at the concert hall, 

The painter in his wonderfully messy studio, 

The poet on the hill as the sun rises?

But an accident of genetics?

From where wells up

Belly laughs at funny falls, 

All the harmless folly, 

Endless foolishness, ironies,

And more? 

 And too why

The quiet one in the poorest of robes, 

The most worn of sandals 

Who walks unhurried across the hot sand,

Who heals the sick, straightens 

The curled limbs of the lame?

Who absolves with

His elegant preachments 

Down across the centuries,

With promises becomed miracles?

But mere pulses 

Between synapses 

Down among the ganglia?

For more writing by Phil Cline,

Visit http://philcline.com/

Wednesday Poetry Rendering

Wednesday Poetry Rendering

The Space Between

                    by Phil Cline

The space between is where life is, 

Where emotion is, where feeling Is,

The space

Between fists raised in furious rage, 

Held, poised, awaiting, 

Brutality’s rapture,

And 

Poor arms pale, splayed

Underneath. Weak, 

Inadequate.  

In that space

Between. 

In that, time, no time, 

Before the hit 

Where Dread resides, 

Where Fear presides,

Where all is cringed and crimped, 

Where the head’s bent down, 

Angled, bowed, covered, 

But not enough, 

It is never enough,

For the cowering 

Humiliated child,

Living, 

Trying to live,

In that small space, 

Between

                    2

The In Between of Spaces

       by Phil Cline

Like meadows of flowers

In the shadow of 

The great granite mountain,

And the seething, bubbling

Cauldron beneath 

The valley’s crusted floor,

Where air cannot offer a breath,

Where clean cannot wash tears from cheeks,

Where screams start, but sound is not yet,

Not yet

The shouted “NO!”, the “Please Don’t!” 

The “I’m Sorry!”, the “I won’t do it again!” 

The helplessness of a promise, 

An apology, for a transgression,

Vaguely understood; 

The ignorance of not knowing 

Why it happened at all

Yet it must be my fault, 

Be Wary, 

Always wary of life

In between spaces,

In the space between the evening’s fatigue 

And a favorite dish on the table,

The comfort of the smell, the way it will taste 

When the bite is lifted across

The expanse between spaces 

To be savored. 

In the new spaces 

Between your touch 

And the smiling pretty girl.

She, trouble free 

From your guilt and nausea,

The knowledge of your hurt.

Across expanses, the in between space

Between my body where I must live, 

And another being,where she must live

Among the others, 

Walking on the bridge, 

Before the touch or hit, 

After, alone yet among, 

Inviolate but a second, 

A moment.

I can see out, hear, 

But can’t touch

From my life in the 

In Between 

Of Spaces.

For more writings by Phil Cline, visit philcline.com

Reckless Kings

Reckless Kings

Nothingness to nothing,

Returned my King. 

Reckless his good deeds, 

Legend his evil deeds,

Augmented, layer by layer, atop

Vaults too deep for excavation, among

Rows of tombs, Subterranean 

Cellars, protected 

From jocund birds, raucous,

Gossiping in the tree tops

Amid mornings aborning. 

Returned my King,

Nothingness to nothing.

Vexed by bumps and bruises,

Staggered toward home, 

Stumbled, fallen, failed,

Weighed under packs of sin, 

Burdens of ambition, 

Unkind advancements,

Chest full of achievements 

Clutched off currents of air

Before they floated away, 

Evaporated.

Returned our king, and we cried

“Nothingness to nothing!”

For our king murdered 

His loyal soldiers 

To spite the world.

Ordered Time

Ordered Time

Ordered time

They tried to order Time dawn to dusk,

Futile spreadsheets of manageable units,

Denying its nature to slow, to speed 

To pause, to fly with thoughts, dreams, 

Friends met, enemies loathed,

With pain and agony and anxiety, 

With pleasure, gaiety,

With visions, prophecies, with 

Feckless Fraud found out.

Ordered like railway ties

Clacking underneath our passing carriage

Carrying us toward the illusion, 

Of rails merging beyond the horizon, 

Combining before and after, 

In front and behind our journey.

And We passalong the tracks, the self-same tracks 

That transported circus animals to towns of laughing children, 

And carried the Jews to the ovens

And passed in front of Einstein, 

Standing on the platform, 

Visualizing eternity.

And locked in our box cars through the slats we see

Tree limbs encased in ice, white

The beauty of the morning, breaking, falling, 

The ache beyond our finger’s reach,

That we will never touch or hold,

Not for us to possess, to savor, to hoard.

Order beckons us away from the wide moment,

The joy of girls laughing,

The approval of a wife’s smile, 

The grief of a widow,

Order leaves behind the town, back before crowds,

Bare feet skipping between the sticker burs,

Curbs free of cars up in the work day

Young boys delighted to run an errand,

The touch of smooth porcelain, 

Birds chasing rabbits in the meadow 

And the singing, singing, singing as we lament.

Sad, time will be there tomorrow, somewhere, 

And was there, somewhere just yesterday

As we ride away, and disappear chasing the illusion 

Of separate tracks merging beyond the hill.

And worst of all, unordered, Time quietly resolves,

Barely felt, it ends the longing, desire, ambition, hope, 

the possibilities, When it ends, it ends

The dagger in the back of the Prince,

The speech of a President sending the nation to war,

A bullet in the chest of a Mother’s son,

The Preacher on Christ’s divinity, on God’s wrath, on God’s grace

The assassin’s bullet shattering the brain of his better, of our better,

The desperate search for a lost child,

Wandered off or taken?

Murdered by a Father or a Father’s mistress?

Getting lost in a picture of Micky Mantle

His halting, haunting, lumbering gait rounding the bases,

Country strong, country smile, innocent and lethal 

Having a drink with his own nightmares,

Ends 

A Father’s teaching,

A brother’s perfidy, 

A sister’s betrayal,

A mother’s slap,

A daughter’s laugh, tickled, unrestrained,

A granddaughter’s tear, as life impinges on her innocence.

Our tear as she looks away from the horizon 

Where the tracks maybe just might merge and stands shyly watching

The boy serving hamburgers and sodas at the counter.

Poetry in the Public Square

Poetry in the Public Square

Is poetry a public or private thing?

One’s love of country could be deliciously stirred by the magic of poetry:

“This happy breed of men, this little world, 

This precious stone set in the silver sea, 

………….

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England . . .”

Historically western poetry concerned itself with very public matters.  In verse we found Kingdoms and Kings, Gods and Fate, Destiny and Mysteries, and Mankind and his cities.  Poetry strutted on the vast stage of great events from Ulysses to Oedipus the King, to Dante’s Divine Comedy to Shakespeare and the souls of his flawed Princes struggling in the midst of cruel happenstance. 

But that all began to change last century.  One wag said, “the poet has no more part in society than a monk in domestic life.”

That sentiment has become debilitating in the age of Political Correctness.  Perhaps it is one reason why so much of modern American poetry is a desert of the inane, the mundane and the profane. Most modern poetry says nothing important that you cannot find canned on the cable T.V. channel of your choice. But does it have to be this way?

Could it have an impact on the public politics it once had?

Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982), an American poet who studied law at Harvard and dipped his toe in the political world, said, “The very last qualification for appointment to public office by and with the advice and consent of the Senate – and I am speaking with some personal knowledge – is, in the eyes of the senators, the practice of the art of verse.”

By contrast, Shakespeare’s most memorable characters included a Moor, a Jew, a conniving and murderous woman, a crippled man, 

“I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion, 

Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,

Deformed, unfinish’d, sent before my time

Into this breathing world, scarce half made up, 

And that so lamely and unfashionable

That dogs bark at me as I halt by them.“ 

And, even more shockingly, he made fun of cross dressing, bestiality and shrewish women. One can just here the gasps!

Could a modern-day Shakespeare be expected to explore in verse his musings on the State of the State? Would his plays be boycotted, his poetry banned from the public-school system.  (oops, I guess that has already been done at some colleges.)

When a man cannot become a judge because he is Catholic and member of a charitable organization as innocuous as the Knights of Columbus, when a comic is pilloried because in the past he did what comics do, make fun of groups of people, how can a poet, be expected to take a risk and hope to be published?

Poetry (and to a large extent Art) has been relegated to the private realm.  And to regions safe, secure and is not allowed to deal with the messy unpredictable life of the public arena. One cannot explore the many sides of mankind, not in the public square, not ever, not in real flawed life ever, not without being crucified, if not now, at some future day, by someone, somewhere who will find offense?

As William Butler Yeats, (1865-1939), an Irish poet intensely involved in the politics of Ireland  said,

“The daily spite of this unmannerly town,

Where who has served the most is the most defamed,

The reputation of his lifetime lost

Between the night and morning.”

How many men and women has that happened to of late?

It is a supreme irony that we all now live more in the public sphere than ever before. As MacLeish said, “We no longer worry much about our private souls.  We worry about the soul of America or about the soul of mankind-the condition of mankind-the human condition.” Yet no longer can anything dangerous ever be publicly ventured about the condition of humankind, the basis of poetry and art.

Lastly, for the person who steps forward, lives his or her art in public, it takes extraordinary courage. And maybe we, living our private lives, should better appreciate all those brave souls who take to the public stage and make the poetry of their lives public for all to see.

Again, Yeats

“The drunkards, pilferers of public funds,

All the dishonest crowd I had driven away,

When my luck changed and they dared meet my face,

Crawled from obscurity, and set upon me

Those I had served and some that I had fed;

Yet never have I, now nor any time,

Complained of the people.”

Phil Cline

For more writings by Phil Cline, visit philcline.com

He Credited Fear

He Credited Fear

At the window he credited Fear,

Regretted his temper drive,

And looked to gloomy vistas

This morning again arrived.

Secrets of giggly girls,

Potent Innocence fails

Divers of missing pearls

Bartered from greasy nails.

Christmas lights harken End,

Heralded toys broken fine,

Discarded in the snowy mud

Cheered by crows atop a line.

Don’t hurry to turn away

Rush to doubt of all beliefs

Enrichments but a brief delay,

Days too few; hours too brief.

Where Boys Walk

Where Boys Walk

Where Boys Walk

Fist clenched, 

Forearm flexed, 

Raised above, hovering,

Before down the hit. 

Cringed below, a boy child’s 

Dread,

And fear.  And Humiliation.

Again.

Hands, kind, reach, 

Stretch, pat on’a back, 

Rest on’a shoulder,

A smile, a nod, he said “good job.”

Eyes open, breath released, hope.

Courage, 

And will. And defiance.

Indomitable.

And between the two places

Boys walk

Back and forth, to and fro

And despite it all, 

Somehow grow.

Laugh like a young man

Laugh like a young man

Trigger Warning. Caution:  This poem tends to glorify being a man.

 

Laugh as a Young Man Laughs

 

Laugh as a young man laughs.

Laugh hearty, laugh out loud,

 

Laugh at facing a day’s hard work,

Laugh at the wobble in your knees

Hauling hundred pound sacks of “taters”

Balanced across your shoulders.

 

Laugh and lug the loads up the ramp,

In the back of the big Mac Truck trailer.

 

Laugh at how damn hot it is gets,

At the sweat dripping off your forehead,

Running in your eyes and stings like hell,

Laugh at the damn forecast cause it’s only going to get hotter.

 

Laugh like a man laughs

As he strips the rotten shingles,

Splashes the black tar, shoots the nails

Into the new shakes on the old roof.

 

Laugh at the beer headache from the night before,

Laugh at needing to piss real bad,

Laugh at the cussing from the young wife

For flirting with a buddy’s girlfriend.

 

Tune up the News, laugh at the stupidity

Of pundits, presidents, prime ministers

And the local councilman

Who sells used cars during the day.

 

Laugh as they scheme to steal your wages

And spend your Money

At night meetings in empty chambers.

Laugh cause you know they’re all thieves,

 

Every one of them.

 

Laugh in your soul at how good to feel

Your muscles strain and push and pull

And dig and wedge, and turn and wrench

Until some mighty thing you’ve decided to move, moves.

 

Sling a sledge, chop an ax down hard,

Split the wood, explode the bark.

Feel the cool sweat return,

Rivulets down the back, over the belly,

 

The way it does when you work hard,

Gets the poison out,

Toughens the sinews, bulges up the arms

Bulks up the shoulders.

 

Breathe in the dirt and dust swirling

From your hits, stomps, kicks, and slams.

Could get you hurt?  Yeah!  And hell, if it does, laugh,

Got to do the work, so the hell with it.

 

Grit your teeth, smile, and “gett’er done” anyway.

Brag, yell, say what you think.  Don’t whisper,

Don’t’ chant, don’t hum nonsensical crap.

Be sure of everything, exclaim your beliefs to everyone,

 

Whoop it up, Shout out, In their face,

Laugh at the soft, weak, snotty effete professors of profanity

Who’ve never thumped a shovel in the ground

Turned over the dark earth, never crumbled clods in their hands

 

And who fear the offense of being a man.

Laugh as they shrink, and if they move to fight, club them back down

Sneer at their bowing and scrapping.

Laugh at their cringe, at their sniveling.

 

Know, by God, you are not wrong.

Laugh and go ahead, go forward,

It’s a job to do and, by God, it feels good to have a strong heart

Beating in a rhythm, a cadence in time with strong legs and arms

 

And the will to build,

Then tear up, then shatter,

Then erect it back up and then

Tear it right down again.

 

Don the pads and take the field

Tackle a runner and slam him to the ground,

Laugh when he moans and utters “good hit.”

Break up a double play and spike the shortstop,

 

Go on the court and Dunk the ball.  Hard!

Make the backboard shake, your defender cower,

Humiliated, mad as hell at you.

Laugh at the fear in his eyes when you drive toward him again.

 

Jump in a muscle car, a combustion engine!

Blow blue smoke in the atmosphere. Break the speed limit.

Hit the pedal, press it all the way down, peg the tach,

Go fast. Push a “vette into a curve too fast and

Pedal down! Accelerate out.

 

Ski head long down the high hills,

Those way beyond your skill.

Walk out on the edge of the cliff

And feel the danger of falling and laugh,

 

Show off and do a funny dance

Almost fall over and down the canyon laughing,

 

Launch on the ocean when its roiling.

Turn the sail boat sideways into the wind,

Race the storm to shore

Dare it to catch you, swamp you.

 

Walk down the avenue in the storm.

Out yell the thunder. Light a smelly cigar,

Lift your face heavenward

And dare the lighting.

 

Shoot a shotgun.  Feel the boom,

The shock, the force, the power,

And laugh at the splitting target.

And fire it again while your ears still ring.

 

Howl and joke with the whores

Standing on the corner.

Laugh cause your wit can never match theirs,

Laugh cause they know how stupid men really are.

 

Jump in the middle of drunken brawl,

Sock somebody in the jaw, sucker punch some dickhead,

Then buy them a drink and grab a hunk of beefsteak or ice pack

For the black eye he gave you right back.

 

And, Man, listen, if they come for us. Go to war. Fight the bastards.

Kill the sons’a’bitches with a knife, a gun, a grenade,

Blow them up with a shell from a tank.

Laugh over their bodies, kick them in the side of the head.

 

Laugh as you ship home

Laugh as you care for the widow and orphan

Because it’s hard, sacrifice is hard,

Duty is hard.

 

But you owe it to your brother

As he owes it to you.

 

And while you’re at it, Kick the bum off your sidewalk.

Laugh at his drunken curses

As he rolls around in the gutter,

Getting his filthy blanket soaked.

 

Then buy him a steak dinner

With mashed potatoes, with all the fixings

And, yes, a beer and laugh at his sorry tale

Cause they are all sorry tales.

 

Drive a cement truck, its big belly spinning.

Keep it going and turning so the cement

Don’t cure, then pour a foundation,

And carve your initials in the wet pavement.

 

Shift the transmission

On the big Caterpillar,

Ram it into gear,

Will it up the mountain road

 

So you can dig out the old road,

Haul it away and scrape level the ground for a new road.

 

Feel the strength in your shoulders and chest

As you wrestle a bridge in place,

Span it over the gorge, build it to last a hundred years.

Laugh at the hundred years.

 

Step heavy and loud into the forest.  Leave the camera.

Fell the redwood tree, chop it down,

Strap it to the long bed truck

And drive it to the mill.

 

Strip the bark, plane it through the giant saws.

Laugh when you tell how you cut off your forefinger

Right up to the knuckle because the damn board jumped

When it bounced off a knot in the wood.

 

Roughhouse with the dog.

Get him fired up and fighting.

Snarling and growling,

See if you can make him bite.

 

And laugh at his barking at you

Because he can’t out rough you.

 

And when you get tired, lay down,

Sprawl across the clean sheets

In your dirty sweaty clothes

And take your pulse and laugh

 

At the life beating, pumping under your wrist,

Deep in your chest, echoing across the canyons and gullies

Of your town, your nation, your region

And reverberating

 

In the laugher of other young men

Of every kind, on every other side of the planet,

In every time and every place.

Laugh it up with the young guys.

 

 

A Tide Barely Felt

A Tide Barely Felt

The Tide Barely Felt

 

Time, the tide barely felt,

Sweeps us

Away.

 

Its low waves rush across the shore

And withdraw,

The clicking sounds of tiny rocks colliding,

Raking over their fellows,

And

With each arrival, each delivery, each departure

Less force, less vigor, less wash.

 

Random faces float top shallow pools,

Then gone.

Lesser men, never friends, never mattered.

Women too with their skeptical eyes,

A smile, a hope, a moment’s attention,

Then forlorn, resigned,

Sad

 

To know I do not care

And

Have already forgotten.