Spring 1987, Volume 4.1

Don Sharpes

Father Surrogate

His paternity had never been in doubt before.
Kind, generous, a tendril of feeling,
a clutch on the arm; and he gave gifts:

dancing feet, lustrous eyes, squeals
for when you floated like a drunk butterfly,

and never cawed, like a magpie, identity.

Then, one day, in that house
where we all played, he vanished, a biography
of uncoiling past, exiling himself.

Not everyone knew he'd gone: a few older
children were unsheltered, staring, vacant,

like a tide sucks out shells.

And some love ran away too,
like a naked thief, sticking a fang
in my choicest sinew, wanting to take wisdom away

like the ghost of my breath.
Odd how we share history as a prison,

consciousness a landlocked lake

sluicing out only when rain decides,
overlipping the edge.
Yet now I need time on my side,

away from snarls in the caves dark
from glinty eyes that strangle

old insecurities while hatching new ones,

some blessing from company, friend's love,
mother's breast. Orphaned before I know
the length of shadows.

 He wasn't seed-sower, amino-acid maker,
but story-teller, conjurer, a voice after long stillness,

his house half-way in therapy.

But some juice is yet in the generator,
flint, spark, cable and coil, and I have
a son who wants to wrestle.

Ireland, by God

She kneels at the candled altar
for him knifed in battle
defending the stone round tower door,

swearing by the gods
her people swear by,
divine allegiance against marauders

who desecrate an iron-emerging
civilization (Irish some say)
but Gaelic cut from Celtic souls.

She speaks for all homesteads,
a rock-willed people flayed by a wet wind,
reddened by the impertinences of nature,

but taming weather with some
megalithic magic melted
from a bronze past.

Meanwhile, monastic men
mix pages illuminated with rainbows,
and with fissured faces

cling, sublimely isolated,
along frothing surf coasts
like cliff gulls above the rocks.

 Late Thoughts on Late Night Thoughts

"And the poets, on whose shoulders the future rests, might, late nights, thinking things over, begin to see some meanings that elude the rest of us. It's worth a try."

Lewis Thomas, Late Night Thoughts on Listening
to Mahler's Ninth Symphony

The future and great upheaval of meaning
clutching my shoulder with hawks talons?
It isn't just, unfairly promethean, like stealing
the god's fire, doomed to lashing at a stone pillar.

So we are wombs,
centers of biological generation,
cells turning over, seeking new routes
to survival, guessing at what to do next,

each trying to string together
the next bead, the stream of ribbed
thoughts, while new feelings (are they anxieties?)
interfere and demand front seats.

Or late night thoughts could stay submerged,
and do no damage, no sabotage,
to undermine an already
weakened defense.

Still, it's all a way of teasing out
some ignorance anyway, cajoling
a playfully hidden mistress
keen on confrontation.

Memory, my lacquered box of confiscated
in-ages, plucks its stored jewelry, then
makes mockery of forgetting and dumps
the puzzle pieces on the floor.

But the future isn't in the past. Not now either.
The mirror's rays return, and I have, like you,
with cells squirming to hang together,
some sequences left to play at identity.

Let me pass, and that just might be
entrance, easy access to see
why stars get farther away
and life works to a quivering balance.

A Basket of Visions

In that pillowy cushion, sleep,
see how deep forgiveness there is buried,

and among forgotten rainbows, grandfather,
play acting manhood, testing his loose edge

in the corn stubble, running with dogs
after wounded pheasants, reeling squiggly

fish flesh for the table's fare. They all
flee with the sleep's involuntary twitch,

derelicts of no war, a teller of primeval tales,
teasing bait from a basket of laughing visions.

If I could keep my pulse still while turning,
slow my breath, play out a line beyond

the night' 's contour, I would ask you too
to wonder how, often, you must cry out

further than language reaches, move your leaves
to catch light before dark doses around

your delicacies. Then you could catch--
with a heart stab and sea water in your eyes--

a kin for all boxed in dreams,
knowing memory lays down vintage

to be tapped in the time
when a clock you cannot see chimes.