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necessary whispers

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Month

June 2016

Lighthouse Hero

lighthouse_keeper.jpg

She called to him

Beneath a veil of night

When summer wore

Its hottest mask

Wax and dripping

Onto the earth

Leaving sticky puddles

Drenched and drying fast.

 

 

He was ill equipped

From skin to guts

No cape in his wardrobe

Or spectacles to hide his eyes

Paralyzed

By the fear—

No not the fear—

The knowing.

 

 

Knowing that his will

To fight for love

Was vacuum packed

And wrapped in moth balls,

Wreaked of age and of

The stench of desperate attempts

And falls—

Memories of unanswered calls.

 

 

Calls for him to be the one

The victor in the storm

Brimming to capacity

With strength enough to

Hold her heart—

At least her hand

Across jagged tightropes

Stretching over pits of sand.

 

 

Quicksand questions

Lined with glue

Meant to close the chasm

Between expectation and

What is true—

Catechisms from the past

Never brought to light

Long enough

For queries to last.

 

 

What lasted was uncertainties

And now he paid the price

Not wanting to lose

Her

But unprepared to fight

All he could muster

Was a broken hero’s

Journey into night.

 

 

Night fell

Long past its time as

Summer solstice

Lazily drew its haze

Upon a sultry sky—

Like the afterglow

Of a camera’s flash

Imprinted behind the eye.

 

 

Eyes heavy with fatigue

Propped open by ambition

He pulled his jeans up high

Belted at the waist

Sat on the dew-drenched seat

Slicing through salt

Like he was a Sodomite Sculptor

Entering the competition.

 

 

A competition

Against himself

Against the doubt

Bubbling through

His tightening veins

Waking him from

Slumber of uncertainty to

Valor through adversity.

 

 

Adverse conditions

In the black

Gave way

As light he carried

Burned a path

Radiant as day—

Along the way he set it down

The dread that he had nothing to give.

 

 

He gave her a coordinate—

It was all he had—

A map written in the air

To help her find him

Approaching beneath a beacon

Brave and bright

Like a compass

More meticulous than starlight.

 

 

Starlight led her way

Across a stretch of sand

The edge of land

And water

Lapping against her skin

Deep and

Deeper still

She wandered toward the glow.

 

 

Glowing first as though a firefly

Small and far away

His vessel cutting through

The foam, mocking delay

For time no longer mattered

As slow there paths came near

He, soaked with ocean

She, doused in tears.

 

 

Her tears were anvils

From her soul

Releasing injured expectation

She felt her heaviness go—

Fly

Into the heavens

Where drafts outweighed

The currents swirling down below.

 

 

She never saw below

The hidden treasure trove

Inside his hidden space

The place

Where thought and emotion

Ruptured like burdened banks

To flood his heart and

Overflow—

 

 

Overflows of adrenaline

Like rain

Saturated and drowned his pain

Leaving only

In the boat

He and the lighthouse he kept

For her

A flame no longer detained.

 

 

No act of the Furies could detain

His passage toward her eyes

The two he knew without seeing

He could feel at the side of his neck,

Glimpse behind the pillow

Where once she lay

Inside his dreams

And in the middle of day.

 

 

The glow began to grow

He rowed like a man

Pursued by death

And she

Released a laugh

That tore his heart

From two parts into one—

He dropped the oars so he could run.

 

 

He ran to just before her

Then stopped to etch her

All

Inside his mind

Where secrets forever kept

Could burrow, rest and hide,

“I came for you,”

He said—

 

 

She already knew

But she feigned a big surprise,

“I wondered at that

single point

upon the horizon growing

never knowing

whether I should run away

or stay.”

 

 

“I am glad you stayed,”

He kicked some sand

Between his shoes

And cleared his tightening throat,

“Now that you have

would you allow

this reluctant pirate

to stay here, too?”

 

 

She blew out the candle

Burning above his face—

No need to keep it lit

Inside this place

Where journey’s end

Had come to rest—

“I never really lost you.”

“Then I was never really lost.”

copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

 

(Photo Credit: This poem was inspired by Oakland based artist John Casey‘s piece, Lighthouse Keeper, 2016  acrylic on panel  40″ x 30″.  http://www.johncasey.com)

 

Love, Or Something Like It

well_hello.jpg

(Photo credit: This poem was inspired by American artist John Casey’s piece, Well Hello: 2014, pencil on paper, 14 x 11.  http://www.johncasey.com

 

 

There was a time

When the feeling was high

Like a tide

Rolling up and in

Surfers flying

Sun shining and

Invisible heartbeats

Crooning tunes of

Love

Or something like it.

 

 

The edge of desire

Between water and fire

Where burning is natural

Safe and contained

Where extinguishing

Is disregarded like a far-off joke

Laughter and ease

No appeasing

Only releasing

No hand on the trigger.

 

 

A season of passion

Final bastion before the mix

Of hearts and hands

Rhythms and bands

Playing songs for two

And candles glowing

Illustrating the knowing

Breaking shadows

Into pieces like crumbs

Along the way.

 

 

Shadows slip into

The hourglass—

Goodbye—

Crumbs and sands combine

Lost

And time falling

Sand filling darkness

That cannot be fished

All the way down

Into deepest fathoms of regret.

 

 

It is quiet there

Where thoughts dare not

To squirm—

They writhe instead

Slither over, “what the hell”

Wriggle past hatred

Lick the ears of obliterated

Words and

Images all stamped with,

“Doubt.”

 

 

There is a way out

But only further down

Past the malice

And through the chalice

Of poison

Red with the blood of

Something once living

Now stiffening

Twitching slowly before

Final death.

 

 

A memory of breath

Clouding

First love

Then hatred

Now something

More foreboding—

Indifference

The truest enemy of

That which was

And no longer is.

 

 

Indifference is

The air surrounding and

That one time we—

Oh, wait, now I forgot—

It is a stroll in the park

With nothing hiding,

Sitting at a traffic light

Waiting for green

But red is fine, too—

Nothing to forget, nothing to pursue.

 

 

There was a time

When hearing your voice

Scattered my focus

Like bees swarming

Drenched in honey

Bringing balance

To the flowers that we gave

And the ones we dropped

Along the way—

A garden full and thriving.

 

 

“Hello?”

My God, the timing—

I did not expect

How could I have known

That the ringing of my phone

Would start the race

Like a pistol pointed above,

Toward the space

Where helium-filled expectations

Rest in peace.

 

 

I touched my lips

As I do when my heart

Beats

Suddenly

Quickly

Stinging the parts that

Stabilize

When I realize

My hands are the only protection

I have.

 

 

“Hello,”

I heard—

Oh,

Hell no—

Hello is not enough

No greeting

Even in the repeating

Could fill the chasm

Between speaking

And hearing.

 

 

I wanted to spill

Like a leak in a pipe

Drip into the boards

Between my feet on the floor

Become a puddle

With no response

No chance to offer

More kindling to

Soak

Or to muddle.

 

 

I heard his voice

Once more

A bolt of electricity—

I was struck

With a memory

The simplicity of

The time that was high

The surfers, the tide—

A different world

A haunted time.

 

 

Then it was quiet

“It” being I

And I being the me

I remembered

I became

After the exit

Of he

And I breathed

Into the phone

Then I hung up—dial tone.

 

 

I poured a glass of Merlot

Sat in an unfamiliar glow

Once having waited—

Deeply anticipating his hello—

Now

Denied

Then

Intoxicated with his lies

But no more

And the red warmed my soul.

 

 

Once I read

Written on the sky

The opposite of love

Is hate

But you see, my dear,

I fear the stars

Were misinformed—

The opposite of love is

Indifference

I am sure I am right

As muted versions of

You and I

Are blown to dry

And stick

To freshly painted fingernails—

Not painted for you.

 

 

copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

Algorithms of Fathers and Sons (And Daughters, Too)

hopeless.jpg

(Photo Credit: This short story was inspired by American artist John Casey‘s piece, Hopeless, acrylic on panel, 14″ x 11″, 2015.  http://www.johncasey.com)

 

 

There is a jukebox in the corner

Where saddle shoes used to tread

Under skirts and socks with lace

Splattered with drippings from

Chocolate malts and shakes,

Where pearls used to bounce

And roll across the floor.

 

 

Tile black and white—

I know it sounds trite

Like paisley on a bow tie

But patterns and bow ties

Bring order to the madness—

Also hamburgers, French fries

Ponytails and Snake Eyes.

 

 

He came to this place

Where the music was stuck—

Records displaying

Yellowed faces

Songs replaying

Grooves worn low

Weary, dull and much too slow.

 

 

Going backward

Isn’t really his thing

But there came a day

When his soul melted

Slipped through his lungs

Leaked and oozed

Puddled around the soles of his shoes.

 

 

Forward

No longer

Was an option for him—

What was he supposed to do?

Walk away, a shell of a man

Empty but for the wind

Whistling through?

 

 

He stood

Until noon traveled around him

Draped over the moon

Darkness descended

Then fell his soul

Standing stuck

He heard the rattling of a rancid truck.

 

 

“Move aside,”

Said a man

Who smelled like Linus looks

Plus the tan lines of a garbage man,

“You’re in my way,

and what is this filth

at your feet?”

 

 

Accustomed to the dross

Of the city streets

With fetid hands the garbage man

Began to lift the spilt soul

Which was running into the ditch but,

“Wait!,”

Cried the empty man.

 

 

“That is not junk

though it lacks the glow

of gold

please leave it here

with me

it is all I have

if the truth is told.”

 

 

“All you have?”

Laughed the man

With the smell of human waste

On his hands,

“Then pick it up.”

Then came the second truth,

“I can’t.”

 

 

“I need your help,”

The wind spun around his tongue

Then played the space

Between his ribs

And his lungs

Like a concerto for weakening

Flesh and bone.

 

 

“Damn it all,”

The collector of trash replied

As he bent at the waist

To clean up the spill

That rolled down the hill

Before it crusted, caked and dried

Under the heat of the sun.

 

 

“I’ll put it in your pocket

now move along

get something to eat

there is a diner

across the street

that serves the lost

and the weak.”

 

 

And so, this is how he came

To the place echoing with the past—

The jukebox, the pearls

Where nothing was meant to last—

Fate brought him low

Then brought him here

To face the time where it all began

(Thanks to the garbage man).

 

 

“I don’t understand,”

He thought to himself

Then said it out loud

As his eyes rolled around

Searching for some logic

He could grip

Or some algorithm

He could apply to the script.

 

 

And then

Entered a ghost

With matted hair

On the sides of his head

Coming out of his ears,

A limp in his knee and

Teeth glowing green.

 

 

“I don’t believe in ghosts,”

Said the empty man

“Tough shit,”

Said the apparition

Blunt in his delivery and

Over dramatic

In his long flowing livery.

 

 

“Do you have a cigarette?”

Coughed the ghost

To which the live one replied,

“Do you always start with small talk?

I don’t mean to gawk but

your presence and general

demeanor are starting to piss me off.”

 

 

“You are here for a reason

and so am I

we need to get some things straight

before it’s too late

for you.

As you can see

it’s already too late for me.”

 

 

The beginning and the end

Sounded like a riddle

But somewhere in the middle

The living man

Recognized the voice,

“Dad?”

He squinted and then stuttered.

 

 

“No shit,”

Said the ghost and then

Once more,

“Do you have a cigarette?”

The living man

Almost fell to the floor

“Here, one of my last four.”

 

 

They sat in a booth

The jukebox began to croon

They ordered hotdogs with ketchup

Had no forks

Cut their food with a spoon,

“I don’t mean to pry

but why have you come?”

 

 

“I met her here in 1952

we were both too young

to know what to do

so we loved and had fun

and then she had you

I thought of staying

but I couldn’t follow through.”

 

 

They sipped coke through a straw

To fill the long pause,

“Again, I wonder

why are you here?”

The ice clinked

In the ghost’s tall curvy glass,

“I know I was an ass

I feel kind of bad

I heard you needed me there

but I didn’t know—

shit—

it was hard to stay away

and hard to stay

I wanted to say . . .”

 

 

A pause.

 

 

And a tightening of the throat

Both the man and the ghost

Turned and squirmed,

“But why today?”

Asked the living son

Who wanted to run but chose to stay.

 

 

“Before I go to my final space

I was given the gift

once more

to see your face

and written there

I saw your hopelessness—

it rendered my journey motionless.”

 

 

“Is that when my soul

dripped all the way out?”

The ghost whispered back,

“That wasn’t your soul

it was fear and self-doubt

and I couldn’t help but

notice my name

on the puss that spilled out

so I used my airy powers

to stop your feet

with the little time I have left

I wanted to meet

in case my song repeats

after I’m gone.”

 

 

The air was still

Atmosphere heavy

Like before a storm

The ground felt shaky

And covered with worms

Snakes, anteaters and obese germs.

“I took a bit of you

and left too much of me

dropped you in a hole

of anonymity

no sure identity

as is given by a dad

and when you reached for me

your hand collapsed

empty

confused

your confidence slid—

but hear me now:

you are the best thing

I ever did.”

 

 

The living man

Felt a peace begin to grow

In a place he did not know

Existed before today

Above his ribs, above his lungs

Where scabs were hung

Replaced with Band-Aids.

 

 

“I didn’t know

and I have a lot of questions

but I feel your time is fleeting

so I will ask only one

why wait

so late

to have this meeting?”

 

 

“Time is made of seconds and of hours

each tick devours each tock

as we ignore the face of the clock

take for granted the breath

and selfishly hold the seasons

in vaults of the mind we keep locked

for prideful reasons.

But I tell you,

my son,

you are not

hopeless

I see your shine

and as long as you are living

there is still

time

so live

and be the you that is

free

of the weight of me

and my stupidity,

I am sorry.”

 

 

Then the ghost

He didn’t believe in

Vanished

To whence he came

But left a ray of something

Maybe hope

And the jukebox continued to play.

 

copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

Imprisoned Behind No Lock

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(Photo Credit: This poem was inspired by German painter Thorsten Dittrich‘s piece, Analysis, which part of his series: Indikation.  http://www.thorstendittrich.de)

 

 

Paralyzed inside

The staying

Relaying of doubt

Endless repeating of

Retreating of

My will

Once standing

Now squatting

Soon laying

But that I would

Straighten

Stand

Erect with prospects of

Chances for

Courage.

 

 

Hypnotized by

Echoes inside

Loud like a tuba

Booming against

Subway walls

At two o’clock in the morning

When lovers kiss

Goodbyes sour, linger

Into mourning

The lonely few

Number too small

To diffuse the

Notes

The rhythm

The song.

 

 

Mesmerized

I sit inside

Me

The me I know

Myself to be

And ponder

The me in the street

Treading feet on concrete

Smiling above

Labors of love

For those who pass

Or

A shield against

Further questioning

“Leave me be

and be the back that

I watch leave.”

 

 

Neutralized by comfort

Rejected

Encumbered by

The work of my mind

Smoke

Lifting up

Like steam rising

From a cup

Some evidence of

Heat

Quickly dissipating

Burnt up

Then out

Oxygen of doubt

Throws chains

Around and in and through

My almosts accrued.

 

 

Memorized

Prison of defeat

Broken latch

Deadbolt fallen

On the floor

Flopping around

Like a fish on the ground

Swelling

Heaving

Drying up

Melting down

To the sound of

Pacing

Frenetic racing

In a circle

Not even a spiral that

Denotes destination.

 

 

Compromised

Wandering inside

Here

Then wondering—

Consciousness there—

Where my eyes

Who are birds

Fly

Alight on a single point

Bright

Reflecting the sun

Inclined to run

Plunge into shade

Cool with decay

Arrayed in muted stain

But stay to

Examine this ray.

 

 

Energized

The edges of light

Like a spout

Pour memories out

Faces cascading

Words in shards relaying

Bloody stabs

Unanswered jabs

Impenetrable marble slabs

Erected high

At the entrance

Of my mind

Gleaming under

Beaming under

Illumination

Like light but

Also like . . .

 

 

Disguised

Pain

Old

Slathered in new stain

Dripping

Refrains

From then

Cutting the foundation

Of now

With shadows sharp

But also with

Opposite—

Bright—

Revealing

Not stealing but

Liberating through

Brilliance new.

 

 

Polarized

Between

What is

Possible

Out there and

The name of this absurdity

Gluing me to these walls

Inside

Subsiding

No

Dividing all of my

Determination

From

The fabrications of doubt

No

Fear

No

Terror

That my volition

Though beautiful

Is not enough

Out there . . .

 

 

Minimized

I find my active voice

Make a choice

To organize

Slay the giant

In my brain—

Smoking tobacco

Rolled in disdain

Of the day I mobilize,

Drunk on his power

Slurring his curses and

Stumbling over

The verses he

Whispered

Has whispered

Is whispering

Into the corners

Of this room—

This room

Erected in fear

And painted in doom

Crawling with roaches

Like a demon’s womb.

 

 

Sensitized

But not quite

Stabilized

(No need to wait

for the moment

of strength—

just go)

I stare once more

At the reflecting glow

Take my compass

In my hand

Start out

And below

The window

Of my inside

Tread first with caution

Second with grit

And finally with power

Toward the exit

And the freedom

And redemption

Like a contestant

Who jumps in the ring

Beats the shit

Out of the king

And wears the ring—

A victor

A hustler

An emerging prisoner

Who always was free.

 

copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

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