“Secret Identity”

Here’s another new poem that I finalized just recently and debuted at an open mic night this week. I’m calling it “Secret Identity.”

Question for discussion: do you prefer poems with a definite rhyme or rhythm (like this one will be), or ones written in free verse (like the last one I posted)? I feel like free verse is more “in vogue” these days, and so for a while most of what I wrote was free verse. But personally, I find that when I write for spoken word or specifically for performance (as I have been doing lately), I like to go back to consistent rhyme and rhythm if I can. Having a rhythm and a pattern or beat helps me to keep my pace when the audible sounds are the focus more than the written word.

Anyway, here’s “Secret Identity.” I hope you enjoy it.

——

Shirt & tie
Image taken from user jopperbok on Flickr Creative Commons.

My shirt and tie may cover me.

These glasses hide my eyes.

But still this outer man you see

is merely a disguise.

By day I speak on words and books.

Your minds I try to fill.

I may give disapproving looks

or tell you to sit still.

But underneath there’s so much more

than what you could dream of:

a soldier fighting holy war,

a heart that’s full of love

and far-too-idealistic hopes

in my heroic quest

to talk of more than tomes and tropes

but make your life feel blessed.

Behind the desk, behind the beard,

behind the endless puns

lies something more than first appeared:

deep care for broken ones.

I see you there, alone and lost

like sheep, a shepherd needing.

You don’t know I’d pay any cost

to simply stop the bleeding.

You’ll never know how much I care

or how I long to hold you

or how I wish I could be there

though outwardly I scold you.

Oh, how I longed to draw you near

like a hen unto her chicks,

to chase off every hurt and fear—

to shield, to heal, to fix.

Of burdens I would bear the brunt—

but alas, I am unable,

for I stand up here at the front

while you sit at your table.

For after all, I’m only one

flawed, finite, mortal creature,

and when it all is said and done,

I’m just a high school teacher.

But I’ll always be here on your side.

I’ll always be your fan.

I couldn’t save you if I tried,

but I’ll do what I can.

Clark changing
Image taken from user Porta-john on Flickr Creative Commons. Originally published by DC Comics.

The Wanderer’s Lament

I haven’t written much fiction lately, but I’ve been working on some poetry. And as our own Mr. Mastgrave reminded me this week, a poem can often be a form of telling a story. In my case, I certainly believe that that’s true. Some people are gifted enough that they can write beautiful poems about almost anything, but I can really only bring myself to write one when I have the right inspiration, usually when it has been influenced by something from my life—-a story, if you will.

Later in the week, I may write a post analyzing poems and storytelling a little more thoroughly. For now, I’d just like to share with you some of the latest ones I’ve written. The following is a work in progress born of an emotion inside me, but I didn’t really put it down in words until yesterday–so I reserve the right to edit and change it later on as I revisit it. (But I am planning to unveil it to the public at an open mic night tonight, so hopefully it’s ready enough for that at least!)

I have named this poem “The Wanderer’s Lament.”

———-

Home is not the mattress I sleep on

in a brick building far too uptight

to be anything more than a temporary dwelling.

Home is no longer the four walls

where I talked and laughed with two best friends

right up until everything changed.

Home is not even where my parents live, or my brothers,

or the simpler, more idealistic version of myself

I can still glimpse within my mind,

reading a book or doing homework

in that familiar house ten years ago.

Home is not a past that can never be repeated–

but neither is it the ever-fleeting present

or some hopeful future still in flux.

Home is not a grand adventure

6788260659_52e0a97b0d_n
Image taken from user Ciscolo on Flickr Creative Commons.

where I crossed the river to chase my dreams

and learn how to grow up a little more

and just maybe begin laying down some roots.

Home is not the winding halls

of the university I still love,

or the classroom where I spend so many hours

to earn a living and hopefully make a difference.

Home isn’t found under a steeple, in a pew,

or even a friendly living room full of smiling faces

with a Bible in my lap.

Home is not my friends,

the ones who have stood by me for years,

or the ones who so graciously welcomed me

into a strange new land.

Home is not any loving community that I’ve found,

or any that I’m likely to find in a week,

or a month,

or a year.

If one day I find love

and build up a family in a house,

if I hold a wife close to me

or cherish the sweet laugh of a child,

even then the home I long for

will still be far from me.

 

If I Find in Myself a Desire
Image taken from QuotesVil.com. Quote from C.S. Lewis.

Home will finally quench my deep desire

which nothing in this world can satisfy,

because, most probably,

I was made for another.

I don’t know what home will look like,

but I’ll see it when I go.

 

 

Ready for Change

I found this lovely picture here.
I found this lovely picture here.

Just this week while idly browsing the radio channels I heard through the static Auld Land Syne. When one hears this song on the radio, one can take it for a clear sign (however staticky the signal) that the holidays and that change are upon us. As the plaintive chorus sounded out, I was pierced with the familiar but shocking bittersweet longing. My hand remained fixed to the tuning dial while my eyes glazed over and I was oblivious to everything around me, sunk in thought–until the fellow I was picking up briskly opened and shut the door of the car (in case you’re wandering why I was idly listening to the radio).

Certainly this season, culminating in the New Year, helps us think more deliberately about our lives–where we’ve come from, where we are, and where it is we at least hope to pursue (if not reach–like twenty-five pounds lighter). Indeed, plans for the future are borne out of realizing our past and present. For our lives are never in equilibrium and we never attain, at least not permanently, the state of being we desire, wherein we can say, “I am perfectly fulfilled and contented. My life is as it ought to be.” In reflecting upon the past and present, or by merely living in an imperfect state, our hearts are at tension, propelling us onward. We yearn for perfection, or at least greater proximity to it, in our imperfection. This is as it should be.

New Year's resolutions for change and improvement often involve exercising. In January, the gyms are packed. March comes and they aren't.
New Year’s resolutions  often involve exercising. In January, gyms are packed. March comes and they aren’t.

Life is change. It is in essence giving up what we’ve known to know that which is greater. At least it is hoped that what comes next will be greater–a step forward on the path, up the hill, in pursuance of the resting place, the summit. Or perhaps the desire is actually to feel like one is getting better. In other words, perhaps the desire is to feel good and is not to actually get better in any real sense.  I say this because in my experience the times during which we are agonized by problems and under great strain result in actual improvement and progress, and none of us really want to be agonized or stressed. Perhaps what we really want is not improvement but happiness, not goodness but comfort.

Tennyson Book of Poetry

At this time of the year, when it is good to reflect on life–its blessings, absurdities, frustrations and joys–and where we are and where we’re headed, I’d like to offer an excerpt from one of my favorite poems, Ulysses by Tennyson. Familiar to many, this poem expresses in the most evocative terms the desire to press on, to seek, to know. When life blocks from our memories what this journey of life we’re on is all about, poetry helps reorient our minds on what really matters. This poem helps its readers who may be weary of life rediscover the drive to go on – to once again see and relish life.

I am a part of all that I have met;

Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough

Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades

For ever and for ever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!

As though to breathe were life. Life piled on life

Were all too little, and of one to me

Little remains: but every hour is saved

From that eternal silence, something more,

A bringer of new things; and vile it were

For some three suns to store and hoard myself,

And this grey spirit yearning in desire

To follow knowledge like a sinking star,

Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

Coming Home

My new series on love is proving more difficult than I had originally imagined.  Yet, it’s not difficult due to lack of thought or material, rather due to an over-abundance.   There are so many directions to go and sources to choose from that I find myself scanning through titles, poems, and thoughts thinking “Great! Even better! Oh, this one too!” There are novels, short stories, poems, song lyrics, movie lines, and even fine art.

With that said, the poem I posted last week, “In and Out of Time” is quite possibly one of the most perfect poems ever written, and it’s going to be hard to top.  But, I love challenges.  And I do have a few pieces I am definitely going to include – when the time is right. Still, it’s challenging. But, for today’s post, I want to include a more personal introduction on the topic: LOVE.

LOVE. It’s one of the foundations of life: not a luxury, but a necessity.  In fact,  it is included in the third level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and has even been known to come second (before physical safety) in many abuse cases.  When you create your characters, LOVE is going to be a huge part of who they are and why they do what they do.  Were they loved by their parents, siblings, extended family?  Were they abused as a child or as an adult? Are they in love? Have they ever suffered from a broken heart?  Love drives us. It is one of our biggest motivations from money, and as a result, it cannot be ignored in your writing.  So, as I continue with this series, think about your characters and their background.  Think about your own experiences.  And then, WRITE them.

And, I’ll be completely honest.  I’m a romantic.  I so completely believe in love, and the power of love (the idea, not the Celine Dion song) that I have become slightly cynical about it. Growing up, I had such a black and white view of love.  Every person had one perfect soul mate.  One spouse destined for them. That one spouse was the only person they would ever romantically love.  Now, this isn’t to say that they wouldn’t have had strong feelings for a past boyfriend/girlfriend, but I didn’t understand how it could be love, true love.  You love your spouse.  If you had loved anyone else, wouldn’t that cheapen what you have with your one and only?

It’s a naive thought, I know.  Still, I clung to that idea with a fierce tenacity, and so when I realized that’s not how the world works, I was stung.  Nevertheless, I still hold out hope for my Mr. Right.

That being said, I want to to introduce “the list.”  Let’s face it.  Most girls (and guys) have some sort of list that they have created about their perfect mate.  That being said, I have long hated the word “list” when it comes to people.  It traps your perspective in a box of sorts, making you close-minded.  And yet, there is some validity to it.  Whether we realize it or not, we have a list because we have STANDARDS.  Now, some have long lists detailing everything from hair color to occupation, but I’ll admit that my list is fairly short: 4 items + 1 fun optional item.

Still, at the end of the day, the idea behind all of the lists we create is the same.  We want someone we can be comfortable with.  Someone who we can love and who can love us back.  Someone who makes us feel like, at long last, we have come home.

So, that’s this weeks literary piece.  A song.  “Come Home” by One Republic.  Simply put, this song is about patience, faith, hope, and home.  Waiting for someone, calling them forth from their ashes.  Believing that they are beautiful just as they are.  It’s about realizing that home is about complementing and working with each other.  It’s about fighting for each other, not with each other.  Home isn’t always easy or pleasant, but, it’s HOME. Home is about calling someone forth, raising them up. Sometimes, it’s about being called, realizing that you are loved.

So, without further ado: Come Home

“Come Home”

Hello world
Hope you’re listening
Forgive me if I’m young
For speaking out of turn
There’s someone I’ve been missing
I think that they could be
The better half of me
They’re in the wrong place trying to make it right
But I’m tired of justifying
So I say to you..[Chorus]
Come home
Come home
Cause I’ve been waiting for you
For so long
For so long
Right now there’s a war between the vanities
But all I see is you and me
The fight for you is all I’ve ever known
So come home
Oh[Verse 2]
I get lost in the beauty
Of everything I see
The world ain’t half as bad
As they paint it to be
If all the sons,
All the daughters
Stopped to take it in
Well hopefully the hate subsides and the love can begin
It might start now, yeah
Well maybe I’m just dreaming out loud
Until then…[Chorus]
Come home
Come home
Cause I’ve been waiting for you
For so long
For so long
Right now there’s a war between the vanities
But all I see is you and me
The fight for you is all I’ve ever known
Ever known
So come home
Oh

[Interlude]
Everything I can’t be
Is everything you should be
And that’s why I need you here
Everything I can’t be
Is everything you should be
And that’s why I need you here
So hear this now…

[Chorus]
Come home
Come home
Cause I’ve been waiting for you
For so long
For so long
Right now there’s a war between the vanities
But all I see is you and me
The fight for you is all I’ve ever known
Ever known
So come home
Come home

In and Out of Time

For the past couple of months, I’ve been thinking more and more about love in its various forms, shapes, and sizes.  Tobias and I have had many conversations on this topic, and my thoughts continue to roam its intricacies.  So, over the next few posts, I’m going to be writing covering some different views, perspectives, and forms of love.  To keep this with the purpose of The Art of Writing, I will be relating it to various texts.  Please, take time to comment or share a story, thought, author, piece, or an aspect of love that you would like to be explored further in a post.

To start off this series, I’m posting one of my absolute favorite poems by a rather fantastic writer – Maya Angelou.

Poignant.  Heart-rending.  Heartfelt.  Simple.  Beautiful.  I have loved this poem since I first heard it, many years ago.  Every time I read or hear it, I get lost in the rhythm and the meaning.  In and out.  In and out.  In and out of time.

Kyle recently wrote a post on romance and quoted my uncle.  I have had so many great examples of real, life-long love in my life.  And I am so proud to come from that type of heritage where love isn’t just another four letter word.  Still, despite the numerous examples, for the longest time, I was a cynic when it came to marriage and love in general.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved the concept and I had seen it live.  But I never quite understood how it worked, and I thought that eventually, something would have to give . . . in time.  Something would fall apart . . . in time.  Yet, it never has.  My parents.  My aunts and uncles.  My grandparents in their 56 years of marriage.

Yes, there have been numerous struggles, fights, complaints, near separations.  But the LOVE they have for one another, the EFFORT they were willing to put into their relationship, and the COMMITMENT they honor each and every day, keeps them together, fighting for each other.

 And that’s what this poem is about.  “The sun has come.  The mists have gone.  We see in the distance our long way home.”  There will always be another struggle when it comes to love that lasts.  There will always be pain.  Pain for the one we love.  Pain because of the one we love.  But, in that’s what makes it beautiful, when you realize that despite everything working to keep two people apart, there is something in this world strong enough to hold them together in and out of time.

In and Out of Time

The sun has come. 
The mists have gone. 
We see in the distance… 
our long way home. 
I was always yours to have; 
You were always mine. 
We have loved each other in and out of time. 

When the first stone looked up at the blazing sun 
and the first tree struggled up from the forest floor 
I had always loved you more. 
You freed your braids… 
gave your hair to the breeze. 
It hummed like a hive of honey bees. 
I reached in the mass for the sweet honey comb there…. 
Mmmm…God, how I loved your hair. 

You saw me bludgeoned by circumstance. 
Lost, injured, hurt by chance. 
I screamed to the heavens…
loudly screamed… 
Trying to change our nightmares into dreams… 

The sun has come. 
The mists have gone. 
We see in the distance our long way home. 
I was always yours to have 
and you were always mine. 
We’ve loved each other 
in and out 
in and out 
in and out of time.

-Maya Angelou

Why?

So today I decided to share some more poetry with you. This is actually the first poem I ever tried to write, and I wrote it about 6 months ago. I have a combination of chronic illnesses (including Fibromyalgia and Chiari), and they’re really hard to live with sometimes. One day was particularly bad pain-wise, and that’s what inspired this particular piece of poetry. It turned out to be a sort of one-way conversation with me and God. Enjoy.

“Why?”

There are so many things in life I just don’t understand,

Like why things are the way they are, or even if they’re planned.

Though I don’t worry much about what my life has to bring,

God, I have to ask a question, just one little thing.

Why?

You have laid a burden on me, one that’s hard to bear,

And though ’tis done in love, I often wonder if you care.

My head understands that there’s a purpose and a plan;

But God, I am frail and weak; I’m just a child of man.

Why?

The pain racks through my body, a hurt that runs so deep,

And oft’s the time in agony, I waken from my sleep.

The gift of breath you’ve given me, many times has fled,

And I lay here hurting, weeping on my bed.

Why?

I just don’t understand this pain you have given me,

Lord, can’t I serve you so much better if you’d made me free?

I’m hampered by my weakness, imprisoned by my fear,

All I want to know is why you’ve put me here.

Why?

You know sometimes I feel so very lonely;

And I want a friend there, just to hold me closely.

And yet, my pride holds me back from telling all,

As if my weakness might make them stumble and fall.

Why?

What is the reason, the purpose of this test?

I feel that if I knew, my mind might have some rest.

You know sometimes I think I can’t go on;

My strength and patience oftimes are all but gone.

Why?

God, I just can’t do this on my own,

Seeds of despair now in my heart are sown.

It’s at times like this I just don’t know where to go.

So please tell me Lord, just please let me know.

Oh God, why?

The Best of Freedomchic Part 1

Well, Cassandra (freedomchic) is leaving us and moving on to better things.  She may be back from time to time with the random post, but she will no longer be a regular contributor to the blog.  I want to express my deepest thanks to her for her contributions, and wish her all the best in her future endeavors! To honor her contributions to the blog I’m going to be reposting some of her best posts over the next few weeks!  So, today: Imagery Through Metaphors – Predator

I’ve talked quite a bit in previous posts about imagery.  This could be because it is one of my favorite literary techniques.  To me imagery, more than any other tool, brings a story to life.  Think of the movie Pleasantville.  You can have a story with an interesting plot, good dialogue, personable characters, etc.  But, without imagery, the story stays in black and white.  Imagery is color – it adds life and vitality.

One of the best ways to add imagery is through metaphors.   While metaphors are common and most commonly associated with poems, they are exceedingly useful in other literary forms.  When writing an expository essay or even a staid research paper, imagery still has a place.   An extended metaphor is especially handy as it keeps the paper on topic.  As you weave a metaphor in and out of a paper, you keep the paper focused and the reader attentive.

Metaphors themselves come in many different forms (don’t expect me to list them all).  Simply put though, there’s the straightforth “She’s a diamond in the rough” to the aforementioned extended metaphor (think Donne’s “No Man is an Island” or Shakespeare’s “All the World’s a Stage”).  Metaphors can be explicit or implicit.  However, the main goal of any metaphor is that, by the end of the metaphor or paper, the metaphor is clear and enhances the point.  One important thing to keep in mind though is that while metaphors should be original (keep away from the cliches as much as possible) they do need to make sense to more than just you.  If in doubt, test it out on a friend, teacher, co-writer, etc.

The following poem uses an extended metaphor with an implicit analogy.  Although the metaphor never comes out and declares itself a specific bird of prey (although the title comes close), throughout the poem, the analogy gets stronger and more developed.

Predator

Depression dips its cold, dark wings
Into the nearby souls of those
Who battle with multiple sorrows and foes
And leave this world and all it brings

Its sinister nature leaves no choice
And once its dark depravity sinks
One merely exists, nevermore to think
It takes away all mind and voice

Its victims, now strangers to all
Who once knew such joy and such life
Have now been replaced by wallowing strife
Which drones out the love and peace which calls

Attached to the mind, one it becomes
With sharpened claws it takes a firm hold
Preying on fears and worries, it leaves one cold
A testament to the darkness from which it comes

This bird of night sneaks in despite
All attempts to thwart its roaming
As greasy and oily it slips through the combing
And gathers newborn speed and height

Once it attacks there is no amending
Its progress is inevitable, an imminent binding
For its talons sink deeper and the poison is spreading
It goes for the kill, to keep the soul from living

So… I just had to do one more… or two

When dragons attack and children die…

Alright, I know I promised not to post anymore of my abysmal poetry, but I just had to post these as well… mostly because I think that they’re actually not abysmal.  So, here are the poems and check back next week for the next post on world building.

The second poem is actually a sequel to the first, hope you enjoy them. Here’s the first poem:

Of Power and Pride
Hearts afire, eyes all ablaze
Dragons roar in misty haze
Fire’s light has now gone dim
Timid rests the little inn
Eyes in sleepless beauty wrought
Cold, shrewd gaze is all for naught
For what can blade and magic
Win, facing news so tragic

In day of dragon’s rising
On morn of anger’s soaring
In night of discontent
On harsh eve when life was rent
Dragon’s wheeling, breath afire
Now time for children’s pyre
Sons and daughters dead and gone
Mother’s rage for dragon spawn

The mother’s magic wrath is nigh…

Anger clouds the bright blue sky
Wicked passion gone awry
Grief ignites the fury forge
Dreadful things does it disgorge
Demons rise through hidden sun
Dragon’s power is undone
Demons might summons the night
Evil traded, not made right

Children’s pyre burns away
Night traded at break of day
Demons winging to and fro
Raising all that is below
Magician’s might made now clear
Then she weeps a single tear
And tries all this to banish
But devils do not vanish

Price of grief the whole will pay
Demons fed on human prey
Magician’s might lost to fear
As snide devils laugh and jeer
Knowing power all their own
Mother sits on burning throne
Losing all that she does know
Mother is now cast below

And here’s the second:

 

And from below the demon’s fly…

And Comes the Night
Dancing fires pierce the night
Demons move in languid light
Back and forth their evil sway
Summon dark and banish day
Eternal shadow now unfold
Darkling creatures here grow bold
Spawn of foolish wizard’s curse
World in fear they do emerse

Sage and magi come they here
To save all those that they hold dear
Spell and cantrip they do mold
All to this dark curse unfold
But no magic, science nor
Power man has made for war
Can here hope to prevail
All in time will surely fail

Now comes prideful priesthood pale
Chants and hymns they start to wail
Elaborate robes, shaven heads
But through them all dark fear spreads
Broken is their haughty strut
Demons roil, boil, cut
And now fall down from above
And priests off of their horses shove

And to their will you must comply.

Gnashing, wailing, biting teeth
Rip at horses in the heath
Shredding, tearing, crippling claws
Pale priests shoved into jaws
Demons rise from battlefield
Curbing forces all unsealed
Battles now are all but won
All dark demon’s plans are spun

Now comes the prophet frail, old
Limbs not strong and lips not bold
Demons rage at prophet’s might
Shudder as he calls the light
Priests had pride but prophet faith
Fierce light burns through every wraith
Humble prophet, curse undone
Now see rising of the sun

Mother’s curse has now been freed
Foolish spell cast without need
Many children buried now
Lost for sake of mother’s vow
With the demons back below
Humble prophet turns to go
Prideful favor never sought
Humble faith the world bought

Another Poem to Share

There's always time to stop and consider where you've been.

I must admit that I am a rather abysmal poet.  Of the nearly two hundred poems that I have written, I can think of perhaps four that I would now say are worth sharing.  One is soon to be submitted to A Gallery of Worlds, the second was posted yesterday, and the third will await another day to have it’s debut, and this is the last.  This is a poem that I wrote a long time ago and, to be honest, I’m rather amazed that it is as good as it is.  This is not to say that it is ‘good’ (whatever that means when it comes to poetry), but that it is better by degrees that any of the other poems I wrote at the time, and better than most of what I have written since.  The following poem is not exactly a happy thing, but it is something that I think many people have felt at one time or another.  I promise that after this I’ll stop sharing my abysmal poetry and get back to things that are worthy of your attention.  Thanks to all my readers for putting up with my rabbit trails.

To Quiet

Encroaching on the present
The darkness of the past attempts to consume us
The sins of days gone by
That remind us of what we once were
These former creatures of our existence
That now we fear to again become
At times we fear to look
To think
To even breath
For we feel the darkness assailing our human sensibilities
While the divine seems to us…
…decidedly quiet.

A Poem for Hard Times

When you tell yourself that things can't possibly get any worse, they usually do. As the British say, 'Keep buggering on.'

I’m not gonna lie.  I’ve had a pretty crappy week.  There are times in all of our lives when we just want to sit down a cry.  There are times when we want to rage and fight.  And then there are times when we just want to give up and walk away.  Not doing these things when we most want to is a sign of maturity, but not acting on these desires doesn’t mean not feeling them.  This poem is about hope in the midst of hopelessness, about perseverance in the midst of pain, and it’s about the inevitability that the truly mature man will keep on going, even when there doesn’t seem to be any point at all.  So, for anyone reading this who feels the same way: I’ve been there, more than once.  Keep going, keep pushing, keep hoping, even though you can’t see any reason or way.  That’s what it means to be a man.

Unrelenting

In pain, I rage

Beating my anger against a rock

My fury spent, the rock remains unmoved

My broken hands are not so

In pain, I grieve

Sorrow floods my soul, washing against my pain

My grief spent, my pain remains unmoved

My broken heart is not healed

In pain, I work

Fruitful labor tires me, rendering my insensate

My labor spent, I rest, and my pain returns

My torn pride is not resewn

In pain, I believe

Faith enlightens me, fills my soul with hope

My faith spent, my pain abides unchanged

My broken soul is not renewed

I have no answer

And so I wait for one to be revealed