Monday, November 29, 2010

A Love of Dangerous Harvests - A poem

A Love of Dangerous Harvests

maybe Caravaggio found
the application of fleshtone
a perfect distraction
from the real thing,

a source of trouble
that always accompanied him,
as evident by the number
of falling, fallen angels

filling the walls, walkways,
and halls of the life
known as his, whether or not
it was all actually true,

it doesn’t matter
to the puritans of the world,
those luscious grapes;
the half-naked teenage boy

how his Judas betrays
a love for Christ
unbecoming of a man
in their eyes

maybe living requires
that we harvest
what is hated,
even if

when held close
to our naked breast,
it pierces the canvas
ruins forever our cherished heart.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Annunciation Refigured - A poem

The Annunciation Refigured

“When she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.”
Luke 1:29

For a long time,
there was no trouble done
to the order of operations.
Gabriel would come,
land with a heavy thud,
then lift his index finger
to quiet the woman before him.

This time, however,
the calculations were upset
by addition.

As Gabriel cleared his throat
he looked down,
saw that a golden book
had been placed
under Mary’s hand.

How dare this painter
make her literate!
He must
have thought, scanning
the scene for a sign,
his eyes landing
on the message
he was about to send.

he began to wonder
what awful birth
had tipped the balance
of the world,
the olive branch
in his hand suddenly
just another limb
cut off from its source.

*Inspired by the painting “The Annunciation” by Simone Martini and Lippo Memmi, 1333.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Through Hardened Clouds - A poem

Through Hardened Clouds

swallowing a single
leaf of lemon basil,
as the lifted newspaper
settles to the ground,
a moment joy
dashed by headlines.

a rabbit passes
through the radish patch stops,
stands still, surveys
the world ahead,
imagining escape routes.

those on the bus that exploded somewhere
across an ocean
earlier in the day
didn’t have such a luxury.

i bend over,
pick up a rock and throw it,
hear it hit a fence between
the scampering of feet
fading in the turning away.

one hand to the heart,
the other grasping
a pregnant bean stalk, tears
forcing their way with the sun
through hardened clouds.

they will all ripen at the same time,
i say to myself,
as skins slides over skin,
one species across another, a flowing
so simple and easy,
it’s rarely a match
in the minds that love a good storm.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bones - A poem



Fifty-three years
to get to this point:
you and I,
the drive back
to your parent's home.


I hold pencils and paper;
you carry their names
in your heart.


When I was six,
you were nuclear
in your hole digging:
plunging your shovel
into the ground,
the world’s gone.


Now, you carry
lists of bones
into cemeteries:
another attempt
to unearth the past,
put it back together


Did you know that,
like Dante’s exiled bones,
you were fought over
for years?


Just as Francis Bacon
did with bloody meat,
you hung your emotions
and we were left
to trace in their names.


When I was six,
I was afraid of the cemeteries:
both across the street,
and in our own house.


Lifting a fallen tombstone
today, I disturbed the living
to re-place the dead.


dirt, bones, tombstones:
all the same
in the end.


Even as we near
the front door now,
all around us
the windows are rattling,
bones trying to break free.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Say - A poem


Say you’re sitting on a park bench listening to the wind.
Say it’s Saturday, early morning, when only those in training
for marathons or dog walking competitions are out.
Say the grey squirrels are fighting over the fallen oak nuts,
while the lone, white squirrel is spinning the remains
of an apple almost out of sight beneath a row of shrubs.
It is a nice story, isn’t it? How the sun is slathering
your weary face with a warmth you know will be gone
by morning, how the rim of your mouth still tastes
of the coffee you had before leaving home, how
no matter what you end up doing with the rest
of the day, say tend to the weeds in the garden
or argue again with the one you love over lunch,
dinner, or the last of the newspaper, there is always
this world, working as it is, if only you would see it.

Fall Class Sutra -A poem

Fall Class Sutra - 2009

Thus I have heard
in a warehouse
in a valley
along the edge of the Mississippi
just east of Ramsey Hill, Crocus Hill, Cathedral Hill

a story of elders silently rocking,

cards shuffled, and dealt with a smirk

aprons clung to, and then let go of

light rain, snow, heavy rain, wind

Van Gogh’s sunflowers

squirrels ruining rooftops

buses appearing and disappearing

a Buddhist standing in between Hawaiian church pews

vows made, vows broken, and vows made again

French lavender fields

“We’re not in Kansas anymore”

sliding zabutons, folding chairs

slightly scraping the surface of

our words, hearts beating

to the rhythm of lines

chanted into the center:

a vast field covered in discarded tethers

a million sheep bleating

under a setting sun.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Broken Vow - A poem

Broken Vow

A hand swept across the soil, just fast enough
to snap the tender seedling from its base.

Tears sliding, making their way toward the ground
too late to save the severed, the sound

of a car backfiring off in the distance, a vow
flapping its wings, lifting into the crowded

sky, joining the crows circling, squawking,
never able to quite come to a rest, block

the urge to have it all alone, or even admit
error after. What began as a single errant word

gave birth to others until the field was covered
with sowthistle, virginia waterleaf, and mounds of clover

untended, and gone to seed, so that the murder of one
among the many might seem unimportant,

but it’s that one, the one that now is spinning
in the wind, never to be rooted again

the way it was, it is that one which is calling out,
demanding for a set of eyes open enough

to toss aside old allegiances, make way
for a world too fertile to ever be kept down.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

September, Late Afternoon

September, Late Afternoon

Oh, how I hate you
hanging as you do
right in front of me

Now, every step
is another one closer
to murder

If only
you weren’t attached
to those stringy,
green umbilical cords

Maybe then
I’d be able
to head back
into the house,
sit down at the table,
slice straight through
without hesitation,
and eat you
in peace
for once.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Territory of Attachment - A poem

Territory of Attachment

I have a house
on top of a mountain.

Its rafters are sagging;
its shutters overgrown with vines.

People are always coming,
leaving offerings at the door.

Sometimes, I wonder how
all that food will ever be eaten.

Maybe if we hadn’t run
through the forest together,

And maybe if you hadn’t
gone into the nettle patch,

And maybe if I hadn’t known
to dip your legs into the tea,

Even as the world keeps giving,
all I have is the maybe ifs of my memory.

Every morning, at the window
I stand ready with my bowl.

I close my eyes and listen
for the sound of your footsteps.

Others come and leave prints
in the snow on their way out.

Maybe if I call your name,
but it’s already too late for that.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Moment After - A poem

The Moment After

I peel an orange, feel the sticky juices
run down my fingers, your legs
making waves with the sheets
slid halfway off the tussled bed.

“What is it that you most love?”
I hear you say, and watch
as my mind constructs a story
about how it has to be you,

Even though the sunlight
rippling across the wrinkled cotton,
the footsteps of the elderly lady
living in the apartment above:

These, too, right now, must be considered
with their familiar, comforting ways,
as your lips now land, trace a line
straight north along my bare leg.

How it has to be you. There all along
once I took a closer look, this rushing
to fill in the gap with words
stillborn, but beautiful all the same.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Against Pens - A poem

Against Pens

because they are small,

and easy to loose

because they common

and easy to replace,

because they don’t improve handwriting

because they never keep up with thoughts

because there are notebooks full of their errant tracks

and landfills full of their wasted bodies,

because they leave traces of our mistakes behind

because they remind us of things

we would rather forget,

because they are too much like the heart,

always breaking down

when you least desire them to.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Laotian Summer Afternoon - A Poem

A Laotian Summer Afternoon

It happened while he was working, tending to
the crops under a hot, bright midday sun.

for a moment, it was as if he had been transported
back to the days when he, as a little boy, fled fast
through the fields with the others in his family.

looking up, half blinded, he expected to see
the familiar American planes flying overhead,

instead, only the sound of his son
screaming somewhere near the point
where the river spits across the strip of land.

as before, he began to run as hard as he possibly could,
forgetting everything else out of fear

when he got there, to the place where it had happened,
the raggedness of his breath was matched
only by the bodies of his son’s two best friends,

both just barely having turned ten years old,
and yet already well versed in the work

of collecting scrap, supporting the family,
staving off the growling of the stomach
one basket of metal at a time.

he remembered how meticulous he had been,
how he had repeatedly nagged his eldest son

about the details of the harvesting process,
how any old thing sticking out of the ground
might be worth a basket of rice,

a few dozen eggs, or it might just be
the last thing you ever see

but none of that mattered now,
only the slow footsteps back through the field
careful not to disturb too much

what already had broke through the surface,
and stained red the summer sky.
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Creative Writing the Dharma by nathan thompson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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