Thursday, December 31, 2009

On the Eve of a New Heart

Brighten my cold cavern, every crevice
with your distant atomic flash.
Melt away the frozen particles
of stubborn animosity, cowardice, fear.
Belshazzar sits at the side,
knees now knocking one against the other
as he witnesses the foreboding script.
His fate is the fate of Herod
and countless other would-be dictators,
once confident in their cruel reign
over the enslaved souls of men.
Come to me and burn deep inside
with your distant atomic flash.
Every vestige of me a fading memory,
every despairing tear removed,
and now every morning, new mercy.
Let the revolution start!



A reflection upon the following image from Read Write Poem prompt #107.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Ripples

Ask what your country can do for you;
Ask not what you can do for your country.
Ask not what you can do-
Your country can do what you can’t do.
Whatever you think you can do,
Your country can do that better than you;
So ask what your country can do for you.

Countries are pretty neat–
They do stuff for people all the time!
All you have to do is ask;
Go ahead, ask anyone.

Your country can do things for you, yes,
All kinds of things your country can do.
Believe me – no, believe your country –
It has everything you need, it’s true;
Your country loves YOU more than you do.
Your country can willingly do for you
All the tedious things you used to do,
Like choosing what tastes best to you.

Hey, you pay, so you don’t do;
I pay, too, for you.
Ask what you must not do;
Ask away, it will be done
For you.

All these comforts are yours for the cost
Of a compact fluorescent light bulb,
and one small request:
Ask what your country can do for you;
Ask, keep asking, don't stop asking
Until you cease to be you.
Then ask again.




December 21, 2009
In loving memory of liberty and individualism



In the spirit of a broken record, here is this week's poetry coming from prompt #106 at Read Write Poem.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

When--

inspired by Kipling


When summer turns to autumn, then to winter,
And life dissolves to death and gloomy gray,
When months have passed and solitude still lingers,
But hands are folded for another day;
When weddings, birthdays, grant you celebration,
Yet years reveal what truly lies beneath,
Your patience dies and leaves you no ambition,
And sorrow quickly calls out unbelief;

When wars break out and safety seems elusive,
Or terror leaves a chilling sense of fear,
When earth is shaken, damage so extensive,
And what will happen next does not appear;
When safe and sound become distress and hunger,
What comforts small and few are left to see!
You might do nothing more than sit and wonder
If time will be your friend or enemy.

When plans are thwarted, absent rhyme or reason,
Or so it seems the hand of fate is cruel,
And obstacles begin to mount unbeaten
By sheer determination and renewal;
When every critic finds a chance to slander,
To bring your heart way down into your boots,
The strength of your resolve so frail and tender,
Your hope of harvest shrivels to the roots.

And when at last you sense the sad abandon,
That lowly mood where no one seems to care,
You’re all alone and friends seem somewhat random
When stakes are high, the cost too much to bear.
But fear not, for another day is coming,
When mercies fall like manna from the sky.
The disappointments soon will fade to nothing,
And comforts will be yours in full supply.



For Prompt #105 at Read Write Poem, I am posting a revision of my poem "When". Inspired by Kipling's "If", I used the same meter and structure. The content is of a different sort, more somber, but leaving a tunnel of light at the end.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Macropsia

Through a sliver in the blinds I peek,
observing two spheres:
one, the remnants of fire
readying itself to retire,
exiting with lazy evening purple.

Farewell is offered to the other one,
drifting in its paleness,
shrouded in silken sari.
She assumes her duty,
governing the darkness in solitude.

Howls of gratitude soar one by one
past mighty summits.
Into her presence
come the primitive songs;
no crescent tonight, only crescendo.

Against the blackened backdrop,
showered with crystals,
she slides westward,
growing ever larger
but ever further from my grasp.

When the moon starts to blush,
as it does tonight,
a withering world
is revived again
to cherish the One nearby,
the One that set it in motion.

For Prompt #104 at Read Write Poem

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pomegranate on the Border

Glorious garment ahead,
Crippled soul enamored,
The soft edges inviting
My fear to touch.
Lungs not ready
To breathe,
Tongue not ready
To savor.

Transcendental thing,
No casual series of threads
Soon to unravel.
Celestial comeliness
Within the hem.

Fruit –
Blue, purple, scarlet,
Priestly ornaments,
Life of the mystery
Revealed to weary eyes,
Tear-stricken eyes.
I would taste what I see,
Fear be damned!

Twelve years…

I come bearing fruit,
Wearing the robe
Of another,
Complexion colored
Of liquid ruby.
The naked, the hungry,
The empty –
Come quickly.




For prompt #103 by the good folks at Read Write Poem .

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Planet of the Peas

Unlike two peas in a pod,
Three’s a crowd.
But add two more
And there’s a party of five.
Now, a package of frozen peas
Would be nothing short of
An icy pea planet.
And how would this planet
Survive without
A powerful Potentate?
She might be hard
To point out
As she blends in quite well
With the pea peasant population.
Her reign would include
All the pleasant trappings
Of power and prestige.
There would even be
The royal pea-shooter
Sitting upon the tower
Just to keep the pea-ons
In check.
Just outside the pea kingdom,
You would find strangers
Who, though ostracized,
Are nonetheless members of the
Populous legume dynasty:
There are the black-eyed peas,
Who regularly stir the pot
And love to pick fights.
If not careful, you might just
Run into the split peas.
“To plunder, or not to plunder?”
They always seem to have
Trouble making up their minds.
Another distant cousin
To the plenteous pea family
Is none other than
The peanut.
They sometimes use salty language,
And the royal historians
Have written them off
As being just plain crazy.
Anyway, you get the point.
The next time you sit down
To dine upon your favorite legume,
And you hear tiny whispers of
“Peas are people, too!”
Coming from your plate,
Just remind yourself that
It was a poem,
Just a playful poem.



Peas, man...
for prompt #101 on Read Write Poem

Monday, November 2, 2009

What the Dollar Said

-I-

George Washington gave me a dry stare
As I roughly pulled him out of thin air.
He said to me, “Would you or could you recall
The way we were living before the fall?
Lending, not spending, in our day
Was the tried way for men of gray.”
Now the slaves of debt to lenders crawl.

-V-

Lincoln attempted to give me five,
But he looked as though he wouldn’t survive.
He said, “To be free and to see resilience
In the spirit of man breeds self-reliance.”
Nevertheless, the press for more now
Keeps us in bondage, but none ask how.
Consuming, we are consumed within a trance.

-X-

Soon there was Hamilton ready to speak
Upon the days of promise and others bleak.
He said that numbers do slumber with those of no rank.
They fare much better in the hands of The Bank.
By this persists his greatest flaw,
To weaken through creditors the Eagle’s claw,
And watch as the almighty dollar shrank.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Why God Made County Fairs

Milky night skies over the city hall lawn
Where Homer and Hannah would sit for hours
Observing passersby and each other
And the rules that are set by moms and dads.
Especially dads, for the boy could see
The man’s face in every ride attendant
As Homer and Hannah would sit for hours.

Lines snaking around corners of each booth,
Dart throw and milk bottle, ball in basket,
The marks shelling out cold, gullible cash
For their chance to prove every game a scam.
But Homer and Hannah would sit for hours
Touching hands, star-gazing, saving money .

Tunes like Stars and Stripes Forever play on
Seemingly forever from a distance;
With echoes of “sorry pal, try again”
Or, “better luck next time”, or “beat it kid”!
Charles Ives himself couldn’t have done better.
Such dissonance makes for a pleasant noise
While Homer and Hannah would sit for hours.

Twilight comes, arrayed in soft skin and gray.
Now the entertainment is nomadic,
Encircled by a crowd of eateries,
Anti-nostalgic, fast food for fast times.
You can still find Homer and Hannah there,
Sitting for hours, oblivious to change,
Monuments of love from a bygone era.














This poem is in response to the Read Write Poem prompt #98.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

On the Death of My Childhood Friends

When I was 10 years old, my closest neighborhood friends died in a house fire along with their parents. There was Chris (same age as me), Kevin, and little Kimberly. It was barely comprehensible to me at that age.

I remember waking up around 2 AM to the sound of my mother weeping grievously as she sat on the floor next to my father in our living room. He was crying as well, though more contained. People were scattered in small huddles all around the dark street, and the remnants of flames came shining a few houses down from the demolished structure. As I approached the house with my parents, I first saw what I presumed to be Chris' body lying atop the gurney covered by a red sheet. In my simplest way, I said, "Goodbye, Chris." I don't suppose I fully understood the magnitude of the situation at the time, though it was certainly hard to believe that these friends of mine were all gone forever.

The day slowly began to come upon us, and we learned that the father had survived for a short while in the hospital. But he finally succumbed to 90% burns that he had sustained while trying to save his family.

Now as I write this, I am remembering the funeral service, a very sad spectacle with the five coffins lined up before a large crowd of people. And now my heart breaks again as I think of it.

I shared this story with my wife one day after having it submerged within my soul for twenty-some-odd years. Having been a believer in God since 1998, I still struggle with the the whole idea of suffering, especially of the seemingly innocent. I accept it, but I struggle with it. This was a precious family, Mormon in faith, gentle and kind in all my memories of them. Why did God let it happen? For those who cannot deny their trust in the sovereign God, this can certainly be troubling. And there are many instances of Christians having to come to terms with this issue throughout history. In fact, how many biblical accounts do we have of such unfathomable tragedies! Job is one of the first to come to mind. And his responses to the Creator's dealings with him were remarkable.

More to come in a future post...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

From the Second Shelf

He bore a hell within him which none could extinguish.
Something imperfect and malformed, lodged in the heart of being,
Occupied his thoughts more than all else, like a hallucination,
The true nature of which was not clear to him or any interpreter.
Random mental commotions of this kind are a constant agitation,
Like great waves surging in a crashing sea,
Like a thousand stallions in full gallop in the heat of battle.
May he ruminate well upon the effects of anger, how it troubles life!
Be like waved lead that has cooled and set in the smelter’s mould
To leave no rubs nor botches in the work.
This do in order to gain a clear and just idea of design and purpose.

_______________________________________________________
http://readwritepoem.org/ - Writing Prompt#97 - We are supposed to take a short written work (poem, letter, etc.) and cut it into fragments, then choose random fragments to form a new poem. My inner rebel wouldn't let me do this exactly, but I was still inspired to create this poem relying somewhat upon chance. I selected a book from my shelf and chose a line or phrase from the first page I turned to, then proceeded to do the same with several other randomly chosen books. There are a few adjustments I had to make. Maybe you know a few of these lines. In the comments section, I posted the poem again with the works cited.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sonnet

My friendly skies have left me dry again;
A cloud or two would do, but no such luck.
Upon a chance of rain I must depend.
My end would come if rainless lightning struck.
Forever it seems the wise farmer waits,
The thoughts I had of him fading from mind.
Crabgrass and broadleaf, with seducing traits,
Completely overrun me ‘til I’m blind.
These fellows make me think this is the life!
I’m under their protection. So secure
In this illusion, hidden from all strife.
But do impostors like these have the cure?
One drop is all I need, Lord, all I need.
Why stand by while withering souls still bleed?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Horizon

How the shimmering waves increase at day's end
As the sun gives one last brush over the vast deep!
Standing on the shore with a gaze of outward stretch
I contemplated that place where light and darkness meet.
Horizon its name, that immovable ancient border
Where water forms a subtle crease with evening sky.
The Light fades, and what was once clear to the eye
Becomes only a distant memory in the thick night,
Our minds engulfed in blackness, with no more
A reminder of day than a faint silver ball hovering above.

Yet the stars arrive to offer twinkling glimmers of hope,
And the children of night are still afforded a witness
That something good remains to heal their blindness.

But from the dark, none behold the line of demarcation;
None see the staggering freedom in its brilliant limitation.
The horizon is the safety net, the gradiose inheritance
Of every peril-bound soul that is brought into the Light.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Meet Me There

I know you have trouble with directions,
the way they leave you with abstact
nothings upon which to map an empty
course of action, a drive to nowhere.
So I've decided to make it easy for you,
utterly clear for the eye of a child's mind.
On your mark, get set...
Close your eyes.

Imagine a paved road, you know,
the kind that modern day Romes offer.
Dashes of faded gold keeping you safe
from the uncautious movement of
speeding carriages. They come to a
sudden halt, and so do you as you witness
the alternation of yellow to red.
You pause for a few moments
(what choice do you have?)
to reflect on the meaning of the billboard
staring down upon you from the
adjacent corner; but it's not the message
that pulls you in. It's not even the
image of that sleek automobile advertised
which you've seen before in dreams.
The single row of birds perched
on top in perfect symmetry, oily black
feathers shining in the sun, this
keeps you fascinated.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Long Words in English

Impress or confuse your friends with these high-octane words with innumerable syllables.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Short Ride in a Fast Machine

Back in the days of my intense interest in drum corps (early nineties), I heard for the first time a piece of music performed by the Cadets of Bergen County. It was a fast-paced composition, driven by a steadily pulsating metronome-like function of the woodblock. Encircling the pentrating sound of wood, the various brass instruments (there are no woodwinds or strings in drum corps) seemed to flow in and out of each other with great rhythmic tension, even percussive in their own right.

Flash forward seventeen years. These days, I've been much impressed with the musical compositions of John Adams.




Not that his works are anything really new. But we all have those periods in our lives where we like to try something for the first time. For me, I typically prefer to try something for the first time after it's been around for a while. I've noticed that tendency in myself. Well, as it turns out my "first time" for listening to John Adams is actually my second. After becoming somewhat enamored by his Violin Concerto (1993), I decided to investigate other works by the composer. One those pieces is his hugely popular A Short Ride in a Fast Machine. Popular to all modern music fans except for me, apparently. Before actually stumbling across it on YouTube, I had no idea that this was the same piece I had heard the Cadets perform on the field in 1991.



I'm very much interested in promoting not only my favorite musicians in the popular genres, but more especially the various works of American classical composers. Some I like more than others, but all of the major ones seem to play an important role in the reflection and development of our Western and New World traditions. To this end, I will try to intersperse some video or audio segments among my other blog entries in order to introduce my readers to some significant American works in the classical music world. Let's start with John Adams' A Short Ride in a Fast Machine (original form for orchestra, which I prefer). Apparently, it was composed to reflect our modern driving experience. Enjoy the video, too!








Pretty cool music, huh?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Vienna in Austin



We just returned from a short but refreshing trip to Austin with our friends. In addition to enjoying some wonderful conversations, we were able to attend a very memorable concert performance by singer-songwriter Vienna Teng. She had actually played in Houston on Wednesday evening, but the Friday show seemed to be a better choice for several reasons, not the least of which being the addition of her co-producer and bandmate Alex Wong. Together, they gave the audience more than their money's worth. The two were so in tune with each other in dynamics and precision that it was hard to believe that there weren't some other musicians behind the curtains adding to the magic.




Vienna's newest release Inland Territory will be available on April 7th of this year. I have a feeling that it will top her first three albums, and that's saying a lot since she has created superb musical and lyrical treasures in those previous efforts.

You can get a preview of some of the upcoming music and all the work that has gone into its production by watching the following two EPKs (electronic press kits) for the new album. She gives everything she has in recording and stage performances, and this is just one of the things that make her talent shine forth so brightly. Enjoy!









Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tai Chi 42 Forms

I've been practicing Tai Chi in a local Kung fu training center for a few months. Progress has been slow but consistent. The chi feels quite strong in my hands, but the goal is to maximize its circulation throughout my entire upper torso as I go through the 42 forms. Here's an excellent video showing the routine from beginning to end.




It makes me relaxed just watching it. She flows like water.

The human body and mind will reap great benefits from this exercise. I highly recommend it.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

So How Was The Zoo?

It was pretty much like it is everyday. Oh, you know. The caged residents gave us their usual display of half-baked affection. You have to catch them early, at least ten minutes before lunch. Once they're fed, they don't care much to do anything but loaf around, well out of sight from human spectators.

I must admit, however, that it was a splendidly comfortable day for walking about. Lots of folks taking in the consistent breeze and clear skies. We managed to make nearly five hours of the trip. When it was time to go, one of our boys insisted on going to the souvenir shop. Somebody please explain to me why stuffed animals are so much more appealing than the real thing!

While we were enjoying the zoo, someone was kind enough to leave a little tract on our car windshield. It was from Chick Publications, which specializes in producing Christian material in cartoon form for evangelizing purposes. This particular booklet had a picture of a gorilla on front and was meant to provoke thought about, or should I say "against", the theory of evolution. I wonder if these secret "tract leavers" ever enter real discussion with people. The world may never know.

Have "U" ever come across one of these displays of "affection" on your vehicle window?


I have to say, though, this Mandrill didn't remind me of any humans I'd seen in recent years. Maybe Jay Leno a little bit around the lower regions of the face. Just kidding! Sort of...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

From Roger Scruton

"Faced with the ruin of folkways, traditions, conventions, customs and dogmas, we can only feel a helpless tenderness for these things which have proved, like everything human, so much easier to destroy than to create."

-taken from Roger Scruton's The Intelligent Person's Guide to Philosophy