Martyrs of the faith

I suppose I should have added a note to this piece since it is ripe for misinterpretation.  It is not, dear friends, a lamentation of the effects of life/society upon the religious.  Rather, it is a lamentation of the effects of religion on all the rest.  Here, “faith,” is a reference to those who continue to strive for the greater good, not because it is a decree from on high, but because it is the worthy aim of their lives.  Religion has so permeated the highest levels of power in the United States and abroad that I would find it difficult to write a lament over its having lost anything (other than sight of its stated aim).

All that said, let me assure anyone reading this that people of all faiths, political persuasions and identities are welcome (encouraged actually) to read and discuss my writing.  I look forward to spirited commentary everyday and would be hypocritical if I didn’t explore various viewpoints.

One sad and slow
for the martyrs of
the faith,
us all.

A retread
of the trodden,
where wisdom
whistles its
low longing.

And the good
are forced
into order
with a march
maiming 
all their deeds.

They step too.
They step over.
They step on.

The martyrs of
the faith
are we.

Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784)

Phillis Wheatley holds the distinction of being the first published female African poet in the American colonies.  Her story is a dizzying tale of enslavement, achievement and the unpredictable nature of life and talent.

It’s nearly impossible to do her justice in poetic form.  While her life seems a lesson in the righteous power of the human spirit, her story is rife with irony, which makes it exceedingly difficult to honor.

Though born in West Africa, (either Senegal or Gambia) she was kidnapped, transported to the colonies and sold into slavery at 8 years old.  By all accounts she was treated *kind* and given an education well beyond what most men and women (white or otherwise) received at the time.  While developing her talents she embraced Christian dogma and the societal conditioning of colonial life, going so far as to decry the “pagan” nature of her homeland.

Her major work, Poems of Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773), was published prior to both the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the commencement of the Revolutionary War, putting her at the vanguard of a movement of independence that would offer no immediate relief to those in her position.  She corresponded with George Washington at the start of the Revolution (he rather obnoxiously referred to himself as her ‘obedient humble servant’) and was remarked upon by Voltaire in European literary circles.

Wheatley eventually tasted freedom upon the death of her master after which she married a free black northerner.  The couple had three children in all, two of which predeceased her, the third died only a few short hours after Wheatley herself, in 1784.  Unfortunately, her husband had not the ability nor financial wherewithal to grieve her properly.  At the time of her death at age 31, he was serving out a sentence in debtor’s prison.

I wrote the piece below in an effort to explore Wheatley’s life with its many tragedies and triumphs.  I don’t pretend the piece is fully reflective of the woman — no one poem can ever do justice do someone whose life was so complex and so curious.  I do hope, however, that the work serves as an homage to her many struggles and successes and brings to light some of the complexities of a woman history all too often neglects.

**Author’s apology — please excuse the .jpg formatting of the poem.  Due to its length and style I found myself unable to post it directly in my blog.  Hopefully the image form will not dissuade otherwise curious readers.  I believe the read is worth it.

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Shadow world

Heartbeats and shadows
patter, beating out the cadence
of the ancient lover's cry.
	
		Tense is the refrain
		secret endearments claim,
		a melting of resolve
		does not such deceit absolve.

Were all our failings so,
better that we might perceive
enchantments and phantoms.

		Oh! The tacit consent
		of sweet and innocent,
		erectors of sturdy lore
		set to avert the bore.

And then when uncovered,
pitiful in undulations, 
left to strip a quiet thrill.

		The last of those to feel
		may know of shadows real,
		such as is plain
		for lovers without name.

The knife that spoke with a buzz

This is a funny little piece I worked up after I heard an interesting story about the first use of forensic entomology — yes, using insects to solve a crime.

In the smallest nooks
live the slickest crooks,
using sharpest wares
to strike at maidens fair.

Bet that evil hounds
plumb the open grounds
as day turns to night
to exercise their might.

So in a village green
far from active scenes, 
came a man who stood beside
a newly minted bride. 

The man, filled with temper,
did her body half dismember
and escape like a breeze
before the break of eve.

But the foulest must admit
that sharper minds do acquit
the cause of justice fast
and pursue until their last.

As county men took over,
staunch as that county boulder,
and lined up all existent
observing each with insistence.

"Drop your wares friend
and let us not pretend
that the vile and refuting
will halt me in my duty."

So all spilt their wares
upon the township square.
They did look for a savior
and divine, merciful favor.

Ah, twas not god on the brain
for county copper plain,
but the nature of a buzz
around a man of woolen fuzz.

As copper proceeded toward
he soon spotted his reward.
It seems flies cannot resist
where fresh blood doth persist.

That resounding buzz upon the knife
told a tale that must be told:
the slick and vile murder of a wife
who never shall grow old.

Moment after the moment

There is a moment 
after the moment
when all reside
with self.
The excuse that enervates
wanes 
under its own gravity.
And all the compulsion
that sells
evaporates 
like the joy
of so many fleeting beats.
But this life,
judged always and everywhere
as if chosen,
is not joy in form.
It is the catharsis --
	the release of the unwished for
	and eternally unbecoming.

Watch even as they wield the grand attempt,
so unobservant where the
passion spreads thickly.

Curses!  For the moment
after the moment
when the energy that
enervates dies
its trivial death.

Vibrant stunning attachment(s)

The quick twitch of the double take
imbeds a moment 
and the solidity of stunning attachment 
causes
eyes to place themselves at the world's
disposal, 
happy to dispense with responsibility.

Take 'em wherever
to places grand and small.
To faces,
legs, hips
and frames
short and tall.

Let loud voices find their homes (but
far from me though).

And let the cities and towns rebound
from so much emotion,
	concussed from so much commotion,
	that they reset the great play.
Starting again in the hopes of a vibrant,
stunning attachment.

Mirror woes, Mirror waves

I do not believe in the cheap trick and I would not say but that it needs to be said:  far more unsettling than the predictable end is the reflection of us as we live.

The mirror woes and
the mirror waves,
present 
unsettled constitution
in sedentary haze.

Poor boy!
     Poor us for living.
     That he might know
     pain and pain alike,
     and that hate is forgiven.

In every moment a
reflection.
In each a rattled nerve
less sense, scant affection.

Poor life!
     Without meaning nor worthy lament.
     Grant that we might blanche,
     not persist and persist;
     yet from birth defiling only innocence. 

Restoration is coming

I was inspired while listening to Donald Trump insist upon the need to “restore” law and order.  I hate to attribute too much inspiration to any one political blowhard, because the fact remains that the circumstances that created today’s demagogue existed yesterday and will, in all probability, exist tomorrow.  So Donald, don’t let this go to your head.

The restoration in effect,
of that ever-elusive state.
Where restful nerves and
leery eyes stick fast to 
hallowed ground.

How the calamity came to be
many manic minds never
settled.  It was, it is, may be
unto forever, but no never
mind.

The restoration will spread
like seeds along the distended
bloat.  And endure the 
sensation of prophecy fulfilled,
mouth agape and hands stolen still.