Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Burned House

Cosmos 'Sonata White'

The Burned House

When I wasn’t looking, the house burned down,
that tall one on the cliff’s edge that sucked in smoke
and died. It was full of mirrored rooms, that house
I used to own, each one a tank where dreamfish swam in fire,
where light flickered up on scales of copper-gold, now white
lumps of half-burned bone, refleshed with sudden coats of ash.

How were those rooms so full of light transformed to ash?
to flecks scraped from scorched love letters skittering down
the drive, black ink on blue paper burned feathery white?
Our words undressed became a script of smoke,
banded envelopes a fuel for chemical fire
that when my head was turned burned down the house.

Blackened beams, obscene leg-stumps of house       
frame possibilities negated. Nothing made of ash
can be reused. I sift the morsels left uneaten by the fire
that swallowed up the core, the spit-out shingles flying down
in flaps of flame, exhaling heat while carcinogenic smoke      
escaped from window-mouths on wings of restless white.

When it happened I was working soil for the Sonata Whites
but purity failed; so fire’s finger drew a circle round the house:
C. sulphureus instead, petals solar bright, tangerine smoke
drifting against the threshold wild alive, drawing flame from ash,
from rich dead dreamfish char piled in drifts of down;
now where white rebelled I fill my hand with redgold fire.

So I come to the doorway drawn by memory's fire       
to rake through dulled nails and teeth of white
half-melted days, look for the last inhabitants down
beneath the rotten timbers. The ghost-house
trembles, gives up its bones and sleeps in ash.
I pick and fuss at ruins, only to fill my bag with smoke:

photographs once rainbow stained to sepia, smoke-
colored faces turned to relics, eyeholes eaten black by fire
unreal as fingerbones of non-existent saints, grey as ash
and as unlikely to reignite; silver-colored trinkets faded white,
misshapen in the reflux of the firehose, lockets that housed
twists of burn-clipped hair lost in love's long down.

My insurance covers none of this disaster-whitened ash,
a total loss except for cosmos smoke, gold-warm as any fire,
embers at the doorway of the wild that can’t burn down.

C. sulphureus

~originally written September 2011, 
ruthlessly revised

 for Brendan's Doors

 Forgive the repost, but my time is not my own these days...

Cosmos is a perennial or half-hardy annual in the aster family, native to Mexico, Arizona, Florida and the southern U.S. down into Central and South America. It grows in both wild and cultivated form. It is heat and drought tolerant and reseeds itself so freely some forms, including C. sulphureus, are considered a weed in some places. Cosmos bipinnatus 'Sonata White" is a pure white hybrid form, bred for the cut flower trade.

Photo: Cosmos bipinnatus "Sonata White" by Julie Anne Workman, Forde Abbey, Somerset, UK
courtesy wikipedia Par Julie Anne Workman (Travail personnel) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Cosmos sulphureus 'Bright Lights' author unknow via internet. Fair use

Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday 55 November 17 2017

Welcome again to the Friday 55, where we remember the host who never failed to find the right word to elevate the weekend to a shared pleasure, Galen Hayes, and continue the tradition of writing flash fiction, prose or poetry, in exactly 55 words. If you have been inspired to craft an artifact of such dimensions this week, please leave a link in the comments, and I will be by to enjoy the result, as soon as I can. The prompt will remain open as usual, from Friday til Sunday evening, but comment moderation remains off, as I will be not always online.

I'll start the parade with this...


came to take me back 
where words can't follow,
to a turtle of a land
head drawn in,
full of secret life
that hides its eyes;

brought me
gasping in a dream
to see the patchwork creature 
sewn from thee and me
so long dead
suddenly alive

who I still want to be.

 ~November 2017


Sunday morning note: Ending things a little early this week, but the 55 will return next Friday.

Images: Turtle, author unknown, via internet. Fair use.
Turtle, © Luc Tuymans,  all rights reserved. Fair use.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday 55 November 10 2017

Welcome once again to the Friday journey, a space where we can assemble our word pictures for ourselves and each other, while we remember a fine man who gave of himself to support the best things in others, Galen Hayes. Here we have no social pressures, no strings, no obligation to participate, and no rules other than to allow our words to come together in any way they choose, prose or poetry, as long as there are 55 of them, no more, no less. Leave your link in the comments, and I will be by to see what the muse has dictated to you this week. As always, the prompt is live from Friday through Sunday, but I have turned comment moderation off for this session, as I may be out of pocket at times.

So, let's begin the trip...

Hospital View

Hawks and crows
make a mobile as they fly;
life outside the glass  
holds together trees and sky.
Inside a yellow quiet
blankets thinning legs,
hands withered on the covers
like leaves that Fall has wrecked.
From a night that has no rest
to a day screaming your name;

hawks, crows, and
 cold November rain.

~November 2017

Image via internet, author unknown, manipulated.   Fair use.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Friday 55 November 3 2017

Another Friday journey begins with 55 steps into/out of the imagination. We gather here each week to remember Galen Hayes, host extraodinaire who knew exactly what TGIF really meant, and to practice our craft together in that spirit of friendship and fun he bequeathed. There are no rules of engagement other than that your contribution of prose or poetry must be built with 55 words, no more no less. Comment moderation is on to repel invaders, and the prompt will remain live from Friday through Sunday, so please link your effort in the comments below (should you accept this mission) and I will be by to check it out.

And here is mine to start us off...

 On The Dryline

The sky's a stone
neither one color
nor the other;

on one side 

on the other 

throat-pulse warmth,
summer's wheezy death-pant,

the storm-horses
white-eyeballed in terror, 
 hooves hailing down green winter wheat;

but here
on the dryline

we sip coffee,
wear layers
 and labor

to keep our grip
on the edge.

~November 2017

(I've also used four words in this poem provided by angie for her Get Listed prompt at real toads.)

Images: November First, 1950, by Andrew Wyeth   fair use
Neptune's Horses, 1893, detail, by Walter Crane    public domain

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Review: Catechism For A Girl On Fire, by Shay Simmons

* Five Stars *

Where to even begin? The cover, carefully chosen by the author, seems to be a logical place, with its sense of wildness, its fear and its picture of the Self on the run amid forces beyond its control. This is a book of poems, but it is also a mirror of our inner world, crossed by storms and fertile with all the fleeting gifts of life savored as they tornado past.

The book is divided into sections described by tags from the author's blog, Shay's Word Garden, where these poems have all previously appeared under her internet sobriquet of Fireblossom. Like the title, they are highly individual and full of Simmons' own quirky view of herself and life on this planet. The first is called Travel Stories (For Girls, but all are welcome), a seemingly conventional phrase, yet the places we travel here are far from anything found on a map.

Here is a bit of New Banana Town to show you what I mean:

 "In Old Mango City,
I wore the thrift shop jacket you liked
and the big shades

I wore them up, in my hair
as if I were trying out for Queen of the Produce Stalls.
You disassembled, became incorporeal,

and slept with my better nature
behind my back..."*

This book is a journey of the heart and mind as well as that tag-along, the body, and Simmons never fails to take us by surprise with who we are, with who the ones we love are, and what may happen to the innocent at any moment. In the next section, Catholic Girls (on the Loose) we see that sense of perpetual displacement handled with grace and control, illustrated in poems like Crow Heart, from which I will only quote a very few passages (but please read it all at the link): 

"I told you from the start,

from the morning you came through my open door
tripping on a hinge flopped dead on the flagstones,
that crows had nested in my heart.

My fairy tale cottage had survived the bombardment;
just a little gingerbread dust on the plates and tables..."

The poem  takes us to a reality where everything legitimate seems instead dangerously illegal, where nothing can be trusted, but everything, possibly, manipulated. The speaker is both sympathetic and alien in her authoritative judgements, and if you listen you can hear the kind of pronouncements that are meant to define the undefinable, and do so competently and with completely ownership.

"My crows live for trickery because they are crows.
I am an honest woman, but they have nested in my heart...

We might have loved, you and I, in my gingerbread bed,
if we had met when people still cared about things.
As it is, I sink the shiv in even as I kiss you, but the birds whisper
inside my chest, insisting that I leave you a trinket, my old heart,

bright and worthless as a penny."*

In the selections in (Whatever Happened to) Baby Jane, we see an unexpected tenderness, unexpected because it is mixed with such stark surrealism, a feeling of larger, external chaos ordered by the inner self into an often wounding force, from which one hides in love for another; however illusory it may be, it remains the sweetest option, a sort of emotional minimalism amidst the carnage without. This is amply illustrated in the simplicity of  The Winter Guest, with lines like:

"I loved the delicate balance
 of my quilt on your back--
 candle light in my bedroom--
 and all of that...."*

but there is also an incongruous native horror in many of these (I won't quote but go read  The Tenth Month, for example)  that ties in well with the twisted quality of helplessness and of innocence before evil which the tag invokes. 

In the section entitled Funny Girl, we see the author's trademark sense of the absurd, her ability to make us laugh even while we're bleeding from the gut. Simmons is a many-faceted writer, and this is one side of her writing that never fails to move and amaze me, because dragging humor from loss or despair and making it genuine is one of the hardest notes in a writer's repertoire. See My Consultant for a great example of this.

The poet finishes with a single intense and perfectly crafted piece, well-deserving of its own chapter, that puts the last flourish on an experience that will linger in the memory long after the last word is read. Please go to her blog now and read No More of Jerry  because Simmons is at the absolute top of her form here, which no words of mine or anyone else's can adequately describe. 

I highly recommend this collection of recent poems as well as her earlier books, The Cherub of Pierzanie Prison, and My Mad Love, to anyone who loves the written word and the magic it can perform, because in my opinion, there is no one living today who is a more accomplished magician, or writes of the human dilemma more truly than Shay Simmons.

Her books are available on Amazon:

Catechism For A Girl on Fire
The Cherub Of Pierzanie Prison
My Mad Love

*quoted with permission of the author, all rights reserved,
© Shay Simmons

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Tree With All The Body's Roses

The Tree With All The Body's Roses

"She sang beyond the genius of the sea. 
The water never formed to mind or voice,   
Like a body wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves..."

The world has parrots.
I'm looking for a songbird
in the jade well of deep forest,
a voice to bucket it up.
Behind the plastic house 

I found blue wildflowers,
watched their petals transmogrify
to wings on seeds 
 blowing like the freckles of stardust
mottling the Milky Way,
to daisy-face another autumn day  
in indigo beyond the swirling suns.

All this because a thousand years ago
in banished nights the apprentice read to me
words of a Northern heart washed up
 on a bleach and dazzle of tropic sand;

to me, his caryatid, words for a girl
 he loved I'd never be, that 
magic could not make me,
to sing beyond the genius of the sea.

Yet she brought me here, that girl,
a statue suddenly animate,
to dig and weed the heart's ground
beyond the ocean drench of chemical hope,
past youth itself in its naked greed, til at last a tree

would raise the mind's branch on which
a bird could land and sing
of all the body's roses we
never see.

~October 2017

"The topic is simple: Love Is Love Is Love… and Words. Let’s art our loves with words in them. You can share a story or poem about why you love writing poetry, or telling tales, or singing, or painting, or dancing, or sculpting, or knitting, or bedazzling the skulls of your enemies and friends… write about the art you are happiest to create.
Your posts must contain at least one magical element and some sort of love(dark love, sweet love, ridiculous love, terrifying love, insane love, gentle love…)..."

(I hope the  young love and transmogrifying magic here is enough, even if it didn't exactly work as planned by the magician's apprentice. )

Rosa 'Pat Austen' ©joyannjones 2013
Clouds in Finland, by Konrad Kryzyzanowski  Fair Use