Filtering by Tag: poem

STARING AT THE CEILING FAN

When it is too late
and I am still awake,
I count the millions of tiny mountains
hovering above me
before drifting off into other.

I am never awake
long enough to count them all,
but I am able to see,
somewhere between
the fan and the roof
and an immovable twilight,
the ceiling wears a skin of gratefulness,
and I,
one of drowsy solemnity.

 

Copyright © 2016 John Grimmett. All rights reserved.

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GOODNIGHT MOON

Last night,
a storm woke me
by dancing on my roof
and, giving thunder a twirl,
it began a steady pitter-patter,
which gave me cause to open one eye
and watch the ceiling fan
spin and spin,
hoping I'd return to
laying on the beach with you
or winning the lottery
(boy, that one was hard
to wake up to),
but instead,
I found myself making lists
and reminders of what to do
upon waking:
pack the bags,
make the sandwiches,
read the other lists...

"There are so many places to be,"
I remember thinking
before drifting off again,
but maybe right here --
maybe in that place
between comforter and pillow case
that glows warm and cold
like a hopeful picture of the Earth
from the Hubble telescope --
maybe in this container
where I am safe
from the elements, at least --
maybe this is not where I should be
as, simply, where I am,
for now,
with only the sound of raindrops
on my eyelids
and the same gentle fan
whirring above me
as it has since the days of my adolescence,
ushering me back into some bewildering unknown
for the next several hours
or until the cawing alarm clock
beckons me to grow up,
grab my lists,
(futile, failing)
and get out.

 

Copyright © 2016 John Grimmett. All rights reserved.

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A THOUGHT AT MIDNIGHT

Most days,
I cannot see the trees for the forest;
most days,
I do not stand in awe of anything except a half-alive coffee maker,
myself half-alive,
and I think that it’s not that the earth spinning isn’t
exciting or wondrous or useful or any of that.

It isn’t the gray haze of morning
as I drive my car underneath a rising sun
or through a curtain of blue rain.

It’s that, once heaven paints the ceiling of the sky, 
each thirsty day sinks into the parched mouth of history,
the cardinal star crawling slowly
from Calcutta to Paris
to my backyard
where I am in the center of nothing
and in the middle of everything.

This is not an explanation.
This is not an insight
or an enlightenment.

But it is a notion —
the idea —
that our handprints
and our signatures
and the big toe used to make a pond ripple
is both the smallest necessity
we will always know
and the largest prayer
we will never hear.

 

 

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A BELOVED MAPLE

If you suffer from dendrophilia like me,
you look up, on days like today,
into the long slender fingers of the oak branches
and contemplate the complexity
of cracking an egg
or a walnut in half,
(for you always get what you expect)
but what of the poor yolk of my heart
or the crisp, difficult nut meat of my uncertainty
when, leaf by leaf, the sun peeks through
the twisted joints and roots of a moment,
untouched by all that is before me,
especially when the sky is so full of hope?

 

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ANOTHER OF THE SAME

Maybe I am destined
to write the same old poem
like Pinter wrote a play
or Steinbeck a story
but here I am, nonetheless,
thinking of you —
of us —
in the magical mystery
of times gone by,
when we could not possibly understand
the smallness of what we were:

Here is Hamlet,
we said,
“to thine own self be true,”
poor, poor Polonius
dying a thousand deaths
at the hands of our amateur.

Here is Beethoven,
we played,
our fingers long and clumsy,
plunking note by note
of a sonata in moonlight
in the middle of a dull hot day.

Here is poetry,
I said,
and I gave it to you,
the words thick and sweet like honey,
but with only me, 
it stuck to the roof of my mouth.

Later,
after we had kissed —
when love died on my lips — 
I realized I had only words,
and you moved on to larger things
as I stood there
in the craters of your footsteps
considering all of the reasons
of how you and language abandoned me
and why I could not dream
of anything to say.


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ABSOLUTION (IN FIVE PARTS)

I.
Every Sunday, 
a mother sits alone on a church pew.

Her family accompanies her
twice a year
to show her
they have not forgotten.

 

II.
Aware of her own resentment,
a daughter sits quietly in the back seat
of a long, four-wheeled road trip
with sounds buzzing in her ears
and something whirring about inside her belly
and as she tries to figure out what it is,
there is a great big pull in her chest
and the anguish inside of her
streams down her cheeks.

She inhales carefully
so that she may remain invisible.

 

III.
A son sits on a bench and waits to be picked up from school and it is very late now and he is the last one and he knows it and he knows daddy must be on his way but probably got tied up in a meeting or a phone call or something more important and he knows it and (though it should not matter it does) it doesn’t take long before a terrible gray knot grows in his throat as he looks down at his plastic watch and he knows it and finally the boy screams so loudly that the gray explodes through his mouth in a furious surge of red hot goodbye.

The sun melts on the orange horizon.
Suddenly, headlights in the distance —

 

IV.
A father lays dead and buried
somewhere on a hillside
while his three young children sit around
and wonder about the people
they are to be without him.

Their mother cannot replace him,
and that is half of the difficulty, at least.

 

V.
What will it take
to stop blame
from dripping slowly
from the leaky faucet
of indignation?
The touch of your palm
against mine?
The jasmine scent of your sorrow?
Your eyes of sapphire?

Maybe the only answer is time:
when the scars have turned blue-pink and worn,
when the accidents have been appreciated
through an ancient translucent windowpane,
when we are able
to sit and watch the sun rise
and really truly
start over without any answers,
with only the soft purr
of a boiling tea kettle,
that old friend
who tells us
day in and day out
it will all be fine
and, later, 
we will make it home
just in time for supper.

 

 

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WILL NOT EVER TELL ME WHO I AM

One of these days,
I will understand —
and perhaps it is not understanding
as much as it is restlessness —
I will understand
how to let myself give up
that which keeps me
neck-deep in a mound of earth.

One of these days
I will know the mercy of trees —
and I doubt that means charity
as much as it means awareness —
I will know the mercy
of long moments in the shade
with a book or a thought
or both.

One of these days,
I will surrender to peace —
and maybe that is less about surrender
and more about allowing a little forgiveness,
and that would be alright, too —
I will yield to the moment
when my insides are not on fire
among the geraniums and paper whites.

Daily, I crack and smolder at dusk
like a thousand tiny crickets
made of ash and longing,
and in the middle of the night,
I stare up at a starry vault
of collective wondering:
to see myself is fortuitous
but to know I am there?

Already,
I am learning.
Already,
with a few quick strokes of my pen,
the wind carries me
in another direction,
the way my mother used to
when I was a child at the beach,
when my life was colored
in soft cotton tank tops
and unassuming pastels.

 

 

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A VOID UNFILLABLE

How do we say goodbye
he says to me
you understand he says to me
with the end up like a question
but I don’t understand

he says it will be a long time
before we see each other again
I know I say
but it is not what I mean to say
I mean to say
I regret the moments we have spent frivolously
because if I could see this moment coming
boy wouldn’t I spend time with you the correct way

we would not be human
he reminds me
he reminds me
we would not be human

this is not goodbye-goodbye
he says it’s a beginning
and all that
and that sounds fine for a while
but soon I grow tired
and a little teary
and somewhere down the road
where we were once children
I slowly unravel like a worn piece of fabric
who suddenly discovers
he is not simply a piece of fabric
but a hole in the cloth of living
working his way slowly outward
and dividing himself in half

and that’s how I know I am alive
for now
for the time being
and he has been talking
and I have been watching his eyes ignite
while the cat in the window
rises and stretches
and leaves us
to brave the impending winter.

 

 

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THERE IS FIRE DOWN BELOW

Today, it rained for the better part of the afternoon,
and sitting by the window feeling particularly bland,
I started slowly counting backwards
from the larger to the smaller,
the moments of my life reticent:

the alarm clock going off
to the night before
and the food I should not have eaten;
to the holidays
and birthdays
and family reunions;
to the button downs and silence
from messy hair and loud music;
to the friends I used to have
and the man I should not have loved
and the girl I should not have thought to love
and the ones who I’ve remembered to forget;
to the moment I learned how to ride a bike
to the moment I fell off, cracked my teeth and haven't ridden since;
to discovering color and numbers:
that red and white made pink
or that 100 had another digit after 99
and would take 899 more friends to push him over the edge;
to the thin line between the should and the should-nots
and at what point, I wondered, that I had become unaware.

With a little sigh,
my dog laid his black bristled head on my knee
and helped me — like good dogs do — 
gently let go of this halcyon catastrophe,
giving me permission to listen as it washed away,
waiting maybe for a “good boy”
but that, I’m afraid, would be too much disappointment
against the slow and steady rhythm
of it all coming down.

 

 

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COMMUNION

I was drinking my coffee on the back porch like I always do
and making a list like I always do
when a small squirrel happened upon me
through the slats of my fence,
eyeing me carefully
the way, I imagine, Cezanne would study a bowl of fruit.

I humbly offered a bit of strawberry
(my breakfast)
that, with a few more cautious moments,
he gladly devoured,
and after celebrating the unlikely eucharist,
off he went to loftier adventures,
abandoning me with my coffee and a thought:

this is how it will always be,
wandering from this to that,
praying that God grant us strawberries
or understanding
or something in between.

 

 

Copyright © 2015 John Grimmett. All rights reserved.

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A SHORT PRAYER TO AND FOR THE EARTH

You do not have to sweat in fields of time
or lash yourself over and over again
for a crime you did not directly commit.
You do not have to apologize
or burrow yourself underneath mounds
of fresh, hot shame from your mother's dryer.

Tell, instead, of the reason your eyes turned
from a sea of azure to a gray, glassy silence,
and I will open my arms
and let forgiveness pour out of me
like the unrelenting frost
of mountain snows
not yet trod upon
by the violence of man.

 

 

Copyright © 2015 John Grimmett. All rights reserved.

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FOR DKW

What is the heart,
if not a vessel of gift
for wind and rain
to pass like low hanging clouds
above the rocky terrain
of grins and tears
and broken longing?
What will you make of it
in this only life alone?
In the quiet of your bed,
civilization drives you mad
with overtones of war
and sickness of mind and body,
but go on we must:
your heart is pure;
this, you carry
both as staff and spear,
not to trample the dusty earth beneath you,
but to lift the watching child upon your shoulders
so that he may see
what he could never see alone.

 

 

Copyright © 2015 John Grimmett. All rights reserved.

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ÉLÉGIE POUR PARIS

It must begin with the children:
a slow and steady lesson,
delicately delivered,
that the page of a book
is lighter than dogma,
more faithful than the trigger of a gun.
Alright.
Done.

It must begin with a degree of reverence,
understanding
instead of demanding
what we want —
no, what we NEED —
okay, fine:
even Chekhov said,
“I have no interest in what’s yours,
only securing what is mine.”

But still we wait,
from season to season,
where, in the parking lot of a cheap motel, 
an assassin peers through a scope
while snow gently falls
and, should you listen oh-so-carefully, 
an army of tides march through timeworn walls
made of sheetrock and autumns of circumstance:
still, we ponder the reason?
Moving from morning to mourning the darkness,
the night —
where is the light?
what is the season?
what is the sin?
where does it begin?

Again and again,
we must begin
after tragedy and horror
and painful attack;
starting over,
well-worn and nothing more…
(if only we were able to learn
from that which came before)
This is a war:
not of guns,
not of people,
but of “this-is-the-church-and-this-is-the-steeple”
and ideology and a notion
of someone’s sublime set in motion,
a religion of violence,
a terrible plot,
a terrible misgiving.

And we find ourselves again —
beginning another chapter
in the terror of living.

 

 

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ODE

You:
you who carried
wonder in your hands
down the long, lonely walk
to that plaintive beach
and, tossing it to the sea,
used your fingernail
as a small scalpel
to lance the skin of the earth
only to bury a bit of yourself
beneath the sun-soaked sand of discovery --

you are the fringe of land
that meets the sea,
unshakable in the fleeting pledge of morning,
immovable in your magnitude
like a weighty rock
dropped from the height of a curious child.

Yet we -- we! -- do not sink, sadly.
Instead, we rise slowly, slowly, slowly --
now that the newness has drifted downward --
out of the tides of twilight,
out of the sea and into the air,
into the atmosphere
where the moon (if her appetite is adequate)
shall gobble us up
and swallow us whole.

 

 

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ALWAYS AT THE WINDOW

It passes quickly.

With every autumn deceased
since you last smelled youth,
you sit by your windowsill
counting Novembers
in hopes that they may slow
to some pedestrian speed.
On the sigh of a listless leaf,
you count the blended Tuesdays
and speculate how many
you've witnessed in your brief fantastic.

You compare this to lists incomplete,
replete with dream vacations
and renovations of the mind;
an adultery of spirit has occurred,
for in a whirlwind romance
with the real,
you lost the sense of touch,
that crooked index finger
grazing the cheek of what might have been.

Always at the window,
you notice a small bit of snow,
rock and stardust
kiss the forehead of the glass.
In the reflection,
you wipe away a wrinkle,
a tear,
a dashed intention:

time pours out your eyelids,
and you catch yourself
gathering it on the floor
like a kitten in a litter box
before taking a quick glance
through that patient window
to see if anyone from the outside
was looking in.

 

 

Copyright © 2015 John Grimmett. All rights reserved.

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ART

There comes an awkward twilight of your life
when speech becomes unnecessary:
when looking at one another is enough
or when there seems to be a stillness
loud enough to keep you awake
past the post-4pm coffee crave.

But that isn't what I am talking about.

I mean the diminutions,
further reductions:
voicemail greetings, commands to Siri.
Substitutions of Snapchats for snapdragons,
complications in 140 characters or less.

What survives,
if only the overture to that Dickensian godsend?
"It was the best of times;
it was the worst of times..."
And will a selfie of you
in front of that Ansel Adams piece
be enough to crack the world in half?

 

 

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NATURAL SELECTION

Unexpectedly,
you find yourself sitting across from each other,
calculating what you've made:
is it too much to inventory
the lightbulbs you've changed
or the floors you've swept
or the linens you've turned?

There have been a fair share of silences,
a decent amount of injuries, neglects,
but what of the pursuit? --
a few rides in the car in the summer dusk,
or movie night with the favorite blanket
because it's too cold to exist anywhere else?
When were we aware?

In its place,
the motel signs dimly light the vacancies of remembrance,
a hard, yellowish light cast upon dirty porcelain --
or maybe the fluorescent lighting on a rainy night
is comforting on the greenish-blue countertops of yesteryear.
This was a place we never knew together
but a place that I wish to come back.

To tap my feet like shale rock
against the worn wooden floor of my adolescence --
To see it cascade down the mountainside
and amount to rubble?
How shall we be made new again?

You look at me, now,
with stony grey eyes
from across the drop leaf table
that once belonged to my grandmother
as if there has been some sort of tragedy:
simply,
like all animals,
we have evolved,
but you will not realize it, love,
until it is very late
with only the sound of your box fan
to keep your solemn company
in the hot, stagnant wordlessness of evening.

 

 

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ENOUGH

You can't have it all:
especially on nights like these,
with the wind on your back
and the world lit before you
like a string of lamplights,
with everyone gathered around the table,
the radio on in the next room over,
with you and your siblings
drinking wine and listening to your father speak
of better times gone by,
with your mother shushing him when needed,
with only the promise of another sunrise before you
as sleep stomps impatiently on your eyelids;
the memory of your grandfather,
whose absent seat at the dinner table
is one-part liberty and two-parts yearning,
delivers a mischievous aria, 
one you know so well that your entire body
ripples in the river of recollection --

you remember now, 
quietly, smiling softly,
dancing closer and closer
to the warm pale light,
the words you've always known:

you cannot have it all,
but if all turns out to be nothing
in the final verse of our swan song,
that may just be enough
as it always has been.

 

 

Copyright © 2015 John Grimmett. All rights reserved.

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CHICKEN AND RICE

Who knows what love really looks like
until it is staring you in the face
and you have nowhere to escape to
but that's okay
because there isn't anywhere else
you'd rather be looking anyway.

Your finger circles the rim of the coffee cup you've been drinking.

Paris next?
Then to some Tuscan beach?

The world awaits you.

Forget the fights impending.
Gloss over the difficulties.
Forgive, if you're able, the inequities
that disallow you to become one
but keep you parallel,
moving slowly north to an undetermined destination.

Where are we headed? you ask,
in the midnight of your green tea
or the doubt of your cocktail.

Yet there will be, occasionally, 
a moment when the world will sparkle,
and that's all it will take
for you to descend from the atmosphere
of nitrogen and desire,
and it will not be some picturesque view of Cinquaterre
or Vermont in the autumn
but, instead,
a Wednesday around 9:30 pm
when you are finally able to cook dinner
and come to the conclusion
that chicken and rice will have to do,
and, in fact,
it is the only thing you crave.

 

 

Copyright © 2015 John Grimmett. All rights reserved.

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MARRIAGE

Ten minutes ago,
the Sun lifted up her skirt
and stepped over Mt. Tamalpais
as she placed a heel on the throat of Day
while I watched from my front porch.

And while I was trying not to peek to see what’s up there,
she was making him sorry for leaving
(as she always does)
just as he was falling asleep,
(as he always does)
drunk, maybe, from that warm heaven
that only a martini or being unaware can make.

Truth is: Day never sleeps
(the trick’s on the old lady)
because he is always one-eye-open, one-eye-closed,
‘round the corner and back again
in some new city with new people every hour
while she waits for him,
sighing quietly, softly falling behind,
drifting between clouds and
an atmosphere of want.

This bothers her —
one day, he’ll be sorry, she knows —
she’ll finally move ahead,
(‘round the corner and back again herself!)
and THEN who will take care of him: the Moon?
That’s a laugh.

Sometimes, the rain speaks her sorrow,
but still she follows him.
Can’t help it.
And they go, go, go together.
And when they do,
ain’t it a beeyootiful thing?

And gosh:
tomorrow, they will return,
her heel relaxed,
his eyes wider,
all other days forgotten,
but
(here it comes!
the cadence,
the unraveling)
the distance between them remains ever persistent.

 

 

Copyright © 2015 John Grimmett. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all materials on these pages are copyrighted by the author. All rights reserved. No part of these pages, either text or image may be used for any purpose other than personal use. Therefore, reproduction, modification, storage in a retrieval system or retransmission, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise, for reasons other than personal use, is strictly prohibited without prior written permission.

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