Tag Archives: death

Uncle Tom Shortall’s Gone

Uncle Tom Shortall’s Gone

Uncle Tom Shortall’s gone, is dead
more myth than relative taller than life
whose eyes were higher than my father’s head
whose booming voice was an open door

whose sons surged through the den each year
who (he said) fed alligators in his dark basement
whose eyes were clowns who had no care
whose smile brooked no impediment

Uncle Tom taller than the fridge and most
could reach the liquor bottles with his eyes
blow off the dust for the once-a-year toast
where did he go what is it he sees

in the space beyond basements and christmas eves
where mice run away with a broken moon
where pain is fed to snapping teeth
Uncle Tom you left too soon

 

Author’s note: Tom Shortall was a beloved and to me legendary figure in my family’s Christmas Eve parties. It was not an official Christmas Eve until the Shortall family arrived. This poem doesn’t do justice to his life, of which I do not know much, but hopefully does justice to how big and generous a personality he was to the boy I was and still to some extent am. -JS

Carina

ScargoMYC

Carina

You will never be at anchor.
There are more graves than waves at sea.

We sail through our dead with every step
And honor the skill of dead-reckoning — figure out

where you are from where you’ve been —
Always a looking-back. Just ahead

Of the breastbone, like cartilage that catches
Flight, is the curve that carves our path.

September Bonfire

September Bonfire

bonfire

In the bonfire I see something that would eat even death.
So death must not be made of air after all.

I see summer’s bones smoldering long after the flame.
The seasons curled like scrolls of verse around each other collapse.

We have one of these every month, the landowner tells me.
Just from the stuff that falls away.

The one who stands in darkness while the other watches the sun set
will be walking in the morning sun while the other kicks off a fitful dream.

At a certain point it will make sense to gather fallen branches.
To dream wide awake of a motion that will eat even death.

#FullMoonSocial // (No) Reflection, by Mary Winifred Hood Schwaner

(No) Reflection

When you die it’s the dark moon
that keeps you company in the eternal evening.
No reflection — just deep space
rippling and bending around you.
No light can find you here
where the moon is a black stone
in a black pocket.
No increase, no decrease,
no connection to the flow of tides and time.
No time has ever passed. No illusion of light, illumination
or radiance. Not here among the dying stars
where memory spills its last drop
into the night and vanishes.
No vanishing. No dying. Only being.
Free of form. No form. Free.

Conditions Being What They Are

Conditions Being What They Are

 

Warm March morning. The sky dropped a foot
of snow on us a week ago and now it rises

in the warm air as fog in the hollows and foothills
disappear as I drive through it. Tonight it’s coming

back down as rain which will be snow before it ends
and I’ll be bending my back to shovel it away

from my car. Three times I will have passed through
it in a week, this same stuff, reconfigured, recycled.

When they buried my uncle a few days ago I knew
if there is a soul it’s like this snow, form a phase only

with respect to specific conditions and maybe
for all that, still surviving, no memory, none,

recognition only a scent like snow before it snows.

After the Black Crow Comes to Take Me Away, I Compose These Lines

crow

Artwork by Mary Winifred Hood Schwaner

 

Note: This poem is not a translation but was created by free-associating with the traditional Chinese characters found one of Mei Yao-ch'en's last poems, written over 960 years ago. What's below is more a round of poetic archaeology--like digging up the characters that made up the poem but not knowing how they fit together, and piecing together something entirely different from them. I hope to actually translate this poem properly one day soon, but thought I would share this curious first stage of the work with you. ----JS

After The Black Spirit Comes to Take Me Away, I Compose These Lines

Dark winged spirit, in the olden days even I had compassion for you! I’d tell folks
who’d just as soon spit on you and curse you if fate came their way on your wings

that Oh! the hour could not contain you, you’d overturn your own nest to shoot out
like sound from a plucked string, even to banishment from your old landlord, time.

Well, the history books are wrong! And here you are, stranded as well, so do not be so quick to reproach these days, too, which the master apprehends, like a bullet flicked across the mind,

a thought just passing, now detached. Sure, you can eat till you’re plump in Taicang,
buy a new nest in Kaoshu township, daybreak’s rooster’s not crying for you,

hundreds of birds will argue who can admire it best
but you cannot approach that phoenix, that emperor, or peep down into its celestial fire.

At this moment, to no avail across the warp of the sky your spirit flies north and south—
Its shadow falls on the cunning rabbit but cannot peck its eyes, or separate the thief from his base.

It’s more complex now that I’m dead, detesting the person with noble aspirations is not the same as becoming fond of this tiny bird that’s come around. I know I’m not either kind,

contrary to who I am, as if I flourished in the Qin or Han dynasties, brave and chivalrous!
Want some advice? Distance yourself from your reputation, Crow. I’ll just carry on on foot. I’ve got

something final to look after.

The Morning After the Ice Storm On the Day After the Snow Storm

My children walk on the foot-high snow leaving no prints
I remember doing that the feeling of not falling through

of being lighter than snow I remember the days I was sure
I would never leave any prints that I could walk

on the surface of the world and leave no trace
then are the days where you feel you are nothing but prints

Nothing but traces and paths and trails and then the days
you wake up to another death and your son

is reading how it took two hundred million years
for trees to develop leaves and

then you are back to leaving no prints