Featured Poetry

To view all poetry, visit the Vibral subsite Epic Proportions at epic.vibral.co.za.

Scumbling

 

He set himself before his task

His pen-brush clutched so tightly.

The lines he painted out with purpose

Were marching out his meanings.

The strictures that he set upon them

Were obeyed in “left-right!” cycles.

 

But the curtain stirred as the night sent out

A cricket to protest this crime.

Tiny insect though it was, the chirping

Shattered those lines.

Our Hero-poet clicked his tongue,

And hurled his ink-well vengeance.

 

He gave fresh orders, and lines remade,

But now out of step from his meaning.

He saw them stepping now as singles

And each one had a story.

The path he’d given, still they walked

But each to his own drummer.

How richly this new pattern swirled

How gaudy, austere and alive.

 

He observed how complex was this weave

And followed it across his pages.

His pen-brush racing, he wrote himself in

An observer upon yonder hilltop.

And it did not strike him now that he

Was a mere tenant in “his” own story.

With delight he watched first friend and foe

Then with rapture the far subtler stories.

 

Pen brush scumbling, weaving fresh strokes

All shot through in blues and golds.

The heat and dust of the crowds there gathered

Rose as steam above those pages.

 

Hours blinked by, and the night was fading

Till at last he collapsed on his bed.

He closed his eyes, but his grin spread wide

The lines of his face a fresh story.

 

 

The more faces change

 

I once took my place at a breakfast table

And was joined by a German student

He complained to me of his unfair teachers

And a girlfriend who asked too much.

In Canada I rode a subway, watching

A woman who mothered her daughters.

Her words were fussing, but her eyes caring

As they struggled to break from her yoke.

 

In Japan a tourist guide’s eyes lit up

When I called her to join my photograph.

She showed me how the Koi fish leapt

While the traffic was rumbling below.

In India my driver complained about Bombay

How rudely his passengers called him.

‘In the South, at, least, the people have manners

And smile and greet me as “Uncle”.’

 

At an Austrian conference, a fat man beside me

Sweated as he offered his name.

To put him at ease, I said ‘Air-con’s busted!’

But he said ‘No, I’m just overweight!’

In Spain a lovely woman offered me a smile

And my response did paint her blushes.

Her navy blue dress was fluttering pride

Inviting stares to gather about her.

 

Family and friends remark to me often

‘What fortune you enjoy in your travels!

New buildings new vehicles and far country sides

To find out new voices and faces!’

Yet far as I go, i find but the same

The same cares and fears and hopes.

Change all the names of the countries above

But the people could stay there still.

 

Despite all the pride we take in our cultures

The language and religions we clothe in

Needs for closeness, needs for distance

Clashing, colliding, make a human.

Standing shy of touching, sensing the same joys,

Doubting that ever we could share them

We half-dare, we tremble and we wonder

In its way, it’s all so beautiful.

 

 

Overnight Body Bag

Sunlight diffuses over the hillside

Giving way to the gathering night

The people are all still restless

So the lights go winking on.

 

Television sets are flickering

Flashes quivering on their walls

As they talk a little of today,

Or what the morrow brings.

Routine, repeating, comforting.

 

They sense a Greater Question loom

And await with merciless patience.

It stares back mirrored eyes

Reflecting their timid-puzzled stares.

 

Some do feel they know the answers

Are proud of their own restraints.

They look upon the pleasures as vice

And are slaves to their freedoms from it.

 

But the One that awaits, its arms outstretched

Yearns to hold all close.

Locked it is in our chains of concept

Muffled its music of Silence.

 

We feel this One, but know not how

To trust in such infinite Truth.

Easier it is to state our name, and what we do

Than to admit: “I am but stardust”

 

To embrace the One, we must stand naked

But that we cannot now do.

Sensual nudity is an easier concept;

Grasping for pleasure, we get.

 

The earth does turn; sunlight filters,

Another day will dawn. All in order,

To scramble, to scrape, scavenge, and to strive.

Pretending deafness to the breathless whisper

That begs us.

 

 

A matchbox of prayers

 

Each morning sees me scratch a matchstick

To fix on my lamp a flamebud.

Sometimes I’m rushing, and I just say to God

‘Hey howzit! Howzit, how are you?’

Sometimes, prayerful, I bow my head,

But often, I present a shopping list.

 

Still, each time leaves behind its matchstick

That accumulates there on the windowsill.

Bachelor as I am, I vow tomorrow

To throw these charred sticks out.

But sticks and matchboxes begin to pile

And the windowsill begs a better view.

 

One day I lit up and without thinking

Stuffed it in one of those boxes.

No more gunk there on the windowsill,

The paintwork free of charsticks.

One box to hold the unburnt matches

And one to hold the prayers.

 

And I think I’ll need these as the proof

When one day He asks ‘And you?’

‘Along with all the fun you’ve had,

Did you remember Me too?’

My mother’s priest did ‘open the book’;

Seems I’ll be filling boxes till ninety.

 

Although that allows me sixty years,

Still I begrudge the lost thirty.

Eighteen of those my parents lit,

But they’d made me stand there too.

The twelve that followed: a haphazard affair

But what’s an extra match or two?

 

So to claim back all those thirty years

I’ll just light an extra few.

I’ll bunch them together, ten thousand matches

A quick swipe with my trusty matchbox.

They’ll burn there softly on my palm

And I’ll blow them out with a puff.

 

Refilling the boxes will be the tedious part…

Well, writing on the (back-) dates too.

But if you don’t value your own matches

Now and then keep a stick for me.

All my matches can’t repay all the fun

So I extend a shameless begging bowl to you.

 

 

Empires Built

Oft times I dream of empires to build

And I’ll blueprint some devious schemes.

But then I remember history’s empires

And how tiny the decades they spanned.

Even the Reich that near crushed the world

Was spent in just six years.

 

Sometimes I dream to produce many poems

Or count my stories by the score.

But the mind-factory that produces these

Does grind too militant its gears.

To produce consistently it needs a method

And patterns it can endless repeat.

 

The truth is blunted in such metal works

And the flow of feeling finds friction.

Works of truth cannot stand arrayed

For their differences are deep, fundamental.

Each must chain upon his mountaintop

And sing what he knows to the wind.

 

Protect me from my empire building,

Guide steady these hands of mine.

Bend me to works that’ll stand forever

And free me from even this wish.

To desire, to want, to grasp for fame

Yields works framed out small and weak.

 

If there is structure, then let it be

A place built up to give training.

For to find great works, at first I need

The devices and mechanical wheels.

To break the rules and find great purpose

We must learn the rulebooks first.

 

The foolish amateur, believing in his genius

But reinvents old rules.

The lazy bleat to ‘express themselves’

And to show what carried ‘in my heart’.

Without discipline, study and effort

We find not the tools to break rules.

 

I would play my part in the breaking Dawn

So I study and work and pray.

The student path does stretch out far

But a smile I see etched in the clouds.

I tie my laces before I begin

And I paint my tracks on the dunes.

 

 

When first I ran on the path of blades

I reveled on the inside edge;

The sweetness of that inner blade

Holding the burden central between my feet.

 

When crouched down low, calling forth the flight

If too far forward my courage swung me out

The stern guardian steel, waiting there free

Would snap into place, and balance up the load.

 

But leaning on the edge that waits there outside

Transfixes all the burden on the guardian foot.

The free one swings ignorant on the wrong side

Of whether the burden’s to fall, or to rise.

 

So I thought as I scrambled my pursuit

Down the vast empty corridors of impatient flight.

I carved there uniform the lone brute force line

Spelling out the power of momentum’s mount.

 

But a straight line is the plainest of the joys

Honest face hiding no mysteries to ponder;

Traced out artless, its rhythms repeating

Inspiring what already bleak to become sterile.

 

But to step on the edge where no guard awaits

Gifts all the joys of the unstable state.

Poised on a point, we reach out a frightened hand

Tracing the face that shows a foot where to land.

 

To know both edges marries power to the form

The inside that thrusts fury, ruler of the small;

The outer: the artist, trusting in the Greatest All

Courage grants their places: the bifurcation switch.

 

Until at last I know rhymes built of two feet

A mermaid fair, churning left, now twisting right

Drummer, two sticks a-blur, blasting out a beat

Or a firebird above, thrashing out winged flight.

To rely on strength, Will; on what’s inside

And to accept humbly what granted Outside

I find twin streaks on the canvas of my life

Cut not of blades, but of the tears of Grace.

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