Author Archives: John S

About John S

I write poetry...mostly because it appeals to the music in my head.

Eulogy in a Far Away Place

From so far away, your voice – though faint-
gave us canvas and light and dimensions.
We painted the universe with your eyes.
The perspective of an otherworldly
sea and sky. Horizons that you crossed,
plummeting into an eternity of single things
and ingredients of worlds.

And even though you were created
for grandness,
you were destined for sacrifice
just as the universe designs.

How a star flickers its light, then disappears
and the silence in the darkness
leaves us cold, longing for a reemergence
of belief.

How a wave ends its course
at crest, then breaks ashore
to ebb and rest for just moment
before falling away.

How the autumn gold rushes
into view, then descends –
leaving a matte of color and
texture that reminds us
of the beginning.

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Buttoned

Slipped into function, an x and o fashion
held fast between the thumb and forefinger
and shoved between stitches.
Crossed threads with fibrils
hatched of coral and seagreen coloring,
the twined straw-ness it sculpts
crossed purposes – to hold within
and to have beauty fitted on the surface.
Our eyes opened to the brief delights
of geminate pairing and not duality.

Crux

As hills become mountains and the lakes lead to streams,
then writing this poem is more like a scheme
to capture them both-though it seems in excess-
The climb and the ascent to narrowed obsess.
Shunning all reason of what comes to rest
on cliffs or near jetties in scenes I know best.
A beauty there waiting in sunlit repose,
her eyes slightly dimmed,as she dreams – I suppose.
And there at each waypost she lingers ahead
culling the scenery I’ve conquered and bred.
And where I go next is of no end, this I know.
She’ll be in the heights or the river below.

Books and Thoughts

If you’ve happened upon this post – Thanks for visiting. Normally, I post poetry because this is a convenient outlet for expression.

If you’ll indulge me, I don’t feel much like writing poetry today, so I think I’ll just write…

Books I’ve read/am reading

I just finished An Instance of the Fingerpost, by Iain Pears. I bought this second-hand on my birthday over a year ago. It is an ambitious novel, and the premise is intriguing – to tell the story of a crime from multiple points of view. The story is filled with twists, perspectives, unreliable narrators, and Dickensian description and dialogue – this aspect which made it difficult for me to engage (which is why it took me so long to finish it). The ending was worth the effort. And in thinking back on how the story was told and the details that the author integrated into each account of the tale, the work was well done.

As I tend to read books in batches to find one that latches my interest, the next book I finish could be among these: A Doubter’s Almanac, by Ethan Canin, A Killing Term, by Robyn Sheffield, Bloodline, by James Rollins, or The Shack, by William Paul Young. My reading interests are diverse. 🙂

What to do about Confederate Statues

I find the debate of what to do about statues to confederate civil war icons (note I did not say heroes) and symbols both troubling and cathartic. I will state upfront that I am a southerner, born and raised, though I have live much of my adult life in the midwest. During my childhood, I was enamoured with the romantic view of the south (Antebellum plantations, the Lost Cause, Civil War history). As a young reader, one of my favorite books was the Robert E. Lee biography in the “Who was” juvenile biography series ( along with JFK and The Wright Brothers!). My continued experience and education has helped shape a more well-rounded view of these events. I still have an interest in Civil War history and writers of that period, but do not hold such a romantic view of the South’s intentions and reasons for seceding. Nevertheless, I consider it an important part of our country’s heritage and growth.

Statues are reminders of history and should be contextual in their placement. I think it is impossible to not have statues of some of these figures of history, even if they were on the wrong side of the Civil War. Exclude those explicitly guilty of war crimes (You don’t see statues of Nazi leaders-and rightfully so- for this reason). Statues of Robert E. Lee and others are appropriate in certain locations – war cemeteries, battlefields, museums – but less so in other places – every deep south courthouse or public park (what is the historical significance?). I don’t understand why there are statues to Lee in Montana or Ohio. There is common sense that could be applied by local governments. Confederate flags should not be on display at public buildings, but are appropriate symbology at confederate battlefields and cemeteries (It’s probably OK at NASCAR races, too, because I don’t want to antagonize THAT many people) 🙂

What is troubling is the amount of time being given to extreme viewpoints and attempts to legitimize them, when their only goal is to disrupt peaceful discussion and incite hate and violence. Further, they have taken the iconography of confederate civil war symbols and combined it with the message and symbology of nazism and white supremacy. This is not American, nor does it reflect the context of our history. They don’t get to abduct this part of our history and manipulate it for their ends. Our nation was founded on principles of compromise and civil discourse. There are differences of opinion, and there are cracks in the foundation because we are human. These groups don’t get to weasel in between the cracks and put up walls to divide us. As Americans, we should not stand for hate or divisiveness. We’ve already fought over that and learned good, albeit painful lessons.

American history is rife with right and wrong, and lessons to learn. And too often, I think we place our 21st century perspective on events of the past without first seeking to understand the past. What is most important is how well the history is recorded. I see history as way to learn (as a society) from mistakes as well as point to moments of success together. Is there equal balance in books and essays and can the information be taught to succeeding generations so they have a good perspective of the issues of the past, the philosophy of the era, and what was learned from it. We should never aspire to go back to the way things were, but we need to shoulder our history and learn from it ways to improve moving forward. As long as we have books, and we teach and discuss the historical subjects openly and without bias, our history won’t vanish (as some of our fear-mongering ‘leaders’ have implied). Statues without stories give us nothing to keep the historical perspective and invite bias. Bias invites extremism and silos of isolation (people who think like ‘we’ do), along with walls and media outlets that fuel and inflame. And if we continue to build walls around (literally and figuratively), all we will accomplish is division. Abraham Lincoln had something to say about divided houses.

We are all engaged in telling the story of America much in the way I tried to describe the book I just finished. There are events that are observed and experienced by different people who bring different perspectives. The different stories can be skewed by personal motives, some are unreliable and others rooted in fact. America is still a young country by global standards. Yet, we fight battles as old as civilization itself – and it is important to remember -prejudice and hate have no place in our discourse. Don’t be fooled by prejudice disguised as patriotism – Our history defines our path very clearly on this.

Glow

When I’ve lit a warming fire,
the blooming flames go licking higher
engulfing piled up timbers-
In oak and cherry cinder
new sparks,a hope engendered.

The crackling bite from fibres bound
now torn, fragmented in a sound-
pulled apart from stable lengths
betraying links and bonds and strength
new sparks,a hope engendered.

And after time, the flames reside
awaiting what I can provide,
More lumber on the bed of coals
feeding hungry, lonely souls-
new sparks, a hope engendered.

And after flickers fade to glows
and darkness settles, fills and stows
it’s bundles in the cloaking night
ever silent, there alight
new sparks, a hope engendered.

Swept up (Cento)

Negation, all fulfilled desire
gold with a heart of cinder.

Everything suggests something else.

When the weeds sprawl
it is not what you think.

The dust motes float
and swerve in the sunbeam
because I say we rather than they;

They change the color of your dream:
We is whiplash
and backhanded ways of settling grief.

Very present like a dark poem,
far and unreadable just out
at the edge of this poem floating.

And it is this rocking back and forth

to take in to sate the mouths

of humid heavy air and the wing music
of bees and flies.
Only, of course, they can’t sustain the part.
Tomorrow waits with a big broom.

**************

This Cento contains lines from the following poets:

Shirley Geok-Lin Lim, Robert Frost, AF Moritz, Muna Lee, Carl Sandburg, Karen Volkman, Lee Herrick, WS Graham, Susan Donnelly, Alison C Rollins, Ha Jin, Jean Garrigue, Jacob Saenz

The last ones

Where the omegas light
or the zebras graze
coming to a sundown at the end
of a day, with the hues just finishing
at the edge of the page.
Come what may.

Trek down to bottom
of the waterfall,
the pool that collects and swirls
and spalls. Shapes majestic rock
to a minor crawl.
You’ve seen it all.

Walk away from
blood and tears you’ve shed,
The memory maybe still fresh,
and living in your head. Not
worth the pain or the dread.
That’s what they said.

The last ones take
a moment to decide,
to conquer and reign in the now,
the meantime. It’s true what they implied,
yet often untried.