Saturday, January 1, 2011

Barry Ballard

The Soldier, The Man, The Sparrow

As the world shattered after returning
torn from a pointless war, I drank the last
landscapes that I remembered till they halved
themselves and poured out their meanings, the learning,
the thatch and rustling shrill that I always
kept stored. I recited my slow drunken
casualty of words among the jaw-like stems
and leaves falling, always falling, like blades

cutting through the ash and pulp of our soft
deepening grave. And I descended as if I’d
folded all my hope like the dull wings
of a common sparrow, sometimes silent,
sometimes flapping in a muffled whir inside
my chest, reminding me how much a year could cost.

The Given

Concerning Brightman’s bold hypothesis
for the "Given" that you’ve always carried
crumpled up like wax paper in the mis-
fortune hiding in the mind. The thick green reeds
of it still grow in that water circling the pit
of the brain. But there’s no escape for those days
when you say, "Life should be beautiful" (and it
isn’t). Where are we when the heart fades

and finally stalls and that same wax surface
bears our own bootprint, or the print of someone
we love? No simple explaining away
of grief standing over its grave, or the fist
of loose earth dropping on the casket’s drum-
like skin, or the granite’s cold chiseled name.

Sea Of Rains

Whistle at the moon from the deep friction
of that last thought coming undone. Let the seed-l
ike particles of your sound waves connect
(where even the Mare' Imbrium could raise
its walled plains at the back of your tongue).
Fill it with the rains of your life's stories,
the condensation of your steaming breath
beading up the mortality of each day.

Did you ever think its promise could run
in circles so deep, that its fragmented glow
could illuminate a side you haven't seen:
the missing pieces of your world-view (undone
in that swallow of its timeless history, redeemed
past bombardment, the craters, and shadows)?


Inside my father is the last vision
of water, a small lake of no consequence
in northern Michigan. His existence
rests somewhere between that place and the numb
reality of a cancer that grows
against his sight. We visit through Chippewa
skies, and warm our feet in bleached sand that crawls
deeper into the Pines and their soft shadows.

And it seems that our memory (our love
and regrets) always evolve to this:
a morning that opens before it has moved,
a mirror of forgiveness we're allowed to touch,
or the reach of our arms through the early mist,
as if everything was new ahead of us.

-All poems previously published at Weber, The Contemporary West

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