my poetry


Somebody knows who that is—
or they did, once,
and maybe they told their kids,
or maybe they did not,
before they themselves became
just another old photograph
of strangers.

Faint pencil markings on the back
sometimes give cryptic clues:
“Mother at the lake.”
But whose mother, which lake?
“Baby Jean, 4 months old”—
and you realize if Baby Jean
is still alive she’d be very old.

Ephemera,
handled with such confidence,
believing someone will always know
what and who and where.
Inconceivable that someday
they will all be gone
and we will, too,
that even these subtle clues
are ephemera, meaningful
to a few and only for a time
before time and the people it holds
slip into the past
and are gone.

—PJ Thompson
May 16, 2022

Death knocked twice on the door today
and when I opened up, smiled
and said, “This is a courtesy call.
Your time will come but not today.
Today I’m here to remind you
that time is not your friend,
that what you must get done, do,
that busyness is often just a mask
for fear, that no matter how hard
you try not to hear, the bell tolls,
and if you love, let them know.
See you around.”

I shut the door in Death’s face,
turned the music loud,
and danced around the living room,
as if I had nothing better to do.

—PJ Thompson

Listen, and I will tell you a story
from the deepest reaches of sleep,
from the land of dark mists and
impossible hope, the aisles of cold stone
turning into light and darkness turning
into frogs. Listen, listen to them sing.

Let us reach down into swamps of nod,
deep into the mire, pulling up weeds
that turn to rods of gold, snakes that eat
their own tails, your neighbor clad in scales,
the postman trailing love letters from
fingertips clasping stones made of epics,
the plumber mucking out the drains with
a unicorn horn, shining pearl and diamond.

Let us revisit events of the day, transfigured;
assay our philosophy turned to poetry;
let us listen to the cool singing of sirens,
beneath waves of sleep which never crest;
let us dive deeper still to the primordial reaches
and pop out again, reborn, ready for the new day.

The river beneath the river
pushes through the desert
where the old woman gathers bones.
Bones, bleached white, cluster
at her feet, skulls on the banks
roll onto the warm sand beach
where the oracle sits, knitting.
Stitch by stitch, each to each, one by one,
she urges the bones back together,
singing songs of reconsecration,
singing soul-songs of life renewing.
Done, she flings them back into the flow
to float upon the river beneath the river,
to bob onto a new, green shore,
to stand upon their feet, enfleshed and flexing,
to walk the earth once more.

This is my soul-song, my reconsecration.
These are my bones, floating along.
This is my fur flushing across my skin.
This is life returning to my soul.
These are my legs carrying me onward
into the new land, the green land, bound
for I know not where.

—PJ Thompson

House

Each splinter of this house knows his name;
every mote of sunlight shimmers with his skin.
The bricks are mortared with his sweat, windows
glazed with his breath, and the mirrors forlorn
because his reflection comes no more.
He walks the boundaries of his place, boots
crunching at the gravel of the drive and
thumping the wood of the welcoming porch,
whose planks of arms reach out to him with love.

Fingernails scrape along the door, a hand
impotently turns the knob, and he wonders
why he gains no entrance to this place
which contains him, blood and bone.
I push the door wide, invite the dark inside
to sit by the fire, which longingly breathes his name.

I cannot tell you, love, that I want you here,
not this wraith seeking wisdom from stone. 
Do not torment this house, moaning at your touch,
yearning for the one who loved it into shape.
Do not torment me with questioning eyes,
and lips which cannot remember my name.
Earth has you now, fit into her house of clay.
There is no returning through that narrow door,
no matter, my heart, how great the love before.

—PJ Thompson

Gone

Soft sighing of breezes in the tall grass,
soughing of the wind in the millet stalks,
cascade of wind chimes, the mourning of doves,
seed heads scattering in a shattering of wings.

The palm’s fronds bend and raise and bend
performing a ritual to life—a tiny life,
creeping and sighing all around and
in the clustering of fronds at its crown.

Far across the field, the dog barks,
quieting the sighing and the creeping,
but not for long. Life is insistent: a chittering
of sparrows battling, a fierce squeaking of mice.

All this life, all this quiet noise,
gone, gone, forced on,
to other fields where wreckers have not reached,
and big diggers leave the earth unturned,
where only small burrowing things disturb the soil—
far, far away from here.

—PJ Thompson

I tend to do these in batches. Some days are just haiku days.

 

Wiggle your bare toes in
the loamy earth, feel
energy run through you
*
*
The wind is shouting through
the trees, not subtle,
demanding attention
*
*
The windchimes take the brunt
of the wind’s anger:
what a clanging they make
*
*
The leaves clatter against
the sidewalk: they, too,
flee from the angry wind
*
*
Why is the wind angry?
Railing against the
bad we do to the earth?
*
*
Sky so bright a blue your
heart might burst with joy
(but you pray it doesn’t)

The pacing fell apart near the end the first time I posted this, so here’s another attempt.

Partner

Distracted by inconsequence I rarely realized
I had a faithful partner dancing by my side,
step by step, move for move, in perfect harmony,
I’d catch his shadow fleeting in the corner
of my eye; sometimes viewed en pointe, graceful
as any swan, other times such frenzied moves
to bring St. Vitus down, pale and wan with spite.
My partner smiles but rarely, unless his changing mood
becomes a thing macabre, yet swaying always on my left,
he is my boon companion, Angel of peculiar mien,
neither good nor evil, equal-treating all he meets.
He counts each living step, dancing counterpoint,
two-step, three-step, patient pacing on and on,
devoted to life’s rhythms—until the dance is done.

Days of clover soon
are over but at least there’s
daisies and clover.

*

Angels stir the frost
around on the windowpanes:
road maps to heaven.

*

Birds singing in the
sun, chittering gossip: they
know what’s important.

*

Dogs dark on and on
as shadows pass: metronome
of free form unease.

*

Crow caws out the news
from the telephone pole—there
are snacks in this yard.

If I could walk

There are many places I would walk
if I could walk:
country lanes disappearing over a hill
lush with green and sheepy sights;
sunken roads whose granite walls
loom tall on either side while eons of
travelers walk invisible by my side;
rugged stepping stones across a pond,
a rushing stream, a placid brook;
hiking trails of rocky scrambles
and forests telling dark tales of wonder;
silent, brooding ruins whispering stories
of wrongs done and rights done and
somnambulant martyrs sighing at night.

There are many places I would walk
if I could walk
but the hardest path to tread is acceptance.
If only I could soothe the angry child
who pushes me to try harder, not give up,
if only…if you’d just…then maybe…

There are trails, She says, waiting for you:
friths of mystery to be explored, calling;
remembered meadows, bursting in flower;
hills to be stood atop, contemplating
the wonder of the green land stretching
below, glittering in waning orange sunset;
of tall stones humming ancient songs that
set the earth spinning, taking me along;
of beaches in the cold and fog, strewn
with ghost glass and shining pebbles;
of sun and wind and rain and dew.

She accuses my reasoning, practical voice
of cowardice and forsaking, of accepting
a reality she will not acknowledge.
But the voice of reason toddles on—
a plodding litany of reasons why not,
urging what She does not wish to accept.
Between them I am frozen immobile,
dreaming of what used to be,
what might have been, and always
of all the places I would walk
if I could walk.

—PJ Thompson

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