my poetry

3:21 AM on Mon, Jul 17, 2023:

I’m more familiar
with 3 am than 6
but I rose for years at
hellish 6 to join the daily
grind, forced into
unnatural rhythms
but now I’m free
I rise when my eyes open
I sleep when they close
I still have bad nights,
hellish mornings
but at least I’m free
of the clock’s tyranny

2:54 AM on Sun, Jul 16, 2023:

shall I write of pain
or of the smoke
drifting through the open
window from the fire pit
across the way choking
like remorse before it fades
or shall I instead write
of the downy soft cat
who wants to cuddle
despite the heat
her purring a balm to all
the pain that aches me?

3:00 AM on Fri, Jul 14, 2023:

no pressure
you did this
to yourself
no one has any
except you
but that’s the thing
isn’t it?
we always martyr
on our own

3:07 AM on Wed, Jul 12, 2023:

memories crowding around
like guests uninvited to a party
they have stayed too long
leaning against the walls
wondering if they dare to dance
but I’m too tired to indulge them
wishing but too polite to say
they should just grab a beer
and go home


Lately I’ve been writing mini-poems just before I go to sleep at night. It helps me unwind and relax my mind. I thought I’d share a selection of them here. How long will I keep this up? No idea. As long as it seems necessary, I guess. If you want to read all I’ve done so far (they’re not all good), you can go here:

2:30 AM on Tue, Jul 11, 2023:

in the liminal space
at the end of the day
when sleep approaches
like a shy, purring cat
to knead at my
turning in circles
looking for a place
to settle

2:11 AM on Mon, Jul 10, 2023:

dark energy, some physicists
say, is the force of
emptiness, a void in the
cosmic web pushing the
matter of the universe
farther and farther
from where it began
and it’s everywhere,
between us around us
within us without us
pushing us away
always away
from where we began

3:01 AM on Sun, Jul 09, 2023:

the world is small sometimes
so small and cold and selfish
it can be large though
large and warm and free
if imagination and compassion
can hold it up to the light
hold hands with me
let’s give it a try

11:45 PM July 6, 2023:

this will all make
better sense
in the morning
that’s what
I tell myself
over and over
but it never does

The Problem With Moondust

The problem with moondust, said the scientist,
is that it’s so fine it flies everywhere, wafting
on the slightest breeze, a magic powder
seeking every crack and hidden place of reality—
a more persistent sand, prevailing enchantment,
glittering matte grey possibilities of wonder.

Perhaps she didn’t say all that, not precisely,
but I knew what she meant. The problem
with moondust is that it brings on dreams,
faerie winkles uncontrollable and glistening,
spells of madness, incantations of imagination,
filling eyes, coating hair and reaching hands
with hopes dare not named, covering day-to-day
in possibilities beyond day-to-day means,
yet just what the heart needs: moondust.

—PJ Thompson

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.

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


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


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)

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