Category Archives: Poetry

Poems by me & other poets, musings on Poetry

Pompeii is Burning

Transcribed from Snowflake (Blue Flower) Journal

Pompeii is Burning

Stamped tin soldiers
cigar box guitar
an empty can
  of red kidney beans
  a broken can opener
  and a Swiss Army knife
She lost the toothpick
  first year in
the nail file
  five years after that
but the knives
  are still sharp
   as the day she bought it
the knives, like the lies
  are always

Some stories
  get worn over time
   smoothed, rounded,
    polished, comfortable
She keeps hers
  lean and hungry
   (for we are all
    honourable men)

Knew you not Pompeii?
People died there
at least that’s what they say
choking in ash
  so hot it
   turned your lungs
    to cinders
  shadows still lying
   in each other’s arms;
If this is what
  they call an aftershock
I’d hate to be
  at ground zero
 (the eye of the storm
  is a myth
   like Sisyphus
   and Androcles;
  a starving lion
   will eat anything.)

He thinks:
  the pictures are too small
   for their place
    on the wall
 (discount bin beige
  masquerading as cappuccino)
A picture should expand
  until it fills the emptiness
  the artist as magician
  capable of placing
   images directly in your mind,
  indirectly deciphered,
  unhindered by education
  enhanced by hearsay,
   or possibly just
   seen in the wrong light
   the image becomes
  (that’s Art with a capital ‘A’
   for those who are only

  unlike people,
   don’t need directions
  don’t need to ask,
   "what’s my motivation?"
  The final cut is
   from the blooper reel
   in the tangible world;
    there are no second takes.
  don’t need to be told
   to seek higher ground;
   they’re already up there
    already hip
    to the secrets
    of the city dumpster
    and the food court crumbs.

      In the margins:
    what are you doing tomorrow?
     and tomorrow, and tomorrow…
     creeps in this heady pace, from day to day
    "this place is the beat of my heart"
   "if the storm doesn’t kill you, the government will"
   submerged elevators, broken wire mesh hearts,
     & quicksilver tears

Lay me down
  in a field of poppies
   cotton candy colours
     in a sea of green

Someone told him
  never to look back
  but neither the threat of salt
  nor the apocryphal tales
   of pomegranate seeds
   can hope to compete
   with that twinge
   in the pit of your stomach
    that says, clear
     as pycrete,
    I’m sure
     I left the stove on;

And Pompeii is burning,
  Delaware’s bleeding,
   and Venice is sinking
    beneath the green waves;
    who knew that death
     could smell so sweet?

Tuesday comes
  after Monday,
  at least that’s what they say;
  people died there,
   choking on laughter
   so hot it turned
   your heart to ashes
    blown away
     on the next
      stiff breeze.

In the midst
  of stagnation
   the hero transforms:
    liquid to solid
    to supersaturated
 only it’s not
   your grandfather’s
   set in the realm
    of Escher’s pen,
    where the endless stair
     becomes a hill
      that never sets,
     a winter
      that never rises,
  words that freeze solid
   and fall to the ground
    so you have to thaw them
    by the fire to hear them.

Can a song escape the singer?
  can you put a bounty
   on an idea?
  can a toy car jammed
   into an old car seat
    really save your soul?

She would see the glass
  as a weapon at hand
He would see the lens
  full of rainbows
  and long-playing prog albums
   (the round kind
   with bumps on
   for the needles to read,
   for those who are only now
    waking up);
The homeless man
  who used to play air drums
  on the George Street bench
    (he’s dead now)
   would see a portent
    of things to come
    and, drinking it,
     become the Messiah.

     In the margins:
     and heaven would ring
     with steel drum reggae bebop
     and dancing in the streets
      sepia piano tones
      and false drawers that don’t open
     plastic flowers, backgammon & tea
      Never stop digging;
       some day you’ll reach
      the other side of the world

– T.H. (May 2012)

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…1… lift off…

An old one for today, but it seemed appropriate.

where to find poetry

written on posts, on rails and stairs
written in chalk, on walls and sidewalks
in old bricked up alleyways
on boarded up windows
written on napkins, on old cardboard boxes
in the margins of fliers
on hat brims and T-shirts
drawn on sneakers, casts and mirrors
written in lipstick and magic marker
in crayon and finger-paint
written in wet sand, in mud and fresh clay
written with sticks, fingers and toes
written with pen knives, etched with keys
and dried out pen nibs
written on skin, in henna and ink
written on fabric, with wax on silk
carved into stone, wood and bone
written with beet juice, vegetable dye,
spilled coffee, melted chocolate
written on fogged up windows
on dusty furniture, and dirty car doors
written with pebbles, twigs and leaves
written in whipped cream and mashed potatoes
stamped into freshly fallen snow
written with sparklers, words on the air
written on fingernails, with nail polish and Sharpies,
white-out and paint
written anywhere, everywhere,
with everything & anything
words covering the world

permanent or ephemeral,
rain washed, tide erased
or measuring out centuries
this is how we say,
“we were here”

– T.H. (Blue book, Aug. ’09)

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A girl called Transient

Once she wanted
a yellow bike, with streamers
on the handlebars, and white tires;

Once she knew
how to change the bike chain,
and patch the leaks
She had a tool kit in her basket:
allen keys, patches, glue,
compact pump, WD-40, band-aids
an old water bottle
that smelled of plastic and time;

Once she wanted
to be a dancer, not
on the stage, but wild,
pirouetting through forests
and waterfalls, charming
the birds from the trees;
A time when logic was flexible
and the laws of physics
were mere suggestions
and the only key to not falling
was forgetting to hit the ground.

– T.H. (Patchwork Journal, 07.25.11)

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Bit of a longer one today; but heck, we are counting down to National NOVEL writing month, after all.

No Place Like Home
or, War: A Child’s Picture Book

Seized by indecision,
this is how the raven went:
upstairs, downstairs
all around the town
In through the out door
quoth the poet, “Nevermore!”
This is where we start from:
other people’s leavings

If I were a goldfish
I would learn to speak French
with a German accent
underwater in the rain

Can you feel it falling,
feel it falling underwater,
underwater in the rain?

This is how the bullets fell:
one, two, one two
and through and through
whizzing like firecrackers
popping like candy corn
lights bright as Ferris wheels
all the wheels turning

Wheels turning in the mud
heels churning in the mud
at sunset dirt can look like blood
all the fields burning

This is where the acorns grew,
here the apples, there the corn
This is where they picked the flowers
when her little girl was born
and all the boys were laughing

The boys were playing in the hay
the girls chased them all away
and the sleek black birds were watching,
watching from the cherry trees
flags unfurling in the breeze
sound of thunder on the hills
and all the birds were flapping
tattered wings against a battered sky
Cotton candy turned to smoke
and everything was burning
White sails on black water yearning,
yearning for the shore
Waves like handshakes turned
to backhand slaps against the
stoic rocks who stand in ever
failing lines against the upstart crackerjacks
and their terrible machines

This is where the bakery
put the pies on sills to cool
Here is where the farrier
soothed the skittish horses
Once a road is now a dim
reminder of a journey
barely visible against
the trenches and the craters
slowly filling, slowly spilling
over runnels in the rain

Can you hear it?
Can you hear it
underneath the constant
murmur, whine and hum?
The quiet dripping
water slipping
from the eavestroughs
from the lips of empty stone

It’s true, just as she said it was,
that little girl from Kansas:
There’s no place like it, anymore
no place at all like home.

-T.H. (with apologies to Poe, Seuss & Lewis Carroll)
(Patchwork journal, July 2012)

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Pieces II

Where did these scraps come from?
An old dress, torn to pieces
an old shirt, abandoned to rags
doomed to a dusty corner
relegated to cleaning up spills
cast by an ordinary life
rescued at the last moment
thrown in with other
misfits and malcontents
awakening in a factory
or some small village
sweltering the the dog days
of monsoon season
nimble fingers picking pieces
seemingly at random
sewing them together
with hand-me-down thread
ends and seconds,
bargain bin leftovers
paper pressed wet onto screens
left to dry in the sun
I can still smell it:
nothing at all like living trees
Later, sold to strangers
at overinflated prices
waiting for a poet to give them
new memories, a borrowed soul,
an illusion, perhaps
of purpose

– T.H. (Patchwork Journal)

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Forty fathoms in,
and I’m still
waiting for something
to validate my life
like Castiel praying
to an empty amulet
looking for lost gods
in dime story baubles
reflections in muddy puddles,
burned toast and brickwork

Every day I make
my New Year’s resolutions
my vow to break the silence
I breathe in mountains & oceans
throw my arms open
hoping the wind will catch me

Ever day I hear
symphonies written by ghosts
songs by unreachable strangers

Everything that touches my soul
dissolves in air and whispers
fades like dreams on waking
Sometimes cupped hands
capture just enough
for a single sip
a fleeting taste, a cruel
teaser (the main feature never
lives up to the previews)

If only I could find
the right sledgehammer
axe, blowtorch, cannon
to blow these walls down
I might find what I’m looking for
in the rubble and the ruin
a new life out of chaos

– T.H. (Patchwork Journal)

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where’s my cue
what’s my line
where the hell’s
the exit sign?

always a page missing
pieces left over
the wrong sized wrench
holes that don’t fit

if you ever need someone
don’t look in the mirror
don’t let them hear you
talking to yourself
and whatever you do
don’t ever tell them
your deepest fears

and if someone,
some stranger,
asks you out of the blue
“what do you want?”

don’t answer
just walk away

– T.H.

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This is where we go II

Ghost ships founder
off the shores of Elysium
we came here to find
the answer to something
lost in the Aether
conceptions stumble,
presumptions fall apart,
like paper in the rain, belief
in the inevitable lost
like leaves in the gutter
no longer individual
but indistinct, irresolute
handholds slipping
the long fall into uncertainty
no longer buoyed by
memories of bliss
Is it fog or billowing smoke
that hides the enemy’s sails?
Is it god, luck, or blind chance
that becalms us here on
glass still waters?
Only the albatross & the moon know,
only the wheeling gulls and the absent wind
and they’ll never tell

– T.H. (Patchwork Journal, 05.24.11)

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What did you expect?
That purple shoelaces
and thrift store T-shirts
would really make you
young again?

She just said to me, she said:
“Not you, you’re too young”
In a room full of greyhairs
bifocals, wheelchairs
and stiff, halting gaits,
it’s not much of a comfort

Who do you trust?
Not the words on the TV screen
or the smiling face in the magazine

When music is the last refuge
we hide inside ourselves
a tiny box within which
‘verses are born, die, are born anew

Humans (like the lady said)
(like some other things, which shall
remain nameless)
really are so much
bigger on the inside
Therein lies the beauty
and the tragedy
and the comedy
of it all.

– T.H. (Patchwork Journal, 05.24.11)

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Faint fingers fumble
for a coin in the dark
a handhold on a slick surface
seven splintered notes
abandoned by the side
of the road, forgotten
I think they belonged
to a piano concerto once
or maybe the chorus
of a well-loved pop song
they’ve long since lost
the story of original sin
unbound by family, they are
the ultimate in uncultured
tribeless feckless whim
free to clash and crash at will
headlong into oncoming traffic
they’ll leap blindly
into the abyss, if someone
dares them to
a voice keeps calling our names
bidding us come, stay, wait, go
we dance down dark alleys
in the midst of a snowstorm, barefoot
music without shape, singing
out of tune, and laughing

– T.H. (Patchwork Journal, 05.24.11)

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