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bagend by Mark A.  Harrison

bagend by Mark Harrison

Walking barefoot in the back fields
Beds of soft folded grass hide in forests of thistles
I was missing the purple
(there’s usually more this time of year)
I found it where the hard packed earth gives way to damp
and water squelches between toes
(Must walk more carefully here, step by step, like a dancer)
Golden rod and Queen Anne’s lace, and milkweed not yet ready to burst

Open to the sky, the field stretches in long undulating hills
The mowed patches are scratchy and hard;
the long grass softens closer to the shade

I wish I knew which parts of the plants were edible
the seed pods that look like coriander, but aren’t
They say the roots of the wild carrot are safe;
you may know them by the fans of green that smell like carrots
when you step on them, or rub them between your fingers

There are too many people here, and yet
the number is perfect for the event at hand
(Strangers always stand at a distance,
no matter how close they are)

The hitch-hikers cling to the thin fabric of my over-short dress,
tiny green tag-alongs, bright as fresh moss,
the brightness of limes, that shine more in the imagination
than they do in real life
I will be finding traces of them days from now, will notice
cuts and scratches as an afterthought, and not remember how I got them

Walking in long grass is like the idea of walking among lions, or out into the air:
It only works if you don’t over-think it, if you just let things happen
Most of the time, it’s not true, what people say about belief
but sometimes it almost is

Only yesterday, I was murdering grass with a roaring demon fresh out of hell,
assuaging my conscience (and my future self’s sense of aesthetics)
by leaving islands of peace, tall nodding groves of white,
low lying gardens of fuzzy violet and gold
And yet today I step tip-toe, careful not to crush
the precious food of butterflies, the bedding of faeries,
and all the small gypsies and thieves that roam underfoot

Still more people appear, blue toe-nailed and familiar,
yet even more out of reach
Voices heard since childhood, and yet still not held in confidence,
nor yet sought out when silence may be found instead

The pen is a way of hiding; perhaps more acceptable
than the pages of a book, or worse, a glowing screen;
“Creative urges in action”, we can say, as an excuse;
Grab the moment while you can
A transparent wall of words only I can hear,
the magic of black lines transformed into future memories,
a pre-post-examination of a now that can never be retrieved,
that will always be losing coherence, a moment of truth transformed
second by second into fiction, every image more subtle, or more sharp,
than it was at the time the moment happened

And as always, this thought conjures dragons,
a quintessential embodiment of how
we wish evil would behave in the real world (but doesn’t):
Defeatible by a single arrow, if we can find the right spot,
the vulnerable patch just beneath the wing, behind the left back leg,
where the gold rubbed the scales raw;
If we only had a sacred arrow passed down through generations,
blessed by the collective belief of the ages,
a hundred thousand stories, arguments,
songs, revisions, sermons and lies
(when we start to write lists, it may be time
to put down the pen
and go outside.)

-T.H.
(written on Grondzilla’s birthday weekend, at the farm, August 2014)

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launch1 by Mark Harrison

launch1 by Mark Harrison


Seagulls flying down main street
Why does it seem incongruous today?
Reason would suggest that they’re the same ordinary lake gulls
that buzz our parking lots & pick at our garbage
And yet, today it seems as if there might be
some grand conspiracy, some avian plot
as they dip and dive, casing out the buildings, measuring traffic flow
all in preparation for some secret rebellion, some white-feathered coup.

(The young man who brought me my bureka called me “madam”
Does that mean that today I look my age?
Or is it a cultural transplant of politeness?
Would he say that to a fresh-faced young student
still learning the maze of our one-way streets and hellishly steep hills?)

Meanwhile, mother-of-the-year award recipient
hangs back and smokes, while her child plays in the street

Trying to remember the vagueness of cars at that age
knowing they’re big, and fast, and dangerous
but so easy to forget, as you move from one fascination to the next
today, in this moment, it’s watching the leaves collect in the gutter,
multicoloured fly-weight boats riding the cold currents of November winds,
congregating around the sewer grates.

[Could you read the future in the way the foam striations
adhere to the porcelain curves?
A map of subtle imperfections,
and the rate at which things cool:
liquid, solid; love & friendship;
memory and passion.]

Why is it, that to feel strong
people need to make someone else feel weak?
Imagine what the world would be like
if we could all be strong together.

– T.H.
(11.13.14, @ Dreams of Beans)

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Following the prompt for this week’s reading night.

I wish someone had told me
that it would burn this brightly
that the shadows of the dead
would cling to my heels
no matter how far I travelled.
Wherever I settle,
they settle in too
hang their shrouds
by the smouldering hearth
set their shoes in pairs
by the doorway
gaze out through my eyes
flinging blithe commentary
their sage sad opinions
like seed for the birds
their half remembered songs
woven through the bars
of my rib cage, etched
into the wax record grooves.

If anyone were to find me,
later, when all has been
lost, or given away,
I wonder if they could
play these tunes
What kind of needle
would they need?
what switches and buttons,
what molecular magic
to make those notes
sing true again?

The ballads of the dead
are not, as commonly claimed,
the harsh whispered sighs
of sand crossing stone
nor the mournful howls
of cold winds harrowing
the gorse bristled,
heather softened moors
under the shipwrecked moon.
Not for me, the cold laughter
of half-frozen streams;
For me, there are only
memories of sweetness
moments of agonizing tenderness
made all the more terrible
for their absence on waking.

If you place a dark
stone on the snow,
the snow will melt around it
if left in the indifferent
embrace of the sun;
The hole that’s left
when the stone is plucked free
ragged yet soft,
edges crumbling at first touch
may resemble footprints
when exaggerated by wind
but to those who know how to look
they see only where the stone
should be, but isn’t.

These are the things
that propel me into the light
into the blazing heat
that pulls sweat from skin
drenches the thin shirt
stretched over a too-thin frame;
In those moments of casual distress,
of calculated carelessness,
it is what keeps me moving
fast as my lungs will carry me
onto the next beckoning path
no matter how dark
(the shadows are always darker,
in any event, one of their
more charming characteristics)

And yet, one finite breath
can only last so long
and the graces of Serendipity
are not always as generous
as they once were; and so
there must be moments like this,
a pause to reconnect
oxygen to the brain,
calories to the bloodstream,
the heat enveloping me
in a deadly game of wills:

Who will capitulate first?
Will I wait until my eyes
are blinded by sweat,
head ringing dizzy,
throat salt croaking dry?

Or will the sun at last surrender
to a wandering cloud,
and break the spell?

What will run first?
The ink, shedding long
black tears across the bleached
hot-to-the-touch paper?
Or the melting snow,
over the toes
of my vagabond boots?
Or the light itself,
fleeing the oncoming night?

I wish someone had told me
how it would feel
as the rushing murmuration
of a thousand thousand starlings
fills the sky in a controlled
chaos of tornado sound
the vast stippled black cloud
flowing over and through me
as I run headlong through the field,
arms outstretched,
leaving jagged threads
and rags of shadow
caught hanging
on the autumn dry rustle
of pale dead stems,
one final ecstasy of flight
into the burning sky’s embrace.

– T.H.
(written at Dreams of Beans, 10.24.14, in a sunny window)

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the branches
have caught the clouds
translucent silver floss
against the night-dark sky
Mars rising above
the nearly-full moon

and yet

there is none
of the sweet contentment
that the day’s events foretold
only a deep and desperate ache
propelling the body
from over-hot sheets
into the haunting hours
that breach the living gap
between midnight and dawn

this is what they mean
by running to stand still
no matter how fervently
the dragonfly heart denies it,
the inescapable fact remains:
you can’t catch Byzantium
with empty nets

– T.H.
(up at 4am, again)

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If by loving, you mean
conspicuous consumption
of one another’s souls,
devouring each hour
yet hoarding minutes
like secret treasure,
deluding ourselves
that we can keep time
tucked away, safe
in the faulty vaults
of memory – and yet
nowhere is entropy
more apparent, more
glaringly obvious
than in that
which we think
we remember.

– T.H.

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Improvised flower vases
and wrapping paper trees
roots like mountains
seen from the eyes
of circling eagles
at once emerging
and settling, growth
and decay, no more
contrary than rose
petals and thorns,
a discordant symmetry:
the cosmic wail
of distorted electric guitar
spelling out the names
of stars and forgotten
background radiation,
pain that verges on ecstasy,
a ringing of celestial strings
struck with the well-worn pick
of disillusioned immortals;

How a stranger’s
intangible yearning
can translate through
the ephemeral code
of electronic pulses
and magnetic fields,
a fixed point enacted
in the so-called past
becomes immediate
present, time and space
erased in an instant
transformed into a perfect
moment of rebirth,
a dagger in the mind
piercing to the core;
it leaves no trace
of bloody injury, only
a shedding of unnecessary skin,
a lowering of barriers
to permit this temporary
osmosis of the spirit.

– T.H.
(listening to White Hills while walking through a spring-soaked afternoon past low-rent apartment buildings)

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Bent black lines
this thing they call
wrought iron, but isn’t
across the street,
spray-painted styrofoam
in juxtaposition with
salt-worn brick
shares the same
concrete footing;

There is no permanent
reminder here,
of all the feet
that passed this way,
carrying lives & longings,
fancies, follies, quests
both grand and grim;
only a gradual beating down,
a wearing through, slow
weathering dissolution
of structure & stability,
a perpetual settling
of strata and form.

Those who come after
will have no way of knowing,
only the most frail
of half-educated guesses;
the only certainty being
that once, in this place,
intent and purpose took hold;

What speed, what sense,
what path it took
once treading heels
left concrete for the wilder
ways now ages overgrown
lies only in the dreams
of madmen, poets, and
would-be comedians, the
imaginary domains
of thespians and cult leaders,
philosophers, god-kings,
and small children building
brave new worlds
out of sidewalk chalk and sand.

– T.H.

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Got a bit behind thanks to a few days of being under the weather; aiming to get caught up this weekend. In the meantime, here’s a timeless classic by the inimitable Maya Angelou:

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Noble silhouette
against the pale blue sky
under the serene white crescent
of the four o’clock moon

(meanwhile, across town)

A freedom of starlings
congregates below
the green peeling windows
while reflections of flight
in warped bulging glass
give weight to the theory
of glass as a liquid

– T.H.

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The forgotten shoulders
of February snow settle
into the sun-starved earth
mud seeps into cracks
and crevices carved
by the relentless ice,
the Loki spirit
of early morning frost
that charms and dazzles
even as it kills

This is the season
where old secrets
emerge from slowly
melting tombs;
people shying
from decomposed unknowns
dance sidestep
to avoid contamination

Better to focus
on the promise of beauty
hinted at by the return
of the solar warmth,
the miniature Death Valleys
forged by meltwater cascades
a flood to wash away
the salt and silt,
the guilt by association

We must all look
on our collective leavings
and sigh in righteous
consternation, at this
yearly ode
to universal apathy
and then forget
with every step
that ever it was ours.

– T.H.

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 277 user reviews.

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