Metal from the Sky

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The Problem – by Mark A. Harrison

Reminded of this one today, hiding with cats in the shade, out of the beautiful baking sun, April masquerading as July.

Metal from the sky
sun-blasted desert on all sides
distant smudge of hills on horizon
dusty roads straight on to eternity
until they melt into the heat
shimmering like water

everything is sweat and dirt
thirst in a parched throat
powerful as the need to breathe
you could walk for miles
before finding a well
yet farmers mist their fields every day
row upon row of sprinklers
a smear of green against the brown/yellow/grey
sucking water from high in the ills
from deep under ground

here one dreams not of opulence and riches
but of a long cold shower
clean sheets not caked with dust
clothes not soaked with sweat
and endless pool of water to drink from
popsicles, ice-cream, fresh fruit, towering trees
a wind that doesn’t sting your eyes.

Metal came from the sky
it might have been a dream, or an hallucination
brought on by loss of blood, dehydration
it might be a meteorite, hurtling from heaven
a car flying off a bridge, to the dry river bed below
a helicopter, against a white sun, in a clear blue sky
or it may be none of these things

it is not always clear
when you meet the man in black
whether he is friend or foe
demon or saviour, killer or healer

maybe he is all of these things
and then, maybe he is just a man
climbing out of his car
scrambling down the side of the ditch
to pull you free from the metal
that surrounds you, crumpled, broken, bleeding
the engine leaking black oil into the sand

You cannot feel the ground beneath you
as he drags you up the hill
lays your head down on the gravel shoulder
you watch, together, as the metal burns
black smoke climbing into the sky.

– T.H. (2008)

Scarecrow’s Dream

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Extent by Mark A. Harrison

Thinking of dusty roads and summer fields on this unexpected summer day in April.

Scarecrow’s Dream / Burnt Sienna

lost in the sunset apparition
a sleek grey bullet like a scar
that never quite healed, he
is looking for the one who will
fill the hollow in his chest
that once was stuffed with straw

now strewn about him, fragments
of a life long forgotten, of a
new field in spring, wet dirt,
runnels of mud and dead grass
the smell of it still lingers in the
back of his throat, rotting
there, and he’s drowning in
acres of quicksand, filling his
ears like cotton until he can no longer
hear the wind that blows through him
no longer feel the nails that hold him
to the wooden cross, or the claws
of crow’s feet on his back

this is the scarecrow’s dream:
running barefoot down a dusty road
each breathe filling him near to bursting
shouting at the sky
singing sobbing howling laughing
a madman clad in sackcloth and ashes
while the fields burn behind him, the
thick smoke climbing up to cover the sun
while all around the starlings wheel and dive,
wheel and dive, like black confetti

– T.H. (2009)

Looking Glass

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Harvest by Mark A. Harrison

looking glass

seven years, they said
she had felt it
a lump of hot lead in her stomach
staring at the broken shards
winking in the sunlight
on the linoleum floor
as the summer breeze
curled the toes of the curtains
teased the hair from her forehead

she could see it laid out before her
a pathway not of yellow bricks
but of shattered glass
down which she must walk barefoot
penance, they had called it
she was only seven years old
she had not understood, then
why people would choose
suffering over happiness
but it wasn’t seven years
that was a butterfly’s lifetime
the forgotten turning of a season
a minor fling, compared
to what followed after

she watched wonder falter
death by stagnation
the loss of surprise
a series of slow, dull cuts
she had thought the edges
would be sharper
that there would be more blood
she thought, they must
have meant dog years
the days counted biblically
(and on the seventh
she would rest…)

the cup fell
in the twentieth year
she is washing dishes
on a cold, grey day
when it slips from her hand
it explodes on impact
as if it were made
not of faded red porcelain
but something far more volatile
she stares down at the winking shards
and begins to laugh

in that moment, awakening
fills her like an unexpected sunrise
she sweeps the pieces
into a cracked plastic dust-pan
it was there all along
(a side-path, hidden beneath
a thicket of weeds and brambles)
now all she has to do
is choose
to take it.

– T.H.

one of those things

Sometimes I wonder
if the filter
in my bottle
really does anything
Or if it’s like
that red button
at the traffic light
or on the elevator panel
that does
absolutely
nothing
the embodiment
of the placebo effect
in action.
Sometimes I wonder
if that’s what life is
one big trick
one long con
all of us deceiving ourselves
Falling
and forgetting
to hit the ground.

Prophet

BeeOnDandelion

Photo by Mark A. Harrison

prophet

the bees are gathering
in the honey kitchen
up on the roof
the buzzing hum of it
fills her ears like sand
she shudders in her sleep
dreams of drowning in sweetness

meanwhile, in Elysium,
snow-covered streets
claim the ocean floor
a submerged amber flash

they are coming
cutting through snowdrifts
scattering nests and tiny bones

pink skeins twine
around her outstretched fingers
cognizant only
of what the future holds
the present forgotten
subsumed
in the elephant’s graveyard

some say she waits for
the end of the world
but I know she waits only
for you

-T.H.

This is where the world bleeds through

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Sometimes Rain by Mark A. Harrison

this is where
the world bleeds through
soaking into
the parched vellum
its thirst unquenchable
it will bleed you dry
until black ink
drips from your veins

there is a crack in the wall
where the light seeps through
like liquid oxygen
or raw maple sap
gold shot honey
culled from clover bees
people keep secrets there
tuck them in at night
when no one is watching

– T.H. (2010)

Listen

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Silhouette by Mark A. Harrison

I.

listen
the books are singing
dead leaves humming
chords struck from sunset’s last light
follow the sound
you’ll find me
transcribing lines in the sand
transposing the ocean’s waves
fingers plucking strings of air
listen
the dead leaves whisper
sighs plucked from secret fountains
the rain’s heart thumping
in time with the pheasant’s feet
drumming against the deadwood fence

II.

she places eggshells
in the bowl like
flower petals
interpreting
the jagged edges
with bitter fingers
it is snowing outside
the crocuses scream
purple against white
she cannot hear them
in her mind there is only
an endless beach, curving
into the morning fog
footprints leading
to the ocean’s fickle edge
licked clean by the water’s
greedy tongue
she’d cut its jealous heart out
if she could

III.

after the overture
(a sampling of themes
once tasted, you must
spit them out lest they
make you tipsy)
he finds her
in the interim
strumming absently
the admiration of
the talentless
he wonders where
she went, the girl
that he once knew
who blew across
empty bottles,
blades of grass
the girl who
played spring
like every note
was a surprise

– T.H. (2009)

Outsiders

Ever had One of Those Days, where the physical universe simply refuses to cooperate? Where you have the distinct sense that the rest of the world is some kind of universal one-size-fits-all, except that it’s made for someone of a very different size – possibly even a different species – than you? We’ve all been there, although for some of us, that’s the definition of our ‘normal’. On average, I feel like that at least once a day.

It sometimes helps to be reminded that, despite the loneliness inherent in feeling like an outsider, it is, ironically enough, a remarkably common phenomenon.

A quick search of any kind of media (be it song, poetry, film, books, graphic novels) reveals a veritable profusion of artistic works rooting for the outsider brave enough to defy the status quo – like The Blue and the Beyond, a beautifully animated short where The Man, aka the State (aka the ever-ephemeral “Them”) is portrayed as downright sinister, rather than simply dull and homogeneous. Or the Oscar-winning Paperman, with its celebration of perseverance.

I picked this one, though, for its heartfelt assurance that the love and support you need might be a lot closer than you think, if we could just learn how to communicate with each other better, to listen to what those closest to us are really trying to say. The sweetness at its core may strike the more cynical among us as bordering on (or downright inhabiting) cheezy sentiment, but sometimes that’s exactly what we need when the darkness of the world is threatening to suck us in. This one is for all the parents and children out there, of which we have all been at least one or the other, at some point in our lives.

Inspiration

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Twin Exit by Mark A. Harrison

Coming back from a supply run this morning, energy reserves near empty and mood scraped raw despite the mere five minute journey each way, gave me plenty of time to ponder on what constitutes necessity (vacuum bags, in a household of cats and rugs and impossibly prolific dust bunnies, surely falls into that category, doesn’t it?). It didn’t help that ‘Your Town Now’ by Greg Brown was playing on the radio, an anti-consumerist anthem if there ever was one. (Don’t worry – this has a happy ending. It’s about inspiration, after all.)

There are plenty of things out there that drain energy without giving back, cycles of materialism and greed that people take part in without even realizing it. So much easier to coast with our brains in neutral, to avoid questions about what is necessary, when the current unspoken agreement of ‘normal’ embraces the most convenient, fastest, easiest, cheapest. Never mind that it’s an illusion, that all these things lining our shelves and filling our cars and keeping our roads drivable require a ridiculous amount of effort, resources, labour, and energy. Somehow, some of us – the lucky few – just happen to have been born into a time and place where the building blocks and costs of privilege are cleverly hidden – not invisible, or unknowable, not even all that hard to find, but shoved just out of sight, so we have to look and think, directly and with purpose, to bring them into the light.

Which brings me to the one thing that those of us cursed with optimism (almost all humans, really) desperately seek out whenever possible: Inspiration, that spark of wonder and delight that pulls you out of the morass of cynicism and propels you to act, create, speak honestly, give generously. I was thinking about what inspires me, what reminds me that there is beauty all around us, no matter where or who you are, providing a constant counterpoint to the relentless forces of destruction and denial. Things like seemingly random acts of kindness and compassion, music and art, children laughing, rescue dogs finding a proper home for the first time in their lives, sparks of colour against the grey expanse.

Thankfully for the rest of us, there are plenty of smart people out there laying bare the glaring problems of our modern world, people with far more skill, knowledge, and stamina than I have in my meager supplies. So I’ve made a decision. This blog-journal-thingie-whatsit, whatever it ends up evolving into, is going to be about hope and inspiration, wonder and creativity, in all their myriad beautiful, crazy, unpredictable forms.

As the late great Kurt Vonnegut once said (paraphrasing John Greenleaf Whittier), “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘It might have been’.” Let’s live our lives like they’re the only ones we’ve got, and leave space for others to do the same.