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Before the Rain by Mark A. Harrison

The woods welcome me back,
draw me in like
a prodigal daughter,
and i have come home,
as if i never left;

There are children here,
and a complicated dog,
who keeps running
to the front of the group
and back again;

At the rest stop, kids build
moss houses and stick castles;
i wander off on my own
to play my whistle to the wind–
the silence after i stop
is absolute, as if
i was never playing;

We clatter over wobbly log bridges,
haphazardly strewn across little streams
and ponds as if by accident;
wolf tracks in the wet sand
by a beaver dam, dapple brown grouse
beating away through the trees,
and later (or earlier), a smoky oil lamp,
turning the fluted glass black;
the rain comes in the night
and is gone by morning.

Back in the city, away
from the star-strewn sky,
and the lake, still as a prayer,
we find new life in the asphalt desert:
the hidden trill of urban sparrows,
defiant daisies pushing through concrete,
the animal growl of cars and buses,
dry leaves skittering over pavement.

– T.H.

 

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Revelations

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Sometimes Late at Night by Mark A. Harrison

The forgotten shoulders
of February snow
settle into
the sun-starved earth,
mud seeping into 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 dancing sidestep
to avoid the de-
composed unknowns;

Better to focus
on the promised
return of 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.

Originally written 02.04.14, Edited 02.21.18

If by Loving

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Silhouette by Mark A. Harrison

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.
(02.13.14)

House the Sun

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Trees in Motion by Mark A. Harrison

If anything living
could house the sun
I bet it would look like you

Music from another world
makes us want to dance
hard enough to fall
into the future present
following fireflies
up into the silent
olive branches
sipping lilac soda
under spreading granite trees

Instead we reminisce
on the transience of memory
the still-green four-leafed clover
pressed between pages
of Webster’s pocket dictionary
Dust in the hallway
where we used to run
wrapped in ragged sheets
through our cheap
match-book museum
pretending to be ghosts.

– T.H.

Interlude

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Winter Light, Summer Tree by Mark A. Harrison

Doing boring grownup stuff is made infinitely better with a big fluffy coffee and a muffin on one side, and your sweetheart on the other. The city’s feet are slushy brown and the sky’s a muted grey, a few lazy white flakes drifting down as if they forgot where or why they were. One loose branch caught in the fingers of the others on the tree outside the window, hanging on despite the shivering breeze.

Snow

Seemed an appropriate theme for one of the coldest, snowiest Decembers we’ve had in a long time. Five original images by M, from the archives, in slideshow form. You can right-click to open a full-rez version in a new tab, where you can see all the insane detail that goes into one of these.

Here’s to the New Year picking itself up, dusting itself off, and putting on those well-worn, many-times-mended gloves for another round. We can do this, folks. It will get better!

 

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iv. But I digress

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Photo by Mark, messed with by me

In the absence of ambition, we become a conglomeration of tangents, an aimless wandering path laid down by the stick the dog is carrying: a scrappy, stocky, short-legged terrier beagle something or other cross, who has somehow outdistanced her loping, tongue-lolling, muddy pawed golden retriever pal, and is dragging a branch far too big for her size, but nowhere near equal to her spirit.

The broad line laid down in the dormant November grass, still wet with last night’s frost, will last for a few hours, at most; the sun has already thawed the exposed areas; only the shadows still carry hints of freezing, the ground crunchy and damp under recently unearthed winter boots.

A path laid down by accident, without purpose or intent, a temporary testament to life having passed this way, proof that momentum exists, that change is inevitable. And yet, itself, it is static, empty of life, mere black marks on a white background, bird tracks and fallen branches, a memory of what was, rather than a bold imagining of something new, something yet to come.

But if you follow the trail long enough, it will do at least one thing: it will bring you home.

Music: Thelonious Monk, Live in Japan 1963

Fragility

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Photo by Mark A. Harrison

Fragility

Muscles clenched
into a fist
wrapped around my spine
as if intending
to pull it out
through the flesh of my back

If only thoughts mattered
I could live a thousand lifetimes
I would be a mountain
pocked, scarred, eroded
wearing my damage like a testimony
to having lived
watching oceans grow and shrink;
I would be a phoenix
endlessly burning
all my sins turned to ashes
pulling myself, choking, back into the world
again and again;
I would be a river
carving out the earth
wearing down centuries
roaring torrent or sluggish as a snail;
still I would move, and move.

Without this fragile shell,
bound by bones & blood & sinew
I could converse with dark nebulae
wander the tracks of galaxies
discover what really happens
when you fall into a black hole;

But without these volatile chemicals
flowing through temperamental veins
tickling twitching, fragile nerves,
would I still feel delight at the birth of a star?
anticipation approaching the speed of light?
sorrow at the heat death of the universe?

Without these mundane aches and pains,
the constant nod and wink of death’s eventual shadow
would happiness taste as sweet?
Would we trade these perpetual growing pains
for an eternity without joy?

– T.H.

Passing Effect

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Everything in a Box by Mark A. Harrison

Passing effect: The effect of passing through things
– Leaves, hair, branches, hearts –
Equal and opposite reactions;
We pretend that contact is only temporary,
that everything always
only passes by, and through
– and yet –
We all affect each other, even Jupiter’s tiny moons
affect the giant’s gravitational field.

Gravity: A force so weak, you can defeat it
with a fridge magnet, or a piece of tape;
by a hop, skip, jump, the push of single finger;
– and yet –
Even the weakest forces can surprise you
how they keep coming back
the persistence of the everyday;
You can jump up, but you’ll always land.

All these fleeting melodramas,
our brief starring moments on the bright-dark stage,
all the private riots, the secret rebellions,
a universe of stories unfolding, moment by moment,
inside the sacred prison, the infinite travelling picture show
invisible to everyone else;
one might call it
a kind of madness.

Flashing lights and sirens, a circling fruit fly, living speck of dust;
Do we weather the small annoyances in the name of compassion,
or wage instant meaningless destruction in the name of indifference?

Every time inspiration hits, the world is transformed
– and yet –
the persistence of the mundane is like gravity, like inertia,
the approaching fall, the curling of dead yellow leaves,
the sinking in of desiccated fruit, a hint in the air
of the coming cold, and the long, long sleep.

Orbits inevitably decay,
all returns to the earth, through fire, or drowning,
the final burnt traces sinking into the ocean, ashes falling like snow
winking gold & silver in the light of the setting sun.

Not all the mass times constant squared
in all the known universe
can give you more Time
…and yet…
Sometimes, in the suspension of the moment, we imagine
that this now is eternal,
the world moving past us, as we stand
on the brink of what is possible;
That little voice in the back of your mind,
whispering a subtle dare,
to take that one small step
out into the air;

And always, that one desperate, aching pit
in the darkest centre of your soul
that screams an affirmation
always straining against the barrier,
waiting for the day, when everything becomes clear
and we know at last
that flight is, finally,
possible.

– T.H.
(Selected excerpts, edited, from a freefall poem written in 2014)