How We Know We Have Lived

Image: So Far by Mark A. Harrison

A way-back poem for the first of May, to mark the end of National Poetry Month, and the beginning of the next stage in this strange journey we’re on.

How can one seduce happiness
then make it love you enough
to stick around?

——

knots in the wood
flaws in the pattern
of the oriental carpet
a brown withered leaf
on an otherwise healthy plant
this is how we know
that things are real
a speck of dust on the TV screen
a missing scale
on an ornamental Koi
a scratch on a smooth surface
scuff marks and worn patches
on an old guitar
this is how we know
that things have lived
sometimes I understand
the revolutionary’s disdain
for perfect fingernails,
overly coiffed hair,
and hands without callouses
This is how we know that we have lived:
bruises, cuts, and scars
on all our parts
hearts included

T.H. (2008)

Walking Against Traffic

Fixed Window 3 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 –
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;
– 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,
the private riots, the secret rebellions,
a universe of stories unfolding inside
this infinite travelling picture show;
one might call it
a kind of madness.

…and yet…
Sometimes, for one suspended moment,
as we stand on the brink
that little voice in the back
of our mind, daring us
to take that one small step
out into the air, we remember
some future day,
the one we’ve waited for, all this time
when everything becomes clear
and we know at last
that flight is, finally,
possible.

T.H.

Here

Image: Book Run by Mark A. Harrison

here,
a feather falls faster than a brick
feast and famine are interchangeable
and pens
are all the same colour

what colour they are,
is up to you

here,
frogs can leap by halves and halves
forever
and never fall off the log

what colour the frogs are
is up to you

sometimes,
the dragon’s tale is sharp
and cuts the skin
sometimes
it billows around you like smoke
and you wonder
where the fire is

what colour the dragon is
is up to the dragon

here,
elastic bands are stiff and brittle
and shatter when you pull them
while the dead branch on the ground
pulls and stretches like taffy
sprouting limbs, roots, whole trees
a forest of caramel
all the apples pre-dipped

here, skies are green, grass purple
a magic marker heaven
drawn on thick bristol board
what colour the paper is
is anyone’s guess

-T.H.

Ghost Ships Founder

Gulf Coast Two by Mark A. Harrison

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 fate, 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.

Wrapping Paper Trees

A Triggering – Art by Mark A. Harrison

Another spring poem, from back in 2014. composed while walking homeward on a spring-soaked afternoon past low-rent apartment buildings.

Immersion

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.

On the Beauty of the Common Rock Dove

Photo by Mark A. Harrison

On the Beauty of the Common Rock Dove

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 peeling green windows
while reflections of flight
in warped bulging glass
give weight to the theory
of glass as a liquid
flowing at the speed
of war between
the sun’s fickle warmth
and the ever-hungry shade

T.H.

Angels with Tommy Guns

Jax by Mark A. Harrison
Photo: Jax by Mark A. Harrison

Wrote this one after seeing a hilariously bad B movie that featured, as you might guess, angels with BFGs.

I dreamed I saw Gabriel
holding a Tommy gun
who knew he fought gangsters
in his spare time
his eyes changing colour in the
shifting light
he walks through the mist like
some dime-store cowboy, like
an anime demon hunter
black coat flapping in the breeze
breaking the rhythm with his
thrift store army boots
scars cover his body like
a maze of tattoos, his
story etched in blood and skin
and ink dark as sin
shedding light, leaking goodness
into darkest corners, from
countless ancient wounds, he’s
an avenger, and a saviour, and
a damn good shot, so you’d
best be on your game
he can see right through your soul
if he lays his hands upon you
you’ll never be the same, so you’d
better run, run and hide
‘cuz luck is something you ain’t got
when god is on the other side.

T.H.

Starfish Supernova

Asteroid Field by Mark A. Harrison
Image: Asteroid Field by Mark A. Harrison

Another one from the archives, for Day 2 of National Poetry Month. This one is clearly meant to be spoken out loud. Imagine a curly-haired beat poet on a cramped stage in some underground dive, with free-form bongos in the background.

Parting the waves for the starfish supernova
oriental carpet fish tickling my toes
Dancing the raves down through asteroid alley
girls holding hands drive the boys insane
You hold your ideals too close to your heart
suffocating them in your tight embrace
You feel too much, so you curl up inside
dwarf star material waiting to explode
You could be birthing galaxies, exhaling nebulae
dangling your feet over the lips of black holes
You could be skating the event horizon
look ma, no hands, no training wheels here
But instead you hunch over this dull white page
gripping the pen like it might try to run
try to make an escape Houdini would be proud of
leaving you only with a ghost of an echo
of a memory of a dream
No way to capture it, bottle it, seal it with wax
But what does it matter?
You weren’t going to share it with anyone anyway
Don’t Bogart those neurons, baby
I want my share, want to go down singing
to the county fair in the wide blue sky
Look out world, here I come
the invisible one with the bitten tongue
and a page full of squiggly black lines.

T.H.

The First Breath of Spring

Photo by Mark A. Harrison

Starting off the first day of National Poetry Month with one that didn’t make it into WTWBT, but feels right for the first day of April, when the snow has receded into only the darkest, coldest corners, the birds are singing non-stop, squirrels are running rampant, and green is sprouting everywhere. But at the same time, in the back of your mind, you know there’s still an ice storm or two on the way before the month is over.

[Original title: Fifteen degrees of February]

When the first breath of spring
catches you up, teases your
heart with false promises,
blushing green peeking from
fresh damp earth, emerging
islands amidst the fast
melting snow; when even
discarded skins of chocolate
bars and dollar store bags
seem to herald new beginnings:
life from destruction, devouring
the old bones, bleeding
ice from the river’s edge.

Even the birds are deceived,
filling the air with distracted chatter,
while free roaming dogs and
preschool children run madly through
the squelching mud, feeling the shift;
and yet, the cynical voice reminds
you that it’s far too soon, winter
won’t let us go that easily.

To hell, you say, with rationality,
and walk faster, as if by
sheer defiance you can escape
the warning howl of the cold
grey clouds, wind pushing you
back into the inevitable grip
of winter.

T.H.

It’s here! WtWBT Unboxing

Hey look, we made a thing! Didn’t want to jump the gun and share anything until we got the test print back and made sure everything stuck to the paper. The first box of books arrived today, 12 in total, all shrink wrapped and ready to bring to the ArtSpace Book + Zine Fest next Saturday (Feb. 29). We’ll be frantically printing up a bunch of new art cards over the next few days to bring along as well. Website updates are next in line, but it might be a week or two before we’ll have individual prints available through Mark’s new site, we’ll make an announcement once that’s all set up. In the meantime, enjoy the brief preview!

Looking a bit battered, hope everything inside is okay!
So far so good!
Front cover, sans shrink wrap.
Shiny!
Yep, definitely sticks to the page.
Back cover. Check it out, it’s got an ISBN and everything! Like an actual real book made by people who know what they’re doing, or something.

So there you have it. That thing we said we were hoping to do for the past… er… decade? century? Just goes to show – never give up on your dreams, folks. Now if I can just get the other two things out the door before the end of the year (yeah yeah, novel, harp CD, ahem, working on it), we’ll have a perfect trifecta. Onward and upward, to infinity and beyond! And all that jazz.