Where Else?

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Triumphant Bloom by Mark A. Harrison

Was reminded of this one today while following the winding trails of the bike paths along the river down to Little Lake.

Where else?

I.

This is where I’ve always been
my soul lives here among dirt and weeds
cedar hedges as big as houses
burble of frogs in the distant wet darkness
sparkle of white burbling chirp among branches
leaves twisting and falling and budding again
my soul scrapes mud off its boots in the evening
is rises in morning with the earth’s turning
and remembers winter only dimly
snow like cotton candy fairytale ice cream
icicles tinkling as wind blows through
trees and fences, half frozen lakes steaming
like cups of tea with the sun’s dawning
my soul tumbles over small smooth stones
a little brook dreaming a mighty river
it rubs its nose and cleans dirty fingernails
breaths through imperfect hazardous skin
every day drinking air fresh as mountain springs
cold clarity of emptiness, wholeness in absence
my ears ring in the stillness
in air thick with silence
my soul’s back twists and bends and aches
my soul’s feet are bare against hot dry grass
soft mounds like fox fur, sleeping in sunlight
their blades cut your fingers, leave burs stuck poking
like porcupine quills
Yet my soul forgets splinters, manure & blisters
rust twisted metal and barbed wire fences
it knows only earth, bark, knot, feather, fur
music of grey geese heard but not seen
a confusion of seasons
Where else, but here?
Where I’ve always been.

– T.H.

All these little armageddons

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Planet, again – By Mark A. Harrison

This one seemed apt, given the way the world stage is set these days

All these little armageddons
that happen every day
just a taste of the apocalypse
in your own special way
When the world comes crashing down
and your friends have all left town
and the oracles have nothing left to say

Do you trip the light fantastic
before the final end?
Do you go out with a bang
or with a whimper?
Do you take them all down with you
or make the demons your best friends?

Oh, you’ll find out just how far that you can fall
and you might think that it’s not far at all
but it’s always so much farther than you think

So why not take a little drink
a little sip of strife and chaos
why not blow the status quo to smithereens?

Because deep down you still remember
a certain Sunday in September
and the way a certain hand once felt in yours

You’ll see her face on every stranger’s face
and even when you find a place
you think that you can finally be alone
you know you’re never truly on your own

Until the day there’s nothing left but skin and bone
and the shadow of a heart, like an echo, or a mark
left smoking in the wake
of a nuclear storm.

– T.H. (’08)

Flying with crows

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Oil & Light by Mark A. Harrison

flying with crows

I sometimes imagine
I’m flying with crows
over autumn fields
and deep river valleys
telephone wires catching
the last of the evening sun
shining white mercurial fire
against the slate dark sky
hills lying like a giant’s body
elbows crooked, cradling a head of stone
how long does it take
for forests to grow up and cover
this still sleeping form?

I don’t believe in miracles
or divine intervention
the universe is what it is
but if I could find the market
where they sell time
I’d find the merchant with the cold, dead eyes
the one who never smiles
and while his back was turned, I’d steal
as much as I could carry;

I hold onto each year like it’s a ledge that’s crumbling
I want to reach out and strangle time
want to steal more than I’m allowed
I have so much more I want to do
but someone cut the brake lines
and here I am, reaching out for anything
to grab onto, to stop this insane headlong rush
I’d write myself a thousand lifetimes, if I could.

– T.H.

(a shortened, edited version of a poem I wrote when I was eight years younger than I am now)

Writing the World Away

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Kiss 3 by Mark A. Harrison

Nothing like 1800 words of freshly written prose to put a spring in your step on the way home.

This is what I live for: when writing a scene is like bringing life from the void, only it’s easy, and the only thing stopping you is the low battery warning, and looking up to see that the baristas are sweeping up because the cafe is about to close for the night, and thinking that maybe you might want to let your spouse know you’re still alive before it gets pitch black outside, then walking home in the gloaming under the street lights with all the spring blossoms shining like small stars and thinking, yes, I can still do this.

Now if I can just make a habit of this, the next two years (minus a month) might seem like an ever-so-slightly smaller version of eternity.

Ancient Matters

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ancient matters

elephant cousins
creating bastions
in the damp loam
weaving shrouds
to cover their dead
slide themselves through
the ebb and flow
of the long grass
they can be silent
when they choose to be
respect for the ancestors
no misconceptions here
only history

-T.H.

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.