Choice: Part 5

Photo by Mark A. Harrison

V

It is Saturday again, and they are leaning over the wooden railing, watching children play.  Boats made of sticks and paper bob in the green water.  At the end of the boardwalk, a woman in face paint is giving out free balloons.  Is this real? he asks.  She shrugs, says, that’s up to you.  Her hand on his is warm and cold, like ice melting. The sparks from the bonfire jump and spit like firecrackers in the final throes of ecstasy.

Above, a gull circles the sky, white against the blue.

< Part Four

If by Loving

Silhouette_byMarkAHarrison

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)

paradise, lost and found

FallLeaf-by-MarkAHarrison

Photo by Mark A. Harrison

There was a line-up at our local pharmacy today, which led to much more waiting around than usual. Turns out that the delay worked in my favour. On the way home (a short three block walk), I got to see a monarch butterfly (rare in these parts lately) and three goldfinches, all nearly within touching distance. The sun came out from the clouds, the neighbourhood garden flowers seemed to grow ten times brighter, and all the compounded irritations and annoyances that had piled up during the day disappeared.

It brought back the memory of these two poems, one a snapshot from early childhood, the other an equally perfect moment from a B.C. trip in my early twenties. A reminder that paradise exists, not as an afterthought, but in those small moments of pure contentment.

1.

on the curved stretch of unkempt beach
a thin, tow-headed child, squatting barefoot
pokes at seaweed with a stick
wrinkling her nose at the pungent salt-rot smell
the kelp bladders bloating in the sun
she picks up shells and pebbles with
the reverence of an artist
admires the iridescent sheen
of a fractured oyster shell
dropped by one of the wheeling gulls
toes and knees crusted with wet sand
wading ankle deep into the chill water
she holds the dry pebbles under
watching the secret colours emerge
a moment of discovery
on the shore of some far-off land
its name long forgotten, the details faded
save that one perfect moment
captured like a bead on a string

2.

we step into the forest
armoured in layers
of cotton, nylon, bright
green and yellow raincoats
thick soled rubber boots
an old manual camera
slung around my neck
bounces against my chest
most of our journey
along the wooden plank paths
is done in silence
our ears open to the sounds
around us, wind and birds,
distant rushing water
there is a sorrow behind
the sacredness of this place
part of its sanctity lies in
it being one of the last
doomed, ultimately, to destruction
(we followed logging roads to get here)
we trail reverent hands along
fern fronds longer than we are tall
damp gnarled bark softened
by lush green moss
we crane our necks to stare
up at the trees that seem
to go on forever, their tips
lost in the fog, only the barest hint
of heavy grey sky far above
a permanent ache in my chest
I can’t seem to stop smiling
I think, whatever else happens
I stood here, in this place
before they took it all away
on the drive out, we see
two black bears, wandering the
wasteland of the clear-cut swath
a stone’s throw from heaven
they pay little attention to us
our compact Westfalia camper
must seem a mere toy
compared to the monsters
that daily tear the land asunder
I close my eyes, and think
of paradise, of moss under fingers
of air so clean you wonder
what you’ve been breathing all this time.

– T.H.

Stolen Voices

Time-byMarkAHarrison-Detail

“Time”, Detail – Photo by Mark A. Harrison

An old one for today. I still like the imagery in this one, even if it is a twenty-something’s perspective on age and time. Things definitely look a little different on this side of forty.

Stolen Voices

I’ve only seen him old;
He walks in the park with a black umbrella,
feeds stale popcorn to the squirrels;
He must be old as mountains,
his youth a hot river of lava,
rushing through new born seas,
throwing up geysers of steam to come down rain;
His feet hit the puddles in rubber galoshes,
he walks in the park with his son’s dead friends,
dreams the same dream every night:
He’s walking up a hill
double-shadowed in the streetlights
under a fingernail sliver of moon;
the silhouette of a church,
a jagged hole in the deep blue twilit sky –
the closer he gets,
the less the shadow changes;
he is waiting for the features to emerge
like the face of an old friend,
but it only grows darker
save for a glimmering faintness, like distant stars;
Each night he’s just a bit closer
to stepping through.

I’ve only seen him old;
He claims to have made his peace with the world;
He says that paranoia is a form of vanity
and that too much luck will only kill you in the end;
He walks by the river with his son’s dead friends,
leaves fall on his hat like dust on cobwebs;
He whistles a tune from some old black and white movie,
ghosts gather hawthorn in his wake;
His feet are light as dandelion pollen
and barely touch the ground.

– T.H.

Unbound

FlyingBlue-byMarkAHarrison-med

Flying Blue by Mark A. Harrison

Didn’t have the greatest start to the day; remembering this scene cheered me up a little.

Unbound

bubbles of mirth rising up
cascading over the edge
of her smile
her laughter unbound
against the clear blue sky
a snap in the wind
of a flag unfurled
she runs through the grass
arms held wide
making airplane noises
she doesn’t realize
as she runs towards
the startled huddle of geese
that they are frightened
there is only joy
at the scatter of a dozen white wings
the sound they make in the air
her own hands clapping in delight

– T.H.

Where Else?

TriumphantBloom_byMarkAHarrison_sm

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.

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.