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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.

 

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)

There’s a trick to painting water I

I woke up drowning yesterday
–I’d gone to sleep the night before
turtle-like on the ocean floor–
Forty fathoms in, and still waiting;

Every day I breathe in oceans,
throw my arms wide
so the wind can catch me,
search for lost gods
in dime store baubles,
study reflections
in muddy puddles;

Every day I hear
symphonies written by ghosts
memories of strangers
dissolved in whispers:

I woke up drowning yesterday
and you were there
But did you push me in
or pull me out?

I sometimes think
if I could find
a way to tear these
old walls down
I might find what I’m looking for
in the rubble and the ruin

I woke up drowning yesterday,
and someone saved me;

It could have been you.

– T.H. (Feb. 1, 2018)

New poem built from the bones of 3 older poems: I woke up drowning / Sleeping underwater, Forty Fathoms, & There’s a trick to painting water

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.

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.

Blue

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Blue Twin by Mark A. Harrison

diminished

where the hollow of her arm
once held you safe
against all
the familiar demons
where comfortable wrinkles
once nuzzled your back
the antique linen, buttercup gold
now stretched taut, iron-straight
cold as stone and empty houses
by its emptiness refines
the very idea of loneliness
we are borrowers, only
love is never ours to keep
only to brush by, with a sigh
and a wish, like an exhaled breath
in a vacant room.

– T.H.

Burn After Reading II: Re-entry

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thing 1 by Mark A. Harrison

I.  All the poems I wrote before I met you

My pen is two bent wires
teasing free the catch
of a lock I’ve never seen
(no one knows what door it opens
but they say the pen’s the key)

my pen is nimble fingers
brushing raw wires together
to make a spark
a credit card sliding
between door jam and deadbolt
a thief in the night
who leaves more than she steals

my pen is a bootleg album
recorded on the road
at some backwoods festival
where it rained all weekend
where we swam
naked at night
and woke at dawn
to the sound
of birds singing
and wind in the trees

my words are
misshapen footprints
left in the mud
the patterns traced in
campfire circles
ashes still smouldering
embers that might
(if the wind is right)
set the whole damned forest
ablaze.

II. A practical guide for the end of the world

burn after reading:
stamped in red
on a plain brown envelope
scrawled in lipstick
on a paper napkin
written in henna
on the vulnerable skin
of an exposed wrist

take this knowledge
like your final breath
carve it deep
in your fragile bones
let it burrow down
into your heart’s core

then cast away
these ephemeral scraps
these temporary tattoos
these fragile imaginings

ignore the sirens
the whisper in your ear
the scratching at the door
the howling in the wind

stand firm, no flinching
as you watch it burn
the edges curling,
falling to ash

only remember
this one small thing:
everything ends; everything begins

(Both poems significantly edited / expanded 10.05.17, incl. new titles – T.H.)

Why I love poetry, in 150 words or less

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Fusing – by Mark A. Harrison

This one is best read out loud. Like most poetry, really. Somewhere no one can hear you, if you’re shy.

hit and run ambient wordfall
pulled from sweetest nightmares
Pan’s premonition
of a darker age
seagreen waveforms
pulse in time to
silver scuba space jazz
as we fly through
quantum tunnels
chewed into the walls of
grandma death’s beechwood attic
Robinson Crusoe’s
roller coaster orbit
ain’t got nothin’ on this
pressed close together,
we tango along
impermanent lines
heaven’s gridwork
etched into our eyes
while a waxwork fawn
kicks up its heels at spilled sugar stars
sending sparks up from
silicon hooves
stained deep indigo blue
worlds spin in its wake
as words spin in mine
my fingers tiny gods
whole galaxies made and unmade
in the space of a few
staggered heartbeats
in the spaces between
a few
quiet
breaths

– T.H.
(2007)

paradise, lost and found

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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.