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)

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.

Short Story Sunday: Pete & Florence

Keeping it light this week, with a little story I wrote back in my university days.

Pete watched Florence climb up the wall and across the ceiling, sipping his chocolate, and thinking of spring. Spring was one of those things that most people knew existed, somewhere, but had never seen. Like the North Pole, or whales, or giant squid.

Florence never used to climb walls; it was something she’d just taken up recently, on account of a phrase she’d read in a book: “Bob was so stir crazy, trapped in that godforsaken bunker buried twelve stories deep, he was practically climbing the walls.”

So Florence decided to try this new pastime of practically climbing the dull aged stucco. The key, she said, was to think each move through methodically. Otherwise, it would be more of a chaotic scramble than a practical ascent.

Once she got going, she just couldn’t stop.

Read the Full Story…

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.

Coming Home the Snow

OutThere-byMarkAHarrison-med

Out There by Mark A. Harrison

Coming home
the snow catches me
pulls at my coat
the wind tugs & pushes
impatient children
tempting me off course
arguing against
my preferred trajectory
A black cloud plunges
boils and plunges, billowing
like smoke, black in the air
white against the windshield
The air fragments
into a million starling flakes
not a murmur, but a roar
a howling tumult
that shatters around me
dissolves into
harmless flecks of white
The air becomes the snow,
the snow, air
Above, improbable patches of blue
race each other across the sky
hell bent for eternity.

– T.H. (April 4, 2018)

Unexpected Trees

RecordOfSpring_MarkAHarrison_med

Record of Spring by Mark A. Harrison

unexpected trees

when holding on becomes too hard
we must learn the art of release

I awoke this morning
to unexpected trees
they had sprouted outside
my window overnight
their branches festooned
with cherry blossoms
far too early in the year
for that kind of thing
I walked to the window
and found the burgeoning stream
had flooded the world
the sloping hills, the fallow fields
had turned to rolling waves
and cool still ponds
and everywhere, rising
from the impossible water
were trees tall as mountains
a preposterous abundance
of pink blossoms
every petal containing
the essence of buoyancy.

A sprig of thyme for luck
tucked in my breast pocket
I set out in a in a boat made
of paper, straw and chewing gum
to rescue the metaphor
of a flood that drowns the world
and a road that only runs one way.

When lost in the maze, one need only
climb the walls to see the way out;
leaving the boat behind,
I reach for the first branch,
and begin to climb.

-T.H.

Writing the World Away

Kiss3_ByMarkAHarrison_med

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.