Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

Archive for the category “Poetry”

Pterodactyl (5)

Pterodactyl (5)
I rubbed my knee
before lighting up a cigarette.

Taking a long drag,
I let it out,
rat a tat tat
in accompaniment with
the rain
that was coming down
like shrapnel on the roof.

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Pterodactyl (4)

Pterodactyl (4)
Clarence
was waiting,
Private Clarence Winters,
drafted like me.

Although we had grown up
in different worlds,
he on the Baltimore streets,
me on a small farm,
neither of us
knew of anyone
with money to speak of,
and we shared a love of
jazz.

But I cannot
go to him,
I have to flee.

Pterodactyl (3c)

Pterodactyl (3c)
He did not listen
as much as speak
and because my mind
has been twirling more
than a bit
I doubt I
picked up much of what he said
but that I face up
and get myself ready.

Pterodactyl (3b)

Pterodactyl (3b)
He had come
to console
because he thought
my time had come.

But I had not
yet given up hope
because Max
knew.

 

 

Pterodactyl (3a)

Pterodactyl (3a)
He didn’t know
the man
who entered his cell
from Adam.

But his clerical collar
identified
why he had come.

Pterodactyl (2c)

Pterodactyl (2c)
It rose and glided off
its enormous wings stretching out,
its beating rhythm
sounding
Max’s fleeing steps.

When he finally arrived
at the old ranch house,
he entered
the screen door
slamming shut.

His grandmother
looking up from the kitchen table
with its plate of sugar cookies
and the drink that she was drinking
with weary eyes
listened.

Pterodactyl (2b)

Pterodactyl (2b)
One day
in his ninth year
as the clouds swirled
above
at a leisurely pace,
he saw something
he could not believe.

 

Pterodactyl (2a)

Pterodactyl (2a)
Walking home along the river
after Bible class
where he’d heard the story
of a righteous God
who had passed judgment
with the Great Waters,
Max would often see
what at first resembled teetering overturned carts
but were in fact
slot machines thrown in by the mob.

Pterodactyl (1g)

Pterodactyl (1g)
I’ve thought it
over and over again:
Max is my only hope.

The clouds are rolling in
like a pair of thrown dice.

Pterodactyl (1f)

Pterodactyl (1f)
I know
there’s no way
to change what happened.

The man had told us
he had crates of whiskey for sale;
alcohol was hard to get
and we were dying for a taste.

 

 

Pterodactyl (1e)

Pterodactyl (1e)
A tall
pasty-white guard
approaches
his syllables stretch out
as if they were sentences.

“A visitor is coming later,
Winters.”

“Is it Max?

“No name,” he said
looking slightly befuddled
before shuffling off
a heavy rifle resting on
his bony shoulder.

Pterodactyl (1d)

Pterodactyl (1d)
I’m monitored hourly,
but my imprisonment
is not particularly harsh.

Despite the fencing,
it would not have been difficult to escape
but I would never dare
the jungle surrounding all.

Pterodactyl (1c)

Pterodactyl (1c)
My leg
is being eaten away;
my wounds remind me
of this island’s wild terrain

Pterodactyl (1b)

Pterodactyl (1b)
Lying on the ground,
made up of the dead and dying,
I look to the mist
in the high tree tops
as my withering lungs strain.

Days

Days
The pipe-smoking man
on the back cover
spoke of the book
that you read,
whose dusty pages
you poured over,
engrossed as never before
in days
that found their own purpose.

September 21, 2017

September 21, 2017
Breathe in
the divine scent
of lilies
on which
raindrops
flutter
like the wings of a sparrow
and consider.

A Calm

A Calm
The sand flies
and the lake water laps
against the rickety dock.

Standing in the water
your head
a somersault
of stars.

You awake
in a long white bed
with a calm
you would never again
know.

From “Evening” 2

“There are spiderwebs among the berries,
The stems of the supple vines are still thin,
Like little ice floes, little ice floes,
In the gleaming water of the sky-blue river, clouds swim.”

Anna Akhmatova

From “Evening”

“Cut out for this black wound
A shroud of evening gloom
And command the blue mist
To read psalms over me.”

Anna Akhmatova

A PC Mao Suit

If everyone believes
what they’re told,
then they have entered childhood,
which is fine while it lasts,
but weren’t we advised to put away such things
when we were older?

Being re-educated
is not what it’s cracked up to be,
and my desire to be reformed is
I will say without a straight face
marginal at best.

So find me a peasant
who has learned not to read,
and let him do his best
to develop in me
a fashion sense

Bereft

Bereft
A face bereft
of all emotions
raises his hands
through which
the arteries of life
once flowed.

Gospel Stories I

Gospel Stories 1
Unable to deal
with the world as it is,
refuge is sought.

The dusty landscape cries,
“Worthy I do not deem myself!”

With a thunderous voice,
a blossom sprouts.

.

Continents of Design

Continents of Design
Snowflakes fell
the size of which
held continents
of design.

Roads traversed
so as not to encounter
those whose unlucky spins
put an end to the happy day
they were expecting.

Bails of hay on farm fields rolled.

Bleak whiteness obscured
one’s sense of place.

Waters Crossed

Waters Crossed
As you crossed
the waters
beneath which
Indians are buried,
massive steel arches
towered above you,
an erector set
blown out of proportion.

Darkness came early;
the chill hung
like frozen hogs
in a slaughterhouse.

Sappho Fragment (96)

“But now she is conspicuous among Lydian women
as sometimes at sunset
the rosyfingered moon

surpasses all the stars. And her light
stretches over salt sea
equally and flowerdeep fields.”

From Anne Carson’s If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho

 

Sappho Fragment (31)

“….tongue breaks and thin
fire is racing under skin
and in eyes no sight and drumming
fills ears

and cold sweat holds me and shaking
grips me all, greener than grass
I am and dead-or almost
I seem to me.”

From Sappho Fragment 31

Anne Carson’s If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho

The First Thing We Do

The First Thing We Do
Jack would do
anything
for anyone
you were told.

So you waited
in his lobby
interested to hear
what information
he might provide.

From a plaque on the wall
a Bible verse stated
obedience to God
would bring about good governance.

A painting of Washington
kneeling on the banks
of the Delaware
hung.

As for your mother,
she’d already crossed
the Rubicon.

Jack’s secretary,
who’d earlier
said
her father, too,
was suffering from
dementia
and had expressed such
understanding,
told you coldly,
“He can’t see you.”

No jot and tittle
means sympathy’s
in short supply.

Sketch 3 (W&S): The Family Cow

Sometimes things take you by surprise. You might have been in a restaurant with a friend and gone to the salad bar only to return to find someone sitting in your spot and wearing your glasses. Or maybe you were traveling and had an unexpected encounter.

I think most people who have done any amount of hitchhiking will tell you that you’re about as unlikely to be picked up by someone who takes their holiday in Martha’s Vineyard as you are by those who spend their summers in the Hamptons. It’s safe to say your rides will come from either the middle or the working classes so it’s probably wise to hide that patrician accent of yours.

We had crossed our way into Wyoming and for the life of us weren’t able to get a ride. When hitchhiking, there are times of scarcity (eight hours and only eight-three miles) and then prosperity (the next ride, one thousand six hundred and sixty-six miles). We’d been on the side of the road for a spell and were just looking to get a little closer to our destination. That is not to say we didn’t periodically slip into the woods for a smoke before returning out again to brave the passing traffic.

When the old school bus pulled over, and the door opened, we were met with a decidedly unpleasant odor. I looked at my cousin with concern. He just said, “We can hardly be turning down rides.”

I took it in all very quickly and this from someone who nearly always take a very long time to register anything. The grinning driver with his Van Dyke. His pregnant wife. The young girl lying on a mattress in a feverish state. Two children playing with toy soldiers. The bus was packed with all of their earthly possessions.

All of us use our experiences to try and make sense of things. That’s why when we heard a sound we thought the kids had one of those toys where after you select the barnyard animal of your choice, you hear a cackle, grunt, or moo as the case may be. However, when we spotted something moving, we realized it was their cow.  To say we were startled would have been an understatement.

The Bane of the Blooming Moon

The Bane of the Blooming Moon
1
In a cottage
at the end
of a trail of tears
a newborn baby
was cradled in a doctor’s arms
unresponsive.

Beside himself
with terror,
the father snatched the boy,
and raced outside.

With an axle
he crushed the icy lake surface
and plunged the child in.

It came out crying.

2
The old rancher
with uncouth manners
looked upon the tiny infant
and predicted its demise,
but it had other ideas
fighting off the convulsions
that wracked his body,
the temperatures
nothing but a bathtub of ice
could dispel.

3
With his parents
traveling the vaudeville circuit
he slept in the drawers of cheap hotels,
was cared for by chorus girls
backstage.

At seven,
his mother,
the singer,
took a very public dose
of mercury
and
lived
though her marriage
and career
ended.

4
As he retraced the steps
to his ancestral home,
clouds dispersed
and the moon transformed
the disconnect
between words and thoughts,
shadows at the bottom of his soul.

The church bells chimed
across the makeshift bases
set up in a field
of weeds and thistles.

Near the swamp
a wildcat’s back arched
to the sky
as if to ward off evil.

Our Mid-Month’s Poet: Jean Toomer

Storm Ending by Jean Toomer
Thunder blossoms gorgeously above our heads,
Great, hollow, bell-like flowers,
Rumbling in the wind,
Stretching clappers to strike our ears . . .
Full-lipped flowers
Bitten by the sun
Bleeding rain
Dripping rain like golden honey—
And the sweet earth flying from the thunder.

W&S Sketch II: The Crab Apple Tree

For those who don’t have Water and Silt, the poem I’ll be talking about can be found here accompanied by John Spiers’ drawing.

Raised in the suburbs, I knew only a little of the difficulties my parents faced growing up.  My mom’s parents were immigrants, and she was a child of the city surrounded by a mix of Irish, Italian, and French-Canadians, all struggling as best they could in a new country at a time in which things were terrible economically. My dad grew up on a farm so in many ways had it easier, and while only only eight miles from the downtown area, it might have been hundreds.

Since my maternal grandmother died when I was only seven,  I have few memories of the farmhouse with its ornate curtains and the sun pouring in through the windows. I can remember sitting on a slope that led up to the cornfields talking with a cousin. Another time dancing about as the marvelous seedpods from a maple twirled like helicopters as they fell. Near the large oak with the tire swing was another tree, and all about its trunk in a circular pattern were crab apples, which I examined to see whether they had holes before brushing one against my t-shirt and biting into it, tasting a tartness that remains with me to this day.

 

 

Our Mid-Month’s Poet: William Blake

The Tiger by William Blake

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And, when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Sketch 1: Water and Silt

Today’s poem can be found in my new collection or in accompaniment with John Spiers’ wonderful sketch.

My dad was a dreamer, a word that some people (not anyone here I’m sure) use dismissively. I never have.

He had many dreams and while this was not by any means the most important, it was one that had a direct impact on the way I view life.

All dreams don’t come true, of course. The rain does fall on the just and on the unjust.

Although my dad mainly made map and roads, he did on occasion put up buildings.  The particular ones in question were townhouses, which were not then the ubiquitous phenomena they are now.  There was every reason to believe the development would  be a success. Its location would be just a short commute into the metro area once the proposed freeway was completed.

But then the 1974 US recession took place and the freeway was delayed.

The comfortable life I had led was no more.

No, it wasn’t the Appalachian poverty you read about in Winter’s Bone but our new home was very old and in very bad shape, and though I always had something to eat, we ate what we could afford, and during that four-month period we consumed more eggs than we probably should have mainly because they came free from the ornery hens in the chicken coop in back.

It was difficult being uprooted, and I absolutely hated my time spent there. However, now that I’m much older (in fact, the same age as my dad was then), I can appreciate that the experience gave me an understanding I might not have had otherwise. Empathy is important as is a willingness to lend a hand.  There but for the grace of God go I.

 

 

Sketch 12: Watercolors

Poetry may be based on a real life experience or one’s imagination or a combination of the two.

Take a look at Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s oil painting, Ecce Ancilla Domini (The Annunciation):

345px-Rossetti_Annunciation

 

 

Our Mid-Month’s Poet: Robert Frost

A Late Walk by Robert Frost
When I go up through the mowing field,
The headless aftermath,
Smooth-laid like thatch with the heavy dew,
Half closes the garden path.

And when I come to the garden ground,
The whir of sober birds
Up from the tangle of withered weeds
Is sadder than any words.

A tree beside the wall stands bare,
But a leaf that lingered brown,
Disturbed, I doubt not, by my thought,
Comes softly rattling down.

I end not far from my going forth
By picking the faded blue
Of the last remaining aster flower
To carry again to you.

Water and Silt

I’m happy to announce I’ve just published my second poetry collection, Water and Silt, on Amazon.  It’s cheap as dirt or perhaps even cheaper (Have you gone to a gardening supply store lately?).

Our Midmonth’s Poet: William Butler Yeats

When You Are Old by William Butler Yeats
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Our Midmonth’s Poet: Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman’s Caution by Walt Whitman
To the States or any one of
them, or any city of The
States, Resist much,
obey little,
Once unquestioning obedience,
once fully enslaved,
Once fully enslaved, no nation,
race, city of this earth,
ever afterward  resumes
its liberty. –

Skipped Stones

Study of Water Plants in May

Skipped Stones
Leaves
sprout up
out of nowhere,
and are
rolled,
the smoke of which
comes from
the parted lips
that warn
of the dangers
of relying on
imagination,
and tell you
there are not
in fact
places
where your stone
might have stopped
as it skipped
across the waters.

Poem by Tom Simard
Sketch by John Spiers

To find out more about John’s other creative work, please visit  1 Graphic 50 Words.

Sketch 10: Notes

The poem from Watercolors this month is Notes.

The words came to me as I thought about my experience of listening to Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain.

Miles_Davis_-_Sketches_of_Spain

Thanks are in order to Smaktakula for recommending this album to me.  Never having been a great fan of the trumpet, I found it nothing short of amazing to discover being swept away by the music.

I’ve only been to Spain twice, one time in Madrid, and the other in Barcelona.  But I have a great fondness for the country and language and would love to go south and visit Granada and Seville.

Have a listen:

Great Lakes

Great Lakes

I’ve worked the ships
since I was young
that twist and turn
at a slow
but steady pace
along the rivers
and canals of
a continent
across
the Great Lakes.

There are times
when I close my eyes
and dream
of when
the birch bark canoes
glided effortlessly
along these waters.

Poem by Tom Simard
Sketch by John Spiers

Although this was a sketch I liked very much, it was not at all clear how I was going to approach it never having  been on an industrial ship. However, I have seen them move on the water. As I began to think of my experiences of the Great Lakes I realized my first trip by ferry boat was to Mackinac Island on Lake Huron when I was about 8.

To find out more about John’s other creative work, please visit  1 Graphic 50 Words.

The Chinese Restaurant

Szechuan Garden Chinese Restaurant

Red lanterns hung
giving light
to a dim atmosphere
bordering on the
clandestine
as if boats
were sneaking out to sea
with contraband.

The music
echoing out
did not soothe
as much as
make one
question
what might
come next.

The menu
with its characters
of sheer beauty
from which
you ordered
as the
candle flickered away
like fireflies gone lost,
exchanging
the happenings of a day
that would remain with you
as long as
the Great Wall
traversed space
from which its citadels
had stood as a reminder
of the threats that come
to everyone
in unfamiliar territory.

The ink wash paintings
with the calligraphy
you could not
decipher
but imagined
to be
a reflection
of the placid
waters.

Poem by Tom Simard
Sketch by John Spiers

To find out more about John’s other creative work, please visit 1 Graphic 50 Words.

The Ladder

Tazewell Street, Downtown Norfolk

The inner city
church
with stain glass windows
was where you sat
in a wooden pew
and listened,
wondering how
so beautiful
a story
could be made
as dull as the
Eucharist,
tasteless
body
without blood.

But the streets
to which you
scampered off
were different.

If only
you could look up
and see
the sky.

You didn’t take
the steps of
the shadow
but the ladder itself
that led not
as in Jacob’s dream
to heaven
but a rooftop
where instead of
lying
with a concrete block
for a pillow
you stood
as the bright light
flowed.

Poem by Tom Simard
Sketch by John Spiers

With this sketch, my attention was immediately drawn to the ladder and its shadow. And from there certain idea began to form and eventually found their way into words.

To find out more about John’s other creative work, please visit 1 Graphic 50 Words.

 

 

1 House 100 Years.

Our Mid-Month’s Poet: William Shakespeare

Sonnet LX by William Shakespeare
Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d,
Crooked eclipses ’gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
And yet to times in hope, my verse shall stand.
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

Granby Street

Granby Street

I walk down Granby Street
all these years later.

I was taken
to see a world
I’d never known
of rolling clouds
over mountain peaks,
of crashing waves and
insufferable heat.

I never knew
if I’d return
or be buried
at sea.

 

All along the
dock
we
victoriously
disembarked,
moving about
in riotous dance,
duffel bags
slung easily
over shoulders.

I bought the
best suit
I could afford
and a pair of shoes
to impress
a  lady.

Poem by Tom Simard
Sketches by John Spiers

To find out more about John’s other creative work, please visit 1 Graphic 50 Words.

The Record Shop

The Record Shop

The albums you found
among the racks
the long fluorescent lights
illuminated.

Bursting smoke
came from
the cargo trains
that sped down
the tracks
where the hoboes
did not skip as much as
stumble.

The needle dropped
and the vinyl spun
on the old turntable
housed in a cabinet
in the living room –
opening your eyes,
and chronicling
the years.

Poem by Tom Simard
Sketch by John Spiers

To find out more about John’s other creative work, please visit 1 Graphic 50 Words.

A Little Introduction as to What Will Follow

One of the great things about blogging is the people you meet.
For a long time I’ve taken an interest in John Spiers’ blog where he talks about the renovations he’s doing on his house getting it ready for its centennial.  Recently, I came to discover he drew, and through a series of short exchanges we decided to do an experiment – I would write poems inspired by his sketches, and he would draw sketches inspired by my poems.
This is going to be done at a very leisurely pace and no promises will be made as to how often or how many sketches and poems there will be. I hope you enjoy.

July 4, 1976

July 4, 1976
You walked slowly through the crowds
as the Grand Marshal of the Parade
waved
and though he’d never been to war
was a hero to all
having played one
in countless roles.

At the edge of Cody
time stood still
as cars passed
by without consideration.

Although received wisdom
followed
more often than not
brings untoward results,
you decided to separate
and at a later point
reunite.

After crossing the street
you threw your backpack at your feet,
heading in the wrong direction.

You glanced to see
a pick-up pulling over
and your cousin
running towards it.

But it abruptly stopped
and a brawny man
jumped out
and began hollering
as if he were a drill sergeant
and his victim
a young recruit.

You quickly approached.

“What’s the hassle, man?”

Disbelief struck his face,
before he continued
his tirade.

“I fought in the war
and don’t like you all
comin’
in our part of the country
with your ideas.”

“My dad fought in the war!
Your country?
What in the hell
does that mean?”

“That’s it with you
and your kind.
You don’t have to tell me
what your ideas are…”

“We don’t believe in our country
is that what you think?”

Days earlier you had passed
the holy mountain
that manifest destiny defaced
in the state whose senator had won the flying cross
but was denounced as wanting
peace at any price.

“Don’t be smart asses with me.
You reds don’t know
the first thing
about country.”

“Reds? Where’d you get that idea?”

“Just you two get out of here
cause if you’re not,
I’ll be back later
with friends.”

In a huff he hopped back in
and sped away
clouds of dust
rising up.

Sketch 9: The Unbroken Circle (’76)

Our poem this month, The Unbroken Circle (’76), describes an experience I had during the Bicentennial year. It was late June, and we  were on our way to Yellowstone National Park and had arrived in the city of Cody in the state of Wyoming, a place not known so much for its progressive ideas as for its conservativeness. I mean the last time they voted for a Democrat for president was 1964.  I’m not a big fan of the Democrats or anything although they did have the only candidate in my lifetime on a major ticket I’d have unconditionally supported (George McGovern), who as fate would have it went down to unbelievable electoral defeat, and Tricky Dick was reelected:

Richard_Nixon_greeted_by_children_during_campaign_1972

It’s just the Republicans have gone so far right they’re well off the page and into the margins.

Anyway, we were picked up by a guy who I swear bore an uncanny resemblance to:

436px-John_Wilkes_Booth-portrait

He told us of a concert and invited us to a party in the middle of nowhere where we were surrounded by young people whose appearance cast serious doubt on the notion they had campaigned four year earlier for Dick Nixon.  My problem at first was simple: how to open up a can of Coors.  Before you’re too hard on me, consider Wikipedia’s entry on the contraption:

“In the 1970s, Coors invented the pollution-free push tab can. However, consumers disliked the top and it was discontinued soon afterward.”

It sounds to me like a noble but doomed experiment – a little like introducing the metric system in the U.S.

For a few hours we soaked in the sun and the wide expanse of space. Then we went to see The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

We had a great time. The music was inspiring, and their encore was a stirring rendition of this song:

Our Mid-Month’s Poet: Robert Lowell

Children of the Light by Robert Lowell
Our fathers wrung their bread from stocks and stones
And fenced their gardens with the Redmen’s bones;
Embarking from the Nether Land of Holland,
Pilgrims unhouseled by Geneva’s night,
They planted here the Serpent’s seeds of light;
And here the pivoting searchlights probe to shock
The riotous glass houses built on rock,
And candles gutter by an empty altar,
And light is where the landless blood of Cain
Is burning, burning the unburied grain.

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