Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

Archive for the category “American Poetry”

Moving in a Dream

Moving in a Dream
As I moved along
the thawing fields,
silos rose up,
and red lights
flashed from on high,
as if in a dream
impossible to change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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 (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 (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.

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.

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.

 

 

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: 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. –

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.

Our Mid-Month’s Poet: Wallace Stevens

The Emperor of Ice Cream by Wallace Stevens

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month’s newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Our Mid-Month’s Poet: Emily Dickinson

There’s a Certain Slant of Light by Emily Dickinson
There’s a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.

Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings are.

None may teach it anything,
‘T is the seal, despair, —
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air.

When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath;
When it goes, ‘t is like the distance
On the look of death.

Our Mid-Month’s Poet: William Carlos Williams

Epitaph by William Carlos Williams
An old willow with hollow branches
slowly swayed his few high bright tendrils
and sang:

Love is a young green willow
shimmering at the bare wood’s edge.

Sketch 2: Some Wide Pastoral Spread

I love trains. There is nothing quite like sitting leisurely admiring the landscape rolling out before one’s eyes, talking with fellow passengers, or just being engrossed in a book. I’ve had some good reads over the years including The Glass Bead Game and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

I once had a timetable of train routes throughout the world. I’d lie in bed and calculate my journeys, the longest being the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostok.

While I never did make it to Russia, after finishing my B.A. I did get a three-month Eurail pass and spent the summer of 1984 travelling across Europe. It was and will probably remain the longest trip of my life.

Not having much in the way of money, I stayed in cheap hotels or hostels or slept on the train. For food, I usually got bread from a baker’s (is there any better than a French baguette?) and some cheese and lunch meat, and voilà! I found wine in shops incredibly affordable.

Although it was the day before MP3 players, I did have a mini-recorder with songs. Here is one of the ones I brought along:

I got as far west as Sligo where I visited relatives, and as far east as Vienna, which did not, I should say, exactly greet me with open arms. I got as far north as Bergen, and would love to have spent more time in Scandinavia, but the prices drove me southward to Rome.

I fell in love with Italy. I remember the sun, which has always seemed to me the most logical heavenly body to worship, the wonderful gelato, and the noise of Rome.

The poem describes the Italian landscape I saw.  One can read here about the pastoral. Speaking of which, why not listen to Beethoven’s symphony:

William Carlos Williams was the first American poet to really speak to me.  It was likely through him that I became aware of Ezra Pound, who was a friend of his for more than half a century. Pound’s poetry never did much for me. To some, he is known as a champion of Modernism.  Others, myself included, remember him as a raving anti-Semite/fascist, who after spending WWII in Italy broadcasting propaganda over the airways was arrested for treason:

Ezra_Pound_1945_May_26_mug_shot

Security_cages_where_Ezra_Pound_was_held,_Pisa,_Italy,_1945

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