Dad

On the mountains at the farthest border of the world,

Snow-capped and calling,

I felt my way to the thin line of the edge

And looked down into outer space

 

Where I could see the winds of stars fall asleep

Below my scarlet knuckles

As the northern lights, with their tin flame of foil fire,

Green and white diamond, filmed the midnight sky.

 

They told stories like my father,

Full of heroes and the beauties they fought for,

As every scene of laughter and of sorrow,

Played at once along the measures of their gleaming.

 

Then I balled a few rags of snow in my grasp

And clenched them hard enough for the cold to slide

Into my chest and crack my pounding heart alive

As I rose to my feet and steadied my shaking lungs.

 

I remember those tales well,

My father sitting by my bedside, holding

Oceans and sailing ships with the strength of

His love for me.

 

And I would follow him anywhere,

Through the forestry of childhood,

Keeping close to his heels as he

Showed me where to go,

 

Well into the iron winters of adulthood

As my stride slowly grew stronger, and

He taught me how to breathe

The mountain air of becoming a father.

 

For now, as I stand at the peak of this universe,

Filled with ice and the sweep of shooting stars,

I turn and see the faces of my own children and my beautiful wife,

Looking to me with the smiles of home,

 

And I know it is time to tell my own stories,

To hold their hands and lead them onward

As they keep close to my heels, and I show them

Where to go.

Book Release (1.20.17)

Hello all –

First of all, I would like to thank you for following Eden.Babel and for the wonderful feedback you have provided over the last 18 months. When I started the blog, my goal was to create a platform where literature, poetry, history, film, and music could be examined in pursuit of understanding more fully the wondrous glory of God. I have been thrilled to share what has been on my heart in this journey, and your encouragement and enthusiasm has been, quite simply, beyond belief.

I want to share with you something exciting that I have been working on for the last six months. As many of you know and have read for the past several weeks, I have been working on a collection of poetry, slowly sharing with you some pieces I have written.

Simg_3361o I would like to announce that my first book of poetry, The Cardinal Turns the Corner, will be released on Amazon on January 20, 2017. The cost will be $12, and all proceeds will go to Curing Kids Cancer, an Atlanta-based organization dedicated toward innovative and affordable cures for children’s cancer. I will provide a link to the book here on the blog when it comes out.

The poems included in the collection range in content, all the way from a coffee outing with Ludwig van Beethoven to the quiet turmoil of making the bed. Bathsheba, haircuts, Siri, fatherhood, loss, marriage, grief, maple syrup, Superman, love, oranges, math, and Icarus are just some of the features included in the book. 🙂

Our school, Landmark Christian School, will host a book release party and signing event at New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville, GA on Friday, January 20, 2017 at 6:30pm. If you are in the area, I would love to invite you to come and purchase a copy. A representative from Curing Kids Cancer will be there, and several of my students will read their own work as well.

Again, thank you all for following Eden.Babel. You are an encouragement and a blessing!

Siri

I asked Siri the other evening if she could write a poem.

“Who, me?” she answered in her dry voice.

“Yes, Siri. Can you write a poem?”

She hesitated, just long enough to load her thoughts,

 

And as she spun the circle of her meditations,

I recalled how she had shown me the nearest star in our galaxy,

Connected me to the closest coffee shop,

Guided me home from a friend’s house.

 

Yet now, I watched as her screen puzzled

Over the catalog of responses, the program of poetry

And how exactly to access it

To give me what I needed.

 

“Sure you can, Siri,

Anybody can write a poem.

They often begin with the simplest of feelings,

Like the surprise of laughter or the sunlight of a single glance.”

 

But as the cycle of her wondering continued its revolution,

Bearing down on the wifi to find a proper answer,

I told Siri that poetry just has to come from the heart,

And she wept to know what I meant.

The Trees

For Dr. Cathy Sepko


She saw the light first as a little girl

In the hard knuckle granite of West Virginia –

A distant fire in a snowy wood

Filled with the paddings of foxes,

Crickets in the indigo dusk.

 

She learned to read the braille of wood bark

Leading toward that flame,

The rust of sky heavy on the trees.

 

Can you hear them? she would call to us,

Can you hear the songs of old?

The wide winds of rhythm,

The open mouth of the moon

Cooing along the quiet river?

 

She taught us in the forest

To feel the poems in the pines,

To dig our teeth deep into the dirt to taste the earth.

 

She taught the rocks to rhyme,

Pressed a shard of coal into the stone

To carve her spot in time.

 

And now, she sits on a smooth stump before the fire

Surrounded by the faces of a generation,

Ten thousand family trees

Singing softly in the starlight, leaning in to listen

As she warms her tired feet.

Delineation

I wrote this poem across the length of California,

Scrawling these ink strokes through the vineyards and the shoreline,

Even on the edges of the “H” in Hollywood.

 

I waltzed through the City of Angels

Tuned to an imaginary score,

Pulling up pieces of the highway and blowing them in the air.

Then I hopped on the eastbound train in an old and rusted boxcar,

Writing another line on the face of wooden crates,

Even on the metal sheets stacked against the corner.

 

The next night I high-fived the vampires in Denver

And dashed off another verse on a creaky traffic light

As I swung from its taut cable, my shoelaces

Reaching toward the windows of the passing cabs below.

 

In Dallas they saw me dance on all the tablecloths,

Kicking over glasses, scribbling on the centerpieces.

 

I wandered round in Nashville,

Dizzied by the neon lights,

And etched a lovely metaphor on the back of a guitar,

One where I compared love to a waning moon.

 

Then the wind ran wild beneath my arms in Atlanta,

The universe of skyscrapers, planets of burning light,

Offices and windows humming with breath

And watching close as I straddled the top of a limousine,

Pockets inside out, my words on every exit

Down the infinite interstate.

 

Well, I should tell you,

I wrote this poem all the way to your house

Where I finally lay down in the middle of the road,

Anchored the tip of my pen to your cold street,

And waited for the world to turn,

Drawing a new equator.

 

Two hemispheres,

One for each of us.

Play

We folded our arms around each other

As the pages of our scripts flurried like glitter

To the floor, making eights in the air,

Surrounding our slow dance between the walls of an elevator, descending

From our room to the lobby.

 

We couldn’t care, neither of us,

To catch a line, or even a single cue.

You just watched my eyes as I lit up all the buttons,

Resetting the clock,

Pulling you in closer as the doors begin to close.

 

Only now the air was softer, small enough

To hear the snare drums in my coat,

The train of bells along my sleeves,

And the electric guitar in every fingertip

As I sent my love to you.

 

For our laughter, yours and mine together,

Carries spectral lines, neon

And warm, as we play in this metal box that

Rises and falls like chests along this building.

Even the fog from our hurried talking

Brushes the inside of the cold window, reminding me

To engrave our initials, if for a moment,

Into the cloud that we created

Before it fades away to time

And frost.

 

I know our evening’s slipping

Farther down the wishing water,

But still we crowd our fingers,

Intertwine them for a moment.

And in that still frame

Before the kites of our words and our laughter have risen,

I send my love to you,

And you, me,

Pulling you in closer as the doors begin to close.

Students

A poem to my students…


I wonder if it’s a sonnet,

The poem of your life,

As I hear your shoes squeak their stanzas across the floor to your desk

And you click your blue mechanical pencil

Twice to take a quiz.

 

For I happened to notice two index cards,

Like a light pink couplet,

Tucked beneath the tidy layers of your notebook

As you closed your eyes, breathed, reassured yourself

Of what you knew and filled your name at the top.

 

Or do you live and breathe in music,

All elbows and gym bags, your fingers

Twitching steadily the edges of your sweatshirt?

Perhaps your life is a lyric, a rhythm

Kept in meter by the beat of basketballs,

Or the wild and fearless drummings of your

Feet along the track?

 

Or you, there in the far row,

Do you see the world in free verse?

Eyes bright from gazing through kaleidoscopes,

Bending the sky around your ballpoint pen?

From here I see your frenzied scribbling in that beat-up journal,

The back of your homework, the length of your arm,

Scrambling to seize your swelling thoughts,

Your echoing afterthoughts,

Your madcap fever of creativity.

 

And I bet hers is a ballad, a song,

Her eyes telling the fear in the horizons,

Dreaming of afternoon, of evening,

Of the time she’ll spend with her father

Before his illness takes a turn.

 

Whatever they are,

These poems in your mouths, your hands, your smiles,

They somehow fit each one of you, like shadows

Filled with beauty and, ironically,

With light.

 

And when I am old,

Beyond the reach of my podium,

My pen, my worn and dog-eared Hamlet,

I will see you all,

Again and again and again,

As young as autumn leaves

Reddening, then leaping

Into the constant winds of change.

Lost at Sea

He saw the night sky crack like a violin

When he first began to drown.

It cut across the string of stars, every single pearl,

Dropping them, one by one, into the cold Atlantic.

 

Beneath the black waves, he gasped for all the ice in the wind,

Baring his teeth into the howling wolves of winter

As they shook his brain awake, his eyes reddened

And wounded by their torches, the faint fire of salt water

Biting at his dreams.

 

The ship behind him raised her nose into the darkness

As she flaked the splintered beams from her hull,

Littering the wild water with the bones of war,

Aching at her empty sides.

 

And still he wheezed, his ribs barbed with thin air,

Filling the tin cup of his heart with gunpowder and rain

As copper blood pumped into his mouth,

Dried and cracking, lined with pewter, rusting as fast as memories.

 

He struggled like a rag doll against the pitch and pull,

His eyes flickered their spotlights into the iron dark of space,

Motionless and far, a moon quietly pinning it all together

 

Until every shattered star on the sable swells drifted into view,

Pooling into a dazzling form, a woman

He knew from another world,

One where the fire is low and warm,

The sugar bowl is full,

And her hands are made of sky.

 

She shimmered in the shine of starlight

And beckoned his wincing eyes to stay awake

Just one hour more

Till all her lovely words could sing him to the shoreline.

To Billy Collins

A tribute to my favorite poet…


It was the lanyard that got me first,

Then came the windows, the dogs, the bowl of pears,

All of your words ambling along my field of vision

Like butterflies

As I gently read your poetry in the different chairs of my life.

 

I was reclining on a couch in the early morning

When you ate alone in that Chinese restaurant,

When you spoke of Petrarch’s crazy tights,

When you weighed the dog.

 

Then, during lunch,

Seated at the desk in my classroom,

Carefully selecting the cashews from a little bag,

I read of your autumn leaves,

Your wet umbrella, and your parents.

 

In the afternoon,

As I stopped by the tire store on my way home,

I found myself, legs crossed lazily,

On the iron frown of a folding chair,

Shoved between the yellowed coffeepot,

Pooled with tepid decaf,

And the large bay window to the garage.

 

There, as I waited, I read of your constellations,

The dripping stars, the moonlit swans,

And I laughed a bit at the irony

As I looked up to my own heavens

Only to gaze upon panels of flickering light and dead flies.

 

Late that evening, I shuffled off the petals of a weary day

And nudged my feet deep into the covers of the bed.

My wife softly lay her head beside me,

And I picked up your book to see

The early sun and the old teacher.

 

But as I reached the final page, I noticed,

Perhaps for the first time,

That all the early suns,

Shining through each rain-soaked pane,

And every cup of tea swam freely in my mind,

Happily treading my stream of consciousness

With Petrarch and the bowl of pears,

Teaching me how to hear.

 

So I quietly lay down your poetry,

Placed my hand on my wife’s shoulder,

And followed the moonlit swans as they paddled

Deeper into this tender sleep.

Outside Hopper’s Nighthawks

A new poem…


I was shuffling down the sidewalk that night,

My hands fixed in the pockets of my coat,

Thumb and finger turning at keys, aping

The turning in my mind,

When I found myself outside Hopper’s Nighthawks.

 

It was eerie at first to see my curious look

In the reflection of the old diner,

Though not so old in this impossible present

Where I stood peering through the dingy glass,

Squinting to note the familiar figures at the bar:

The hatted cigaretteer, the suspicious woman in red,

Their hands eternally touching or not touching,

The amiable boy tending the bar

And the fourth with his back to the world.

 

I drew my forehead up to the window

To determine how cool this outside dark,

Placing my hands like parentheses around my eyes

Only to see the still figures inside

Staring at nothing,

Dwelling on absent futures, listless

In their fixed points where Phillies are only 5¢

And the lights are always on.

 

Yet before I pulled away to turn the corner to my car,

A lazy glance happened upon a single glass,

Idle and unclaimed,

On the nearer end of the bar,

Removed from the four characters

Paralyzed in their cold moments.

 

So I drifted inside,

Lay my keys and scarf upon the counter,

And asked the boy if he’d exchange the empty tumbler

For a coffee cup like the others.

But he wouldn’t take it, wouldn’t even listen,

Didn’t even stand up straight from his persistent stooping,

And I gathered the glass was meant to stay,

Left by someone else,

Destined never to be filled,

Perhaps stuck in his own still point,

Caught in a portrait of frozen dancing

Or motionless on the curb.

 

I scooped up my keys and turned them over,

One by one around the ring,

But not before I waited for a while

To see what would happen next.


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