"A Christmas Carol has been a favorite story by Dickens for quite some time now. The notion that the spirits that Scrooge encounters are resigned to continue to try eternally to do some good work in the world but are no longer able to is a haunting element of the story that stays with you. I believe that Dickens wrote the story for the Scrooge in all of us, that part of our hearts that needs to be turned from stony indifference toward the sufferings of our fellow man to the heart of love. Sarah's poem takes a deeper look at the moral implications of A Christmas Carol in a brilliant way-the poem is filled with a sharp clarity and foreboding." - T. Byron Kelly, N/S Editor
How Can We Endure It?
I am with you as you face the Ghost,
Feel the hairs going prickly on your neck
The spread of cold dread dissolving your faith
You swallow the pointless words unspoken,
“Spirit, show me no more.”
I am with you when you see the dark arm
Raise its fleshless finger toward the hovel
Pointing to the idle crutches fireside.
O Ebenezer, in that cursed moment,
before the Ghost of What is Yet to Come,
when your contrite heart, so newly hope-filled,
iced over in dread when you saw the cost
Learned the consequences of existence..
Saw that others paid the price for your sins.
The weight of your meager happiness cracked
The thinning lattice of narrow shoulders
Revealing a misery all your own
Now, bursting from your throat is the question:
“O Spirit. How can we endure it?”
Perhaps you can now create your own joy
You could dirty your hands with messy bonds
Lighten your conscience and coffers alike.
Reduce yourself to share humanity
you might find something lasting, forgiving.
A great happiness could be built on such,
Perhaps one strong enough to protect you.
Do the Ghosts only come once a lifetime?
Can redemption be earned in one evening?
Make sure you weave your bedclothes with progress.
Banish the shadows with good deeds piled high.
Hope you have changed enough that you ward off
Any future visits from the Spirit.
Who among us can stand before the Wraith,
Dark arm raised, terrible finger pointing
To a dread stele engraved with your name?
All progress and good deeds returned to dust.
You could hold up your flimsy shield of joy,
Turn your eyes from the impending doom;
You must beg aloud to be shown no more
For you will be no better prepared to
"This [poem] gave me such beautiful insight into the relationship between a father and son as I read it on Father's Day." Jessica Weible, N/S Editor
WHAT CANNOT BE SPOKEN OF"Thank you for. . ." and the words
of the prayer from my father
end, fade there as he stands
across from me right hand
to my left shoulder connecting,
joining the two of us in some
accord that has not, cannot
mean utter agreement
because that's not how it is between
father and son: there is always
the shadow of Solomon's Sword which
is used from time to time to separate
the dead from the living.
The blessing --
which sometimes turns
to the curse -- between father and son
cannot be given by the mother;
this is the blessing of the father
and I have received it, have
given it to my sons the words
fading right after "for."
"I like the challenge of format, a series of poems on a similar subject grouped as a mini-collection forming one long sectioned poem. It forces us to look at the way we present poems on paper in a new light and represents the hackneyed yet associated manner in which we actually think. Also, the capturing of returning to a well-known town after a generation absent is poignant." Sabne Raznik, N/S Editor
by Byron Hoot
I went down home for a viewing
And went farther than the miles
I drove going into remembering
The nearly forgotten but for
The roads and streets and land
I was raised on, in
Remembered once again,
What could have been
Not turning into anything,
A leaving, unknown to me,
That was an escape from as much
As an escape into,
But, of course,
I did not know much of anything then.
I drove to the funeral home.
Limitations of the Measure
The miles I have covered
Are not equal to the distance
I have gone
The soul and heart
To say, “I am here!” which is both
True and false
The way remembering a place
You’re from can make the past come alive,
Today the shadow of yesterday.
So I hung on the cross
Of then and now
Tomorrow holding both
And looked to find where my heart was,
If my soul had wondered off
Fighting the urge to run which gives
Such power to what’s chasing
To guarantee practically to get caught.
I had come for my friend who had
Died and couldn’t, didn’t want
To forget that
Took a deep breath and entered
The funeral home once again.
A Steady Step Does Not Guarantee the Ground
The ground was not solid as I drove
Roads and walked streets I had not
For over twenty years.
The viewing room
Was the same one dad was in
When my sister said, “That’s not
Him!” – of course, the dead are not
Who they have been.
So remembering occurred,
The flow of places bringing up images
The only constant of whom was me.
From childhood to early manhood
I saw what I had not recalled
When almost daily I drove the roads,
Walked the streets of which, now,
I was a visitor.
Had changed like most small cities
Gutted by outlying malls
Except for a few churches,
Bars, boutiques, parking lots,
The library with a sandwich board
6 PM –
Then a few remaining stores with family
Names I remembered
And feelings I thought long ago
Now, at least, a shadow of what
Had been remained in me needing
But a visit to resurrect them.
We played rugby together,
Drank beer, sang rugby songs,
And all basked in his presence
That drew everyone in as he spoke
In broken Tonga-English we understood.
So I didn’t stay long, even if I could
Have I would have quietly paid
My respects and been gone
Driving away from my hometown
Not certain if it was
The last time or just an intermission.
Time and Distance Is Never Time and Distance
I have begun to notice how when
I travel I am making a concurrent
Journey back in remembering,
Recalling the nearly forgotten though on
This journey there is no known destination
As what I pass, hold, grasp, let go
Comes and goes as no landmarks or
Mile-markers nor routes appear on
The road I’m on holding only some
Destination of there becoming here upon
Inside, I see what arises out
Of a casualty that is rarely clear
In a logic tight as any dream.
Longing and desire and regret play
Some haunting melody; I feel some refrain
I cannot recall but recognize
And the sigh escapes my lips as if
Holding the one I love saying, “See you
A little later”, five little words
Fate and Destiny sometimes changes
To a dance I stumble in, the rhythm
Impossible to catch, the words a blur
Of near meaning.
So I travel alone
With dreams still lingering for reasons
I don’t know their possibility of that
Transfiguration long gone.
I saw the church packed was once
Again as my father’s funeral service began.
There Are Places Unwelcoming to a Visit
There were some roads I did not drive,
Some places – the homestead – I did not
It was enough to have gone down
To the hometown and the funeral home
What was there for the taking
From the terrain that had and had not
I have found there is no remembering
Without place, a context wherein what once
Was still is.
Tell me if it is different
And I will listen but who we’ve been,
Who we are is tied like a Gordian Knot
To where we’ve been, where we are –
Place. . . the first element of remembering:
Place knew us before we knew ourselves.
To travel to a hometown is to travel a distance
Measured only in remembering which has
No measurement at all regarding time
And destination and intensity,
The lost longings
And desires felt again, perhaps even alive
Never perhaps having been dead.
There were some places ii didn’t go;
I’m almost certain I will make another visit.
But in less than twenty years;
I don’t have that kind of time –
Life goes on until I, you, we go out.
Pretty clear and simple, isn’t it?
So I will go and make the visit.
The Weight and Heft of Dreams
I am dreaming dreams I’ve dreamed
The weight and heft of them
Carrying meanings I once knew, have
Forgotten, now wrestle with again
A little more wary, a little more
Willingness not to demand a victory
On my terms more willing to come to
A draw or the defeat by dream
Which is a questionable surrender
As dreams seem to know better
Than I do.
I mean dreams of decades
Ago that have been pursuing me
Silently until now and my consistent
Reply no longer with surprise, “You’re back.”
There is something that haunts
With the sense that things could have
Been otherwise but for one or two more
Steps taken, some sense that if the past
Cannot be changed the future, however,
Does not have to remain the same.
I am still travelling in the mood
I found upon visiting a funeral
Home where a friend of mine lay
In the same viewing room as my father
And the openings which began unasked
For still crevicing anew in moments unaware
And then the echo of remembering, the heavy
Breathe of longing and desire not likely
To be stilled tightening my chest
As the only remedy for being there,
Perhaps, for not having gone back
To my home before, perhaps
Calling on me to visit again before another
Two decades pass – which I may or may
Not have: to go back is to go down
Inside where the forgotten resides
And every dream worth its dream
I don’t know what
I am looking for nor any sense of any
Expectation to arrive in any form I
So I abide in the revelry
Of a past that did not forget me
Needing only me to turn inwardly,
Cross the river on that bridge saying,
“You’re back finally” not
Saying when I can leave.
Letting Go To Hold
The sense of letting the past slip
By is stronger this morning.
That which holds weakening its grip
Like a wrestler no longer able
To keep a hold that would give
Curious how what is past
Sometimes, somehow reaches up,
Stops time and now slips to then
And then some morning, like this one
With a steady wind, bright sunlight,
The hint of a season’s end, a season’s
Beginning changes the feeling in the air
Around the heart and soul and body
Into an opaque clarity
Slowly becoming more clear as dreams
Past their possibility of fulfillment
Fade, regret sighs though some
Remembrances remain holding for this
That knows no time.
I am sipping coffee
Watching the shadow of trees dance upon
The deck, the sun behind the trees
Though not blinding me as I look out
Whisper, “Today” hear the slightest
Echo, “Tomorrow, too.”
It has been ten days since I
Viewed my friend a year
Older than I am in my hometown
Where I was bushwhacked
By remembering what I had not
Recalled for years not having been
There for nearly twenty years.
How strong the lingering presence
Seeing Pat in the same room
Of the funeral home my father
Had been in as I spoke to Pat’s
Wife and children,
He in his casket
Looking like a Tonga chief
And then the bifurcated remembering
Began of which I had no control
Of as I drove north into New York,
East to arrive near Boston
A guest in three homes
As if I were a fugitive.
Of course, I was.
Perhaps not more so than when
I stopped in Syracuse a couple
Of hours with a friend who knows
Something of the nature of flight
And how landing is so difficult.
I am five hours from where I Iive.
But now I cast, mostly, the grappling
Hooks of remembering
Which is less
Exhausting than being grappled,
Imbedded by them and their pull against,
Across time as if time loses all meaning
It is raining, the sky is grey,
A perfect day for unsought memories
To cast their grappling hooks for me.
I’ll have to pay attention and drive carefully.