Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Three Poems by Ralph Monday

Paint This Day

Art is the only stay against
extinction--the birds shucking
seeds at the feeder know this but ar
unconcerned, having their own
Trees, too, are aware but spend their
time shooting out roots in search of
earthy nutrients, water.
The dead are unaware being dead.
So let there be art, music, poetry for
immortality--at least the comfort
the grave can be cheated by temporal
creation, works spun from small
hands as stay against the void between the
galaxies, that personal energy lives
on in words or clay, pigment or musical
If you are lucky . . . if you are lucky
for there are always those who will
steal the life--Alexandria's library
burning, Nazi plunder, increments of
water and rust--but the birds shuck
on in the trees whose roots go out as
great tongues.

In Praise of Spoken Differences

Books always do this to her
unfathomable books on bottomless
themes that she sits reading in a red
dress in the fall leaves, mind clothed
in scarlet thoughts.
Have you ever thought of this,
she asks me
to pull Moby ick from the waters
a great white light swallowing transgressions,
crucified upon the sea, upon frothing waves--
crests tipped pink by his sacrificed blood?
How different it would have been
if her faith had survived.
How different would it have been on
the island if Ralph and Piggy had 
never found the conch shell?
Almost a thing of abstract art
her father died when she was seven,
splattering his brains all over the garage
walls in wet grays and reds with a 12
gauge while she and her brother slept
How different it would have been if he
hadn't lost his job, wasn't depressed,
if his girlfriend had stayed.
How different would it have been if
Hamlet never toyed with Ophelia, if
Gertrude spurned Claudius?
At forty her husband left her for a younger
woman, without remorse, without explanation,
gone like a shadow that ceased following its matter.
How different would it have been if
Abelard kept his balls, Heloise never
donned the habit?
How different would it have been if
Iseult had not told Tristan the sails
were black?
How different would it have been if
Romeo and Juliet changed the ending
of west side story?
Not such a small thing these
pantomimed silhouettes dancing like
Macbeth's witches
Not such a small thing.
Trangressions follow like
mosquito's multifaceted eyes,
locked in the vast deep the way
that only a special human can
hear humpback whales compose great
cetacean epics in celebration.
There in the deep quiet black where
disintegrated fish bones fall, float eerily down
like artificial snow in a glass winter globe.
Ocean snow covering the mud like watery
hoarfrost--these are the Saharas of the
She swims
She swims
What would it be like if I had never been born?
What would it be?
How different would it have been to 
never be?
How different would it have been?

Snakes and Butterflies

A simple enough assignment
write an essay about what you
fear--800-1000 words--make it
interesting, great hook, vivid imagery,
figurative language that pops.
I asked the one girl what do you
And butterflies.
Serpents, easy to understand,
like dragons and lions and tigers
and bears, oh boy, Eve without a
skirt, the whole orchard gig, but--
Why butterflies?
I dunno.  They remind me of snakes--
not their wings--their wings are
beautiful, but their long bodies are
icky, and caterpillars look like
worms waiting to do something to 
I dream about them, snakes and
butterflies, and they are always trying to
get on me.  I can't shake them off.  They
squirm all over me.  Yuck!
She kept tapping on the computer
keys, but in her mind I knew she was
fending off atrocity and Freud.
Keep writing.  You definitely have imagery
there that pops.

Ralph Monday is Associate Professor of English at Roane State Community College in Harriman, TN, and published over 50 journals.  A chapbook, All American Girl and Other Poems, was published in July 2014.  A book, Lost Houses and American Renditions, is scheduled for publication, May 2015 by Aldrich Press.

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