Monday, December 22, 2014

Two Poems by Ralph Monday

Distant Smoke

This is where we are now--agents of smoke
curling about each other, filtering away
thoughts, obscuring moment's meaning
like sand hiding the riddle of the Sphinx.
I don't know how we got here.  There was
no plan, no war battalions set in motion
by seedy politicians.
Just thoughts, words, deeds, I suppose.
Is this the nature of a man, a woman?
Unable, unwilling, or unaware
that the crisis is not Ophelia's,
nor the rising conflict in a soap?
Rising action begins in a look, a touch,
fingertips stroking long, auburn hair,
the day settling over like frost on an
autumn apple orchard.
Climax that moment, that cold instant
when you no longer look at me the same.
Your thoughts turned elsewhere
to some momentary mirage in the distance,
some fantasy played in the mind,
some actor performing a role for you
that will last only for a short time,
an off off non-Broadway play
without substance, empty theme--social
pantomimes engaged in capital gain
for the pursuer, inflated flesh currency
that devalues human meaning into
commodity of the instant--like
toothpaste, or toilet paper, or fast food,
an end where the beginning
cannot be regained.
Denouement on that stage where
moment's present actor voices
scripted lines--exits stage left through
artificial smoke made by fog machines.

In Praise of Indifference

No balance now, you tilt toward indifference,
irrelevance to those that once mattered.
            You stand on that pier unnecessary to
walk upon, clouds so dark they hide the sea,
soothing, healing waters that refused to pass
your lips.

There is some hope in the box in the nether
world woven by secret choices.
              If you knew wisdom you would know
that for those possessing logic praises may be still
sung for a time--those instances where memory
overcomes desire.

These electrical thoughts bestowing tender
mercies, a rationale that cannot be explained
               save only through remembering:
how you wore a black dress now turned into
shroud.  How winter is surely your season,
snow falling through autumn's leaves--

where graces lie absent on the quiet ground,
and you walk like a thin shadow, feet
               bare in the cold, blue thoughts footstep
by footstep defining your two dimensions--
proneness to whim and linear fragment,
therefore desire without disciplined temperament.

A Gris painting, grim, cubed portraiture measures
the uneven lines, a cello's October notes baritones
               out that day's makeup, so that you
live a life of refused grace.  Your kind born
crippled, remaining so by choice, cherubims
chased away by refusal to know the difference.

Praise could easily be won by bowed concession
that a mosque, a cathedral, an ancient pagan temple,
               is but mortared earth, brick and stone.
The house that you build with your hands fall
through fancied folly, so walk this desert

illuminated by a cold, pearl moon,
searching for water in bare rock--
               your baptism immersal
by Faustian priest, saving communion wafer
spit out through ragged teeth in
praise of indifference.

Ralph Monday is an Associate Professor of English at Roane State Community College in Harriman, TN, where he teaches composition, literature, and creative writing courses.  In fall 2013, he had poems published in The New Plains Review, New Liberties Review, Fiction Week Literary Review, and was represented as the featured poet with 12 poems in the December issue of Poetry Repairs.  In winter 2014, he had poems published in Dead Snakes.  Summer 2014, he had a poem in Contemporary Poetry:  An Anthology of Best Present Day Poems.  His work has appeared in publications such as The Phoenix, Bitter Creek Review, Full of Crow, Impressions, Kookamonga Square, Deep Waters, Jacket Magazine, The New Plains Review, New Liberties Review, cc&d, Crack the Spine, The Camel Saloon, Dead Snakes, Jellyfish Whispers, Pyrokinection, Red River Review, Burningword, and Poetry Repairs.  Featured Poet of the week May, 2014, Poetry Super Highway.  Forthcoming poems in Blood Moon Rising, Crack the Spine Best Of Anthology and Down in the Dirt Magazine.  His poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Houghton Mifflin's "Best Of" Anthologies, as well as other awards.  A chapbook, All American Girl and Other Poems, was published in July 2014.  A book, Empty Houses and American Renditions will be published by Hen House Press in Fall 2014.

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