dispersing & reflecting light through poetry

Posts tagged ‘connections’

This May Be the Only Way

I have a really difficult time expressing myself–my emotions, my thoughts, my knee-jerk inner reactions.  If I do they don’t exactly come out right. I tend to follow the proverb that says “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” [Proverbs 17:28 ESV]

Sometimes poetry allows me to compact those feelings and thoughts into verse; to say them in a way that if you really want to hear, you will.  I guess that way if you don’t understand, but you at least thought it sounded nice, my heart won’t be hurt too bad.

I dedicate the following to my dear brother and old friend, Greg Tomlinson. As we used to say…here, there, or in the air. Ever hopeful.

No One Dies Today

Sittin’ in the town saloon
sippin’ rot gut whiskey and
gnawin’ on stale bisquits
(I’m here more for the show
girls than the fine dining),
contemplatin’ how to keep
my homestead from goin’ under
and my bride of twenty-plus dyin’.

See, the Creek’s dried up.
Most scattered to the four winds
after the incident with the sheriff.
Some folk went to meet their Maker early on,
two widowed school marms
left living on both ends of town,
and I get a telegram
from the deputy ever’ now and then.

So in busts an old friend so hard
them swingin’ doors knocked
the dust off the rafters.
We used to ride the trail together
followin’ the Trail Boss
through desolate places,
searchin’ for them green pastures;
fought side by side in the Great War
behind the General
sendin’ the enemy back to where he’d come.

And he called me out
out of the blue,
ready with a pack mule loaded
with shotguns and scatter guns,
Gatlings and pistols and sabers–
an arsenal set for battle.
(He always was a straight shooter.)
Now I only had my old six shooter
with but only one bullet
and I hadn’t shot in years.
I used to could push heads
through tails of a fake gold
piece at three and sixteen paces,
but my hands are a bit unsteady now
and my eyes ain’t what they used to be.

And when I looked him in the eye
I recognized them;
I knew them
as the same angry ones I stared at
in the mirror every morning
with a straight razor to my throat
contemplatin’ the stubble.

I wanted to raise a toast
with a glass of house red,
praise the Trail Boss, the General,
sing the songs of the cattlemen,
and share a bit of hard tack,
a reminder of our days on the trail;
but I think he’d lost his taste for it
and I couldn’t find my saddlebag.

I felt a lump in my gut and
a tear push through my dry eyes
as he road off to the west,
but all that spilled out was dust
and a fond “See you on the other side,”
a whispered echo
from my dry and thirsty throat.

Copyright © 2016 Scott Daniel Massey

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RED Comment/Critique

I recently received a comment from asherblake, Lion’s Roar Sparow’s Twitter regarding InspiRED Again:

“Awesome. First let me say it mostly reads very smooth, and kept me interested. It was fairly formal and had some old fashioned notes like the first line of the third stanza and the first line of the couplet but it was still lively. I have three suggestions for you. The first line and 2/5 are not so iambic are they? My scansion’s not so good, and I know there is flexibility with iambs, but I thought you might want to start with the third line, revise a bit, but keep the rhyme scheme. (Though I love calling [Charleston] the Holy City and the presence of a park bench.) When you go into the second stanza I had a lot of trouble telling the connection to the first stanza, especially since they share a sentence. I think the speaker may be taking Valentine as an instructor–as to avoid sexual immorality. The lack of context, especially grammatical, leaves this buried. (The transition into the return of Christ also has a buried theme, which is not always bad, but you might consider making the connections between the reading of the Song, Valentine, and the return of Christ, more open.) Thirdly, do you want to say “spliced”? It has kind of a negative connotation? Well, I hope that’s not too much.”

I really appreciate constructive criticism. This shows me the reader cared enough about me and/or the work to comment, to help better the work. I get some of that within the writing group I belong to (shout out to the Christian Writers Network at Cathedral of Praise, North Charleston). I don’t think I can stress how important these people have been to me, not only as a writer, but as a follower of Christ. As a writer you will eventually have someone critique your work, even if you are totally isolated in your writing: a literary agent, an editor/publisher, the reading public. A good writing group gives you a safe and encouraging environment to grow as a writer. Our group has writers of various levels who work in different genres–poetry, inspirational, devotions, sci-fi and novels, we even have a cartoonist/satirist in the group. All these work together to help each other become better writers.

This relates to followers of Christ. Hebrews 10:25 tells us that we shouldn’t refrain from getting together with other believers. I don’t think this just relates to “church”. We need to get together frequently to encourage and uplift one another; to help each other in our walk with the Lord. Sometimes this may entail “constructive criticism”. If there is something in our life that needs to be corrected, wouldn’t you rather have someone who loves you and is concerned with your well-being point it out to you, than to have the world judge you (and you know they will). To have a group of people in various levels of their walk, with different points of view, can help you become a better Christian.

I had not intended to go in this direction with this post (and I seem to be using Hebrews quite frequently), but there it is. I did look at Asher Blake’s critiques. I tweeked a few things he pointed out, left some alone because I liked the way I had it (for now). But I appreciated the input and I hope I have a better poem for it. Here’s the updated version:

Solomon, St. Valentine, and the Coming of Christ

In the Holy City with faith’s fresh start,
on a park bench—alone; with blushing shame
I read Wisdom’s Song sung from sickened heart,
plagued with fever of most vehement flame.

Love’s perfect bliss banned by dark rule’s claim
that young soldiers be more stout if not wed;
yet embraced by stouter priest whose sole aim,
the union of man and wife, cost his head.

This flowered crown’s among many behead
by those lacking, who deem to quench Christ’s fire;
unending flame whose strength shall raise the dead
complete and whole, clothed in holy attire.

And I, one crumb this bread, one drop this wine,
shall ever consummate the feast divine.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

InspiRED Again

Inspiration struck again. This time from a different source and in a different way.

Kevin Rockwell, an old friend that I bunked with many years ago, showed up in town recently. We haven’t been in contact for 25 years or so, until recently on facebook. We got together for lunch this Saturday to catch up a bit. Kevin is an artist and has been doing pet portraits for individuals and pet organizations. We talked art and poetry longer than we planned. At one point, Kevin asked if I ever got writer’s block and how I dealt with it. I told him that I generally have to just sit down and write, write anything that comes to mind, regardless of whether I think it’s quality or not, to get past it.

When I got home I had some things to get done around the house. My wife was at work, so I might even have some time to write if all went well. And so it did. I thought I should take my own advice and try to throw together something on “The Sonnet”. Time to put in some perspiration.

And it paid off! I now have a completed draft.

Solomon, St. Valentine, and the Coming of Christ

In the Holy City with faith’s fresh start,
on a park bench—alone. With blushing shame
I read Wisdom’s Song sung from sickened heart
plagued with fever of most vehement flame:

banned by edict of darkened ruler’s claim
that young soldiers be more stout if not wed;
yet embraced by stouter priest whose sole aim,
the union of man and wife, cost his head.

This flowered crown’s among many behead
by those who deem to quench the fire of Christ,
unending flame whose strength shall raise the dead
all together whole, eternally spliced.

And I, one crumb this bread, one drop this wine,
shall ever consummate the feast divine.

This may get tweeked before final publication, but right now I’m fairly pleased with it. I constantly edit (perspire) as I write, which may or may not be the best way to get something on the page, but I can’t seem to help myself. The inspiration for this came from connecting (one of the themes of this poem is about connections). I don’t know how many times I’ve come back from a writer group session or a night of open mic poetry and want to sit down and write; write because I have thoughts and ideas to write about. Maybe not connected with the topics of discussion or the poems I heard read, but something creative gets joustled and nudged loose that needs expression.

Writing can be a lonely process, but human beings are not meant to be alone. I mentioned in a previous post that I like to reference bread and wine in some of my poems. The final couplet comes from 1 Corinthians 10:17. This is telling us that we are not alone in this. As many individuals connected together we make up that one bread, the body of Christ.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

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