Sunday, August 16, 2020

A Certain Morning

©Steve King

All rights reserved



This window admits little light,

even as the sky is lifting blue.

These morning clouds appear too soon.


Day upon day,

measuring in moons

and a slow dark drift of stars,

all disappearing, while I try

to purge these eyes of everything

that would invent new dawns.


I called indeed at first

from the distant center of a dream,

dreamed that you had answered

through a dark cloud of your own.

I could not hold those meanings

in a heart’s uncertain light,

so all the while I prayed to wake alone.


Watching to night’s latter end,

I’ll not disturb the shadows, no;

nor any of the rising shades within

that must at once be mine and yours.

Or even you and me.

These mingle in a kind of drizzle grey just now,

not rich enough to pass for color,

nor for things found in a decent light of decent day.


I stir now with desire as to a perfect stranger,

just that way the perfect stranger knows,

stretched beyond the bounds

of new and old beginnings,

those with neither name nor place,

and of each recollection

whispering the deaths of easy ends,

for I am poor at heeding these

and shall not try again.


I seem but a dream, inviolate,

and would deny the moment.

Each thought retreats,

spent waves slipping dark sands,

lost to looming tides

and the refuge of the deep.


Yet some true measure must abide

to spin such shadows out of sight.

Some shall flee, while others keep;

all else that’s left defies the old commands.

What this may be, I render to your hands.


Saturday, June 20, 2020


©  Steve King
All rights reserved

A notion,

the ways
I gently betrayed
some things and those moments,
the castaway times.

A strange flight from language
and every reply
that never made sense.

Awakened at last,
from old sweating dreams,
not quite memory,
but grown more real
with each new escape,
immersed in remains
of my clever refrains.

Still, daytimes I long
for night’s comforting chains.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020


©2020 Steve King
All rights reserved

The Lark is spinning in his songless height,
the awesome mountain winds pass where they will. 
My dreams are well enough to hold each night,
though every word that might have served is stilled.

The high cascades will hasten in descent,
the killing torrent, and the eddy’s foam,
and finding their true level, will be spent,
to gather once again in ocean home.

The peal of music that did pitch my heart
returns to play in memory sometimes;
but even while faint melodies restart,
I cannot these days conjugate their rhymes.

Adept false prophets prosper everywhere,
and every grace I’d own is second guessed;
now, always, peace must conjure with despair,
and paradise contend with wilderness.

Yet every moment brings a promising,
a new intention set to satisfy.
The shades of all regret must take to wing,
so never more to gather and deny.

And while I wait to hear my Lark descend,
each thought anticipates his choired throat.
Though bound to earth, my hopes ever intend
my soul to soar once more and greet his notes.

A new poem for

Thursday, April 16, 2020

What Would I Do?

©2020 Steve King
All Rights Reserved

What would I do if favored wishes
Came like the rains to cover me?

What would I do?

Would I content to empty my soul
of blazened dreams, untested hopes?

Every desire within my grasp,
Real to my eyes, each waiting sense.

Spent to time and easy use,   
Mine no more.

What would I do?

A little something for Joy’s 55

Thursday, March 26, 2020


©2020 Steve King
All rights reserved

I have not found traces
Of anything eternal
By searching.

Nor held in my reflection
Any measure save my own.

Each gathered moment
Emptied of all others,
Touch of rumored spirits
Fickle as dying winds.

Found amid strange silence, 
Wondering at my place
In this peculiar dream.

Listening in emptiness
For what silence shall sing. 

Friday, February 28, 2020

And now is winter

by Steve King
© 2020 All rights reserved

And now is winter well begun,
every old hard dream.
Forgotten, that fair suite
that flew the distant airs of spring.

Morns, I chant the same old lies:
how each new increment of evening sun
promises of kindlier things to come;
how darkness is that salutary thing
where one might pause
and get forgetting done.

A new poem for Joy's 55

Saturday, February 15, 2020


©  Steve King
All rights reserved

Light gone,
curtain down
echoes ringing
in high shadows—
still he hears them,
live things he’d command to follow
through the exit door
briefly into blinding light.

And those faces—
pastiche of regard
that he used as his mirror
while he preened;
strained to see them, sly,
all downstage posing, to be sure,
not watching, not the way they looked at him,
not rapt and bold and senseless;
not like poor Narcissus, no,
caught up cold within his fatal gaze,
not at all, oh no.
They never knew he watched.
He must not lose himself in their plain sight,
could not lose himself,
they could not see him seeing.
He was more clever than that, he thought.
They were but the mirror,
reflecting, quick, the flash
of all his emptied art.

And where then might he turn?
There was not space enough to be
in the midst of the new emptiness.
Surely not the exit door, not yet;
not that undiscriminating light;
not that undirected clamor
brooking no silence, no graceful stop.

How might he own all that—
The indifferent stares
that would not recognize nor linger?
How might he hold those emptied eyes,
command such casual vision
to all his well-tuned verities.

Where, oh where to turn?
If only there were mirrors cast within,
if only he might satisfy himself
without resort to any art,
without regifting his whole world at large;
if only he could see the way they saw,
simple and with clarity.

Just for the moment,
moments like this,
when lights were faded
to their shadow homes on high;
with every echo and alarm
yet resonant, reprising absent charms.

Friday, January 31, 2020


by Steve King
© 2020 All rights reserved

I have a favored window.
It draws the light
in tones I wish to see.

It gathers birdsong
from the depths of dawn,
and spills my dreams
upon the evening lawn.

There may be other windows
I might use.

Even rooms without a view.

But here I’ll stay to celebrate,
and ever more to muse.

 A new poem for the 55

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Your speaking moves more than the air

by Steve King
© 2020 All rights reserved

Your speaking moves more than the air, it seems.
I am, with every murmur, shaken too,
transported always where your will requires,
my wishes, resonant at every turn,
attend the lingering strains of your desire.

Much stronger than the weight of loud command,
your musings will demand obedience.
You know that I am helpless to ignore,
and every instant, as I lie in wait,
my urgent station sighs aloud for more.

Suspended like a mote in dim moonlight,
my substance cedes to rapt imaginings,
and, shedding every motive of my own,
I fall upon the pleasures you might bring,
awash, enfolded, no bright charm deferred,
to search again the truth of all your words.

For Writers' Pantry #3 : Poets and Storytellers United 

Sunday, January 5, 2020


by Steve king
All rights reserved

I trace the word, it becomes real
I breathe it to the world
and it is me
as a wind
sounding to the vaults of the earth
to stir a light within my every sense

I say and it is so
embracing now the distant things
even to the sun
brings them now to me
and I will now possess one meaning more

Dark air excites
and the quelled leaves
and the grasses
Each stone on the mountain
pebbles in the valley
waters will not then be still

I cannot know and will not care
who else may feel or see or know
or who would scoff or smile sly

And do not shrink from declination
or designs of their desires

How may I shrink from a new truth
the truth’s effect
the truth’s intent
that keeps me for an object
the light of truth
the truth of light
that even lamps the catacomb
that shall inscribe the stars

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

As I Consider

by Steve King
All Rights Reserved

As I consider how I’ve sought for love
And found it so, only to seek again,
There comes that moment to deny all sense
When emptiness descends upon the heart
With doubt my spirit never would intend.

No peace may gather then, although one waits
For any hint of surety to rise,
And, caught upon the tides that gather life,
Those memories which pass for life revive.
And every station that my heart has known
Returns to claim a moment as before.

Though forfeit now, their beat is ever clear
To tell how dreams shall never sing as true,
How every hope that stalks the bright Abyss
Unearths old endgames posed once more as new,
And how old love forever shall conspire
To scatter embers out from phantom fire.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019


© 2019 Steve King
All rights reserved

So now I am that widow guy,
pressed in these thoughts like widow’s weeds,
come near to end of time, it seems;
so near to end of days, must seem to all.

There are yet days.
Time is not stilled,
nor are the dreams undone,
to hang like heavy husks
across the fallen backdrop
of an endless, empty night,
a million miles to see.

And memory,
a pretty picture now,
but strange, imperfect, an unfinished thought,
where every echo plays
without its grounding harmony,
songs of siren sorcery,
promise unfulfilled,
and choruses of silence
that linger, stranger still.

A new poem for Open Link Night at

Thursday, December 13, 2018

I'd hoped that it might seem as one

by Steve King
©2018  All rights reserved

I’d hoped that it might seem as one,
that each new treasure of intent
would gather inward every charm,
alone to each new moment then,
without beginnings, without end.

The issue of unsettling dreams
would scuttle back beneath the lees,
the tolling of uncertainty
displaced by melodies begun.
Desires one never knew to spend
might seize such moments to contend.

Yet every doubt shall resurrect
to seed new dreams and break amends,
undoing all prospective notes,
to quell new dawns with clouded suns.
And all invention soon erased
by tides of tears that need not wait
for virgin moons to call them out,
far wishes glinting there, dark stars.

            The resting place of all appeal
            is quiet soon and battened fast,
each unrecounted mood abates
to where silence must congregate,
the words gone still to mend a peace,
and linger always out of reach.

And all that was important then
seems sunk to nothingness

A new poem for the D'Verse Open Link Night

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

I would be ready

I would be ready, should it come tonight.
I wait upon all ends, as do we each,
have swept my mind of all moveable fears,
and tried to pierce a veil of fair unknowns.
I am impatient with the magic now,
have slipped the tether of old ritual
and left to other arms the shield of faith,
to feel at last the depth in every night
and sense the murmur that a new felt wind
inflects upon old spirits who will hear.

I watch while every dusk enfolds the world
within an unknown realm, myself half-seen
and half-seeing, now here, now there, now gone,
alike some shallow isle whose trace appears
but briefly in the movement of great tides.
My visions cannot capture all I see,
nor words translate the things I come to know.
And while old mysteries will not abate,
I wait upon no supernality.
For only I attend upon these times,
alone to every instant, as must be;
and every hard-felt limit that is found
records at least an impulse to break free,
to try this darkness, sometimes kindle light,
’til rest shall fall, like mist upon the night.

A new poem for Imaginary Gardens

Thursday, April 19, 2018

We tarried that first night

©2018 Steve King
All rights reserved

We tarried that first night upon the sands
and glimpsed of glinting waters that upheld
the sky and the unnumbered stars.
Stars so many I was blind to all.

Strange things I tried to say,
then silence so that none might come amiss.
There surely would be time for words
when dreams had come to pass,
just not quite then.

Never time for dreams;
nor for uncanny orisons,
which none inclined to hear.
And never time to understand
those spirits once so near to us,
that sang from everywhere.

Confusions reigned aplenty,
seeming without cause or cure
to ease my wonder at the way
we found our way from star-lit shores
and got ourselves to here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

I will not criticize

© 2018 Steve King
All rights reserved

I will not criticize for your half-truths.
Of our mean differences, say what you will
so it brings peace.  I shall not ask beyond
the looming limits of my disbelief.
The times have left us still, with only hope
to take the seat of dreams that would repair.
Subsume to silence, and I’ll join you there.

Friday, October 27, 2017

To See

©  Steve King  2017
All rights reserved

To see.
Such distractive sense.
The eye goes everywhere
there is a movement,
or that unsought touch,
or faint reflective answers
in another’s distant voice.

Always something here
to hold a moment and mind.

Yet still impossible to spy
the one who masquerades as me
in all that waiting world
where these fool scenes unwind.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sonnet Six

© 2017 Steve King
All rights reserved

I don’t know what there is to write of love,
though others fill such pages quite with ease.
I can’t distill all meanings as I please,
describe sensations which are true enough
to colonize all realms of thought.  I pause
at each astonishment that visits me,
and every unsought thrill that comes to be,
and never work to wonder of their cause.

All sly analogies escape my care,
and each coquettish fancy that occurs
belies the feeling that ought only stir
in truest commerce with the heart’s affairs.

            In grand comparisons I will not delve,
            for love should seem like nothing save itself.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Small Soliloquy

©  2017 Steve King
All rights reserved

The blind view
and that hot rain—
each new storm
a sudden death,
soon again.

The recalculation
of every old move:
merely an echo,
a hard refrain.

The world will turn.
I cannot say
where true horizons fall.

Light to night,
night upon light,
every age must scribe its own,
though some stand everywhere alone.

A new poem for Friday 55 with Joy Jones 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Gathering

©  2017  Steve King
All rights reserved

He leaned so naturally,
bent to shadow by the moon.
He asked if I had a match.
‘I don’t smoke, myself,’ he said,
‘but I must look to my watch,
for the times are old.’

So soon, it gathers like a dream,
the waiting while his moon burns hot,
and all my world grows cold.

A poem for Joy Jones’ Friday 55

Friday, September 8, 2017


© 2017 Steve King
All rights reserved

I wish that there were fewer words,
or better weight to fill them up,
with sense alive to leap each pause,
and means to separate all ends from cause.

This randomness I’ve long endured,
and though it bears me with an ease,
I cannot help but mourn each blank,
adept, it seems, but never sure.

A new verse for Friday 55,
so graciously hosted by Hedgewitch.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Sonnet Five: I watch and wait

© 2017 Steve King
All rights reserved

I watch and wait patiently for the sun,
and moments of forgetting then begun;
this bitter starlight cannot now redeem
an interregnum of confining dreams.
Old spirits are fled far and leave no trace,
no outlines to impress on shadowed space,
and though my pausing will not urge reward,
I’ll hold to what I pray shall be restored.
An undertow of hope thus sets my course,
and I must drift upon the dawning force,
to gather each small blessing that abides,
and cling to meanings cast upon new tides.
Emergent then, as from a numbing sleep,
so once again to sing, again to weep.

A new poem for the Poetry Pantry

Thursday, July 27, 2017

I am old now...

© Steve King 2017
All rights reserved

I am old now, often older than I seem,
with new strangeness and a certain sense
that springs not only from unfolding years.
But this is all of my own view,
some inner seeing that reflects
no proper light from anywhere,
nor even any scene
that some other might see true.

The mirror in the hall holds far out of my sight;
the window too, where in a lapse of careless ease,
I might again behold the sudden ghost,
more true to every age, anchored in the pane,
clinging on a slender veil of inconstant opacity,
its form playing a noiseless rhythm,
searching yet for convenient repose
and any field of uncontested peace.

I piece together puzzles made of clouds
that shudder, fly upon the least of winds;
stir worlds within the orb of the unblinking cocktail glass,
and watch as visions stream, each along its way;
savor every expectation,
and the pull of all intentions,
that the lingering claim of conscience
shall not long outlast.

In the reach of bottomless light
the world seems empty of all things
except the deepened treads of time,
a universe enforcing balance
of all things I might have sought
and everything the heart tried to deny,
with point enough to serve tendentious retrospect,
and the pull of all latent desire,
even moment by moment;
for though no certain future is assigned,
I’ll take my leave to wager a good bet,
thinking every new-lived instant
gives a life to each impatient hope,
and fortifies all gentle conjurings.

Somewhere distant I recall
the portrait I alone was meant to see,
itself enough to capture any age.
And there it is:  somewhat a stranger now,
as any onetime friend might sometime be;
its lines still not so fully formed,
somewhat in haste conceived;
the eyes with what might pass for surety,
the naive brow an unmarked map
that cannot not be so now.
And though I must approve faint shades,
and take on faith that these have shown me fair,
I yet must note each errant stroke
and smile at untoward slips of shadow
that a keener artist would have striven to repair.

There roams in the dark tower,
like condemned kings and captive partisans,
a mix of ill contented thoughts,
contending for a single crack of light,
or a strain of gaiety singing far upon midnight,
almost unknowing now the graces of such leisure,
but still not quite reduced
to settling for the moments that incline
to the inviting void,
which alone must mitigate all cares.

I wonder at all things unsaid,
and of comforts yet unmet,
and of late strangnesses
that reasoned contemplation cannot cure.
Unsettled loves are gathered in a distant dream,
removed from every heart,
a far mirage that fades on every dawn,
posing as the last sum of desire.

Now must I cease these wanderings.
Each glimpse unfolds, that others might ensue,
and every view will further lead
until the thread I clutch unwinds in whole,
that my next thought would drift on its own airs,
so soon to slip from every moor,
without the charms of once familiar light,
to dance with dreams that dress a darker night.

 A new poem for the dVerse open night link

Monday, March 13, 2017


©  Steve King 2017
All rights reserved


upthrust stones appear in the dark earth
sudden reds and umbers
in the highest trees
rivers yield to bedrock
floral splash retreats
from dry roadsides
sheltering waves ebb
mud creatures die before the sun
mountains whither and recede
while others intrude into empty sky
the earth shakes  and graves unseal
stormclouds gather on far hills
everywhere are signs it seems
the moonlight and the darkness
and the lightning
and the winds that sing
in my dream they heave to view
and in these echoes I must find
the word to say old things anew


searching ancient holds
sifting through the sands
looking for the stars
for the ancient source
rooting for the hidden caves
and the shades of prophets
gone at last to ground
forgotten gone now
far from miracles
and sundry excitations
all are silent now
yes even prophets
silent now who onetime spoke
as from the very gods


and in my books
strange marks appear
to dance the empty page
waiting for that word to come
for surer sense to settle ‘round
the strange newness of them all
a word
a harmony
to all the other words
sung in strange communion
to all that have been spoke to me
and all that I have heard
and all that yet await my meaning
any meaning

the one sound that gathers all
shouts that I may understand
this word that has eluded
the word inscribed alike
on those vagrant sands
and on the far strung stars
a word within surrounding silence
distance and old emptiness
since before the sands were sands
and stars were stars
when sands were stars
and stars sand
before even another sound to echo
before the advent of questions
before any answer
or an explanation
or an equivocation
or assertion
or apology
or a taking back
or a shouting
or a false whisper
or a clamor to end contemplation
or a witness
or even before the idea of silence
which must itself aspire to clamor
or spring from one
if it shall be truly known


this thing I am that waits in dreams
first word
then picture
then story
all the legends to retell
there must be story
must there not
a story in those markings
that my dreaming has begot


awakening as light itself
arising from behind hard horizons
hidden only for the time of dreaming
a sorcery unfolds
and I speak in tongues
the way a ghost
condemned to drift among the quick
might strain for words
walking live streets
but in that long silence
mouthing empty moans
at transient shapes
eager for the night
even as the morning comes
lingering near familiar shadows
come to trim the meaning of their day


as the sun reveals
I would see
as the sun reveals
the ring of dawn embracing
every ready world
rolling like the tides
that would paint a captive sea
revealing all to me
settling ‘round again
to cure the mind of dreams
when all new things may come alive
and spirits teem
new myths to spring
while strains of ancient songs
sweating dreams
and visitations
might soon be well forgot.

An edge of darkness
for a moment that is not a moment
but a life begun
rewound again
and tempering the margins
of each exultation with the breath
of all those old cares


Still the memories of dreams
might reach from their firm seat
might tantalize and so destroy belief
in tangibility to come
the very marks
and strange devices
left upon the page
all the sweet tranquility
that I would have
before another life begins
but still the book
and curious marks
older by another day
unchanged and so familiar
in their unfamiliar way

Thursday, January 26, 2017


©  Steve King  2016
All rights reserved

You have never seemed at all like me.
I say this in being self-aware,
in knowing that my every sense
is numbed by your insurmountable smile.

I surmise this singular aspect of guile
—this something more and something less—
flows not from some redoubt of high conscience,
or a wry disregard of worldly things;
nor from a fancied pose of irony.
No, none of these, I think.

They would be apprehended in their doing.
Indeed, I have seen through from time to time
in all the usual small ways.
Yet still a smile remains unsatisfied.

Yes, I surmise,
for what more might this smile bring?
Everything is handy guesswork now,
known only in a retrospect
of all my favorite speculations,
and none of your own.

And what should your expression yield to me,
with its smile or no?
Some inconstant glance,
not even minding where it falls,
now here, now there,
now celebrating this,
now mourning that?
I will not be moved by this,
nor any other aspect of such art.
It seems the world reserves too much
for me to isolate to you
what might be merely shifts of mood
or other dark exchanges of my heart.

I see I stand upon some lesser hill,
just balanced on the smallest points of faith:
that I am,
that I must be,
that every moment is a struggle
for a realm of sovereignty;
that I manifest an essence
in a strange contingency of time and place
not even of my choosing,
often times unknowing and unknown.

And yet it seems I must remain,
if only to assure this place
and consecrate a time;
that I survey all objects of desire,
observing from this far remove,
inventing, even, what another
might then misconstrue;
alas, reflecting not always
a bit of what some other might require.

And it is hard to sense all this,
to know I won’t requite in full.
But in my station I am not alone.
Not insurmountable as you, perhaps.
Perhaps if I am patient to a fault.

You are a distant drumbeat now,
to measure out the crushing dark;
a tremor on the airs.
Where is the map
to thread a journey
through all obstacles,
to find where lies the mystery
of your confounding peace?
A peace that, for all I now know,
may not begin to merit
fair exchange of any heart.

A new poem for the dVerse Poet's Pub

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Cocktail Hour

© 2016 Steve King
All rights reserved

Old Fashions will sometimes suffice
to thaw this frozen writer’s ice.

Wine upholds me, in a pinch,
but rarely moves my pen an inch.

Brandy, Bourbon, Single Malt—
they stir my spirits to a fault.

But one Martini, every time,
amends my meter, rights my rhyme.

A new poem for the Poetry Pantry
Happy New Year, All!

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Parsonage

© 2016 Steve King
All rights reserved

I found my way back to the ancient copse,
upon a path that I had onetime known,
to seek a shelter from the sun.
A breeze enlivened the tall grass,
hissing through a course of nodding heads.
That easy walk, so long ago my own,
threaded the old meadow, summer flowers
conjuring what seemed an easy mood.
But as I went, I saw a fainter trail
lead from my path into a veil of shades,
winding through a guard of ancient trees,
their heavy arms inviting,
that I should not miss the way,
upon a track so seeming in disuse.

I followed, nothing of my own but time at risk,
and left behind all things that spoke of summer:
cloud-decked skies, the waning sun itself,
transfigured to a faint accent
that hovered far above the thicket way,
its light only an occasional sign,
slight leavening to gathered darkness,
no longer a gauge of time or course,

At some distance I could see
the glimmer of another source,
a gleam that trembled,
as I thought at first,
a thing not in itself,
but as a passing charm at play
within my startled seeing.
The vision winked as though extinguished,
then returned to claim the pitch
from where it first had shone.
I ventured closer to the source,
and saw emerge the shape of brick and stone,
of walls and windows and a broken gate,
chimney stones now strewn upon the ground,
the figure of a roof that would not hold
another winter’s wearing weight.

The door swung slowly to my touch,
and as I crossed I heard the smallest sound—
a chant, a lyric, a voice pure but spare,
as though to yield only enough
to fill the limits of some confined space.
There was the man,
a shape among the other shades,
bent upon a table, his candle faint
with what seemed must be its last gleam.

The fragile music eased.
His gaze kept to the light,
and I viewed the profile
of a face grown lean upon its time,
its eye sunk in a pool of shadow,
skin stretched tight across old bones. 
His knotted hands were folded in that certain way,
the ancient collar loose upon his neck.

The thin lip curled.

‘I should thank you for this presence,
even though it is an errant thing.
I hold few hopes of late.
I see you have not brought one to the door.
Old wantings will die hard,
those born of hope hardest,
when hope is only memory,
a cryptic thing abjuring its context,
untethered from all past and future,
dwelling in a present void,
or never more at all.’

‘Just a man,’ he said. 
‘I thought you were that other, come at last.
But that shall wait its due, I see.’

He paused.

‘All things are out of phase.
I’ve lost some precious touch.
But the Bishop has been kind.
He lets me stay without my church.
Though every soul is flown afar,
by his leave I stay and tend to graves.
Now there are only graves.

‘I took it as a sign,
the lightning and the fire and the death,
damnation come to spend its afternoon.
Do you think a church should pass that way?
A sign, it must have been.
I thought my church was more than tinder,
more than carven block
and the empty corners they embraced.
But now all things once hallowed
are just as afterthoughts,
no more a vessel for their orisons,
devoid of passions I did once absolve,
sacraments that I divined
with these same hands.  These hands.
The ragged remnant here remains
a scar upon the land,
and here no light does penetrate.
A desolation so complete and true
that prayer would melt into the ruin,
waiting for some grace note in return.

‘Yet I survive and know not why.
If there must be atonement,
if indeed it was the sign,
then there must be an understanding, too,
some note of great regret,
some wickedness that clings to me alone.
All this I thought, and still must think…

‘But all I know is, I have lost my touch.’

He rose from his makeshift,
gathered all the light his candle threw.
‘Come follow me,’ he said.
‘Behold my judgement.
I shall preach a mystery for you.’

He bore his candle to the limit of a frail arm.
and led beneath a sagging arch,
that would not hold its door.
We stood upon the dooryard
and saw the wreckage of what once had been—
the shambled cast of stone and beams,
crumbled mortar and the charred remains
that played a wicked parody
upon the sanctuary ground.

We passed upon a weedy aisle,
he nodding once in an obeisance
to absent relics.
The wreckage soon assumed another form,
yielding to the firmer pattern
of a fieldstone wall and then, beyond,
row by row, the kirkyard,
neatly set to mark the mirror
of negation and eternity,
a final fulcrum to a great complex.
He led between the rows,
fingers reaching out to grasp
some flown fancy now cast hard in stone.

‘This congregation shall remain,
outlasting every buried dream,
their hopes now so long brought to ground.
These are not times for holy men.
If there exists that place of paradise,
then surely some have hastened there;
if not, these share inviolable peace,
at last secured from weary ritual
and every toll of judgement.’

He wandered to the fence’s edge,
the candle flameless in his hand.
He did not venture far against
the deep indifferent dark.

‘And even yet, here in the wake
of all unwinding fates—
I am.
I may not now presume to know that peace,
nor if the days, compiling in their mute sequence,
may trace the way to any fabled shore.
I know that nights do lengthen
and that every shadow falls,
and all but one that was may know their sleep.
My own is just escape
from every waking dream,
a silent emptiness that stays to grace
the flight of expectation and desire.
But never peace again, I fear.
No more.’

He beckoned me with arms outstretched.
‘Will you take this blessing as it is?
I can say no more.  With these hands I leave to you
that peace which only you may grant yourself,
but bid you open wide your heart to me.
Not to my words, which can no longer
bear the weight of any great intent;
but rather in the scene
of some inventive memory,
any you might choose to make,
though unknown in your life through any fact.

‘Imagine one who once had been
a caretaker of some good things,
and know he ceded all his will
in hope for what tomorrows bring;
and cherish in a generous heart
the shapes of visions he has seen,
and goodly things that he had felt,
and every simple grace that he bestowed.’

I did not answer, nor did he insist.
But in his eyes,
the darkness that they bore,
I saw an instant flare,
as if, despite his grave lament,
some awful triumph had been visioned there.
He moved as if to lead me out,
and laid his hand upon my arm.

‘One might not always keep to faith;
but worse, one cannot soon forget.
This unsought nature I have come to know,
cannot replace the things I have let go;
dead faith leaves regions empty in the heart,
to swallow all that freedom might bestow.’

He led back through the Parsonage
and placed his candle where it first had been.
I reached to light it once again,
but felt his hand upon my arm.
‘No more,’ he said.  ‘No more.
Nor can I let you more remain.
You must abandon me to me alone.
The shadows are swift, and the moment gone.
Return to where your path veered here,
and find your way back into light,
and tell to someone what you’ve seen,
and what you know of judgement times:
how all bright days shall end in night.
That is enough.  It stands the best of me’

I quickly turned to find the way,
and made a hurried distance out,
then paused to see the Parsonage again.
The shadows guarded every ruin,
no candle shone as rule and guide,
no pathway pointed back to where I’d been.

A cold wind rose to shake the trees,
and pelt the air with sheared and broken leaves.
Its low howl sang across the darkness
and was gone.  I heard its long retreat,
echoing along the hills,
its keening measure, calling faint and pure,
gone somewhere far beyond a common bound.
All things returned to stillness,
and emptiness, and at the last,
I felt a place of momentary peace.

I was surprised to find so soon my meadow,
and the copse that stood aside
the darker forest I had left behind.
The sun was nearly gone.
I longed to hear some other’s voice,
to bask in ready light,
and in the pleasure of casual words;
yes, anything that might supplant
the visions I had just incurred.

And yet…
It would remain for me
to squander or fulfill
those moments I had lingered
amid the fearful season of his soul,
the legacy of what he last had willed.

His words were fixed upon my tongue,
and at his touch I’d felt the press
of every weight his ready conscience bore.
Though shorn of faith and every grace,
and cast so distant from the fabled shore,
he’d labored only as he could,
and tried to honor what he once held true.

Of mysteries and judgement days,
atonements that are flown askew—
I held his life, if not his ways.
I would remain the last repose
of every care he did outlast,
of every penance that he knew;
of prayers that never could come true.

And with such knowing I would be
among the very least of men
were I content to seek my ease,
if I ignored what had ensued—
recalling every harrowed thought,
imagining his words anew.

My vicar, though no gods remained,
his blessings only what the winds ordained.

 A new poem for The Imaginary Garden