Saturday, December 20, 2014

In The Violet Hour

©  Steve King 2014
All Rights Reserved

Unseen through any fold of shadow,
near, yet ever out of reach—
I had hoped the one dream
might linger and appease.

But faint as a far tremor
sifting through loose sands:
the echoes of those vesper notes,
like water through my hands.

I shall reach for nearer things,
embrace them as I can.

Lost amid strange twilight times,
let all the dreams be damned.

Monday, December 8, 2014

My Mistake

©  Steve King
All rights reserved

My mistake was to inquire, even tactfully,
what it is that you believe.

I left the question open,
wide as understanding might allow,
then watched as eyes narrowed,
surprising me, as now I know
you were surprised to hear it asked:
I felt your gaze reach far within my own,
perhaps to see which motives
must underlie such simple words.

Too late, I saw the question had gone wrong:
I only sought to know you
at some level other than mundane;
but all the simple knowing sudden stopped.
Now, I see the question made you wonder
on some unspoken quality of life,
and how it was your spirit may have failed
to flourish under this or that constraint;
how the things that you assumed
so closely as your own,
had served a destiny for good or ill;
how each daily compromise
worked only to wreak havoc on your will.

My words were conversation,
never meaning to upend
the stasis of your settled scores,
or betray elisions that lend peace to the days.
Perhaps you have no patience for beliefs—
perhaps you have mistaken
the rudiments of habit and routine
for rituals of virtue;
have given over to necessity
those energies that otherwise
would sanctify pursuit
of even gentle truths—
when the looming call of doubt
must either be rejected or embraced.

Perhaps you give short shrift
to the rightful place of doubt—
without which there is no need of faith
or the sundry comforts of belief.
Perhaps you have no time to waste on ambiguity.
Perhaps there is only a certain now,
to obviate all questions of regret and retrospect,
your future just a passive mirror,
set to hold the shape of some immutable design.

And so you answer with a look:
disappointment that the topic ever should arise.
Perhaps you had been fending off the answer all along;
perhaps belief had never been tested
in the rush of living out your life
the way you choose to live it.
Perhaps belief, itself, is a wrong word,
conjuring heirloom articles of ancient rites,
ever inconvenient in their day,
and even now, in memory.

This eternal present is a crowded sphere.
I myself have felt surcease of hours
and the timeless beat of silence:
questions settling in upon the mind’s idle abodes—
thoughts to spur dark contemplations,
restless in their reach and resonance,
yet spawning only tenuous conclusions.
It must be enough, I think,
to leap from pause to pause,
following the track of some small inkling
here or there, if one should be at hand,
even as we wait upon
some moment of sublime clairvoyance.

Now my questions are undone,
and may not be retraced
to trivial or droll evasions.
Doubt may never humble you,
but you would surely chafe at condescension.
All the while I must rest
upon the record of my words;
now you know me in a way
that I may not know you:
the way that I must only know myself.

I should have seen it well:
some questions end in unforeseen miscues
that serve only to fortify
the ruins of much casual impulse
and all we otherwise come to regret.
My notion was a fool’s device:
I should have sought the trace of your faint inklings—
those tracks you make among the silences,
far notes that echo in your empty times—
not some sudden profession
to frame the outline of your cautious heart;
I should not scatter thoughtless noise
to dress the trite cacophony
with which all days are filled;
should not have sought
to draw out dear assumptions,
knowing how they breed,
one upon the next,
worn transparent with their overuse,
stretched by lazy fantasy
to unkempt, unimagined,
wholly unsupported shapes,
languishing equally far
from origins and ends.

And so I watch you wrestle
with the puzzle of the words.
Yet I cannot better frame my task,
or color more these shades of meaning,
that you seem to take as black or white.

You still uncaptioned portrait—
alive only in silence,
great hostage to this small moment
and all unanswered questions;
holding solid for the next best guess,
though nothing you imagine takes to flight;
rehearsing all those ready answers,
none of which shall ever soon requite.

A new poem for Imaginary Gardens

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Forest Bird

© Steve King
All rights reserved

A forest bird lost its way
from the cool shade of its wood,
skimming across my clearing,
it glided in bright vision,
at the window where I stood—
where it saw itself to be,
finding itself, finally.

And so, inevitable:
that moment of gathered life
when unwinding fates are met,
and all futures come to pass:
griefs and gladness and regret.

Then, nothing:  it lay so still,
small beneath the window glass.
I watched from shadow within,
quiet beauty pictured so:
gone the song and stilled the flight,
as all beauty we may know;
muted accents clinging fast
to that vestige of delight.

Sweet vestige that must outlast
forest birds lost in the light.

A new poem for the Poetry Pantry

Saturday, November 15, 2014


©  Steve King
All rights reserved

I have taken all I could from emptiness—
have suffered old desires to breach anew
and fill the fast expanding space;
have stumbled through each blindness,
all wit and happenstance,
and called on shadows there to resonate
through courses of new moods,
though softly as a wish might ever be.

I have given all I could to emptiness—
have tried to see across to latter ends,
feeling for small ripples of discontinuity
in smooth inviting fabric that surrounds,
in silence that would mock all reverence,
and smother each small echo,
even of a beating heart.

I have savored what I might in emptiness,
conjuring imagined sounds
to sing me what in emptiness
may anytime be found;
though everywhere beyond,
I know cacophony abounds.

I have settled into emptiness,
not a passive tenant of the void,
nor an idle roomer,
safe, as it would seem, with small comforts;
but as must every restive creature be
when flung by unrelenting tides
to the embrace of unsought shores,
close within its frail shell,
listening for each faint note,
and longing, as it waits, for some far sea.

A new poem for the Poetry Pantry

Monday, October 27, 2014


©  Steve King 2014
All rights reserved

All this world turns by me while I wonder,
watching without, through half-shuttered slits that are these eyes;
seeing within, through a depth of far reflection,
dreams that live so safe inside—
high torrent of perception,
lacking ordinary rule or guide,
sweeping through all base obstructions:
you, me—yes me, especially,
feeling myself always as an object,
a so-complacent stranger,
often troubling to regard—
an almost-sense of almost-me,
that keeps a far and undefined remove.

I watch alone in this carnival place,
this world, its manifold aspect,
where every easy affectation
shields against the need for overt cries
on the eternal nature of constraint.

Heedless now of every origin
or the truth of any real beginning,
yet still left to wonder
how all wondering comes to be,
sensing only of an end,
so far from the advent of first things.

—as, somewhere on that bright and deadly plain,
holding the first kind of any truth,
rise of strange sensation to the eye,
gauging something other,
unfolding sudden, new,
from what had been a dreamy pageant
held in animal sight,
one that knew no inkling of a life gone by,
nor of anything foretold.
Old scent pulled up from ancient dust
mingling with the new song of winds,
eloquence unsensed ‘til then;
blue, color unnamed,
clear and godless sky;
red, the predator jaw,
auguring of pity,
a thing unknown before,
but all at once so real,
when dust would settle
‘round some heaving pair.

The dawn of truth.
And, pity first, before the thought of love.
No need for love at first upon the plain…

So truth comes always in the instant,
laying claim to everything before,
but devolves soon into a memory,
layered with new instants, new surprise,
all shaded with the weight of that first pity,
and what shall finally come to seem as love,
inconstant as it is or ever was,
kindled and extinguished,
soaring, sinking in waves of new dream,
bringing, in an afterthought,
the sudden inclination to believe
in old spirits and puzzling moods,
all axiom and anecdote,
intrusive shards as ancient as the deadly plain,
and yet the source of every new desire.

But life may not evolve only in watching,
nor may it last for long
balancing on pinnacles
of ever narrowed truth.
Life must be of moment and of measure,
and, at least, capacity to act.
My life would cast long shadows
of the serpentine will,
and these too shall be true;
each changing meaning in my life
alive in every shadow I may see.
My life would give hard form
to every occult thought
undiscovered in the face of light.
Truth and truth and truth again—
my life, young heir to fragments of the ancient dreams
which must all be as true
or none at all;
dreams born of the matrix of every false dawn,
new light to sing pure,
that for its time obscures
the coiled complex of still and harrowing shades
ever patient to reclaim
each soaring gladness in its turn.

Those dreams, my measure and model;
my palette, that strange combine
of pity, love and shadow;
cast in every memory
and on each waiting aspect I devise;
light that burns in the deepest redoubt,
reflecting worlds unknown to other eyes,
each so transient in the night;
and though they banish every anquish,
so they also calm each pure delight,
as if some stasis must be found,
and surety and silence and release
from all unquiet moments
adrift within my soul’s far keep.

As if there may be found
an easy truth of you and me
unknown yet to our worlds,
though tenuous, as all such truths must be.
A truth to leave its founding mark
upon those troubling strangers, you and me.

A new poem for Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Beneath the forest wind

©  Steve King
All rights reserved

Beneath the forest wind,
I knew the raven’s chord.
I closed my eyes to hear
him call as to the gods,
those mighty ones of old
who treasured his dark soul
and measured out the fates
upon his spreading wings.

But I’m no mighty one:
my mind had been attuned
to the pure liquid song
of a far calling loon,
lost to all but himself,
his answer an echo
giving voice to absence,
across an emptiness
that held the dark waters
and a surfeit of stars.

The raven calls alone
until old gods awake.
I needed no such prayer
to stir the dark spirits.

The loon shall never dream,
and I shall never sing;
my dreaming and his song
temper old emptiness:
beatitudes enough
to quell grim reverie,
all orison and psalm
inflecting now to me.

A new post for the Poetry Pantry

Saturday, October 4, 2014

He had decided...

© Steve King
All rights reserved

He had decided at a latter stage
to chronicle some measure of his age;
was satisfied at last to stoke its pain,
to manifest the dark and light
upon the insolent page.

And thought he knew a ready gauge:
no leisure-fitten verse,
not just (he hoped) the beaten breast,
or solipsistic curse.
Forgetting for once
pursuits of refined feeling,
he groped amid the near rubble
for another store of meaning.

All to examine his wellspring of doubt.
Not his usual chore perhaps,
but better than his elegiac pout.
More difficult than former reaches 
to sublime intent,
his old rhapsodic stutter;
harder than his sometimes game
of spirit without letter.

For his world by then had little need
of another airy monument.
His vision waited, patient for the word.
He set his sight, followed where it went.

            His times advanced, rage upon rage.
Cracks appeared in fine facades.
Voices clamored, claiming right,
while settling still for easy odds.
All the new voices,
all the new smiles,
all the refurbished idols
risen from cooling raptures—
waiting patient for the next new dodge,
conjuring new words
to succor all the ancient ills;
peddling their tired cures
for each age old torment,
and failure of will.

Mechanics of the Metaphysics
parsed the nature of their dieties,
lashed old spirits through new paces,
eager for their shades of meaning
suddenly to slip to black and white—
new verses nicely fitted to rewrite
a liturgy of grim and hungry graces.
Still, gods became restless
with the secular ennui:
revisiting the sacred texts,
they found a thirst for new conquests,
slaked it endlessly.

            The new ‘isms’
became soon old ruins,
graveyards of confounded certainties
and every kind of casual lie:
Lies that sprang from ancient lies,
and so attained to truth.
Relentless crusades labored on
to beloved dead ends,
which, once forgot, would soon no doubt,
rise to enchant again.

            The age evolved through idling art,
dilettantes soon Old Masters;
And all the while the new beauty
held a virtual remove.
The HD screen is our palette,
flash memory, our Louvre.

The age grew up unlike any other,
comparisons to old times hardly worth the bother.
In the legendary war,
a jealous king felt stinging bronze.
Now kings campaign from desktops,
between state dinners and noble awards.
Lightning springs from ready buttons,
while weary Zeus had need to host
a universe of rage.
There are men of the people now
thrust to our vanguard,
average in all but command.
Our last Agamemnon slumbers with stars,
war now a weary commonplace,
fit to gather transient conquerors.

We paid for the enemy’s guns,
and then sent off our best to die.
New lords in new temples
finding new and easy ways ever to capitalize.
Each war justified the next,
never out of reeling memory;
a deepening habit to inure the soul.

Our best, sent off to die…
straight backed, fast to please,
perhaps too eager with a smile,
the love of ordeal,
faith in the trial…

Yes, he had seen them,
known them in their prime,
relentless cohorts off to war,
generations swallowed whole,
while each king promised at the last,
‘This much and no more…’

            Yet, through the nexus of all pain,
some were bold, again…again…
One would lift the solemn call.
Some might note, though few would hear.
Fewer still would wager all.

And on the outside, all around
milled an army of the lost,
a hungry host waiting
only for a word to settle,
starved for the least call
to match its least of expectations—

No Gideon’s Horn.

Not now.

No Joshua.
No Caanan.


Alas, there rang a faded obsequy
for an empire of failed salvations;
a psalm to mark
the dimming dreams
of so many lost Edens.

And when at last
the age should loose
its ultimate refrain—

Some other voice,
some other age,

and so begin


A post for The Poetry Pantry

Monday, June 30, 2014

Through the open door

©  Steve King
All rights reserved

Through the open door the starlight shone,
stirring empty shadows with a glow
of dreaming, though I heard clear the click
of sharp heels speeding on their way,
prelude to a distant journeying
nothing like a dream, not then to you.

Each small shadow deals its own story,
no dark center fit to hold them all;
and I hear the singing lines echo
from that other sphere where you orbit—
where your other lives are well eclipsed.

Those echoes ebb and flow:  stubborn tides
to measure and fill each pliant mood,
though reprising rarely; taking form
only when a certain solitude
gathers in the still familiar place,
seizing, with surprise, an old hostage
who waits for such dreaming to attend,
happy to stir starlight now and then.

A new poem to be shared with

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Mr. Lincoln's Mirror

© Steve King
All rights reserved

For years, my family kept an ancient stand
to guard the foyer of the old homestead.
It stood with brass fixtures and mottled glass
amid the shadows of the entry way.
I can remember hearing stories told
by white-haired women long enough in life
to have no time nor reason left to lie,
of how the stately piece had onetime stood
in Mr. Stanton's hallway through the war,
and how the president would stoop to don
that quaint, ungainly stovepipe that he wore,
and linger at the mirror 'til he found
the look that he would carry out the door.

I'd sit expectant in the darkened hall
and stare into the worn silver until
my eyes beheld his features staring back.
I built his form each time from memory:
a face that found its shape in deep-hewn lines;
the gangling frame, with hands that knew the feel
of something rougher than a cabinet brief;
the rounded shoulders, heavy then with grief,
perhaps as he set out for Gettysburgh...

At last, I'd find the caverns of his eyes.
I'd wonder how it was that mirror glass
could play such somber tricks with common light.
Peering through the solemn depths, I'd see
the dark and troubling vision that he kept,
and feel the flood of sadness that was said
to permeate much of his waking thought:
a melancholy that surpassed the heights
from which he looked upon his riven world;
not just a longing for a peaceful end
to the great madness that was going 'round,
nor dread about the outcome of the task,
or how he'd make the shattered pieces mend.
In the gathering shadows of the hall,
I came to feel the content of his fear:
he knew that he must always stand alone
against the currents of the parting time.
It was the solitude that haunted him,
the knowledge that he was the only one
to bear the onus of what must be done.

I would stay until the light had changed,
until the captive visage was exchanged
for my own features staring blankly on,
emerging by degree out from the shape
of the spirit whose eminence remained
then only as an accent to the shade,
submerging in the limitless fathoms
of imagined refractions in the glass.

Then would I find my solitary way
back through the light and noise that filled the house,
not wanting yet to share my reflections,
nor sure the image could supply the word.
I wondered how to speak of sadness then,
how I could find the way to willing hearers,
to say the tale of Mr. Lincoln's face,
and of the weight of shadows in a mirror.

(Note:  This is the very first poem I posted on Excursions and Diversions.  Long ago, in the course of my creative, though inexact, blog editing, I somehow managed to delete it.  I thought it was time it returned to its rightful home.)

A post for the Poetry Pantry

Saturday, May 31, 2014

I wait again on summer

©  Steve King
All rights reserved

I wait again on summer, as I have
through all receding seasons, through the mist
and ice, through the tearing haze of autumn
smoke.  I do not love the sun, no; nor warm
airs that might undo the ache of lingering thaws.
I cannot cling to any summer thing:
they are all one to me and may only
remind that there is movement in the world,
a cautious and reluctant pace to draw
the seasons through their new calamities.
Change is the only force; not life, not death,
not renewal; and it shall hold a place
between the living and uncounted dead,
donning new weeds, as it moves, day by day,
to lead the old procession on its way.

And yet I search for stasis all around,
for moments that will mirror clarity.
Perhaps that is the use of summertime:
as from a seat on strange heights one sees
dark chasms surrounding the bright redoubt,
harboring unknown fates on paths below,
so summer, with its lack of distraction,
its all-at-once respite from the grey rains
and veiling skies, upholds a brief vision
to gather all.  A sometime peace to gauge
the onset and wake of towering storms;
a rare occasioned season of the mind,
simplicity in tenuous vacuum—
the patient center of my hurricane.
A poem for Open Link Night at d'Verse

Sunday, May 18, 2014


© Steve King
All rights reserved

Gazing out on fast converging lines
whose genesis pulls faintly, far behind,
the mind does concentrate, as the sage said,
though what it notes shall soon be as unread.

The dreams still linger where old wishes lead,
while new desires displace comforting needs;
each blackened ember dims the soul’s delight,
to conjure forth a darker appetite.

But age may not be mended nor foretold,
and as I  watch these closing scenes unfold,
I hope that I may, at least privately,
relinquish some few public vanities,
abandoning rich things that never were,
and cleave to small ones, as they shall occur.

A new poem for the Poetry Pantry

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Room

© Steve King
All Rights Reserved

This room cannot speak to me of emptiness,
for nothing in its corners and high shadow
yields a thought of anything—
save corners, shadows.

Were I to think of emptiness,
I would picture other,
knowing in my heart
an absent habitation
that did once belong.

But nothing of a room,
where emptiness is just a word,
a proxy to formalize the nature of a place
and the inviolability of moment;
a simple means to keep
the perfect balance of a waiting space, quiet—
faint intimation of contingent purposes
foreshadowing the outline
of some unthought future,
all so free and new.

Were I to think of emptiness
I would not need this room.
I would summon aged moods,
emotion without substance,
(indeed, were I to think on it at all)
ineradicable remembrance,
unrevoked regret;
the chiming of old laughters,
and once-bright mornings come
to upend each passing misery.

Were I to think on emptiness
I would know a heart alone,
hollow moments filled
with unanswered questions,
of how the times might be
if not for absence,
that sure emptiness now—
so filled with all perfected memories
that only ancient absence may allow.

A new poem for the Poetry Pantry