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

Sunday, October 2, 2016

This Rose

©  Steve King
All rights reserved

I shall pluck this rose for you,                                    
damp still with the morning airs;                                
every flower is fleeting fair,                                       
but only this rose will do.                                           

I’ll be patient ‘til you speak                                        
(unsought cheers seldom ring true                            
while regrets are clinging new)                                  
though your vigil tends the week.                  
I shall embrace all your cares;                        
and endure each new-found grief;                              
share what unkept troths bequeath,                            
I will show how love repairs.                         

Joy shall visit you anew,                                            
and respite from these despairs                                              
which despoil the heart’s affairs,
when I give this rose you.

A new poem for the Poetry Pantry

Sunday, September 11, 2016


©  2016 Steve King
All rights reserved

look you
you are a boundary
no claim now
no hold upon the lands

sweet waters not for you
clouds distant
trace no shape
upon any long path

your breath shall be as dust
groans riddling the earth
unbroken by the many winds
a curse to those beyond

desires consumed in moon light
thoughts betrayed anew
bound in your candle’s glow
and there the living sacrifice
a dwelling holocaust

 A new poem for the Poetry Pantry

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Wait

as was foretold
in still unfinished words of old
through emptied days
cloudless skies
each desert night
stars drained of every dream

and through mad-making moons
the color of your hair
days wax hard to bear
the press of every long sequestered wish
the days revealing all new mystery
yet only the one story to be missed

and slow the world turns its way
and faint the music of each far wrought wind
these winds that carry something yet of you
sing only of some idea of time
yet leave me breath to wish and wait anew

A new poem for The Poetry Pantry

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Devils' Ball

©  2016 Steve King
All rights reserved

I watched as Mephistopheles
paraded through the shadowed room,
new spirits of the damned in tow,
come late from unconfining tombs.

The poor fool Faust regrets his lot,
now drawing sneers from those around.
The gilded idols spring to life,
Old Nick commanding without sound.

So here were all the devils met,
with song and sweet carnality,
all hot desire and cold regret,
hospitable as they might be.

Beelzebub appeared at once,
a leaden chalice held aloft.
He meted out the whithered bread,
intoning softly while they quaffed.

No seraph stands with flaming sword,
but writhing serpents guard the doors.
A well-marked Cain with cocktail tray,
still bows for tips the while he pours.

The Banshee comes, her sphinx at heel.
Dear Salome´ spins without care.
Alas, poor Grendel nurses gin,
the sport of devils everywhere.

Deceivers seek for other jobs,
a snare for all who’d listen in.
The Pharaoh’s daughter brings a taste
of bitter fruits for Solomon.

A weary Charon checks each coat,
While Dante marks the grim charade.
Cerberus sniffs for fallen treats.
Tiresias chants a bitter age.

O Star of Morning, Prince of Night!
Whose hand might stay these votaries?
Which prayer upends such dark delights,
misconsecrated reveries?

But who can tell them anything,
so caught up with their vile joys?
The fates are wagered like small change,
whole destinies are played like toys.

For me?  I’m happy to indulge
my tastes for spirits as I find,
and watch these wretches ply their mirth,
scant threats for Armageddon times.

I bid adieu to these mad things,
but someone stumbles in the hall.
I drop my gaze to grant small grace:
no need to watch poor Adam’s fall.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Distant Suns

© 2016 Steve King
All rights reserved

Hidden far within the folds
of each inviting new design,
clings a remnant of some foregone wish.

I will never be so certain
of what memory may hold,
or of how old yearnings were dismissed
in passages to what is now, and here;
nor how the things that conjured every dream
were always in the careless moment sold.

Yet I believe there bides among
these mysteries of all I am,
some inkling of how distant suns
might cast their fires upon new dawns.

So not for nothing have we lived,
though every story won’t be told;
and while we strive to move beyond,
and seize all things each day may give,
I won’t forsake old dreams too soon undone,
nor cede new dreaming only to the young.

A new poem for Imaginary Gardens... 

and the d'Verse open link 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Passing Peace

©  Steve King 2016
All rights reserved

I wait upon that passing peace
cessation of this laboring
and febrile cast of mind
emptied of all wanting
every risen doubt

efforts easing in retreat
slipped but for an instant
this I know
expectation of a gentling tide
a quelling of the sort
to shutter all intention and regard
bastardry of madding dreams
and every sharp discontinuity

shadow of benign design
to ease the blinding weariness
and press of insolent ideas
balm each emptied sense
each dormant expectation

everything that would be known as me

musing in full silence
invitation and response at large
grateful for the mindful loss of words
so not to test the call of every void

straining on the whisper
of the distant friend
without a name
who ever waits
patient to all ends

A new poem for The Poetry Pantry

Saturday, May 21, 2016


© 2016 Steve King
All rights reserved

I watch at last while others pass me by,
their glad parade my happy respite now:
the songs, the dancing and the wondrous show,
all certain pleasures shining as they go.
I marvel while I watch at the remind
of every feeling that the young may hold,
of worlds unfurling, vast, before their feet,
and all strange puzzles they’d presume to know.

I am not near so wise as once I wished,
nor happy in that way that glosses dreams.
I greet the mornings now as a fair gift,
imparting with each newness all I seem,
or ever was, or ever may become,
no hasty needs to pierce the centered calm,
nor mar those graces morning might bestow.

And when these glad parades have had their play,
and airs are emptied of their new spun song,
there lingers always something in my ear,
the echo of old anthems ringing on,
and fading fanfares of parades at rest,
for every age must hold its own the best.
And though new fanfares rise to satisfy,
each morning grace shall be my symphony.

A new poem for The Poetry Pantry

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sonnet Four

© 2016 Steve King
All rights reserved

Impossible it seems to find a way
that measures what so subtly resides
within the conscience and the patient heart.

I hoped these written findings would endow
new meaning for the questions sleeping there,
would plumb the riddles in those hidden parts,
the motives that still linger and appease,
that stoke false pride and obfuscate old cares.

I know I’ll never satisfy what’s true
with those tendentious spirits as my guides:
they burnish all illusion and remand
the record that I hoped would since abide. 
That easy road is ever on the rise,
and I must seek a pathway otherwise.

A new poem for Imaginary Garden With Real Toads

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Sonnet Three

©  2016 Steve King
All rights reserved

I struggle to see through the world each day.
It’s only afterward, when shadows sing,
that time comes into view a certain way,
to hold my eye and all imagining.

The past becomes more real with every turn,
and firms its hold in steady increments;
each faint remembrance there begins to burn,
while present fancies readily relent.

The ancient and obscure alike compete
with every sense that measures what is new.
The current moment bides its own repeat,
to fortify that undiminished queue,
and every instant I had thought complete
now finds a way to reinvent the true.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

New Snow

©  2016 Steve King
All rights reserved


We walked an autumn much in ease,
beneath the careless beeches, kicked their
discard fruits along the narrow hillside path,
and followed ‘til the lake rose up to meet us
through the trees. 
    And our silence pleased us so.
We passed the ancient fieldstone gate,
imagining some world that once had been;
all shadow and the hiss of falling leaves,
old lilac boughs in twilight nodding slow.

Caring little then for other things—
enough to feel the sunset at our backs,
to circle ‘round along a vanished path,
and brush our hands by happy circumstance.
No, nothing left to wonder of,
a surety to spare;
and we’d return by starlight if we could.


You laughed aloud when,
in a moment that remains
all out of sense and time,
you described the fallen orchard grove
embracing its old earth.

I said you’d writ a poem there.
You fled the instant,
said you needed song instead;
but clamorous spirits gathered to the air,
intoning in another sort,
and only cold winds moved to answer you.


We hurried, but the shades
of every autumn caught us up.
We held ourselves within a shield of vines,
listening for winds to end
as well I knew each moment must.
I strained for every incomplete echo,
the thread of any harmony at all,
a chorus to the gabble of disjoining thoughts
in search of quieter comfort.
I knew that shadows never could complete,
nor ever would the riddling wind,
become that song for you.

I shivered only when I saw your eyes,
still blue in fallen moonlight,
and white as a new snow,
as distant from all wanting
as yesterday’s desire.
You told me any pathway back would do.


Were I to hold a moment long in mind
it would be something like an autumn walk,
the sunlight and the shadow all as one.
Before a thousand sunrises
had shaken us from dreams.
Before the cast of season’s end
could color all we’d seen.
Before the dark ecliptic track
had run to course
and left our days undone.

A new poem for the Poetry Pantry

Friday, March 4, 2016

Perfect Words

©  2016 Steve King
All rights reserved

One day I’ll greet the word that I require,
to draw all thoughts into the brighter light.
The catechism of my dark intent
shall let its meanings flourish as they might.

Then would I find the lyrics resident
in every shadow where old musings dwell;
for never have they found a true release
to satisfy the moments that I tell.

It seems I measure only fickle things:
the moods, the feelings, or the hope that wanes
beneath the weight of every new regret.

Each passing instant of imagining
bequeaths a corpus of fragile remains,
all shades and ashes I must soon forget.

A new poem for the Poetry Pantry

Monday, February 22, 2016

Seven Wives
© 2016 Steve King
All rights reserved

My boots have seven lace holes,
my shirts have seven buttons,
and I work for seven days
so I don’t want fer nothin’.

If I live ‘til seventy
I’ll take the rest for granted;
still have time for seven wives,
the same as grampy wanted.

A new poem (of sorts) for Imaginary Gardens....

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sonnet: In the Quiet Hour

©  2016 Steve King
All rights reserved

It would be a mistake for you to feel
my silence as a shield against your love,
for I have ever held you close in thought
to fill the shadows that are gathered close—
and kept you in those dreams and wonderings,
forever at the heart of my repose.
I look to find a song to make you glad,
to bridge this darkness that will not requite,
a faith to bend my wishing to your needs,
to break your silence, that my silence brings.

My stubborn orbit soon will be unwound,
to feel the patient tenure of your pull,
no more eclipsing radiant delights,
nor folly to resist that final fall.

A new poem for Poetry Pantry

Sunday, January 17, 2016


©  2016 Steve King
All rights reserved

I can’t believe in ghosts—
at all.

Not me.

That sound I hear
is just the ancient clock
crying out cruel hours
and a cache of ruined days;
vagrant seconds spilling
on the threshold of that dark hallway.

I would say
I’ve never seen a ghost.
Strange fancies fall away
at will before my gaze—
as if undone by magic;
that is, if I believed in magic,
if it were allowable
beyond the issuance of dreams,
although each dream itself might seem as real.

I have never felt a ghost, nohow.
That breeze upon my neck
is from the unthought open window
beckoning strange airs
through all the attic maze,
up and down the shadowed stairs
and settling here, easy as can be,
close within this dusty window seat.

I have never held a ghost,
though I have tried:
the semblance of a memory,
husks of undone wishes,
rustling through all useful life,
endowing form to shades of other days.
But seldom in my ready moods
have spirits ever lingered to obey.

Yes, I have paused for many things
as they have come my way.
Most kinds of things, okay…
but never once an honest ghost.

Not me. 
Not ever nowadays.

A new poem for Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads

Monday, January 4, 2016


©  2016 Steve King
All rights reserved

These nights are never empty;
There will be a beat
to mark the waxing moment,
a drumming note to fill
each dreaming space.

But I will never know
if I am hearing or intoning,
listener or speaker;
or if the moment falls an idle thing,
tolling out the faint remains
of conscience staking claim.

I cannot say how any dream is held,
nor how it disappears,
nor whence it springs to hover briefly near:
always some unseen vantage,
where one may not follow.

But its pull is always felt,
and whispers well
of things that I should know,
or would have done,
or might desire,
just so.

Unmetered psalms of my own brief,
echo through the reflections—
all moments that suffice to gather
such a soul as mine.
And all the well-worn hopes remain
that one day they shall bring
a kind of peace.

Were I the sainted kind
I might make orisons of these,
curry spirits with incense,
beatitudes and hope,
even that singular one
to banish every doubt.

But the moment brooks no prayer,
and I must rightly stretch the word
to feel akin to any kind of grace.
I understand:  not every moment needs a name,
that triumph rarely may sustain,
that laughter clings but briefly to the air,
while seas of tears do nourish our domain.

And every moment shall renew.

Even love,
and every friend,
may only for a time be true.

The quotidian march
upon this spinning place puzzles:
every start and end will seem the same.
A humbling passage to embrace,
but should it measure happiness or care,
I know that I shall always march again.

Alas there are no ready gods to blame,
though unseen voices gather near;
though whirlwinds clamor at each turn,
to shout me down,
but never to explain.

A new poem for Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads