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