You Don’t Say, free verse by @jackaurquhart

©2014 by Jack Andrew Urquhart

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People say the damnedest things,
people meaning, you, of course—
say you can’t stand your mother,
whose definition of trauma
is a frizzled permanent wave.

Say that your children’s lunacy
makes of you a mental slave,
that their pecuniary dramas
bore you to bankruptcy.

 

 

Say you’d like to weed them—????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
these bush-league blossoms—
from the rose garden
of your verdant dreams.

Say anything, in fact,
to blunt the prick and prickle
of these thorns in your side.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????You don’t say
truth, of course:
that love is petulant
as a posy,
flagging and flowering
to the whims                                                           of temperamental climate;
that devotion can be cruel
and constant,
one day nurturing as a spring shower,
all drought and idle threats
the next.

 

You don’t say
the worst is complete conceit,????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
not a ghost of a chance
you’d follow through.

And so, your words
come back to haunt you—
every shade of hubris
every bald-face lie.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????You don’t say
it serves you right,
damn fool!

To think that you
could make a master gardener,
to think that you
(of all people!)
could coax bouquets
from a briar patch.

            ***

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Surrendering to Cliché, free verse by @jackaurquhart

©2014 by Jack A. Urquhart

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One after another, they fall—
chestnuts
from the hospital bed,
the utterances of old age:
“ ‘Beats me, how time
gets away,”
she crepitates,
this crisp
of sun-dried human being,
this wisp
of ossified womanhood.
“In my mirror this morning,
a face like flotsam,
a stranger,
half-dead;
eyes hard 
as driftwood.
Not me at all!”

And indeed!  You remember
her washed away glory,
her once-upon-a-time
top-down glamour,
movie-star tresses
frothing,
wind wafting from an Olds
Super Eighty-Eight.
Yet even then, some hint
Of a battle born state;
some white-washed
mysterious loss
never to be mentioned?

How you ached
to be like her then.
And now, you are:
same hawkish profile,
and withered smile;
same hypothermic eyes
benumbed
in their hollows.
“Yes,” you concede,
considering your own
unspeakables.
“We’re changed by our lives,”
you prattle,
surrendering to cliché.
“Changed into someone else.”

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Pheromones, free verse by @jackaurquhart

©2014 by Jack A. Urquhart

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Is it ‘cause of them?”
my daughter asked,
setting aside her dolls,
her Pretty Ponies
with their rainbow manes.
Those fairymoans?” she stammered,
wide eyes the color
of sunset canyons.
“Is that why—
why you want to be
with him?”

Embarrassed, unrehearsed
for sudden exposure,
I must’ve betrayed myself
by patronizing smile.
Because she cocked her head,
assumed an I’m-not-a-baby
arms akimbo stance.

“Mom says so!” she blurted,
pitching me a sideways glance.
“Mom says you can’t help it,
that it’s a magic spell—
those fairymoans,”
my daughter flared.
“Says they make you come running.
Just like a puppy dog.”

Shocked by her savvy,
I must’ve barked in response:
Do you even know what that means?
Because she came to me then,
shoulders squared to the burden.
“ ‘Course I do,” my daughter sighed,
squirming into my lap,
not such a big girl anymore.
“It’s ‘cause they have a bad hurting inside,”
she said, eyes brimming at the notion:
“those fairies.”

This was long ago,
but I remember I wanted to cry.
Yes, that’s right, I think I said instead.
Some of them do.

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Queer Science: free verse by @jackaurquhart

©2014 by Jack A. Urquhart????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Do you know Einstein’s Law
of Photoelectric Effect—
how electrons can lose
their metallic bonds,
become sub-atomic emissions,
spun solo into space?
Well, neither do I.  Not really.
Only layman’s knowledge.

Just enough to speculate,
to guess how P.E. might explain
the way it was with us:
how I couldn’t keep a “natural” orbit,
couldn’t defy nature
(much less Einstein!)
to keep metal-mighty and mated
to you.

Ironic, don’t you agree—
the alchemy of attraction?
How all that’s required
is a bundle of bright.
How a tiny photon
shed just right,
can break the mettle
of a man.

That is the thing
I can’t get past:
how Albert got us right,
how it was light
that parted us
just enough of it
to shatter ironclad bonds,
send electrons reeling.

Quite the matriculation, that—
to be so suddenly freed,
thinking how alone I’d be,
thinking how unlikely:
the queer science
of like attracting like.
But then I never was any good
at chemistry.

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“March”: a poem by @jackaurquhart

March


(Some free verse … for my son, Dillon)

March

You were tardy aborning,
a day late and mad
— —as a March hare;
it took a suction cap
to coax you
into the world.

Pushed to fight or flight,
a blood-slick wild thing,
you came roaring,
and wailing,
raising a ruckus
to life.

It was storming
that afternoon,
the month of March
blowing up a blizzard,
the foothills whipped
blinding white.

I remember your shock:
how you grimaced
through the introductions,
how you blinked
against the merciless
light of day.

I remember your ruddy fists, too—
duked and flailing
before a wizened face—
as if you expected it:
the hard fight
to follow;

As if you understood: 
that you would go out
— —like a lamb;
that everyone here
begins a death march
aborning.

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A Birthday Wish For Dillon, by @jackaurquhart

©2014 by Jack Andrew Urquhart

“Birthday wishes have power for good or ill because one is closer to the spirit world on this day.” The Lore of Birthdays (New York, 1952)

“Birthday wishes have power for good or ill because one is closer to the spirit world on this day.” The Lore of Birthdays (New York, 1952)

682 words

Dear Dillon, Dear Son,

It’s March again—what would have been your thirty-fifth birthday arriving hard and heavy on the heels of Ash Wednesday this year.

I say hard and heavy because it feels that way.  It feels like a rock.  A boulder.  Like a millstone.  That is how extravagantly your absence weighs—an excess of grief that I’d gladly give up for Lent if only that were possible.

Instead, I keep thinking, You should be here!  Not cinders in a box.  Not just your ashes to mark the day.

And yes, even this die-hard agnostic knows that Lent has always been about self-denial and penance.  All about atonement.  And I have much to atone for.  After all, I lost You, didn’t I?  Surely there is transgression in that.

And now, as if by way of confirmation, it comes again—comes in your absence: March 8th, your birthday.

No gaudy, bespangled birthday cake this year.  No dazzling display of candles either.

It wasn’t always so.

What parties we threw when You and your sister were little!  Such grand fêtes: plenty of cake and ice cream and candles then—and party favors, too; and sleepovers with your pals from school.  Remember the year a Magician showed up to perform feats of prestidigitation with cards and balloons?  The year your sister insisted on a “My Pretty Pony” birthday cake?

Your mother and I loved planning those annual celebrations; we loved throwing a party for the whole neighborhood—your aunts, uncles, even your grandparents flying in from New Orleans.  Lord, how You and Devon gorged on the sweets, on the bonbons and pralines that Mo and Gerry brought from the Big Easy!  There were lots of presents, too—way too many presents; and You laughing, beaming as You ripped through yours in a whirlwind of paper and ribbons.

Such happy times when your birthday Marched around, Dillon—and how delighted You were to be the center of attention.

But the mood changed over time, didn’t it—your mood?  Growing darker and heavier as You moved into adolescence and beyond, the weight of the passing years increasingly oppressive.  Until the burden seemed to trigger an annual panic in You.

Perhaps it was the illness slowly saturating your brain, the chemical voices in your head bonding You in hopelessness, their chatter ever more persuasive—convincing You that there was no cause for celebration in yet another depressing birthday milestone.

We, your family, began to watch for them, your annual bouts of sadness.  Even to plan and prepare for them.

Or so we thought.

If only we’d understood!

If only I’d fathomed how ponderous and solitary the burden of your illness.  So much weightier than simply finding the right medication.  Maybe that extra bit of effort would’ve made a difference?  Maybe together we might have found a way to bring back the celebration?

Maybe I wouldn’t have lost You?

I don’t know.

I only know that it’s your birthday—and that I have reminiscence instead of a living son.

And your ashes, of course.

I have your ashes in a box to mark the day.

I’m not sure why I hold onto them so doggedly—your corporeal remains.  Something to do with mourning and contrition, I expect; or perhaps it’s just that I don’t want to let You go.  Not quite yet.  Not even for Lent.

And yes, I know that soon I must.

I tell myself that there might be happiness in releasing You to the winds, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, all your pain burned away to cinders.  Maybe even something akin to joy in seeing that elemental part of You borne aloft and one with creation?  Not solitary anymore?

Or afraid?

Not heavy?

Rather, light as air?

Which sounds pretty wonderful, doesn’t it?  Sort of like starting over, all new and fresh?  Surely there would be cause for celebration in that?  In being reborn?

Maybe that is what your Daddy will wish for, Dillon—what I’ll wish for this year when I light a candle for You:

A very Happy Re-Birthday, Dear, Beloved, Son.

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When God Happens, by @jackaurquhart

“The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.” ― Rob Bell

“The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.”
― Rob Bell

© 2014 by Jack A. Urquhart     562 words

I have been thinking a lot about God and religion lately or, perhaps more aptly, about the place that notions of Deity figure in my life.  Which is not typically a very big space.  That is, until it is.

That egregious contradiction may not make sense, but then neither have the notions of Godliness embedded in the various religions I’ve studied over the last 5+ decades.  That “education” would include prolonged explorations of several protestant sects—most notably, the Southern Baptists—as well as forays into Catholicism, Anglicanism, and even brief matriculations in Judaism and the Latter Day Saints (Mormonism).

None were comfortable fits.  None saved my soul.

That is because, to my mind, each of those institutions, each “ism” and “ist,” presents such a desperate, primitive, even ridiculously humanized fiction of the Almighty—vengeful, jealous, outrageous, and vain; a God made in man’s image—as to beggar the notion of an infinitely majestic, all-encompassing and unknowable Creator.

I do not share these reactions in order to disrespect those who find respite in organized religion, but rather to express the struggles of my experience.  Try as I may—and I have, for decades!—I cannot found my faith in the credibility-defying sifting sands of any religious empire promulgating notions of the Divine that:

  • Are steeped in bloody human sacrifice as the price of God’s love and redemption (e.g., the Crucifixion);
  • Insist upon Supernal dogma in defiance of scientific possibility (e.g., the Virgin Birth);
  • Are rooted in convictions of ontological superiority (e.g., Jews as the One Chosen People); or that
  • Channel so-called divine doctrines via all too human—and thus, fallible—prophets (take your pick from among the many Abrahams, Matthews, Marks, Lukes, Johns, Peters, Josephs, et al!).

Indeed, it seems to me that too many of the “venerable institutions” of Godliness present a dogma besmirched on nearly every page by the anxious fingerprints of their human “creators.”

But all that aside (and yes, it’s quite a little rant), it would be a lie to say that I have eradicated God from my life.  Hardly that.  God still happens.

In truth, my notions of divinity offer a case study in cognitive dissonance: for me, there is no Deity—until there is.

Most times, the Almighty lies far from me, an unknowable seed, fallow in the deep, dark cosmos—all but fictitious.  Like life itself, I find it takes a perfect fertile moment to make God real, to bring He, She, It, Who Knows What into existence.  But sure enough, now and then, Divinity happens, born unbidden—and almost always in the rare moment of extreme joy or despair.

My God happens inside the small epiphany—the moment that comes while walking through a snow frosted forest, while gazing into the starry midnight heavens, or in the still, solemn, heart-breaking moment accompanying the death of a beloved child.  It is then, in the miraculous instant, that the Magisterium—not of any man-made church but rather, the universe itself—is revealed.  To little me!  Revealed in a split second of, yes, Divine wonder.  Beyond words.

And then I Know.

I know that there is Something more; Something more grand, more holy than any human imagination can divine.  Something unfathomable, whose infinitude is beyond dogma.  Beyond language.  And, for a little while, I am sustained.

For a little while, I am saved.

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