28 February 2019

#28 - borders

The Chevalier d'√Čon (1728–1810) French diplomat, soldier and spy 

some maps imply a knowledge so profound
that we might view their borders as a truth
but maps are circumspect and honour-bound
a contract is no substitute for proof

a border is an elemental thing
its barricade a permeable thought
there is a hinterland to which we cling
a false dichotomy however fraught

we each must stand somewhere in No Man’s Land
as points in an uncountable array
the border is a castle in the sand
and soon the tide will wash the lines away

a border is a barricade to break
a border is a dull persistent ache


by Thomas Stewart (National Portrait Gallery, London)

#27 - Coils

Nikola Tesla – engineer, inventor, futurist, pigeon-fancier (1856-1943)

He cups my head and tells me I’ll be fine –
He’s built a cage especially for me.
Of all his loves I am the most divine;
To save my life he would pay any fee.

He tells me dreams – of lightning tamed and caught,
Of mankind magnified by unseen waves,
And something else, enshrined in loving thought,
To blast his enemies beyond all graves.

But Nikola no longer musters hosts;
Investors are short-sighted, stunted men –
They doubt his genius, call his visions boasts,
But we know that his star will rise again.

His name will etch the Heavens, scored by nerds
For now he’ll spend his grace on us poor birds.


By Napoleon Sarony - postcard (radiographics.rsna.org), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26187019
Tesla, aged 34, circa 1890. Photo by Napoleon Sarony

26 February 2019

#26 - Her Smoke Rose Up Forever

Alice Bradley Sheldon (1915 - 1987) - science fiction author

"I know goddam well what's out there, under all those masks. Beauty and Power and Terror and Love."

And I awoke and found me here alone
still dreaming on this gleaming alien shore,
compelled to document and to explore
the monuments and signs of the unknown
where love is love, on winds of whimsy blown,
where love decides exactly what love's for,
where love is hope and fear and peace and war,
where love abides, so many years from home.

Decipher me with someone else's creed,
project on me the prejudice you hide,
embody me with myths on which you feed
the grizzled veteran and the modest bride.
Give me a gun to kill the one I need,
then lay me down upon the cold hill's side.


25 February 2019

#25 - Beyond

Laurence Michael Dillon (1915 -1962) was a British physician and the first trans man to undergo phalloplasty

Right. “Where the mind cannot be made to fit,
the body should be made to fit the mind.”
Now that’s a quote (abridged, as I’m confined
by metric form) that made me think a bit.
For, as an aging man with budding tits,
expanding gut, to walking sticks resigned,
my brain is asking to be reassigned –
a body closer to a young Brad Pitt’s.
So kids – take care. I’ll close this month of rhyme
(it’s been a blast as always – Hello Fay!)
by thanking you, dear readers, for your time,
and leave myself just two more lines to say:
be thankful for each day of health you’ve had,
and don’t forget to exercise a tad.


24 February 2019

#24 - Tears of a Clown

Joseph Grimaldi (1778-1837) English actor, comedian and dancer.

A clown is meant to be a cheerful fool,
distracting guests from every plague and plight,
but usually we’re gloomy, as a rule:
I’m Grim-all-day, though I may smile at night.

The painted grin is just a crude disguise
to camouflage the turmoil underneath.
Look closely and you’ll see the saddest eyes –
a man who’s drained of all his self-belief.

I can't escape the howling in my head
but what else can I do? I am so old.
I’ve acted here for years, it’s all I know.

A smiling harlequin in white and red
and when I’m not on stage, I feel so cold.
The show must go on! So, on with the show!


Joseph Grimaldi and Joey the Clown 

23 February 2019

#23 - A Wider Horizon

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin – groundbreaking astrophysicist and first woman to head a department at Harvard University (1900-1979)

While waiting for the rest to reach your height
You graded faith to mark it dubious,
Yet labelled inspiration numinous,
And showed how heavenly bodies talk at night.
Where others trudged in darkness, you saw light;
Where they stayed safe you dared the luminous,
Found early on that Fear kills Curious
And learned to keep achievements out of sight.

But those before you taught resilience
And some fires can’t be hidden – that’s the truth:
The skies blaze messages not of this earth.

They finally unveiled your proper worth;
Soft voices hailed the insight of your youth.
You changed the ways we value brilliance.


Incidentally, the Wikipedia entry is pretty dry – I also recommend looking at quotes attributed to her, for example: here, which last is where the title of the poem comes from.

(And yes: I’ve screwed with the proper rhyme scheme because sod Petrarch I’m a creative, that’s why...)

22 February 2019

#22 - Fiat Lux

Aurora rises swift across the plains
and forests of a land that's left behind
once sold across the western sea in chains,
she holds that childhood vision in her mind.

And where white men are fighting to control
by whips and laws, by bible, hymn and psalm
all aspects of another person's soul,
the wonders of the classics are her balm.

So Virgil, Horace, Homer, Milton, Pope
bring consolation to a suffering heart
for though the saviour might yet give one hope,
humanity lies at the crux of art.

The Lord is master of all cruelty.
But maybe, maybe, He can set you free.