A poem written by my daughter when she was 10

The Earthworm

by
Mindi Dawn

I had, I had an earthworm
To squirm, squirm, squirm
It was for my plant
It’s name was Ant
It dimmed the light
It died that night
It was doomed
There was a boom
It had nieces
We picked up the pieces
We put them in a box
We used a lot of locks
I had, I had an earthworm
To squirm, squirm, squirm

Glacier

Can I find some peace of mind,
to dull the horrid daily grind,
or should I taste the bitter rind,
whose poison quells all pain?

Will I fight another day,
am I the one my Id will slay,
and what will be the price to pay,
to end this sad refrain.

From time to time I am compelled,
to neuter what I cannot geld,
that which never can be held,
melting in the rain.

Driven by the summer breeze,
to dash against the leafless trees,
then thrust to ground on brittle knees,
and never walk again.

Lifeless dreams through sightless eyes,
dance across the heartless skies,
and sing a ghastly last reprise,
that burns into my brain.

Empty husk of parasites,
humbled by a thousand bites,
drained of self and filled with mites,
resistance is in vain.

Flaccid with my stuffing gone,
darkness now defies the dawn,
time stands still, then marches on,
a pointless trackless train.

Into earth my substance crumbles,
while the time train clacks and rumbles,
all I was is lost to mumbles,
neither sharp nor sane.

Now as if I wasn’t there,
self is shadow, breath is air,
nothing left to be aware,
a terminal moraine.

NOTES:

So, you see, it is about the death of a glacier. But the weird part is, I didn’t know that until after I wrote it.

All through the creative process I thought I was describing a despondent burned-out person, though I, myself, am in quite a positive mood of late.

It felt strange writing this – different than usual. Each stanza came together organically, and though each was about the same issue of loss of self, each was also centered around a completely different kind of imagery.

The stanzas really didn’t seem connected by a central spine or theme, just that sense of loss of self. In fact, taken together, I felt they were just chaotic glimpses into the storyteller’s psyche.

In terms of the creative process, all went smoothly until I arrived at the very last line. After every previous rhyme falling easily into place, I couldn’t (for the life of me) figure out how I wanted it to end.

So, for the first time on this project, I opened the rhyming dictionary and scanned through hundreds of multi-syllable words that rhymed with “pain.”

Nothing jumped out at me until I stumbled across “terminal moraine.” That was it! Perfect ending – terminal having the double meaning of mortality, which seemed to fit with this poor narrators description of his life experiences.

So, I plopped in that last line, re-read it a few times and published it on my blog under the title “A Way Out,” still believing it to be about this person.

Didn’t like the title though. Seemed mamby pamby. I decided to re-read the poem a few more times and after perhaps half a dozen readings, going from the end back to the beginning, I read “terminal moraine” immediately followed by “daily grind.” And that’s when it hit me – those two phrases sound like they are describing a glacier!

“No….” I thought. “It can’t be….” So I read it once more with “death of a glacier” in mind and holy crap! Every stanza – every WORD rang true to that theme, as if it had been intentionally written all along to describe the last days of a glacier’s life.

Now that has never happened to me before, and I’m kind of blown away by it. The poem is good and the imagery works with any title, but “Glacier” is that missing thread that elevates the poem from a collection of images to a single topic, explored.

I’d say at least half of the artistic impact of the poem derives from seeing it as the end of a glacier. And so, I really don’t feel right taking credit for that since that didn’t happen until the poem was already completed. Hence, this “apology” for the quality of the work.

Still, this brings up an interesting aspect of the writing craft. I’ pretty sure my subconscious knew full well what it was writing about from the get-go. It just didn’t fill me in on it until the end.

I’e read many accounts where readers find so much meaning in a poem, a story, or a song that was never intended by the author, who denies that meaning intently.

And yet, as creators, we all know we have over-active imaginations, and a lot of what goes on with that comes from the subconscious. That’s where inspirations come from and it is the source of those moment of epiphany that pop up in Eureka moments.

It is my belief that the truly great writers are those whose subconscious works to instill far more meaning in their stories than that of which the author is ever consciously aware. THAT is the quality that infuses depth and complexity into the piece and draws the readers into a multi-level multi-faceted experience.

This latest effort has driven that home to me yet again – that the best way to construct a story is to let your mind set the destination and your heart chart the course.

For what it’s worth…

Pure Black Nothing

From a poem I co-wrote with my best friend in high school and recently found and lost again in an unmarked box like so many others:

Things left undone,
Thoughts left unsaid,
Unfulfilled promises,
Made to the dead.

Black velvet timepiece,
Spinning in space,
Screaming out loud,
With its hands on its face.

I thought of this today after stumbling across a favorite poem on the internet by T.S. Eliot – The Hollow men, which includes such lines as:

We are the hollow men,
We are the stuffed men,

AND

This is the way the world ends,
This is the way the world ends,
This is the way the world ends,
Not with a bang but a whimper.

And this brings to mind a song by Tom Waits that was included in the 12 Monkeys soundtrack: “And the World Died Screaming.” Hell of a song.

When I co-wrote the poem above (entitled “Pure Black Nothing”) it was part of my teenage exploration of the meaning of existence and of life and of death. But though it clearly bears some influence from The Hollow Men, it was never in my mind as I wrote it along with my high school pal, Bill Krasner).

Since that date, I have written several poems that seem similarly influenced, though never consciously, or at least barking at the same darkness that shook Thomas out of his slumber to rail against the coming of the night.

Here are some of them for your reading pleasure:

This one is called “Lulladie”

My emotions are dead
and lack any resistance
to the onslaught of logic’s
relentless persistence.

I’m malleable, moveable,
flexible, still.
I succumb with aplomb,
as I alter my will

to conform to the pressures
that weigh on my soul
without motive, or method,
opinion, or goal.

They reach for the stars,
as they stand on our hearts,
and they sell us off piecemeal,
parcels and parts.

They slice us to mincemeat
and padlock the door,
while our blood runs quite freely
through holes in the floor.

But nothing is wasted,
tho’ everything’s lost.
So our blood is recycled
to offset the cost.

We huddle in darkness
yet shy from the fire
to howl at the moon
with the rest of the choir.

And when the glow wanes,
we stoke it with dreams
in hopes that the crackle
will drown out our screams.

You sleep in your bed
and you doze in your chair.
Your cushions are comfy
and so is your air.

But your heartache grows heavy,
as well as your head,
‘til you nod away, nod away,
nod away, dead.

Here’s another called “The Luminary”

Like moth to flame,
I shade the light,
from fleas below,
who know not flight.

Pigs can’t fly,
and saints are sinners.
So it seems,
to most beginners.

Then they see,
the pigs take wing,
and soon believe,
in everything.

“Life is chilly:
find a fire!”
writes the prophet,
and the liar.

“Don’t dispair,
there is no hope.
So why not dance,
instead of mope?”

“Feed a cold,
and starve a fever,”
chants the faithful,
unbeliever,

grasping for,
the mother lode,
to read verbatim,
words in code.

So I sought,
illumination,
making love,
to conflagration.

“God,” I pleaded,
with the sun,
“don’t let me be,
the only one.”

Then from the sun,
there came a moan,
that sounded like,
“You’re not alone.”

I spiralled in,
with squinted eyes,
to gaze on one,
who was so wise.

The flame I sought,
on wings of cloth,
was just another,
burning moth.

Hear the sizzle,
smell the fry,
when near the sun,
some pig will fly.

Cheer the bacon,
stone the whore,
and never mind,
the crashing boar.

And as it falls,
its dimming light,
is now replaced,
as I ignite.

“My wings!” I cried,
are charred and smoking.”
“No!” they chide,
“you must be joking.”

They watched as I,
went up in glory,
to spin a tale,
weave a story.

“Touch the fabric,
though it pains me.
See the pattern,
that explains me.”

When I finally,
fell to ground,
my ashes did not,
make a sound,

For angst is gone,
when there’s no art,
as pain is gone,
when there’s no heart.

The only light,
that truly shines,
is that which falls,
between the lines.

So read my lips,
don’t read my words:
fleas aren’t moths,
and moths aren’t birds.

Will the last one here,
please turn out the light?

And finally, I call this one “Verbatim”

Have you ever wished
you had something to say
to open the heart
or capture the day.

To dissect the mind
or rally the cause,
but your words come up empty,
like stasis on pause.

So you put up your web site
and type in your Word:
a mouthpiece for Gurus
who want to be herd.

You stamp out a template
and auction your ware
that builds them a stairway
for climbing up air.

You translate their yearnings,
transfigure their Muse,
with a medium message
divine in its use.

Yet a lukewarm reception
devours your spiel,
consumed and digested
by The Zombies of Zeal.

For years you persist
in your nebulous quest
toward a furious sound
of infinite jest.

And you never look back
as your life passes by
to present as reflections
not seen through your eye.

But one day you wake
with a pain in your gut
that your fame is a fake
and your mountain, a rut.

So you fall from the sky
’til your life’s on the level
to lie in your bed
while embracing the Devil.

And you sing with the sirens
a glorious wail,
obscuring the site
of the Visioner’s Grail.

And the auctioneer’s gavel
indentures the Muse
and takes a percentage
of all whom she screws.

But one day She dies,
consumed with the clap,
and Her audience cries
as it lays in your lap.

So you cradle its head,
as it cradles yours,
and you wish you were dead
(save the proceeds from tours.)

But it isn’t the money,
nor is it the fame,
and it never was simply
the name of the game.

And it isn’t the insight
of getting there first,
nor the common law marriage
of better and worst.

You keep scratching your head
’til it coughs up a thought
in the hope it tastes better
than those that you bought.

You savor the flavor
that burns through your tongue,
for Truth leaves you speechless
and breathless and young.

And the answers you sought
with obtuse nomenclature
turn out to be more
of a personal nature.

So the final few words
of the self-focused work
provide answers for me.

Okay, still with me here? My sympathies. But you have been honored. This is the first entry in a new book I am writing about my life.

I am actually planning two series of books – one, a topical autobiography that abandons the tradition of writing about one’s life in chronological order, which is not the way we think of ourselves at all, but to pick a topic such as “dogs” or “camping” or “injuries” and then doing a core dump of everything I can recall in regard to that topic that touch upon my life directly in my experiences. Each such essay will illuminate the sum of influences that have fashioned my thoughts and feelings about that subject and therefore that have fashioned and shaped my self.

The other book series is to be called “Meanderings” and rather than sticking to one topic and exploring it in depth, the essays for this book will shift from one topic to another as we do in conversation until the train of thought peters out under its own weight. This will document my manner of thinking counterpointing the first book series so that one describes the forces at work with me and the other describes how my mind cascades.

I have made several aborted attempts at an autobiography over the years, but was never pleased with the structure, which was also confining and stilted the Muse.

Hopefully these two book series (a new volume whenever I’ve filled up the last one) will be more satisfactory, as one document my life in space (by topic) and the other in time (by progression of consciousness).

So who cares? Probably no one. I am not a celebrity, and though I have accomplished some things and have a knack with words, none of this is particularly noteworthy.

But still, each of us, in our totality is unique and have our own one of a kind voice. So in the end, perhaps, there will be those who find some value here.

Introduction to my newest book of poems…

Pete stumbled backward as John advanced upon him with the staple gun. John grabbed Pete by the throat and shoved him hard against the wall, thrusting the tool into his face.

Veering off at the last moment, he stapled Pete’s shirt sleeve, then the other, the sides of his shirt, and his pants, until Pete was fastened helpless to the cheap wood paneling.

“Now,” shouted John, “you will listen to my poetry!”

“For the love of God, Montresor!” pleaded Pete.

“Damn Straight!” replied John, and he began to read…

(This is the opening for my newest book of poetry)

Admonition

God bless your foul words and deeds.
God bless your cruel life.
And praise be unto that which feeds
your anger and your strife.

Hosanna to your hate and rage
and all the filth that bind you.
And then again a loud– “Amen”
So God knows where to find you.

The Company Song

Here are the lyrics to a song I wrote many years ago when I was part of the workaday world:

THE COMPANY SONG

By Melanie Anne Phillips

Every morning I cling to my bed,
While lost opportunities dance in my head.
No time for problems or pleasures or life,
I gotta win bread for the kids and the wife,
SO I’M SINGING THE COMPANY SONG.

Race through the door so the card gets its punch,
Open my locker and throw in my lunch.
Hundreds of papers and thousands of parts,
When they blow the whistle the whole damn thing starts,
AND I’M SINGING THE COMPANY SONG

Every two hours a ten minute break,
But don’t fall behind on the things that you make.
Meet all your deadlines, your quotas and goals,
And maybe you’ll get a small raise, but who knows,
WHEN YOUR SINGING THE COMPANY SONG.

When I was younger, I used to wonder
What would I be when I grew?
I never considered the way its turn out,
I would’ve stayed young if I knew.

Privateer politics, cloaked in good will,
Backstabbing rumors that wound more than kill,
Lack of respect and the pain that it brings,
These are a few of my favorite things,
WHEN I’M SINGING THE COMPANY SONG.

Don’t make suggestions and don’t act too smart,
Or thirty-year fools will take you apart.
Humor the fools and buy them their beers,
And you’ll be a fool in thirty odd years,
WHEN YOU’RE SINGING THE COMPANY SONG.

Now that I’m older, sometimes I wonder
How it turned out this way?
But somehow the answer becomes more obscure,
Or just matters less every day.

Now, I’ve got security, you understand,
In a ten percent vested retirement plan.
And if I should die, well there’s no need to grieve,
They won’t let me go ’cause I’m out of sick leave,
AND I’M SINGING THE COMPANY SONG,

I’m singing the company song.

— From my “Tarnished Karma” album