Begin with bent brow in hands and hands unfolding,
hinged doors as wings of the suddenly happy bird,
hopeful as Dickinson’s in that opening,
in those feathers spreading, encompassing horizons,
the visions wide & present, calling to & from the soul.
Now even these fallow fields are less depressing,
still being of earth, its potential, to just blend
with rich compost, keep moist and wait
with the clarity of deep breaths taken, released.
Hands in rich silt are mere flesh
made of water and air, the synthesis of elements,
the celestial given physical form.
Is this what real unidentified angels
actually are everywhere,
and the great patterns of their work
evident in the ploughed furrows,
those waves churned over & up?
Humble and holy come other stored examples
in the heart and the head.
Sample now Grandma’s drawers of saved twisted bread
ties, baggies, folded aluminum squares
whose crinkles were cleansed,
scents smoothed under water to dry amid dishes.
The next space which opens fans with cards of
gin rummy, fancy suits flat against cushioned
table mats ringed with the blue of Grandpa’s cigars.
The green glass corners of his ashtray
forms a diamond of use graced
by the tall frosted gold pillar of beer.
A little salt gives the best head, froth whiskers tickling
the tongue’s tip refreshed past that entrance
of the old gas stove’s aroma amid the dust and lead paint
of that sunny lead-in back porch.
This is the covenant of how blessings
open out from each other, snow-globe contained
but macro from the micro producing vistas
further and farther.
What other extreme unction to ask for than that?
What more really to want for ever?
(For Louis Enrique Mejia Godoy)
Will indeed be
a pleasure, say
some acid burns on each still
(We agree. Can’t wait.)
Add these lime-laden eyes
remembering that sack & almost
asphyxiation in lungs yet too raw
for adding their two cents.
The will shall have to compensate,
one spirit taking prayer
& honing its frantic edge
toward the faith of some future soothing
every scar which winces with salt. Also
there, in that sphere, distant as
peace, the torturers, having lost
ground & passed into freedom’s blow,
will have no choice
but to live knowing
that their vileness failed.
This is my dream anyway, the revenge
of a good life handed to everyone
descending from repression with hope
savored because of all the vaccines poured
orange as mercurochrome under the sun’s gold.
Bleeding For Jaco
Electricity gone awry… boundary lines blurring…
the jarring of feedback, the blisters of static
where, from amps, scabs bleed…
Jaco, who were you? The homeboy made good?
The mutt derelict genius?
The usual labels as commentary, tragic speculations all…
We cough up explanations to digest brutality
& then remember…
Duality looks deeper. Gropes for control:
Your callused fingers cut by bass strings,
the palm ripped, a gash pouring jazz…
Physically too: the bones of your face shattered,
having been beaten outside some pub.
Blood is a poignant reference, a vivid metaphor for pain.
But what sabotaged you, Jaco? The ecstasy of an Icarus,
with the eyes of the drowned?
The surplus of ground zero conveys abrupt shots:
the numbing by lithium, the detox quarantine.
Yet life you still attempted, blinking an eye, twitching
a toe, & Jaco,
It wasn’t madness that drove you, but bloods’ pure notes.
A virtuoso from day one, a whole improvised opus you became,
to rock out, rock out, as a solo
This one, ten foot slate, a girder unearthed & returning.
These others are meniscuses too grey for reflecting
the sky sliding on each curve…
Here the post cards are all black ‘n white.
If any difference occurs shades blur it in a slap
of repeated graceful savagery.
Why be a non-conformist when insanity is all the rage?
Instead, weather tongues, the multitude’s mouth,
a basin with teeth gnashing to spit out…
Oh Deus, do you exist, & from such
a tough rugged heartland must not
wounds be genuinely felt, entered,
before healing can spark mercy?
Mama, I’m going in, goat-shaped froth
gnawing off despair’s crabgrass.
Where are my bones?
Now the pleated sheets form leaves, an excess
of light & the coast whitens.
In excelsis, purity burns liquid brimstone,
the amethyst face, hands, a spirit looks on
in tenderness, dispossessing memories,
a passage to float from & open upon
Baltic cliffs, Gibraltar balustrades—–
The other world, the other world,
this must be a birthing place.
The Photographer’s Pupil
(For D. Arbus)
A heart on the wind, you’d been opened that exposed,
waiting for initiative to take over, give way to instinct.
Imperative is clarity
utterly unmasked by the camera which hid you.
Then the subject’s impact would hit the pit of the stomach.
You were a portal from which the real sight blew through.
Vision extender, what you saw was recorded
not so much as documentary, but an intuitive view.
Does such gentle predatory perception replenish what feeds it?
Dimensions transcend the image & shudder forth cut.
How can I tell you your existence did the same?
Its traces wash fossil-like from the acid baths.
As you develop I grow astonished, senses reeling
with what yours’ encapsulated: the freaks & the street people,
the transvestites and circus attractions, all horrific & mortal,
Shy nymph, you crept up to them, finally asking permission &
then taking command. What a surprise! Their faces freed, all
artifice stripped, a psychological truth, now emblem-poignant.
Here I see the proof, their lives passing alibis, affidavits
without judgment. Yes, there’s no verdict in the flesh
except that it gives. But how did you go with it at your
own perilous risk: the last supper of Barbiturates
the slit wrist tub?
Now deep & enlivened, I attempt wading through.
I find you like a deer caught off guard, no empathy siphoned
from your quite earnest pupils. Just so, I am not vacant.
I walk from this crypt, its portfolio, & wander susceptibly.
You did too, more real in the dark, exploring the dank subway
tunnels, their wired tired tribes. The trains lurched & pulsed,
such tireless fury ritualized by your gaze.
In those eyes, both of us have known death,
have been there & come back.
but who taught that, & how does one live with the tie?
Stephen Mead is an Outsider multi-media artist and writer. Since the 1990s he’s been grateful to many editors for publishing his work in print zines and eventually online. He is also grateful to have managed to keep various day jobs for the Health Insurance. Currently he is resident artist/curator for The Chroma Museum, artistic renderings of LGBTQI historical figures, organizations and allies predominantly before Stonewall, The Chroma Museum.
You can find more of Stephen’s work here on Ink Pantry.