This is ice-fire, the layers
of veins, crystal hard from the centuries
which flowed & flow still
So us runaways, exiles, pariahs on
home turf know what blood is made in these jagged
streams carved between the shoves, the shaming shouts of:
“Shut up & get out!”
We know there is worth here & are miners of that resource
if fear won’t cripple belief, sell short the dream.
Look man, it’s all I got, got me
a ticket, got me a plan
though the streets took my man
& I’ve got a kid comin’ who’ll need something
besides skeletons I’ve been told, warned—–
better left in the closet.
Hell no. These are the roots, these are the voices to be brought out
in the light so as not to repeat things, so as to glean from the cracks
every rough shine teaching the gift of shelter—–
Can’t hock it, can only neglect—& I won’t—the estate of love
our arms deserved.
To be mad as hell at God put yourself in the shoes
of some dying subway runaway, some throwaway hustler.
Read, between news sheets: abuse, deprivation,
the shamed spirit stripped to an armor’s shine called Courage.
Lord, wrung out by fury & then flung adrift, what luck,
love will still establish anchors,
a network for, if not, leprosy, the unwanted,
only, a bad patch, antiseptics will come to replace caring.
This is bitter business, this death, a vandal desecrating every cell’s sanctity
& then hocking what’s left.
Come on, Heaven, besides blind righteousness,
cough up an explanation.
Though bile-loaded, I won’t shun it, nor surrender to numbing,
the foul predator of fury.
Here, in these trenches, empathy replenishes, paints word, forges Will.
Here, witnessing anguish, the hardest, most feared moment,
longing is a warrior angel for the gift of intimacy
staring pestilence down.
My, what a device, each a hand a hook
hoisting me up to squeeze & leak out.
Such a sump pump, this muscle,
only central and capable
of thinking like Mengele.
All day I can feel it,
cramping animal fitted to size,
a vice with incisors clicking worse than a clock.
I feed it minutes, all paintings
wax paper wrapped in order to keep,
but it peels them in self-preservation then roosts in their chips.
Oh old bulging crab heart, old warty crustacean, what do you want?
To be boiled and salted, your shell picked clean too?
I would do so gladly but your hide is too tough & you’d bite off my fingers.
I know how you operate,
every night performing surgery & regenerating like a messiah.
My body’s the Eucharist with an altar for a soul.
So break, humiliate me as you must
& have yourself a banquet.
Smoke & Sand
Hemmed by the tender resentments,
a lifetime’s invisible shroud giving a brand to the hands even
so all that is touched smells of caste-marks…
Yes, I am dissolving from this with the aid of specific spices
& liquefied ointment to anoint what is wrapped upon sand
by light muslin.
Waves come, waves biblical as revival tents at Saks,
& I smoke off into old summers, into the sensations of green.
Here is the psychology of poetry returning heat back to fluid,
& I will mix it like white chocolate into a chilled cocoanut drink.
the specifics of your mouth meant for sweetness,
that tang of risk, that volcano, that brook of your tongue
meant for desire alone…
Is it insanity this quest that I have should you belong to another
but still want me? So mad it may be, but whatever sun I now am,
borne from grit & from fog, pours full for your shores
as every beach waves.
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. Recently his work has appeared in CROW NAME, WORDPEACE and DuckuckMongoose. Currently he is resident artist/curator for The Chroma Museum, artistic renderings of LGBTQI historical figures, organizations and allies predominantly before Stonewall.
You can find more of Stephen’s work here on Ink Pantry.