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Poetry by Shigé Clark

"Let the battered heart rejoice"

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poetry

“What is this storm cloud?” he asked,
“why does it all seem
overcast?” and how do I explain that
seven years ago, a boy died, and a giant,
bloody chunk of me
went with him. And when
Ahmaud Arbery was gunned down in the street
last year, I saw his face and felt it
all again. Ragtime plays
in the shuffle, and I hear its echoes
yelling that we haven’t budged since then,
and ask myself—if Breonna Taylor had been
my friend, would I settle
for budging? The judging comes
too slow. And corpses pile up
like fall leaves on a poison wind
because of people braying over a cloth mask,
and am I expected to laugh?
To let it all pass by me
like a vapor—like I am not
still flesh, and blood, and anger?
With children packed
into cages and airplanes, and frightened
men dying under runway wheels—to make no mention
of finding plastic in new rain
and newborn veins, until
every birth feels like a bated death?

We learned well—the first thing you do
when taking fire is find
cover and concealment—then
fire back. Don’t lift your head
too high, don’t drop your guard until
the threat is dead. Should I instead dance
in this hailstorm of lead?
A cup of tea while we wait
for the volley to abate? Isn’t this rather where
we dig trenches, and hold the line?
Should I say that I’m fine, like people aren’t dying
for the greed of us?
For the need of just
a sliver of humanity—but
vanity, vanity, all is dust, and I’m
tired of breathing it in. It’s been
the dark before the dawn
for far too long. Too much
waiting for a new song to begin, like
the whole record hasn’t come unhinged—and I
keep rising like the tides
are changing, just to be
bowled over by the waves again,
like all these crying souls aren’t chained
into my skin, weighing
me into the deep. Like there haven’t been
too many funerals. Like my own
sinew and bone haven’t long since turned
against me.

I believe joy
will return. I believe in more
than what I feel. But for now,
is it not enough to stand as hollow steel
and let the dust winds blow
through your limbs, and whistle low
their dirges through you? Is it sin
to let it all undo you? Even
Christ himself was pierced through,
and laid to rest. Did he not also grieve though he knew
resurrection was coming? And before he was raised,
did he not first take his time in the grave?

I will not come away, but let me be
the broken clay of earth
that I am. The war is real,
and for the love of Love, a wound has to close
before it can heal.

The Last Two Coins

May be a black-and-white image of text that says 'You get it all. However small, I'm emptying the stores. The hope. The care. What wealth is there, the last two coins are Yours.'

I need you
to know, if this were
all, it would not only be
enough, but more
than I ever conceived – ever dared
in hoping for.
What a way to live – aflame
with trees, and sky, and sense, and
words like grain
pushing through the hard-packed earth.
Is it possible
to be so full
and not to burst?

That is why you must
know that this piece was enough
to bear the whole. A gasping at the brink
of tide. If this relief
is all you should provide, and even if
my lungs should shrivel in the sinking
now, it is well
received. Goodness is
carried far as grief. Our lighter
gift, too oft dimmed beneath
that oily blanket – but it
burns. It burns the longer,
through the age of man
and yonder. All else is
concealment, that lights at last
on the eternal flame.

I mean to say –

this one spark
proves all
enough
to burn
the dark
away.

to my weary warriors

A little poetic doodle for today:

I wish the world was softer for you. I wish
It touched you with feathered fingertips
And didn’t twist its fist into your chest like
One at war – when I know
That you don’t want to fight,
That you would talk it out if
Anyone would listen. I would lift
This burden from your shoulders
If I could. I would warm the colder
Corners of this house with all the light
That doesn’t shine outside.
I would hide you, if the choice were mine.
I would guide you to align
Yourself with peace, and protect you
From the harm. I would warn you away
From all that grieves you, keep you
From the fray, and ever sheltered
From the world that needs you.

Though He Slay Me

The hackberry chars, but will not burn.
It turns its back, defiant to the fire.
It won’t be lost to ember and to ash,
it lasts beyond the pyre.
It will be itself, and nothing less –
if greyed and shriveled from its form.
It says that living wood is best
and will not be reborn.

The birch erupts to instant flame
and fumes – it burns a golden bright
and is consumed. It flings itself
in flakes against the night
and breathes full to its core. The pain
of crumbling is barely more
than life, and for
all its ash and ember, it is nothing less
than light.

Grateful (from Hutchmoot: Homebound)

For those who’ve asked for it, here’s my poem Grateful that I wrote during Hutchmoot: Homebound.


I am grateful. 
Darkness pulls at the edge of my cloak, and
I am grateful to stand 
in the smoke. I am able 
to laugh as I choke 
under scorched skies. 
Milky eyes leave streaks 
through dust tracks on my cheeks, ash 
rains down around me in the streets,
Father, the world is on fire. 
I raise my hands higher 
in the flames,
I am more than dust, and rust, and pain. 
I am grateful

for the strain
of music running through the veins
of earth. For the birth
of new joy in a hurricane
of woes. For those 
who raise their horns 
to split the night asunder. For thorns
shoved into willing brows and the thunder
of hooves on battle plains. For those who bow
under the weight and laugh beside me. 
For the dark that could not hide me,
and the dawn that always rises in the east. 
For the feast to come, 
that’s starting here
with table scraps of grace
and the light of shattered gold on every face.

Every trace of truth, it matters 
and it breaks 
into the battered body 
like a song. I am wrecked, 
and sore, 
and long to rest. 
But more, and more, and more, and best,
I am grateful.


If you’d like to hear the poem in it’s spoken-word form, you can watch it here on the Rabbit Room blog.

Love is This

He said love resides in memory.
I suppose
it can exist in afterglows,
in glass-pressed pictures tinted rose,
and how the heart holds
the mark of a strike
far longer than our simple skin,
how it can keep a moment sinking in.

I guess the scents and touches
linger after.
The tumbling of your laughter
across the grass, the past—fast-fading
flash of light—
the weight of you inside my arms,
our foreheads pressed together,
how you
never shrank from adoration
or ever met my kiss with indignation.

I suppose it has some merit,
all the dreams
we stuff inside each other, straining seams
and scribble-scripting words into the reams
of all our stories, to make some sense
of things that fail and fall from present tense.

I guess love cares for memories,
if even one
can carry them until the road is done,
can bear them underneath the heat, and run
the race—perhaps alone.
Too often it all falls to one to own.

But I have watched how memory
gathers rust,
how time can grind its finer points to dust,
and leave it brittle under winter’s gust.
And I think more, by now, that love is this:
the thing soft-sighing when the memories twist
and decompose to sorrow,
“Yet, you will find me here again tomorrow.”

Living Gray

Some Gray Lives

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