The Aisling Stairs

aisling stairs

I’ve had this dream before.

Where I am lost in a labyrinth of stairways and corridors,

deep in the heart of very old buildings.

I pause on cast iron balconies

and gaze over the lines of dim-lit stacks,

incomprehensible text to a chamber of shadows

and the recurring restlessness that pervades this place.

Whether I am searching for something or being pursued,

it is clear that not all is as it appears.

So I keep moving,

going deeper into more claustrophobic spaces.

Ducking under a shelf, there are rows behind rows of books,

an ancient elevator and further stairways to corridors

each more decrepit than the last.

The walls peeling, unpainted for decades,

with large holes in the floors

to lower oneself through to other levels.

There, in the fear that it may all collapse,

is the tenuous grasp of any concept of time or place.

In the depths of these recesses

I usually encounter a maintenance man

sweeping up the darkness. He is disfigured,

terrible to look at, with a face full of sores,

appearing like a spot on the floors

that never see the light of day,

only the artificial glare

destined to flicker and stare

here for eternity.

This specter in the shadows,

blackened as a lung full of dust,

with a voice like a guttural growl,

unintelligible.

There is always the knowledge

that he is at the bottom of or behind

this restless feeling,

tending to the furnace

or fitting pipes in a vast boiler room.

He’s in there, like a manifestation of fear,

a cancer in these cells, in the bowels of every building.

What else did you expect to find?

What do industrial noises accompany

like strange soundtracks to the illogical

landscapes of the mind?

You cannot measure the sky

or the spaces in-between

but note the temporal shifts,

like shades of the past,

bound here like ghosts.

Each is a subtle impression

or a tiny transmission

that is nothing if not familiar.

The man in the corner,

ever-present author

tosses another cigarette

to the floor

and in the impact,

the flicker of fire

is transforming

into the flapping of a white bird

now flying towards

a shaft and up to the rooftop.

Vaporous, transparent,

it is no longer trapped

but leaving a trail of smoke in its wake,

it moves through objects.

I’ll follow its trajectory

towards the edge of this wasted city.

Listless as it travels

to the periphery,

where lifting from memory,

the dormant imagery

that nourishes its flow from captivity.

This is how it usually ends.

Free from these stairways and endless corridors,

no longer bound to these cells or these selves,

no longer merely a shell

but akin to water

flowing from a source somewhere

in emerald mountains

and immeasurable distances

under brilliant skies.

 

 

 

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All is Interwoven

burnt fabric

I tend to your memory

like one working a small flame in the wind.

Blowing the end of an incense stick

to give scent to the formless

to sanctify and bear witness

to the chaos that follows change.

What does it accomplish,

putting new roots in the decay?

Cleaning out the attics of the old

by the light of silent entry,

while the past falls through the cracks of dawn

hovering above the roof and chimney.

Shifting seasons awaken with smoke

the smoldering clouds and coiling snakes

many hued in a moment’s wisp

that won’t support the weight of the present.

Watching as it evaporates,

all can appreciate its exit.

What is memory but the imprint of a passage?

Immaterial marker

in the consciousness of a dreamer

who conjures pictures

to match the feelings of departure.

“We are never here for long”

says nature

but I remember the paths

we made to the water’s edge,

though the footprints fade

and the wind works on

what was designed to outlast us.

Fire, the great leveler

starting small until

crawling out of proportion.

It consumes the highway

and covers the sky.

The horizon is lying

like a steel plate in the sun

burning

balancing on a melting moment

you can almost hear crying

in kindling

creativity to capture the shifting colors

in the mirror pools of effervescent lakes,

where the sky dabs its face.

Subtle transformations,

day to night

light to grey

all is interwoven

in the poem of knowing

no stitch remains.

Return Again

feat-banyan-cover-02-altA place at once familiar

where forest paths converge

at a clearing, the old ruin of Kaniakapupu,

that enclave of unseen ushering,

canvass for myriad footprints

etched by moon glow

drawing the spirits through.

By dawn the silence is transforming

winged voices in the recesses

of tree snails naming it in praises.

It stands regal and half-lost,

the rustling leaves

pantomimed in light and shadow,

it’s secret language,

the calligraphy of what is absent.

Pulling the imagination

like a hala mat over the grounds,

one gets the sense of great feasts

suddenly not so long ago.

The hint of a trail,

ancient and overgrown,

leads deeper into memory,

collecting itself under the emerald canopy

of contours illuminated

before night can collapse so quickly

and all is lost.

In the hidden pools of Nuuanu

a nourishment resides.

Fed from on high,

the water falls

and blends in reverence.

By this and by wind

the walls are weathered

silent sentinels of what is hidden

within grooves and caves

the barely perceptible

imprints of all that have passed

into the gnarled limbs of giant banyans

a repository of spirit and energy

positioned between worlds.

By night, torchlight on leaves

as the wind grieves

through the crevices of its kingdom

and what’s left will surely dance.

Down valley, a palace of perfect symmetry.

Stones aligned and in harmony

between the gates

there’s rest for the weary,

under a parasol

the queen leaves years ago.

Iolani, full of spirit,

drifting in from four directions,

all are equally fragile

under the immensity of sky.

A raindrop clings to a branch with all its might,

like a proud people to their past,

building for that climatic moment

falling into the breadth of history,

they are shot through subterranean streams

to the depths of the sea

to again take root

like a seed on the seat in a great drift.

The passing clouds through the break

motion for escape,

above the spinning wheels of cityscape

and all the disruption,

know that what is binding

lies in waiting

in the quiet corners

baiting time for your return again.

IMG_1186t kaniakapupu black and white

 

From Fissure 8

Fissure-8-Hawaii-volcano-eruption-1394633

The light peeks through the cracks

where consciousness and dreams overlap.

Coastlines and seas seep through the blind

like temporal prisms in time.

On a suspended plane, a transcontinental glide

lingering long after the advancing flame

where the memory of lava and ash will remain

ballast to what is swept away

under soft carpets, in strange landscapes

you escape while you can.

On diminishing roads and infinite waterways

there is no shelter

no air without sulfur,

what landmarks are left become unfamiliar,

inverted memories in turned over turf

give a glimpse of the glowing earth

that runs red

to river beds

in the impending birth of new land.

In the absence of all else

an unobstructed wind

would hit mountains head on

like something that was expected

but not fully prepared for.

The inevitability you seek to divert

joins in the rift from a hidden source,

from a network of tunnels, subliminal.

What words can be raised

to pave what has been erased?

to bring light to a cloud of ash?

Over development and endless desecration

an angry goddess passed.

The rupture deepens and they go up,

like offerings on a pyre,

the apocalyptic matchsticks of Pahoa

and the collapse of all structure

buoyed by  an immense ocean

is a burning unceasing as the notion

that all surfaces remain beholden

to the forces that lie beneath them.

 

 

 

 

 

Like a Mark still Visible

beautiful-scenery-blue-sky-mountains-nature-Favim.com-2245272

Like a mark still visible

after the rain

the light in yin, the shade in yang

a moment’s reflection,

an obscure meeting,

the temporal sky

the armored sea

merging in alchemy.

Shadowplay through a pinched valley,

a quality of light

that will not last on the surface

but goes down

like a ship in a storm,

a squall and a gasp,

the drowned dead on driftwood raft

to isolated coasts abiding tides

feasting bonfires, glowing eyes,

the glinting edge of river carved lines.

Moors illuminated

cliff face that finds

lifting veils, precipitous falls,

gathering cloud stalls

on cathedral peaks, impermanent.

In the pasture the meditative calm

of watchful sheep

against wild hills unsheathed.

Wind works through the imagination,

through trees that bend,

disintegrate on piper’s notes

that find you in the end

impermanent.

Akin to smoke

off the surface of lakes

early light through the steam

of sipping dark coffee

and dream

for an hour, the writer

ponders the theme

from a corner,

a chronicle in the change

of action into thought,

each becoming the other

shadow absorbed

into the white walls of its lover.

The message of marks

destined to be erased

is the beauty

in what does not last permanently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Innocence Intersects

roses on tracks

Memory,

the planted seeds of future work.

Those moments of mystery and violence

seared into childhood innocence.

In the rows of cross country cornfields

intersecting on the empty plains of thought.

You’re the point of entry

for these stalks on all sides,

until growing overhead,

you were not able to process it yet.

When what housed creativity

was merely a foundation,

fear is the forgotten masonry

that builds fascination.

Mystery,

those luminous garments

you’ll salvage from dark closets

to give form to again.

At Dungeon rock you keep digging,

finding only madness and subterranean water,

not realizing where the gold resides,

on the tips of the trees that line Cornel path.

 

Violence always had it’s place on the knife’s edge of time.

In old Kung Fu films and in the technicolored gaze

of Medusa’s severed head,

you were transfixed to the red

that emblazoned the cars of elevated trains.

From the Bronx to Coney Island

your imagination placed supreme significance

in the division of neighborhoods into gang turf,

written dimensions on a prized and ripped map.

By middle school a fear and fascination with death

found you staring out the windows

at long black hearses

ushering in St. Pius funerals.

There was no longer the safety of naivete,

friends lost parents, people got cancer,

a heart attack took Nonna

and the small panic you’ll always remember,

phone calls that announce a stranger

penetrating that tiny world.

All these recollections

sticking like mud at low tide.

Osgood eyes wet, keen on distant birds,

deciphered as spirit in the wavering trees

and in the dreamscape of the sky.

The ocean always returns to childhood

in the scent of salt marsh,

it marches back in time

to the music tangled in the cellar wires,

memories in the decay of seaweed at Derby Wharf

where all the layers overlap and you can read

the barnacled marks when it recedes.

Out from under the shadow’s thumbprint,

you’re the exposed rock of Chocorua awaiting a storm,

you’re Waterman seeking a nook on Lafayette Ridge,

Brailsford on a weighted line in Cormorant shade,

Cochran still unsolved in the fog of Swampscott.

What breaks the silence?

What moves the instrument and goes beyond science ?

Was it violence creeping in the telepathic underground?

Tripping the wires to access

the haunted tape loop of the mind?

The sudden screetch of trolley cars

collides with Garbarek’s sublime choir,

as if the bloodied petals off of Pulcherrima’s rose

were left scattered on the tracks.

You were there at the intersection

watching the passing of the rails,

standing over these remains

to note the juxtaposition

that holds unspoken significance

to what you have yet to transform into words.

 

 

 

 

From Asylum Windows

danvers gothic

The motion pictures

are in the solitary entertainment of clouds

when the sky’s frayed mental edges

are amorphous to the days

floating away over a sea of cracked mirrors.

Your quarters are perched

like a giant bat

spreading its wings over the grounds

opening like a cavity

that the mind could not hope to cover

with anxiety, harnessed tightly to time.

Creativity, like a haphazard design

of submerged stones suggest

there is a wellspring of words to be mined.

Smooth as ivory

soft and pliant

as the soul of this enterprise,

where unseen hands

thread the scent of nocturnal flowers

through the sterile sanitarium

of sleeping senses.

The moving eyelids

molding dreams into compliance

that by morning a last sprinkle of moonlight

finds its way through the ward,

softening the last layer of night

for those who cannot shake it off with sleep.

This temporary reprieve

from the pervasive melancholy underneath

the loss of landmarks and

the inverted water sense of falling,

the sound of an ocean sucking

at all the shrinking spaces

peeling walls fit the places

that always seem to close in.

From a prominent house on the hill

there is no view

of the crumbling piers of childhood

or any of your dead peers

wheeled through underground tunnels,

the derelict images are only a mirage

in the fog of medication.

The breaks in the trees

were a temporary release

from a deeper foray into the past

where, on illuminated tracks,

memories are speeding

between leather mills

and over cast iron bridges

suggesting escape

but merely a ruse

for a one way trip

terminating at asylum station.

The darkened stairways

to the uppermost recesses of fear

neatly arranged in a natural setting,

the clinically deranged put through

harsh routines of forgetting.

All of the windows have eyes

all of the glass fragments of the sky

getting shattered beneath

the weight of reflection.

From this vantage, some see nothing

while others cling to visions

like fire escapes outside of gothic prisons.

Some are destined to fall

while others hold on to the hope

of some form of elevation

vacillating between the glass of the ground

and the effervescent clouds

that pass above without a sound.

Danvers_State_Hospital_Danvers_Massachusetts_Kirkbride_Complex_circa_1893