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Posts Tagged ‘old’

A Night on a Train Window

I don’t know that face that’s
over mine, it seems old,
not in years but in time spent,
it stares back, through me and
I stare through it
floating on a night-train window.

I focus on the whites of his eyes
to not see the black of them
and wish I had another drink so
I could forgive, forget the world
flicking by, through my
translucent face, printed smears
of distorted sweeping concrete
and light, black air and purple
silhouetted trees, missing fields
with broken flowers after heavy rain,
and litter angels picking up
what they can find on the streets.

It goes by so fast.
I don’t talk to you anymore,
you are in the past
and I cannot get there.

Am I the train or the dark air,
the seat or the glass,
those eyes or the sadness
of that translucent mess?

Am I the past tracks,
or am the next?

Kyle McHale            2016

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Old Professor

For Stanley Plumly

It started years ago, or before that,
a child, the source of everything
we become, the subtle origin of
a mighty river, that old first poem
ever spoken, the first pumps of blood to
the human heart, I was on my way.

I, nineteen, sitting in a lecture hall,
poetry 101, thinking I had
somehow mastered the craft already,
how wrong I was, how wrong I am.

You walked in on a frigid afternoon,
snow, melted and refrozen sat in the
sun crusting everything, casting light
back to where it came from. The cold campus
glistened like February, wisps of
cirrus engaged in their ice dance on that
blue stage, all those young minds afoot underneath,
like busy ants, channels of flowing blood
giving life to every brick and stone,
every piece of the place nurtured with youth.

I watched you approach, stage front, off came the
scarf, the over coat, white hair and a white
beard emerged, hand selected for the part,
meticulously putting all in place.

You spoke, that calmness, deep but not too deep,
serious but still warm, a low youthful
glisten in those old eyes, a room of young
reckless ambition put at ease by that
tone of voice, like the way I sought advice
from my grandfather cross-legged on the
floor at the foot of his chair, all the men
who had ever spoken to me rolled into one,
I knew then I knew nothing.

I read all that was assigned, frustrated,
something remained blurred, thoughts hung over me,
an orange moon tortured me one night,
purple clouds another, gaps that remained
in my head and in my heart, they still do.

You, an Old Heart by the time I arrived
in your presence, defender of the old ways,
a pulse giving master to the old craft.
You said, “Do not fear, poems do not get
lonely, they read themselves tucked away on
shelves”, lost in time, with time, deep in the stacks.
Though I am sure my beer stained verses
sat crumpled up on the floor, as lonely
as it gets, unloved, unread, unwanted.
The whirlwind of college absorbing
everything around, eventually
closing in with Frost “like a dent in dough”.
How much can one heart truly endure
alone in a world full of heartless things?

You and your Keats, observing the autumn
chill set in, but it was the deep heart of
winter, before the campus bloom of spring,
soon flowers, perhaps tulips, Plath’s Tulips,
you had us rearrange those stanzas once.
I could not see a new order to Plath’s
madness, only that those African cats
stalked me as well, some calculated dark-
ness had descended on my existence.

I have a fondness, as those who think do,
for that place where the water meets the land.
A stone, that heart-shaped stone by your beachside,
churned up in the origin countless times,
those unending forces, unforgiving.
After a night of heavy drinking I
split my eyebrow open on my night stand,
bleeding and passed out on the dorm room floor,
a scar on the body and on the heart,
spit back up from the tumultuous mix
of living for a breath, only to be
thrust back in to survive, stone heart and all,
“nicked from the top half down”, our own hearts
wishing to disappear in the skyline.

I sat with school children, you among them,
dense as Yeats questioning in his school room,
children sit in a classroom for me now.
The master source, the bole and the blossom,
you blossomed once, and yet, as if by chance,
I know we are both the “dancer and the dance.”

I have been to your roadside near Staunton
working some summer at Goshen Scout Camp,
that picture on a wall I have walked into,
arriving there without knowing it,
frozen in ancient mountain-building-time,
Appalachian time, beautiful time.

I would see you eating lunch on South Campus,
too afraid to approach for fear of
being dismissed over something that I
thought we may have had in common.
I will say something next time, I never did.

So Old Professor, let me not forget
a degree of thanks, a Directive on
how to get lost in the meanderings
of the mind, winding like your poem rivers,
like your clouds for Keats, like your first poem,
like campus frozen in February.
The source of which may one day empty
into some great delta, the Mississippi,
the Nile, the Me Kong, the gates of heaven,
a start and an end, as your young heart must
and has become an Old Heart, as youth led
you to, among many things, an Old Professor.
I was then, and am now, on my way.

Kyle McHale 2013

Poems referenced:

Stanley Plumly – Old Heart, Simile, Off a Roadside Near Staunton, Constable’s Clouds for Keats

Robert Frost – Directive

Sylvia Plath – Tulips

William Butler Yeats – Among School Children

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The Keeper

The farewell light, the watch tower,
The candle keeper up so late,
The flickering thoughts, the sadness stays
When off go those but some must wait.

One day upon returning, maybe never,
The coastline torch that was left behind,
The keeping light may have changed hands
But the light still stays for those to find.

Aged old man are you the one
Who sent me off those years ago?
Are you the one who keeps the light?
Are you the one who guides my soul?

A ship amongst a lonely shore,
A night hanging low in moonlit air.
Fade away into the world then
Find light from a man with silver hair.

Tell him a tall-tale or two,
Watch the light and share his drink,
Do not forget he keeps the shore,
And as you talk, he will watch as he will think.

Kyle McHale      2012

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The Trees are With Me

Me: “For if I could endure it all
To make it through this dreadful fall,
When my father left with the leaves
To catch and glide that color breeze,

I may see what my father’s done,
Taking pride as his oldest son,
That clarity in autumn light,
That calling out, those pleasant nights,

Where I can send a fire out
Of whipping tails sending up,
Into the space my father went,
Warming all that pain he felt,

And gently touching life’s great web,
Listening to what those trees said.”

The Trees: “We have your father, he is here,
We have his heart out everywhere,

Let us touch you with our grace,
Your father’s heart’s in natural place,
When you gaze towards heaven’s glow,
When you are lost and want to know,

The Great Maker has taken care
Of his brave spirit in the air,
For you know what type he was,
Part wolf and bear, eagle and dove,

Part sea and land, part guiding hands,
Part father, brother, teacher, friend.
You see we needed him so much,
So that his soul could finally touch

All it earned in a mortal life,
To never feel a lonely night,
But you must stay and find that out,
Seek guidance in the spirit clouds,

Then closer to the heart you’ll be,
Yours and his beat beautifully.”

Me: “Dear trees I’m still travelling lost,
I stand where place and time do cross,
I’ll stay with fire close to ground,
I’ll stay lost and hope I’m found

By where my father’s heart has touched,
By how he filled my life with love.
Enjoy his heart in autumn moon,
I’ll see him again but no time soon.

Be at peace with everything,
I’ll look for you when eagles sing.”

Kyle McHale      2010

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