Hours Out of Tune

Between the frightened, timeless trees
Upon the path I see her dancing
Naked breath from her entrancing
Fairy hand to me extending
From her Gemini mouth escaping
Words that never have one meaning.

East of midnight her body calls
Lays me down among the rushes
Clouds of sighing purple sullen
Oblivion rain upon me falling
Drowning in the riverbed
A darkling ghost upon the rocks
Without my mind to follow suit.

We were two hands on a timeworn clock
That chimed the hours out of tune.
Together for a dissonant minute,
Pushed apart by angry seconds
Leaving only the tired gray silence in between.

-Stephen P. Smith

The Bush by the Mill

Sweet amber solace
Burns all the way to my soul
Sears away the pain.

-Stephen P. Smith

Donatello


Donatello sits atop a box,
A box of toys you haven’t touched in years.
He mutely wonders where you’ve gone and why
You never play with him anymore.
Donatello was always your favorite one.
He cannot know his favorite little boy
Has ripened into a man, a soldier marching
Down the blood soaked, ancient road of war.
The plastic guns exchanged for ones that kill.
The childish games replaced with grown up death.
Once you were a blond haired, blue eyed boy,
My mind still echoes with your childish laughter.
Now the black robed reaper stalks your dreams;
Twenty one black bells toll for your innocence.
And when I see your sad visage I wonder:
Do you miss your playmate Donatello
As much as I miss the happy little boy?

-Stephen P. Smith

Mary’s Lamb

The morning sunlight hits her aching eyes.
Her husband gone already, left quietly.
First she sees the empty silent crib,
The changing table smelling still of plastic,
The rubber toys and mobiles in their boxes,
The unworn little dresses hanging there.
She winds the plastic lamb, it sings to her
A song of mary and her little lamb.
Her body feels like its wading through cement.
Nothing else to do this morning. She sleeps.

And then her baby comes to her
In dreams of pink and lavender.
With laughing eyes and chubby face
And little dress of silk and lace.

She wakes again to the squealing sounds of a school bus.
The children shout but none will enter this house.
With all her will she raises her head a little.
Her red eyes assaulted by the flowered wallpaper,
The brightly colored pictures of smiling lambs.
Baby shoes that still smell like leather.
Her bladder aches. She wanders down the hall.
In the kitchen, the unused baby bottles
Keeping silent vigil on the counter
Remind her of how tired she always feels.

In sleep her baby comes to her
On little wings of gossamer.
Gentle words she softly sings
And to her mother solace brings.

Darkness. Door slams. Her husband is home.
The TV fills the house with joyless noise.
She calls to him, but no reply. She rises.
Runs her fingers along the empty crib,
The pristine changing table sterile white
The little dresses hanging in a row. She holds a toy.
Mary had a little lamb.

But at night her baby comes to her
In dreams of pink and lavender.
Wipes bitter tears from red rimmed eyes
And begs her mummy not to cry.
Face aglow with limpid light,
She promises to come each night.
Hand in hand they walk together
And mummy hopes she sleeps forever.

-Stephen P. Smith

A Single Sparrow Singing

Based on a true story. Yes, I knew her.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The dead dry leaves crunch beneath her tread.
She walks through a winter where no spring will come.
She tries to think, her mind a shattered mirror.
Thoughts kaleidoscope, just beyond her reach.
Even her own reflection warped and broken.
Frozen blistered hands carry the gasoline
Across this cold and silent field. The sun
Defiles the sky like a swollen crimson blood clot.

The stadium is full of happy stupid people.
They have long black and red scarves and rosy cheeks.
They drink hot chocolate, wave their pennants, shout and
Cheer their football team, their high school heroes.
The band parades across the fifty yard line.
The twirling batons flashing in the sun,
The saxophones and drums spew cacophony.

She walks across a field that gives no smiles.
The smell of gasoline fills her frozen nostrils,
Seduces her whirling brain with thoughts of peace.
A cloud descends upon her. She feels nothing.
Dimly aware of the cold and joyless sun
And the weight of the rusty gas can in her hands.

Calm she is now, there is no fear.
No more God, no more guilt,
No more heaven, no more hell
No more penance, no more pain
No more hope, no more loss.

She lifts the gas can high in supplication,
A high priestess on the altar of despair.
The gas cascades and soaks her clothes,
Covering her body like a mephitic sacrament,
Caressing her like a lover, drenching her clothes.
It finds her armpits, breasts, and crotch, and feet.
And still it pours, making her wet all over.
The plastic lighter is no longer in her pocket.
The flint wheel sparks.

Parents wave to sons and daughters on the field
Wishing they still wore their varsity sweaters.
Third quarter. Fourth quarter. Two minute warning.
Game over. Victory! The teams depart the field.

In a field a single vesper sparrow sings
Its lonely song to the slowly dying sunlight
And no wind moves the dead grass and dry leaves.
The swollen sinking sun is smeared with smoke.
An empty gas can lies prostrate on its side.
People are running hard across the frozen earth.
They thought they heard the sound of someone screaming.

-Stephen P. Smith

Some Wore Green (2nd version)

Two by two and four by four
The brave young men all marched to war
Some wore green and some wore blue
And each one had a job to do.
She could merely stand and wave.
She told herself she must be brave,
That surely he’d return to her
And married they would be for sure.

Her true love brave in battle died.
With his last breath her name he cried.
Buried under foreign sand,
No more to see his native land.
She swore that with her dying breath,
If not in life, then fast in death
She would be joined forever more
To her true love who died in war.

She journey’d half a world away
To find the place her love did lay
With spirit steeled and visage grim
For that was all she’d left of him.
This thought alone consumed her mind
And yet his grave she could not find.
Until one day, so near despair
She met a man with long gray hair.
Bent and lame, a soldier old
Whose eyes still glittered, blue and bold.

“No more to weep, no more to cry
I know the place your love does lie.
I say to you by heaven above:
None fought so brave as your true love.
He was gallant, loyal, brave and true;
With his last breath he cried for you.
Just beyond that rocky hill
Lies your love buried, cold and still.”

She slowly climbed the hard terrain
Beyond which her true love was lain.
And when she finally reached the top
She felt her quickened heartbeat stop.
For there as far as she could see
Were gravestones to infinity.
All bore these words upon a plate:
“This one was sacrificed to hate.”

Past countless headstones carved the same
She ran and wept and called his name.
Long she searched, and long she tried,
Not finding him whose name she cried.
Too many deaths, too many tombs,
Too many crypts that held the doomed.
Forever more she’ll search the graves
To find the love she couldn’t save.
But silent stones forevermore
Will keep her love who went to war.

Stephen P. Smith

Some Wore Green (first version)

Two by two and four by four
The brave young men all marched to war
Some wore green and some wore blue
And each one had a job to do.
All she could do was stand and wave
She told herself she must be brave
That surely he’d return to her
And married they would be for sure.

Her true love brave in battle died
With his last breath her name he cried.
Buried under foreign sand
Never to see his native land.
She swore that with her dying breath,
If not in life, then fast in death
She would be joined forever more
To her true love who died in war.

She journey’d from half a world away
And waited long to see this day.
She told herself she must be brave
When at last she’d see his grave.
For that was all she’d left of him.
With spirit steeled and face set grim
She slowly climbed the hard terrain
Beyond which her true love was lain.

And when at last she reached the top
She felt her quickened heartbeat stop.
For there as far as she could see
Were gravestones to infinity.
All had these words upon a plate:
“This one was sacrificed to hate.”
Past countless graves that looked the same
She ran and wept and called his name.
Though long she searched, though long she tried
She could not find him whose name she cried.
The silent stones forevermore
Will keep her love who went to war.

Stephen P. Smith

Happy Face

Late afternoon, a glowing amber sunbeam
Seeps between the ivory colored curtains.
In the fading glow the pictures on the wall
Are like a gallery of her lengthy life.
The dust wanders and meanders in and out
Of the dying light like mischievous children
As unpredictable as her scattered memories.
It blankets the Hummels and windowsills
and the mantlepiece and the grandfather clock
Whose hands haven‘t moved in many years.

The children’s games are still there on the shelf
In their faded, colored, cardboard boxes:
Candy Land, Happy Face, Monopoly, Chutes & Ladders.
Katie always loved Candy Land and Happy Face.
The toys are still in a box in the corner,
A random jumble of gaily colored plastic.
She saves them for the great grandchildren.
She knows they’ll want to play with them someday.

She wonders if he’ll call today.
He called last week from Albany,
Or was it Schenectady? Or was it last month?
The kids are doing really well, he said.
He couldn’t talk long, though.
He was in the car. He’s always in the car.
He had a meeting in a few minutes.
He promised he’d call again.
He’s such a good boy, I’m proud of him, she thinks.

She goes to the mailbox, waves to a neighbor
She doesn‘t recognize. Looks at the handful of mail:
Catalogs, bills, return addresses from strangers.
She eats her soup with Alex Trebec as her dinner guest.
She changes into her favorite nightgown, the pink one
With the bluebells. It was from the grandkids.
Jay Leno will visit her again tonight;
But she always liked Johnny Carson better.
She shuts the light, lies down and whispers her prayers
In the darkness that covers her like a shroud
And goes to sleep.

–Stephen P. Smith

Fate, approximately


A new born babe I cradle in my arms.
Is his future planned ahead of him?
I’ll do my best to keep this boy from harm
And guide his steps in life. Bit if the whim

Of fate can do to him whate’er it will,
How can I change the path he walks in life?
This babe may be a murderer doomed to kill,
He may grow up a drunk who beats his wife.

Little boy, whom fate has sent to me,
How can I protect you from the world?
I cannot keep you ever on my knee,
Safe and happy in a blanket furled.

Tiny child I do not know your fate,
If you were born to love or born to hate.

–Stephen P. Smith

The Ghost at my Side

In morning hours dark and fleeting,
I hear the sound of two hearts beating.
As I lie beneath the covers
A strange visage above me hovers.
And if a mirror I chance to pass
I see two faces in the glass.
I cannot flee–though oft I’ve tried–
The ghost that hovers at my side.
.
Ever stalking, ever reaching
Towards me, mutely beseeching.
The two of us each draw a breath,
One in life and one in death.
As moonlight casts a baleful pall
Two shadows glide across the wall
In alleys dim. Vaguely descried,
The ghost that hovers at my side.
.
I know not why she follows near
Or what she wishes me to hear.
Or why she haunts my every hour
With spectral face so pale and dour.
When I sleep, her whispered screams
Into nightmares turn my dreams.
Rest eternal her denied,
The ghost that hovers at my side

–Stephen P. Smith

Entangled

She was always using my brush. I hated that.
.

Your hair is still entangled in my brush.
Your number’s still inside my phone.
It seems as though I’ve not been in a rush
To rid myself of these reminders of how once

Our lives were as entangled as these strands
Of hair, or that once upon a time our heads
Lay together on pillows in the same warm bed.
Or that our souls belonged to one another.

But now I clean my brush, remove your hair
Disentangle it from mine forever.
I delete your number from my phone.
I purge you from my heart and soul,

But not my memory, where you abide
Like the strands entangled in my brush.

–Stephen P. Smith

Who with empassion’d breath

More fun with the sonnet form.

It’s only Spring who sings to me this morn,
With hair like honey gold and cool blue eyes.
The Winter ravaged fields she’ll soon adorn
With buds that wait for rain drops from the skies.

Seeds that lie beneath the ground in death,
Before Spring’s fertile sister will rejoice:
Hot-eyed Summer, who with empassion’d breath
Dances naked to rhythms of her choice.

I hear nymph-like Summer softly singing
A carnal alto, her footfall’s soft descent.
Her scent the soft caressing breeze is bringing.
Her sultry spell upon me won’t relent.

I close my eyes and dream about the day
When in the flowered fields entwined we lay.

Stephen P. Smith

De Profundis

Having some fun with the sonnet form here. Comments and criticism always welcome.
This one is dedicated to Spas.

Are all religions nothing but a fraud?
Was every single prophecy a lie?
Is it wrong to think that once a lonely god
Saw fit to create men who live and die?

In all this empty space, stars pale and dim
Glimmer in an empty, sable sphere.
Are there none to hear us when we cry to him?
Are there none but stars and nebulae anywhere?

In all the universe’s deep infinity
Are we the only sentient ones who can
Contemplate the notion of divinity,
And in the spiraling galaxies discern a plan?

How melancholy if it were for certain known
That through the black of space we drift alone.

–Stephen P. Smith

Cinderella, a poem (?)

Just goofing around here. I really don’t know where this one came from. I just have a fascination with feminine endings. Some people have told me my poetry has a “spiritual” quality to it. Boy, are they going to be disappointed with this one.

Cinderella, Cinderella, night and day it’s Cinderella
I just ring my little bell-a
When I want my Cinderella
She could never find a fella
‘Cause her name was Cinderella
So she wed a big gorella
Who made her life a livin’ hell-a
So she locked him in the cella
Where she couldn’t hear him yell-a
Now her life is kinda mella
And she likes to play “Gisella”
On a Stradivari cella
And remember Ed Villella
While she smokes a Mirandella
That is flavored with vanella
And her favorite color’s yella
‘Cause it looks like lemon jella
And that’s all I have to tell-a
‘Bout a girl named Cinderella.

–Smith (although I’m not sure if I want to cop to this one).

Sarabande of the Solstices

Just trying something a little different here. Nothing very profound; just an exercise in rhyme and meter. Comments and criticism always welcome.

Summer danced in gladdened fields,
A maiden fair,
With auburn hair,
Robed in light, the sun to wield

To suit her will. She blessed the land
With raiment green.
A virgin queen
She was. To none she gave her hand.

For she preferred to dance alone
A soaring dove
Of light and love,
Adored by all, but on her own.

Summer’s warmth Lord Winter felt,
A lover ardent,
Bedecked in argent,
With shining diamonds in his belt.

And as he grew to love the maid,
One day he dared,
With heart ensnared,
Before her feet his love he laid.

But none of him would Summer have.
Afar he called
By love enthralled.
To him her heart she never gave.

For love did not within her burn.
Forever free
She wished to be,
With love to give, but not return.

But Summer green would not be swayed.
As he advanced
Away she danced.
Between the two a void she made.

So Winter watched from far away
Sweet Summer’s joy,
The world her toy,
To love and play in as she may.

Aflame with love he duly swore
That Summer bright
And Winter white
Would rule as one forever more.

Blood red rubies in her hair,
And yellow gems
Upon her hems
He gave to Summer for her to wear.

At last she yielded, and thus she found
Her garments bright
Of woven light
At her feet upon the ground.

The light of jewels possessed her mind
The sun she gave
To Winter grave
Earth lost her queen and sadly pined.

She heard the earth forlornly cry.
She shed her jewels,
Their weight now cruel,
And with the Earth lay down to die.

And Winter wept above her bones.
He had to see
That it was he
Who would remain and rule alone.

Stephen P. Smith

Tomorrow Won’t Remember

How like a wound is an open grave
Cut sharp into the wet green earth
Gaping as it waits to swallow the casket
That hovers above reflecting
The comfortless morning sunlight.
The bereaved flock to the graveside
Like a murmuration of starlings,
Listening to the incantation of the shaman
In the desperate hope there is a soul to be saved.
Trying to understand the ineffable fragility of life,
Trying to accept that the departed have gone,
Trying to believe they ever were.
Staring in uncomprehending desolation
At the dark oblivion that waits
At the shadowy bottom of that fresh wound in the earth.

–Stephen P. Smith

The span of days, a poem

I beheld the sunset, transfixed by
The inferno in the clouds.
And there I saw the angels winging
Amidst the amber sunbeams.
Angels and archangels, least perfect
Of the nine choirs, most like us,
Happy in their imperfection
To play among the clouds.
And I wished I could free my soul
From its earthly prison
To soar amongst them between the fiery cumuli.

And so it came to pass that on a night
When the trees, like souls forsaken,
Grasped vainly with withered fingers
At the sapphire moonlight
That rent the dusky clouds,
I stood upon the parapet,
Arched my back like a lyre,
And as one crucified
Spread my arms wide,
And freed myself from earth’s jealous shackles.

And thus I ascended while
The moonlit ground receded beneath me
and I was among the nine choirs,
The flaming Ophanim,
The all seeing Cherubim,
And The Seraphim,
So bright that only One
Might look upon them
In their naked incandescent splendor,
Chanting the Trisagion in the ancient modes,
Dorian, Lydian, and Phrygian.

And still I ascended,
Wishing for nothing ever more
But to listen to their canticle
Until I heard a voice,
Or rather, felt it,
For it passed through me
Like a flaming sword,
And intoned within me,
Saying, “Why have you done this thing?
Do you not know that the span of your days
Is not yours to measure?
Leave us now, for but awhile longer,
Go back whence you came,
And finish what you have begun.”
And I felt myself descend
Along the sapphire moonbeam
Until I lighted amidst the snow and the trees
And I was home once more.
I left that place,
And continued in the world,
Knowing that I once had felt the breath of God.

–Stephen P. Smith

Sunshine in a Bottle

Middle age is a bitch. This is where you learn that your teachers lied to you about there being four food groups. Now I know there are really five: meat, dairy, grain, fruit,………..and pharmaceuticals. This is a little ditty dedicated to all those who, like myself, find better living through chemicals.

Really don’t know when it started,
When my sanity first departed.
Some days I’d be so damned depressed
Couldn’t even get me dressed.
Hiding underneath the covers
Hoping maybe I would smother.
Hiding out inside my room
In the darkness, in the gloom.

I said, “I can’t go on this way.
It’s just too hard to face the day.”
So I found an old head shrinker
In my head I let him tinker.
He said, “there’s two things I can do:
To help us make a happy you.
The first is spend years on my couch.
About your childhood you can grouch.
In maybe ten or twenty years,
You’ll know the reasons for your fears.
But if you don’t want to wait that long,
I’ve got something good and strong.
My boy, the cure for all your ills
Is right here in these pretty pills.”

And you know, that old doc was right.
Now my future’s looking bright.
Getting older? Getting fatter?
Getting deader, it doesn’t matter.
All of my life’s little spills
Are no match for these pretty pills.
Some are blue and some are yellow.
They keep me loose, they keep me mellow.
Can’t get hard enough to screw?
They got a pill for that one, too.
I can go at life full throttle:
Got my sunshine in a bottle.

But look out, boy, if I don’t take ‘em.
The crystal and china, I just might break ‘em.
Without my pills I’m not so pleasant.
‘Cause my temper’s incandescent.
You won’t like me when I’m like that:
I yell and scream and kick the cat.

So God bless all my pharmaceuticals
That give me peace and healthy cuticles.
I do not think it undo vanity
Just to want a little sanity.
And while at times it makes me shiver
To think about my poor old liver.
A rotted liver’s a tiny price
To pay so folks will think you’re nice.
It matters not how much I sin
On my face I wear a grin.
I can go at life full throttle:
Got my sunshine in a bottle

–Stephen P. Smith

All Hallow’s Eve

The sun is setting, the sky is red,
and each grave mutely marks the dead.
Dead leaves on the dead grass lie.
Through the wind, you’ll hear a cry,
“As you are now, we were before.
We once lived, who live no more.”

The moon arises, smeared with clouds,
The dead arise, wrapped in shrouds.
Above each grave, where each was laid
A ghost hovers, a baleful shade.
To us the living, they do implore:
“We once lived, who live no more.”

All Hallow’s Eve, the dead arise.
From mouths long dead come voiceless cries.
Beneath the moon they walk the land.
Forever cursed, forever damned.
They hover just outside your door,
They who lived, but live no more.

What they lost in life they seek
With baleful eye and bloodless cheek.
Tormented souls, of hope denied,
Mutely haunting where they died.
They haunt the night, cold and hoar,
They who lived, and live no more.

No requiem aeternam given,
Never saved and never shriven.
They walk the night and haunt our dreams,
Crying out with voiceless screams.
Hope and peace they all forswore
They who lived, and live no more.

The dead will wait another year
To walk the earth and wander near.
Returning to their earthen graves
These tortured and despairing slaves
With dying cries their fate abhor
“We once lived, who live no more.”

–Stephen P. Smith

Immolatus est

The last poem was pretty well received, so I decided to inflict another one on you. As some of you already know, my son is in Iraq with the Army. This poem is for all those who have, or have lost, someone in that conflict.

Your room is as you left it.
The football jerseys of your heroes,
a tapestry of red, white, and blue
hang in your closet mutely awaiting your return.
As the hour moves to vespers, the dying light stains the glass,
the room glows red and gold.

In a land where the cross is kept always well hidden
you march the sand, while ever silently behind
Mohammed walks arm in arm with the black robed reaper,
carrying your blood in a grail of iron they balance between them,
waiting to cross your path and claim you for their own
as Mohammed pours your blood upon the sand.

The dying light illuminates the rosary and Bible you left behind,
not permitted in the land of Mohammed,
the land of wailing sand and wailing prayers
where you have gone to fight for someone else’s cause.
For it has always been and ever shall be
the body and blood of the Young that are sacrificed
to the hatred of the Old.

–Stephen P. Smith

Lacrimosa

I wreath the night in spectral latakia smoke
and bury the days
like nameless, forgotten children,
in countless unmarked graves,
entombed in unquiet slumber
beside the words never spoken,
kindnesses never given,
thoughts never shared,
where none mourn and none grieve
and only the shadows remember.

I wander the labyrinth of faceless statues
and granite sepulchres
in the sunless graveyard of my memory
with no companion save the shades who stalk behind sighing, calling, beseeching,
“We lived, we lived, we lived.
Who will enshrine us? Who will remember us?”

And I reflect on the terrible briefness of all things.

I wreath the night in spectral latakia smoke.
The embers die, and all is dark.

– Stephen P. Smith

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4 Responses to “My Poetry”


  1. 1 Red
    July 24, 2007 at 11:26 pm

    I loooves my pretty pills. They take me to a happy place.
    I have a comment, but I’d feel better if I were to email it to you …

    Either way is good. I always love to hear from you!

  2. 2 Red
    July 24, 2007 at 11:27 pm

    Oh. I forgot.
    I’m glad you included a poetry page. You do it quite well, but that wasn’t a secret nor a surprise.

    Thank you!

  3. 3 samanthamj
    September 20, 2007 at 12:07 am

    Like the poems… wish they were seperate posts that we could comment on individually, though. ? Oh well… thanks for sharing. You write beautifully (well, except for maybe that cinerella one… but, hey? who am I to talk?!? 😉
    ~smj

  4. August 18, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    Felt like reading some of your poetry… have to say, I miss the comments too, because I know there were comments originally. But then I guess we can go and look for them on the main page……..

    The Poetry Page is not the same as the Poetry Archive. It’s a separate page altogether, with separate comments. If you want to see the comments left on each poem, go here:
    https://murderofravens.org/category/poetry/

    Me still likes your poetry very much.
    Now even better that I know who’s behind it……..

    Awwwww, shucks! Me too, me too.


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