A Handful Of Poems

The Slanting Tree

In the long shadows of late afternoon
A new slant on the horizon catches my eye.
A small tree bearing green apples
Grows out of flat, level ground
At a severe angle.

Such hopeful signs of life:
Growing trees, green leaves.
But the way this tree slanted---and why---
Caught my thoughts in a net of questions:

Did the harsh lake winds bend
The slender, green-leafed pole?

Or was it the burden of early fruit
Where gravity took its toll?

Does a sense of humility lock it in a perpetual bow
To the tall pine forest across the road?

Or perhaps this tree has sprung from a slanted seed
And grows thus from the blight of original sin.

Nearby companions stand in thin verticals
Like Giacometti's walking men
With upraised arms aflame in green.
But the slanted tree shows no signs of jealousy.
In its diagonal stance it remains existential.

Watching this tree, I stood for some time.

We too are bent walkers in this world.
The winds of time push us all.
We stand with our feet in the dust
At our own odd angles
Rooted in the mortal clay of earth
But longing for the sky.

An Island Just Off Shore

Slow pace across the studio loft
I peer out the window at my soul:
A sliver of land floating just off shore
Shrouded in a grey fog coat.

A free patch of earth cropped with gaunt birches
Casually dropping October’s leaves
At the slightest breeze or windburst from
The sudden flight of a nearby flock of geese.

Each falling color pulls my eye
Pulls my thoughts to a reverie
Of my own self-imposed solitude
The pondering of my own islandhood.

Fog shifts. My musing drifts
To the sand bar growing from the tip
Of the island, toward the rocky edge of land
Weaving in the shallows beneath the weathered pier.

This dream pierced by the soft
Tinkling of my son’s distant laughter
Mingling with the vision of his
Play-without-agenda in the back yard
Dusty red wagon sleeps
In the garage beneath cobwebs
Black plastic recorder shapes
My daughter’s breath into
Hesitant vibrations of Ode to Joy

Memories upon memories accumulate
Like the ligature of sediment
A sand bridge of hope to familial shores.

I continue---
Continue to empty this ocean

How many years will it take?

I turn from the fogged pane
Wipe a bit of pthalo blue
From the tip of the brush in my hand
And return to the canvas.


a poem

Taking altitude for theology he finds himself once again walking the wire.

As regular as morning prayer
He steps out.
Bare feet on twisted hemp and steel
Stretched between origin and destiny
Across the deep gorge.

No circus is in town
No audience around except
For the green grasses
A thousand feet below
Glazed with morning dew like palm sweat.
A group of odd-sized stones huddle

Inching his way across the narrow path---
Nothing but edge---
He does not question why
Or try to explain his motivation to hang
So precariously between earth and sky.

He knows equilibrium is his breath
Nuance the blood of life
Complacency the grave.

He knows if he is not found
Broken on the stones below
He will be here once again tomorrow.

He knows that here he is closer to heaven
Closer to the voice of God
Heard plainly in the shifting wind.

To Be Read While Viewing Kandinsky’s Composition VIII

Geometry of Joy
Of line, shape, color
Conceals precision wearing mask of chaos:
Color chords’ cacophonous clanging.

Explosion in a candy factory
Visual confections
To delight
Sweet-toothed eyes
With dazzling light dangling.

Linear gyrations
Pierce light blue angulations.
Colored grids, half-circles, arcs
Mark music for the eye.

Pieces of a child’s construction toy
Spilled out on pale yellow page
Speaking of life, the hectic pace
Of infamous information age.

Wild abstractions
Frozen dance
Within this rectangular section
Of Kandinsky’s mind
Nothing less than an epiphany.

The Wagon

Red wagon rusts empty
of all but these memories
shards of a childhood
pieces of the past.
I clutch the symbol to my breast.

As a child I pulled this wagon
Precious payload:
Old boards, bent nails, dirty glass bottles,
Frayed rope, rusted hammer,
A bag of sugared donuts.

In search of the site
of my next tree house
I trekked the woods with my wagon---
stopping on occasion to collect a stone
or a pine cone
or to sing a song to a small pine tree.

Pulled across miles of time
my wagon remains---but the contents?
All memories.
Cold comfort for my condition.
Now it bears burdens of a different kind:
the weight of absence
gravity of truth
the heft of memories unmade.

For I still hear the voice at the door
(but no mother's smile).
Past years resound with percussion
of unspoken words
echoes of letters unwritten
sadness of wrapped gifts ungiven.

So I cleave to my heart
this empty wagon
in search of belonging I bear the load:
a bundle of roots, wrapped
in burlap and rope
looking for a planting place.

There will be no fresh coats of paint.
The rust
will remain.

Some memories
are best kept under
time and dust.


Glorious black brew!
Elixir of intention!
Having power to
raise a day
from the level landscape
of night.


Fluke finding of a goatherd
now floods every crevice
of society.
Throughout disparate company
golden umber thread
weaving stitches and stories.

In the café
ubiquitous black circles
tilt toward lips.
Oil of think-drink
anfractuous conversations
of silver-haired philosophers
spilling caffeinated Kierkegaard
over the checkered tablecloth.

A table away
thin pink fingers
of a socialite
punctuate gossip
with the plunk of two white cubes
into treacly blackness.

Sweetness. Bitterness.

At the corporate hive
bees share black nectar.
Haggard workers huddle
around the magic urn,
fingers crooked in anticipation
of a cup
to christen the day.

Down the hallway
Java junkie spiders
the world wired web.

Between the cup
and the cathode rays
lie half-crumpled papers
bearing sepia stains
like badges,
medals of honor
shining out hard work done.

In the evening's
domestic comfort
morning French roast
still hangs
in the kitchen.

Family's fed,
day's review said,
kids off to bed---
But still I am awake!

A mug of black bitterness
and thick Russian classics
keep me company
in the wee hours.
Sumatra's acrid tang
dark in the cup---
dark as Dostoevsky
after midnight.

I must sleep
I must sleep,
but heavy thoughts
and bold concoctions
make short nights

The Sleight of Hand Man

We’ve heard it said before:
Distance lends Enchantment.
But see here---
The sleight of hand man
disposes of that old adage
like an old yellowed newspaper.

We think we’ll discover.
Get close to the stage
the mystery will vanish
as surely and swiftly as the tiger
in the cage;
not so with this fellow.
Close up is his game---
his wiles invite inspection.

You’ll find him at the round table
covered with green felt cloth.
He wields a pack of playing cards
and a smile.
With a deft fan, fancy flourish
of fifty two pasteboards,
every eye is drawn at once
as if a magnet were tossed
into a room full of compasses.

Before long the air crackles
with cackles and applause.
The graceful conjuror works the crowd
like the coins between his fingers;
silver discs tumbling
between nimble digits
all vanish in a shower
of glittering bits.

Skeptics on the fringe of the crowd
move closer for a better view
only to deepen the mystery---
the closer they get
the less they see.

Show after show
crowds laugh and applaud
trivial impossibilities:
endless milk poured,
cut rope restored,
silver rings link
together in one accord.

Puzzling, indeed,
these feats of mortal magic.
But when the crowd disappears,
ask the magician
if these are mere puzzles.
The sadness on his face
will tell you the answer.

Everyone asks how he does it
but no one asks why.
Weigh the subtle tragedy
of the sleight of hand man,
whose moves and methods that defy
Logic, exist to show a deeper truth
which sheds off the backs
of those who only see
skill, ruse, and fakery
with bits of colored cardboard:

Our eyes, minds, hearts at odds;
our illusions, self delusions---
thin tin foil facades
so easily pricked
by thorns of truth
in the pointy guise
of a conjuror’s trick.

Gregory W. Eanes © 1999