May 4, 2016

Three Poems by Douglas G. Campbell: "Fathers’ Words", "Hayden Pond, Rain, November 11", "Broken Steps"

I live in Portland, Oregon. I am a retired professor of art at George Fox University where I taught painting, printmaking, drawing and art history courses for over 20 years.   I am also the author of Seeing: When Art and Faith Intersect (2002) and Parktails (2012). My poetry and artworks have been published in a number of periodicals including Carcinogenic Poetry, Borderlands, RiverSedge, Rockhurst Review and In the Teeth of the Wind. My artwork is represented in collections such as The Portland Art Museum, Oregon State University, Ashforth Pacific, Inc. and George Fox University.

Fathers’ Words

Early that morning
before the day had been
picked apart by the
circling of crows or the
chickadees had searched
every branch of the
crepe myrtle, the son,
older now, wondered why
he had never read those
words, the ones in the books
his father once wrote.

It did not distress the son.
He wondered if his sons
would ever read the words,
he had stacked like cordwood
ready for the fire—the ones
hidden between covers
and shelved like row
upon row of tombstones.

Interrupted, by a diligent
towhee, scrabbling among
summer leaves inside the
closets of the ligustrum
hedge, his mind wandered
to other things—the aroma
of dinner cooking in
the cool kitchen, where
napkins unfolded like
seagulls and rose up
into the warm air to
disperse among clouds
riding the wind from
the western ocean.

Hayden Pond, Rain, November 11

A windless net of rain
Surrounds the pond
with its grey siege.
For two days now
the clouds have filled my eyes.
No sunlight has unwrapped
the dull foil which seals this broth.
A sandy bottom filters a savory recipe
of perch, pickerel, and bluegill,
oak leaves and maple replace the bay.
Through long hours of counting
a relentless rhythm hugs my roof
hypnotizing the muscles which hold my eyes.
I have begun to retreat
into the hibernation of my cottage;
with the fish I sink deeply,
burrowing beneath my quilts
hoping to evade the coming cold.


           Broken Steps

Within the smallest capillaries of my brain
where I hide from the staring of eyes,
I want very much to die,
to follow the tides of my mind's desire.
I strain to peel the taut tendons of my fingers
from their epoxy-strong grasp which holds me
like a scared lover within this life's hollow arms.

Blind nerves within these burning hands
desire to caress and fondle still
all the soft-skinned curves which wrap
the calcium hard, physical bones of this world.
My brain is not deceived by lying retinas.
I know that I am only a pitiful buffoon,
a pawn disclaiming his insufficient armor.

I have the driving will of a puppet.
A stinking jelly oozes from my spine
an ivory white string which I cannot bend straight.
Vertebrae spell out for me within unwanted phrases
the neglected epistles which laugh at human strength.
My muscles and ligaments do not control my feet;
they draw me into the rhythm of a crowded dance.

Some other hands, not mine, work my strings,
empty friends mock my broken steps
as I stutter through life's crushed sentences.
I always follow wide trails through the dark,
deep rutted paths, easy for the toes to cling to;
though I have a yellowing, outdated map
I sense the futility of my unpiloted voyages.

My searching mind keeps replaying old thoughts
which have the taste of cinnamon and sugar
coating the walls of their perfect spherical voids,
spices covering the emptiness of easy lies
which enwrap my silent tongue with pleasure
A sweet recipe hides the bitter stinging acid
which swallows the self-cursing of my mouth.

A festering pollution surrounds this earth
clinging like dry leaches to my old flesh,
wrapping me within a carious breath,
closing my eyestones to the sun,
stuffing my hollow ears with noise;
a saccharine syrup licks my white teeth
with the tongue of some counterfeit angel's voice.

Among the twisting fibers which lace
the nerve-stretched tunnels beneath my skull
I am deafened by cries to turn life loose,
this decaying corpse which strangles me.
I want to curl the fingers of my mind
around the gift of the gentle carpenter
who remakes the lives of the lonely dead.

~Douglas G. Campbell 

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