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In Domestic News

Selected Poems: 2009-2012

by Michael Neal Morris



Copyright 2018 by Michael Neal Morris


Smashwords Edition



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Contents


Walking in Circles

Cave

Divorcing TV

Slam the door when you go

Pinned

Washing The Whore

Closet

Calliope

Candle

P.C. Jazz

Serenade

Smoldering

Doctor Jude Sings A Requiem

view from a car seat

find still

An idle mind

Standing in the doorway

Dallas

Three Laments

Concurrences

Damnation

Peniel

Bony Tree Fingers

Wrestling Light

Midlife

For Dave Dravecky (June 18, 1991)

Handy

The Painted Grasshopper

Cicada Song

Cottonwood

Cottonwood Beetles

At the Back of the Backyard

Episodes

Sitting in The Car Outside Walmart While My Wife Returns a Christmas Present

The Turtle

If Murphy is Right

A Poem About Being Fat

The Heat Sign

Don’t Be Sad

Bridge Over Lake Lavon

Jumping to Conclusions

The Game On

Chill

14

Shock

Organizing the Debris

The Table

Dream Fragments

Not News

Missing

Fragment of a lament

Talking About Losing

Warning

The Wrestler

Abandon

Fear At Burger King

Approaching the Hawk

Seagull

Two Ghosts

Killing Words

On Violence

Love/Work/War

Dragging

What I want for my birthday

For Now

Making Rounds


Acknowledgements

Other books by Michael Neal Morris

About the Author


Walking in Circles

Cave


This darkness

is unnamable, unexplained

(untamed?).

Whether wrapped in a blanket or rope

I cannot say.

I'm choking, but feel breath

trickle in, quietly,

like a word outside a cave

I don't know how to hear.


Follow, even my stomach says.

Lower parts concur, I'm surprised to note.

But the line between satisfaction and gluttony

is not clearly drawn. What I know

is that I'm fat. What I do not know

is how to starve.


And the hole

through which I might escape

seems to diminish. Or is it widening

so that I might squeeze out of this womb

and into joyful, tired arms?

Who can say, when I cannot comprehend

my own hand in front of me?


When I'm not looking, sometimes even

with closed eyes,

I sense your hand nearby

pulling, maybe petting,

and the inhabitants of your earth

look like trees walking in circles.


Divorcing TV


Though you call yourself giving

and I watch and listen in stupid love,

you just don't know

how much I'd like to smash your blind eye.

I want to take your sounds--

all the testicle tantalizing tones,

the hissing kissing make me wishing whispers--

and squeeze them between my avenging fingers.


You do not breathe. Nor do you hear.

But you pant, then act sympathetic,

then pant again, madly,

wildly shouting for the green orgasm

(though I'm as exciting as a banker).

When I'm spent, you do not hold me.

And your caress is as soft as electrocution.


Can I separate? I've learned to depend

on your voice of information.

You reveal the harshness of the world--

the brutal violence

with which sophomoric humans govern their talents.

Then you shelter me in the dark.

Can I give you up? Could romance

be left to pages I've ignored for you?

Sleeping with you, I've almost forgotten

(perhaps I have)

how to make and take love.

Could I let you go? I've grown used to you

and I cannot fathom the depths

of breathing beyond your choking embrace.


An addict can see the possibility

of ardor for the enemy,

but the vision to loathe your lover

requires grace--

sometimes intercession and hunger.


I know you need me, if only a little.

But I think I'm ready for your death.

You will not starve without me,

but may be undernourished. That's your choice.

We have lived on hamburgers and fries--

chips, when things got low--

but I must allow myself primer cuts

and bread that needs no dressing.

You have kept me

in a hazy stupor.

Now I'm looking for a clean, pure vintage;

I drink a toast to peace and freedom

bought with blood, but not my soul.


I love you. I hate you.

I wish it all was over.

I may never be at rest

until one of us sleeps under clover.


Slam the door when you go


When you go, slam the door

so I'll be sure you've left me

lying here in the barely dawn-lit room,

your shadow passing by the window.

Don't step lightly over the threshold,

but stomp confidently.

Marching is not an angry sound,

just the certain noise of going.


I'll never push you out

but try to let you go.

I'll try not to hold you in,

but I can't promise

when you're gone for good

that I won't clutch the air

where you once stood laughing.

I'll be desperately seeking

the punchline, beating my breast,

angry that I can't control

your going, loudly or softly

(please leave with a shout!)

out that hard, painful door.

Pinned


I dream my legs are pinned

by my weight, motionless beneath

my gray hair, my good intentions.


I wake under a cloud

of fear and guilt and half-belief,

steal about, and talk too loud.


Washing The Whore


I have drunk the maddening wine of her

whose service enslaves me. And I have slept

in the arms of a harlot I thought was pure,

then tried to wash your feet with the tears wept

in fear of the ax that falls on dead wood.

I have slumbered as if eternity

meant nothing. So now in this interlude

I seek proof that you still listen to me.


Though in a leaky vessel I contain

your love, you grant the time I waste on sin

and purify the water, make it wine

by degrees. I know my grief is your pain.

Waiting for the rise to occur again

is a meal on which we both have to dine.


Closet


This is the not quite silent room where dreams

happen to the still and listening. Where

tired flesh rests and minds seek to be bare.

And the voice of God speaks-- above the screams

of a world gone mad with its own course--

in a whisper. And we inhale his breath

praying to exhale his life, live his death.


Here in the graveyard of our true remorse,

here in the shower where shadows come clean,

righteousness occurs in the heart prostrate,

broken, buffeted by the wind, his mate.

Then the soul delights in a kiss unseen.

In this dark room where the Master knows praise

the chilled hearts of children begin to blaze.


Calliope


Most moments of most days

he drives normally

the machines of mundane mass monotony:

computers and cars on a colorless calliope.

Most minutes he is sane.


But something --

perhaps an odd shape or hue of sky

or chord from radio or tire-strumming road,

maybe the scent of a hidden factory

or the brush of man-made air on his face

or the taste of winter in his coffee --

some undetectable thing

from time to time works its way

into a place within that science cannot measure,

and he pauses.


And he pulls over his mind,

unseen in plain view,

and screams so loud only God can hear.


Candle


I'd lie awake

and watch for a small light

the would peek outside

my mother's door.

Every night

she would light a candle

next to her replica of the Pietá

and the monsters would not come around.


P.C. Jazz


A metal spring on my floppy disk drive

came out of place and forced its tiny door

to close its thin mouth denying my square

tablet admittance. Why it should contrive

to hold my hard work ransom I could not tell.

Nor did I ask. So I cursed the machine,

dismantled it, then held the door open.

But it said, "Abort, Retry, or Cancel?"


More curses came from me. "I'll abort you,"

I said. "Retry this!" preceded a poke

from my sharp finger. But with the stern look

of a dorm mother, it hid from my view

all data and all paths to data. Then,

before despair could strike, I saw my pen.


Serenade


Sleep, then.

I'll soon have nothing more to say--

nothing of importance.

You've heard, read

my "I love you" enough.

You won't forget.

And I suppose I don't need

to hear your laughter

which reminds me of those tangerines

you taught me to love--

sweeter, less messy,

easier to peel than even perfect oranges.


Go ahead, sleep.

Forever, if you must.

You'll like me better.

I won't intrude-- just yet.

I'll even try to keep

from speculating your thoughts.

And you won't have to suffer

with how to say

what you really think

of my poems.


Anytime now,

(I suppose when it's time to be tired)

I'll lay down next to you

and meet you in slumber.

Until then I hope

that my repose will be

sweeter and less messy

and my clothes easier to peel

than when you shed your summer dress

and left me whispering

beside your grave.


Smoldering


You smoke deliberately, with style.

I stumble over reality.

And you, who thought you saw it coming,

grimace behind an uncomfortable smile.


Doctor Jude Sings A Requiem


And it sounds like God is clearing his throat

preparing to cough up the phlegm that is us.

You hear trumpets too? They are a racket to me.


I heard a voice in the waves one night

that said a storm, that storm, is easy to calm.

And I even saw the form of those sounds

ignore the lightning and defy the thunder

as he danced on the surface

to where my boat rocked like a world gone mad.


And I've smelt the black-red stench of death

as flesh drops and melts around me.

We all reek of gangrene here

in a land bound in the tourniquet of time.


And there are moments

between the contracts and the cursing,

when some old leper

fighting for another gasp of fetid oxygen

claims to see beyond the touchable ceiling

and begs with words lacking reason

before falling into final, humane sleep.


view from a car seat


she watches trees go backwards

in silence

while papa's quiet is broken

by pop music or a sports report


turning her head

she points drowsy eyes at daddy

who touches her chin


and she smiles weakly

falls asleep and sees

a knight

dressed up like her father


find still


is there any possibility

that i can escape the graffiti heads

and the children of cosmetics

and find still

kisses wet and back rubs

whispers and songs

an untrite way to be sentimental

gina this poem is for you because today

i feel nothing

moments fade alternately

when i sense loss

then anger for letting the feeling

come


An idle mind


Take this paunch, for instance,

this brutal thing that came

as a result of the sneaky change

in metabolism.

And that accursed television

a stand for a forgotten trophy

enticing me away

from the adventures

the library once yielded.


Life’s pace, too quick and boring

and comfortable and callous,

I am afraid to change.

Because I remember

a lost idealism

I may scream

or (if she and the kids are asleep)

cry a hushed and trembling tear.


Standing in the doorway


I walked into the house

and Mother was throwing books

and books of words

at everyone.

She hollered something

to my father

who was sitting on a motorcycle

and sometimes dismounted

to speak calmly to Mom

who had had enough of calm.


Daddy stumbled to his bike

one last time

and sort of rode away.

He would come back, I was sure,

and he did a few days later,

though I have forgotten why.


My brothers cried much

that day and others.

Especially Bryan because he’s so sensitive.

Mama cried too. Perhaps Papa did also

but I don't know.


I just stood in the doorway

and watched.


Each night I wet the bed

and every morning I cried

because I was so cold.


Dallas


Warmed by tea

on Friday morning.

Dallas is awake and moving now

as the radio pours bits of optimism

into this mellow office.


Skylines are great

when seasoned with night and jazz.

But it is morning now

and simpler tunes

accent the sunlit smog

around the huge mortal buildings.


And airplanes take off and land

failing to make it to Heaven

while a child smiles in confidence.





Three Laments

Concurrences


I.


The light of the dark and ever fallen

world, knew me, saw me, before opening

the door to my black room, Dad, you let in

the sallow light in the hall. And coming

in with you, the blue noise of the t.v.

said, "All kids are to be in bed right now."

They're no match for the sight of your soft brow

behind thick lenses, of your gaze on me.

They're unequal to the sound of your hand,

tired, yellowed fingers pulling covers

to my chin. You say, "Go to sleep." I can

now. I remember an angel hovers

unseen above my bed after the door

is shut, and I fall to deep dreams once more.


II.


On a breezeless afternoon, I brushed leaves

from the stone of your grave. But they came back

to clutter your name and dates, to attack

the urn you were reduced to. I believe

I was angry with the wind, so unfair

was my heart. Then an over-cheerful face,

too comfortable invading my space,

walked over like she could go anywhere.

A cousin or friend you would remember,

she tells me, with glee, a story or two

of tricks you played and minor braveries.

And we smiled, sad, near where our defender

slept. She was too alive to have known you,

I thought. But truth bears strange realities.


III.


How happy, at least, the body must be

after death, released from the bonds of Me,

no longer subject to the tyranny

of They. Such is the fate, thank God, of We.

The mind, too, divorced from stimulation,

does not struggle with justification.

It has neither need nor obligation

to be conformed to a generation.

But the soul? Is the soul too hard to know?

Or is it simple, so lacking in show,

that when it speaks with the force of a blow

from unimaginable hands, we go

alone, so proud of our autonomy

we half-comprehend our anatomy?


IV.


Fathers are imperfect gods. Even when

we see them stumble in good light, we build

alters in dark rooms. In solitary

whispers, we recall the monsters they fought:

the drunken wife, the unrelenting boss,

scheming children, one-eyed politicians,

and the cowardly thief of dads, cancer.

And here we wait for them to rise again.

Here we forget their faults, the joys they killed.

At these shrines we drink our hope until we

run out of wine and find the bread we bought

is hard and exacts from each heart a cross.

We suffer disease beyond physicians

and ask questions expecting no answer.


V.


History books and cable t.v. can

try to explain the effects of the war

on our country. But they don't know the man

I watched die who could tell me nothing more

than he had been there. None of them will see

the soldier wrestling with his thoughts, or me,

tortured by his tortured mind. Memory

keeps records, stores data, that can't be saved

on any disk drive or analyzed by

coprocessor. I see the man who gave

more than he had, hear his agonized cry.

The last time I saw him conscious, his tears

of frustration awakened in me fears

that can't be conquered until grace appears.


VI.


So where is that grace and what does it look

like? And with these self-absorbed ears and eyes

how would I know it? Dad, you did not seem

ready to die. Clinging to my weak arms,

hanging above pain by a morphine drip,

order was overturned, and you became

the son. I secretly cheered as you fought

the bully, death, knowing that you could not

win. And so, you were told there was no shame

in letting go. Just lie back down and slip

into the long, good sleep. Now no alarms

can wake you. I see a tear in the seam

of the universe, hear the silent lies

of science. You died and only heads shook.


VII.


Father of lights, you have caught me off guard.

I've stumbled in the glaring, blaring night.

I have beat my smug head against the hard


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