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JEFF CALLAHAN: Poetry

Slide, Slide, Slide

Stay open.
Pass through everything
And everything is but one pledge,
One turn, one prestige,
One easy silence,
One crystal lucid illusion,
One word –

Stay still.
Retain your love of life,
Embrace the warmth of cold kisses
and simply glide-glide-glide
Into the sprawling fertility of a playful Eternity.

Make no allegations, accusations, declarations, implications, revelations, reflections in rippled puddles, just slide-slide-slide, be you all, be what was, what is, what you will help to create.

Hope is a pink ribbon fluttering toward the mountain peaks on a cool, valley breeze.

Lion Postures

Your ghost melts like soap in back pockets
While cherry-lipped saints on window sills
Drowsily hum obscure, little hymns
In the idealistic dawn
And eighteen hollow flutes announce
Pretty girls with fog swept faces
Tumbling down misty front steps
With a lilt in their thorny ribbons and tangled flesh shrouds.
In tones thick as blood of a day old sacrifice
Pooling desperately on cracked limestone, they hiss,
“Were we forsaken
Or just tragically mistaken?” Will I awaken
Or simply float disemboweled in the abandoned country
Where love flows like dirty water
From rickety bathtubs with plugs drawn?
We were elegant in our simplicity,
Pushing away dishes of apricots
On carpets of fresh, fragrant grass,
And lying in lion postures
When the ferryman shouted,
“Anyone for the other shore?”

The Sky Of Sleep

In starless, moonless onyx night,
The place where the wave finally broke and rolled back,
She is wandering. Everyone here wanders,
Features masked by their private dark
And memories barely breathing.
Whisper into the ear of Creation
And wash up red in the tide of her dreams,
Spinning sour lies into the sky of sleep.

When all haste and cravings wild return
With the rising, unrelenting sun,
Look twice before she bears all life away
With a demonically sensual face,
Howling anything that comes into her head,
With the kind of long, luxurious feeling of losing
That relieves a man of his soul.

She has gone behind a passing cloud
For the first time in forty days.
Vultures mingle with the gathering crowd,
Twelve times the size of God.

Hands Of Time

Please believe your memory has not aged unremembered,
For when labored breaths from heathered woods are heard
“What a sigh was that to claw out of a young man’s chest,”
Gathered, one-sided sinners lament then discuss
Your dark greetings, vividly blooming of vulgar saints blessed.
Had our love grown thin and faint as the new morning mist,
Turned grotesque as rich carvings, nourishing by centuries
Ruins of marble fountains fondled by Autumn’s spicy breeze,
Or mirrored the sun’s razorsharp decline in belladonna skies,
Perhaps your memory the rugged hands of time could eclipse
While embracing nothing of me save what suffered your eyes
And bidding me embrace nothing save what escaped your lips.

Twilight Tapestries

Though twilight tapestries wilt
And the sun’s wrapped in a double pinwheel quilt,
Angels still rattle my last dried sunflower stalks
With instinct that guides moss grown children toward sin.
Does my hour grow late?
Come, Devil, for you is this world given
When the bronze altar bell rings out her name,
So we can throw copper shadows on millstone walks
And mimic a graver gait
In unison with her shattered windmill frame.

Midst the rambling hymn of voices parted,
Picture the once faint arc of rainbows
On the sporting breeze and chasing mysteries
Of frayed canvas boards shattered against stone thresholds,
Copied from the richness of my visions
Living under her sway.

Though twilight tapestries wilt
Over mindless waters slowly choked with silt,
Angels still rattle my last dried sunflower stalks
Giving vent to our maddened inspiration.
Why must we hesitate?
Her own scorched foothills run like a ribbon
When with stars we huddle or in night drown,
To sidelong eavesdrop on mist clouded hedgerow talks
And mimic a graver gait
While love’s watch I keep as the straw settles down.

Withering rootless and butterfly-hearted,
A bohemian breath, the east wind blows
Scattering our pleas and oral histories
While murky thunderheads blacken the rain-washed folds
Weighed down like starched, lamplight decisions
And molasses and clay.

Though twilight tapestries wilt
As rows of wooden crosses randomly tilt,
Angels still rattle my last dried sunflower stalks
Saddening us with their imperfect beauty.
Do you I fascinate?
Lost in a delicate serenity,
Quarter moons splinter upon her dark eaves,
When water bearers weep as bemused fate balks
And mimic a graver gait
Over thousands of feather-veined willow leaves.

She is seeding into ash. I am sprinkled in her wake.
We fall like loosened marble and alone must break.
Has the grove forgotten us? What o’clock now is it?
Walk with me in noiseless step and we may revisit
Our luster she confined to stooping, wayside towers
And bound with weary chains and melancholy hours.

We have baggy, scarecrow souls to hem and coddle.
We have corked Heaven in a thin, black glass bottle.

Wishing Well

Toss your soul in the wishing well
And ride this battered carousel.
As short-changed martyrs
Pantomime fellatio,
We build coarse thrones
Of chipped curbstones
While standing on tiptoe.

Pawn your tongue and soft-boiled wits
For bourbon and barbiturates.
As backslapped stragglers
Join impromptu serenades,
We drape windows
With faux fur throws
Until the voices fade.

Match my long, absent-minded stride
And swallow your ruffled pride.
As stone-faced jesters
Contemplate humility,
We hang our sins
With bent clothespins
For all the world to see.

Fling Wide The Gates

Fling wide the gates, open the ancient doors.
Together we will harvest hapless orphans
Under the shadow of our crippled wings
And watch as they perform miracles for the dead
Before ardent lions come to whisk us away.
We will not go afraid.
You are like the shattered pieces of a toppled clay pot.
I am like something thrown away.
You know my heart, you have come to me at night.
I will protect you like a mountain fortress.
You wear your distrust like a beloved necklace
And your melancholy as if it were a hallowed robe.
Your eyes possess all the expression of a stillborn child.
Where will you go when all our sacred symbols are gone,
When all our prophets have swallowed their own tongues?
You will not be like the straw blown by the wind.
I will wait for you.
I will wait for you forever.

Gardens Of Your Spring

Would I, with a cavernous voice,
Crookedly declare the jeweled start
Of fresh tarnish upon the gates
Framing gardens of your Spring;
While mischievous faith reverts,
Envious though sensual,
To a sentimental plea
And tightfisted goodbye
To suppress
The sweet glow
Of my depraved collapse?
Would I embrace a false choice
And with a weary shrug, depart
As your narrow-eyed God waits
Suspended by taut string,
Woven through festering hurts
Broadening with each fierce pull;
Until we all agree
Not to deny
His guess
Although
We feast on scraps?
And so would I rejoice
When your mosaic gold heart
Absently suffocates,
Defamed and writhing,
On the varnished outskirts
Of some open, lustful,
Every which way city?
Would I?
Yes.
No.
Perhaps.

Private Collection Of Madness

Rumored angels with bamboo spines
Half in lust with silence and snow-white shadows,
Powerful as bronze with elegance blurred,
Where the honeysuckle wept
For a drained, wild-haired Heaven
Afforded no mercy when appointing the Stars
Curators of our private collection of madness.

Crudely framed in sharp-edged balsam pines
Laced with sprays of mimosa,
She hangs, in darkness and off-centered
In a portrait from which she has never stepped,
And boldly grumbles with a poisonous charm
Polluting her creamy voice, “If I have no other lover,
At least I should have the Sun!”

In cramped closets, we cover our scars
With hundreds of tingling dollar bills
And wait for loaves of stone to leaven
On her gnarled window sills.

Evening's Skeleton

When the dog-tired, unshaven haze
Fleshed out evening’s skeleton,
Her emaciated ghost blindly shuffled
Down moody, salt-licked boardwalk planks,
Sidestepping the torrent of jumbled souls,
Custard bowls and swamp candles
In a pair of disenchanted sandals,
With flushed breasts barely concealed
Inside a floppy cotton blouse,
Yellowed with smoke from stale cigars,

While a motherless, lank and lonely clown,
Perched on a watermelon crate
Coated with seven inches of crushed ice,
Polished the dragon, pinned to his sleeve,
Blinking in time with thunderclaps,
Finger snaps and rooster crows
Bright as her jolted Chinese tea rose,
And swaping grins and prophesies
With an ejaculating, broken coat mouse
Spitting birdseed at shooting stars.

Sweet Dreams Earth

Should brash winds first sound
The last resonating chime of a swinging chapel bell
With you, I will remain

In grassy crepe-tongued dew soothing your blistered feet
Pacing a ruby brick wall dawn,
In bloated feathers of sunshine drenching your almond eyes

Widely rummaging through buttoned halfway down clouds,
And in pot-bellied raindrops
Smothering the haunted beating of your night stand clock.

Should brash winds first shake
The last dangling petals of your mud-spattered camellia,
With me, you will remain

In docile whitecapped yawns mingling with billowy mist
Hunched over mute cypress pools,
In bouncing tatters of shade under lush spreading canopies

Of snaking footpaths up thin-hipped, papier mache mountains,
And in hushed backstage undertones
Between the good night heavens and sweet dreams earth.

I, My Magdalene and Mescal

As neighboring churchyards yawn
Through motel shades half-drawn,
Whispers of famished bedtime prayers,
Picturesque, she slowly bares.

Flakes of listless cigarette ash
Frost the pitted window sash,
Ripening as bold fireflies
Flourish against black pearl skies.

Quick as contorted briars grow,
Hallelujahs domino
And strain for scant rationale
I, my Magdalene and mescal.

Blue Pendulums

Of the height and heroism of love,
Antique, bitter-lipped thoughts creak
Waiting for Jesus, in his stockinged feet,
To rise in His due season
And fiddling with flashlights in the frost,
We follow frenzied crow tracks
And swap two oranges with diamond seeds,
Grown brave in the common air
While sweetened by chocolate mint,
For a red hot jar of wine-soaked crickets
With twelve apostles sharing one hemp glove.
Their crystal-lidded eyes sneak
Ironed looks, as smooth as nature is discrete,
And brimming with sprightly treason,
Pluck her shriveled leaves with lashes crossed
So through rotten porch cracks
In the dainty, onionskin dawn, she bleeds
Candied apples from a rocking chair
And paints, with cinnamon tint,
Tropical sunsets on my white fence pickets,
As I contemplate why the wisps of clouds above
Of smoky kerosene lamps reek.
Her peals of hand-me-down laughter meet
My price of sleep and reason
Far off in the bowels of our Heaven tossed
Like snowballs at tin shacks,
And cozily, in our wraparounds and misdeeds,
We practice charity and solitaire
As dark ravines shrewdly hint
Of a conscious-stricken universe in the thickets,
Flaunting blue pendulums that casually swing
With the improbability of the existence of anything.

A Grave Already Half Dug

Our love is a grave already half dug,
Shaded and with berry-laden branches lined.
We taunt our souls with a sigh and a shrug.

Her tongue is my needle, her scorn my drug.
My rough braided veins wither maligned.
Our love is a grave already half dug.

She crawls in my skin, now three sizes too snug,
Once tailored-made when her tender moon shined.
We taunt our souls with a sigh and a shrug.

We dry China Pinks in folds of her prayer rug
And sip marigold broth with orange rind.
Our love is a grave already half dug.

She cracks haphazard like a stoneware jug,
Her blood sweeps through my fingers intertwined.
We taunt our souls with a sigh and a shrug.

Upon her pale-colored horse, lean and smug,
She rides to the echoes of my footfalls behind.
Our love is a grave already half dug.
We taunt our souls with a sigh and a shrug.

Smidgens Of Sin

Forever after your half-smiling reflections swoon
In dingy picture windows and a ruffled, morning puddle
On great unswept floors where are backwardly strewn
Jagged shards of ceiling length mirrors in a huddle
Whose last dazzling, crazy kiss was from you,
While a warm, rich, orange afternoon sky loomed ahead
Laced with smidgens of sin your keyhole eyes still shun,
My nonchalance still tumbles
Toward your velvety, port wine lips already loosened,
And begging for nickels in summery, evening mumbles,
Listens for the sweet chorus of an enduring wind
Lost in the sprawling distance behind a makeshift moon
With the lingering scent of cinnamon and lavender oil
Bathing a wispy, ravenous girl dancing on arid soil.

Rejoice

Where the withered oak leaves dropped silently
Under the weary slant of blanched autumn suns
And spindly vines bristled and clutched violently
Onto the broken limbs of our disfigured shadows,

Long strides of blackened waters shuffle
Over smooth rocks, by childlike handfuls strewn,
And while shifting their edge bottoms and depths,
Mimic the curious inflections of your silvery voice.

With mothlike approach, a sugary wind still blows,
Drawing the sharp twitches of a scratching frown
Far away from soul sick faces, and politely shuns
Nightmares of your embrace come tumbling down,

While lonely crackles of kindled bonfires muffle
A light-headed groan, as my flesh and bone swoon
From thirty-one years spent retracing twenty steps,
Each engraved in monstrous letters R-E-J-O-I-C-E.