Selected Poems 2004-2007 by Jason Sturner - HTML preview
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Selected Poems 2004-2007
Copyright 2008 Jason Sturner
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Note to reader: Due to the nature of digital formatting, some of the following poems may have lost their original structure. If you would like to see the poems in their intended design, please visit my website for reading options or consider purchasing a hard copy of the book. Thank you.
with a kiss
Bring you to the patio
where breakfast waits
Feed you strawberries,
I want to take you
by the hand
Walk you to the beach
where waves wait
Give you an ocean,
the sun, my heart.
I would love you—
I would love you so easily
if you were real.
Of storms through your skin,
across your inner thigh.
You are a whisper.
Of buttons slightly untamed,
inside a metal frame.
This pinprick in our shadow
reveals a minor flow,
like hearts caught in a spiral
where the wind ascends.
And if dust settled
on the swan’s bones,
a quilt-sky could rise
from this field of poppies.
Until then, I am a whisper.
Of night tangled in vines,
exhausting your sleep.
Until then, you are a whisper.
Of thoughts shutting my eyes,
hiding these theatricals.
Something past me
A bit like hope
Cast off my shoulder
To the wall
X, I want to
O, she can
A bit like revelation
The tarnished halo
Of her visit
But O, she cannot
Something for herself
A bit like regret
Slipping off the heavy end of a sigh
When she goes
with a few cold beers,
your pretty face
among old parts in the garage.
You had me under your sheets
before I realized my mistake—
gasping hearts flopping
all over the place.
They say behind every man
is a good woman.
how things have changed.
and flowers burst into dust
When the rivers
and sing like a bird
I’ll scoop you up
and into my arms
Bone by bone, hair by hair
Your fair skull
against my heaving chest
of philosophy and science
of gods and devils
with love at the center
as a fire
And when it burns down
And when it burns down
I will bury you, again
my only love.
set perfectly in place
and her eyes are filled with it.
She kneels down,
bend the silky petals
of her favorite flower.
Time is a deific ox
pulling her life forward, steadily
and her eyes are splintered by it.
She stands up,
hears a starling
stream music from its breast;
today it will find a mate.
With two fingers across her wrist
and a mild concern in her heart, she thinks
Where does the beauty of a flower go when it dies?
Late last night
the ladybugs came to get me
to swarm over me
in the dark.
And this morning
I’d have woken up eaten
if it weren’t
for the spiders.
on the back of a white swan.
Tears fall down her cheeks
because her heart is unloved.
She sees twilight in the water
then turns around to face it.
A star shooting overhead
sparkles romance from its tail.
She thinks, Why can’t that be for me?
But each tear that fell on the lake
became a ripple towards shore.
And love waits patiently
just beyond the water lilies.
— Sin & Confession
You’ve asked me to speak of eagles.
Of diurnal flight over moonlit valleys.
I was to offer you the brazen talon
of its faith, hope, and love. As a song.
But I lied when I said I could spring
this bird from my heart willingly.
I betrayed myself into thinking
I was the keeper of its valor. I am not.
In truth, it flies through me but doesn’t see me.
A ghost of old tears reflects from its eyes.
And though my soul is wretched and my ego has lied,
I long for your unconditional love. In dreams…
So many nights I’ve fallen asleep in your heart!
Awoken in the world your words have built.
I can’t kiss your angelic face, but I hear its soft music.
It sings that our distance is illusion. It’s not real.
You’ve asked me to speak of eagles.
Of nocturnal flight over sunlit peaks.
To take your hand, guide you across clouds,
and illustrate the strength of God. I have. In you.
With faith, hope, and love under wing,
you have flown softly, quietly through me.
The embers of your saintly energy
raining down upon my soul. I weep.
Because you, my friend, are the eagle.
You see me.
in fields we don’t know,
leaning over the broken bodies
of men younger than the day
of men wiser
the light of sunset;
a reveille to the angels.
These men… chivalrous,
sanguine; anxious to make proud
their transfigured fathers.
Unaware, it would seem,
of the world’s way of forgetting
and not forgiving.
These men… a man, dreaming
in black and blue. Wondering if the
blood, the pain, is a gift for his god.
Hoping invisible hands
will gather all his relevant pieces
and let his hour be peaceful.
That those he loves most
will conquer this distance
sit alongside him,
and carry him home.
Searching for that someone
you have never known. I sit alone
in a rotating corner—shadows forming
all your favorite shapes.
My dream-self does not know
where it belongs in such dreams.
Always wishing it could tell you
that I am findable. That in your equation
I can be proven.
You’ve seen my silhouette, coming off the walls
you walk along. It hinders the burning sun for you;
is a barrier when it’s cold.
But have you looked closely, lately?
And though not in the shape of a crown
or a single, confident rose,
it is not a dangerous thing.
It is not meaningless.
Did you even know, you’re its maker?
These are the things I want to tell you.
But my dream-tongue must hold.
It holds because I know that in the place
where we actually speak
we are speaking our last words.
Of the last night I saw you,
All covered in deadweight gold
And tarnished by its light.
You stood at the window,
An angel with burnt wings
And a soul tired of dancing.
“It’s never easy backing out,” you said.
“I know,” I replied,
Our backs facing each other
And the voice not quite my own.
“Sometimes it isn’t what we imagine.”
You breathed against the window
And made a heart with your fingertip.
I closed my eyes
And put my forehead to the door.
When moonlight fell across the bed
You turned to me and said, “Paris, we
Should’ve gone to Paris. They have stars
And paintings, all the romance you can take.”
I fumbled for my keys and opened the door.
“And broken hearts,” I said.
Plenty of broken hearts.
throw ropes down my mouth.
But beware of the biting words
that linger along the throat.
They are bitter, always questioning
When you reach a path lit by embers
Grab your cross, and hold it tight.
There, bits of heart decompose along the turn.
You should cover your head, for it drips still
off the ribs
of a splat-
You may even see her against the starless dark.
A ghostly angel playing the loose string
of a smashed violin . . .
(It is true: sometimes the old sounds are deafening
and you can’t hear the new ones)
But I digress.
Follow the map that I gave you
and gather the props as you go:
The rusty crown.
The bloody pile of nightingale feathers.
The broken teeth of one genuine smile.
And don’t forget the dried up pen and quill.
I should remind you now
to leave by morning,
for tomorrow I will sit at the edge of the world.
There I will smile into the rising sun
and without a thought
The sun rose ripe and warm over the quiet town of Batavia, Illinois, tucking shadows into the pockets of morning. People opened their shutters and children ran out to play. Robins sang high in the trees as squirrels played beneath them.
With a proud smile on his face, a father gently puts his daughter Emma into a bright red stroller. Seconds later and they’re off, destined for the local park – the one with all the old trees and a creek lined with violets. As they follow the sidewalk a breeze comes along and tickles Emma’s face, lifting her curls. She giggles like life is at its brilliant best.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the park, a newly emerged swallowtail spreads its wings in the warm sun, nearly ready for its first flight.
Emma and her father enter the park. An immense, magical world of flora and fauna surrounds them in all directions. Emma’s eyes light up, dashing from right to left, up then down – there is so much to see!
Then something red flies by and lands in a shrub. “Look Em,” her father says, pointing, “there’s a cardinal.”
The stroller comes to a halt and Emma’s father disappears. He reappears a few seconds later with a purple flower and offers it to Emma. She takes the drooping flower in her tiny hands and stares at it. After a moment she looks up at her father, who raises his arms. “Emma, what could that be?”
Emma seems puzzled. “That’s a violet, Em,” he says. Suddenly she turns away and drops the flower onto her lap, watching something small, yellow, and airborne coming towards them. Her eyes go wide. It’s like nothing she has ever seen.
With a jolt of excitement Emma positions herself at the edge of the stroller and looks at her father, who remains silent. The butterfly comes closer, most certainly noticing Emma and her big brown eyes. But it also sees something else – the bright red, perhaps nectar-filled object Emma is sitting in.
Fighting the breeze, the swallowtail makes its way to the stroller, orbiting both Emma and her father. It flits up and over their heads, spirals down and back up again, casts a tiny shadow across them.
“Emma,” her father whispers, “that’s a but-ter-fly.”
Emma watches the frantic display, then looks to be sure her dad is watching too. By the time she turns back the golden insect has landed on the stroller’s edge, seemingly to relax its wings; tired from its first flight.
Emma sits very still, never taking her eyes off the curious visitor. But that cannot last. Bubbles start to shoot off her lips like fireworks, and in seconds she’s lost all control – slapping tiny hands on pink legs and making all sorts of incomprehensible but joyful sounds. In that same moment, not for fear, but of necessity to carry on with its butterfly ways, the newborn swallowtail ascends from the stroller and flies away.
And although the butterfly would never return, it was never far from Emma’s heart.
Author’s note: This piece was inspired by an obituary. For reasons unstated, a little girl named Emma passed away when she was two years old. The obituary was quite short, but it contained such simplicity and innocence that I will never forget it. It was told that one of her favorite things to look at were the butterflies.
is a morning dream
of reaching for the girl
that keeps falling
off my edge
dive-bomb the present
blooming up the gut
to break open
old scars in the heart
the dream fades
when day hits its fist
pulling fresh thin skin
over broken bone
I walk the park
in mindful stride
a stress-heavy head
chiseled clean by calm
I turn the corner
and sink into a stop
there, a man sits in the grass
holding his baby in laughter
and now, my morning sickness
concerns an unknown child—
a child that would look so much
like her and me
It is nights like this
when the halls of my heart
are filled with moonlit sonatas
and a numbing ache
that all I want
is to be next to you
watch you sleep
and be the first thing you see
when morning comes.
To remind you
that even if life repeats itself
we always find each other,
beautifully, over and over again.
But tonight, all I have
is a beer in my hand
these words in my head
and no way of knowing
how to love you.
Slumped against steering wheels,
on the floors of kitchens and bedrooms,
face down in swimming pools.
Bodies litter the malls,
the halls of prestigious universities,
they’re in hospitals and sports bars,
at desks in corporate offices.
In the center of the oval office
lays the body of our president,
maggots crawl out
from beneath her eyelids.
The rats beneath the streets
lift their heads and twitch their noses.
Vultures fly off trees
into waves of decay.
Remnants of humanity crumble,
are buried, eroded and grown over.
We are dust and fossils; we are history.
The planet is lush and productive.
Out in an unnamed ocean
a new breed of dolphin is born,
its flippers more like modified claws.
One day, it will use them to grasp the shoreline.
I have longed to be
the quiet, fading light
that helps you sleep;
and sunrise through the open door.
I’ve stayed awake for hours,
wondering how I could channel
the most beautiful things
through your eyes,
and into your heart.
I have wished to be
the warm, child-long summer
that stirs your playful curiosity;
and dreams across the long winter.
For a time I doubted
I could be any of these things,
or the myriad others
that fill my head each day.
But the stronger my life
bonds with yours,
the less I doubt my abilities,
the more revealed is my part.
With love, all possibility follows;
it follows me, it follows you.
And all these things wished for
are already true.
of your arms. Warmed by
the trust in your smile.
The night and our love
Are acquainted. You cuddle close
and feel my heart. I brush your
hair away from your face.
The window and the rain
Are old friends. Soft candle-
light washes over our skin,
soft music over our repose.
The ambiance and timing
Couldn’t be better. I look
down at you, you’re falling asleep.
I kiss your forehead
and whisper, Sleep well.
With eyes closed, you sigh
and reply, Then don’t go.
but that of love.
Reside in the V of my arms
like a bird’s nest
Firmly, I will hold you;
strong storms and wind through.
Love makes no promise
but that of itself.
Trust your heart and let me shine
like a wave of light
through dark forests:
Make peace with yourself
and make peace with others,
for you’ll need acceptance in your eyes
when you meet us.
This morning there was much rain,
forcing the birds into trees,
the butterflies beneath leaves.
I stand at the open window,
listening for the cool silence
I begin to wonder
about time machines,
about being fully absorbed into the future:
The full view of a sunset
from our porch chairs,
a cat resting at our feet.
Faces aged, a hand
holding a hand.
And the wind
comes down from flowered hills,
filling the home with fragrances.
Everything is golden orange
like a softly glowing jewel.
I blink and turn from the window.
Another routine day begins.
The echoes of my heartbeat
will mingle with the rain.
to a soundscape of Vivaldi.
The songs of summer birds
have settled like dust.
I stand at the window,
watch leaves fall across the yard,
overcome by a sensation
I cannot deny:
My heart is in a dance
with autumn’s return.
About the author:
Jason Sturner was born in Harvey, Illinois, and raised in the western suburbs of Chicago. He has published four books of poetry: Kairos, 10 Love Poems, Selected Poems 2004-2007, and Collected Poems. In addition to poetry he writes flash fiction, short stories and nature essays. He resides in Geneva, Illinois, and works as a botanist at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle.
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My blog: http://jasonsturner.blogspot.com/