Winter Poem

Cold Afternoon

snowfall makes no noise,
falls as forgetting falls,
flake after flake.

~~ Miguel de Unamuno, “The Snowfall Is So Silent,” as translated by Robert Bly

We imagine ourselves atmospheric,
waiting for a thick covering of snow
that we know will come.
I build a fire.

We blanket ourselves before it,
fill our space with warmth –
these rooms from which we will see
white flakes fall from the gray sky

through the cold glass of windows
shut tight against the Kansas wind
that seems to seep, still, through
cracks and seams around frames, under doors.

It is like this in winter.
It is like this when skin
shivers at the touch of air
colder than water frozen in the ground.

We settle in, adjust to walls familiar
and worn, to furniture that holds our shape,
to the warmth of our blanketed bodies.
The tea kettle whistles,

steams the windows. Outside,
we could see our breath and imagine
ourselves as storm clouds
shedding snow crystals over the stubbled plains,

as snow clinging to the bare branches of maples,
to the needles and cones of pines,
coating browning lawns, covering
the sidewalks and the streets.

We imagine the quiet and imagine the snow,
imagine a day spent bundled up
in the warmth of each other,
hastening that which we know will come.

© 2010, Shawn Pavey. All rights reserved

For Bob Sheldon — Friend, Activist, Murder Victim

From Indy Week.

From Indy Week.

The last time I saw Bob Sheldon, I was in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House protesting the Gulf War. I turned around, and there’s this little guy with that crazy curly red hair beaming a smile at me as big as all life. We hadn’t planned to meet there, but we did. Bob asked me if I had a place to stay.

“We’re all crashing at this house up in Maryland. I’m sure we’ve got some extra floor space for you.”

I worked at a Hilton in Charlotte at the time and had scored a free room at a Hilton in Tysons Corner, VA. When I told him that, he just laughed and said, “Don’t say that too loud. I don’t know how the other kids would feel if they knew that a couple of their fellow activists were staying in a room with a mini bar.”

Bob Sheldon’s murder occured 22 years ago today. For those of you fortunate enough to know him during his all too short life, we lost not only a friend, but a warrior for peace and justice. I thought it appropriate to include this poem today. Wherever Bob is now, if you subscribe to the whole afterlife thing, you know he’s causing some trouble. And laughing.

Here are links to learn more:

http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.indyweek.com%2Fgyrobase%2FContent%3Foid%3Doid%253A15531&h=bd5c0

http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/9142405/

Remembering: For Bob Sheldon

These nights pass in such long hours
even moonlight seems so still
you can almost touch it.

Go ahead.

It won’t bite.
Can’t really hurt you.
Go ahead.

Time again to be alone.
No known comfort exists here before dawn
and radio is the only sound
save the humming of a digital alarm clock
progressed past ticking.

Dead.
Dead.

There, I’ve said it, again,
but writing it down
feels too much like writing you off, brother,
no shit.

Memory fails to bring you in focus
only patches of image come through,
your voice the only constant I conjure
your voice over warm sour mash bourbon
belly-laughing like a kid
on the beat up old couch on your bookstore’s front porch
before wandering out to catch a band
at a bar down the street to dance.

And we knew we’d always dance with you,
but a lousy little bullet got in our way
and you, shot in your head,
are just ash spread over some mountain now.

I would welcome any sound –
a click, a tock –
some signal of passage
other than the silent movement of constellations
and a fractioned sphere past my window

so slow, I barely notice

so slow, I sit alone in dark,
cigarettes my only light except hope
of a sun rolling up in the East.
Through my window, I’ll see it
knowing you can’t,
knowing you won’t.


© 1997, 2008, Shawn Pavey. All rights reserved.

Poem for Valentine’s Day

Stumbling

I should have outgrown cursing
digital alarm clocks
stabbing me in dark warm sleep
next to you, waking me to rise
into a cold blackness
of hardwood under my feet.

It is a dance with dread, this search
by touch through passion’s shed
clothes for just anything to cover
myself on the January stumble
to the white tiled bathroom floor.

Water steams and bounces off this skin
that only minutes before touched yours
and the feel of you burns through water
into my brain where it will stay all day
never letting fully go,

while I scrub then dry then shave then dress
and wrap a noose around my neck
and before slipping into my coat, you
slip around me and softly kiss my throat

and sacred unsacred rituals
of doing the job mean nothing
as I stare at the clock
counting its ticks and tocks
as the hour’s component parts
reassemble into one whole longing
that never goes away.

© 1997, 2008 by Shawn Pavey. All rights reserved.

Spring is Around The Corner

Thaw

In winter, the body knows
it is born to vanish.

Flesh turns to dirt, bones
wash white in March rains.
Life churns, returning
to wet layers of earth.

We – dead and dying, rotten and rotting –
look up to a sun far away and wait,
wait for the body and the solar body
to pull each other closer,
moisten skin with sweat,
heat blood,
crack seeds,
green the dead husk of the world.

In spring, the body knows
it is born to sing.

Previously published in the Winter 2011 issue of The Main Street Rag Literary Journal.
© 2011 by Shawn Pavey. All rights reserved.

If I Had a Greatest Hit, It Would Be This

At The Waffle House

Behold, I show you a mystery;
we shall not all sleep
but we shall all be changed
“— 1st Corinthians 15:51

Out of beer and out of time,
last call puts Tyler and I in a place
where mysterious blendings of caffeine and nicotine
work our Budweiser dulled brains awake,
where redneck jukeboxes full of whiskey voices
lament great losses of the true ones
and how we all get stomped
flatter than lonely Texas highways
complete with tumbleweeds and dust devils
simply by love.

So where are the rest of those Hank Williams poets
whose tears fall to the ground like rain
making puddles only bleary-eyed drunks
drinking their way through their blues can see?

When thy cup is empty, it shall be filled.
When she gets around to it and isn’t bellowing side orders
of bacon with those hash browns.

So go ye then on down to a place
where things somehow come to short order
in those small hours before dawn
through fogs of conversation
rambling through coffee steam
and cigarettes piling dead in testament
to a new faith healing
busted hearts in confirmation
that you will never be the same.

© 1997, 2008 Shawn Pavey

14 Word Poem in Defiance of the 14 Words

I am invited to everything on Facebook and it’s my own damned fault because, you may be shocked to discover, I invite people to events on Facebook. Goose, gander, bed, lying — all that stuff. It’s become such a pervasive issue that, for the last year or more, I ignore event invitations. They just stack up and I ignore them.

But someone who always makes insightful, poignant, and, yes, interesting posts, a Washington Post contributing acquaintance of mine, sent me an event invitation. Only it wasn’t an event, but a project. A woman by the name of Jodi Barnes in Chapel Hill, NC, is going to, on February 14th, that most insipid of Hallmark-fabricated holidays, gather a group of volunteers to stand on street corners in Chapel Hill and hand out poems. The invitation is to write 14 word poems around the theme, “One World, One Race, One Love” in defiance of the 14 Words so commonly associated with the White Supremist movement.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteen_Words

Jodi and her All Volunteer Love Army will gather on the streets of Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro in North Carolina to distribute these small poems to any and all they meet. Here is my contribution:

14 Word Poem in Defiance of the 14 Words

“The Fourteen Words is a phrase used predominantly by white nationalists. It most commonly refers to a 14-word slogan: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.” It can also refer to another 14-word slogan: “Because the beauty of the White Aryan woman must not perish from the earth.” – Wikipedia

Water, soil, and time
cracks acorns,
births trees.

I want this for you, me.

So, if you’re in the Triangle area of NC on Valentine’s Day, look for Jodi’s volunteers. Take a poem. Love fiercely. Defy hate.

Rengas for America: Now and Here

In Spring of 2011, I participated in a renga project with 30 other poets from around the Kansas City area as part of a traveling, multi-media art exhibit. The resulting collaborative poem, this renga, is titled Ghost Over Water.

You can go to the America: Now and Here website to view the poem in its entirety and view a photo of our poem stenciled on the wall of the Leedy-Volkous gallery in the Crossroads Arts District in Kansas City, MO. While at the site, click around to find out more about A:N&H. Here’s a link:

http://kansascity.americanowandhere.org/ghost-over-water-kansas-city-renga/

To hear the Kansas City poets (including yours truly!) read their contributions to Ghost Over Water on our local NPR station, go here:

http://kcur.org/post/kc-renga-ghost-over-water-1

But that was 2011. In 2012, I was fortunate enough to be included in a 150 Kansas Poets renga for America: Now and Here. As a result, I am spending several weekends this year traveling the state of Kansas, meeting other poets, and performing selections from this beautiful book. The poem is here:

http://150kansaspoems.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/to-the-stars-through-difficulty-caryn-mirriam-goldberg/

And it can be purchased here:

http://www.mammothpublications.com/

I wanted to share my contribution to To The Stars Through Difficulties: A Kansas Renga in 150 Voices.

Listening: how wheat
bristles in wind like tele-
graph wires charged with part-

icles carrying voices
of dark communications

deeper than music
of our bright songbirds: seeds of
prairie grasses crack

secret in the loam, yearn for
wildfires of blanketing shoots.