The Primitiveness of Language
The pain from a one-time event
like breaking a wrist diving
for a baseball that healed
with medication and time,
to the pain of meetings
where so much was said
and so little of it mattered.
The careful effort of inclusion,
where you took pains to ensure
people felt welcomed,
and at home when it pained you
to see loved ones suffer
from various indignities
when all you could do was listen.
Imagine the lexicographer
of pain, limited in space
of what she can enter, wanting
to add, see indescribable,
for the unrelenting suffering
the afflicted experience like eternal punishment in Greek mythology.
She argues for inclusion
of the Latin word, poena,
punishment, an applicable term,
as if the sufferer is sentenced
to serve a life term without
the possibility of parole
and all appeals are exhausted.
Always the landscape of pain,
nomadic or residential,
where even expert translators
have a hard time understanding,
like asking about existentialism
and then wanting to rate it
on scale of one to ten,
something a two-year-old can do.
And reaching the quiet, unspoken
impasse where we must move on,
knowing there are seventy-eight adjectives
for pain, and the sadness of recognizing
we rely on a vocabulary where knowledge
still doesn’t mean knowing.
Cape County Cowboy Church
Just the alliteration alone inspired me:
Cape County Cowboy Church in Cape Girardeau
Driving to St. Louis, passing towns like Festus,
Wondering if they had a feats of strength contest,
Especially since Herculaneum was so close by.
So, it’s going to be that kind of poem you think--
Dad-like quips, riffing off old Seinfeld episodes?
No, it’s going to be about watching a few conifers
Standing directly behind deciduous trees like shadows
Thinking of the sixteen different kinds of pine trees
In Maine and working a month in Aroostook County
Where I met people who had spent their entire lives
Without leaving the county and were content.
They didn’t see the Highwaypedia of signs beckoning,
Proud to inform visitors of their population, state
Sports championships and what they were home to,
Nor tempted by the lane of trees with a few leaning
Like they were anxious teens waiting for their dates
to pick them up and drive them far out of town.
Traveling north, they didn’t see the eastern grass
Tilting back nearly forty-five degrees from the westerly
Wind as an in-your-face boss that makes you want to quit
Or see the streaks of limonite in rock ledges
As if it was graffiti meant to make a political statement.
Instead, I thought of a veteran baseball pitcher
Toiling in the minor leagues trying to perfect his craft
even though his curve and slider don’t move enough
to be able to pitch in the big leagues, and this poem’s
metaphors and similes that won’t get anyone to change
their lives, but still grateful for the journey.
The Limitations of Quantification
The meadow thou has tramped o’er & o’er, -
Yet can I think of thee till thought is blind
-John Keats, “Sonnet Written in the Cottage Where Burns Was Born”
Tubercular Keats, expectorating blood-tinged phlegm,
Walks for hours and stumbles upon a meadow,
Privy to the bloom of thistle welcoming
A solitary butterfly hugging its prickly leaves to feed.
He watches a bee overflow his pollen sac on goldenrod
Coating its hair before being flying home
With enough protein to feed his children
And goes on to write poetry that is read for centuries.
Surely then there is data to be mined in these fields--
The pH of soil, the amount of annual rainfall and sun,
While collecting a multitude of additional variables
so that we recreate a landscape from school
windows to inspire future poets and scientists.
Bringing abundance to where there was scarcity,
Attempting to scientifically reproduce genius
Before finding out the limitations of quantification.
The Lesson of Grief
The flag snaps in the wind
During Taps while the discordant bird songs
Clash with the ringing church bells
As the breath from the trumpet
Can no longer sustain an audible note
Before it silences into memory.
The oldest son cups his hand
In prayer while holding the ashes of his father
In a marbled urn against his chest
Before kneeling on a mat
And gingerly placing it into the grave.
An infant sleeps in a parent’s arm,
School-age children watch a parent sob
And elderly friends stand resolute
In their stoic duty to confront mortality.
What is there to say about loss except
To silently watch the encroaching darkness
As it separates husband and wife
For the first night alone
After sixty-six years of marriage,
Knowing she must wake up
the next morning and start all over again.
The Abundance of Decline
How great distances get narrowed by age
Despite the admonition of the mind.
Knees and hips send unmistakable signals
While the heart and lungs demand rest.
Walks turn into noticing the common
You always wanted to escape from.
Yet the maples, robin and butterfly catch
The late afternoon sunlight, common
Yet reliable. It is time to forget Hebe
And capture the abundance of decline.
“Go on,” you say to those in a hurry,
Now appreciative of all you once ignored.
Joseph Geskey lives outside of Columbus, OH and has published multiple poems in several literary journals and is collecting his work for a first book, Alms for the Ravens.