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Tigers, Sickles and Crack Poem


Tygers, Sickles and Crack by Ward Kelley

The destination, you know, is forever unseen,
suspected, intuited, but never squeezed,
even though thousands of religions
steel-trapped probable answers
such as incense, snakes or oft described graces . . .
opiates, some say, for whole populations,
while others contend the true laudanum
can be discerned while illuminating
tygers and xanadu:
we're all composing types of prayer,
and if words were a form of drugs,
then surely poetry is crack cocaine itself . . .
yet where is the source of such
an exact exhilaration
if not the final certitude?
Unseen, but perhaps we can
glimpse it in rearview mirrors
as poets make drive-bys at the truth,
scratching away with bones and cogs . . .
never quite squeezing off the headshot,
but wounding it for certain.

Thirteen Years in the Tower
Ward Kelley

Iron cannonballs chained to my heels, fashioning my corpse
to the wet, stone floor of my cell . . . for this is all that remains
of my mortality, a carcass, a thing scraping and ingesting,
relieving itself similar to the manner my soul long ago
was relieved if it.

There can be no terrestrial cage for my spirit, I once thought,
since no bars or mortar can bind a soul who means
to catapult through clouds . . . prison held few fears
or tortures for me; the body can discover several tricks and devices to absorb nearly any pain, and my soul
was never truly afflicted by corporal misfortunes.
Yet the more I learned how to swirl into the macrocosm,
to engage the dalliance of the resplendent, and the further I released primitive energies that once fueled stars
but now bombard my sensibility, the greater became the arc
of my soul over the ball of being, and the more I comprehended
the downward bent of this very arc I once exulted;
soon I came to understand the greatest jail of all
is consciousness . . . and we are all bound, here,
away from some succinct completion.

Our interior souls, deeper within the within,
on occasion taste of it, apprehend some hint
like the whiskers of a cautious animal are sparked
by a strange breeze . . . and I at last learned the very universe of carnality is in fact a cannonball
shackled to the pinions of my serious heart.

Artist's note
Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618), English military commander and poet, was a
court favorite of Elizabeth I, but fell out of favor with her successor James
I when Raleigh's enemies convinced the king Raleigh had opposed his succession. In 1603 Raleigh was tried for treason and sentenced to death; James however commuted the sentence, and Raleigh spent the next thirteen years confined to the Tower of London. Freed when he persuaded James he could find El Dorado, Raleigh's expedition ignited an international incident
with the Spanish. On his return to England, Sir Walter Raleigh was again charged with treason, and this time suffered a beheading.

We Truly Cry For Compassion
Ward Kelley

The jackhammers of legend machine-gun
your brow, nailing the consequences
of your actions to your own mortal flesh.
How do you separate your two realized worlds,
physics and preternatural? The canon of myth
will make you immortal for awhile, so you must
take care to perpetuate the correct deeds.

This age of ours does not apprehend saints,
it misuses them, and rarely recognizes one
at the correct moment; but when it does,
ways are found -- cosmopolitan manners --
to soon martyr such sanctity by coincidence.
I see you know all this
by your continuing response of kindness,
and where we all cry out for money,
we truly cry for compassion . . .
for our age suffocates in money
while in a desert dust-devil without mercy.
Yet what is there about our hearts that makes
us spurn the administrator of kindnesses?
We crave the drug, but cannot abide the needle
and always, in the end, break it.

This is why there are so many martyrs . . .
and what we truly need is a saint we can love
before the death is announced, a saint
we can embrace all the while the proper
mercies are applied . . . still, until then,
you came so very close before your death.

Artist's note:
Joseph Cardinal Bernardin (1928-1996), the son of Italian immigrants, rose to
become Cardinal of Chicago. One of his many achievements was helping to
frame the Church's position on nuclear armaments. His most trying moment of
national attention came in 1993 when he was accused of having sexually abused
a young man, Steven Cook, years earlier in Cincinnati. Cook finally recanted
and reconciled with the Cardinal before dying of AIDS in 1995. Bernardin's
demeanor in this period set an example for all by his calm declaration of innocence and his willingness to forgive his accuser; the same can be said of his conduct after he learned he himself was dying of pancreatic cancer. He calmly embraced his impending death, saying, "All my life I have been teaching people how to live, and I thought if I could teach them how to die,
that would be important."

Credit list:


Two novels, "Divine Murder" and "Keenly Alive, Tony," are represented by The Sternig & Byrne Literary Agency

Of the 377 published pieces, some have found their way into:


The GSU Review
The Listening Eye
The Lucid Stone
Mad Poets Review
The Old Red Kimono
Porcupine Literary Magazine
River King
Sulphur River Review


Poetry Magazine.Com
The Rose & Thorn
San Francisco Salvo
2River View
Unlikely Stories

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