Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Above Us, This Glowing

The Echo of What Remains Collected Poems of Wanda Lea Brayton

      “The time is coming when man will give birth to no more stars.” 
              — from the prologue of "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" by Frederich Nietzsche 

The moon's many vagaries slip through her pale ribs,
shimmering with volatile indifference.

She is envious of our mortality, 
wise to our vulnerabilities,
eager to repay vendettas with mere dust.

Her terrible provocation of tides 
evoke curled caution within the meek -
she watches us tremble, 
her mocking glance veiled by clouds.

What cares she of lovers,
of wild wings held aloft by wind?

She is caught within the sky, 
captured by circumstance,
her perception, an orbital observation 
of what lies beneath.

She is cold 
and needs the sun's molten embrace
to soothe her chill, 

yet is infinitely denied this comfort
by Man's bitter intrigues, 
his casual inventions of stars.

Request for Music

The Echo of What Remains Collected Poems of Wanda Lea Brayton

Even my words seem smaller today -
more compressed, 
languishing in brevity - a brief sigh,
rather than a prolonged moan.

Sorrow has hollowed me out -
a tree stump lost in an ancient forest,
sheltering only moss instead of holding aloft
these rustling leaves of autumn floating on a tender wind
as night falls sweetly under the tacit approval
of a luminous moon, awaiting some harvest.

I am not yet numb -
only tingling, as if half-asleep.

That Day and Many After

The Echo of What Remains Collected Poems of Wanda Lea Brayton

The birds
were already gone.
A foreign, frigid wind
tore at his clothes
with grieving fingers

as he waited for the startling
crack of gunfire
to announce

a moment
lost in time,

the final, solemn ceremony
of a life well-lived.

His heart split open
on the scattered mounds of dirt,
uniformly shattering the silence.

Roses in winter

made him weep.

Such is Life

The Echo of What Remains Collected Poems of Wanda Lea Brayton

Hands swiftly gather memories, 
clustered moments forming into a gentle harvest, 
bouquets of sounds and textures ripe with dew - 
lush, fragile fragrances become entrenched in subliminal 
offerings, incense permeating the soil of our flesh 
as we rise, wisps of smoke caught inside a cautious breeze.

Our eyes ferment these fruits we have plucked from bending boughs, 
not unaware of the sparse or plentiful evolutions of growth 
encouraged by fluent light's awakened tendrils, subdued
within the dusky hues of delicacy bursting into our quieted mouths. 
Silence is a shroud, engulfing all sorrows beneath a bare, bitter tree, 
refusing to flourish under a gifted sun, rejecting our journeys 
to remain when and where we cannot.

Hips reverberate curves and angles, flowing and jutting 
waterfalls in an uncharted jungle, describing paradise 
to the mute with accentuated movements, graceful and profound 
with bravery - defining sanctuary to the blind with jagged breaths 
carving sculpture into a nascent landscape; we are taut with imagination, 
glistening as sacred, undoused flames.

Lips quarrel and curl beneath each other's majestic pronouncements,
tilt and slide with cornucopias of laughter pouring forth across the lush, 
hushed hills of our unfolding bodies, soothing our existence by flowers 
and thunder. Our years evaporate into unkempt dust and we succumb, 
nubile and forgiving - still, abundant with song.


The Echo of What Remains Collected Poems of Wanda Lea Brayton

Inspired by Pablo Neruda’s line, “The swan in the gathering darkness”,
from “Toward an Impure Poetry” in “Five Decades: Poem 1925-1970”, 
translated by Ben Belitt

In violet silence,
the swan gathers darkness within her wings
as she would her cygnets,
had she any to cull from currents mild.

The moon is full
and her feathers glisten, bright
beside an austere stream that has forgotten the sea.

Shadows beneath the water
reveal stones that once were mountains.

Delicate memories of those who passed before her
are silhouettes she might recall
under a deepening sky.
Caught within these murky swirls,
she is thoughtful in solitude.

The chill of winter edges near her sanctuary
as she accumulates graceful songs of stars
in violet silence,

beside an austere stream that has forgotten the sea.

Only the Silent Cliffs

The Echo of What Remains Collected Poems of Wanda Lea Brayton

Time carves its solemn memories
into stone softened by currents of mourning.

Moments etch their passing upon the rough-edged pillars,
insisting on their rightful place within the sacred cycles
of weeping water and borrowed sunlight.

The Anasazi came and went without leaving any clues
beyond their abstract disappearance -
only the silent cliffs remain as a witness
to mark their existence among us.

We are all only dust gathered into wild, swirling bouquets,
until the wind returns to carry us aloft.

You peel thin strips of bark from my quivering branches,
listening intently to the rustle of my song - 

you leave me bare to your seeking gaze
as you lean against my trunk
to steal the sweet succor of my breath -

no, not to steal,
only to accept what I must offer,
come Spring.

In Deference to Winter

The Echo of What Remains Collected Poems of Wanda Lea Brayton

Under heavy, gray light of autumnal skies,
we peruse minutiae, seeking some sort of reprieve
from the prowess of tinges and timbres,
their reticient implications we'd much rather rescind -
we've become less resilient than we once were,
more myopic, less inclined to grandeur,
appearing to be predisposed to cynicism
as garish, stark landscapes succumb
to broad, persuasive and insistent strokes of northern winds
as they strip sturdy boughs of tender foliage,
uncovering abandoned nests of fledglings far afield.

Resolute in our foolishness, our providence arcane,
we gather bundles of kindling, unpack sweaters thick with intention,
stock our paltry pantries devoid of reason
and rock quietly in dim, flickering corners,
forsaking the retreating sun's refusal to remain
dappled on our porches or linger in crisp, disintegrating gardens.

How sad we must seem, since we are no longer children
astride bicycles, anticipating summer's lazy freedoms,
wishing for long, deep snow days, untethered from those fetters
of enforced education. No, we have things to attend to,
work to be done, bills to be paid, duties to perform,
a constant enacting of rituals we used to believe in so fervently.

Now our shoes fit and we wear them too carefully, expecting them
to last more than a season, avoiding the sudden joys of puddles
that long to be stomped in, soliciting unexpected laughter
pealing like bells of bright adoration we have forgotten
because we are grown.

Winter is Calling

The Echo of What Remains Collected Poems of Wanda Lea Brayton

Winter is calling; 
it calls my name and number repeatedly,
although I won't answer, will not succumb 
to the temptation to see what it wants from me. 
I don't like the cold, haven't since I was a child,
before injuries caused me to detest its inevitable coming 
when I least expect its arrival, even though the calendar 
screams to be aware of season's passing. 

It's like a conscious form of amnesia, 
of wanting to forget how bright white looks, untouched.

I do enjoy the unpacking of sweaters, 
lavender-scented for 9 months, a gestation of fragrance 
waiting to be borne, the bold and comforting smells 
of a well-built fire, of homemade stew simmering on the stove;
these things are not available to me in summer; 
crispy crunching sounds dwell outside
when I am curled inside, quiet and warm.

It keeps howling for me to answer, the insistent wretch.
I won't, I swear I won't. There will be no surrendering here.
My bones won't allow its presence near - they moan and mutter,
cursing its very existence, its dubious necessities.

Winter redials my extension without reprieve;
it only gains access to my voice mail 
and leaves no message for me to return,
only a dull, blank near-silence; 
I can hear chill winds swirl their tightening spirals 
in the background, leaves perishing alone in the lane.

I am sitting softly on my nest, keeping chrysalis eggs warm,
waiting for butterflies to unfurl their wings 
as spring opens the door to this haven, this sanctuary.
I have nascent buds to attend to. I do not have patience 
or time enough for the vagaries of winter, its incessant demands.

There are no angels laying in the snow, 
only arm-swept, icy hollows without promise. 
I do not need to see my frosted breath 
to feel my ribs heave, to feel my heart swell.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Beautiful, Disquieting World (Inspired by Emily Dickinson)

The Echo of What Remains Collected Poems of Wanda Lea Brayton

I don't recall the rough, gnarled hands
of the nun who delivered me like a promise
or wrapped me in swaddling like a song.

These wanton bones succumbed to an apparent perjury of sunlight,
forsaking the privacy of death for the privilege of birth.
An odd bliss was cleansed from my newborn eyes,
easing me into bold truth - a disdain I have yet to forget or forgive.

A gruesome frost grew around me, rejecting the feast of my flame.
This sullen significance did not surrender to memory’s fading colors.
A mere moment of rare seduction distilled an eternity,
creating chaos from order.

There is nothing quite as hollow as the quiet echo 
of near-empty sheets rustling with alone, an ample sea.

I even missed the stony silence of a back bent with anger,
hoping for restless shadows to turn,
forgetting wrath, seeking solace from my trembling touch.
Disowned, I wandered,  lost to love’s knowledge, bereft of liberty.

I don’t remember her well-worn face,
that sister of many and bride to only one - 
when she greets me at the garden gate, I shall softly smile 
as I howl my tempest upon her heart.

She could have warned me with a muttered curse
or warmed me with a burgeoned blessing
instead of retreating into her silent reverie, 
leaving me stranded - solo -
inside the bitter arms of a beautiful, disquieting world.

Jazzed, Revisited

The Echo of What Remains Collected Poems of Wanda Lea Brayton

"If you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know." — Louis Armstrong

                          “Don't threaten me with love, baby. Let's just go walking in the rain.” — Billie Holiday

Cacophony finger-snaps past chiaroscuro
bonds of solemnity and grace.

Exhale agonies of grief;
arched, aching beauty of specific flowers 
disturbs my path -
sow seeds of solitude in fallow soil,
unveil subtleties of desire,
menace mediocrity with a medley of visions.

Made intrepid by desolation's nuance,
pop the clutch on soliloquies of mourning,
leave skidmarks on rescinded redemption,
scatter gathered harvests of capricious salvation
with a fruitful bough.

Tattooed by trivialized truth and false contrition of chaos,
barter lamentations contained within a single sigh,
shatter orgasmic silence with fluttered eyes
that cannot see beyond the sacred, pale skin
of more frivolous shelter.

Archetypical angst obscures latitudes of landscapes
long denied. I shall give no dominion to darkness.

I defer regret, knowing 
a useless penetration of marrow.

Such a thrilling madness, this lingering life.

Fierce Fledglings

The Echo of What Remains Collected Poems of Wanda Lea Brayton

Memories lie furtive beneath such solemn soil;
there is a gauze-like gathering of shadows, 
tormented perfumes ascending from darker mists 
than we would willingly know, an acceptance we must engage 
without excuse, lest dreams ameliorate shadows' surrender 
without defining their sharpened edges. 

Sudden death asphyxiates innocence, aghast; 
tenderness is expunged by unrelenting, arcane wisdom 
adults seem to tether to their unyielding masts, 
understanding these unutterable depths of ancient divinity. 

Fierce fledglings know a secret whimper for mercy 
as their wilder wings are excised by a casual brutality in their midst, 
leaving only a brief flap's cruel echo behind before discovering 
the eternal grace of flight, before their formidable spirits 
are drained into more ethereal surroundings, 
their blank eyes gazing into sun's bitter warmth.

Breath protracted, welts of courage blistered by calumny 
steal pretentious thoughts from a child's mere gaze 
upon the scythe's harrowing harvest; 

their disenchantment becomes a brilliant amulet, 
a sepia plea of volatile abstraction, a confiscation of destruction, 
a spectre of darkness furrowed beneath silken flesh, 
pristine bone inclined and gleaming under the dire demands of dusk, 
a catastrophic realization of survival's futility
as silvery feathers are received to atrophy in dust - 

another sycophantic lie perpetrated 
upon the shining hopes of youth 
once overflowing with color, 

now monochromatic 
from too many maudlin, morose moments, 
demoralized in their alignment, 
swaying far away from truth.

Betrayal (Inspired by Sylvia Plath)

The Echo of What Remains Collected Poems of Wanda Lea Brayton

Her decline into obsolescence is near-perfect.
Her stiff upper lip curves into a ghastly smile
she never once assembled in life.

Her illusions are mythic in proportion,
as indecipherable as Sanskrit.

Her florid feet have stopped dancing,
grown weary of rhythm.

Her folded hands, emptied of promises
and flowers she can no longer deliver,

The cereus is now deep with silence.
The pale moon flutters weakly, quiet
in a sky suddenly bereft of song.

She will become accustomed to this different fable,
this new and ancient shroud,
given time.

Embracing Soil

The Echo of What Remains Collected Poems of Wanda Lea Brayton

There is little solace to be found
in embracing soil that holds you now, when I cannot - 

after sorrow's swift currents
stole your spirit from my aching grasp, 
I could only gasp in silence, stunned.

Jagged edges of gaping ground
caused my footsteps to stutter 
as I stumbled towards desolation.

You might have heard a wild keening 
as it reckoned within my hollowed heart -
my empty palms questioning the gift's return.

Once, you were a shoulder to rest upon,
lightening woe with your lilting laughter's song -
now, I can only lean on dry dust 
while insistent winds bellow tragic mythologies.

I can weep no more - 
the sea surrendered its salt
upon this barren landscape, 
erasing my voice... 

Yet, I remember 
the golden surge of Summer within your eyes - 

a pale and rising moon's slow drift
as wildflowers spilled their colors everywhere, 
painting this sultry canvas with glistening rapture.  

Grief eases, retreating into forgotten shadows, 
letting the vibrant light of love, of life, 
cradle this spinning earth with nascent warmth.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Consorting With Thieves

The Echo of What Remains Collected Poems of Wanda Lea Brayton

                    — Inspired by "As It Was Written" by Anne Sexton

O Darkness of torrid trembling,
we have suckled from your debt-ridden sky,
your gaping wound, as willing apprentices, 
seeking shards of penance to permeate shadowy thoughts;
we have knelt at your velvet heels, asking succor to succumb
from your surly grasp of these jagged-edged hearts, 
their disturbing, eccentric rhythms aghast.

Wind chimes are odd screeches at midnight,
wretched howls of dawn as they approach
this unwelcoming threshold. Stars scream
their ancient light into red-lined orbs 
as though we could offer salvation. We are lost
behind the moon's seven veils. There is no solace 
to be found when rusted crowns berate 
then behead loyal subjects for their sweet subservience, 
for abeyance of royal decree.

Nuns shudder as priests intone their flesh;
a wicked tempest slaughters unknown horizons
without recompense or reprieve. 
Peasants cross themselves, muttering in foreign tongues,
confused by conformity as masses gather beneath a burning bush,
a frothing bougainvillea, gasping and heaving stones 
at the appetites of fire, its brutal, raven wings.

O Darkness of sinful weeping,
you consume our blood, our every breath,
leaving only ashes behind, 
shattered sculptures beyond recognition.

We are become doom, cleft from beauty.

A savage silence swells beneath us, 
its terrible tithe in constant attendance, 
its slender, grey hand expectant, 
stealing tarnished coins from our blackened, unseeing eyes.