This morning I'd like to welcome back Alex Conrad, my former student and the most recent winner of The Song Is...'s local poetry prize. This morning his theme is self-scrutiny. Gilbert Stuart may not be blue eyed, but I thought that his self-portrait complemented Alex's poem.
By Alex Conrad
I wake in a dream-like state.
I float above my slumbering body
And observe it,
Almost as if I were watching a movie.
That is what I see at this point in time.
Regardless of what had happened prior to this mirage.
Unaware of what is to come.
I drift further away as my form stirs into cognition.
I watch myself go through the daily regimen.
On the exterior, everything is cool and calculated.
But that’s not what I witness internally.
Within the vessel there lies a beating heart.
It is a wonder how it is still in one piece,
After having been torn to pieces by wolves on their nightly prowl
Or after having been shattered like a window that was hazy to begin with.
That heart has seen things in a short amount of time
That it really is a wonder how it’s maintained its shape.
The bottle holding it is clearly shattered and mended with empty promises.
Running away from that sight
Next stop are the arms.
Covered in a road map to God knows what.
I can almost taste the sanguinary excrement dripping through the tunnels within.
How many times does someone have to remind themselves that they matter?
Apparently every day for some.
But even then, that is hard to do if you don’t believe it.
Look in those eyes.
Steely Athenic blue.
What they have seen could be a book in and of itself.
The pain within is usually covered by the façade of complacency.
How many times have they been filled
to the brim with a briny secretion
just to be stopped by the shaking finger?
It seems like forever ago that that was not a necessity.
Masculinity tells me that I should
Bottle up my emotions and feelings
And hide them away on the back shelf, covered in dust.
But at some point even those shelves need to be cleared.
Sitting at the front door to my mind
Is a pile of luggage.
Battered, beaten, bruised black-brown-blue.
Piling on the masks
Broken as they are,
But the sinews of my heart tie them down
To the shards of the cage that encloses my positivity and hope.
Ha. Hope, How happy histories hover.
Hopeful that they will once return.
Love never dies
But hope does.
Zoom out and back again in on the arms.
How often have they held someone dear close
Yet to be ripped away?
How many times does it take to get the heart of the chosen?
Love buzzes around my visage,
Like a flea looking to land
But with nothing to land on.
How fleeting forced smiles on knowing that change will come.
Contract the lens and focus
On the body that returns to the bed,
Where it lays back down upon a mountain of olives.
The very mount that brought the saint to tears of embarrassment.
The eyes close and I am redrawn into it.
How much can one learn by just brushing the surface
As a feather duster only catches a bit of the dirt left there by old wounds.
By Alex Conrad
Wondering when the sun
Would decide to enter my dark room.
I sit all day
Wondering why the sky
Was so dark and grey.
The dog sits on the bed,
Staring at me,
Playing with me,
Slick tendrils of sadness reach into the enclosure
And pull at my heartstrings.
Life waves at me as it goes by.
I sit all day
Wondering when the sky would open up to me
And welcome me amongst the angels.
Or if the earth would swallow me up
And I’d join the fallen,
Where they lap up the living
As they dwindle away
Live life to the fullest,
They tell me.
Is life ever full?
Can life be what we want it to be?
Because I’ve been proven
A number of times
That no matter how hard we try,
There is no God there to help us along the way,
Il est mort.
No one wants to help,
They say they do,
But then they walk away.
My precipitous past pain is used against me.
I lose opportunities to practice what I love.
I sit all day
At the window of my soul.
Wondering if the light of day would ever reach in
And run off the windowsill
And into the room
And flow into across the floor
And into my open, outreached hands
With which I draw the light into my heart:
My broken, shriveled, mangled, and mistreated heart.
Light would break across my face.
Joy would jump in my eyes.
Laughter would lighten my throat.
But not today.
As my husband is playing one of his classical CDs, I feel like I should post some classical music as well to go with Alex's poems.
Let's start with some Chopin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E6b3swbnWg
As Bill Cushing's response to Mussorgsky started me thinking of the Russian composers, I thought I'd post a nocturne by Borodin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTtyBJTstVk
Of course, there is Tchaikovsky: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E05ltqcIVNo
I'll finish with a nocturne by Shostakovitch, which Hilary Hahn performs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqNuKGkY7L8