Seven Poems by Bradley R. Strahan

WE TURN & RE-TURN

Obsessed with wheels
ever since the man/ape
used a fallen tree
to move a holy stone.

From log rollers
to Roman chariots
rolling over broken
barbarian bones

we've puzzled our brains,
ground our grains,
as we circled around
this wheel of life.

Our songs are filled
with wheel shapes,
cartwheels to carousels
and car wheels.

Philosophers and poets
ponder the wheel
of existence
as the earth spins

beneath their feet
and galaxies
ponderously rotate,
wheels within wheels

we will never penetrate.
Perhaps this wheeling
and dealing
with turning things

is because we know
no matter how
we twist and turn
we will never return.

THE WRECK OF LOVE
(The stubborn, blind heart goes on singing of
the landscape and wreck of love. – Joseph Stroud)

The night creature reacquaints me
with the darkness red mouths suck.

All the luck in the world
and I am brought to this:

Flesh creeping off the bone,
love reduced to thoughtlessness.

THE MINSTREL

I.

The man
with the guitar on his back,
fiddle tucked
under his chin,
comes whistling down the wind.

He rambles
through open fields,
across suburban lawns,
down Harlem alleyways.

You can hear his chord sustain
above the subway roar.
Barely audible
it floats
on oceans
of swaying grain.

II.

Come and gone again,
Homer and hobo
in Babylon
in Tyre and Rome,
in New York
and Mason City.

He winks and smiles
and passing
drops a verse
like a falling star.

He’s riding the rails
under the mile long freight,
in the Conestoga,
on a clipper
round the Horn.
His songs out pace the wind.

III.

Right now
he cleans his teeth
with an old e-string,
sitting on a back porch
in the lazy Summer afternoon,
a brown leaf
in his beard,
a feather tucked
under the bridge
of his guitar.

IV.

He has a long chain on,
every link
a name in blood.
He calls them softly:
Orpheus,
and David,
Villon and
Von der Vogelweide,
Woody and Big Bill.
He touches them and they sing.

V.

He’s standing
on a corner
with the blind man
sharing a harmony.
He draws the long blue note
across pavements,
insinuating it
into tenements,
stretching it through
soot filled air,
until it wails
off the top of the scale.

VI.

He smiles
and pulls his hat down,
gathering darkness.
in his eyes.
With a little jig
he steps off.
Whistling he shatters
the evening air.
He catches the falling music
in his arms
and sweeps down the empty street.

STANDSTILL
("My position is that we are never the same in any two instants" -
Dr. Julian Barbour, speaking time's nonexistence in the universe)

Overlay on overlay of faces,
lips parted while words hang
like last fruit
in a windless orchard.

Time has no currency,
pennies in a still pool
where stone nymphs gape
dry mouthed at a sky
like a daguerreotype.

Each thought's a stuck sound
folding over itself:
we are.. are... are....
Yet the arrow seems to strike,
the cursor shift on the stone
tablet of our days.

The rays of sun bound
around this tilting top
as our faces melt
and vanish, as if autumn
truly fell like unwanted apples
to the frost burned ground.

THE ENDS OF EMPIRE

What wine was it that Alexander drank
in the passes of Hindu-Kush?
What song echoes back drunk centuries later?

All the centuries keep turning back
on themselves, ends and beginnings
endlessly knotting together

while we keep writing and rewriting
the same lullaby that no one will sing, as we
walk the line between love and treason.

And all the lies that ever were told
are tied to our legs like millstones
while the beast of centuries circles us:

like Custer’s Indians, like the fall of Rome,
like Alexander drinking himself to death
in all the plundered palaces of Asia.

So let Alexander sleep. His armies are toys
in the hands of children, tin soldiers
force-marched across a carpet of stones.

QUADRINA OF THE LOST TRAVELLER

Night of jet engines lands
Him in a city full of dawn.
Day dazzles jet-lagged eyes
Confused by strangely familiar streets.

He strays in search of one street,
Remembered from a distant land,
Where he first beheld the dawn
Ablaze in a woman’s amber eyes.

Now as he searches other eyes,
Still dazed by memory of that dawn,
He stops to stare at streets
Where signs speak tongues of many lands.

Yet no sign speaks from that certain land
Whose missing letters mist his eyes.
He turns against the lie of this false dawn
Emptying his anguish to the foreign streets.

HEAT-STREET FESTIVAL
(July, Austin, Texas)

The smoke-eye consorts
with the music,
with the loud voice
melting the black-top,
with the green thunderhead
nodding over the tree-tops…

-push - push - push -

The smoke-eye begins
to condense,
to break up
into insect eggs,
into needle points,
into tears too tiny to see.

Bradley R. Strahan taught poetry at Georgetown University. For forty years, he has published the respected poetry journal, Visions International. He has six books of poetry & over 700 poems published worldwide. His two latest books, This Art of Losing and A Parting Glass (his book of poems written in Ireland) have been translated into French.