Two Poems

FireplaceI don’t recall precisely when I wrote the following poems, but I remember the emotions that underpinned their writing. They are as fresh when I read them now as the days I wrote them. That is what poetry does for the writer; or, at least, it’s what poetry does for me. A poem seizes and preserves an emotion, a state-of-mind, that might otherwise dissolve into the mist of experience, available only through the fog of memory. The reason these two poems came to mind is that I agreed to offer up some of my poems to be posted on the website for the writers’ group to which I belong; samples of members’ work. So, I waded through some of my poems and these two were among the ones I offered and they were the two the webmaster selected.  I may or may not have posted these on my blog  before (I think not); regardless, here they are:

© 2015, John Swinburn

You and I have lived this life for an eternity,
detritus of our dashed dreams serving as bricks
and the two of us as mortar, cobbling together
this fragile, monumental tower where we reside.

We have scuffed our emotions against sharp
sentimental objects so many times they have
shredded into strings like worn cotton,
as soft and ephemeral as clouds.

The scowls and snarls of daily battles
between us have become so comfortable
I know I could not live without them and
the easy fit between us they concede.

I would not last an instant without them or you,
sitting in your study behind a closed door, book in hand,
exploring fantasies and frustrations by proxy of writers
who know you without ever having met you.

I would crumple into the useless hulk I have always been
were you not there to inflate my emptiness into a
figure in which you somehow find substance,
a man only you, in your wisdom and courage, could love.

Unearned Guilt
© 2016, John Swinburn

I love the sound bonfires make at the
height of their combustion, when
crackling wood erupts in an
explosive burst, when
yellow and red and orange tongues
of flame twist in frenetic dances,
lapping at the sky.

But then I think about the transformation
of wood into smoke, of solid into gas,
I wonder whether my delight is
moral, whether the audible
evidence of that metamorphosis
is actually the death scream of the
remnants of a tree.

The energy of a rainstorm fills me
with awe and deep appreciation
as I watch black clouds swirl
and convulse, dancing with
wind and water amid electrifying shows
of lightning and bone-shattering
claps of thunder.

Yet gratitude ebbs when I consider that
floods and fury might befall those
submerged under the deluge or
struck by those blue fingers
while I enjoy unholy entertainment
in the relative safety of distance
and good fortune.

Remorse is a privilege earned through participation,
fanned with the flames of earnest intent,
not through coincidental luck or unseen
advantage received by mistake.
Thus self-censure through conscience
has no rightful claim; it is blame by
unearned guilt.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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4 Responses to Two Poems

  1. Thanks, Kate!

  2. Kate says:

    Unearned guilt…..just wow.

  3. And you have no idea how much that comment means to me. Hugs.

  4. Mary Lou says:

    Wow. You have no idea how much I need these this morning. Thanks.

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