Burning

for love’s rewards we stick our necks out
vulnerability a’pulse, blissful anticipation —
and love kisses our risk and nuzzles our napes
but after a time — short or long or in between —
we lose our heads to his swift sharp guillotine
our foolish blind hearts beat on nonetheless
and carry a torch right up to the inquest

—Terri Guillemets

Free spirit

i don’t want to be
just a strand of dna
passing through time
or an echo of a face
repeated down the line

just another leaf falling
from the family tree
a bloodline that someday
ends with the end of me —

i want to be the sky
or an eternal poem
wildflowers growing
wherever seeds roam

i want to be the wind
or wandering clouds
or the rain that drifts
or a free soaring bird
or starshine at night —
eternity’s glowing
ethereal light

—Terri Guillemets

Strive & struggle

I am a poet, — though
I’ve yet to write a poem —

when my soul blossoms
and my mind goes free
when I finally let go of
the suffocating shroud
o’er the wildness of me

my beauty will spill out
the ink will overflow and

finally I’ll be able to see
through a sapphire lens
into the heart of infinity

~ @ ~ @ ~ @ ~ @ ~ @ ~

I know I am a poet —
someday — I will be

but the earth hasn’t
shattered inside me yet

~ @ ~ @ ~ @ ~ @ ~ @ ~

I have still only yet got
the seeds of the words
within me; I am learning
and yearning and earning
and living my way toward
being born into harvest

~ @ ~ @ ~ @ ~ @ ~ @ ~

There’s a meteor shower
inside my brain —

stars shooting down
every bright idea
words burning out
before inking the page —

broken-hearted dementia
sleepless engulfing fog —
search and rescue crews
report every line gone

—Terri Guillemets

E. Markham portraits

When I saw photographs in an old book of the poet Edwin Markham, I had a sudden urge to try the “barbaric yawp” scene from Dead Poets Society. Teacher John Keating challenges student Todd Anderson to create a poem on the spot, after glancing at a photo of Walt Whitman on the wall. So, I stared at the pictures of Markham and wrote the exact words that came to me, without allowing myself to edit. Below are my two poems based on two portraits, and below that is the Whitman-inspired poem from the film.

Edwin Markham portrait from the The Man with the Hoe with Notes by the Author

“Side Portrait of Edwin Markham”
hair like roaming waves of the sea
eyes reflecting the light of heaven—
studious, compassionate, soulful—
pythagorean shiny nose
laugh lines loved into place
a beard that let the cat in
face aglow with manly health,
honesty and freedom
—Terri Guillemets

Edwin Markham portrait from Gates of Paradise

“Markham Portrait with Book”
a thinking eye
but jolly cheek
a furrowed brow
but kindly stance;
the hair of a hippie
and student & master—
the burden of life
and love of wife—but
something perpetually
unsettled within him;
button-up coat over
raw, naked soul—
a book in his hand
and ten in his pen
—Terri Guillemets

Walt Whitman

“I close my eyes, and
his image floats beside me—
a sweaty-toothed madman
with a stare that pounds my brain.
His hands reach out and choke me
and all the time he’s mumbling—
mumbling truth, like a blanket
that always leaves your feet cold.
You push it, stretch it,
it will never be enough;
you kick at it, beat it,
it’ll never cover any of us.
From the moment we enter crying
to the moment we leave dying,
it’ll just cover your face
as you wail and cry and scream.”
—Tom Schulman, “Sweaty-Toothed Madman,” Dead Poets Society, 1989, spoken by the character Todd Anderson

“I too am not a bit tamed — I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.”
—Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1856 edition

Ossifight

Somehow, I got old
before really learning to be young
the old in my bones is calcified
the young in my soul is still growing

—Terri Guillemets

Arise thankful

a new day doesn’t mean
forgetting yesterday
but simply letting it go
not to dwell in memories
but to cherish each one
as it pops up and surprises us
and then release it with a smile

the birds are singing of now
our hearts are beating the present
the past is a muted background
enhancing our right-now seize-it life
dawn is painting the picture of today
she invites us to live beautifully —
to be the artists of our own souls

—Terri Guillemets

A lesson

Death teaches us meaning
      of the word sudden —
one minute there, one minute
            not —

the blackness, the blankness,
the emptiness, the silence, the void —
the most palpable, oppressing nothing
      there ever was.

—Terri Guillemets

Couch

I long to be close to
where your beating heart
was among its last beats.

I sit on the couch where
we spent your last night —
but cannot bring myself
to be on the cushion where
life was fading from you
and you laid against me.

I didn’t sleep, for vigilance
you didn’t sleep, for pain —
so tired, so dazed, so lucid,
so knowing, so loved, —
so gone.

—Terri Guillemets