Said Will, while pointing to the place he stood,
“There’s Henry Jekyll, also known as Hyde. Though math’s not how he earned his doc’tral hood, His project was to physic’lly divide The human soul into the “Bad” and “Good” And fully feel the power of each side. It seems his fame’s the sort to always soar Because his name’s become a metaphor.
Of such distinctions, people are quite fond.
Imagined cosmic wars of Right and Wrong
Are something few of us have moved beyond.
We’ve seen in black and white so very long
For fear that existence is a pond
Whose waters flow around the pointed prong
Which, partnered up with Concept’s nimble knife,
Attempts to slice, then pin and label life.
“How Rumor’s spell enchants adult and youth!
On what they hear, they’d gladly place a bet
Since what’s said first ‘must surely be the truth’.
To act on whisp’rings, folks expend their sweat
But labor not to play the searching sleuth
[Who’ll keep no fishy facts inside his net
Instead of being like a mockingbird
Which sings whatever song it’s lately heard].
The gentlest saint who ever lives and dies Can’t know what disrespect he might be paid. The World might see, with its distorted eyes, Mistakes where prudent choices had been made […And dream up faults or magnify the size Of real but minor flaws] throughout its raid On people’s bastions built of kindly acts. [A better jury might prefer the facts].
Perhaps that’s why a wise and ancient sage Advised his pupils to expect no praise. Results of deeds are difficult to gauge, And fog of time will thicken more the haze That clouds the acts in which we all engage While stumbling through this snaky social maze. To be less hurt when hearing no applause, Expect no cheering for your noble cause.”
The moment William took a breathing pause
His sermon, not yet ended, was assailed
By Santa, who despised the final clause: “You think expecting cheering’s where I failed? I’m weary of your proverbs and your saws. My name was furiously flayed and flailed. I don’t lament approval that I lacked But rather being sliced, impaled, and hacked.
Despite your words, you’re seeking approbation. Perhaps you hoped you’d get me to concede The wisdom of your moral recitation And boost you with the self-esteem you need And try so hard to earn with each oration.”
I didn’t know where their debate might lead
But thought I’d better keep it calm and short
By asking Santa ‘bout his fav’rite sport.
The form, which I devised, consists of stanzas of iambic trimeter containing rhyming tercets. I have considered rearranging the lines to put the poem in terza rima. In terza rima it would look like this:
Although I touch your hair,
my lips against your ear,
you are not truly there.
Although I hold you near,
and see your vacant stare,
you are not truly here.
I would welcome any feedback regarding which version works best.
This is the first part of a reflection on inter-being and the nature of self as an impermanent, ever-changing aggregate of historical, natural, social, and psychological factors. Who knows if I will ever finish the piece?
a sonnet by Paul Burgess–this is one of my rare “serious” works. I would genuinely appreciate any feedback readers would provide.
This drinking tea to empty out a cup
And doing tasks to cross them off our lists
Directs the eyes to what is coming up,
Although what’s here, and nothing else, exists.
If sewing only to complete a dress
With thoughts of only what will next arrive,
Then shadows and a deathly emptiness
Accompany all moments we’re alive.
Without Awareness, tapestries of what has passed
Are woven presents filled with ghostly dreams,
And threads of faded “Now” that we’ve amassed
Will hold together Future’s fraying seams.
To always look behind or play the seer
Exchanges “is” for “is not truly here.”
This poem was inspired by the following passage from Thich Nhat Hahn’s Miracle of Mindfulness:
If while washing the dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.”…If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future–and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life” (5).
Expecting pleasure always, never strife,
You curse existence saying it’s insane
And claim Despair’s your mother, Gloom’s your wife.
Your home you’ve often called the “House of Pain.”
Unmet conditions you’ve imposed on life
Don’t justify the way that you complain.
Refrain from putting poison in your cup—
That’s how to cheer a gloomy bastard up.
Sometimes we speak clumsily and create internal knots in others. Then we say, ‘I was just telling the truth.’ It may be the truth, but if our way of speaking causes unnecessary suffering, it is not Right Speech. The truth must be presented in ways that others can accept. Words that damage or destroy are not Right Speech. [Thich Nhat Hahn, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, p. 89)
There’s a man who will never retract*
The words he has said with no tact.
He will often reply,
“There’s too many a guy
Who is kinder in speech than in act.”*
a limerick by Paul Burgess
*Of course, what is said cannot be unsaid. It is better to speak carefully in the first place than to retract something harmful one has said.
*The speaker of the poem mixes wisdom with folly…I will stop treating my light limerick as if it were a literary work meriting scholarly scrutiny:)
by Paul Burgess […a poem on the tendency to treat symptoms rather can causes and to escape pain rather than deal with it]
One day while walking through the nearby hills,
I came across a lady selling pills.
She said to take her tablets twice a day,
And troubles would all start to melt away.
The pills provided such a soaring high
That I returned to buy a new supply.
But where she’d been I heard no human sound,
And nothing of that lady was there found.
Along with waves of troubles flooding back,
I count among my woes those pills I lack.