Poetry: Away and Apart3 min read

When I was a child,
I looked under molding leaves
and saw many-legged mon­sters;
I looked in the dusty canyons of run­nelled bark
and saw fairy jewels;
I looked through the spaces between clouds
and saw coiled and smoking dragons;
I touched the silky grain of weath­ered dead­falls,
and smelled the woodsmoke of ancient car­avan camps;
I walked on warm rough sand­stone
and felt the slow breath of the earth giving me ver­tigo.
I lis­tened to the call of a mead­owlark
and felt my heart twist and tears prick my eyes.
I lis­tened to a frog chorus late on a muggy night
and heard layer on layer of poly­phonic bells.
I laid down beside the grassy bank of a stream so pure and silent
that I believed it flowed straight from Heaven,
and my heart eased open like a flower.
 
All that still hap­pens to me,
but only when I go away; when I go apart:
 
It’s then that I see pat­terns within pat­terns,
In a single-veined leaf or bril­liant drop of water;
In the curved reflec­tion in a frog’s eye;
In a beaded spi­derweb in the mist;
In pol­li­wogs that look like ani­mated gray mud;
In the tiny lenses under the feet of water­skaters;
In the shining threads of milk­weed pods and moth cocoons.

It’s then that I hear layers of sound
In the cas­cading drone of cicadas in the trees;
In the dozy buzz of flies between alpine stones below the wind;
In the ruf­fling patter of rain­drops on dry desert dust.
 
It’s then that I smell scents braiding through space
In the shrewd, haunting resin of sage­brush under a cloudy sky;
In the heady, lazy balsam of a pine forest in the sun;
In the cool, open smell of summer snow drifting down shady gul­lies;
In the warm, rocking-chair smell of drift­wood on a desert river­bank.
 
But when I stay; when I can’t go away;
 
It’s then that I see
layers of gray scum on once-white snow,
piled in strip mall parking lots;
drooping wires like buzzing traps,
tan­gled under the eaves of grace­less houses;
neglected crumbs like grimy glitter,
lam­i­nated in the sticky cor­ners of fast-food floors;
drifts of scarred and crum­pled trash like card­board ghosts,
shiv­ering in shabby back-door stair­wells.
 
Images that warp the light,
welding it into a grim glaze on my corneas;
an ugly plug in my tear ducts:
A malig­nant twist; a brutal bend in my belief that beauty ever was.
 
It’s then that I hear
sirens, and bus brakes, and car horns;
jack ham­mers, and back-up alarms, and garbage truck hoists;
jets over­head, and car stereos, and unmuf­fled muf­flers;
card readers beeping, and timers squealing, and secu­rity doors shrieking.
 
Sounds that sub­ju­gate the air in my ears;
shafts that shatter the silence and splinter my serenity;
swollen pricks of pure noise that pin me down, and pen­e­trate against my will;
barking and howling, panting and whining:
A mech­a­nized Wild Hunt; a man­i­fold horror straight out of Hell.
 
It’s then that I smell
hot asphalt, and engine oil, and diesel fumes;
swim­ming pool chlo­rine, and burning rubber, and gaso­line;
ace­tone, and ammonia, and melting brake pads;
decaying meat, and cheap per­fume, and moldy bread;
cig­a­rette smoke, and dryer sheets, and dis­in­fec­tant;
stale cooking oil, and greasy card­board, and musty mop-water.
 
Smells that slide and swell down my throat;
odors that worm their way up my sinuses until they bump into my brain;
par­a­sitic stenches that chew their way along each limbic lon­gi­tude,
gulping down every good scent I ever smelled;
leaving behind a glob of memory-snot:
            A ghastly miasma; a lin­gering reek piti­lessly wedged in my nose.

It’s then that I’m pinned down; cor­nered; brought to bay—
by every ordi­nary day.

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5 Comments

  1. Wow! Fantastic — your words com­mu­ni­cate accu­rately and poet­i­cally what it’s like! Something I’ve never been able to do. I’m so appre­cia­tive of your skill­fully written descrip­tion of what we see and hear and smell — espe­cially the beau­tiful world! Thank you for sharing this won­derful gift!

  2. This is awe­some and breath­taking. Is there any way I can find this poem “in print” or any­where from which I can copy this poem in order to share with others espe­cially my grandson with autism.

    1. Author

      Clara, I am checking with the edi­tors to find out if it’s okay to copy my poem direct from the Aspergian web­site. I will let you know. If not, I’ll figure out another way to get it to you. Thank you for your kind words about it.

    2. Author

      Clara, get­ting back as promised. It’s okay to copy it from the Aspergian web­site, just add a note to it that says “orig­i­nally pub­lished on ….. with a link to the Aspergian, or a printed URL. Thank you for wanting to share it.

  3. This is absolutely beau­tiful, the part about seeing fairy jewels in run­nelled bark… really hit home. I used to make ‘houses’ for fairies in the holes in trees 😊 Thank you so much for sharing this

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