Poetry: Away and Apart

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.

Latest posts by stinkyzen (see all)

Related Articles

5 Responses

  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. 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. 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

Talk to us... what are you thinking?

Skip to content
%d bloggers like this: