Select Poems 2011-2016

Sing!

by Theo Edmonds

EPIGRAPH: 

In a speech President John F. Kennedy never got to deliver on November 22, 1963, he had planned to say, "We are in this country watchmen on the walls of freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may achieve the ancient vision of peace on earth, goodwill toward men."

A generation of glass eyes and houses and skies
looked down on honest faces of
hopeful kids in green pastures. 
Regal ponies seen
fast running to the slaughterhouse
still wearing crimson collars and brass shoes

I came running like the horses too
All sweet smelling and sweat drenched...
whipped and pampered for the screams
of those dot dot faces who smoke serious cigars. 

They sit up there in the crowd.
The crowd.  The crowd.
Always screaming too loud.
Too loud to notice new born screams...
the ones born today in Appalachia, 
the ones born yesterday in Birmingham, 
the ones born long ago on the Trail of Tears

La Mancha! La Mancha!  ~ Amok! Amok!

Sounds
shaken from the branches
of my first forest days in the Kentucky mountains
and from the plastic carnage
of the last Mardi Gras parade
when I still loved you
and you were still there to love.

I found factory life on my lost journey
to the saving sidewalks that purred
those moist noises in the night.

I saw beaming headlights
obstructing vision of all that was not
of gossimer persuasion.

I found shadow land entrances
hidden under the hearth of roaring fires
and cracking pipes
and unseemly sewn city street quilts
that both apple trees and orphans pull up close
around their ears near the dark side of dawn
as the try to snatch warmth from the cold zone
of ransomed things.

Things that push and tug
and push and tug
and push and tug
at the hush.. the huSHHHHHH...
the hush that holds the keys.

Keys to sleep, to tigers and to happy childhood days
in the sun of a picturesque valley
in a far away place where your
sweet mama was singing...
singing...

hush little baby dont you cry
you'll hustle in the city by and by.


But don't sleep little one,
don't close your eyes to the world.
The choices you were given
are the ones that that you have chosen.
You now play the role of both inquisition and starlite
floating in and out of all that an impossible dream
can use and abuse

La Mancha! La Mancha! ~ Amok! Amok!

Things as they are, have become...
things as they have come to be.

Press your scarred hand up to the glass -
and push and bleed and pray!
and push and bleed and pray!
and push and bleed and pray!

holy. 
holy, holy.
holy, holy, holy.
holy, holy, holy, holy.
holy, holy, holy, holy, holy.
HOLY!

and push and bleed and pray...

Pass Through.

Let your brow sweat become your crown.
You are the king of the dirty boulevard
and the big time sky
calls to you.

Jump up...
from that unlucky mountain.
Do your dance... and sing!

SING ~  where no more loud sounds exist
that can tear up the paper shadow night
or pierce the last whenever clouds
that have hidden someone cruel inside
your own, critical skin.

SING ~ like a skinny chinese girl
who just won a pie eating contest
at a gay bar in the village.

SING ~ like a pretty Puerto Rican boy
who survives on sharp-lipped words
that fall to the ground between
 power and desire.

SING ~ like a Cherokee warrior.

SING ~ with the air you breathed before enslavement.

SING ~ like the mind of a handsome woman
who sits alone in her bottle of cheap wine
counting the cigarettes in the strangers' lips
around her.

SING ~ like the mirror.

Everyone is a mirror,
if you look at them long enough.

SING ~ like a sacred scar.

SING ~ like ancient blood rising up...
             from the mangled skin of a purple back. 

SING ~ like a Haitian princess -who speaks in French tones...
            but with an uncertain cadence.

SING ~ from the abyss but don't confuse revenge with hope.

SING ~ of justice to the suffering ones.
 
SING ~ a theology of reversal.

SING ~ to allow hollow things to open up inside of you.
 
SING ~ to remember what it is to bleed.

SING ~ to be in the presence of the thing, some call God.

Open your throat and SING !

Brother mirror.  Sister friend.
We are one - as it should be.
Look at me again from your belly.
Touch your lips once more to mine
And together...
We shall SING!


Appalachian Gothic: A Home at the End of the Road

(Sung)
Forget your troubles
Come on get happy
You better chase all you cares away
Shout halleuja
Come on get happy
Get ready for the judgement day

  
Some gentle movement snuck up on me
It reminded me of the road home
Where the good stuff is. 
 
It's my kind of road... its a junkyard road.  
The sights I've seen of some unbelievable things
Are the things that rescue me in unbelievable ways. 
 
When you see bloodstains on a wall
You know that's a place where there was a murder today
That place back there at the end of the road home
That place where your mama soothed your breaking heart
With a rocking chair and Jesus... 
She'd sing 'Rock me Jesus - Rock me all night long' 
 

The sun is shining
Come on get happy
The lord is waiting to take your hand
Shout hallelujah
Come on get happy
We're going to the promised land

 
Under the sun's golden fingers, the road stretches back there
Back where the atmosphere is a heavy blanket
A blanket that hides a hazy and incomprehensible wreck of a civilization
 
The road home leads to a place where beer and cigarettes
meander in thumb less hands
The hands and the road meander through the sharp creases
of a brand new Sears and Roebuck catalog
 that claims the good stuff is only a phone call away. 
So you look around for your thumbs on the road
... so your can order some for yourself today
 
Everything has a right way and wrong way there at the end of the road. 
Wrong like the turns that you took a long time ago. 
Right like the white pearl moon under the strong hand
of a mustached, good looking, red-headed banjo man
 
And stories there are everything
Everything there is a story. A story about pain, faith and love. 
Pain just ain't no word brother
Faith just ain't no word sister
Those are the makings of love. 
And love is the road home to that little mountain town
 
Where there sits a church.  A truck stop. A juke joint. And a prison. 
All pent in and cooped up in a 1/2 mile of pavement  
A half mile of paved heaven AND hell surrounded by mountain walls
 
There... in that little place ... you know your alive when your sad
There in that place you either choose sin or you choose Jesus
Don't ask no questions - just choose! 
 

We're heading across the river
Wash your sins away in the tide
It's all so peaceful on the other side


I've been known to go back and forth on that road many times. 
When I get to the country end they look at me funny and familiar
When I get back to the city end - they ask... 
"what have you been doing back down there in that little hillbilly town?" 
 
What I've been doing for years is bouncing back and forth ... bouncing hard
Bouncing from one end to the other of that road home. 
Killing time that won't die. 
Eat up with guilt because I don't feel guilty anymore - for those things in life I have resolved that
I will never get around to. 
 
I somehow manage to get around though... ever now and then... 
Around to the country end of the road home
And - for a while - I make my peace with being there. 
Just like the clouds - I make my peace to hang around there a while
Whether its a penance or an act of love makes no never mind
Because just like those clouds - for better or worse - 
That Appalachian sky is one that I remember as mine. 
  

The sun is shining
Come on get happy
The lord is waiting to take your hand
Shout halleuja
Come on get happy
Get ready for your judgement day


I started bouncing on this road a long time ago
When I smoked weed and all
Just a kid listening to that outlaw music and dreaming. 
Cause when your a kid - there are only two excitements there
There's the excitement of dreaming of being an outlaw or... being a preacher. 
The only difference between the two being - that one totes a bible and one totes a gun. 
Inever have been able to figure out what those preachers needed with all those guns. 
 
Life doesn't have a lot of pleasures to offer you back at the country end of the road
So, as a kid, you find yourself making up things to do - mostly those outlaw dream things
After all - every end of the road town needs a bad guy
But even southern outlaws go Pentecostal every now and then
They go around on those odd and desperate Sunday mornings to talk it all through with the good
man. 
 
But before that Sunday morning ever arrives - you got to pass through Saturday night
Saturday night at the end of the road in a Pentecostal country town
And it's those Saturday nights are when you decide who you are... not those Sunday mornings
Those Saturday nights that are at the end of the road of 6 days called hard work
Those Saturday nights when you've been waiting for 6 days for that promise of heaven
Those Saturday nights at the end of the road of 6 days of hard work waiting on a promise that
never comes
So on those Saturday nights... you just take what you can get. 
 
And you get on down towards the end of the road
where there sits that little concrete block bar
It's your own personal Jesus in the form of a redneck oasis on the side of the road
That little slice of Saturday night heaven is real to you. 
It's the place where you go for Saturday night service
It's where you and the rest of those sinners go to get down for real
Because like they say... if you love Jesus and you are for real... you shall be saved. 
 
So you save it all up for Saturday night there. 
Saturday night in a Pentecostal country town
Where the clash of the sacred and secular play musical chairs
Where you dance around the pool table until you are moved by the spirit
The spirit that feels like the flames of hell at the bottom of a bottle of beer
The spirit that moves you to know the shine of heaven in the back of a pick up truck with a
sensual and raw southern lover
It's that roadside spirit that can turn yourebellious, radical and extreme
 
Have mercy Lord...when I'm rebellious
Thank you Jesus... I know what looks like to be a radical
Hallalujah... when I'm filled by the spirit I can be extreme
I'm a roadside rebel prophet preaching near the end of the road
I'm a southern country boy who rides from time to time on a hell destined Harley
I'm a southern country boy who turns down the road from time to time - to ride on the wings of
an angel
But when most of these folks look at me
ME aint what they see
what they see is a queer little country boy
A boy standing here... near the end of the road
... where God and gravity are hard

God is all around here at the end of the road. 
And yet sometimes... God is hard for me to find
Maybe its because I may not really be looking for the same hell fire God as the rest of them
Maybe I'm looking for the golden rule God... 
Maybe I'm just looking for the gold tooth in God's crooked up and pimped out smile
Maybe I'm looking for the face of God that knows my sin is not original
No matter how much I might fancy myself an original sinner
Maybe that's why I keep coming back here... just trying to figure out how to be a man... 
A man of God...  
 
Because you see...Man, being what he is, finds out who he is
In the extreme Appalachian Gothic moments that happen everyday here. 
Back down here at the end of the road. 
Back down here where you can't back down
Where you can't jump left
Where you can't jump right
But,you better make a move of some kind if you are going to see tomorrow
Tomorrow where you can walk again - walk back up from near the end of road. 
Where those old mountain philosopher lunatics perch on their porches and preach! 
And what they preach to that scared little 13 year old boy
sitting in the front row of that little country church
and holding on tight to his mama hand is this... 
they look him dead in the eye
and yell at him...
Son! God hates you for what you are
you are a heathen, an abomination, not worthy to be called a child of God

and so cast out by the one you love, you find yourself alone ~ standing on the side of the road.... 
until some gentle movement sneaks up on you
and reminds you that you were given your own eyes ... to see truth
you were given your own big heart ... 
worthy... WORTHY... to love and to be loved
and you were given your own two feet.
When it is safe, you can choose to walk down a new road
A road that will lead you to a home
of your very own creation.  And, when you find yourself standing
at that door... open it... breath free... walk on in.
Then you'll discover ... where the good stuff... has always been.
 


You There

by Theo Edmonds

You know where life is taking you.
You think you know.
You want to know.
You try to know.
You never actually know -
You see someone on the subway.
You meet eye to eye.
You laugh about something funny...
(like how the rats running across the subway tracks actually look cute sometimes.)
You decide to grab a coffee together.
You walk.
You hear vintage Bob Dylan playing in a little Brooklyn diner.
You enter.
You smell the bacon.
You think - mmmm!
You eat together.
You reach for the sugar at the same time.
You touch hands.
You blush.
You fight over the check.
You lose.
You walk out the door.
You smile down the street.
You hug on the cold, sunny, Sunday afternoon.
You exchange numbers by entering them into your i-phone.
You hug again.
You part.
You go down under.
You rattle in a subway car back to Harlem.
You come up above.
You text message the new number when reception comes again.
You walk up 145th Street typing into your i-phone.
You say you are "glad u met".
You get a text message back that says "me 2".
You arrive back at your studio.
You take off your clothes.
You get out your paint brushes.
You caress a new canvas.
You begin to paint.
You know where life is taking you.
You think you know.
You want to know.
You try to know.
You never actually know -
You see a wet, new canvas on the wall.
You meet eye to eye.
You laugh about something funny.
(like how the rats running across the subway tracks actually look cute sometimes.


From Barcelona Stories Part Two,  Sweet Charity

Eight empty chairs stradled the hot pink neon under the black lacquer bar.  Each of the eight topped in soft black leather.  They showed their seductive silver legs to all who passed by.  No one seemed interested.  Bubbling conversation and tinkling glasses piped out from the next room.  

All newcomers made a straight line past the bar to join the others just beyond the wall where Picasso and Groucho Marx hung side by side under Billy Idol in black and white.  All three submitted to some forgotten, full-color 1972 Playboy Covergirl... Nay...Playmate of the Year... hanging in the most prestigious spot on the wall.

Looking out toward the street, two good looking Catalan fellas came bounding in the door.  "The minute you walked in the joint... Ba Bomp!"   Without any warning, the eight empty bar chairs became a musical number from Sweet Charity.  But, no big spender (or, even a little one) seemed interested tonight.  

Hot pink still blarred its glow on soft black leather tops and long silver legs.

The good smile on the bartender sat perfectly pleasing between two big fake diamond earrings sparkling on butter-brown skin.  He had little tattoos behind each ear.  Both Chinese.  One meant joy and the other meant auspicious beginnings.  Smiling at the lonely chairs, he reached under his tight apron and pulled out a Lucky Strike.   As he walked outside to light up, he touched Mona gently.  Mona laughed.  After all, everyone still smokes inside in Barcelona.   But old Diamond Jim said he couldn't see the Mediterranean moon from inside and that was the best part of a midnight cigarette. 

Mona is the loveliest chair of the eight.  She's one of them... but, all the other chairs know that she has got a way about her that make her the grand dame of them all.  Just like Dolly Parton in the opening number from Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.  

Conversation and joy still stirred in from the next room.  More passer through people.  "Hey big spender... spend a little time with me."  The girls sang again.  Still, they were left lonely.  

Diamond Jim tumbled back in from the Barcelona night.  Him and his million watt smile passed by Mona and the girls and slid back behind the bar.  

I got my courage up... then, went over and introduced myself to Mona. We sat and talked till dawn.

___________________

When The Time Is Right - A Poem by Theo Edmonds

A cool Catalan night

combed its whiskers

down toward puffy lips

(still dripping the remains

of a forgotten rain)

 

The young beggar's cane 

tapped the sidewalk.

 

Comfort came between

dreaming stones

and a black porcelain sky.

 

Four wheeled zoom bugs

and chic stilettos 

purred and poked

up, down and sideways.

 

None noticed the 

huddled young man

or cared to see 

beyond his dusty face

where piercing blue-gray

eyes darted... 

 

...catching a 

here and there

glimpse of a flickering 

electric street lamp

that called to him.

 

He had the secret glow

that only the

holy homeless have.

 

A glow that 

shows itself when 

no one is

looking...

they always are.

 

A rouged silhouette 

appeared beside him.

 

Bells rang from her fringes,

gold and diamonds

sparkled on her fingers.

 

Soft perfume circled

(her frame and 

her fancy).

 

"Come with me,"

she leaned down 

to whisper gently.

 

"The mean street is 

no place for the 

lonely young."

 

"Let me shelter you

till sunrise and 

warm skies

return."

 

He took 

her hand 

in his 

and said,

 

"Go now,

dear lady,

I will come 

to you

when the time

is right."

 

She returned

to her beguiling life 

and pressed on...

 

...into the night

of rich companions

and champagne dinners.

 

The Barcelona streets

began their turn

toward dawn.

 

Winter came to Paris.

 

Spring softly motioned

for Rome, 

the Summer

and,

the second Fall.

 

San Fransisco saw

daybreak

one hundred and eleven 

times 

(x 9).

 

Season upon season,

night came to the Cumberlands.

 

Then,

a day came 

where the hiss of thunder

again showed its fangs.

 

It coiled itself around

a missing soul

(whose body lay

weeping)

in an alley way.

 

Diseased and twisted.

 

A forgotten rain...

began to fall once more.

 

Strong arms wrapped

around the body 

in the alley way

(holding it close).

 

Strong hands

provided shelter

from the

barking hounds.

 

The body grew warm

(again).

 

Looking up

from the street into

the piercing blue-gray eyes

(now holding her)

 

She asked,

"who are you?"

 

He whispered,

"I told you that

I would come to you...

when the time

is right."

 

Across the street

short guys in 

black coats,

sat yelling at cats.