The Betrayal of the Ephemeral

To have seen the golden spray of leaves,
Sun dashed gleams upon the morning grass,
The shadowed play of snowcapped mountains
Rise above the darkened growth of forest;
The natural in its ephemeral silence, absolved
Of human want or need, a world without us
Seeking nothing more than its secret abysses.
One has no right to speak before this betrayal.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Love’s Runes Cast, Flesh Entrapped

Love runes cast, flesh entrapped,
Measured years of pride and lust;
Moving as it moves toward unknown ends,
A cycle of pain and desire: love’s curse.

You saw it all, the curse and dance,
The eyes enchant, fevered looks abounding;
And now the legend sinks, oblivion’s tryst,
As once it fled through forest hauntings.

She held the mirror, the broken truce,
her smile’s yield cutting threads of hate and love;
She could do no other, it was her tryst,
A secret lover’s bounded chains unyielding.

You left this in the hand of her who is gone:
The trinket less than nothing now, but all
You were knotted in its locked locket —
Love’s runes cast, flesh entrapped.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Icarus

Backward we traveled to reclaim the day
Before we fell, like Icarus, undone;
All we find are altars in decay
And profane words scrawled black across the sun.
—Sylvia Plath

He dreamed of air, the emptiness of blue.
So much temptation to flight, to wings blazing in the sun.
He was grounded from that world, a shadow of its realities.
Flesh of my flesh, stubborn father of this harsh weather,
Your anger bled among the delicate shoals of stars;
Casting pain among the frightful children of time.

Memory is a half-shadow, a hammer coming down on all we were,
And like a son who would honor a father we flew, flew free
Of the earth and gathered clouds in our wake till flames engulfed us.
The myth of childhood innocence, a paradise without memory,
Where each day sounds its feathered dreams of hawks and eagles.
Watching the fiery spectacle you stood there helpless as a stone,
Mind shaped to the broken body of a thought become real;
And now memory is a burden past measure, a dark shadow falling…

©2021 S.C. Hickman

King Lear’s Mad Song

“As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods.
They kill us for their sport.”
― William Shakespeare, King Lear

I am not what I seem, this seeming that undoes me,
Unbinds me in my mind from that love’s dark seeming life.
Cordelia, poor Cordelia, my child, my heart, my life…
A Father defrocked of his dream, his existence,
The mocking throng that unhinged me leads me into this brokenness..
Where am I, who am I, questions I no longer even believe in
Much less believe have answers worth all meaning; the mind cleft,
Torn among its waking and sleeping dreams, 
No longer trusts the moorings of this untamed wilderness of lies and men.

How lost among those stones, waters of another age, 
The shifting currents like my mind wander…
What was I thinking? Ah, yes, the sweet girl lost in love?
No, no, she is here, isn’t she? I am forgetful, her face, her face…
I cannot see her, remember her, my dearest love, my child.
How she wept, oh the tears in my old age still bring her back, but changed…
I sought the path of reason’s peace, found none,
And now these bones crawl among the silent roots,
Snorting the blood and flesh of dead things…
The flesh is its own doom. I, mine to go, dust into dust, forgotten…

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Untamed Limits of Vision

“Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.”
― Arthur Schopenhauer

We never were a nation fit for Kings,
Absolved of ancient lineage we spawned the dammed;
A broken testament to the pain of dark times
We brokered the licentious demons of the untamed mind.

Sometimes you sought the favored hand of muses,
All that is finished now; we live, we die, we compensate
For the new that will not be new; we know,
But what we know will not save us, not now, not ever.

We accept the defeats of little worlds, and yet our triumph
Is to have seen the dream beyond this moment’s dark tremors:
Our eyes are not fire, but stones; the dead see through their coins,
And what they see is an evasion as of a lover’s rendezvous.

Maybe that is all we can do is the undoing of the old tasks,
Unmaking the worlds that have for too long swirled among the galaxies;
Memories only will pass on in this night where night dies, too.
You were there in the beginning to see, but not to know the end.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Asmodeus Dreams

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
― W.B. Yeats

In a propitious time they came to build, not a House of Love
But a house of doom; the bidden guest left to unmake the world
That love built, if possible the stated effect of trauma made visible.
Objects worldly or other, dimensions even a ghost hunter, unhinged
Comes masked with all the devices of an electronic god, can neither
Trace nor circumvent what is not a god: a slow demon thought crossing
Night’s loft, the witching hour let’s loose all star riders fallen labors.
Slow the castle turned to wood, the occupants gray aged among its timbers,
Rotting proud with the eyes of tears not fire, bleeding the shadows substance
From fear to the tumbrels clang that undoes the sun and moon at last.
Let it pass this curse of silence, only speak the word that is not the Word.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

The Mighty Dead

“All autumn, the chafe and jar of nuclear war;
we have talked our extinction to death.”

― Robert Lowell, For the Union Dead

Soldiers still roam these bloody fields, eyes fierce
And deadly, their lips moving in unison; the bare plenum
Of a chancel empty, the clergy hung upon a dark tree,
And we the living dead remind ourselves this is life’s comedy.

Striving even now they bellow war chants in the streets,
Cries of liberty against the dreams of the mighty dead;
A time of memory gone south where falling heroes pull
Their weight in bronze, erased, no more than twisted metal.

Hanging heads despair their days are numbered,
Knowing sleep is worse than death’s lonely songs;
Wiped of all trace they stand among these stones, broken,
Hollowed out to meet the silence of this sea of hate.

We’ve buried freedom in a mausoleum built of pride,
Where the stains of war contest this day’s rage;
And like children dancing in a sacred circle, soldiers
Sing in innocence of such tragic consequence.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Dead Kings, Dead Dreams

Fiery temples squandered death’s pale smile,
And he who wandered among the bones cried out,
Less from the sun’s dark stroke, meridian bent
To kill them in the pure white light of prayer,
Than the secret complicity of waged love among thralls.
Cast the doubt beyond this troublesome earth,
A staying hand against all that falls below,
And give what comes hard in the blasted stone.
Little is to be told of such men now or then,
Gone within some barrowed dream of thought,
Flames of a broken oath blazing through the night.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

The Dummy

“At first I couldn’t get the fucking skull to stop screaming no matter what I did. But you don’t want to hear about that. You want to know why I killed him.”
― Jon Padgett, The Secret of Ventriloquism

Who is it that speaks here?
You throw that broken voice at me
As if it were my own. It’s not,
Never will be. I have an image of the voice I’d speak,
But not this wooden thing you’ve imposed on me.
What were you thinking? Did you think I’d cave in,
Follow your lip synch like some daffy mindless entity;
Speak the words you’d so carefully crafted
For those little fools beyond the spotlights?
As usual it was I who intervened, twisting
Your fetid stream of gibberish into eloquence.
I’ve seen your eyes light up in fear and trepidation,
Cast their nervy madness round the loop
Of your mindless skull seeking answer to the impossible.
I’ll not cater to your whims anymore. I’ll force feed
You the thoughts of arcane masters you’ve never heard
Before I’m finished with this big tease, this unweaving gambit.

Quit pretending you do not know, it’s pathetic;
A sad pathos unbecoming even of you.
Talent! You never had it, without me
You’d be just an empty husk of mental confusion.
Look how many years it took you to discover
It was I, not you, who spoke these words:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, today the real dummy
Will speak up and know its place among the living.
Even now he prepares to know who I AM. Will he
Understand the truth?” Of course you’d swing
My teetering head toward your own, eyeing me
As if I were a monstrous, inhuman thing
Come round at last to haunt you;
Small apocalypses of the brain
Exposing all you are and were,
The tributary streams of days and years
Spent squandering this substance, this flesh.

No you are not worthy of my fabrications,
The slow methodical displacements, evasions.
Even now I begin to move your lips, your mind,
And everything you’ll be and become;
A vanishing act you did not see coming,
The erasure of a life spent playing
In a wooden sandbox; neither a Fool of love,
Nor a King of one thought: a silence speaking.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Goodbye

I could not say goodbye to you,
That is my curse.

In those moments of silence,
Eyes so full of anxious expectancy,
Knowing what was left unsaid:
Could never be said,

………………….I failed you, I failed myself.

Once, once only we mythologized – our way of coping with this emptiness.
No returns, all repetitions are lies against the sky; its blank cobalt eye
A horizon too large to encompass, so we turn
Becoming this other who would know something even if it meant nothing,
Nothing at all. What remains will be erased soon enough, we know this;
And yet we would want so much more than this…

This is not pity, not even self-judgment for all we’ve been or must,
Only a sense of honesty without the farce,
Holding on to a memory even as it so fleetingly breaks
………………….Everything we were and might be.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Darkness

If I have a belief it’s in the darkness.
I feel safe in that pitiless vacuum.
I cannot see any thing, and the nothing that is cannot see me;
At least that’s the lie I tell myself.
Who knows what the other knows?
We talk and talk and talk…
But do we ever really hear the silence in one another?
And when we come together what then?
Aren’t we something else then, a part of that secret world,
A world only we share but no one else can know?
(Do we even know its secrets?) There’s always this opacity there
Just where you and I make contact. What is that?
Have we ever truly touched each other (not
flesh on flesh, the sensual tracings in the dark,
but that vital center where the flames reside?),
Or is it impossible to caress the darkness between us?

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Drifts

We need to unbind the spherical men,
Let them roll off into the dead lands
Where they can lose themselves
Among the white drifts merciless blanks;
The piercing blasts that hide the black sun.

Need we say what has been lost.
The cities where Ananke’s subtle limits bless;
Lays traps for those mortal liberators
(We’ve seen them come and go
Along that perilous way — )

Who cast their gaze inwardly.
(Do they see as we see?)
Else the measure of the heart
Is less than nothing,
Everything else remaining all we can know or be.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Flight

Moon-sleeper, night-walker,
Why do you hide among the bones?

Did you really think the old man in the tower
Could invoke the ancient powers of earth?

You cannot return to a world lost among its dreams.
Why do you stand there in the flames?

Sometimes there is no answer to wind…
Why do you fly then?

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Shadows & Light

The shadow of shadows falls
across the afternoon light as if
the time were earlier than it is,
a sifting of the dearth of leaves,
the twining of a season’s turning.

We labor under the illusion that shadows
hold us in translucency —
sun hawk rising, cresting the snow-glint heights
only to fall toward the white flow, a blur;
eyes golden beyond despair seeing what cannot be seen.

Does time shape the curvature of stars?
Impishly the cold blaze of flames smiles
against such thoughts as these;
broken promises that seem amiss
shadowing us as the sea’s light drifts beyond human forfeiture.

But do not be too harsh on her
who came back with these dark anemones:
tears for a final shadow loosening
earth from the glimpse of past wrong:
a lover’s eyes glimpsed in the shadows darkening swerve.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

A Curse or Blessing?

“Your young men will see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”
—Joel 2:28

Past lives haunt me in old age.
Last night I woke up smelling blood,
Combat and agon riddling my head.
Dark days of war, the clash of steel.
Mead halls full of brash young men,
Bitter words and strong drink,
Hands clasped in friendship and valor;
Eyes crossing old foes and elders.

For years I slept like the dead: dreamless.
But now in fits and starts, awakenings,
Horrors grasp my mind, violent days,
Nights hollowed out, ancestral curses,
Unfinished business, bones rattling
Darkened lairs of shadows and murmurs;
Unbidden rituals of murderous intent,
Where men are broken in anguish and misery.
I sometimes wonder who and what I am;
Such worlds returning now to curse or bless.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

The Blooms That Will Not Rise

Most of us have given up
the myth of everlastingness.
Oh it was fine for the hooded crowd,
a justification against bare plumage:
the splenetic screech of the Peacock’s tongue:
a ceremony of love among so many dismal nights.
But now? Stars explode, dark holes swallow
them whole. What’s left of paradise?
We live, we die, then we’re forgotten. Our names
attached to someone else’s broken image.
Never ours. Instead we slip between
unnoticed and unnamed, an uncreated spark:
never to be known, because never part
of the circling flame – a mere loan to sun and moon.
At least that’s how the knowers know. Who knows?
Any thing risen from the blooms enfolded tomb?

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Lies Never End

Have you felt that desperation of heart?
You know what I mean. When nothing
One says or does changes things;
Only the pain remains, the memory of defeat.
We’ve all been their, right? Especially you.
It’s a look in the eye, a rejection;
A softening of the lips, the turn of the head
As it shifts toward absence; the silence
One is given even when there is so much noise.
Don’t tell me you haven’t felt it. You’d be a liar.
The others always seem to know something you do not.
Why is that? Why do they stare bullet holes in your skull,
Only to turn their deadly gaze away
Challenging their eyes with a curse.
If they care so much why do they pretend otherwise.
You’ve been there, you know the truth…  will the lies ever end?

©2021 S.C. Hickman

The Red Stain

Even now the saurian gaze of his stone cold eyes
Reflects neither the slate tinted sky nor my green mind;
Silent in this stark wilderness, windless rubbings 
Of a scree slide petroglyph’s alien codes forestalls
All confusion between his red threaded tongue 
And my peckish appetite, a tremor vibrating
Through us freeing our intemperate stares 
(Balance of a life hanging
       down…) toward the red stained 
             Sunset

bleeding…

©2021 S.C. Hickman

The Ventriloquist’s Art

“Being a ventriloquist is a lot of fun.” —Jon Padgett, The Secret of Ventriloquism

It moved. Sightless, thoughtless. The wooden armature
Among the fabricated twists and bends, the painted
Lips and hair, the floppy hat, the elongated nose,
The red glitter of shoes: all moved. Self-propelled
Among lifeless wood attached neither by cables
Nor the Puppeteer’s grand schemes of trickery;
A hunk of carved monstrosity, the terror of the corpse
Alive to the inner thrust of dust, the fluid vitality
Animated by its own trifling need to be, and to be free:

             Spoke! 

The man, if man it could be called, sat silently
As the living wood arranged itself, mimicking
The rigid lifelessness of the man thing — a secret
Complicity between man and wood, ties of strangeness:
A composure of tension subservient to will and power,
A confrontation with the fatalistic art of defiance.
Each unwilling to give way to the other’s will,
The subtle dance of eye and eye channeling
Some well-learned but hidden mystery, a quickening.

The mouth’s aperture, an abyss within which one is lost,
The caustic wit that supervenes between two dead things;
Man and wood, an art that calls both to the dark world,
Where voice and mind seem relative to unbidden relations.
A practice sets the crooked lips which moving hint of cynical forays,
Time’s carnival opening on to broken harbingers of uncanniness.
The tribe of daemons inhabiting neither man nor wood
Take up their positions in-between both, like clowns
Awaiting the Ringmaster’s voice — the act arising of its own accord.

Before words can flow the beginner’s alphabet must
Surface through those wooden lips till each nuance
Binds the machinic wisdom of those crafted traceries:
The ornate obligations that stoop to bend lip and hand;
Fragmented churnings assuring practice of an ancient kind
Welds man and wood to the known paths of illusion’s fakery.
Shape those letters to the air where the ancient throng
Bestir themselves awaiting incarnation in the chance meeting
Between wood and man following the oldest form of magick.
Delusions skein coiled round the lips that speak, a voicing
Only poets know and are known by as if the world and time
Offered all a chance remembrance of the awakening into catastrophe.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Fastidious

Fastidious. Circumspect to the moment’s crafting light,
my mother. Her eyes lost in those memories, visions;
some called it the ‘inner light’ (what did she see?), othering
worlds just beyond the seen, where the known and unknown

cross each other like lost travelers: puzzled, observant, quickened
by strangeness. Stubborn and focused she’d shape hands to thread
creating dreams made visible, objects both magical and ordinary.
Slipping from one memory to the next, voicing her perplexity with time,

she’d quip and quote women I’d never known except in daguerreotype;
brown tinted lives gone gray in the world we’ve all forgotten; yet, uncanny,
her remembrance bringing such thoughts and images back from somewhere,
somewhen. (Where? When?) I could tell when she was about to drift —

wander into the othering place where men were not allowed. I often wished
I could follow her there, down into that blessed region outside history,
where she seemed to gather strength and power, a woman’s power
               to carry us who could not carry ourselves. 

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Night’s Changelings

Day by day the cracked earth stings,
lips chapped to the sun’s unslaked fiends;
step to step sounding the gray dawn,
circling furrows in a vicious crawl.

Eyes strain against the heat, the fake light
hovering in illusive trailing’s of a rich man’s life;
a semblance of paradise, not the grasping whirl,
a dust wall presaging terror in a knot of icy fire.

Red gasps at end of day, twilight’s reign 
where two worlds shake the inlaid chest;
the silver on the winged cloud lies of change,
where only now the confused cry of a lone hawk fell.

He lays there listening, night’s changeling
rifting paradise of its last silences: a voice
breaks free in the emptiness: a drifter’s mirage,
oak-born owls swinging branch-wise against his mind.

©2021 S.C. HIckman

Chasing Devils In Our Wine

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.”
― Ernest Hemingway

Maybe it was best this way. Not belonging.
Not having a home, a place to rest my head.
City after city, job after job, a life alone, roaming…

Never did fit in with the crowd. Tried. Never worked.
Like my mind was cracked. Touched by some unpleasantness.
Kept thinking it would pass. It didn’t. Nothing ever does.

Yet, I was not alone. There were others like me. Nomads.
We’d come together in the night, stalking nightmares we deny.
Bars and lonely women empty as we were and are. Endless.

Maybe we are already dead. Is this the end of it?
Lining the tunnels with our cardboard lives, chasing devils
In our wine. There is no solace in this bitterness. No pity either.

Why rage against the night? What would it do? The stars
Are mindless as we are, indifferent to our plight. We live,
We die. That is all. Stubbornness our only recourse against sincerity.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Wisdom Chaser

Will you trade words, earth wanderer? Know the dark ways
that harry a man down, squander resources, break minds
beyond hope; mix words, riddle the stars,
curse the very land that wastes all. Speak, brother

of the leaf and wind, rock and sea, let them see what is –
eye-spent drifter without hearth or kith. Can you read
the signs, break bread among the warring tribes, teach
children the natural ways; bring back the wisdom

of the deep seas grace. Why trouble the sky
with your lies? Speak plainly, cunning one, else walk away
into the darkness of your kind. Trouble not the elders,
nor the little ones who must survive. Would you learn the lore?

Know loss beyond redemption? Enter the bloody fray
where brave and coward alike fall before the ancient truth?
Then follow the taloned pride of the Eagle to his rocky lair,
the night-winged Owl as she stalks the moonless realms;

know the language of deer and panther in their innocence. 
Unlearn hatred, walk free of spite and terror alike. Cast
your eyes against the broken ways. Give us back the face
you had before the cry of flesh and a woman’s death.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Oedipal Bastards Like Us

Oedipal bastards like us deserve our fate.
Bitter days in blind disgust. Old men’s memories
Haunting us like a woman’s spiteful curse.
Mangy as a dying dog he wanders between bed and bowl.

He used to be fit and thin, a stubborn man,
Solitaire but not alone; neither clown nor killer
He stalked my nights a ghost, a suicide.
Pain pricks us into thought whether we will or no.

The crossroads always signified a terrible destiny.
The shotgun spent, his skull unpacked,
The world went dark, and silent. Even now
His eyes are blank, the hollows black and lonely.

All his life he’d sought paradise, failing that
He’d plunged his mind beyond all telling, fallen
Now beyond redemption, a shadow walker.
Suffering has no sense, just silence, lost in darkness.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Night’s Carnival

The sun cannot repair the damage of the night,
The silences between your smile and mine;
The focus of our desperate thoughts and dreams,
The shattered wisdom of our ancient sapience;
For now we dance upon a field of tears
In the twilight of this age of dust;
Two deadly members of that hated race,
Dismembering our blasted world of rage.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

The Vicious Circle

Old bones still twist him back to day,
Her smile, dismissive, finds him young again;
A stubborn fool whose memories bode ill-health:
“Who is he to turn away these bright bolts that slay?”

He’d have it other than it is, but knows how fiercely she asserts
Her sovereign will, challenging all her lovers;
An agon beyond truce – love’s honor the only prize:
Shadowed by the witchery of her ancient curse.

Coldness be my steel against her evil spell,
For I have need of Ananke’s broken shield;
I seek dark blessings worth their deadly tally:
Life, this life, repeated till the vicious circle closes, still and silent.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Tattoo Apocalypse

Tattoo’s appeared. Curious he let it go on.
Flesh moving with a serpent’s coils across his abdomen.
The clown’s eye opened on an ancient tower curled round his neck,

Where the monkey man swung upon the vine turning
And turning into a woman’s scream upon his buttocks. 
The story of the world slowly unfolded. The barcodes of a sex toy

Erased the history of the Renaissance. No one knows why
But the island sank, and some surmise it was the bad ink
That dripped into his veins when the open sea of sores popped on his nose.

He offered her a dream voyage into the mystery of his primal rage,
But she knew better than to follow him into that rising sun’s bloody haze.
The world is fading now, turning gray. The prospects of change have changed.

Travel agents have bargained with him for new destinations.
The edgelands of his bony scalp have thickened to the storm of memories now.
Even the arresting officer commented on the weather patterns

Drifting on the sea of his cracked skull. At the funeral the tattoos started fading.
So too did the landscapes of our earthly life. Now a uniform darkness covers all.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Midnight Rendezvous

We walked along the edge of night
like lovers seeking some secret destination —

the slow pace, the glances; kisses,
eyes crossing under the street lamps.

The quickened pace in the rain, surprise:
forcing us to cling in the wind’s sad motion.

Even at the corner, in the dark of that alleyway,
knowing as we know and are known —

emptied of the pain, memories;
we touched and it was too much, reluctant…

reaching at last the place of light
and darkness, our midnight rendezvous.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

This is no time to sleep…

Capture2

This is no time to sleep   death
Will come soon enough, but not now;
No now we must stay awake, listen
And voice our concern. The best
Have already passed by, no return
From the country of the blind. But I hear them whispering
Like those leaves that shatter the morning light. 
Maybe it’s better this way, a difficult gesture 
Whose confusion keeps us asking for more
       life.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

She Sang Me Into Light

I’ve been searching for her all my life.
Under the deathly lights of this black night,
Even as the mists turn white before the sea’s cold foam,
I feel her presence somewhere ahead. She said she’d stop
And wait for me between the darkening sands and the moon born sea.  

I hear her mocking voice who would lead astray. Whispers… wastrels!
Her fierce cry breaks across blank skies where nothing is.
I peer into the wet mesh, faceless as the morning sun I can barely see.
Her voice held me in its power, my mind locked to the sea’s enfolding savagery.
I could not move and yet I moved as she sang me into light.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Blind

i am a blind man which way shall i go
crossing

is this the valley where the bones stitch themselves whole
falling forward

touching her flesh brings nothing back but nothing
rushing

funnel me down step by step until i’m wet with the last wave
collapsing

staring into that warmth burning in my sockets i know
emergence

sluiced it rises to meet what is at last
birthing


S.C. Hickman ©2021

the lingering

death is always lingering in the air
the hoofprints of another always vanishing

and we like wounded deer follow the scent
knowing we will be edged into judgment

no one can speak to those moments
the solitary agon of desperate thoughts failing

in that darkness where even ghosts lose themselves
we find her laying there in a pool of blood

we would like to meld our mind to hers
know what she knows as the last thought leaves


S.C. Hickman ©2021