the city rose above the waves
snapped steel | glass towers fallen…

(“help us oh dark ones
you of the last fractious spawn
now and in our time of devolving”)

we stood upon the sun
we saw the spires

the gleaming threads enflamed
we gave the sky ten-thousand doves…

…oh white star!

(“help us oh dark ones
you of the last fractious spawn…”)

they came in the night the broken tribes
(make them go away
the screams | the dark days)

shattered tideshields seaswells ruin
moss crawl ate them

and the bankers & lawyers?
seadepths hold them – lost, long past,
accelerating froth wavegrasp plunder
folded under into the darkest emptiness …
this too passed

orb stood still
grey silt | green stone | tyrant’s fell
stood below stars march | arcs of glass crashed –
stands yet the lady in the streams head high
grim the rotting plumes of her distant pyre

… shone the old crafters work
… sank to loam-barn below waves.

once proud throngs mazed the tubes
sunken caves in riversloops – silver bandits
scored the rails | terrible lashings

(“help us oh dark ones…”)

noiselife no longer
oldtime the lights went black
great turbines far north
frozen zones no longer trek

…city gone
we see it break

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.


*Note: Think of NY City 500 hundred years hence… think of the original Anglo-Saxon poem ‘The Ruin’ of which this is a distant echo…



A Short Treatise on Ugliness


“…almost no one ever devoted a treatise of any length
to ugliness…”

               – Umberto Eco, On Ugliness






graffiti on the brick wall
a twisted knife that was her eye
a broken finger on the bone
piercing night’s frozen lice

the artist was so elegant
she shot the cop in gold
his blue cap and blood skull
fly through me into snow

we like to think we’re civilized
that Picasso’s ‘Weeping Woman’
her garish green and yellow face
are beautiful flattened against the pain

(those are demon eyes that once were coins
a wooden death mask gape-toothed and wise
like some hawker from the local carny
squawking beverages of bliss from hell for lies)

come this way he tells me
we have other things for you
so delicate you must descend this stair
(“oh watch your head!”)
where the darkness turns in you

a Fat Lady is sitting in the room
sifting cards upon a silken table-cloth
she laughs like Dolly Parton yet sips
her tea like Molly’s own Fibber McGee

out of the wall an invading platoon of Walrus’s
bulbous eyes aglow horned beaks set to claw
approach me from the alleys of my mind
like foreign agents of desire seeking recompense or fire

the waddle of their gate suggests a another noble lie
I smile allowing them to waltz on by
relieved that my Oreo cookies are still intact
and I the mottled guest can follow them inside

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

*Note: a surreal nightmare, somewhere between history and myth…

All Father’s Live in Death

He sat there in the kitchen guzzling
like an albatross squatting in an alien sea;
a three-day shave upon his face,
a mottled clump beneath his nose.

This was my father stone drunk in ’65
like a child lost in dead thoughts of love,
unable to cross that gulf beyond self-pity
he sat there in the deep oblivion blinking.

I played hooky one day when he dropped by,
I ran away and hid beneath the hanging tree;
He ran up clasping, saying: “Don’t you love me, son?”
Something old reared its head inside of me,

I almost laughed in his face but stopped,
caught myself, stood there looking in his blankness
(only an instant between us,
yet a million years crossed over)

when it happened; I knew instinctively
he was my youngest in a long line,
lost in the drift of stars, spun of darkness
and old time: his mind reverting to that point

where earth and sky fold back against the night,
and things that should not be are in that emptiness, alive.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

The green life of his art…

he got down
on his knees
and prayed

not to some God
but to black earth
cupped in his hands

his prayers
were not words

(rich toil
and actions
that sped
along grooves
seeds in the dark)

but the green life of his art

when he came out West
sand and sun
were bare and rift

the dark loam
he’d tilled
lay dead and spent

he’d laid
his good wife
in the soil asleep

he was old
when I came round

quiet and solitary
yet sound

he had those dentures
that fall out

ate honey biscuits
that were soft and round and stout

his hands were calloused
big and knobby

when he sneezed
he used a red bandanna

his hat was flat
trimmed in red feathers
and brass

covered his wild eyes
in porcupine sass

he’d been a hard drinker
his whole life

at times
he’d spent
his whole paycheck
on liquor and smiles

the boys in his band knew him
a sinner
a bloody good fellow
a man of his wallet
without worldly troubles

she’d find him joking
telling his stories

guide him home
trundle his loafers

wash the dry sweat
off his carved flesh

lay him down
in white linen

a broken angel all tressed

he once built
wooden scaffolds
at Spindletop

rode the first water trucks
into the pits

dug up yellowish
clichy clay
on hot tumble-weed days

until one day
he put all his tools away


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

*Note: My Great Grandfather was worker on the first Oil Well in Texas at Spindletop. Originally a farmer from Pennsylvania he moved a large family of 10 children, livestock, feed, etc. to northern Louisiana near Shreveport where they built a farm that is still used by his descendants… my distant cousins..

“A Raven in her mind…”

She said it was “a raven in her mind…”;
a thought that kept knocking against her skull
(her thick black hair flew off into the sun

that day we surfed the moon along Malibu).
Even now I see her laughter instead of hear it,
her dimpled smile, her red lips –

a momentary look that says: “I know…”,
as if the mind were translucent glass.
Sometimes when I drift between,

there is this sweet sublime, a terror
that discomforts me,
a taste of bitter honey and shampoo,

a subtle touch of burnt oil upon my exposed foot.
That night we danced till dawn
we found ourselves in trees so old they spoke;

the one she said was moving like an old goat,
the other hairy with a beard of cotton froth.
The children knew her by her eyes,

almond squirrels that dash away
and pounce again like tiger’s claws;
when playfully we fell into the grass, she teased

the silliness from my mind – like the flinging geese,
and kept them flying on past us into that stark blue,
where even now I remember her: the raven thoughts.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

In Defense of War Poetry

 – “why (i’the Muses’ name) Am I called poet?”

                  – Horace, The Art of Poetry

“…nimico ai lupi che li danno Guerra;       …an enemy to the wolves that make war on it,
con altra voce omai, con altro vello           with another voice now and other fleece
ritornerò poeta …”                                       I shall return a poet …

                   – Dante, Pardiso

What should a poet do in the face of atrocity?
How defend this ancient art against the dark?
How martial wisdom from the blood of innocents?

Does the poet have the right to speak with the voices of the recent dead?
Is the poet nothing more than Harlequin’s ventriloquist?
When is the opportune time for the poet to enter the House of the Dead?

If a Ghost calls out in the night how should the poet respond?
But who are those in the gloam, the shadows peering through the veil?
Can it be? Is this our true master come back from exile at last?

Did you leave everything behind you loved most?
Did the arrows of the sky bring betrayal and loss?
Do you even now taste the salty bread of exile?

What stairs are these so many ascend beyond the ruins?
Where is the laurel crown that made you king?
How did these black days descend into your heart?

A shadow comes that was a man:
“I have seen the fires below the hills,
the fabled wisdom of the old ones turn to dust;
now we wander through these streets afraid,
and seek the truth that was once our lives.”

Another voice is clear behind her veil:
“So many voices in this feted air,
a glimpse of soldiers in despair;
a trace of blood upon the sand
where we once danced beside the sun.”

My guide entreats me to come away
before the cold grasps me to its breast…
I feel the chill that was his breath,
the terror in his eyes that I, not he, am still alive.

Why do we dream of fabled conversations with the dead?
Is our grief so hard to bare? Do we hide ourselves in colors not our own?
Trick the mind against its natural course?

How can poetry help us in this troubled time?
How expound gray tales from moral climes?
How speak of truth when hate prevails?

Old Horace in his Comic trysts would have us weep but first be drowned.
Ben Johnson says: “All light failed.” Apollo’s music broke under Reason’s Wit.
Michael Drayton smiled and said poor poesy stalled when history prevailed.

That scoffer of the vulgar tongue Thomas Campion broke bread with Princes.
Sydney would offer the “great passport of poetry” as a gateway to the stars.
While for Shelley the Imperial Mind grants freedom to both great and small.

But as they say in our time: “Why should we listen to this dead white tribe?”
What do these moneyed men offer us who are the very epitome of vulgarity?
Why should we speak Latin, when we have our common tongues?

What is experience that we must die to sing?
Do we not live in artificial worlds, hold thought in orbs that singe?
Are the images that travel by mind of less worth?

Is the poet some law-giver that he should speak of death and war?
Do poets have more wisdom than philosophers?
Have poets proven moral to the counters of the courts?

There is no defense against an unjust world,
the fated battles of the wicked fail to answer our own darkest thoughts;
we wander in this world of dust like ghosts,
where poverty and war and death follow us into the abyss.

Yet, something in the dust still sings,
some bright semblance of the light displays:
a momentary glimpse not of paradise,
but of the desire that lures us toward such things

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.